The Epic Games Store is improving its functionality over time, and now it’s going to wade into the treacherous waters of user reviews. A recent update has added ratings and polls to the store, which players will see at intervals after playing games, and the information gathered here will be used to populate a game’s store page with more information about it.
The most notable element of this update is how Epic has designed the functionality around the problem of co-ordinated behaviour. Customer reviews are now as important if not more so than those of professional critics, across many fields, but online dynamics can see them used in unintended ways.
The most striking example of this in the games industry is review-bombing, whereby a game that is seen to have committed some great offense is flooded with negative reviews. The intentions are of course impossible to tease-out with group behaviour like this, but certainly elements of it seem to be making a public spectacle of the target, expressing frustration (opens in new tab), and ultimately harming sales.
The important thing to remember about review-bombing is that it can happen for the most trivial of reasons while in other cases it’s because of wider cultural issues. Shadow of the Tomb Raider once got review-bombed, for example, because it got a chunky discount not long after launch (opens in new tab), so people who’d bought it were pissed. On the other end of the scale, the Taiwanese horror game Devotion was review-bombed en masse by Chinese players for including a Winnie the Pooh meme (opens in new tab) (The Chinese Communist Party has declared war on Pooh bear, because of the insinuation president Xi Jinping looks a bit like him).
So user reviews are good, but the opportunity they allow for group behaviour can be and often is exploited. Epic’s solution is that not everyone can review a product: It randomises the feedback requests that will appear for users at the end of some sessions.
“Following a play session, random players will be offered the opportunity to score the game up to five stars,” writes Epic. “Over time, these scores will help populate the ‘Overall Rating’ that will appear on the product’s store page. Because these requests are randomized, we won’t spam our players, and we probably won’t ask about every game or app used. This approach protects games from review bombing and ensures people assigning scores are actual players of the games.”
You’ll also have to have spent at least two hours total in a given game before the EGS will ask you about it. As well as the ratings, players will also be randomly selected to answer polls.
“Players will be asked a question that relates to their most recent session,” writes Epic. “The questions cover a broad range, and will have a number of potential responses. Players might be asked to respond ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to ‘Is this game good to play with a group?’ Players could also be presented with a multiple choice poll asking ‘How challenging are the bosses in this game?'”
Here’s what the polls will look like.
The poll answers will be used to generate tags for store pages, which players can of course use to filter the offerings. The intent is to build-out the tagging system so it gets very granular about a given game’s content, which is an interesting approach, and eventually “will be used to generate custom tag-based categories driven by our players that will appear on the Epic Games Store home page.”
Well it’s good that Epic is addressing the problem of review bombing, because it doesn’t really seem to serve any good purpose, and games can be targeted for the most flimsy of reasons. Whether this solution is a good one remains to be seen, however: I don’t want to close down a game and do a customer satisfaction survey, in fact I think that sounds quite annoying. But I also don’t really review games on my Steam account either so, if you’re into these systems, your mileage may differ.
Ratings and polls are live on the Epic Games Store now. There’s also a free Game of Thrones game on there at the moment (opens in new tab).