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Valve exposes the magic of Steam’s recommendation system, shows it to players

Developers will start gaming this in 5,4,3,2 ...


Valve has released a wordy blog post explaining that, since so many different people use Steam for different things, finding a way to make everyone happy is an immense design challenge.

The post goes into more detail if you’re interested in what’s happened in the past, but the most important change that’s happening right now is the transparency that Steam is bringing to your recommendations.

“The algorithm behind the Store that's tasked with achieving the goals we've described above ultimately ends up producing this: the games you see when you load up the Store,” the post explains.

But it’s a bigger challenge than you might assume at first.

The Store is constantly trying to balance all the different interested groups of players and developers. It knows that it has a limited number of spaces it can use to show games to a player. It has some knowledge of the player, if the player is logged in and has a purchase / play history. It has some knowledge of the game, based on what the developer has told it and what previous purchasers of the game have said and done. It chews on all that data, and finally, decides which games it should show the player in all the various sections of the Store.

But the reason for why each game was shown to you was never given. The numbers being crunched are never shown to the player, and we don’t have a good idea about how they’re weighted. Valve isn’t giving us a large or detailed look behind the scenes, but the new visual system will give you a lot more information about why you saw each game, and which part of that attraction may benefit you the most.

Check it out!

A list of games recommended to the player by Steam
This is why you’re seeing these games

There are some interesting things going on here, including the fact that you’ll see this information if you clicked through an external source to the store page. So outside of the information on the standard page you’ll be able to see if the reviews are good, and if you have friends playing the game. Which games in your library are similar to the game you’re looking at? What curators like it?

It’s possible you land on a page that’s like by a curator you know you disagree with, and none of your friends own the game and the reviews are just so-so. You just learned, at a glance, a bunch of indication that may indicate the game is not for you.

“If the store recommends something you know you're not interested in, you'll be able to see where its decision making is going wrong, and tell us about it,” the post explains. If the games you’re being shown don’t seem to make sense? Something is wrong and Valve would like to know what.

This system is an interesting approach at feeding recommendation data to the player without overwhelming them with the presentation. It’s a smart way to see at a glance how much a game may or may not match up with things I want to play. And it goes live today.

My only beef? I’d love to be able to remove curators from my personal feed completely. I don’t really care what AngryGamer69 from PC Master Race thinks about the FOV of whatever game I may play. If I could weight that to zero and then just remove it from my page? Bliss.

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