The Steam Summer Sale Grand Prix game is confusing the hell out of everyone

(Image credit: Valve Software)

Update (June 27): Valve acknowledged that the Steam Summer Sale Grand Prix game was overly complex in a blog post in which it apologized for the confusion and "the broken mechanics that have led to an unbalanced event." It's also made some changes to the rules meant to smooth things out for the remainder of the sale.

  • We've made improvements to the Driver's Dash and Manual, to help clarify how to play.
  • We’ve made some back-end changes to help mitigate some of the snowball effects we’ve seen that have led to Team Corgi running away with the first two days of the races despite their tiny legs.
  • We’ve changed some code to help deal with the imbalanced team sizes across the board.
  • We've added a new random drop drivers can receive upon boosting called STEAL BOOSTS. If another team is way ahead, use this attack against them to help close the gap by stealing their boosts for your own team.

"We’re hoping some of these changes will help make the event more clear and enjoyable. We’ll keep an eye on things and continue to adjust the game as needed," Valve wrote. "Our goal is to host a fun event where you get to explore and use Steam in new and interesting ways, but it’s clear that this time around we could’ve done better."

To make up for the headaches, Valve will increase the maximum number of points that can be earned by users who were active on the first and/or second day of the sale by 1000—so 2000 points total if you played on both days.

Original story: Like some past sales, the Steam Summer Sale includes a metagame: everyone on Steam joins one of five teams and attempts to boost their chosen animal in a race by spending money and completing quests. At 10 am Pacific each day, random members of the top three teams receive games on their wishlists.

It sounds simple enough, but earlier today I noticed that the Steam subreddit is full of memes about how busted the game has been. After looking more closely at the rules, I realized how comically confusing the Grand Prix really is. Here's the breakdown:

1. Spending money on games increases your "Boost Meter's capacity."
2. The Boost Meter "enables you to earn points in the races."
3. Once you've "fueled your Boost Meter" you then complete Grand Prix Quests in the games you own to earn points. (Wouldn't that be the fueling? And aren't points what you earn "in the races?") The Quests are things like ripping off faces in Divinity: Original Sin 2, which I mentioned yesterday.
4. The points you earn "will advance your team in the race when you Boost" and also build up "Nitro toward your next boost." (Which makes it sound like you need Nitro to Boost?)
5. "Upon Boosting, the Nitro you've gained will help increase your team's speed in the race."
6. At this point, an observant player will notice that "Nitro" is referred to elsewhere as "Nitro Boost Points," but is seemingly different from "points."
7. You can also "coordinate timed boosts with your teammates" to "increase your Team Boost level." (My teammates are everyone on Steam who isn't on Team Corgi, though?)
8. Boosting also earns you attacks which can be used to slow another team down.
9. Win?

All that is said in many more words on the Grand Prix page, but here's the simple version, as I understand it: "Points" add directly to your team's distance traveled when spent in a "Boost," while "Nitro Boost Points" add to your team's speed, which earns it distance over time.

For every dollar you spend, your Boost Meter will be able to hold 100 more points. For every quest you complete, you'll earn 10 to 100 points, as well as some amount of Nitro. Points you earn beyond your Boost Meter's capacity are wasted.

The confusion hasn't been helped by the page's sluggish updating. Earlier today, my Boost button was greyed out even though it showed I had 100 Boost Points to spend. Later, it worked. For some reason, even though I participated yesterday, I don't have the promised daily Boost Meter upgrade, as you're supposed to get a 100 point capacity increase for each day you participate. (Update: But apparently your Boost Meter resets every day? Or something? OK.) Users on Reddit are reporting all kinds of problems.

At least it hasn't been as much of a disaster as Epic's first attempt at a big sale, right?

It's even funnier if you imagine that these are the rules to a fake game a kid in a '90s sitcom would play. "Get outta here, Dad, I've just fueled my Boost Meter and if I coordinate a timed boost with my teammates, we'll increase our Team Boost level! With 100 active Nitro, we'll get a 0.1x Boost to our team's speed! Radical!"

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.