This Dumb Industry: Steam Summer Blues

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 27, 2017

Filed under: Column 161 comments

The Steam Summer Sale is going on, and yet somehow I can’t find any games to buy. Even at these giveaway prices, I don’t see anything that strikes me as interesting. I’m sure there are games that would interest me, but finding them means going through the hassle of finding the gems amid the swirling garbage pile that is the Steam storefront.

A Library of Neglect

I really dislike that you can't see the summary of a game in your library. If you want to know what it is, you have to visit the store page.
I really dislike that you can't see the summary of a game in your library. If you want to know what it is, you have to visit the store page.

It’s not that I need more games. I have 604 games in my Steam library. Of those, 185 of them are completely unplayed. Almost a third of my library consists of games I have never even launched. This is in addition to a couple of dozen games that I’ve played for less than five minutes.

I suppose I need to give some context for these numbers.

A small percent of my games library came from review copies of games. That was pretty common back in 2010 or so when I was putting up content three times a week at The Escapist, but now it happens about three times a year. (And never for AAA titles.) Maybe it’s because I’m no longer part of the Escapist, or maybe it’s because marketing is really focused on video content these days. In any case, I’d guess review copies account for less than 5% of my library.

I write about games for a living, so of course my needs are going to be a little different than those of the average consumer. I might buy a game I know I won’t like if I think I can get an article out of it, or if I’ll need it for screenshots, or if I just need a better understanding of how the genre works.

I’ve actually played some of those 185 ignored titles, except I played them on a console. When I got rid of my PS3 and my Xbox 360 died, I picked up a few favorites on the PC while they were cheap, just in case I ever found myself in the mood to play them again.

A lot of my games came as part of bundles. For example, at some point I must have purchased the Prince of Persia collection. That’s five more games in my library, and five more games that (as far as Steam knows) I’ve never playedI’ve actually played all of them except for Warrior Within and Forgotten Sands..

The Storefront Feels Like a Warehouse

On the left are the cliffs of Day-Z clones, and on the right are the foothills of indie side-scrolling platformers.
On the left are the cliffs of Day-Z clones, and on the right are the foothills of indie side-scrolling platformers.

So yes, my library numbers are inflated and distorted. But even with such a large backlog of titles I still find myself drawn to the Steam storefront, only to be rebuffed by the hassle. Every week or so I dig through the Steam storefront looking for something interesting, and I always come up empty. Steam has a “discovery queue” supposedly designed to help you find new titles, but as far as I can tell it’s just a service to show me an endless catalog of half-finished open-world multiplayer PvP survival sandbox games with crafting and abominable graphics. I’m sure there are good games in this massive list, but I have no way to find them.

As of this writing, there are over 15,000 different games on Steam. That is not a small number! The Steam storefront is a great example of the long tail in action: A handful of blockbuster titles, a few dozen popular ones, a few hundred niche titles, and then thousands upon thousands of shovelware titles, achievement dispensers, abandoned projects, asset flips, horrible clones, and other dross that doesn’t interest anyone. If you’re like me, then perhaps 1% of the Steam catalog is interesting to you, and the rest is just noise. Finding those needles in that great big haystack requires really robust browsing tools.

Sadly, Steam’s storefront is not robust. It’s a frustrating, convoluted mess that’s always trying to sell me the same dozen things, with very crude tools for digging through the other 15,000.

Let’s Go Hunting for Games

Image by the talented 1041uuu. Click to visit their page.
Image by the talented 1041uuu. Click to visit their page.

I enjoy good pixel art. Sometimes I’ll buy a 2D pixel art game just so I can gaze at the artwork. How can I search for a game with good pixel art?

First you need to find the link to search by tag. The link for this seems to move around a bit sometimes, but if it’s not on the front page then go to the drop-down menu at the top, go to “Games”, then go all the way down to “See Popular Tags”. Once you’re on that page, switch over to the tab that lists global tags instead of the useless page it has you land onIt’s supposed to be “your most popular tags” but it’s broken for me. A year ago it decided the only tag I’ll ever care about is match-3 and no amount of tag-searching will break it out of this rut.. The tags are listed in order of popularity, not alphabetically, so good luck finding what you want. It’s probably best to just hit Ctrl-F and search the page for it. Which sort of makes you wonder why you had to click through three different pages if you were just going to end up typing what you wanted into a search box anyway. Why not just make searching by tag a thing on the front page? Aside from searching by genre, it’s your only tool for searching for unknown titles in a desired style, so it really ought to be easy to find and convenient to use.

In any case, once you find your tag you can click on it and you’ll be taken to a page that will show you all of the new releases and top sellers in that category. This is pretty daft, since if I wanted to see new releases and top sellers I could have found them on the front page! Why would I dig all the way down here if I was looking for things found on the surface?

You’re probably ready to jump in here and tell me I’m doing it all wrong, because there’s a “better” way to get to your tags. But that’s part of my gripe. There’s three different ways to do everything, and they all lead to pages that seem to be the same idea with a different implementation. You might find a button that promises you’ll be able to “See all 958 titles” in Pixel Graphics. (Or however many are in your chosen tag.) That sounds promising, but it actually takes you to this stupid page:

Give it a rest, guys. At this point, the game is already owned by everyone who might possibly care about the game and is physically capable of playing it. The market is filled. I've clicked past it a hundred times. Show me something else.
Give it a rest, guys. At this point, the game is already owned by everyone who might possibly care about the game and is physically capable of playing it. The market is filled. I've clicked past it a hundred times. Show me something else.

Ignoring that this page is now burning two large chunks of real estate trying to sell me the same game that was already prominently featured on several previous pages, look at these useless tabs. Is there any appreciable difference between “New and Trending” and “New Releases”? Wouldn’t top sellers just be a mix of “Trending” and “Specials”? Most importantly, what do I click on to view ALL? Let’s assume I’ve already seen the hot items and I just want to browse the catalog of 958 titles it hinted at on the previous page. You can’t do that from here.

But whatever. Fumble around long enough and you’ll find a list of games with the desired tag. What you’ll get is a listing with many, many pages to thumb through. I’m not sure how Steam chooses the ordering, but it seems to be another page driven by popularity. Which means page 1 is going to be the same crap it’s already showed you six times in the last two minutes. Page 2 will be the same thing, except it will be the darlings from last month. Page 3 will still be popular stuff, except a little older. Basically, if you’re looking for something you haven’t seen before then you’re going to need to tediously step through this list a page at a time until the new stuff shows up.

This list has always made me uneasy. Sometimes I’ll see an item on Page 1, then again on Page 2. Is this two different versions of the same game? Or is Steam shuffling the list as I browse? I’ve even had it list the same game twice on the same page. It’s absurd. Worse, it makes me worry that the new stuff I’m looking for has been moved to one of the previous pages where I won’t encounter it.

Does Cities Skylines really need to be listed on this page twice? I mean, it was ALREADY listed on page 1! It's bad enough you'll only show me 10 at a time like I'm browsing the internet in 1998. Can you not waste so much space on repeats?
Does Cities Skylines really need to be listed on this page twice? I mean, it was ALREADY listed on page 1! It's bad enough you'll only show me 10 at a time like I'm browsing the internet in 1998. Can you not waste so much space on repeats?

But fine. So we’re painstakingly paging through this giant list that may or may not be in a deterministic order. Now we just need to find something interesting. You can hover over a title to get a summary, but the summary doesn’t actually tell you what you need to know. It shows you rotating screenshots, but not the text describing the game. You need to click through if you want to know what it is. Am I really supposed to click through on all 900+ entries, read the desription, and then hit the back button to return to scrolling the list? Can’t we have some sort of info box that can be expanded to show more, as you find on Netflix / Amazon? These pages are not particularly fast and this process is already slow enough as it is.

Or maybe you’ll see something you know you’ll want. Sadly, you can’t just add it to your cart from this listing like you’re shopping at Amazon. You must click through to the page for the game in question. And adding it to your cart will take you to yet another page. In the past this would prevent you from going back to the list with your tags and search terms intact, so if you wanted to keep shopping you’d need to start over and find where you were in the list. That seems to be fixed as I write this, but I can’t promise it will stay fixed.

This is a simple thing I’m trying to do. This is like walking into the bookstore, going to the “Sci-Fi” section, and browsing the available titles. This task should be easier and faster on a computer, and instead it’s a mess of UI dysfunction and hassle.

Some people dislike that Steam offers so much crap. They would rather Valve hired someone to curate the list and scrape out all the asset flips and shovelware. Other people want an open storefront where any bedroom programmer can compete with the AAA studios. I have no idea what Valve’s goals are, but they seem to be failing both groups. We don’t get the convenience and clarity of having a small catalog to sort through, because there’s 15,000 titles of dross. But we also don’t get the benefit of having an open storefront because browsing that dross is inconvenient to the point of outright deterrence.

I’m not asking that Valve put the crap on the front page. But I think we can do better than we’re doing now. It should be possible to please both groups. We just need a clean, possibly-curated front page with all the big sellers, and then a few basic search tools for sorting through the deep parts of the catalog.

And because I know people will bring up GoG in the comments:

What About GoG?

DRM free, sane pricing, and consumer protection. GoG has all the policies I want. Sadly, they don't have the GAMES I want. (That I don't already own.)
DRM free, sane pricing, and consumer protection. GoG has all the policies I want. Sadly, they don't have the GAMES I want. (That I don't already own.)

I like GoG better in almost every way. It’s a better game client from a nicer company. I like that their game listings show 25 entries instead of Valve’s embarrassingly limited 10, and that you can browse through additional groups of 25 titles without needing to reload the entire page.

But GoG isn’t interested in an open storefront, which means they have a much smaller catalog. It’s a good place to go if you want the classics of yesteryear, but it’s not a good place to look for offbeat indie fare. Yes, GoG doesn’t have ten thousand Day-Z clones, but it’s also a place without the screwball meme-spawning insanity of Goat Simulator, the surreal silliness of I Am Bread, the satirical amusement of DLC Quest, the one-note joke of Five Nights at Freddy’s, or the polite adequacy of Good Robot. Steam has a terrible system for dealing with fringe titles, while GoG makes no effort to offer fringe titles.

In the coming weeks I’m going to go through those neglected titles in my library, spend a little time with a few of them, and report my findings. A lot of them are mystery games that I don’t remember buying, so this should be amusing.



[1] I’ve actually played all of them except for Warrior Within and Forgotten Sands.

[2] It’s supposed to be “your most popular tags” but it’s broken for me. A year ago it decided the only tag I’ll ever care about is match-3 and no amount of tag-searching will break it out of this rut.

From The Archives:

161 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: Steam Summer Blues

  1. Yerushalmi says:

    Sometimes I'll see an item on Page 1, then again on Page 2. Is this two different versions of the same game? Or is Steam shuffling the list as I browse? I've even had it list the same game twice on the same page. It's absurd. Worse, it makes me worry that the new stuff I'm looking for has been moved to one of the previous pages where I won't encounter it.

    The same thing happens when searching on Wikipedia or TV Tropes. It’s *incredibly* annoying, especially if you’re looking for something rare enough that it only appears thirty times total and you want to catalogue all thirty times it appears.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The duplicates in the list on Steam are likely because whatever tech they’re using for search is asynchronous, and they’re got bugs in (using) it. As for the non-determinism, I’m pretty sure Steam is actually randomizing the search results every time I do a search. The pages of results are deterministic, but re-doing a search is another shuffle. :S

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’m without regular internet currently, so no links or checking if it’s on sale, but I will recommend a game to you (and everyone else) because I believe these guys deserve their good game to be sold a lot :

    Cryptark is the generic name it goes under. But under that name is a beautiful looking, beautiful sounding, flying robots bullet hell rougelike like. You really should at least try it, because it’s well crafted solid indie game, which is still a rarity. And it has full voice acting on top of everything.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I love the Biscuit, but on that I disagree with him. It really does not matter what original rogue was like, just how rpg does not involve much actual role play in computer games. Granulating the genre further to -like and -lite doesn’t accomplish anything useful.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          The other option (which I’ve already started to do) is to just stop using the watered-down, useless labels of “roguelike” or “RPG”. Roguelike has been widely mis-applied to a huge variety of disparate games sharing almost nothing in common[1], and pretty much every video game every made has you playing the role of a protagonist. Tag-based systems like those on Steam are useful, since they (can) match the words somebody would use to describe a game they’ve played, or a game they are trying to find. e.g. “I’d like to find a new game to play this weekend, Joe. Do you know any that have heavy sports themes, a single player-character, that have a 3D 3rd-person camera, a strong narrative without any open-world questing nonsense, and a diesel-punk aesthetic?”

          [1] I liken this to describing a restaurant with a word that (somehow, comically) means “Either Italian cuisine or sushi bar”. The response to critics, from people who use this word would be, “They both use rice sometimes, or maybe wine! They’re so similar!”

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The other option (which I've already started to do) is to just stop using the watered-down, useless labels of “roguelike” or “RPG”.

            This only happens when a better term gets into use.This is how doom clones became first person shooters.And how third person shooters became cover based shooters.And of course,how spunkgargleweewee became a thing/joke.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Oh, Daemian, spunkgargleweewee games were ALREADY a joke. A pretty crude and awful joke, but still.

      2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Roguelike vs Roguelite is the distinction someone would make who thinks it’s really important you understand that Mass Effect and Destiny AREN’T RPGs! THEY’RE NOT! ONLY THE GAMES I LIKE ARE RPGs! Those people are easily dismissed.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not necessarily.TB does make good arguments for why he thinks the distinction is necessary,and he has put plenty of games he likes and dislikes into both of those categories.I disagree with his arguments,but to dismiss them outright by saying “he just doesnt like those games and is therefore irrelevant” would be disingenuous.

          My disagreement comes from the fact that it would be much easier(and less confusing than using one letter apart words) to simply add a “turn based” in front of the games that are actually like rogue,and have the roguelike remain the descriptor for real time perma death procedurally generated games that the broader public thinks it actually applies to.

          1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            My problem with Roguelike vs Roguelite is by the time you’ve explained the differences to everyone, they understand the genre so well they don’t need the distinction anymore. Roguelike is a solid descriptor. Not super specific, but it brings up certain ideas. Kind of like how “action” may be a shooter or it may not, may have QTE’s and cutscenes, may be completely player controlled, but it’s still useful to note.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              What exactly is “Roguelike” supposed to mean in its current usage, then? From what I’ve seen on Steam and from people talking about it, it seems to mean that the game has any or all of:
              – random levels
              – fantasy elements
              – permanent death

              How many of those features are required? Should Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds be called a roguelike because it has random loot in the level and permanent death? Is Alphaman not a roguelike because it is set in a nuclear apocalypse? Is Minecraft a roguelike because it has random levels? All of these games are widely different, and at least two of them are definitely what would not be called “roguelike” by either the more strict definition(s), or by the vague definition. However, the current definition as I understand it, would include all three of those games, instead of just one or zero of them.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Random levels,perma death,progression unlocked between runs.Thats basically what roguelike means these days.It has nothing to do with the setting.So basically just a broad term like rpg* that should be tied with something else(top down,multiplayer,coop,2d platformer,fps,….)in order to get a more accurate description.

                *Or better yet:open world.

                1. Echo Tango says:

                  Does that mean it needs all three of those things? Even if it does, that definition still includes Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, because it’s got all three elements. It’s got skins and clothing unlocked between runs; permanent death; and the levels are randomized every time with the loot spawns, loot crates, player starting positions, bombing zones, and the shrinking-death zones. PUBG is officially a roguelike.

                  Incidentally, the progression between runs is where I draw the line, and why I agree with TotalBiscuit that we need a different label for games that include it. The original Rogue and its progeny had every run be a clean slate, and I consider it a core characteristic of “roguelike”.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Even if it does, that definition still includes Playerunknown's Battlegrounds

                    And what is the problem with that?Like I said,having a multiplayer roguelike is an option.

                    1. Echo Tango says:

                      I believe at this point you are purposefully stretching the definition of the word past even remote devil’s advocacy, and into complete ridiculousness, simply to have the last word.

                      TLDR: Multiplayer roguelikes are fine; PUBG is not a roguelike.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Why not?You say that it fits all the criteria that make isaac a roguelike(cant say because I havent played it myself).So why should it not be classified as one?

                2. Stu Hacking says:

                  The term “Roguelike” is a relatively recent invention given the age of the genre. Up until about 2005 (at a very rough estimate), such games were more descriptively tagged as top-down, turn-based, dungeon-crawl, hack-n-slash, cRPG (I know right?). At some point, someone must have desired a one word moniker for “Something like Rogue”.

                  But I agree the term is basically meaningless again since most games pick and choose a limited subset of the genre. And some of the things that people typically ascribe to roguelike didn’t actually exist in the trope-namer. I think the main aspects tend to be these:

                  Turn-based: The games were originally written on text-based terminals. So this was more a limitation of the technology at the time. In fact, the main innovation of “roguelikes” then was displaying the game info as a top-down map rather than a text adventure.

                  Permadeath: Your character dies, you start again. Fairly standard of the genre. Encourages replayability since it increases the difficulty of reaching “The End”, along with:

                  Random Levels: Actually every rogue level had 9 rooms max, laid out roughly in a 3×3 grid, but with a bit of jiggling the width and height. The loot on each level was random, and unidentified loot is assigned one of a set of unintelligible labels. Again, these games were originally written by hobbyists and hackers who wanted to play them themselves. The best way to do this was to introduce some sort of random element that the developer couldn’t entirely plan for using knowledge of the code. (Of course, this isn’t perfect since you can learn how to identify items by spawn rate, monster attacks, etc… ).

                  Progression unlocked between runs: Didn’t really exist. You could learn which items were available in the game, so your progression was mostly about your (the player’s) knowledge of the game. Some games allowed item and monster knowledge to be maintained from one run to another, but you typically begin a new game at level 1 with only the starting equipment. (I feel like this may be a major differentiator between roguelike vs roguelite.)

                  cRPG: I feel that this is the woolliest classifier since it was already loaded down with expectations of table-top role-playing games. In brief I feel it covers the elements of Character Name, Race, Class, Stats, Inventory Management, Skills. In Rogue You don’t have either Class or Race: You just start as a generic warrior and play style is determined by the randomised items you find. Later games added the more D&D inspired elements, including Racial and Class bonuses/disadvantages to try and vary the tactics between roles. Skills in combat/magic were influenced by stats. The thing that nearly all roguelikes missed from this was playing a role in a story. The player had to use their imagination out-of-game to figure out what they were doing and why… in some cases really stretching it. Most people today (I think) play roguelikes for the mechanics and tactical gameplay than to immerse themselves in a fantasy setting (or otherwise).

                  I’m all for not using either term and just saying for example “Angband is a turn-based, Tolkien themed dungeon crawl.”, whereas “FTL is a real-time, tactical spaceship simulator.” I remember when we still called FPS games “Doom Styles”, but eventually a term outgrows its usefulness.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          No, it would be more akin to somebody advocating for the use of the RTS label, instead of calling a game a Red-Alert-like game, if it was completely different from anything in the Red Alert franchise.

      3. droid says:

        I like my definitions of words well defined. So well defined that there are computer programs to ensure they are used correctly. Here is the definition of roguelike.

        For example, Player Unknown Battlegrounds is a roguelikelikelike, while Minecraft is a roguelikelike.

        And Rogue is not a roguelike, since it has no differences between itself and Rogue.

        1. Droid says:

          But Rogue is like Rogue. Likeness is orderable (not necessarily strictly), so every Rogue is also Roguelike and every Roguelike is also Roguelikelike, etc.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Also: I’m seconding Cryptark. That game is so fun, that I finally upgraded to a (mini-ish) tower, from my old laptop!

      1. Mark says:

        It’s viciously hard, though (unless I just suck.) If I don’t want to have a completely gimped loadout I have to spend roughly as much as I’m going to get back from capturing the ship, then spend more to rearm once on board, and then I get further dinged financially for taking too long to do it. (OH NO WE CAN’T GIVE YOU FIFTEEN MINUTES INSTEAD OF TEN TO CAPTURE THIS VAST AND ANCIENT ALIEN DREADNAUGHT EVEN THOUGH IT TOOK WEEKS TO FLY OUT HERE OUR BUSINESS PLAN IS RUINED.) Any tips?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          It is pretty hard to start,and usually ends after a few runs.But there are ways to increase your money quickly.

          First,try not to pick a ship with more than one factory(preferably zero),because those are a pain.Especially if a bonus objective is to keep factories alive.
          Then,try and accomplish all the bonus objectives.
          Dont rush in.Plan a route,then slowly go through it,trying to disable as much stuff as you can.This can be done at reasonable pace,with about 50% of the clock still remaining.
          Use the grenades often.Until you get two artifacts to buy a suit with rockets,then use those even oftener.

          Thats as far as I got,but its a start.

          1. Mark says:

            Is there an out-of-game progression, then? Equipment and artifacts I successfully recover persist from run to run? The game wasn’t very clear about that.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              You get new ship types and weapons unlocked out-of-game, although your starting resources are generally the same. It’s kind of like TF2 in that your different gear choices are all roughly equivalent, but as you progress and unlock things, it’s mostly just more options rather than power level. I haven’t played in a month or two, but I think the devs are generally keeping all the unlocked starting gear balanced, so that you’re unlocking variety / choices, rather than power level.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          You should also make extensive use of the infinite-ammor weapons in the early game, so you’re not burning money on ammo each mission. Later on you’ll want to spend for the increased damage, so you can get through the missions faster (bonus objectives), or get through them at all in the very late stages.

    2. Chiller says:

      Thanks for this. I bought it, it was just what I wanted.

  3. Joe says:

    I find it easier to open steam in my browser, then open everything in tabs. But there doesn’t seem to be any order. Titles don’t seem to be listed by age/newness, popularity, price, or alphabetical order! How the hell am I ever supposed to find something new and interesting?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, browser-with-tabs Steam is pretty much the only way to go.

    2. Nevermind says:

      You know that middle-button-click in Steam client opens the link in a new window, right?

      1. Pete_Volmen says:

        Yeah, but twenty windows are a pain in the butt.
        Also, with the right addons/extensions browsers can have features like “close all tabs to the right,” “close all tabs in this domain,” and “close all duplicate tabs”.

      2. mechaninja says:

        This does raise the question of why Steam doesn’t have tabs yet. It’s 2017, Gaben.

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      I was just gonna jump in and ask why Shamus is browsing Steam like it 1998:
      “click through on all 900+ entries, read the desription, and then hit the back button to return to scrolling the list”
      what you do these days, of course, is just middle-click on all the things that look interesting in the list, hit next, and while the next ten are loadong, you read through the tabs that just opened in the background.

      …and now I realized that Steam apparently shows a website, but not in a regular browser, so you _have_ to do it loke it’s 1998. Wow. Why exactly does Steam own the PC games market again?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Because it started the trend first and carved out a huge monopoly.

    4. PowerGrout says:

      Another benefit of using Steam via a browser:
      “Back” & “Forwards” Actually bloody work.
      2017 and the Steam client only honours (pretty standard) mousebutton inputs as it when it damn well feels like. Lame.
      RE: Nevemind above: Having ‘extra tabs’ open as extra windows – not good enough.

  4. Zekiel says:

    God bless Steam. I’ve recently largely departed PC gaming for PS4 gaming and to be fair on Steam, their store does load faster than the Playstation Store. (And I’m talking about browsing the PS Store on a browser on PC, not on the console itself). I’ve no idea why a webpage with a few images takes so long to load.

    All of this is largely irrelevant to me, since my problem is not having enough time to play the games I do want to play, rather than wanting to find more games to play. But I always enjoy your rants an/or opinion pieces Shamus so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this too!

  5. Cubic says:

    I agree that it’s kind of amateurish, a bit like iTunes. Is there a company accountant somewhere that puts the project in maintenance when they launch or what? “Sure, the customers gripe a bit but where are they gonna go? Next year we want to offshore the whole thing. Our margins will improve markedly!”

    The clever thing, no the standard thing with a money maker like this would be to hire some guys with experience in ecommerce and user experience and, you know, quality and let them iterate and improve.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Steam: “We’d like you to do some consultancy for us, since you’re a specialist in public user interfaces.”
      Consultant: “Oh. Wow. Why are you listing the things that are already in my library as though I’d want to buy them again? Sometimes twice? Terrible. It’s all terrible. How do you stay in business?”
      Steam: “No idea, but everyone uses us and buys hundreds of games from us. Half the time they buy games they’re never going to play. Even knowing they’ve got hundreds of unplayed games, they still keep on buying.”
      Consultant: “People like you?”
      Steam: “No, our users hate us. They’re always complaining about DRM, complaining that we stopped work on Half-Life 3 to sell hats in microtransactions, that kind of thing. But they still fall over themselves to buy things they don’t need from our bad storefront.”
      Consultant: “DOES NOT COMPUTE!” (Head explodes.)

      1. Duoae says:

        To be fair, I’d move entirely to GOG if that were an option. :)

      2. Cubic says:

        Please don’t hire consultants. And isn’t it a lot like iTunes? Least effort but what are the customers gonna do? Go somewhere else?

        The library of unplayed games reminds me of my library of unread books. I’ll read them someday, I swear it.

        1. Dev Null says:

          “Isn’t it a lot like iTunes” is probably the cruelest and most hurtful thing I’ve ever heard someone say about a user interface.

      3. Fade2Gray says:

        In reality, I think the conversation goes more like this:

        [Random Valve Employee A to Random Valve Employee B]
        A: We should really fix the steam store front. It’s getting kind of embarrassing.
        B: Wasn’t Bill over in the corner working on that?
        A: Yeah, but then he decided it was too hard and unrewarding so he outsourced it to internet celebrities and started working on another Half-Life 3 dead end.
        B: Oh… Maybe we should hire someone qualified to fix the storefront.
        A: Sounds like a plan!

        [Three months later after hiring Joe to fix the store front]
        A: You hear anything from Joe about the storefront project?
        B: Oh, yeah. Joe decided that he’d rather work on another Half-Life 3 dead end.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          The flaw in this joke is that it assumes anyone at Valve is interested in Half-Life. Or making any non-DLC Trojan Horse games.

  6. Matt Downie says:

    I wonder how many people even bother searching Steam for new games? I’m more likely to see a game mentioned on a site I read, go into Steam and Wishlist it, then buy it when it goes on sale. (Though I did search their VR section when I bought my Vive…)

    The only people who really need to use this part of Steam are the ones who have their own website and are trying to discover new games to tell their readers about.

    1. Groboclown says:

      My Steam browsing habit is to click on the “Game” checkbox (so I don’t see the endless blather of DLC that I don’t care about) and view the “Specials” page. To me, this is a decent curated list of older titles that may not have seen much coverage. Of course, for their major sales like this Summer sale, it doesn’t do much.

      1. Niriel says:

        What does “specials” mean in that context?

        1. Richard says:

          Nobody knows.

          I’ve long since given up trying to find good games on Steam.

          For the most part I just give my friends games they have on their wishlists, and buy games where I’ve watched a Let’s Play and thought it looked fun.

      2. PPX14 says:

        Exactly. I only realised the Games option was there recently. Rather a funny thing to have to select, that I want to see games on Steam.

        What I now need is the ability to order by % reduction, rather than price – price alone ends up with a lot of rubbish at the top.

    2. AReasonWhy says:

      If I may provide insight, I don’t think many people do anymore. Personally, I remember before greenlight opened the floodgates I’d look at steams ‘new’ games every couple days or once every week or two, and check out what they decided to sell new. It was basically a short newsflash of what games released new. Nowdays that’s literally impossible with dozens upon dozens of games releasing everyday. And they know that, because the ‘new releases’ list now doesn’t have all their new releases, just new releases they think will sell well. Except it doesn’t really tell you its an incomplete list unless you look closer and see the ‘ALL new releases’ button. Its madness!

      Nowdays I use a mix of game news sites and scene sites to check out what things have released new, and then I’d open its steam store page to check out the steam reviews on it. Thats how things have changed for me anyway.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I still do that, I go through all the new releases really quick every two or three days (admittedly I have a site that presents them in a more approachable fashion, don’t have the link on this PC, it’s called “what’s new on steam” or something like that). Then I catch some titles that I’ve missed but that may interest me when someone mentions them on a podcast or a review site. Later, during sales, I tend to scan my wishlist rather than rely on the storefront.

    3. John says:

      I have the Steam app for my phone, so I occasionally browse a “Discovery Queue” when I’ve got a spare minute or two that can’t be put to more productive or enjoyable use. But I don’t think that the queue is terribly useful. The games on my wish list are all games that I’ve learned about from other sources.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      I pretty much exclusively hear of new games from streamers, reviewers, or through friends and coworkers. Steam’s UI basically does not in any way let me discover new games. Half of the time, it’s just showing me popular random stuff, and the other half it’s showing me games that are so exactly like what I’ve already played, that I would like to discover other/more-different games. So, like Shamus, I find it pretty useless in finiding new stuff to play.

      1. Syal says:

        Hey, a thin branch to hang my tangent on!

        So I’ve recently had the urge to play a turn-based tactics RPG where the main soldiers had time limits, and then I found out Phantom Brave does that alongside about half a dozen other experimental ideas. From the makers of Disgaea, so ridiculous exploits and terrible voice acting. Check it out if you’re desperate!

  7. Geebs says:

    You should honestly give both Warrior Within and Forgotten Sands a try, Shamus. Neither has the atmosphere of Sands of Time, but given that PoP-style platforming has since basically died and been replaced with rather milquetoast hold-stick-in-a-direction-occasionally-tap-button in the style of Uncharted, AssCreed and recent Tomb Raider games, they’re about the only games you haven’t yet played with genuinely satisfying parkour platforming.

    Warrior Within isn’t quite as obnoxious as the nu-Metal soundtrack and growly-scowly makeover make it seem (for one thing, a lot of the music in the game is actually by the composer for Sands of Time), and the actual platforming is the best of the series.

    Meanwhile, Forgotten Sands has a very forgettable plot and the combat isn’t great, but again the platforming is tightly-executed and layers on a series of time-related systems that result in some delightfully satisfying finger contortions by the end of the game.

    1. Duoae says:

      I agree totally on warrior within. I hated the game to begin with but came to love its improved combat systems by the end of it.

      I also agree about Forgotten Sands as it is just bland nothingness and I couldn’t get through the game.

      However, unmentioned, I have no love for the two thrones which had an even worse reworking of the characters than warrior but also terrible ‘quick time’ scenes where one mistake would send you back to a check Point over and over. I don’t remember the combat being very good either.

      Since I loved it, I’ll also throw in the latest prince of Persia – I thought it was a really nice game and pioneered many concepts that were adopted by later games successfully but, I think because of issues with changing how the game played compared to the previous trilogy, all mechanics were damned by players in general.

      (Eg Elika’s save mechanic was panned by both players and the press but turned up unscathed in Bioshock infinite [though that game certainly had its own problems]).

    2. Scampi says:

      I agree on Warrior Within being way more maligned than it deserves. It doesn’t have the same atmosphere as Sands of Time but is imo able to stand on its own feet as a sequel.
      The same goes for Two Thrones in my book, which I enjoyed a lot.
      Forgotten Sands I never tried. Isn’t it tied to Uplay?
      Another game with comparable mechanics but way more focus on combat (and regular quicktime events) would be Ninja Blade.
      I found it on sale in retail a few years ago, equipped with a faulty pricetag, which allowed me to get it for 2€. After playing, I believe it would have been worth a bit more (regular cheap price would have been fine, I think), but for the price I paid it was practically a steal and really fun.

    3. Sartharina says:

      In spite of the laughable grimderp of Warrior Within, I found it to be the best of the Prince of Persia games – it didn’t have the problems of “Fight an arbitrarily large number of constantly-spawning-in enemies” of the first and third games, combat was extremely fun with the switching between one-handed weapons, dual-wielding, and throwing your off-hand weapon away again to fight some more (And the combo system was incredible).

      While dreary in ‘the present’, the platforming and environments were top-notch, and the isolation on the island, and the clever incorporation of re-treading ground (Often tweaking it to give more/new paths across the same area) allowed better appreciation of the levels’ designs.

      It’s one of the most influential games I’ve ever played.

    4. The Rocketeer says:

      I must stand against this tide of revisionist history and inveigh that Warrior Within doesn’t get nearly the hatred it deserves. Its outright unbearable combat, by itself, would overwhelm any positives the game had, and it’s only the first of a long list of the game’s needless and obvious sins. It would reek sourly enough were it contained to its own flaming dumpster, but sadly, every negative element of overall-bearable Two Thrones is a holdover from Warrior Within, especially where the narrative is concerned.

      The source code for Warrior Within should be printed out, rolled, and used for toilet paper throughout Ubisoft’s office spaces.

      1. Geebs says:

        Man, my Wrong-o-meter 5000 must be playing up. I tried to use it to get an empirical measure of exactly how wrong you are, but it’s just showing me footage of that kissing scene from Sonic 2006.

    5. John says:

      Bah! Bah, I say! If it wasn’t published by Broderbund and playable on an Apple II as God and Jordan Mechner intended, then it ain’t Prince of Persia and I don’t hold with it.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Reminds me of an incredible story: Mechner recovering and archiving for posterity the original Prince of Persia source code. It’s a great read, if you haven’t heard it. Or if you have; it’s a good re-read, too.

        1. John says:

          Ooh! He found that? The last I knew all he had were some design docs that he had prepared for people doing ports. Thank you, sir!

    6. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Warrior Within starts incredibly poorly. It’s impressive how wrong headed the start is. However, after you get used to the combat system, it proves to be a very worthy sequel. The plot becomes actually interesting (I’m easy like Sunday morning for Time Loop shit) and the platforming gets better and better.

      Protips for people who don’t like the combat: any time there is a ledge, throw every enemy you can off of that ledge. If there is no ledge, kill someone for an offhand weapon, then throw that offhand weapon into the next guy for near fatal damage. Repeat.

      Forgotten Sands is the worst in the series, easily (out of Sands of Time, Warrior Within, Two Thrones, and PoP2008). However, compared to other action platforming games not in the series, it’s still a fun game (with a boring, shit plot).

  8. I recommend you check out if you haven’t. They truly have an open storefront, their search and tag browsing is startlingly robust, and they have the weird indie stuff that never even tried to get on Steam… without as much of the “Steam is a goldmine, right?” shovelware that clogs up Steam searches.

    Their developer tools are really nice, too.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Itch is also a very dev-friendly service. Started by an indie, for other indies.

  9. Steam has a “discovery queue” supposedly designed to help you find new titles, but as far as I can tell it's just a service to show me an endless catalog of half-finished open-world multiplayer PvP survival sandbox games with crafting and abominable graphics. I'm sure there are good games in this massive list, but I have no way to find them.

    The endless tirade of crappy survival games I have played through on Steam has allowed me to at least find a few gems in the sand. Although, just like finding decent indie titles is difficult, finding software (for video, photo, audio, etc.) Is equally difficult, because they have mostly awful, but sometimes decent software that you have to search for.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      It’s MMOs for me. I am the kind who commits to an MMO for years and I’ve been going steady with one title since… I think 2013. I will generally spend 2-3 hours on it on most days. Steam obviously assumes that I am in absolute love with free-to-play MMOs and shoves anything with that tag into my queue.

      1. mechaninja says:

        2013. Hahahahahahahah.

        Even while I was trying out Final Fantasy Online and Guild Wars 2, I never let my WoW sub lapse … or failed to log in for more than a few days in a row.


        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Well I switched to my current game soon after my previous one closed down, I’ve also been sticking to f2p stuff because my financial situation can be shaky at times and while I am enjoying a period of relative stability at the moment I’m not sure how long it’ll last. Plus I kinda like to join an MMO early in its release so that I can take features in one at a time so I believe the WoW ship has sailed for me (even though I’m told there are catch up mechanics it’s just not the same).

  10. James Schend says:

    Gog a “nicer company”? When they pulled that shut down stunt a few years ago, they ended up on my personal shitlist. I don’t care if their games are DRM-free, that was utter crap.

    (For those who weren’t Gog customers then: )

    What’s the quickest way to lose the trust of *all* your customers and never regain it? That stunt has to be in the top ten.

    1. Reed says:

      Yes, I was there at the time, and it was truly a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad stunt. Freaked me right the hell out.

      But they’d never been anything but awesome prior to that, and they made a HUGE deal of apologizing and promising they’d learned their lesson. And in fact, they have lived up to it by never being anything but awesome since.

      Hold the grudge if you like, but you’re missing out…

    2. It was not a stunt per se. They did actually have to shut down the entire site/service for a few days as they had to replace the entire backend.

      The stunt part was that instead of giving a boring “two says downtime due to backend replacement” they pretended to “shut down” the site.

      They probably should have placed “(just kidding, we’re replacing our backend, we’ll be back in two days)” at the very bottom of the statement, that way the observant reader/journalist would not have been fooled and the TLDR; crowd would have been fooled..

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I wouldn’t have been angry or boycotted GOG at the time[1], but I think it was still a pretty dumb decision. I mean…what if they lost a significant portion of their userbase, because those people thought GOG was dead and they went to another service to get their games? Seems like a risky proposition to me.

        [1] I don’t think I actually started using GOG until a couple years after this situation had happened.

  11. Radiosity says:

    Shamus – What about Humble? Their store is actually pretty decent and if you pay for the monthly bundle (which I do, on and off, I pause it whenever the main game isn’t of interest or I already own it) you get a nice 10% discount in addition to all the random indie titles each bundle includes.

    These days I buy more Steam keys via them than through Steam itself. And you can do a bit to help charities in the process, so that’s another reason I tend to go there :)

  12. Alex says:

    I haven’t played it, but something came up in my Discovery feed that might be of interest to you: Screeps. It’s an MMORTS in which you use JavaScript to write the AI for your units.

    1. Phil says:

      Problem with Screeps is that it is basically subscription-based. You need to pay to get CPU time to run your code.

      1. Stu Hacking says:

        Well, most MMOs are turning into some sort of free-to-play but with premium bonuses for either paying a subscription or buying premium currency. In this case it looks like you can play the game with crippled CPU time, or pay a subscription to get more CPU time.

        For me the Javascript is an unfortunate turn off. I spend quite enough hours of my life reading and writing Javascript at work so I really don’t want to subject myself to more of that.

  13. Ratatoskz says:


    ‘I have no idea what Value's goals are’ -> Valve’s

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Also ‘satirical’ for DLC Quest.

      I’ve painstakingly beaten my Discovery Queue into shape by setting it to not show Early Access, to exclude products tagged ‘Memes,’ and so on and so forth. It still never shows me anything I actually want, but I at least now get the vague sense that it’s trying.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Failure #537 of Steam’s UI: I had no idea you could filter discovery queues.

        1. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

          There’s really no point to filtering them either, as you can only block up to three tags anyway, which still leaves most of the crap out there waiting to enter your queue

  14. CrushU says:

    … studios. I have no idea what Value's goals are, but …

    Pretty sure you mean ‘Valve’, here…

    EDIT: Dammit, ninja’d by four minutes… Even refreshed right before I posted to try and avoid it. :P

    1. Ratatoskz says:

      Those 10 minute post cooldown timers can be a real bummer…

  15. Agammamon says:

    Am I really supposed to click through on all 900+ entries, read the desription, and then hit the back button to return to scrolling the list?

    Yes. Because even though several *MMO’s* have had in-game browsers THAT CAN HANDLE TABS, and its a standard capability of all normal browsers, Steam still can’t be arsed to add that functionality.

  16. Cilvre says:

    I find that middle clicking on items works really well at opening them in new windows even when in steam. But I agree that their search systems are total shit.

  17. Joshua says:

    Steam Summer sales used to be exciting, however, games are now on sale across the internet (and steam) much of the time, so the ‘big event’ is becoming redundant.

    Also, the use of constant discounts is slowly becoming a way to mask the move towards increased RRP of PC games, making it ‘feel’ cheaper, even though it might not be.

    … And, I think we are at a point where there are more Video Games available than the human race can manage, and it is only getting more unwieldy by the day.

    Be wary of the GAMEAPOCALYPSE!!!

    P.S Video Games are in a very strange place right now, in that they have all the replayability of something like Chess, but, at the same time, all the instant forgetability of a Hollywood Movie or DVD/Blu-Ray.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      The change to their refund policy took a lot of the excitement* out of things: gone are the Daily Deals (where things already on sale for, say, 30%-off would suddenly plunge to e.g. 70%-off for a limited time), as well as associated foofaraw such as community voting on what should get a huge discount the following day.

      There’s little point in such an approach now, of course, as you could just refund your 30%-off game and buy it back at -70%. So instead, if you have a good poke around at the beginning of the Sale, you’ll have seen everything there is to see, and the impetus to revisit every day just isn’t there. (Stickers aside, whatever the point of those may be – other than forcing you on a tour of the interface in order to confirm that, yes, it really is that bad.)

      *Actual excitement levels may have varied.

      1. Mephane says:

        I consider this a big improvement. I never liked being essentially pressured to check the store every day during a sale event, and wait with your purchases just in case a game becomes even cheaper the following day.

        Now I just fill my cart on the first day and do one large checkout. It’s less hassle and I have a hunch that I am even buying more this way than I did before.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I feel exactly this way. Before, I’d always hold my fire, hesitating to actually cart anything that caught my interest just on the off chance it would drop another 10% the next day. Sometimes that paid off for me, but mostly I just ended up putting off buying anything until the very last day, when all the chips had fallen already. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think Steam or any other retailer wants to incentivize people waiting to spend money.

          Especially since, in my case at least, the wait of perhaps several days was often enough time to decide that I really didn’t want what was on offer; now that everything hits all at once, I do exactly what I did a couple days ago: ride the high of a sudden wall of bargains and buy everything I want at once, before I have a chance to second-guess myself.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I wonder if there were similar complaints when the printing press was invented.

      “By George, truly we live in terrible times! Used to be, a gentleman could read both books that were published each year with plenty of time to spare for leisurely contemplation and discussion with similarly well-read companions, but now Gutenberg has opened the floodgates to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with two ducats to rub together in his pocket to publish whatever drivel they like! How is one to keep up when there may be multiple books released every week? Books used to be works of art, labors of love, a man’s magnum opus, and now, what are we seeing? Scholarly treatises on subjects for the betterment of mankind? Stimulating theological debates that require diligence and study to master? Well, yes, but more than that we are drowning in a flood of these trashy ‘novels’ and other works of low and disreputable character! Why, nowadays anyone can be a casual reader, with barely any investment in expensive hand-written books or time spent deciphering ancient manuscripts in dead languages! Truly disgusting!”

      That…kinda got away from me at the end there (and is not directed at anyone in particular, just a pastiche of things I’ve seen around the internet).

      1. Joshua says:

        Spot on.

        I bet there were complaints like this back in the days of the early printing press (I.e cheapens art of Calligraphy and hand craft lol). Don’t valuable paintings work on the same premise of the original being important?

        Now, imagine that hundreds of books reported back to you on exactly how long you had read them, and a setup that incentivised the collection of ‘extra page content’ that needed to be collected in order to get the complete experience. The books also had pop-ups reminding you of what you had achieved for reading a book.

        Instead of buying a football, that football became a proprietory sport where people had to pay the license to play ‘football’, with new rules changes and updates introduced to constantly fix the game.

        New advances in Foot ball tech meant that people couldn’t play old football with their friends, because ‘New’ football was out yearly, and some people couldn’t keep up with football that had better graphics.

        Now, also imagine that books threatened to not work if you bought them second hand, or read a friends copy, or publishers demanded that book clubs be shut down for negative critique of a book.

        Welcome to Gamer Town – we built this city on Oblivion Horse Armour, and wanting to be like the Movies.

      2. Munkki says:

        I wonder if there were similar complaints when the printing press was invented.

        …Do you know how difficult it is to make a joke about something called ‘The Wars of Religion’ without sounding rude or smug or breaking the rules on talking politics or religion?

        So instead I’m just going to have to say it’s worth reading about if you’re interested in seeing just how large of an impact the printing press had in Europe (or on Europe, depending on how you look at it).

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Oh, indeed. That’s one of my favorite historical periods, and I’m well aware of the revolutionary effect the printing press had historically. This was mostly just an idle satirical musing.

      3. TheJungerLudendorff says:

        Don’t forget all the people complaining how books used to be an Art where you had to put actual effort in, overly decorating every single letter and handcrafting every copy to give it that authentic, unique feeling that you just don’t get with this soulless, massproduced drivel!

        And think of all those monks who are now out of a job!

        Besides, it undermines that special place a book used to have! Remember when reading books used to be an event, where each and every book was treasured and re-read hundreds of times? Sure, it’s not like we had a choice with one book per year, but it was special! And now all these unwashed peasants have access to books, but they don’t know how to read them properly! What if authors start pandering to the masses and compromise their artistic integrity for a newfound hunger for wealth?

      4. ThricebornPhoenix says:

        Between publishers and book stores, there has always been curation of works in other media. Sure, occasionally something like Dan Brown gets through, but it’s worked out pretty well, I think.

        Greenlight opened the door for every child, hack, or scammer to self-publish whatever they want and throw it on the same shelves used for everything from indie passion projects made entirely of blood, sweat, and tears to blockbusters with advertising budgets many times higher than all the money you’ll see in your life, and Valve has done all it can to resist taking any responsibility whatsoever. Quite a few of those games, I hear, are either practically or literally unplayable.

        It’s not the printing press, it’s Wal-Mart deciding to give shelf space to anything that’s brought to them, even if it’s mostly illegible and written in feces.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          That’s a valid and salient point.

  18. Kultra says:

    Its funny you mention this today because at the start of the sale they added the ability to block tags from reaching the Store front and the Discovery queue, its not a panacea to all of your complains but it will allow you the ability to block all those Survival Multiplayer Crafters, Early Access Hell and Upcoming games/DLC packs; But it still shows games you already bought which is the REAL button I need for the steam store front and the search engine.

    1. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

      too bad you can only block three tags, so have fun still being stuck with gratuitous anime games, the same type of visual novels, meme games, RPG maker games and the other drivel with their own tags still being put on Steam.

  19. Sartharina says:

    I don’t even think there’s a tag for games I like.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Users can add their own tags. If the existing ones don’t fit the type(s) of games you like, feel free to add some tags. Do your civic duty! :)

  20. Amarsir says:

    What they need is an immersive 3d storefront where you can push a shopping cart around and have games fall off the shelves into it. Someone should make that.

    1. Mephane says:

      But only if you can look at a low-poly, low-res texture model of the retail case. Maybe for added effect, your avatar could sometimes say lines like “mmmh, smells like fresh plastic” or “bet this will just contain a code and download link anyway”.

      (And for some reason I heard those lines in the voice of the Postal Dude even as I was writing them.)

      1. Syal says:

        I heard it in The Butcher’s voice.

        “Ah, fresh plastic!”

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I immediately heard Pyro’s voice for the “mmmh”.

    2. silver Harloe says:

      with transparent walls.
      and you can see all the other people shopping at the same time.

      I’m both happy and sad that someone posted the Active Worlds joke before I did

  21. Mephane says:

    Or maybe you'll see something you know you'll want. Sadly, you can't just add it to your cart from this listing like you're shopping at Amazon. You must click through to the page for the game in question. And adding it to your cart will take you to yet another page. In the past this would prevent you from going back to the list with your tags and search terms intact, so if you wanted to keep shopping you'd need to start over and find where you were in the list. That seems to be fixed as I write this, but I can't promise it will stay fixed.

    I don’t know how widely known this is, so maybe I am just repeating what everyone knows anyway: you can middle-click almost anything on Steam and have it open that in a popup window. Yeah, it is not as good as browser tabs, but if I see three interesting titles in a listing, I can open all three of them in new windows and keep the listing open as well. (This also helps keep my sanity when browsing the massive catalogs of workshop items that some games have amassed.)

    1. Shas'ui says:

      This is where the system has failed: I knew steam could open things in new windows, as some actions (mod dependencies) would do so automatically, but I couldn’t ever figure out how to do it deliberately.

      You have just saved me an unknown, but undoubtedly high amount of time.

    2. I don’t think that is a unique Steam feature.

      I often use middle mouse click (aka mouse button 3) on any URL and it opens in a new tab (I have open window set to be forced into a new tab instead, I haven’t seen a popup window in years now).

      The reason it works on steam is that the listing is a normal clickable URL (if it was a button it would fail).

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Well…that’s nice that Valve has copied one feature from browsers, but decided to not copy other ones. Right-click does not have an “open in new window” button, so the middle-click (like tabs, and other missing browser features) is something that I’ve never even tried.

  22. CJGeringer says:

    Hey Shamus, have you played Endless Legend? It has a pretty good deal on the bundle, and seem like the kind of game you would have mentioned if you had played.

    It is pretty good, and personally my favourite 4x.

    1. Droid says:

      It is really, really pretty, at least. But for some reason, me and some Civ buffs I know really didn’t like it. It just feels really slow and/or unrewarding at times.

      Admittedly, I last played the game before its first DLC came out.

  23. Jamas Enright says:

    One of my biggest “wah?” about Steam lists is: why can’t I remove the games I already own? Seriously, how is that a problem Steam? Why is that not a basic feature? Why, if I want to look at games I don’t own to maybe buy them, would I want to see games I already own?

    Even GOG has the sense to at least push them down to the bottom of the list, so yes you can tell “I already have this” if you do see a title there you think of.

    1. ZekeCool says:

      I’ve been deeply upset about Steam storefronts and Netflix queues for the same crap recently. Why is there not a “Don’t show me this anymore” button? My PC is a crummy laptop that barely runs Civ 5. I promise I’m not interested in the new Tekken. I also don’t think this silly comedy game is funny. I don’t want to watch this crappy movie with Adam Sandler. I’ve already watched this action movie and probably won’t want to see it again. And on and on and on.

      How am I ever supposed to find anything in this junk?

      1. Syal says:

        I don’t think it does anything for the lists, but there’s a Not Interested button on the game’s page that will take it off the central recommendations.

        1. Alex says:

          That only applies to a single game. I want to block every single game with the Memes tag, and have tried to do so twice, but they still come up.

        2. ZekeCool says:

          I’ve used this button. It only removes them from your Recommended Queue thing that Shamus was talking about and it often doesn’t even work for that. Very frustrating.

  24. Sean Hagen says:

    I’ve been thinking about this same topic recently, and I’ve got to wonder if part of the reason for the insanity that is the Valve web store is because of the way people can join the projects they want. With the stuff that’s happening with VR and other cool things, it can’t be easy to try and get people to join the “make the web store better” group.

    I mean, just look at how the store is pretty much unaccessible for the first day or so of a Steam Summer sale. This is a solved problem ( and if Valve doesn’t want to use Amazon AWS, Google’s cloud platform, or some other big-name one, there are plenty of ways to roll their own now ) — but every year the storefront dies when they launch a summer sale.

    Coupled with their track record on customer support, I don’t think anybody currently at Valve either A) really actually cares about their users or B) can’t garner the support they need to fix these things.

    1. Makes you wonder where all the money they are making is going, they use minimal money to run the store. Are all the millions sunk into VR? Or are they also work on Source 3 engine (my guess) and a new IP (sorry folks HL3 is long dead, this wont be Duke Nukem Forever) .

    2. Nessus says:

      I think the problem is the same one it’s always been: Valve really, really, REALLY doesn’t want to do the thing they’d need to in order to get anything done: start assigning employees to specific tasks instead of letting them roam freely.

      The TB/Jim Sterling meeting kinda shed a little light on this. The way it was described (by Sterling, at least, I haven’t seen TB’s side) the people at Valve did seem to legitimately care… they just REALLY cannot bear the thought of compromising their beloved structureless corporate system. For every problem that would require a dedicated position, they scrabble for ANY alternative, even if they have to lie to themselves. When someone tells them “no algorithm can do this, even hypothetically: you NEED to have an actual person doing this as a dedicated position”, their brains glitch away from that into “so we need to build an even better algorithm”.

  25. Blackbird71 says:

    Yes, GoG doesn't have ten thousand Day-Z clones, but it's also a place without the screwball meme-spawning insanity of Goat Simulator, the surreal silliness of I Am Bread, the satirical amusement of DLC Quest, the one-note joke of Five Nights at Freddy's, or the polite adequacy of Good Robot.

    I know; isn’t it wonderful (well, except perhaps for that last one)?

    Ok, I’ll admit I’m being a little facetious, but the bottom line is that GoG definitely caters to a certain type of gamer, generally one who is interested in quality games, isn’t bothered if they come from an older era, doesn’t care for any sort of DRM hassle, and doesn’t want to waste time with a whole lot of useless fluff of unknown and untested titles. For those who fit that bill, GoG makes a great one-stop-shop for gaming needs. Personally, I have no reason to ever go to Steam, as it has nothing I want that GoG doesn’t, or at least not without too high of a cost (in DRM terms, not necessarily money).

  26. Philadelphus says:

    Serious question, Shamus, since I didn’t see you mention it, but have you tweaked your discovery queue settings at all? I’ve tweaked mine so it outright doesn’t show me several tags I’m never going to be interested in (zombies, horror, visual novel), and while I still don’t find much I’m interested in from it I think that’s more to do with my incredibly picky and specific gaming tastes than a failure of the queue at this point (been on Steam since 2011, numer of owned games: 63). And I have found a few games I didn’t know about and put down for further investigation, including one I ended up buying and greatly enjoying just last month (Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun for the curious).

    It’s still not a great system, just pointing out the tweaking options in case you (or someone else) wasn’t aware.

    1. CJGeringer says:

      For some reason Steam refuses to accept that I am not interested in VR, no matter how many times I tweak my discovery queue

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Huh, weird. It seems to have worked for me (similarly uninterested in VR), but I’m quite willing to believe that it’s buggy and I just got lucky.

  27. Steve C says:

    Have you tried creating a brand new steam account? I in no way think this is better or solves any problems. It would just be to compare how badly it is sorting for you specifically, vs everyone.

    1. But is there a way to move bought games/content over to the other account?

      1. Steve C says:

        Oh I wasn’t suggesting buying anything. I was only suggesting it for the purposes of writing about it.

    2. Agamo says:

      Couldn’t you just open the store in, say, Firefox, and just not login? Unless you’re referring to the discovery queue, which would require an account; however, I will attest to its utter uselessness. Most of the time it recommends games on the basis of popularity, which makes it completely redundant to all of the other ways Steam recommends you games (because they all do it on the basis of popularity).

  28. Nick says:

    Not sure if you’ve heard of it but Infinifactory appeals to me on a visceral problem-solving level the same way Factorio does.

  29. Smejki says:

    Gaming tips. Somewhat hidden but interesting games:

    Dead State

    1. Henson says:

      Damn, that’s a bit depressing. I’ve been interested in Miasmata…and bought and downloaded it four years ago. And haven’t played it.

      And hell, I was a BACKER for Dead State. Still not downloaded. Eughhh.

  30. MelTorefas says:

    Just went to check my own discovery queue since someone above said you can filter Early Access out of it (which would be amazing). First thing in my queue is a pre-release announcement for an early access title. I have no earthly idea why this is here. You can’t ‘preorder’ it. It isn’t even an announcement of an actual game release. It is literally just an advertisement for a game alpha.


    Also, I can’t wait to read your impressions of going through your game backlog, Shamus. That should be highly entertaining. (For us, anyways.)

    1. Smejki says:

      I guess Steam is somehow confused there. Universim used to be available but for some reason the dev stopped selling it. Probably to avoid bad rep because the game, as is, is not very satisfying.

  31. tmtvl says:

    Found via Google Image Search. I don`t know the original source.

    That pic’s from 1041uuu, they’ve got a lot of pixel art gifs like that.

    Also check out their tumblr!

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks! Post updated.

      1. DavidJCobb says:

        Is the attribution in ALT text? We can’t see that on mobile. :\

        Firefox Android users can generally see the first few words or so if they know to tap and hold on an image (to open the context menu), but it gets cut off with an ellipsis after one line (the browser doesn’t even try to wrap it), and it’s not shown at all if the image is also a link.

        Wait… How many captions have I been missing? D:

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Uhhh … not sure how to tell you this, but almost all of Shamus’ images have had alt-text for I wanna say at least two years or so? Not the first image of a post, generally – that’s often a banner of some sort anyway – but it’s very rare for images in the body not to have a caption.

          To make matters worse, I think at one stage he was adding captions to older posts, so there’s a pseudo-random selection prior to 2015 with image-captions which no one will have seen first time around. So, essentially we all have to go all the way back to the beginning and hover over every single image if we want the full, ah, picture.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          I can see the entire alt-text in Chrome on Android, with a little scrolling for multiple lines.

        3. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Is the attribution in ALT text? We can't see that on mobile. :\

          Dont know what youre using,but I can do it on android.You just need to keep your finger on the picture until the option menu appears.On top of that menu,youll see alt text.

  32. Blake says:

    “I've even had it list the same game twice on the same page. It's absurd.”

    The most ridiculous thing about that image of double cities skylines is that it’s already in your library.
    In almost every case, people browsing the store aren’t looking to buy something a second time. Which means that’s two spaces filled with things they can be relatively certain you’ll never buy.

    That showing things I already own as well as pages of DLC for games I don’t own are what make me try to avoid the steam store.

    Edit: Not being able to hide games I already own on another platform is also annoying, although I can understand that more from Valve’s perspective because I might one day forget about/lose my old copy and decide to buy it again. Still annoying for the current session though. A ‘hide for the next 24 hours’ button would do wonders for me.

    1. Droid says:

      You can hide DLCs by ticking the “games” button on the right, where it says “games”, “software” and I think “expansions” (or DLCs, dunno what the English localization is). If nothing is ticked, it assumes all are okay.

  33. Joshua says:

    Perhaps the phrase, ‘Too much of a good thing’, was not so stupid after all…?

  34. Shamus. Next time do this:

    Go to
    Then click the magnifying glass (without entering a search).
    This gives you the browse view.

    Now enter “pixel graphics” into the “search for more tags” box to the right in the “narrow by tags” filter. It will probably show “pixel graphics” as a choice after entering a few letters.

    “Sometimes I'll see an item on Page 1, then again on Page 2. Is this two different versions of the same game? Or is Steam shuffling the list as I browse?”

    Possibly. It’s creepy and somewhat dishonest if they do mess with the order like that. It’s also possible the list changes which causes a game or games to end up on page 2. Speaking as a coder this should be relatively easy to handle, just keep track of a timestamp of the search, if any games are added after the search timestamp then do not include them in the results. This won’t fix situations where a game is removed though. But that too shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

    Considering how many do searches it would not hurt to cache the browsing lists somehow and use a timestamp to serve the correctly cached result.
    Or go even more advanced and notify the user that this or that game was removed or that new games was added.

    Just “moving” stuff around with no warning is annoying.

    Next thing to do is make sure the filter method for the browse list is changed from Relevance to something else as Relevance will sort in however way Steam sees fit. Release Date or User Review is probably the two of most interest.
    It’s a shame you can choose “Oldest First” as well though so you can work from the back of their catalog.

    Fixing the issue of not being able to add/mark entries in any way could easily be fixed (by Valve) by adding a Bookmark button.
    That way you could later go to a Bookmark list and see your recent bookmarks (or maybe dated and older bookmarks) and allow you to “move” or copy these bookmarks to your shopping cart of wishlist or whatever. Valve should be able to have such a feature working by putting a single coder on it for a week.

    The summary thumb/hover thing should be “relatively” easy to do. The issue though is that descriptions can run long, so they would not to change the way the “popup” preview works so you can have a scrollable text box with the description in it.

    Also, listing stuff you already own (on steam) is just lazy. They should be able to filter that out by default and instead offer a (include owned games) options instead (journalists/reviewers/researchers may want to use that option for example).

    And as mentioned it would also be nice to see Steam let you add games you own but is not through steam.
    Valve would get nice statistics, and the user would get less annoying searches.
    If Valve was smart they’d let you add them and let you mark where you got them (Origin, GOG, Developer store, Other Retail, Physical copy, etc)

    GOGs browsing is simpler, there are no tags it seems. But you can click on the tiny green buy button and it’s added t the cart where you can chose to buy it or move it to your wishlist.
    GOG also let you sort OLDEST FIRST. And they have a release filter that presents a few year ranges that you can choose.

    GOG also let you filter by price, even FREE. I cant’ see anything like than on steam other than sort by price which is not the same.

    GOG has no preview or game description, this is a shame as here too you have to click your way into the game page. (or use the middle mousebutton)
    Although if the thumbnail seems interesting you can add it to the cart on GOG and then go through the “bookmarked” games afterwards.

    A simple way for both GOG and Steam (and Origin?) to fix this is to let you bookmark any game by a single click.
    Then let you go to the bookmark list afterwards, and there a custom list is shown with thumbnail plus description for all games. Make deleting bookmarked games just as easy as adding them.
    And make it possible to move bookmarks to the wishlist or the cart.

    GOG lacks a sort by price order though.
    GOG also lists the games you already own on GOG but they grey them out.

  35. Cinebeast says:

    “… the one-note joke of Five Nights at Freddy's…”

    The shade being thrown, wow! There’s so much of it I could relax on a sultry summer day.

  36. Angelo says:

    You must click through to the page for the game in question. And adding it to your cart will take you to yet another page. In the past this would prevent you from going back to the list with your tags and search terms intact, so if you wanted to keep shopping you'd need to start over and find where you were in the list. That seems to be fixed as I write this, but I can't promise it will stay fixed.

    In case you didn’t know: the Steam client allows you to open links in a new window by clicking with the middle button, or ctrl+clicking.

  37. Aanok says:

    I find SteamDB to be a much preferable way to browse the Steam catalog and keep tabs on updates and discounts.

    For instance, here is the straightforward solution to the problem in Shamus’ post. It’s not perfect –no way to sort by date, for instance– but it’s still leagues ahead of Steam’s proprietary interface.

  38. Mephane says:

    My biggest peeve with the Steam storefront at the moment is that there is no “works without any VR” filter in the various lists “popular new releases” etc. Yes, you can tick a box that says “Vive” or one that says “Oculur” or the box that says “both are fine”. But there is nothing that let’s you say “I don’t own either so stop wasting my time listing games that are VR-only”. Without the mandatory hardware that’s just as big a barrier as if Steam suddenly also sold PS4 exclusives.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      On the main store page, just below “Today’s Highlighted Deals”, there’s an “Edit your preferences” button hiding. Clicking it lets you filter out quite a few things from showing on the store, such as Early Access titles, Prepurchase offers, Videos & Movies, and VR content, plus a few other customization options.

      Having done it myself, it seems to be working for me; I don’t recall seeing anything VR-only since I said not to show it.

  39. Christopher says:

    Steam sales really are a trap like no other. I’m not a PC gamer. I can’t run a ton of games on my laptop, I own couches and beds but zero desks and prefer to be slouched on them rather than sit up and play at the dinner table. I haven’t owned a mouse in over a decade.

    But I’ve still got like 60 games on there, and I’m pretty sure the only ones I’ve played are Bioshock Infinite, Shovel Knight, The Witcher 2 and Thomas Was Alone. And I’ve only finished the first two.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      You really should finish Thomas Was Alone for the amazing story and narration (and awesome randomly-generated music). It’ll take you, like, two hours tops.

      1. Christopher says:

        I’m a pretty slow gamer, I probably played two hours already. Got a ways into the nervous, green block that moves upside-down.

        I thought Thomas Was Alone was a cool example of what a bit of voice over can add to a platforming/puzzle game with just cubes in different colors with different physics, but it was still just a real simple platformer. Felt a bit like getting an improv actor to make up characters for the cutlery at your dinner table.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Ah, ok. I think you’re about half-way through at that point (maybe more like 5/8). And yeah, I certainly would never recommend it on the strength of its gameplay alone. :)

  40. Dreadjaws says:

    Despite all the complaints you have about Steam recommendations, I have to tell you: you’ve been lucky. I can’t count how many times the store has recommended me DLC for games I don’t own or the Fallout games, despite the fact that I already own them all.

    I have once in a while ran into an interesting game while browsing the Discovery Queue, but even though I can configure the thing to stop recommending me genres I don’t care about (by making it exclude certain tags) I still rarely find something that I like and I don’t already know about.

    I tried to give the Steam Curators sytem a try but it’s severely hit or miss.

    Or you could try this

  41. Pocket says:

    I wonder how much the dearth of content on GOG is caused by them genuinely turning people away and how much is developers just being uninterested in selling their games there.

    I will likely continue to wonder this for the rest of my life.

  42. (Haven’t read all comments, apologies if this was already discussed)

    I tend to hit my wishlist when the sales start, and while yay for most of my wishlist being on decent sale, the UI to buy anything from the list is pretty damn bad. There’s no “Add to cart” button anywhere on the list I can find, so I have to click on the game, and since clicking on the game doesn’t take me to the page I can put it in my cart, I have to click again to go to the game’s store page.

    I could be missing a button somewhere (it’s early for me and I’m rushing around atm) but shouldn’t a wishlist be REALLY easy to buy off? You know, since it’s a list of stuff I want and all….

  43. Zak McKracken says:

    Does anyone have positive experiences with GOG Galaxy?

    Mine is from a while ago, when I realized it’s basically just a single-tab browser for the website (my actaul browser does that better), and a download-thingy, except although it nicely downloads and installs the games for you, it also does not give you access to the downloaded titles, except if you download them a second time to archive them. I also found it hard to determine where the downloads-for-installation were stored. My SSD is full, so I needed them on the hard drive, but found no way to tell Galaxy where to put that stuff.
    That’s all a bit weird. Moved back to doing it all by hand, pretty quickly.

    Galaxy would be a cool thing if it handled the downloading, installing and upgrading of games in a more “transparent” way. And by “transparent” I mean that I can see what’s happening: It should download the installation files and patches to some useer-specified directory, let me choose whether to keep them or not (simple checkbox in the UI), and they should be stored in a format that allows me to just copy them to a new machine and install the games with or without Galaxy. Essentially, what I’d like is something that does the same I would do when downloading a game manually, except I just click once on “download and install”, and it does it all in one go.

  44. Jeff says:

    Hmm… I own 562 games on Steam, of which (judging by playtime) I’ve played roughly 100.

    Yet I still look through sales for more cheap things I’ll never play.

  45. Cuthalion says:

    I agree with a whole lot of this post. As a web developer, the Steam store drives me nuts, especially the one embedded in the program (instead of the much faster website version)!

    Makes me want to see how much you can do with their API and just come up with my own dang Steam storefront searcher tool. Not enough time or hosting money to actually do that though. :P

  46. natureguy85 says:

    Ha! It’s fun seeing you gripe about things that I’ve complained about as well. One fix, though you can argue that you shouldn’t have to, is to right click games you’re interested in. This will open the page for that game in a new window, leaving your main page where you were.

  47. Friend of Dragons says:

    What I really want is to be able to nudge the Discovery Queue towards what I’m looking for. Irritatingly, the way it seems to work right now is looking back at your most recent couple purchases and assume you want more of the same.
    Right now I’d really like to find a new visual novel, but since my only recent purchase was Arma 3, my queue is just endless mil-sims and tactical shooters. You can force it to exclude tags that you specify, but there’s no way to get it to include a specific tag (that I’m aware of), which seems like a massive oversight to me.

  48. A says:

    I’m thinking of writing a script that will mass ignore games based on various factors, or I could even see all 500 games except 10, 45 and 156 are bad and type “* !10 !45 !156” in my script and it would press ignore buttons on all them.

    Atm “ignore” is the most pressed button I ever pressed on steam store.

    I call discovery queue “ignore 12 games queue”.

    You shouldn’t even use steam client at all, to browse store, forums, inventory and market. Use your browser. You have tabs, history, custom css and js here.

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