Steam searches are getting more “logic” thanks to Query Expansion

The latest Steam Labs experiment will treat game tags "more like a human would: using logic!"

The next Steam Labs experiment will make searching the platform’s enormous catalogue, and finding the best PC games you want to play, a whole lot easier. Valve’s introducing ‘Query Expansion’, a feature designed to add “smarter tag-based searches” to Steam’s search functionality, which will mean it’ll treat game tags “more like a human would: using logic!”

The studio illustrates the feature with the real-time strategy (RTS) genre as an example. This can be tagged in multiple ways on Steam – ‘RTS’, ‘real-time’, and ‘strategy’, for instance – but if a game is only tagged with one or some of these variants, the existing search tech might miss some games in that category. For example, searching for ‘real-time’ plus ‘strategy’ might not find titles only tagged as ‘RTS’. “Query Expansion fixes that,” Valve says in a press release.

“The core of Query Expansion is that we don’t just consider the tags on a game, but also the tags that these logically imply,” the studio explains. “Here, many searches which leverage tags will now cast a wider net and display more titles.”

The way it works is by bridging gaps left between tags. While “the existing version of Search treats all tags as unrelated pieces of information,” the new “Query Expansion fills these gaps without requiring taggers to add synonymous tags to every game on Steam, or requiring players to form complex search queries.” Sweet.

If you’re worried about search bringing up too many, and less relevant, results going forward, however, the good news is Valve says it’s working to make Query Expansion “err toward being cautionary.” For example, it explains, while “‘action-adventure’ strictly implies ‘action’ plus ‘adventure’ and ‘strategy RPG’ implies ‘strategy’ plus ‘RPG’, we’ve not taken a leap to suggest synonymous relationships between merely similar or corollary tags.” ‘Fantasy’ doesn’t equate with ‘magic’ and ‘strategy’ doesn’t imply ‘turn-based’, for instance.

There’s a whole lot of work that goes on under the hood of this new experiment, which you can read about over at Steam Labs. As with all the Steam experiments, there’s no release date for when it might roll out on the live platform as it’s currently just in for testing and feedback. But, you can go give it a try yourself and let Valve know what you think.