As a part of Steam’s many changes on the horizon, Valve outlined how it plans to improve transparency and discoverability of games on what is the largest storefront for PC games. Surprisingly, Dota 2, the company’s multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) has a lot to do with it. According to Valve, one of the ways to ensure relevant games are recommended is through its algorithm. However, that’s based on limited information.
“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,” a post on the Steam blog reads.
The issue with this approach, Valve states, is that it’s tough to diagnose if the algorithm is working as intended. Using its experiences with Dota 2, it appears to have reached a solution - simply allow users access to the reasons behind a game showing up as recommended.
“We had similar problems in the Dota 2 matchmaking system, which was also a black box algorithm. We found that when we better exposed the data around the black box (in that case, the matchmaking ranks of the players), our players understood the black box better, and as a result, were able to better identify cases where it wasn’t working correctly,” the post continues.
What this means is, you can expect the same with Steam. “So we’re going to do the same with the Steam Store. We want to show you more of what it’s doing and why - and we have some features planned to help with this, starting with one we’re launching today: an algorithm section on game pages that states why the Store thinks this game will (or will not) be interesting to you,” Valve claims.
Of course, Steam has for a while been revealing why games are in your Discovery Queue, or are recommended for you in the main Store carousel. Now however, each game page has a separate section showing you the reasons why it can be recommended for you. It’s interesting to see its challenges with Dota 2 come in handy with making Steam a better place. How it actually works out in months to come remains to be seen. More so, when some of its previous experiments such as Steam Greenlight haven’t worked out.