With the imminent death of Steam Greenlight, Valve finally started to get some details out about their Steam Direct program that will replace it. First up, the fee for adding games to Steam Direct will be $100, which honestly sounds a bit low given that this is the same price as what Greenlight was.

But hey, let's see what Valve's reasoning is for making it $100.
We thought it would be great if the game community at large had a conversation about it, including both players and developers, which was why we chose not to highlight a specific amount in that original post.

Since then, we've seen a bunch of great conversations discussing the various pros and cons of whether there should be an amount, what that amount should be, ways that recouping could work, which developers would be helped or hurt, predictions for how the store would be affected, and many other facets to the decision. There were rational & convincing arguments made for both ends of the $100-$5000 spectrum we mentioned. Our internal thinking beforehand had us hovering around the $500 mark, but the community conversation really challenged us to justify why the fee wasn't as low as possible, and to think about what we could do to make a low fee work.

So in the end, we've decided we're going to aim for the lowest barrier to developers as possible, with a $100 recoupable publishing fee per game, while at the same time work on features designed to help the Store algorithm become better at helping you sift through games. We're going to look for specific places where human eyes can be injected into the Store algorithm, to ensure that it is working as intended, and to ensure it doesn't miss something interesting. We're also going to closely monitor the kinds of game submissions we're receiving, so that we're ready to implement more features like the the Trading Card changes we covered in the last blog post, which aim to reduce the financial incentives for bad actors to game the store algorithm.

We believe that if we inject human thinking into the Store algorithm, while at the same time increasing the transparency of its output, we'll have created a public process that will incrementally drive the Store to better serve everyone using it.

Er, okay. It sounds like Valve is once again relying on algorithms and the community to curate Steam Direct instead of doing internal curation. Yes, they say that they're going to "closely monitor the kinds of game submissions" they receive, but that is an incredibly vague phrase. It sounds like if they notice enough of one type of game submission, IE: low effort, low quality shovelware, they might implement additional barriers to entry. How long a process like that might take is anybody's guess right now.

The Steam blog entry continues on to talk about upcoming changes to Steam Curators, the second biggest cesspool on Steam at the present.
Unfortunately, while we shipped the Curator feature in the first Discovery update, it hasn't received the attention it needs to be a good solution. So recently we've spent some time talking and listening to members of both sides - the curators using the system to provide commentary on the Store, and the players using the system to inform their decisions. In both areas we've identified a set of work that we believe will make it more useful.

We're expanding the kinds of content that Curators can create, allowing them to provide more information to players who are thinking about buying a game, and improving the tools to allow them to easily manage all their recommendations. We'll have some more details as we get closer to releasing the update, but here are some highlights:

Many Curators create content for other platforms, such as YouTube, so we're making it much easier for them to show that content alongside their curations.

One suggestion from Curators that we liked was the ability for them to create personal lists of games. This will allow Curators to provide specific kinds of advice, whether that's general suggestions about which games to buy in the current sale, or more specific lists, like which games to play to follow the evolution of a particular type of game design, the body of a work from a favorite developer, or the games in a Curator's weekly Game Club.

Another big request came from both Curators and developers, who want an easier way to help Curators get pre-release access to upcoming games. It's often hard for Curators to get the attention of developers who build the specific kinds of games that a Curator covers, and it can be similarly hard for a smaller developer to find the Curators who would be interested. So we're building a system that will make that a painless process for everyone involved, which means that you should see more useful curations coming out of the Curators who like to explore newer titles.

At the same time, we're making it easier for players to use Curators to help them browse the Store. Since they're an opt-in feature, we've decided to give Curators more visibility throughout the Store as a whole, so if you're following a Curator, you'll see their thoughts in new places, and with higher prominence.

It sounds like Valve is going to try to make it easier for Curators that focus on particular games, genres, or abstract concepts to more easily get in touch with publishers. That could be interesting or it could tip the scales a bit. I'm not saying that this will happen for sure, but providing products to people who aren't used to receiving free products may offer some rather skewed (overly favorable) results if this isn't monitored closely by their group peers.

Right now, the biggest problem with the Curator system lies more with the way in which troll or undesired Curators are shoved in a user's face at every opportunity. For instance, I just now loaded up the main page of Steam. A quick scroll down shows off a handful of recommended Curators. One of the ones suggested is the "Commander Shepard" Steam Curator group that is about as useless as a napkin in a tornado.

Keep in mind that this Curator has 455 reviews all like this

Still other groups are recommended that I have no desire to see recommended to me due to their affiliation with unsavory aspects of the gaming community. I'm not saying that all Curator groups are useless, far from it, but the program certainly has a problem with Curators that are hellbent on spamming as many reviews as they can, offering up worthless troll critiques that attempt to be humorous (but are ultimately worthless), or fit an aspect of gaming culture that I don't wish to see. Being able to curate the Curators would be a welcome addition. Until such a time, I will continue to largely ignore the feature and let my eyes glaze over as I scroll past that "recommended Curators" section of the Steam page every single day.