Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

Valve is changing Steam in a big way, overhauling the front page and adding some brand new features that will drastically change the way we find and buy PC games on the ubiquitous digital store.

The revision — which Valve is calling the Steam Discovery Update and which goes live today — will implement a number of big changes including a revamped recommendations system, a queue in which you can swipe through new games based on what you've played and liked before, and a new program called Steam Curators that will allow anyone to take the role of tastemaker, recommending games to the public and accumulating followers based on their tastes.

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

This is Valve's swing at making Steam more manageable. It's necessary at a time where hundreds of PC games are developed, greenlit, and released every year, from big-budget shooters to indie point-and-click adventures. Customers have found it difficult to filter Steam's massive library, and some have asked that Valve do a better job of curating and recommending what people might want to play. Right now, it's tough to discover cool new games on Steam. Valve wants to change that.

"We have made great efforts to increase the number of titles we can publish on Steam, which means more choices for customers," Valve UI designer Alden Kroll said in a press release. "This update introduces multiple features and functionality to help customers explore Steam's growing catalogue and find the games they are most interested in playing."

For starters, there's the new Steam Discovery Queue, which looks like this:

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

You'll be able to flip through the queue and discover new games based on what's selling well, what you've played before, and what Valve thinks you might be interested in. You can add each recommendation to your Steam wishlist, follow it, or ignore it as you click through a list that Valve says will be repopulated every day.

Tinder for Steam games, maybe?

"The Discovery Queue is heavily weighted toward highlighting titles that are new top-sellers, but does also try to prioritise the titles in that range that are closer to titles you've recently played and to those in your library," said Valve's Kroll, who is heading up this project. I'd asked him for more details about the algorithm that drives this new feature.

"The Queue is really more about making sure you can see the popular things that you haven't seen before," Kroll said. "And you can use it as a way of browsing through everything in Steam if you really want to make sure you haven't missed anything."

That's the big theme here: Valve wants to make sure you're not missing anything. That's why they added the Discovery Queue, and it's why they're offering new customisation options for your Steam homepage: you'll be able to filter out games you already own, for example, so you can open up your wallet and buy even more.

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

Valve is also bolstering their recommendations system with a new "endless" recommendation feed that will replace the limited system Steam currently has. You'll be able to scroll through recommendations not just based on what you and your friends are playing, but based on what type of games you spend a lot of time with.

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

"Recommendations are only really possible because of the relationships we can identify between games as a result of user-applied Steam Tags," Kroll said. "A large part of the recommendation system looks at the tags applied to games you've been recently playing and matches that up with other games that have a high frequency of similar tags. There is a bunch of nuance in how various tags are weighted depending on popularity, frequency, and so forth, which will certainly be iterated on as we get feedback from customers."

The most interesting addition in this massive Steam Update may be the curator system, which will allow any individual or group to start recommending games to what could eventually become a massive audience. Anyone can sign up to be a curator, which in this new Steam landscape essentially means "a person who recommends games to people."

UPDATE: For example, here's our curator page.

For a full explanation, here's Valve's FAQ:

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

In true Valve fashion, this is a unique way to let Steam users both feel engaged and do free work for the company, not unlike Team Fortress 2's devious hat system (although at least that can make you some money).

Curator pages could make for a brilliant system, though — and it's a smart strategy to prevent Steam from turning into the wild west that is the iTunes App Store.

Here's what a Steam Curator page could look like:

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul

Of course, this sort of system could lead to questions of influence and trust, as video game publishers begin courting the most popular curators in hopes of gaming the system. What happens if a video game developer or publisher tries to pressure the big curators, or offers money in exchange for good recommendations?

"There are always risks," said Kroll in an email. "We will be monitoring this to make sure folks are not abusing the system."

Kroll didn't elaborate, but the thought is at least a bit worrying — a curator system like this seems susceptible to all sorts of shady behaviour, and without proper safeguards in place, who knows what could drive the most popular recommendations on this new Steam?

Still, this new Steam update brings with it the type of features that users have been requesting for years: more curation, more discoverability, more cool games. It could now be even easier to find the next big indie gem or under-the-radar hit on PC. That's a big win for everyone.

Steam Is Getting A Massive Overhaul


    Huzzah! It's about time. I can't wait to see some of these changes.

    And yet again they fail to overhaul the library!

    I'd love a simple drag and drop way of arranging my games into categories, like "rpg", "fps", adventure", etc. And "Played" and "unplayed". Or "Bad - waste of money" and "play again".

    But to do this I have to right click on each, "set category", and then select from a drop down list, and then click Ok. Surely this could be simplified?!?! Four mouse clicks to shift where a game appears in a list???

    When your library gets as big as mine, it would be nice to have some simple tools to manage it!

      You can ctrl click the games and set category to get multiples at a time which can be pretty quick, just putting it out there in case you didn't know.

        I didn't know this. Hmmmmm maybe I can get around to reordering some of my games and hope that steam doesn't decide to delete all my categories again

        Thanks, didn't know that.

        Next is the ability to set multiple characteristics - or even just filter by steam tag within your library. I want to be able to filter by either "RPGs" or by "new games I haven't played yet" - or, ideally, both.

    Ugh. Why is indie games a category by itself. Shouldn't they be by type of game?

    As long as the store doesn't look like a dump of crappy games, I'll be happy.

    I wish the "Find more like this" button was on everything.

    I don't really care about most of the new discoverability stuff, but the single most important change for me is the fact that you can now see what you own and what's on your wishlist without having to go to the product page (though it's not entirely accurate just yet). I'm also happy I can now set my default tab, I was tired of changing tabs whenever I looked at the store.

    Last edited 23/09/14 12:00 pm

    How about adding tabs. And letting things he cached? No stupid ideas? Ok.

      If I'm looking at the store I generally do it in a browser so tabs are easy.

      Freaked out last week when I realised I could middle click on items to open them in a new window. Agreed that the absence of tabs is a pity.

    I really like being able to see how many positive reviews a games had. It's a shame they didn't add that to the feature page as well.

      They really should show metacritic's USER SCORE instead of Metacritic rating aka Payed Score.

    While I will get used to this new layout in the end and I will forget about the old layout. I really don't like it. I like seeing what was popular on a scrolling tab and have the on special and new releases tabs. I would have liked to see a option to switch between the new and old layout.

    Well I posted this on TAY but might as will bring it back here
    So steam has been updated and it looks interesting
    The big news is that you can finally choose to remove early access games from the list of new releases. Although it looks a bit flacky once you click through, I seemed to then get early access games in the list which kinda defeats the purpose.
    Dangerously the homepage just keeps scrolling with recommended games. Nice feature but will need a bit more work on linking them. For example I was recommended Counter strike due to my time recently playing other strategy games. Which is actually probably a user driven tag causing it.
    The search seems to have been improved as well, being able to decently filter by tags and other elements.
    The steam curator aspect could be good if it ends up working. People like PC gamer or totalbiscuit having a list of games that they recommend. Finding somebody with similar tastes and you can follow them and see just the curated list that they have put together.

    All in all interesting but might still need some work. Oh and blue, so much blue

    I think the curated lists could have good potential once high quality niche curators get started.
    The fact that early access games show up in the latest games once you click through it annoying and hopefully a bug that gets ironed out

      high quality niche curators
      That's the thing, we'll have to wait to see if the curator feature expands beyond internet/youtube celebrities trading on image.

        I can't see how it won't. People who really love a genre will want to do it and it is easy enough for them to be able to do it,
        The biggest challenge is going to be how can you find them as every kid decides to create a "bestest gaems dat i luv" list

    Overall, it's recommendations are pretty spot on. It's recommending that I buy Counter-Strike and Arma 2 / Arma 3 because I recently played "You Need A Budget 4". :P

    Seriously, though, it's recommendations apart from that are pretty accurate and reminded me of a few little games I'd seen a while ago but forgot to pick up. :)

    OK so this is bad...

    I dont think I could be more upset with steam turning into facebook. I refuse to use facebook and now it looks like I will be buying my PC games elsewhere.

    Some people just like things the way they are. New is NOT always better.

    This is the shittest update by far. Even shittier than trading cards, even shittier than making Steam grey.

    awesome new update, now it tells me which game I do own.

    Why is Binding of Isaac on your recommended list??? Why on earth haven't you played that yet?

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