Steam has a serious problem with review bombing and it's an issue which has only been getting worse. However Valve has now unveiled plans to counter the practice and render the ratings of those who engage in it worth less than those who use the review system responsibly.
Review bombing is when a large group of users downvote a game for reasons outside the game itself. Firewatch was review bombed in September after developer Campo Santo issued a DMCA strike against popular YouTuber PewDiePie, due to him the N-word during a livestream.
At the time Valve acknowledged review bombing was a problem and tried to tackle it by including a histogram chart which revealed the curve of user reviews over time. This meant users could identify any "temporary distortions" in reviews, but it did little to tackle long term review bombing.
However, Valve is not backing down in its war against review bombers, and today revealed plans for two big changes to user reviews in a Steam blog post.
The first change is "a new method of calculating the helpfulness of each review". This method will assess users' helpful reviews and gives more weight to those who follow a normal pattern of rating. "Accounts that rate an excessive number of reviews on an individual game will see the weight of each individual rating count for less and less," writes Valve.
Helpful reviews on Steam have been abused by review bombers upvoting negative reviews as "helpful" and downvoting any reviews which are positive as being "unhelpful".
Secondly, "store pages will now show the default helpful positive and negative reviews in a similar proportion to that of the overall review score for the game". In other words, the percentage of positive and negative reviews will reflected on a game's store page. "If the game is reviewed positively by 80 per cent of reviewers, then the 10 reviews shown by default on the store page will be 80 per cent positive, showing eight positive and two negative," says Valve. "This should keep the reviews shown on a game's page from being so easily manipulated by a few determined players and should more accurately represent the overall sentiment of the people playing the game."
Currently, when you go to a game's store page on Steam you see an overall view of the "most helpful reviews" in the past 30 days. This change will allow users to get a much fairer sense of how players feel about a game.
Users can toggle between having the new review changes enabled or disabled, under a tab called "Review Beta" accessible below the current review histogram.