Steam has a “review bomb” problem—but will today’s new feature fix it?

Steam, the largest digital PC game storefront in the West, continues to struggle with user-contributed game reviews. Valve launched the feature in 2013, and since then, it has seen various updates to deal with issues such as false and gamed reviews.

But none of those updates were much comfort to the game Firewatch last week. Its Steam review page was swarmed with negative reviews after its developer Campo Santo denounced the hateful speech of game streamer PewDiePie and issued DMCA challenges to that streamer’s videos about Firewatch.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Valve not only announced a new Steam user review feature on Tuesday but also tied it in a huge way to the issue of “review bombing.” Either way, Steam store pages now come with a lot more data in the form of “review histograms.” What are they? How will they affect reviews going forward? And most importantly, is that enough action to deal with a noticeable rise in irrelevant and poisonous use of Steam’s storefront?

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SteamVR games coming to Microsoft’s $299 VR platform

When Microsoft first unveiled the Windows 10 Creators Update last year, a big focus was put on the virtual reality capabilities, with Redmond promising a range of VR headsets with prices starting at just $299. When the Creators Update actually arrived in March this year, however, those VR capabilities were only visible if you enabled developer mode; they were there for developers, but not for the general public. The Fall Creators Update, due to be finalized next month, will remove the developer mode restriction, opening up Microsoft’s 3D platform to all.

In time for this year’s holiday season, there will be $299 headsets and $399 headset-and-motion-controller bundles, using Microsoft’s new motion controllers. Aside from the price, the Windows platform has a few features that make it stand out from SteamVR and the HTC Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. The first is substantially easier setup, as the Windows platform doesn’t need fixed base stations for position tracking. Instead, it uses “inside out” tracking; it combines acceleration input from accelerometers with visual input from cameras embedded in the headsets to provide motion tracking. This means that it doesn’t need base stations on the walls, nor does it need the laser-based tracking used in the HoloLens headset.

The same tracking system is used for the motion controllers; they include embedded accelerometers, and this data is combined with the camera data (since most of the time your hands will be on the edge of your field of view), and reverse kinematic models (which is to say: since you’re holding the controllers, their movements are limited by human anatomy). The Microsoft controllers are more complex than those used by the HTC Vive, with more buttons and controls on them; they’re also asymmetric, with a dedicated left hand and right hand controller.

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Sexually explicit game returns to Steam after adding “censor” bars

A sexually explicit game that was removed from Steam last week has come back to the popular game distribution service after the developer added forced censorship bars blocking the view of in-game private parts.

Eek Games’ House Party launched on Steam Early Access just over a month ago, attracting over 35,000 sales thanks in part to largely bemused coverage from a number of prominent Twitch and YouTube streamers. But the game also attracted negative attention from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), an anti-pornography lobbying group that took issue with the game for what it called “literally training its users in predatory tactics for sexual assault, and even sex trafficking.”

The goal of House Party is to convince women to have sex with you, and achieving that goal can involve getting those women drunk, blackmailing them over nude photos stolen from their phone, or jamming their phones to isolate them from others at the party. In a letter NCOSE sent to Valve last week, the group complained that the game “not only normalizes but instructs its users as a virtual how-to of sex crimes and misogyny… If anyone were to apply actions form the game in real-life situations, they could inflict immeasurable harm to others and potentially be in violation of state or federal law.”

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DMCA takedown removes River City Random Underground from Steam

River City Ransom Underground was removed from Steam late last week, part of an unfolding legal drama surrounding a composer who has been directing DMCA copyright-infringement takedowns at games she says don’t have the rights to her music.

Conatus’ Andrew Russell, one of the developers of River City Ransom Underground, said in a short statement that “we are aware that RCRU is down on Steam. We have contacted Valve’s copyright department, and will let you know when access is restored.” But composer Alex Mauer confirmed to Destructoid that the removal was the result of a Digital Millenium Copyright Act request she made against the title.

“Conatus never got my written permission to use my music in the game,” Mauer told the site. “As far as I know, they have Disasterpeace’s [one of the game’s composers] signature and are trying to act like that alone is enough to have secured rights.”

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First Person Shooter ‘Shadow Warrior Classic’ is a Free Download for Mac

Classic first person shooter Shadow Warrior is available as a free download for Mac over on GOG and Steam this morning. The 1997 PC game garnered fans for its wacky humor, multi-function weaponry, and destructible environment, being based on the Build platform that powered Duke Nukem 3D.



Shadow Warrior was an ambitious game for its time, containing many features not seen until later first-person shooter games, such as drivable vehicles, climbable ladders, and multiple firing modes for various weapons. The game was rebuilt in 2014 with OS X support and published by 3D Realms.

The full game (including two expansion packs) is being offered on Steam as a free download, but picking it up from GOG also gets gamers the original soundtrack in MP3 and FLAC format as an additional freebie. The remastered “Redux” version of the game is also available on Steam for $0.99 as part of a 2017 Summer Sale.

Shadow Warrior Classic has the following minimum requirements: OS X 10.6.8 or later, an Intel Core Duo 2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 64MB of video memory, and 1GB of hard disk space.

(Via MacObserver.)

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Valve tries to one-up Oculus Touch with five-finger “Knuckles” VR controller

Valve / SteamVR

We first heard about Valve’s plans for a new SteamVR controller back in October when a few pictures and basic impressions started leaking out of the press-free Steam Dev Days conference. Now we’re getting more details about the upcoming VR hardware—code-named Knuckles—thanks to documents posted on SteamVR’s Knuckles Dev Kit group page.

The most important confirmation in the new documents is that the Knuckles controllers allow for full, independent tracking of all five fingers. Embedded, capacitive sensors in the handle of the unit track the position of the middle, ring, and pinky fingers, while similar sensors in the trigger and face buttons track the index finger and thumb. A ring of sensors around the thumbpad and the back of the hand helps track the unit in space through the standard Lighthouse system.

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The Steam Summer Sale begins June 22

Has it been a year already? That’s right folks, it’s time to fire up your gaming PC, pull out the credit card, and stock up your Steam library with dozens of games that will remain in your unplayed pile of shame. The annual Steam Summer Sale begins June 22 at 6pm UK time (1pm EDT, 10am PDT).

Plus, UK users can get an additional £5 off a £20 spend until July 5 by paying with PayPal.

The 2016 Steam Summer Sale was the first without any daily or flash deals, which reduced the price of a game by as much as 75 percent for a short period of time. Given that the 2016 sale made even more money than previous years—and that, as Ars discovered, larger discounts didn’t always correlate with larger sales increases—it’s likely this year will see Valve sticking to consistent deals throughout.

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Want to get a game on Steam? $100 is all you need

Valve announced today that anyone will be able to publish games on Steam through its previously announced Steam Direct program for “a $100 recoupable publishing fee per game.”

In announcing the direct publishing fee, Valve says it “wanted it to be as small as possible to ensure it wasn’t a barrier to beginning game developers, while also not being so small as to invite easy abuse by people looking to exploit our systems.” The company’s “initial thinking” hovered around a $500 fee, the post notes, but eventually that number came down as “the community conversation really challenged us to justify why the fee wasn’t as low as possible, and to think about what we could do to make a low fee work.”

Valve’s announcement doesn’t go into details on how exactly developers will “recoup” the $100 fee Valve is asking for, outside of the usual 70 percent cut of Steam sales they already receive. The fee may end up being used as a sort of advance payment on Valve’s usual 30 percent cut of revenues, but it’s unclear how that would work for completely free titles listed on Steam.

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