three new features to trial
Valve has launched a new feature on their storefront – titled Steam Labs.
The hub (which has its own banner on the store page at the time of writing) is Valve’s attempt at trialing new features for Steam with feedback from the community. The features (dubbed experiments) are available to use for anyone with a Steam account.
Currently there are three ‘active experiments’ for users to try out and give their feedback on. The first is called Micro Trailers and is effectively a page full of recommended games, each with their own micro trailer. The idea, as Valve put it, is to “absorb a couple dozen RPGs or a hundred of the latest titles over your lunch break” by viewing six-second trailers for games in different categories. The feature is coming under criticism in its official discussion board for failing to show gameplay, instead opting to show quotes from reviewers.
The second experiment builds on a feature already present on Steam, which is the ever so helpful Steam curator – a service that picks out games that are relevant to you, based on a factors such as games you play. Now, Valve is putting the Interactive Recommender to the test, a tool that finds games for you based on your games, and the conditions you input into its sliding options. The result is a list of titles based on your choices. The reception for this experiment is very positive, but many users are calling for Valve to include more conditions in order to refine search results.
Steam Lab’s final experiment is the Automatic Show: a feature that pumps out a computer generated showcase of a selection of titles on Steam. Valve shared one advertising the most popular games on Steam on July 9th in a 24 minute reel, but noted that they are looking to make multiple shows, based on tags such as indies and hidden gems. They also showed a concept where an announcer was included, who spoke about the game. This is currently ‘tabled’, but the magic behind it is that the entire show (voice included) is generated by a computer. Again feedback was positive.
Valve have been more involved with the Steam community lately, pledging new games from their studio are on the way to compliment their recently released VR headset – the Valve Index. They also released Dota Underlords for PC and mobile, which has gone down well, garnering a playerbase in the thousands on Steam alone. Despite this, the recent Steam Summer Sale blunder has left some users frustrated with Valve due to the complexity and poor orchestration of the event, which saw users remove indie titles from their wishlist in hope of getting AAA games in the daily giveaways.
As the year progresses, it’s likely Valve will continue to publish new experiments.
Valve’s Steam Labs – What I think
Let’s be honest; for most Steam users, aside from actually playing video games, our favorite past time is browsing Steam’s endless lists of recommendations, even if we don’t end up buying anything.
This is why the experiments do an amazing job of making that hobby easier. Now Micro Trailers didn’t speak to me that much, as it failed to show me key details about the game but that’s ok, because the Interactive Recommender stepped in to save the day. Through fiddling with the sliders, I managed to nab four new titles to stick on my wishlist but I also discovered games that weren’t so hot. My library is varied, meaning every title was a mixed bag. It would have been nice to hone in on a specific genre.
Above all, the Automatic Show is what really steals the show here. Nintendo has their direct, PlayStation have State of Play, Xbox have Inside Xbox and now Steam has whatever this is going to be called. While the idea seems trivial, having a list of recommended games delivered to me in a visual format beats having to click through 20 pages any day. What’s more the idea of having multiple shows is something I could get behind.
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