If you’re a Steam user, then you probably noticed the big update that came down on July 25. Valve actually had this in beta since June 12, and the full version has at last been shared with the general public. If you’re a fan of gaming with friends online or just plain like to hang out in party chats, this update is going to make you very happy – particularly if you like Discord.
If you don’t yet own Steam, you couldn’t ask for a better time to make an account! You can do it right here:
The update’s main focus was to tweak and improve Steam’s previously bare-bones social capabilities. While the improvements are vast and the new features numerous, we’ve got to be honest: This feels like what Steam should have been doing years ago. Better late than never, though!
So exactly what are these new features? Let’s go over them:
This is the big one. Users can easily make a new group in Steam simply by “creating a new chat.” These groups can hold an unlimited number of users, though expect lag if you end up hosting a ridiculous number of people. SeriousMartin discovered this the hard way. His reactions are … NSFW (language):
Still, though, any and all groups you join or create can be saved at your convenience. It also takes up less bandwidth chatting through Steam rather than having to have both Steam and a browser open to Discord just to allow us to speak with multiple friends.
Like in Discord, you can now type, send video, pictures, tweets, links, and .gifs in the main chat window. It makes media sharing a lot more streamlined and user-friendly, and additionally allows for the more basic utilities like sharing group names, friends, and trading. It’s worth a mention that this goes for every chat in Steam now, too, not simply the new group chats. Every channel is multi-media friendly.
New friends list is more accessible and organized
Open up Steam and on the bottom right you’ll see a new “friends and chat” button. Click it and it’ll pull up a list of all your online friends. If it doesn’t open for whatever reason, be sure that your family mode is turned off. It won’t open otherwise. A window will pop and that shows all your friends. It will list all group chats that you’re a part of so you can join or leave them at the click of a button. There’s also a link in the same window that lets you start a chat of your own.
The friends in your list are also sorted by the game they’re playing, which is handy if you’re trying to see how many people are active in any one game. All of your offline friends are listed in a minimized list beneath that. Adding friends to a chat couldn’t be simpler either; just drag and drop them in!
Customize your groups and settings
Hand in hand with the inclusion of group chat is the much-needed implementation of group settings and permissions. These range from changing the owners and admins of groups you create, to managing invite links, to banning and booting as needed. It’s all pretty intuitive.
Everything is on the overlay
What we’re most excited about is how all these new improvements fit seamlessly into Steam’s in-game overlay. Press shift+tab during your game and you have instant access to all the chats, channels, and groups you’re part of. Share links, pictures, manage your screenshots – all while still in-game. The social aspect of Steam finally feels intertwined with the gaming experience.
And really what more can we ask for than that? Steam definitely accomplished what it set out to do with this update: Streamline and simplify the social half of playing games on Steam. Online gaming is almost a given in today’s titles, and an elegant interface has become necessary. We’re glad to see that Steam has taken note of what gamers are looking for in a chat environment; it means they’re listening and trying to keep aligned with what’s expected.
Check out this video to see how it all works together:
So does this mean Steam is going to replace Discord?
It’s too early to tell, but Valve’s certainly upping the competition in all the right ways. You can check out Steam’s walkthrough of all the newly-implemented features here.