I came across this article over at PC Gamer last week, and it got me thinking to share it and my own thoughts with you guys. From said article:
Here’s what I want Steam to be: a place where I can easily and conveniently find games I wish to buy, buy them, and access them. I do not believe Valve and I’s outlook on this aligns.
Valve seem to have some small interest in Steam performing these functions, but a much greater excitement for layering endless experimental systems on top of each other. The act of buying and playing games must itself be gamified from every possible angle.
Over the years, it’s introduced trading cards, badges, and a marketplace for in-game items. It’s given us countless different kinds of fake money, earned by spending real money, usually to be spent on stickers, emotes, profile backgrounds, and other gew-gaws I couldn’t even be confident in the function of.
…And as these experiments rumble on and mutate into ever less necessary forms, Valve neglects the core experience. The store is less usable now than it’s ever been, utterly clogged with nonsense and shovelware with incredibly poor moderation. Efforts to tailor the experience algorithmically have created more problems than they’ve solved, making it increasingly difficult to get to the page you actually want, rather than the one Steam thinks you’d like.
The last paragraph hits right on the nose the issue I've had with Steam for literally years. Back around 2008 when I first started buying games there, it was a pretty tightly curated market space with clearly delineated categories of games. A racing game was always just in the "Racing" category. Action games were under "Action" and simulations were under, you guessed it, "Simulation".
Later, with the opening of the marketplace directly to developers, categories went away to be replaced by tags. Sure, you can still open a category and see things listed under it. But the difference between a category and a tag is that a game belongs in just one category or another, whereas tags are applied even if it only applies loosely to one small part of the game.
What happens then is this: You open up a category and look at the top ten or twenty games there. Now, go to another category, and most of the top games there were in the previous one, too. At one point, Arma 3 (A game I financially became a "supporter" of before its release) appeared near the top of the lists for Action, Adventure, Massively Multiplayer, Simulation, Strategy, and, thanks to the April Fool's offering of the Karts DLC, under Racing. What is even the point of categories now? Smaller studios should hate this too, because it makes getting visibility even in a niche market very difficult.
Ten years ago, I bought a lot more games than I have in the last few. By a huge margin. Because I could open the Steam Store and discover things I may never have heard of that looked cool as hell, and often really was. I may be an exception, but now I find being brow-beat with the same games no matter what I'm actually looking for to be just exhausting. I can't count how many times I've been on Steam, virtual cash in hand, looking for anything interesting to pick up, and given up after ten or twenty minutes of seeing the same old things mixed with shovelware and novelty games that haven't gotten enough negative reviews to sink them yet. Valve should be alarmed by this, because that's literally an easy sale that was thwarted by a terrible shopping experience. I'm genuinely envious of people with long backlogs of games.
As a software engineer, I love algorithms, the more clever the better. But Steam's algos fall so far short of real, human curation that it's just sad. They have added other users you can follow as "curators" but those mostly seem to be joke accounts, and even the serious ones don't seem to do much more than skim the known surface of the gaming landscape.
And don't get me started on the change to screenshot thumbnails instead of text descriptions of the game when you hover over them on the store page, making you have to click through to find out what the game is all about…
Source: Original link
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