Valve has a plan for review-bombing on Steam


I don’t think most folks will press the filter button.

The only option Valve really has that would work is removing reviews entirely- just say the level of brigading is enough to make reviews useless. That would screw over high-quality indies and reward shitty AAA practices.

Also I’d argue one man’s brigrading is another man’s legitimate complaints. I have a friend who considers all the anger over Bethesda paid mods to be brigading and whiny pirates.


Isn’t that pretty much where we’re at already? User reviews on every site are already biased to those with strong opinions, since they’re mostly the only ones who can be bothered. Add in politically-motivated Youtube slapfights and user reviews go from garbage-level to somewhere below garbage-level, whatever that is.

Just trash the whole thing. Problem solved.


It wouldn’t do much about the brigading problem vis-a-vis people casually glancing at overall game scores, but I’d love it if Steam enabled a filter by time played.

I want lots more filters, come to think of it. And customizable! Time played, length of review, exclude by keyword, phrase, and moron. Etc., etc.


Blue bars are positive reviews. Orange bars are negative reviews.

In the case of Firewatch, you can see a lot of good reviews at launch, then the total volume of reviews taper off, with occasional bumps presumably during sales, Steam front page days, and news/marketing events. Suddenly, on Sept 11th, there’s a flurry of activity, a lot of it negative, that doesn’t match the rest of the timeline. That matches the time when people started review-bombing the game because the dev hit PewDiePie with DMCA takedowns on YouTube after PewDiePie casually tossed out the n-word during a stream.


Hopefully filters for things like time played are next on the list, or better yet, stricter review requirements than “spent six minutes with the game open.”


Not necessarily. Plenty of reviews have long play hours but are very negative. Paradox games are probably a good example of this - a niche game that attracts a very specific player who might not agree with all design decisions but because his genre doesn’t see much action he plays the game anyway.

I think a simple toggle to only show reviews by people who currently own the game would be a pretty useful tool, from my point of view certainly more than a histogram that would make me scour the forums for information on events that might have caused those spikes.


Why does it have to be secret?


It doesn’t have to be secret. It just has to be anonymous.

Hooray, Internet! I would like Al Gore to apologize for inventing it.


Keep reading. Your question is answered in the rest of the paragraph.


Is that happening to Fire Watch now? According to your theory they should be happy they are being review bombed, they should be rolling in the money from increased sales. Yet the developer doesn’t seem as happy as you think he should be.


It’s no less obvious a review bomb is happening if it’s publicly coordinated or not. Well liked narrative games don’t suddenly get a massive spike in negative reviews a year after release by chance.


The only way that supposition works is you think Firewatch is 100% innocent in this whole debacle. Many people do not share that viewpoint. Abuse of DMCA to make a political statement is not what that is for. This is a case where both PDP and the Firewatch devs behaved badly.


DMCA is there to give copyright holders the ability to effectively assert their copyright. It has nothing to say about their reasons for doing so. There is no abuse here. They have a legitimate copyright claim and they asserted it against a specific infringer. You can disagree with them, but it’s not abuse. It’s exactly what the law is for, and it wasn’t used indiscriminately in the way that many DMCA takedowns are.


Is “they abused the DMCA to make a political statement about not wanting to be associated with an openly racist Internet man-child” really the hill you want to die on here?


They are innocent. Firstly, they can assert their DMCA for any reason as they are the owners. Are owners they are free to do what they want with their property. Secndly, asserting it because PDP makes racist comments would seem to be a positive thing. And even from a pure business standpoint, it could be considered wise to not have their game associated with PDP, just as many companies withdrew from Trump’s various business councils. So, yes, I think Firewatch is 100% innocent in this thing.


To summarize your point, as long as a DMCA takedown is legal it is morally acceptable regardless of reason. You are certainly entitled to that opinion. Not everyone agrees with you as evidenced by the reaction. There were far more PR-savvy ways to go about doing this without the DMCA. They elected not to do that in an environment that is very sensitive to DMCS takedowns after numerous recent fiascoes about it (Alex Mauer for example). Whether you agree with their actions or not, they were more than a bit tone-deaf.

You are also missing the larger picture. If this is your best example of misbehavior then you have a tempest in a teapot. A molehill that will never be a mountain. Meanwhile there are examples of developer misbehavior every single week. Devs trying to sue critics. Devs trying to subpoena Steam users. Devs filing false DMCA takedowns against reviews they do not like. The list goes on and on. SidAlpha has made a career out of doing videos about this. Letting devs have any input into reviews would be abused constantly and would make the review system a far worse joke than it is today.

It is a business. Restaurants had to get accustomed being reviewed on Yelp. Developers are going to have to get used to being reviewed on Steam.


This has already happened. I forget the name of the game as it was some kind of asset flip thing but the dev made some really racist remarks. Numerous people bought the game just to leave a review letting prospective buyers know and then promptly requested refunds. But I guess to some people here this should not have been allowed, the racist developer should have been allowed to remove these negative reviews and consumers should have been kept in the dark about the whole thing.


When did anyone say “devs should be allowed to remove reviews”? All I said is that Steam needs a better implementation than “flag and hope Valve gets around to it” for devs to be able to handle obviously fake reviews like someone leaving “Sonic Mania uses Denuvo” as a negative review for Endless Space 2, and that there need to be systems put into place to prevent people from purchasing a game, leaving it running for six minutes, writing a review, and refunding the game.

Valve also needs to do a better job policing game submissions on Steam to prevent Unity asset flips and the like from showing up, but that’s wholly unrelated to their broken user review system.


The GAME review section is for opinions on the GAME. Not your hatred of what the developer ate for breakfast. Forums for discussion are categorized for a reason. If everyone vomits their unrelated complaints all over every form with a text box then it all becomes worthless trash. If they’re not going to at least attempt to keep the posts on topic (and yes, that includes the “positive” meme garbage too) then they should get rid of the system. Valve has generally preferred to use filtering and sorting algorithms to deal with quality rather than deletions, but their attempt here requires too much user interaction to make any difference for the intended audience.


If devs want to appeal to Valve to have more people available to vet reviews that developers find objectionable, then be prepared for Valve to take a larger cut of the purchase price. It is a service that they are providing to the developers and that costs money. So if someone wants to offer to pay Valve a higher percentage for this service they should propose that to Valve. So far I have yet to hear anyone propose that most simple of solutions.

Devs should not be handling any reviews and they should have absolutely no power whatsoever to unilaterally decide what is acceptable and what is not. That is not their right. Consumers should have a right to express their opinions.

Finally, many of us have played games for 6 minutes that are so horrendous that we needed no further time to make a decision. Games that did not load at all. Games with graphics display problems on some cards (Empire: TW did not display properly for certain graphics cards for 4 months after launch). Games that curse at you for pressing the wrong button (I am looking at you, Cargo Commander). Games that had unresponsive control schemes that render the game neigh unplayable or did not support controllers they said they did. The list goes on and on. You think none of these voices should be heard? What gives you that right? And let’s just say you did remove the 6 minute reviews. So what? I can let the game run for 12 minutes before reviewing it.

One person’s invalid reason is another’s valid one. Ultimately for the vast, vast, vast majority of games the review system provides some aggregate idea as to the consumer acceptance of the product. An attempt to try to weed out the statistical outliers will do nothing but prevent many more “legitimate” reviews from being heard.