Over the last few years, review bombs – people who massively publish negative reviews on the gaming page to fill their review review – have become one of Steam's most visible questions. Just last year, the Bombardment Review happened in Steam reviews for everything from female generals to sales that happened too early. Developers have quoted this type of toxicity as the reason they are excited by the Epic Games Store, which plans to solve the problem with the review system. Today, Valve has announced that it will take steps to eliminate the Steam review bombs.
In a news post, Valve described a series of planned changes to the Steam Review System aimed at minimizing the impact of bombs. "This change can easily be described," the statement said. "We'll identify clear bombs off the topic and remove them from the review review."
Valve says he will do this by using a graphically-based Bomb Detection System for review – which previously served only for more visible bombs – to identify "anomalous review activity." At this point, Valve says that a team of people will investigate these anomalies and, if they determine that something is fish is in progress, they will "mark the period of time that spans and informs the developer." If Valve finds that coordinated bombing has actually occurred, all comments published during that time period will not count towards the game's evaluation. This, unfortunately, will include reviews posted by basemen during this timeframe, as "it is not possible to read each individual review." However, according to Valve, the data show that the exploded bombs are "temporary distortions", "So the overall assessment of the review will remain accurate even if some of the bona fide reviews fall into the Valve network.
It is unclear whether Valve will selectively remove the comments left during the bombing review period, hide them or not does nothing for them at all the panel says that "the reviews themselves remain untouched – if you want to dig it up to see if they are right for you, you will still be able to do it." But then one sentence later, the company says: we help you do that, we've made it clear when you look at a store page where we've removed some feedback by default, and further improved the user interface around the anomalous review periods. Kotaku turned to Valve for clarification on this issue, but has not yet heard.
The Valve statement provides examples of topics that will be considered "off topic" in the form of Changes to DRM and EULA. "We had long debates about these two and others like them," Valv said. "They are not technically part of the game, but they are a problem for some players. In the end we decided to define them as clear bombs outside the subject. Our argument is that the "common" Steam player does not care much of them, so the result of the review is more accurate if it does not contain them. Valve also noted that players will still be able to dig in the "removed" comments if they are interested in these issues.
In addition, Steam users will be able to abandon this new system entirely by using an option that will keep the clear bombs in the results of the game review. Again, people will obviously still be able to see opinions that have been removed. Exposed bombers will not have the power to influence the Steam algorithm but this can also encourage bombers to find other ways to develop their tactics and overcome sounds like some still worryingly big loopholes. Time will tell.