Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

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Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Serjo » March 3rd, 2017, 9:45 am

A quote from the sales numbers thread caught my attention:
SagaDC wrote:
Lord of Riva wrote:what is this review manipulation you are speaking of?
It died off fairly quickly, but you can see that the first two or three negative reviews published for the game had close to a thousand upvotes in less than twelve hours. This is almost certainly a sign of review manipulation, to ensure that the negative reviews would remain on the front page as long as possible.

All of those reviews with a suspicious number of upvotes tend to focus on InXile and cut content, rather than on actually reviewing the game, making it clear they were left by disgruntled backers. In one case, a negative review with 988 upvotes was left by someone who only has 12 minutes of logged playtime on their record.

Comparatively speaking, the majority of the other reviews for the game - positive or negative - have a few hundred votes at best.

I certainly haven't said that the game is perfect. In fact, I haven't even played it, and probably won't end up playing it any time soon. From what I've gathered, there are indeed several valid criticisms for the game, but just glancing at some of the more suspect reviews makes it obvious that there are at least a few folks who are leveraging the review system to push more vindictive agendas.
Is it possible that Torment's poor Steam performance has been caused by a few thousand Kickstarter backers who are trying to destroy the company through review menipulation? If anyone has gathered evidence to prove or disprove this allegation, I would be happy to hear about it.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Lord of Riva » March 3rd, 2017, 9:55 am

Serjo wrote:A quote from the sales numbers thread caught my attention:
SagaDC wrote:
Lord of Riva wrote:what is this review manipulation you are speaking of?
It died off fairly quickly, but you can see that the first two or three negative reviews published for the game had close to a thousand upvotes in less than twelve hours. This is almost certainly a sign of review manipulation, to ensure that the negative reviews would remain on the front page as long as possible.

All of those reviews with a suspicious number of upvotes tend to focus on InXile and cut content, rather than on actually reviewing the game, making it clear they were left by disgruntled backers. In one case, a negative review with 988 upvotes was left by someone who only has 12 minutes of logged playtime on their record.

Comparatively speaking, the majority of the other reviews for the game - positive or negative - have a few hundred votes at best.

I certainly haven't said that the game is perfect. In fact, I haven't even played it, and probably won't end up playing it any time soon. From what I've gathered, there are indeed several valid criticisms for the game, but just glancing at some of the more suspect reviews makes it obvious that there are at least a few folks who are leveraging the review system to push more vindictive agendas.
Is it possible that Torment's poor Steam performance has been caused by a few thousand Kickstarter backers who are trying to destroy the company through review menipulation? If anyone has gathered evidence to prove or disprove this allegation, I would be happy to hear about it.
there is actually not a good answer to this.

If we conclude that this was indeed the case we could basically simply stop making games since a minority can completely "destroy a product" and they would not be worth to produce.

if we say it didnt then we have to assume that consumers, regardless of what they try to do the they are always shafted and businesses can do whatever they want. This would pretty much be distopia.

Since neither has happened we can assume that both exist in a balance. Can Users influence the sales of a game? Yes sure, for sales and against them. But they are not alone the factor deciding it.

Quality, content, quantity are also factoring in.

As is hype, marketing trends and so on. Its simply not a question with one simple answer

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by SagaDC » March 3rd, 2017, 10:21 am

Well, obviously I have no actual proof of vote manipulation or fraudulent upvoting campaigns. I simply based my statement on what I saw as anomalous behavior on certain reviews. I have observed similar behavior with some other crowdfunded indie games, almost always surrounding some other minor controversy or another.

But, that said, I don't think that it will affect Torment all that much. Torment is being offered through four different prominent distributors, and Steam is only one of them. Many players will never even see those suspect reviews, and will form their opinions without being influenced by them.

Vote manipulation (assuming that is indeed what this is) is more likely to affect a smaller, more fragile company such as a first-time indie developer. InXile is sturdy enough to weather some bad reviews.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Cabrill » March 3rd, 2017, 10:41 am

I'm torn on this. On the one hand I enjoy InXile's unique games, I've backed everything they've created at high tiers, and I truly want them to flourish and be wildly successful in their efforts, their careers, and in making these innovative games.

On the other hand I feel betrayed/disappointed as an early backer; not just superficially but on several fronts. Allow me to enumerate:
  • -Large amounts of missing content (foci, companions, cities, legacies, factions)
    -Several backer goals abandoned (stronghold, interactive codex, orchestral music, crafting)
    -Lack of communication on the aforementioned until the last minute, long past when it was obvious (most egregious)
    -Including exclusive items in the retail collectors edition for half the cost of the KS collectors edition
    -Priority on retail-first, backers second (still not even an ETA on shipping backers copies of the game)
So I find myself conflicted. I'm positive they acted in good faith and aren't some evil organization scheming to defraud people - that line of thinking is just absurd! These are real people, doing the best they can and pouring their passion into what they love to create the very best game possible, and I want to support them in any way I can. I certainly don't want to harm InXile by leaving unmerited negative reviews on their newest game and income producer, but at the same time I feel like these concerns are valid and being completely ignored (or at least not acknowledged). So my reasoning is that if someone else is going to post these complaints as a negative review, while I don't agree with their approach, the 'damage' is already done and nothing I do is going to undo it. So I thumbs-up the negative reviews to acknowledge the valid complaints and try to raise them to prominence in hopes that, at the very least, these pitfalls are avoided in the future.

Having said that, I plan to write my own (expected positive) review when I complete my first playthrough of TToN as it's a good game (albeit buggy and flawed {I've had slowdown in long conversations that force me to close the conversation and open a new one to continue. Non-applicable buttons show up. Text that doesn't jive with the actual events in my playthrough. Party members unresponsive during battle. Etc.}). I just don't believe there's a concerted effort to torpedo InXile with manipulated reviews so much as people who think differently than me and are willing to write negative reviews, and then others who do think like me that are willing to thumbs-up their reviews to acknowledge the valid complaints.

So, assuming it's a foregone conclusion that someone will disagree with my explained reasoning, I'd like to ask: as there's no real dialogue with the developers can you instead suggest a more appropriate way to express dissatisfaction that is likely to result in correcting future 'behavior' on the aforementioned? Others have tried posting here or in Kickstarter comments (with no constructive responses or official acknowledgment), and others have attempted Twitter conversations which were ignored. What venue is left? Is there any alternative to just accepting these failings and hoping they don't happen again?

At this point, I don't think there is an alternate method of communicating dissatisfaction that would garner an honest, official response, and so making negative reviews is the last resort of people who feel ignored. I earnestly believe that InXile failed to interact and communicate with their backers which lead to this situation, and had they defused the situation with ongoing dialogue then this wouldn't be nearly the drama it has become. Also, I find that rather ironic considering TToN's allowing the use of diplomacy and actively supporting the communication-as-resolution play style...
Last edited by Cabrill on March 3rd, 2017, 12:33 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Serrin » March 3rd, 2017, 11:11 am

Are you guys serious?
If there are more people upvoting a negative review than there are people downvoting it, the majority agrees with the reviewer. Maybe the reviewer made some good points?
If the majority of players disagrees with the reviewer, why don' t they downvote the review?
Are the people who upvote a positive review also manipulating the system? Or are they allowed to?

Even negative reviews about the behaviour of Inexile, the cuts and the rushed release are as valid as any other positive or negative review, because the reviewer feels these things are important enough. If a lot of people agree with that, they upvote him, if not they downvote him.
Nothing wrong with that.

There are a lot of negative things about the game and Inexiles behaviour, some people can ignore them and enjoy the game, some can not.
Those who write negative reviews and/or upvote them don't want to destroy anything, they want a better game and Inexile should listen to them, learn from their mistakes and make it better.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by MoD256 » March 3rd, 2017, 11:29 am

Cabrill wrote:...
You are absolutely right. I'm and probably also others see it the same way and “must“ upvote this negative reviews, as last form of showing: There happened big failures... register these and make it ways better next time. Communication, Organisation, Logistics and Problem Solutions wasn't and aren't convincing.
So far unconvincing that it defintive will influence future backing of Inxile Projects.

The lost of trust is the biggest problem and would need huge and fast efforts from Inxile to restore.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by SagaDC » March 3rd, 2017, 11:32 am

Serrin wrote:Are you guys serious?
If there are more people upvoting a negative review than there are people downvoting it, the majority agrees with the reviewer. Maybe the reviewer made some good points?
I am not questioning people's right to agree or disagree with a review. I was simply commenting on what appeared to be a suspiciously quick buildup of upvotes on a small number of reviews. The question here is whether "the majority" actually agrees with the reviewer, or whether that "majority" is made up of people who have no real interest in the game and are just pushing a separate agenda. It was suggested in another thread that it could be the result of overly aggressive "consumer advocacy" groups.

The reviews I noted as suspicious were the ones that accumulated a tremendous amount of votes in a very short timespan, with some of them reaching over a thousand upvotes within the first few hours of the game's release. In comparison, the other reviews for the game (both positive and negative) have, at most, just a few hundred votes even after three days.

To me, it appears to be clear signs of an upvoting campaign. I feel that it undermines the point of leaving a review in the first place, if it's just going to be artificially boosted by people who never intended to purchase or play the game in the first place.

But in the long term, I don't think it will really matter. InXile isn't going to be hurt by a few negative reviews, especially given that 76% of the current reviews on Steam are positive. The general consensus seems to be that Torment is an enjoyable but flawed game, which more or less matches what most professional reviews have already said.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by daedalusAI » March 3rd, 2017, 11:41 am

Serrin wrote:Are you guys serious?
If there are more people upvoting a negative review than there are people downvoting it, the majority agrees with the reviewer. Maybe the reviewer made some good points?
If the majority of players disagrees with the reviewer, why don' t they downvote the review?
Are the people who upvote a positive review also manipulating the system? Or are they allowed to?

Even negative reviews about the behaviour of Inexile, the cuts and the rushed release are as valid as any other positive or negative review, because the reviewer feels these things are important enough. If a lot of people agree with that, they upvote him, if not they downvote him.
Nothing wrong with that.

There are a lot of negative things about the game and Inexiles behaviour, some people can ignore them and enjoy the game, some can not.
Those who write negative reviews and/or upvote them don't want to destroy anything, they want a better game and Inexile should listen to them, learn from their mistakes and make it better.
I only read the current negative review on steam and browse for the well-reasoned ones detailing the issues the respective writer had with the game.
It's pretty close to reality.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Serrin » March 3rd, 2017, 12:00 pm

The reviews I noted as suspicious were the ones that accumulated a tremendous amount of votes in a very short timespan, with some of them reaching over a thousand upvotes within the first few hours of the game's release. In comparison, the other reviews for the game (both positive and negative) have, at most, just a few hundred votes even after three days.

To me, it appears to be clear signs of an upvoting campaign. I feel that it undermines the point of leaving a review in the first place, if it's just going to be artificially boosted by people who never intended to purchase or play the game in the first place.
Of course you get most of reviews and votes shortly after game release and those who really like the game are still playing it after a few hours, while those who don't like it are venting their steam :) in reviews and votes.
And since there are few reviews, people who don't want to write one, vote for those few that exist, these show up first on steam and get more votes.
But to write these people off as part of some conspiracy is just plain wrong, because that means they and their opinion can be ignored, which is the worst thing to do in these cases.
People who write negative reviews and upvote them want a better game, if they are (or feel) ignored, they won't buy the next game, they are lost as customers and damn hard to win back.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Lord of Riva » March 3rd, 2017, 12:03 pm

I was simply commenting on what appeared to be a suspiciously quick buildup of upvotes on a small number of reviews. The question here is whether "the majority" actually agrees with the reviewer, or whether that "majority" is made up of people who have no real interest in the game and are just pushing a separate agenda. It was suggested in another thread that it could be the result of overly aggressive "consumer advocacy" groups.
this then is as much conspiracy theories as is lets say "money was used for the console version instead of the PC version" which is often heavily criticized

*shrug*

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by IHaveHugeNick » March 3rd, 2017, 12:06 pm

Conspiracy theories? What the fuck, guys. There's no organized campaign to keep the game down, Outrage culture is strong within gaming community, and people have a tendency to flock to every controversy and try to stir shit. That's all this is. I remember that WL2 had sudden influx of negative reviews after the whole Alien Wasteland nonsense happened.

There's nothing unusual going on in the reviews, it's all a side effect of InXile's shit communication. They're supposedly this superteam of veteran developers who have been in the game industry since before the pyramids were build, but somehow they didn't realize the simple truth that ignoring one controversy after another will eventually backfire.

It doesn't help that Sear is running around steam comments trying to do damage control, but he ends up coming off as a sleezy PR person and only makes things worse. Protip: if someone is calling you a criminal scammer greedy thief, you don't respond with "Thank you, I appreciate your feedback". Seriously, hire a community manager who knows what the fuck he is doing.
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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by SagaDC » March 3rd, 2017, 12:11 pm

Lord of Riva wrote:this then is as much conspiracy theories as is lets say "money was used for the console version instead of the PC version" which is often heavily criticized

*shrug*
Sure, it's a theory, though I would hesitate to call it a conspiracy theory.

I have already stated that I have no proof, and that it is an observation based on what appears to be the anomalous behavior of a small number of reviews. It is a pattern I have seen repeated with other games in the past, generally coinciding with similar "controversies".

But I feel that it is a valid suspicion, given that anomalous behavior. People are free to disregard those suspicions if they wish. It was one of several comments I made in another thread, in regards to the overall state of the Torment launch.

Though comparing it to the "console conspiracy" is unduly harsh, because that is a theory that has no backing whatsoever. In my case, I at least have the anomalous behavior to base my theory upon. In the case of the console conspiracy, that appears to be based upon pure speculation that goes directly counter to official word from the development team.

EDIT - I will say that Serjo probably chose an overly dramatic title for this thread, though. I've repeatedly stated that even if this is a case of review manipulation, it's ultimately going to have no significant effect on Torment or InXile. A few bad reviews, no matter how many times they get upvoted (legitimately or otherwise), are not going to tangibly hurt the game or the company.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Jernaugh » March 3rd, 2017, 3:45 pm

The term "manipulation" was maybe not the best choice here. I wouldn't be surprised if the negative reviews were experiencing a lot of upvotes from disappointed backers who weren't responding to the game, but to the problems with inXile's communication and the stretch goals etc. etc. etc.. I also wouldn't be surprised if a few people made a minor effort to keep negative reviews on the front page, because a few people even in these forums (let alone certain other ones) have shown more than enough frustration to put some active effort into hindering inXile. But a coordinated effort? I'm not seeing it. Maybe some forum somewhere is pushing this, yes, but I doubt they have enough clout to put together a hundred upvotes, much less a thousand.

That said, I'm not particularly happy about reviews that aren't about the game itself dominating the discussion. You can hate a lot of things about ToN and that's fine if that's your review, but negative reviews for what might have been? Negative reviews because of the company's actions aside from the game? They didn't kill anyone, they're not Nazis, the worst you can say is that they failed to keep some design "promises", communicated it badly and maybe showed some disregard for their backers. I find it... distasteful to pile negative publicity on a game because of circumstances like this. Of course, that's just my opinion.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Drool » March 3rd, 2017, 10:37 pm

SagaDC wrote:I was simply commenting on what appeared to be a suspiciously quick buildup of upvotes on a small number of reviews.
...even if so, does it matter? Perhaps I'm an anomaly, but I pay more attention to the aggregate score as opposed to any specific ones. Especially any review that goes off the rails to bitch about the company or anything other than the game itself.
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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by monocle » March 3rd, 2017, 11:05 pm

there is no manipulation. The game just doesn't stand up to the contribution made, expectations aroused and hype fed by the devs.

The story is unengaging.

The motivations don't exist.

Half of the promised content isn't there.

The NPC cast is NOWHERE near the PS:T cast.

The pacing is terrible.

The combat is a laggy parody of shadowrun combat, for "handcrafted" encounters shadowrun did it better.

The villian is nowhere near the transcendent one.

The quests are unmemorable. The only part I remember is the Children of the Endless gate climax.

No one tries to make tton fail, it fails splendidly by itself.
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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Jernaugh » March 4th, 2017, 2:08 am

Funny though, a lot of people disagree. As of now, 74% of the reviews are positive. And a lot of the helpful negative reviews on the front page right now criticize the UI, animations/visual presentation and combat rather than the issues you name...

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by kilobug » March 4th, 2017, 3:00 am

Seems very like the Siege of Dragonspear thing to me... didn't play TTON yet (I'm currently in Ecuador for holidays and my laptop isn't powerful enough), but most press review are very positive (and a few mixed, but none truly bad), people overall seem to enjoy the game (ie, 75% positive ratings), but a vehement minority (connected or not to the "gamergate" thing, I've no idea) is trying to harm the game and inXile by manipulating reviews, for really stupid reasons (it was a transgender character in Dragonspear, it seems to be the console port for TTON even if no single cent of backer money went to console port). This whole review system seems very broken to me, it gives a tiny minority of angry haters way too much power :(

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Sarakash » March 4th, 2017, 3:31 am

IHaveHugeNick wrote:Conspiracy theories? What the fuck, guys. There's no organized campaign to keep the game down, Outrage culture is strong within gaming community, and people have a tendency to flock to every controversy and try to stir shit. That's all this is. I remember that WL2 had sudden influx of negative reviews after the whole Alien Wasteland nonsense happened.

There's nothing unusual going on in the reviews, it's all a side effect of InXile's shit communication. They're supposedly this superteam of veteran developers who have been in the game industry since before the pyramids were build, but somehow they didn't realize the simple truth that ignoring one controversy after another will eventually backfire.

It doesn't help that Sear is running around steam comments trying to do damage control, but he ends up coming off as a sleezy PR person and only makes things worse. Protip: if someone is calling you a criminal scammer greedy thief, you don't respond with "Thank you, I appreciate your feedback". Seriously, hire a community manager who knows what the fuck he is doing.
This is very true for gaming community, but for politics as well.

From my experience, the most common mistake we humans make is to confuse correlation with causality. And people like to "know" the truth, more often because of their ego, but not out of curiosity. It is required to emphazise ones own reflection of beeing a "good person". From this perspective a simple "truth" is more attractive (i.e. correlation) then the more complex "truth" (i.e. causal connections).

What I am trying to say with this is that this steam review debacle has its own dynamic. A certain amount of people will upvote the "ps4 cut content controversy reviews" not out of spite, but out of confirmation bias. It reinforces them telling the "thruth", thus them beeing "the good person".

This obviously oversimplifies things for the sake of explaination. Just don´t fall into the same trap, making a conspiracy theory out of it.

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Serrin » March 4th, 2017, 5:01 am

kilobug wrote:Seems very like the Siege of Dragonspear thing to me... didn't play TTON yet (I'm currently in Ecuador for holidays and my laptop isn't powerful enough), but most press review are very positive (and a few mixed, but none truly bad), people overall seem to enjoy the game (ie, 75% positive ratings), but a vehement minority (connected or not to the "gamergate" thing, I've no idea) is trying to harm the game and inXile by manipulating reviews, for really stupid reasons (it was a transgender character in Dragonspear, it seems to be the console port for TTON even if no single cent of backer money went to console port). This whole review system seems very broken to me, it gives a tiny minority of angry haters way too much power :(
"vehement minority" nice one, are they worse than the "vocal minority"?
.
But if 70% agree to a review, they are the majority.
The 75% positive raters DID NOT downvote the review, why? How can the "vehement minority" get more votes than the not-so-vehement majority?
Already the most helpful reviews focus on the weak points of the game. That is exactly what they are there for.
If a lot of people disagree with this, they could vote them all down as not helpful, but so far the majority finds these reviews helpful.

So until the not-so-vocal majority gets of their lazy butts or the game is improved, they will have to live with negative reviews.

There is nothing wrong with the review system, it just shows things you don't like.
Of course you do like it that there are 75% positive reviews in this very broken system that gives a tiny minority of happy players way too much power...

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Re: Are disgruntled Kickstarter backers manipulating Steam reviews to make Torment fail?

Post by Deldaran » March 4th, 2017, 5:02 am

Steam should have a separate scoring/review side for the developer and the publisher. Things that make people mad in Tides of Numenera's case, are mostly not about the game, but about communication (as many have pointed out on these forums) by the devs and the publisher - yet all that hate is being taken out on the game itself - it's a sad limitation of Steam as a platform.

What are we who are fans of the game supposed to do? We can brigade to upvote positive reviews on Steam and downvote the negative ones. What does that make us? Possibly mindless shills. What if we honestly vote based upon the actual content of the reviews? We end up hurting the game by upvoting negative reviews, while our reasons for doing so will have little to do with the actual game.

I hope Steam someday changes the way scoring/reviews are done, because I've seen too many great games hurt because of reasons outside the game experience itself.

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