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.

Just how I like my heads, lined up side by side.My suggestion: Display the number and name of friends who own a game

What they did: This was added, though because of how Valve has changed the games library overall, it’s slightly different from how I imagined it. The games library now has a “details view” where, when a game is selected on the games list, a page is populated with game information, news, related links, and how many friends own the game in addition to their avatars and links to their profiles.

Follow-up: Nothing. This is just what I wanted.

It's a start.My suggestion: Make the Community Blotter more sigificant.

What they did: The Store page now uses part of the Blotter by showing the last few games purchased by friends. Each game’s store page also now shows which of a user’s friends already own the game.

Follow-up: I’d still like to see the Blotter extended to Steam notifications.

Mock-up of a tabbed Steam chat container by Steam forum user "theowp."My suggestion: Expand instant messaging features.

What they did: Nothing yet. We can’t access other services, and we don’t have tabbed chat containers. But we do have hope; Valve opened a section on the Steam forums for beta feedback, and therein is a thread where many people are asking for tabbed conversations.

Follow-up: Listen to the community.

See which games have Steam Cloud support.My suggestion: Expand Steam Cloud

What they did: They did it. Favorite servers now synchronize across computers through Steam Cloud, and an icon now appears next to games which support it when in “list view.” This was the most practical and important part of my suggestion.

Follow-up: Nothing; the Steam Cloud feature is finally beginning to realize its potential.

The new WebKit-based Steam browser and overlay.My suggestion: Abandon Internet Explorer for WebKit.

What they did: They did this, too, and it’s probably the most significant change. Using WebKit instead of IE opens non-Windows platforms to Steam. We aren’t far from having Mac and Linux versions of Steam.

Follow-up: It’s done. The browser could be improved further by allowing custom home pages or bookmarks, but it may also be best to just keep it simple.

Valve has added or changed much more than what I imagined last month. The store page has been redesigned with purpose to make games easier to find; the games library was changed to provide more viewing options; and the overlay has been revamped both speed-wise and clockwise. What’s more, this beta may not be feature-complete yet. The Friends system and Community site are almost unchanged. If Valve’s out of ideas, the Steam community has many.

  1. Adding the blotter to Steam notifications would be annoying. I don’t need pops that say “Steve now owns Mass Effect 2″ x12 as soon as a new hit title releases. The notifications work great for me as they are: new message notifications.

    I’m really excited about the shift to WebKit though; Linux really needs a dedicated content-distribution-system for gaming.

  2. The notifications should be customizable, to be sure. I’d probably disable most of them, but I’d like if they were there. Go to your Facebook account page and look at how customizable that notification system is. Steam’s could be like that. It’d do a lot to make Community in general more significant.