Valve have launched an overhaul of the Steam Store front page, highlighting handy features and slapping recommendations all over the place. In short, it would really like to recommend games to you, but it still not very good at them. I’ve seen the new store for a few days now but other folks in the RPS treehouse say this is new to them so hey, here the Steam Discovery Update 2.0 is, officially launched last night.
This handy page details the new store layout. You’ll find a handy ‘recently viewed’ list, big buttons for commonly-used features which used to have small text links, notices for when your games are patched, updates on what your chums are playing, and oh so many recommendations from all sorts of places.
That’s a big focus of this, getting more games – and more unfamiliar games – before players’ eyes, piecing together sources like your game history, your friends’ favourites, and games on Steam Curator lists. Keep scrolling down the Steam front page and it’ll generate recommendations forever. Do follow our Steam Curator to see our tops smashing wizard wizzo ace aces recommendations in there.
More lists and things on the Steam are now customisable and filterable too, but not quite enough for Discovery to be very useful.
Even as someone whose job includes watching a conveyor belt of new releases and remembering everything I see, like Brucie’s Generation Game without the cuddly toy (wahey!), I’d appreciate a good recommendation engine to highlight things I’ve overlooked or forgotten. That’s still not Steam.
“Due to your recent playtime in other Indie games”, it suggests, I may want retro action-RPG CrossCode or factory-building-factory-builder Factorio. I am grateful for the reminder that I’ve not got Factorio yet but sheesh, ‘Indie’ is a useless label in almost every situation and certainly here.
“Due to your recent playtime in other Singleplayer games”, I might like booby catgirl visual novel Nekopara Vol. 2. It is singleplayer, after all. The ‘multiplayer’ recommendations are just as useless. Not that genre tags are much better.
“Due to your recent playtime in other Strategy games”, by which I assume it means Civilization VI, it recommends Megadimension Neptunia VII, a JRPG.
Because Alien: Isolation is on my wishlist, it thinks I may like Aliens: Colonial Marines. Ah. No.
“Since you recently played Half-Life”, I may want Half-Life: Source.
I’m not scrolling down for yonks to get these, reaching for the bottom of an endless barrel – they’re some of the top suggestions. It’d take a lot of training to improve the recommendations and they’ll still be built on faulty ground. Steam’s user-applied tags are not good.
Recommendation engines are difficult, to be sure. It’s easy to spot broad trends in someone’s activity but picking out the specifics of why they do or don’t like particular things is mighty tricky. My decade-old Amazon account thinks I may want bourbon (correct), a spy camera (what?), and the 54-disc JAG box set (oh). Last.fm knows almost every song I’ve listened to in five years but fails to recommend tunes I really dig. Google Now tells me daily about rugby, a sport I doubt I’ve ever even Googled. Spotify is… actually getting quite good with its ‘Discover Weekly’ and other generated playlists, suggesting some real bangers often from artists I’d never heard. Nice, Spotify.
I think Steam, bless its heart, still has a lot of work to do. Given how much Steam knows about what I buy, what I play, and even how I play (as a point of comparison, at least, through achievements), and the same for people I play with, and for everyone else on Steam, lots of its recommendations seem really clumsy.
Still, it is better than a lot of other virtuastores. I will say that Itch‘s recommendations are solid but maybe my tastes align well with The Average Itch User.