On 6th August, The ‘Steam Community’ Beta was launched.
Steam users are now given the opportunity to create their own SteamID page at www.steamcommunity.com, which shows which games they play, their friends, and other assorted details about their lives on Steam.
Players can also create and join groups, in which they can talk via Steam chatrooms, and generally get a feeling of belonging.
The Steam Interface has been updated, now with a new ‘Community’ tab to take the user straight to their SteamID page. The Friends window has also been restructured, now displaying avatars alongside friend’s names, showing the user’s groups and all in all looking a lot snazzier.
In-game interface has been given a makeover too. Holding Shift+Tab together now brings up the ‘Community’ interface, where the player can check their friends list, chat in-game, and check details about those who they are playing with.
All very nice. Many users have complained of bugs – Steam crashing; functions like the in-chat voice chatting not working – but that is to be expected from a beta and is sure to be fixed soon.
First impressions of the Community Website/New Steam Interface are very nice indeed. The Interface itself looks great, while the website has tons of features for any Steam user to get ravelled up in. The Website has a kind of ‘Myspace meets MSN Messenger’ feel to it – however it could maybe do with a few more customisable options for your SteamID page, which currently feels a little empty. This is bound to be updated eventually though.
The question is, will this just be a fad? In months time, will players still be customizing their SteamID pages, and checking out their friend’s pages? This probably depends on how much time Steam spend on developing it more fully, and whether they listen to the players, and find out exactly what they want from the service.
The in-game interface definitely needs work. Currently it is just too much effort to chat with your Steam friends while playing – and when you compare it to the original simplicity of pressing Esc, it doesn’t bode well. There are just too many small niggles that raise their heads too often.
For example, while playing CSS, this player was holding Shift to walk, and pressed Tab to check the scores – causing the Community Interface to pop up, and interrupt his game, in which he then went on to die while trying to get back to the game. Of course this was easily solvable, simply by changing the shortcut buttons for the Interface, but surely SOMEONE at Steam had realised that this part of buttons was a really bad choice?
So all in all, this is a great step in the right direction for Steam. Apart from a few minor setbacks, the Valve team have obviously listened to what their players desire, and now they can just sit back and reap the rewards. Well… maybe not for now – they need to move it out of Beta first! But you can be sure that when it leaves Beta, it will be immense.