Valve has instructed developers to avoid including marketing materials, artwork and pre-rendered images among their screenshots on Steam. "These images need to be able to represent the game," the company said.
The new guidelines were issued in a note to developers in Valve's Steamworks group, ahead of forthcoming changes to Steam that Valve is calling - "for the sake of clarity" - Discovery Update 2.0. In the note, the full version of which is on Gamasutra, Valve admitted that it hasn't been "super crisp" on its guidelines around screenshots previously, acknowledging that even Dota 2 would transgress its own new rules.
"When the 'screenshot' section of a store page is used for images other than screenshots that depict the game, it can make it harder for customers to understand what the product is that they are looking at," the note stated. "Additionally, we're going to start showing game screenshots in more places...and these images need to be able to represent the game."
"This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions"
Developers selling their products on Steam must now use the screenshots section only for images that depict the finished game. "This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. Please show customers what your game is actually like to play."
This is one of two key changes Valve has asked developers to implement to "take full advantage of the new store once it's live." The second relates to the specific content of each image, with Valve voicing concern about the sensitivity of its individual users.
"The cornerstone of Discovery Update 2.0 is a new set of user preferences, allowing users to see more of what they like and less of what they are not interested in or find offensive," Valve said, emphasising the global nature of its audience. "For example, some users are more sensitive to nudity or sexual content. Other users are more sensitive to gore or excessive violence. Some users don't care at all either way. We want to be able to respect all those tastes and objections.
"Discovery Update 2.0 will introduce ways of showing off games in interesting new ways to customers prominently on the home page. In some cases this will involve showing customers a few screenshots of the product on the Steam home page. This runs into an issue when screenshots contain potentially sensitive material such as excessive gore, nudity, or sexual themes. This content can be surprising and potentially offensive when shown to users without warning."
Any developer selling a game with a 17+ age gate, or that is marked for mature content, must now provide a minimum of four screenshots that are "appropriate for a broader audience of a variety of ages." This is done via a simple checkbox system, and developers are free to use as many screenshots as they wish overall. On the updated Steam, images with mature content will only be visible to "users that are interested in investigating further."
Discovery Update 2.0 is still "a couple weeks away from going live," according to Valve. The first Discovery Update was motivated by the sharp increase in the number of games on the store, introducing features like Steam Curator and Discovery Queue.