February 24th, 2010

In January I posted a series of suggestions for how Valve could improve Steam. Since they’ve just announced and launched a beta version of the most significant update Steam has had since its 2003 launch, I’m comparing what I proposed before with what they’ve actually changed or added. I’ll omit the items which don’t apply.

This took a while.My suggestion: Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists.

What they did: Half of this suggestion was implemented; we can now create and add games to “categories” in our games library. It works like a tag system on a blog in that games can belong to multiple categories.

Follow-up: Allow users to filter by “installed” and “uninstalled” regardless of which category they’re viewing. Also add an extra context menu item with a sub-menu where users can add games to existing categories.

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January 13th, 2010

My recent Bearly Noteworthy post got me thinking about what I’d do to improve Steam. I thought about the features that I’ve wished for over the years, and I compiled them. Most of my suggestions are UI and Steam Community enhancements meant to give we users greater control over how our friends, our games, and our data are organized.

Social & Organizational

  • Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists; make them sortable.
  • Display the number and names of friends who own a game in a column in the My Games list. Also display the size of each game in a column in the My Games list
  • Make the Community Blotter more significant by integrating it with the existing Steam notifications system. On a related note, allow users to disable event notifications for individual groups.
  • Track the played time of non-Steam games launched through Steam.
  • Expand instant messaging features by making chat containers tabbed, and allow group chat rooms to exist inside them; this will encourage users to join group chat rooms. Additionally, expand Steam Friends so users can access other IM accounts (AIM, Windows Live Messenger) through it and through the overlay; tabbed chat containers make this practical.
  • Add user ratings and user reviews to the game store. Only allow users to rate and review games that they own. Allow other users to vote for or against the helpfulness of reviews, and allow users to comment on reviews.
  • Expand Steam Cloud by synchronizing favorite servers and server history. Consider allowing users to define custom sync options for files which Steam Cloud doesn’t officially support.


  • Expand the selection of Source mods hosted by the Steam store.
  • Add an audio player to the Steam overlay.
  • Open the server browser to plug-ins that add support for unsupported games; see Qtracker.
  • Abandon Internet Explorer as the renderer for the store page and as the Community Overlay browser; consider WebKit since it’s open source and multiplatform.

When Steam Community launched in 2007, I thought many of these features would have been added by now, but Steam’s evolution has been stunted. I lost sight of that point — perhaps because the competition’s software seems primitive in comparison, or simply because I’ve become enamored by the sales — but I see again that Steam has maturing to do.