5 bad Steam designs and how to fix them
Steam is currently the gaming platform that I use the most when it comes to gaming in general. It has easy accessibility, and I’m also often too lazy to stand up and turn on a console. Aside from that, it also has the most games out of any platform out there, meaning that there will always be a game on here that I haven’t played and that potentially interests me. I love this platform, but it does have obvious faults. I mostly feel this is due to Steam not having a lot of competition, so they don’t have to try as hard to please their fans. Origin and Uplay are only used for the exclusives from both EA and Ubisoft, GOG.COM is a very nice (if not better) alternative to Steam when it comes to DRM-free games but somehow still doesn’t stand amongst the same heights as Steam does, and Epic Games Store is… yeah, let’s not talk about that one. There are a lot of outdated Steam designs, or just bad ideas in general that I still have to deal with every day. I want to use Steam for the foreseeable future and beyond, so it would be great to have the Steam client evolve over time as well. So today, I wanted to talk about things that I would like to see Steam improve upon!
Before I go any further, I would like to state that Valve has been doing a good job when it comes to Steam Labs, where they launch experimental features for the consumer to try out and receive feedback on what they can improve. While we’re far from where we should be, Valve has been listening to the consumer and working together with them. And hey, if Valve keeps this up we might have a ”5 things Steam have improved upon” in the future! I also won’t include additions from the Summer Sale 2020 as those are too fresh to judge yet.
Reviews and Curators
I’ve wanted to get this out of the way first because I was completely ready to hate on this system, but someone did make a perfectly valid argument as to why it isn’t as bad as I originally wanted to describe it. So, reviews. If you’ve been on this site before you know that it’s 90% of what I write on here, so it’s a topic close to heart. I usually write short summary’s of my reviews that I make on here and post them on Steam with my review linked, as well as my own Steam group that functions as a curator. I put quite a lot of effort into them so people can get a quick overview of my opinion, and go to my review if they want to see more. It would be a shame if all that effort went to waste right? Introducing the Steam Review System™, where people can upvote reviews and the ones that are always at the top are no effort meme reviews. Yeah, because ”This game has more content than my fat mother-in-law” is definitely going to help me on deciding whether I want this game or not. It’s not consumer-friendly as people who want to have genuine opinions on a game have to search quite far to find genuine reviews. Recently Valve introduced an award system and while I had hoped that would fix the problem as people indirectly spend cash to give an award, that was unfortunately not the case as the meme reviews still farm all the awards while genuine reviews seldom get one. Frankly, Valve made it even worse themselves by not only giving people the ability to up- or downvote, but to mark them as funny.
But here’s the problem. You can’t force people to ”write a good review” because that would remove freedom from the writer. And while there are meme reviews, there are also genuine two-line reviews that can describe the game well. Finally, there is the audience who read the reviews. For new players, they want to know whether or not to buy the game, but people who have played the game also read reviews and they’re not necessarily looking for an entire breakdown of the game on what’s good and what’s bad. For them, just browsing through what other people have to say is enough, and usually one of the things they look for is memes. So we can’t just say ”well, let’s nuke the meme reviews” because you would remove people their freedom in writing and also alienate an entire audience. So what would I do to fix this? Pretty easy actually.
How to fix this issue: Separate funny and informative reviews from each other. Give people the option to mark a checkbox whether this review was made to genuinely inform a new player on whether to buy the game or not, or if it was purposely made to be funny for veteran players. I know this also removes freedom from writers, but this is a way better alternative than what we have now.
Oh, and I was also going to talk about curators since they don’t deserve their own paragraph. Just… rework this system please. If I see one more curator saying useless stuff like ”Nep Nep Nep Nep” for every game which, mind you, is also one of the curators with the most followers, I’ll personally riot on the forums. Let groups apply to the curator system and manually review them since there aren’t that many. There are so many downright useless curators with a ton of followers and frankly, it infuriates me.
This is also one closer to heart as I’m an achievement hunter, but I feel the achievement system is very lacking in comparison to what Microsoft and Sony offer. While their achievements give a nice pop-up with sound, Steam’s achievements are just a simple pop-up in the corner of the screen. While their systems have a nice and clean list with all games that have achievements and how much progress you’ve made in the games, Steam has no such list and instead forces you or another viewer to click the game to view stats. Now that’s all easy to fix, but in general I feel getting achievements on Steam just doesn’t feel as rewarding. On Xbox you can proudly show the gamerscore under your name, and Playstation shows the number of trophies you have of each category. Steam… shows your perfect game count and average completion IF you have your profile levelled up to 10 AND activated the achievements showcase. Whenever I want to look at my completed games or progress in games in general, I often just use third-party sites such as Completionist from where I will also base some of the fixes I’ve had in mind. But before I cover how to fix this, there’s another problem I want to tackle first.
There are many games on Steam that are literally made with the aim to have as much achievements as possible, and even have them be unlocked right from the start. Don’t worry, I’ll come back to this all later. Yes, I definitely will. But this poses a problem because we can’t work with something similar to gamerscore in that case unless achievements unlock like… 0.2 points or something. And while I would love for nothing else but for them to be removed from Steam forever, that’s not going to happen. Then there’s the problem of games that have the ”Profile Features Limited” tag, which prevents them from counting towards your achievement total despite being normal games. I’ll come back to that later as well, but for now just remember it as Valve’s failed attempt to counter shovelware that would launch on Steam for the sole purpose of achievements.
How to fix this issue: Make gaining achievements more rewarding and visually appealing. Have names of games turn golden for example when you’ve completed the game, or give them a golden border in both your library and on your profile. Have the profiles show your achievement stats as well in a separate area that has nothing to do with showcases that you need a specific Steam level for. Unfortunately there’s nothing to do about the games with achievements that unlock right from that start but regardless, this should be a very appealing change for achievement hunters.
So Steam profiles. I’d say they’re pretty nice overall and definitely not a bad design as the title of this article implies, but they’ve also been the same for years and I believe they can benefit from an upgrade. Now in Valve’s defence, they have actually made some improvements during the Summer Sale 2020. There are borders for profile pictures, mini backgrounds and even animated backgrounds for your profile. I definitely believe Valve will improve on these new changes and add new designs later on, but I’m looking at it more from a structural viewpoint. Outside of profile levels, you are very much restricted to a basic profile where you can change almost nothing to how it’s structured. And even with profile levels, the only thing that’s added are showcases. Due to this, every profile just looks the same and when they do, nobody is really going to bother checking out your entire profile. I would personally like to see the user have more control over the structure of the profile, particularly in the middle with the showcases. They’re a fixed size and if you have the maximum level, your profile just grows in length overall. A few more showcases probably wouldn’t hurt either. Actually, let’s go to the fix straight away so you can understand what I mean.
How to fix this issue: I think the top part of the profile is fine, but there’s possibly something that can be added there. Maybe a short bio or something. The right side is also fine, but could probably benefit from labels that you could customize yourself. A lot of Steam users don’t make videos, artwork or even screenshots so it’s just wasted space. For the showcases, I would like more different ones (probably more text boxes/image boxes) and the ability to change their sizes by means of a grid. Enter a customizing mode and drag the showcases on the grid and resize them to your liking for example. It gives a lot more freedom and won’t make your profile just much longer in length. A free textbox/image box for people not interested in steam levels would probably also be nice.
As for showcases, here are some examples of what I would like:
- A playlist (games that you are planning to play).
- A community showcase. For example, you can put polls there where people can vote on stuff like what game to play next or what game to buy.
- A slider showcase where you can put images or games that move around constantly, so people see something new every time they go to your profile.
I’m surprised this didn’t cause an uproar when they released the points shop with the Summer Sale 2020. The badge and Steam levelling system have always been… quite a mess, let’s not beat around the bush. At the time it was okay; play games to get cards, trade cards with others to craft badges and get some rewards for creating one such as emojis and backgrounds. Eventually it turned into its own economy and that’s when the mess started. The higher your level, the higher the chances are that you get a booster pack with 3 trading cards, but some people started competing for the highest level on Steam and as you can imagine, the lower levels almost never get a booster pack. I’m level 105 myself, and I can consider myself lucky if I get a booster pack once half a year. Some trading cards and backgrounds are being sold for ridiculous prices on the marketplace, making levelling even tougher. Besides, there are no rewards to get after level 100 other than the extremely low chance to get a booster pack.
Furthermore, Valve ruined this system themselves with the highly abusable Summer Sale 2019. While many people before the sale had to work quite hard to get to level 100, the badge from that sale eliminated all hurdles and easily got people from level 1 to 100 or higher with ease. What could be seen as an accomplishment back in the day was now something everyone had access to. Unfortunately the damage has been done and can not be reverted. This system can’t easily be fixed because it will upset a lot of players one way or another, but there are a few enhancements I can think of:
How to fix this issue: My easiest solution would be to throw away the system but that will offend a lot of people who’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of bucks on it. I feel like cards should at least be handed out differently and not just for having played 3 hours and then never again. I know the original intent was to trade with other people, but I’d rather collect all the cards by myself or at least be able to craft a level 1 badge. Speaking off, being able to select which level badge you want to display would also be beneficial. For example, one of my best friends really loves a character but that is only the level 2 badge, so he personally doesn’t want to get the level 5 badge.
The rewards you get from levels should be reworked. The ability to add more friends and customize your profile through showcases are not good rewards and only work until level 100 anyway. Besides, the friends list is already pretty big overall so unless you’re an internet celebrity
unlike me, you won’t need that much space. Getting backgrounds and emojis from badges is fine I suppose, but levelling needs something extra to make it appealing, like a badge that displays your level. There could be way more options but honestly, I think the idea of a profile level is bad to begin with because it’s ONLY based on your badges and not on the number of games, playtime or achievements you have. Maybe just throw the levels out of the window to be honest.
Yes, we’ve reached the big one! This is one of the main reasons I’ve wanted to make this article to begin with because this? This is unacceptable. In the past few years, the store has been absolutely plagued by:
- Porn games
- Games with stolen assets
- Games made just for achievements that unlock at the very beginning of the game
- Unity or other shovelware that was made in less than a day
- Meme games
- All of the above in one package
There is so much absolute garbage on the store, and it increases in numbers literally every day. Want a slider puzzle game where you can get images of your favourite 2D anime waifus with art stolen from the internet? Or what about a training simulator for Apex Legends, a game that wasn’t even on Steam to begin with? Steam Greenlight wasn’t perfect, but it stopped most of the trash from getting on to Steam. It has been replaced by Steam Direct that allows people to publish their game on the platform after all the paperwork has been through and a fee has been paid, while Valve would keep an active reviewing status. And we all know the latter is not true with how many garbage there has been on the store.
The worst part is that this mentality actually hurts good games from smaller developers. Games that just don’t sell well will always be stuck with the ”Profile Features Limited” tag, which means they won’t have trading cards/badges, and their achievements won’t count towards your overall rate. This tag is not reviewed manually, which means that even more popular games from publishers/developers who’ve never had a big hit before will still get the tag. Is it a hindrance to the overall enjoyment of the game? No. But the reason this tag exists to begin with is because Valve allowed so much filth on their platform. Or what about Visual Novels? The developers/publishers of these games have to actively remove scenes or censor them heavily to even be allowed on the platform, while porn games are allowed without a problem. While all the former bad designs are more improvements to the overall feel of Steam, the quality control is something that needs to change–and fast.
How to fix this issue: There are multiple issues here that need to be fixed so let’s tackle them one-for-one:
- Allow gamers to make an appeal or vote whether a game should have the ”Profile Features Limited” tag or not. Yes, there will always be trolls that vote the complete opposite, but anything is better than what’s currently happening. Make it a closed vote only for a particular group of people or something.
- Be more active with manually reviewing. Yes, I know there are a lot of submissions every single day, but Valve is a big company and since they have their own slice of every game’s profit, they can afford it. It’s better to prevent games from getting on the store since when they’re on the store, people have already bought them and therefore they will always remain part of Steam’s history. The ability to buy them may be removed, but the games are not removed from people their library since they’ve already spent money on it.
- Be far, and far more clear with what is accepted and what isn’t. There is no reason for porn games with stolen assets to be on Steam, but then force Visual Novels to have their content cut significantly of which most don’t even show actual body parts unless there’s an 18+ patch. Your audience doesn’t want games that are solely porn and nothing else Valve and if they do, make a separate platform for them or something.
- You know full well when a game is shovelware or when it isn’t Valve. You know full well when a game is published on Steam solely to have 6000 achievements Valve. Use. Your. Brain.
Sorry for that last part, I couldn’t keep my composure. But frankly, that’s only because I love Steam a lot, and it hurts a lot to see such a great platform tainted by such bad designs because Valve doesn’t have to put in that much effort; the competition is nihil, and they get a lot of money anyway. I’m unfortunately aware that for some of these bad designs, there is no going back; the damage has already been done. But still, I have faith in Valve. They do listen to their community, and Steam Labs has also been doing well. But Valve can’t do it alone: our voices need to be heard. So if there is a change you want to see happen to Steam, let it be known! Post it on the Steam forums, or make your own blog posts or social media posts!