Steam's Interactive Recommender is now built into the store to help you find hidden gems

(Image credit: Valve)

The Steam Interactive Recommender debuted last year as the second in-the-works feature cooked up in the Steam Labs, a sort of digital skunkworks where Valve can develop and test experimental new Steam features. The idea was to give users better, more personalized game recommendations through a "neural network model" based on your play history and other data, rather than relying on Steam's tag system.

It seemed fairly comprehensive at the time, but Valve elected to keep it separate from the existing recommendation model in order to better train and test the system, and stamp out any bugs that might appear. Today, the system went fully live on Steam: To access it, hit the "Your Store" menu button on the Steam front page, and you'll see the link near the top of the dropdown.

The release version of the Interactive Recommender has been tweaked somewhat from the first-look experiment. Recommendations can still be weighted by popularity and filtered by age, but tag filters and exclusions are now searchable, there's an option to exclude wishlisted games, and recommendation settings can be saved.

At default settings, the Recommender suggests that I should play, in order, The Fall Part 2: Unbound, Lake Ridden, The Signal From Tolva, Conarium, and Beautiful Desolation. The last game in the list is the only one I had any pre-existing interest in (although I have a vague recollection of curiosity about Signal From Tolva), which makes me a little dubious about the whole thing, but on the other hand I'm curious whether the machine might be right. Because that's the point of the process: To find games that might otherwise have escaped your attention.

"The Interactive Recommender isn't a replacement for our existing content discovery systems, but rather an addition to the variety of ways Steam recommends games to players. Although it's a powerful tool, there are some things it can't do," Valve explained. "For example, it can't recommend new releases that nobody has played yet, while the Discovery Queue is designed to do just that."

"That said, we are starting to use the technology underlying the Interactive Recommender to power other features on Steam such as Steam Labs Experiment 008: Play Next, which recommends games you've already purchased but for whatever reason have not yet played. The result is a Steam experience that is more effective at connecting customers to games they'll love across a variety of scenarios."

The Play Next experiment, which Valve revealed in February, is similar to the Interactive Recommender, but works its magic on your existing Steam library to help you do something about that ridiculous backlog you've been ignoring for years.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.