Steam Blog: Steam Labs Experiment 010: Browsing Steam


Explosive Barrels
May 10, 2019
Introducing New Ways to Browse Steam
With this experiment, we aim to increase the surface area of the store by introducing a broader set of ways to browse Steam’s catalog of games from the outset—no login or complex searching required. Our new views provide greater exposure to the breadth of games available on Steam through new useful points of entry such as sub-genres, themes, and player modes. We hope you’ll opt into our Store Browse Experiment to give these new views a try, then let us know what you think in the discussions.

New & Noteworthy
Many users rely on our charts for quick snapshots of what’s new and popular on Steam. These are now accessible from one menu, New & Noteworthy, which also provides direct access to the biggest events currently running Steam—including game festivals, publisher sales, and other seasonal celebrations.

A basic list of genres, while easy to browse, falls a bit short given how large our catalog has grown. Our new Categories menu helps users quickly discover and dive into the breadth and depth of interesting games on Steam. This menu serves up dozens of new categories of games, which can then be explored further.

It’s not enough to simply offer good games on Steam—we also need to make sure they’re easy to discover. And to do that, we need to organize them in ways that make sense without being overwhelming. You might be able to fit the same amount of goods in an open-air bazaar as in a cramped warehouse, but you’re far more likely to find what you want in the former.

The first step in building such a system is to present meaningful entry points which reflect the various ways people typically want to browse a store full of games.

New Entry Points: Genres, Themes, and Player Modes

This experiment exposes entry points modeled after the three chief ways players tend to browse Steam—by genre, by theme, and by player modes. Each of these motivations broadly answers a different question:

Genres “What kind of game is this? What is it like to play?”
Strategy, RPG, 3D Platformer, Metroidvania, etc.

Themes “What is the game’s content like?”
Fantasy, Science Fiction, Cute, Relaxing, Anime, Horror, etc.

Player Modes “Who can I play the game with?”
Singleplayer, Multiplayer, MMO, Co-op, etc.

These player motivations can be organized and expressed using our existing tags and metadata. Categories grouped under the Genres and Themes entry points are defined by tags, whereas categories grouped under Player Modes are defined by metadata provided directly by the developer.

We arrived at these three top-level categories through a mix of formal research and intuition. But there’s also strong precedent for this scheme on Steam itself in the form of Steam Curators. We noticed many curators are building lists of specific types of games, almost all of which fall under one of the above three patterns: Gameplay and genre-based lists like City Builders, theme-based lists like Games with Dogs, or player mode-based lists like Games to Play with Your Significant Other.

New Browse Views

Among these three entry points we are currently surfacing 48 genre categories, 8 theme categories, and 7 player mode categories, for a total of 63 new categories. Clicking on any of these will take you to a dedicated content hub, a landing page dedicated to that kind of game.

Each of these destinations has its own URL, so you can bookmark them or share them with friends. Each features a carousel highlighting featured games, top sellers, and specials, as well as five specific tabs listing
  • New & Trending
  • Top Sellers
  • What’s Being Played
  • Top Rated
  • Upcoming

Players can narrow by popular tags within these hubs as well. The left column of tags surfaces popular genre and sub-genre tags common to this category, and the right column surfaces other types of popular tags (such as mechanics, visuals, themes, and player modes).

Clicking on any of these will take you to a sub-view of the content hub. In the illustration above, we’re viewing Building & Automation Sims, but now we’re viewing only those which also include the Space Sim tag. Each of these sub-views gets its own unique URLs too.

Viewers can return to the parent category any time by toggling the filtering tag previously clicked, or by clicking another to display a different sub-view of the category.

Steam’s Special Sections

This experiment also moves some items previously found in their own top-level menus (such as Software and Hardware) into Special Sections under Categories. Now these and other potential points of entry are all consolidated in a single categorical browse menu.

Our Design Process
How can we be confident in our selection and definition of over 60 new categories? This is an experiment, and thankfully our process includes you. Your feedback on our decisions will help us refine our categorization. To date, our methodology has been a mixture of traditional Library Science and human intuition backed by numerical analysis, and is built leveraging previous Steam Labs experimentation.

  1. We organized all of our user tags into meaningful Categories such as Genres, Visuals, Themes, and Features. These categories were first used in Deep Dive to help determine similarity between games.

  2. We mapped out the semantic relationships between tags, so Steam could recognize that a Strategy RPG is both a Strategy game and also an RPG. This feature was first used in Query Expansion for Search.

  3. We’ve made some efforts to improve the quality of Steam tags. We built an internal tool that analyzes the quality of the tags of every game on Steam, flagging games that have too few tags, or are missing crucial tags like genres and subgenres, and now surface these and other warnings to developers. We paired this tag quality inspector with a new developer tool, the Tag Wizard, that helps our partners improve the sets of tags associated with their games.

  4. We identified a flexible hierarchy of genres using prior research in games classification, as well as statistical analysis of which tags appear most commonly alongside other tags on Steam.

  5. We built a system for defining tag clusters to reveal higher-level concepts like Card & Board Games rather than a single tag like Card Game. Now, a tag cluster like Card & Board Games isn’t defined as simply Card Game plus Board Game. Instead, it also includes tags like Solitaire, Card Battler, Deckbuilder, Tabletop, and so on. And naturally, it uses Query Expansion to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

  6. We gave each tag cluster its own permanent landing page as described above.

  7. We built a tool that analyzes which games fall into which categories, across the entire catalog. This helps us gut-check our choices and identify and resolve situations like:
    • Narrow categories too small to stand on their own that might be better served when merged with a sibling or two. This is where hubs like City & Settlement and Grand Strategy & 4X came from.
    • Overly broad or redundant categories that overlap too much with adjacent genres. These should be broken down into smaller categories or removed altogether. A good example is Action-Adventure; although we have a tag for this, in practice the concept of Action-Adventure doesn’t meaningfully distinguish itself enough from either Action or Adventure alone.
    • Games that aren’t being surfaced by any of our proposed categories. This is a wake-up call that we need to add new categories. This check kept us from overlooking the need for categories like Experimental and Exploration & Open World.

  8. And most recently, we launched this experiment in Steam Labs!

Now we want to hear from you! What’s missing? What seems redundant? What is most interesting, and what’s… just not? Share your feedback in the discussions and help us improve the Steam store through Labs.

via Steam Blog.
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