Valve updates Steam's new Interactive Recommender, teases a new 'experiment' coming

(Image credit: Future)

A few weeks ago, Valve rolled out a new feature on Steam called the "Interactive Recommender," that uses machine learning to dig up games that you might like to play. Today it updated the status of that experiment, and so far it's going very well.

"One way we study what’s interesting to users is to look at how frequently a visit to a store page turns into a positive action like adding the item to a wishlist, or purchasing it. That frequency varies depending on how users arrived at the store page. We also look at how frequently people choose to visit a store page via the recommender," Valve wrote. "Our initial data show the Interactive Recommender is performing very well by those measures."

Valve is also "especially pleased" to see that the recommender is resulting in a broad range of games being shown to users, and that people are responding to them: Nearly 10,000 different games have been added to Steam Wishlists via the Interactive Recommender so far. The one caveat is that the "novelty and promotion" of the tool could be influencing the results. So, Valve being Valve, it will now begin to "evaluate the recommender in ways that eliminate this potential bias."

It's also added a new feature that will enable users to exclude recently played games from their list of recommendations, and made some changes to the interface: Hovering over a played game in the left-hand list will now display its title, and clicking it will take you to the Steam store page. For the future, Valve hopes to add "more dynamic tag selection tools," and will "continue to monitor and improve the Interactive Recommender's success connecting users with compelling content."

Another experiment released at the same time as the recommender, called the "Automatic Show," was somewhat less successful out of the gate. It's "a half-hour algorithmically-generated video about Steam games," basically the opposite of Micro Trailers, and it turns out that 30 minutes is a long damn time to sit through what is essentially a collection of short, context-free game clips. What it's trying now is three "short variations" of the format instead: Top Releases, 3-Minute VR Show, and Rapid Fire Horror.

The Automatic Show page also features a behind-the-scenes mockup video with a voiceover script "sourced entirely from text that's available on the Steam Store pages." The system apparently still has a few bugs to work out, though: It says that Playerunknown's Battlegrounds "has been in the top ten for action titles for the past 20 years."

And there's more on the way: Valve said that it is also "embarking on a fourth [experiment], which we're excited to share with you soon."

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.