Valve has been quietly working on the Steam Curators system - the swarm of publications and people that recommend games to users - and they are poised to roll out a significant update. It includes video reviews, customisation options, analytics and a new feature that will make it easier for developers to connect with curators. It’s entering closed beta today.
This means change. First off, you’ll start to see Curator recommendations popping up in more places. If you’re exploring the RPG tag, for instance, you’ll also see RPG recommendations from the Curators that you follow. Curators will also be able to create lists of games they’ve reviewed which follow a specific theme or fit into a particular genre. For example, a list of dating sims featuring animals.
Since plenty of Curators, including some of the most popular, primarily make video reviews, it will now be possible to embed those vids alongside links to text reviews. Supported video sources include YouTube, nicovideo.jp, youku.com and bilibili.com. Steam's army of recommendeers will also be able to customise their little curation corners with personalised backgrounds and featured lists. And then, to see if these changes are drawing in more readers, they’ll be able to investigate their analytics with more sexy graphs.
While the introduction of video reviews makes sense -- there are so many of them -- allowing anyone to embed videos sounds like a moderation quagmire. YouTube can sometimes be a pretty toxic place, and there’s a risk of that spilling over into Steam. Hopefully that’s something which will be raised and explored during the closed beta, though Valve isn’t known for being hands-on when it comes to moderation.
Valve are also introducing a new system called Curator Connect. This will let developers search for appropriate Curators and then send them review copies through Steam. Searching will be made easier by filters that break Curators down by everything from the OS they use to the kinds of games they focus on.
Importantly, this is also a way for developers to make sure that the Curator at whom they’re looking is legitimate, and not simply a cloud of human-like gas that gleefully chases review codes for personal use or re-selling.
“In the results, developers will be able to see a snapshot of each Curator,” Valve explain. “Including follower counts and any linked social media accounts such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch, which can help verify that the Curator is truly who they claim to be.”
There have been complaints about the curator system and the way Steam recommends games for some time now. But with this update, Valve say they're going to change.
“Over the three years since introduction of Steam Curators, we’ve gathered a lot of feedback from all kinds of perspectives,” they say. “The feedback is clear that the system needs to do a bunch of things better in order to work well for the three primary sets of people it’s trying to serve: players, curators, and game developers.”
The closed beta begins today, but only a few dozen Curators have been selected to participate. RPS is one of the Curators participating in the beta, so keep an eye out for further thoughts from us in the next day or so. In the meantime, you can take a gander at the RPS Steam Curation page for a delectable mix of games. The closed beta will run for at least a couple of weeks, after which the update will be rolled out for everyone.