Steam User Develops His Own Way To Find New Games

These days, Steam is one-part library, one-part labyrinth. The sheer volume of games on the service is overwhelming. Valve's solution to the problem has been to double down on algorithms, but many still don't feel like Steam is helping them find diamonds in the rough. Enter Steam 250.

Steam 250 is a site whose goal is simple: find the best games on Steam. It has a variety of lists, from the 250 best games to hidden gems and everything in between. Its creator, Bilge, decided to create the site when he ran out of games to play.

He realised that Steam tends to focus on games that are selling well or getting lots of attention and in order to find hidden gems on Steam, he'd have to do a lot of digging.

"Steam tends to focus on sales data to promote games," he said in an email. "Comparing our annual sales versus ratings rankings shows there is a wide disparity between games people are willing to buy and those they're willing to recommend. Focusing on sales provides an incomplete picture of the gaming landscape and frequently misses games more gamers are enjoying."

Bilge decided to make a solution: his own Steam algorithm. Steam 250 bases its selections on user reviews, specifically the number of reviews any given game has on Steam and the percentage of those that are positive. On Steam 250's website, Bilge explains that determining the exact way the algorithm weighs games with different numbers of players and reviews took quite a while.

"During early development of Steam 250, we trialled seven different algorithms, each with their own behavioural characteristics," he wrote. "Each algorithm is further tuned by a weighting variable that biases the score in favour of either the number of votes or approval rating. Each algorithm's weighting exists on an unbounded, sliding scale thus creating limitless possibilities. We narrowed down the possibilities to 22 distinct combinations of algorithms and weightings and scrutinised them until a winner could be declared."

The end result is a ranking system that won't, say, propel a game to the top just because it's new and 100 per cent of its two or three reviews are positive. It also allows for lists that point to games with relatively high numbers of positive reviews despite low player counts (with player count data provided by third-party Steam analytic service SteamSpy). Basically, if you're looking to quickly cut through Steam's clutter and find cool games you've never heard of, Steam 250 can help with that.

That said, there are still potential holes in Steam 250's methodology. For instance, while scanning the site's various lists, I came across a handful of games that looked pretty shoddy, but were drowning in positive reviews because they handed out achievements like Halloween candy. Bilge acknowledged that things like that can happen, but his process is backed by data and data alone, for better and worse.

"It's not our place to judge whether games have acquired reviews 'fairly' or not," he said in an email. "In general we find the review system pretty reliable for pointing to good games. One could extrapolate that if a game gets a lot of positive reviews just because it's an achievement farmer, it's still a positive experience for everyone who wants to discover achievement farming games, although I admit that's a little far-fetched and we wouldn't want an endemic of such games trumping genuinely good titles."

There are other possible issues, too, like review bombing, which even Valve has acknowledged — in its own, graph-heavy way — is a big problem. As it stands, a targeted review bomb or two could send a game plummeting from its deserving perch on Steam 250.

In the future, Bilge hopes to make Steam 250 more elaborate, with options to browse games' history (which could help with the review bomb thing), search based on exact tags, and even modify the algorithm's weighting yourself. Beyond that, though, he's open to suggestions.

"The site began as just one ranking and has grown into more than 100 based on user feedback," he said. "I expect it to continue to grow this way, responding to gamers' needs."


    When a game gets review bombed its usually because it changed the game to be LESS GOOD

    I dont see why review bombing is an issue, its the age of online updates so i dont want old regiews telling me a game USED to be good, i want to know is its good RIGHT NOW

    Getting sick of people pretending review bombing is somehow unfair when 99% of the time its a legitimate reaction by consumers to a shitty product

      I disagree. There are heaps of instances where review bombing has little to do with the actual game being reviewed but instead is based on something the publisher or developer may have said or done. Examples include the 'paid' mods review bombing for Skyrim which people also review bombed Fallout 4, review bombing Dota 2 because Half-Life 3 hasn't been announced, and PUBG by Chinese players because of their own country banning VPN's.

    I often also use the number of hours that a game has been played for as another benchmark. Paradox's Europa Universalis IV, for example, has thousands of players who have played the game for many thousands of hours each. I've seen several that are over 12,000 hours. Even many of the negative reviews are by players who have well over 500 hours logged.

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