Train Simulator 2014 developer flagging negative Steam user reviews as "off-topic"

Ian Birnbaum at

Train Simulator 2014 has had a rocky start. Though we enjoyed our look at the alpha build, when the game properly launched in September many users complained about bugs and a hamhanded transition for Train Simulator 2013 players, who saw their achievements deleted and other technical hiccups. As Train Simulator’s players, known to be a devoted and niche audience, began to complain on the community Steam forums, those forums were unceremoniously wiped clean. It also appears that the developer began flagging negative Steam user reviews as “off-topic.”

In a post describing the issues, a redditor (who has since deleted their account) pointed to Train Simulator’s review tab, where the user reviews marked “most helpful” have been flagged as off-topic by the developer. Once flagged, a review is still visible but appears collapsed, and must be expanded to be read. In the content of many of these reviews, there is no mention of the dispute over forum moderation. Instead, flagged reviews are from veteran players with hundreds of hours in the game warning others about patchy AI or expensive DLC.

According to Steam’s announcement of the user review system, developers can’t delete reviews of their products, but flagged reviews will remain partially hidden until a Steam moderator deletes the review. While a moderator might simply remove the flag if they find no cause, the moderation process and its timeline is not transparent. After news of this situation hit the front page of r/Games, a moderator has since removed the off-topic flags from the affected reviews. Without this level of publicity, though, there’s no way to know how long or what result these flags would have had.

It should be noted that Steam user reviews are still very much in beta—the system launched barely two weeks ago—so this situation could be worked out with time. Neither Valve nor RailSimulator, the developer of Train Simulator 2014, responded to requests for comment on this story.