A new Steam Labs section for digital storefront Steam is intended to help players better find their next new game, through microtrailer montages, a machine learning recommendation system, and an automated show. Imagine walking into a store and looking for a t-shirt. There are over 30,000 different kinds here -- which one is the absolute best for you? Picking a good video game can be a bit like that. Computer gaming store Steam sold upwards of 30,000 games at the start of the year, a library that's been increasing at an exponential annual rate since 2003.
Its staff are hoping to help players better discover their new favorite game through the launch of a new, in-progress experimental section called Steam Labs, which currently contains three different discovery tools.
Micro Trailers integrates content from the Twitter account of the same name, with a few twists. The original incarnation compresses every new Steam store game's trailer down into a quickly digestible 6-second looping montage.
At launch, Steam Labs' version of MicroTrailers does the same on a per-game basis, but can also group them by theme or category, can play either one trailer at a time or a row of three at once, or compile a video loop split into four quarters, quadrupling a full trailer's excerpts within the same 6-second cycle.
For logged-in users, Steam Labs offers the Interactive Recommender, which whittles down the catalog's titles through a personalized machine learning analysis of existing playtime data compared with millions of other Steam users.
Users can further narrow the choice by two sliders -- one for a game's popularity, one for its age -- and by including or excluding various descriptive tags via dropdown menu. That helps them better home in on a particular genre or combination they're interested in, or ignore a type of game they were once really jazzed about but can't stand anymore.
Finally, a half-hour automated show stands as a prototype experiment of what could be developed further. It's little more than an extended version of the Micro Trailers experiment, with an AI program generating a full episode's worth of content from various Steam charts, surfacing what's new and popular, bestselling in particular genres, curator picks, and so on.
Viewers can use an adjacent graphic to go directly to the currently displayed game's store page. Valve Corp, which owns and operates the Steam store (and develops some of the world's biggest ongoing games such as "Dota 2" and "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive") explains that the Automatic Show was originally supposed to feature an automated text-to-speech voiceover but the results were too robotic and unnatural, so that aspect has gone back to the drawing board for now.