Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Some thoughts on the Steam Store Update...

Steam updated the look and feel of the Store page, along with some fairly major revisions to how things work.

Some things to note:

1) A while ago, Steam altered the tabs on the front page. In terms of what was on sale, you used to see the new releases tab before anything else, then could dip into best sellers. At some point, they changed it so you'd see top sellers first. This used to grind my gears for a number of reasons, and it has been covered extensively elsewhere.

The way the tabs function has now changed again, so you default to "POPULAR new releases". To see what are presumably not high selling new games, you have to scroll to the bottom of the game tiles then click the "See all new releases" button. You're then taken to a feature-bare page of games, but at least you'll see new games which aren't AAA blockbuster pre-orders. As a final note, things like daily deals are currently way down the page.

This all seems like a really bad idea from a "Let me browse and purchase new games with zero fuss" point of view.

2) They really want you to see "curator" recommendations. They seem to be on every game page. These are people who post lots of comments about games on Steam pages. At time of writing, they're ranked like so:

"Right now, top curators are listed by the number of followers they have."

People interested in the Steam recommendations prior to the revamp tended to follow those who were known for their humorous "bag throw simulator" type missives, which is fine. However, now that these things are being pushed en masse across the Steam network whether you want them or not, it simply isn't good enough. If you want to add things to pages, you need to convince me that I want to see it on every single page. They do say that listing by number of followers may change at some point in the future, but in my humble opinion it absolutely has to and fast.

The bulk of the Steam recommendations I see right now are one line joke memes, and people trying to be witty. The result is a ton of "recommendations" which add nothing but clutter.

This game is on the frontpage of the site - look at the listed "review". Look at all of their listed reviews. What's the point of that? Other reviews from different curators: "This looks good but I haven't played it yet" and "this was shown at [videogame conference x]".

Do Steam allow people to recommend games they don't own? They sure do:

"Can I recommend games that aren’t in my Steam library?

Yes, you can recommend any game that is available via Steam."

I suppose the most important question here would be: why?

As a side note, you cannot currently disable the visibility of curators.

3) You can no longer see what friends are playing on the frontpage, or what they recently bought. Instead I'm overwhelmed by recommendations from strangers which I find little value in, or bizarre and broken suggestions from Steam as to what I should buy next. You know how if you click on something humorous on an Amazon page and your purchase recommendations go completely left-field? Imagine that but for videogame recommendations.

I'd rather trust visual suggestions of what may be good or bad based on immediate feedback from people I know than complete strangers.

Overall, I can't say I'm a fan of this rejig. I may well find some more things to add to the short list above, but for now let's see what Valve do with the feedback they're sure to be receiving...

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