ARK: Scorched Earth Positive User Reviews Show Suspicious Behavior
(Last Updated On: September 6, 2016)

Some of the user reviews for ARK: Scorched Earth seem to be showing some odd behavior. There are a number of positive reviews filed for the game that don’t quite add up, including plenty of accounts that no longer have the game in their library.

I was informed by a concerned reader that something was off with some of the reviews for ARK: Scorched Earth, linking to a number of imgur posts showing that some of the accounts have given the newest entry in the ARK series a positive score but now no longer have the game in their library or put in less than an hour’s worth of time before giving the game a thumbs up while shortly thereafter removing it from their profile.

Maybe this one?

 

What about this?

 

Maybe this one?

While the images looked compelling enough, if you check the actual positive reviews for ARK: Scorched Earth you’ll find similar inconsistencies. For instance, this review from evell, who has 1.2 hours on record for ARK: Scorched Earth, giving the game a thumbs up but hasn’t actually played the game in the last two weeks, and it’s no longer in evell’s library.

Now some of you might think that maybe they just bought the game, played it before it released to the public for 1.2 hours, logged in a review with a thumbs up and then refunded the game. While that might sound plausible, the main problem is that evell didn’t buy the game. They received it for free, according to the Steam user review. There was nothing to refund.

Then there are some accounts like AppleSeed, which seems fine at first, having 25 products in their library and more than 150 hours on record in ARK: Survival Evolved. Yet somehow they have a level 0 Steam profile.

The same thing applies to Steam users Keesi and Danerion, the first of whom has 2.5k hours in ARK and owns 42 products on Steam but has a level 0 account. Danerion has more than 700 hours in ARK and 21 products in their library. The profiles for both Keesi and Danerion are private.

[Update: Some people are saying that making the profiles private automatically sets the Steam profile level to 0.]

Still, the private accounts can at least be given some leniency since it’s not made clear if they still have the game in their inventory. For cases like DeadricPrince and PinGameplay HD, they have reviews on hand for ARK: Scorched Earth but don’t appear to have the game in their libraries at all.

Maybe this one?

 

Or this?

The thing is, spotting out these reviews where they appear to be made by bots isn’t so simple. Some of them look like standard reviews from typical Steam users — some of which may not have the best grasp on the English language. Others are a little easier to spot with the product not being in their inventory, even though they received a copy for free.

These suspiciously positive reviews with the odd activity from its users is not a common thing. These reviews pop up infrequently and are sprinkled about the review section for ARK: Scorched Earth. There are a lot of reviews from a lot of users coming in, so it’s not easy to always spot them out. Even still, some readers are concerned that some of the positive reviews might be getting padded by bots.

About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Chris

    You can see the same thing on the negative review side, but you didn’t look into that I’m guessing. Let the witch hunt continue!

  • Michael Marquardt

    I have gone through about 20 of my games and I do not see these kinds of reviews in any of them. There are negative reviews from people who refunded the game but that seems normal. But I can’t find positive reviews like these. I don’t think this is normal review activity.

    • I agree that it’s not normal review activity. I haven’t quite seen anything like this either. I wanted to check around a bit more before asking the devs about it, but they seem awfully preoccupied running damage control at the moment.

  • Michael Marquardt

    A lot of people in Steam don’t know what level 0 accounts are. Just go into any steam forum and you will constantly see people being harassed for being level 0 noobs. I was accused of being a paid shill after I left a good review for Guise of the Wolf just because my profile is private. Sure it was a bad game, but I explained that it was a really good bad game, like Seven Adventures of Sinbad is probably one of the best bad movies and should be seen by anyone who loves a good laugh.

    • Matthew Unger

      Hell I’ve been accused of being a paid shill for a game I didn’t even own just because I asked a question in some nutcases rant thread 😛

      Steam forums can be hella toxic heh

  • In addition its possible (or likely) that these accounts are alts who
    played via family share and it has nothing to do with revoked keys at
    all.

    So you’re saying a family alt played the game for one or two hours and then left a gibberish review giving it a thumbs up?

    Add to that the fact you didn’t even know that 0 level profiles are
    generally just private ones and it kinda makes this a pretty
    unprofessional “review”.

    Except this isn’t a review. It’s an article.

    You might want to actually learn how things work and you know, source
    your speculation, if you want to pretend to have journalistic integrity.

    There are sources… links directly to the profiles with pictures of their inventories not having the game. It’s an article about suspicious reviews… I kind of thought that was clear from the headline and article content. No?

    • Matthew Unger

      No, I’m saying they are alt accounts who didn’t need to own the game because their main account does and they played via family share. Please try to keep up.

      Article, review, or blog, you still need to establish credibility if you want to be taken seriously. since you have actively demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how steam reviews work it makes your assertions worthless.

      • I’m saying they are alt accounts who didn’t need to own the game because their main account does and they played via family share. Please try to keep up.

        So what you’re saying is, technically, 10 people who don’t own ARK could give positive reviews for the game through the family share setup? Is that right?

        Article, review, or blog, you still need to establish credibility if you want to be taken seriously.

        Well that’s what the screenshots and profile links are for.

        since you have actively demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how steam reviews work it makes your assertions worthless.

        Speculation, actually… not assertions, it’s speculation.

        • Matthew Unger

          No, that’s not what I said. Sadly I don’t have time or inclination to provide an English lesson, consult your local adult learning center.

          Screenshots and profile links do not provide credibility when the speculation posted shows a gross lack of understanding of the very basic principles of the review system.

          As for the comment regarding the difference between speculation and assertion I would point out that neither is a mutually exclusive term for the statements you made and both apply.

          • No, that’s not what I said. Sadly I don’t have time or inclination to provide an English lesson, consult your local adult learning center.

            Dude, I literally quoted you. Did you say or not say the following, yes or no…

            I’m saying they are alt accounts who didn’t need to own the game because their main account does and they played via family share. Please try to keep up.

            If you did, then I’m asking does that mean 10 people who don’t own ARK can post positive reviews through the family share program? Yes or no? I’m trying to get an understanding here and for some reason you’re taking this like it’s a deposition or something.

            Screenshots and profile links do not provide credibility when the speculation posted shows a gross lack of understanding of the very basic principles of the review system.

            And so you can confirm that reviews posted with 0 hours played or not having the game in the inventory with gibberish as the body of the text while it clearly says they received the game for free is not suspicious to you at all?

            As for the comment regarding the difference between speculation and assertion I would point out that neither is a mutually exclusive term for the statements you made and both apply.

            The statements I made questioned the legitimacy of the reviews, speculating the constitution of the review’s properties since they they do not fit the standard positive or negative review structure.

          • Michael Marquardt

            Hey Billy. I have been doing some digging around and the game Ark: Survival of the Fittest is a free game that is given when someone buys Ark: Survival Evolved. So the reviews that have Survival of the Fittest and not Survival Evolved have bought the game and refunded it, but the free game does not get taken out of their library.

            According to steamspy, there are 5.6m copies of Survival of the Fittest out there and only 3.6m copies of Survival Evolved I am going to assume that means 2m people bought the game and refunded it. I am not sure if there is a way to get Survival of the Fittest without Survival Evolved, so if anyone out there knows a way, that would be good information to have.

          • Hey Michael, thanks for that update.

            Hmm, so you’re right about the amount of players and it being free. It doesn’t appear as if you can get it separate from the vanilla ARK anymore, so it’s now bundled into the main package.

            If the people bought ARK, refunded it and then kept Survival of the Fittest, shouldn’t the Survival of the Fittest still be in their library even though vanilla ARK was removed?

            Very confusing.

            I don’t think there’s a way to get Survival of the Fittest now without getting vanilla ARK. I think it was free for a short while earlier this year but then became part of the bundle. I’d have no idea how people could manage to separate the two, do a review and not have the game in their inventory.

          • Michael Marquardt

            I couldn’t find anything. There were some people talking about how you could leave a review from a free weekend, but the last free weekend for this game was July 28-31 according to:

            http://steamcommunity.com/games/346110/announcements/detail/818911970862633030

            Even if this is true, why would someone play the game for less than an hour back in July and leave a positive review just after the DLC launched? This doesn’t make any sense at all. I am starting to think that damage control you are were talking about is happening here too.

            I am going to set up some extra accounts to see if I can leave multiple reviews for the same game on more than one. I will also do some other testing with this. If the current family sharing plan allows people to abuse game reviews, I want to give steam a piece of my mind.

          • Michael Marquardt

            So I managed to set up some alternate accounts and it does let you write multiple reviews for one game. I think the ones with Ark: SotF are people who refunded the game and I think the ones without Ark have multiple accounts and are abusing the review system by leaving a bunch of reviews. What the hell was Steam thinking when they let family sharing post multiple reviews? Did they think people wouldn’t abuse it?

          • Ah I see. Thanks for testing that. So I’m guessing some people are trying to balance out the negative reviews by using Family Share to post up positive reviews to counter them.

          • Michael Marquardt

            That’s what it looks like. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was happening in the negative reviews too. Looks like Steam reviews are broken.

      • Michael Marquardt

        So a family of four can buy one copy of a game and leave four reviews for the game? That seems like a really bad design choice.

        • Matthew Unger

          Steams requirement for reviews is having played the game legitimately, it doesn’t require purchase. How is that a bad design choice? Does purchasing something inherently make your opinion more valid? Cause if that’s the case then all the people who didn’t purchase the DLC suddenly don’t get to complain about it either.

          • Michael Marquardt

            They can’t. If they do not buy the DLC, they cannot make a review of the DLC. That is how Steam works. And there are rules to making reviews. I do not own Ark, therefore I cannot make a review for the game.

  • Is no one going to say anything about the hundreds (if not thousands) of negative reviews saying things similar to “Payed DLC before release” with less than 1 hour?

    People are generally hopping onto the band-wagon and giving negative reviews for little to no reason.

    Maybe the opposite reviews you are seeing are just the general public trying to outset the false negative reviews.

    • EroBotan

      make sense! Review should be based on gameplay first. The game’s price, the company’s attitude, day one DLCs, and other similar stuff should not play a major part in deciding the final score.

  • Having said that however, blasting gamer tags like this without knowing if your accusations are correct seems super scummy…smh

    Well that’s why the accusations are simply that the activity is suspicious, not that these are ISIS members in disguise.

    • MyzTe

      Still, this is a lot of noise / rabble rousing when its clear your information isn’t complete. if this is a thing you really care about, then research it more completely and post solid facts, not a bunch of speculation including having to update your theory with “oh ok I was wrong this thing actually happens”. It lacks credibility when you don’t even know how steam accounts work in the first place, but you’re using this as ‘evidence’ for your supposition. Shoddy reporting causes mass believed popular opinion based on nothing and doesn’t help improve anything. IMHO

      • Still, this is a lot of noise / rabble rousing when its clear your information isn’t complete.

        There will never be “complete” information because a lot of the way the Steam accounts work is safeguarded by Valve.

        The point was to examine oddities that numerous people pointed out with the reviews. No one would be able to know how it works if the article wasn’t posted and people didn’t begin looking into it. Valve isn’t saying and didn’t respond and it’s not like there’s a definitive way to say what’s legit and what’s not.

        The article wasn’t placing blame on any single one entity but questioning for the purpose of uncovering and digging. The only thing the article reports is what some users pointed out: some of the reviews looked suspicious.

        If this wasn’t an issue (and it has been in the past based on previous reports we’ve done and other sites have done on this very thing) Valve wouldn’t have overhauled the user review section. Obviously there was some merit to the claims of shoddy user reviews, which is why they added the option to view reviews made by people who did not purchase the game.

  • wiz12268

    The DLC doesnt show up on its own it only shows as ARK. But it wouldnt surprise me if there was manipulation going on. It went to MIXED an hour or so ago overall and it was still dropping so it doesnt seem to be working.

    • The DLC doesnt show up on its own it only shows as ARK

      Shouldn’t the vanilla game still be in the inventory of the person who reviewed the DLC, though?

  • Celerity

    I can confirm that private profiles (or friends only profiles) are seen at level 0 regardless of their actual level. Mine is level 21, 280 games but no one can see that but me.

    What is it with corrupt indie companies and buying reviews anyways? At least it’s not a few hundred identical “Please add support for Chinese!” with < 1 hour. And it's at least an open world survival so scams are expected.

  • Michael Marquardt

    Yes that is true. I keep my profile private as well and I get a lot of people criticizing me for having a steam level of 0 even though it is much higher. One thing people can do is punch the person’s userid into steamrep and it will tell you some basic info about the user.

    • Steamrep definitely works. That was a good suggestion. Unfortunately it doesn’t show what games are in the inventory of users. Maybe I can fish around for another app that does.

      • Michael Marquardt

        steamrep does show the list of games. you just have to go to the bottom of the profile and there is a button that reads Show All Games.

        • Ah, sorry, I should have explained that I was hoping to find a way to see all the games of private profiles. If you click on “Show All Games” for a private profile on SteamRep it just shows 0 games.

          • Michael Marquardt

            that means they have zero games. this typically is an alternate account of someone with family sharing or a dummy account

  • Michael Marquardt

    This looks really bad. I will wait to buy a game like this if this kind of stuff is going on.

  • C G Saturation

    I saw a headline the other day about someone being paid to review stuff on Amazon. There’s way too much of that nonsense going on lately.

    Personally, I usually only read reviews that focus on negatives, because that gives me an idea of what aspects of the game may turn me off. Also, chances are that I’m filtering out the people who are paid to write fake reviews, since they probably won’t write anything negative.

    It does nothing for me to hear about random people rabidly gushing blindly over a game’s positives and nothing else. if I’m interested in buying a game, I’m already intending to buy it for the reasons I’m interested. What I need to know is if it’s actually a lot shittier than it seems, or if it’s completely broken.

  • d0x360

    If a game is missing but the user played it generally it means they were gifted a copy by the dev and then when a certain time expired they lose the game from the library.

    • I’ve never heard of this happening before. Devs can put an expiry on gifted copies of games?

      • d0x360

        Yea they can. If they do when you look at the game in your library page it will say (generally) review copy and have a expiration time.

        Ive had a couple I wish I had one now so I could take a screen shot for you. I might have one that says “Game name [Review]” because it didn’t expire I could nab a screen of it when I get home if you want.

        Steam also has what are basically press accounts and these accounts can download and play any game for free but they all have a time limit but also are given the option to pay and keep it. Im not sure how the time limit is set but I know the developer can over ride it if they want and essentially gift the game.

        If you have ever seen the YouTube channel funhaus they use a steam press account. When they play wheelhaus (a show where they play random games selected by a spinning wheel on a website) every once and a while you will see during checkout that all the games cost is set to $0.00 then it says “Press” right next to it.

        • Interesting. All the press copies we’ve received were review codes with no time limits, so I wasn’t aware about the expiry. Do you know how long these timed review codes have been around? It’s the first time I’m hearing about this and I’ve been receiving review codes for ages.

          • d0x360

            Im not sure how long sorry I just know they exist and the time limit is set by the dev. I dont think a ton of devs actually use them though except for maybe tests versions that are incompatible with a retail copy or versions that are modified to make writing a preview or review easier.

            I know ubi soft uses them all the time for their closed tests that require signed NDA’s but they are done though Uplay not steam.

          • Michael Marquardt

            Wouldn’t the fact that they are low hour reviews from free steam keys supplied by the developer be equally as suspicious? We are talking about very short, unprofessional reviews from people who have not played in the past 2 weeks, but still are able to create a review for something they have not played in such a long time. This seems really suspicious to me.

          • d0x360

            It’s entirely possible they played the game under a different account than the one they wrote the review for.

            I can’t say for sure. Are there people who write bad reviews on purpose and check the free game box cause they think it looks cool? Yep…but I don’t think they are the norm.

            I know I’ve done a couple “reviews” with only 5 min of play time that I feel are 100% valid. You can generally tell if a game is going to be a clunky mess in the first 30 seconds and extrapolate of you will like the rest based on that. Should you write a review? Probably not unless you can articulate exactly what the issue was.

            In my example where my playtime was 5 min my review was bad for a couple reasons. First the store page was inaccurate. It said it had full controller support and that it was also capable of being played in vr as well as a monitor when in fact the entire menu system and inventory was clearly bases on vr. I found a note and LOST it on screen because I moved my mouse and the game acted like it was a Vive running away. The control was also point and click which wasn’t mentioned on the page, it was made to sound like it had a normal 3d game control scheme. Add in horrible visuals and audio and the absolute lamest jump scares and I just knew I’d hate it.
            We generally ant our reviews by people who have played most of the game but steam is a store first and it doesn’t take your average gamer long to know if they will hate a game especially when said game is nothing at all like the Store page describes.

          • Michael Marquardt

            So it is okay to use a single game key to make multiple reviews through family sharing? Doesn’t that mean someone who purchases a single copy and has multiple accounts with family sharing can vote more than someone who only has a single account? Wow. I didn’t know steam worked that way.

            I agree that someone who realizes quickly that a game is terrible has a right to leave a negative review with low play time. But this guy is saying that these are positive reviews with low play time and no continued game play. I am not sure the same can be said about knowing a game is amazing after 30 minutes. So amazing in fact, that the player never played again.

            I understand what you are saying, but it just doesn’t make sense for a positive review. After reading this article, I don’t think I will be able to trust steam reviews again.

          • d0x360

            When I say different account that mean totally different Steam account not in any way related to the account initially used almost like a friend’s account but yes in theory using multiple accounts you could game the system but I don’t think many people would waste their time doing something like that and as far as press accounts go they don’t allow you to post more than one review and I also believe if the developer chooses they can make it so a press account can’t post a review at all but anybody who wants to can check that I got the game for free box when you write a review it doesn’t mean that you actually got the game for free but I’d imagine some people check it just to feel cool.

            Generally I would take Steam Reviews with a grain of salt but if you look at the aggregate score and not the individual reviews you kind of get a clear picture especially since now they separated into two categories total reviews and then reviews over a short amount of time that way you can tell if somebody was brigading and trying to game the review system by having multiple people leave reviews

          • Michael Marquardt

            So what you are saying is if I were to use the family sharing with friends, and one of them posted a review for a game, then I couldn’t post a review for the game I bought? This feels like a poor design choice.

            Or are you saying that people can set up multiple accounts and review games multiple times. I wish I understood how all of this works. Knowing details like thing could these weird reviews popping up in this game.

            On a side note. I looked at some reviews of my games and I don’t see reviews like these on those other games.

          • d0x360

            The person you’re sharing with couldn’t post a review but you could because it’s your game not theirs and as far as multiple accounts on one computer go it’s whatever account/user bought the game

          • Michael Marquardt

            So how do these people have reviews then if they don’t own the game? I understand what you are saying but it doesn’t really explain how these reviews happen.

          • d0x360

            That’s an excellent question. They shouldn’t be able to unless…maybe they are refunding the games then removing it from the steam library after requesting a refund but before the refund is approved which would also resets the playtime stat while still allowing you to write a review.

          • they are refunding the games then removing it from the steam library after requesting a refund but before the refund is approved which would also resets the playtime stat while still allowing you to write a review.

            Hmm, do you know how long it takes for Steam automated refunds to go into effect? I suppose this could be the method they’re using but it sure does seem awfully cumbersome.

          • Michael Marquardt

            Within a week of approval from what it says in steam.

            http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds

  • scemar

    guess someone should try talking with any of them, seeing if they reply
    it does seem fishy

    fake user reviews would be really low man

  • MosesZD

    I see what you’re saying. A lot of those accounts are dodgy. However, Steam does indicate the product they reviewed was received for free.

    Ultimately, I don’t’ think the astroturfing is going to matter much. The core game is taking a beating in the ratings as it’s carrying old and annoying bugs they’ve never bothered to fix while working on an expansion and charging for it.

    Which is why it is down to 37% favorable in the ‘most recent’ category.