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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YouTubers escape fines for promoting their own CS:GO gambling site

A pair of YouTubers will not face any fines for undisclosed promotion of a Counter-Strike: GO (CS: GO) gambling site they owned, as part of a settlement with the FTC announced this week.

Last May, Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell came under fire for videos promoting CSGO Lotto, a site that lets players gamble using in-game skins as a form of currency. Those videos breathlessly promoted the site with titles like “HOW TO WIN $13,000 IN 5 MINUTES” but did not disclose that the site in question was itself owned by the video makers.

Martin and Cassell will not face fines as part of the settlement but have agreed to “clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections with an endorser or between an endorser and any promoted product or service” in the future. That punishment is barely even a slap on the wrist for what the initial complaint called a “deceptive act or practice” that could mislead and harm consumers.

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Tired of waiting for Half-Life 3? Make it yourself

All right, smart guy… you say you’re tired of waiting over 11 years now for Valve to release a promised new Half-Life installment? You say you’ve had it with the countless broken promises and vague hints that “Episode 3” still exists in some form? You say you know exactly what Valve needs to do to make the sequel everyone has been wanting for years?

Well, prove it. Now you can attempt to make your own version of Half Life 3, if you’re so danged smart.

Developer Laura Michet (Frog Fractions 2) and her Itch.io page will host the Epistle 3 Game Jam from now through the end of October. The premise is simple: “Marc Laidlaw has released a genderswapped Half Life 3 plot synopsis on his blog,” Michet writes. “Some say the dream is dead. WE SAY… THE OPPOSITE. Half Life 3 is finally free, where it belongs: out in the world, with us. Half Life 3 belongs to the people. LET’S MAKE IT.” There are no restrictions for submissions, only a requirement to use Laidlaw’s plot in whole or in part.

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Steam reviewers bomb Dota 2 over lack of Half-Life 3

If there’s one thing we know about online user reviews, it’s that they often bear little resemblance to the actual quality of the product in question. Today’s evidence: the user reviews section for Dota 2 on Steam, which in recent days has been flooded with people complaining not about Dota 2 directly but about Valve’s refusal to work on Half-Life 3.

PCGamesN was among the first to notice the review bombing this weekend, and the timing of this coordinated online “protest” may seem odd, considering that over 11 years have passed since Half-Life 2: Episode 3 was first announced. It seems likely that former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw’s recent publication of a “fanfic” potential plotline for Half-Life 3 may have spurred some of the newfound backlash against Valve. The announcement of a microtransaction-powered Dota 2 card game earlier this month also seems to be spurring at least some of the ire against the company’s priorities.

A few choice quotes from the hundreds of recent negative reviews:

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Potential Half-Life 3 plot outed by series writer Marc Laidlaw

Half-Life 3, gaming’s greatest unicorn, may finally be with us—albeit in text form. Marc Laidlaw, the now retired lead writer of the Half-Life series, has published what appears to be a summary of the plot of Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2: Episode 3, entitled “Epistle 3.

Epistle 3 takes the form of a fictional letter directed to “Dearest Playa” from a character named “Gertie Fremont.” It features a ship “Hyperborea,” and alien bad guys called the “Disparate,” which—when swapped out for original Half-Life names and places—makes the letter as close to a resolution to the series as players are likely to get.

An edited version of the synopsis on Pastebin—which is currently the only place to read it given the unwashed massed of the Internet have taken down Laidlaw’s blog—has already replaced and the names places ready for reading. The beginning of the synopsis reads:

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Valve announces Artifact, a Dota-themed digital card game

Rather than wait until the end of The International, the major Dota 2 tournament taking place in Seattle all week, to announce major Dota news, Valve surprise-announced an entirely new video game on the event’s second, early-rounds evening.

“It’s not Half-Life 3,” broadcaster Sean “Day9” Plott said, and he insisted that the game was not a re-release or a fine-tuning of an existing game à la Counter Strike: GO or Dota 2. Then, he introduced a vague, 35-second teaser video that prominently featured a triangular logo. It ended with the phrase: Artifact: The Dota Card Game, which Valve says will publicly launch sometime in 2018. (Technically, Plott wasn’t lying, but gosh, did he come close.)

Sadly, Artifact‘s reveal was not followed with anything in the way of screenshots or gameplay. Instead, Plott described having played test versions of the game already, and his brief description hinted at a one-on-one digital card-battling game, like Hearthstone, only with a Dota-themed three-lane system and other Dota-like tweaks.

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Oculus updates its Home platform to play nice with Steam purchases

 Oculus may be aiming to become the content power house of virtual reality, but it’s still making efforts to play nice with other ecosystems. In a new update rolling out today for PCs, Oculus has added support for launching off-platform titles, meaning most critically, that gamers will be able to access all the available Rift-compatible apps and games in-headset without having to… Read More

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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