Steam Spy resurrected with new algorithm

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Steam Spy founder Sergey Galyonkin has revealed that he is working on a new algorithm which may allow the Steam data aggregator to carry on operating, even after Valve made changes to its Steam Web API.

As we reported on 11 April, it looked as though Valve’s decision to make Steam user information hidden by default had rendered Steam Spy inoperable. However, in a post on his website, Galyonkin revealed that he is working  on a new algorithm which should allow Steam Spy to continue functioning even after Valve’s changes. 

Galyonkin said: “After multiple websites reported that Steam Spy is dead, I think it is time to discuss what is actually going on. As you might know, on 11th of April, 2018 Valve has made changes to their Steam Web API, removing owned games from user’s information, unless they actively opt-in. Many people, myself included, at first attributed that change to GDPR compliance, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Valve still exposes your real name, achievements, groups, screenshots, and friends by default and still hasn’t updated their EULA to comply with GDPR. It doesn’t mean they won’t, but the API change was definitely not caused by that. 

“Steam Spy used to rely on polling user information through that API. Naturally, the old algorithm stopped working, and while I was busy creating a new one, some press rushed to pronounce the site dead. I wrote a proposal to Valve that would still let Steam Spy run using the old algorithm without exposing any personal data. I’ve got a confirmation from Tom Giardino that they’ve received my message, but that was it.” 

Galyonkin adds that he has developed a new algorithm which derives from old work he was doing towards a PhD which was shelved: “Well, guess what, it kinda works! Frostpunk devs just announced that the game sold 250,000 copies and the new algorithm estimated it at 252,000 copies. Pretty close, right? Does everything work like before? Unfortunately, no. I’m still rewriting the site to move to the new math model. Many features of the site are still unavailable, but most of them will be coming back.

“For example, I’ve temporarily removed country stats. I wasn’t happy with them before, and now is a good chance to rework it into something more usable. On the other hand, the basic features (the number of owners, playtime distribution, related games) are working fine already. API is also back, although in a somewhat limited form.”

Galyonkin admits that in its new form, Steam Spy’s accuracy isn’t great. But it seems that reports of the site’s demise were premature.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.