For many first-person shooter fans, Valve is known as a company to deliver some truly incredible titles. These of course include the Half-Life, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead series. But the way things are going, those who have ever played any of these titles are out-numbered by the sheer number of people on Valve’s Steam content distribution system. Currently, that number sits at 25 million users, which equates to a growth of 200% over the past year alone.
In another landmark, it looks as though Valve has finally surpassed the 1,000 mark for games available, and there’s no sign of that growth slowing down. I admit that I do find some minor issues with Steam’s design (primarily, having to be online to authenticate a game), but overall, I think it’s a fantastic platform, and conveniently, every single game we use for benchmarking purposes here happens to be on Steam, so that makes things easy.
Although the Steam client has had a couple of minor makeovers since the original version, there’s never been a true upgrade that made people say, “Wow”, but the new version currently in beta may very well cause you to utter that expression. For the most part, the client hasn’t changed drastically in terms of layout, but where it is, it’s smarter, and gives you a lot of useful information.
After opening the latest version, you’ll see the storefront as usual, but there’s some additional information to be found here for interest’s sake, such as the current number of gamers online. This is a smart way to use this information, because Valve has always had that information available, so here it’s just more noticeable. Aside from the general layout change, the entire client has experienced a sweet UI overhaul, and looks great in my opinion.
One upgrade I really like are the game pages, which have a much better layout and one that’s easier to look at. Not to mention, it’s also much easier to get information and screenshots for a particular title. If a game trailer is available, it will begin playing automatically, and if you want, you can click through the various screenshots underneath it to check them out as well.
The library section is another that has experienced a vast upgrade, and again, I like what I see. Before, the entire game list was rather uneventful, but now if you click on a title, you’ll see a preview screenshot in the background, general game information, the amount of time you’ve spent playing it, your achievements and even a list of friends who play the same game. The entire section is a bit more complex than before, but I don’t find it cumbersome.
There’s a lot more that’s new to the upcoming version, so I recommend checking out the link below to look through. If you want to give the beta a try, you simply have to adjust a setting, which will spawn a restart and install.
As of today, a new version of Steam is available through a public opt-in beta, open to all Steam users. This Steam update provides several major upgrades to the platform’s core functionality. We’ve overhauled the Steam user interface to enhance the way you already buy and play games, adding more info about the things that matter – getting games, playing them with friends, and staying current in the gaming world. If you already have Steam installed on your computer, you can take part in the beta by clicking this link and then selecting “2010 UI Update” under Beta Participation. If you don’t have Steam installed, download it today.