Valve has announced that Steam is getting an update that will focus on bringing a new chat system for its users, and it’s going to be introducing new features to make playing with friends a lot simpler.
Steam users will be getting a new friends list system in which players can now assign friends, groups, and chats as favorites by throwing them into a new area at the top of the friend’s list. Those who have a number of friends that are always playing the same game will now be grouped together under the game title. There’s also a new feature that will inform of a users friend’s activity and availability, allowing them to see if a friend is on the main menu, in a match, matchmaking, and more.
Another system lets us see what friends are currently in a party together, allowing a player to join that party or see when someone drops out. Group chats can be created as well now allowing users to create a chat with multiple text and voice-based channels. Players can invite friends by generating a link that can be shared through text, email, or by just sending them the link.
Using a brand new WebRTC-based backend the voice chat has been improved and now uses high-quality Opus encoding. All voice traffic is encrypted and passes through the Steam servers now rather than going from peer-to-peer. This means that the users IP address is kept private keeping locations private but also reducing the risk of network attacks.
All of the above has been designed to work on browsers too, allowing players to not only use the Steam client, but also the website. Handy for when they’re not at a PC with Steam installed.
As for other chat features, all chat windows are now multimedia friendly, meaning that video links will automatically embed the video into the chat, photos can be uploaded and viewed, and GIF’s play when posted. If players want to invite a friend into the chat, a simple drag and drop feature will now allow them to be easily included. /me, /giphy, and /code commands can be used, and group chats allow roles to be assigned allowing more control over the chat.
A new Invisible mode allows the user to hide offline while still being able to view their friend’s list and chats. Offline friends can be organized by name or by the last time they were seen online. Friend request links can now be shared allowing an easier way to get friends to add a players Steam profile.
Trading can also take place by right-clicking and inventories can also be viewed. Chat rooms also have a built-in option to share their Steam trade URL. Errors will also be displayed from now on if a message failed to send.
Recently Steam took a step back from policing the titles that get accepted onto the client, and earlier this year we saw the Steam Link not heading to iOS due to “business conflicts”. The Apple claimed that the Steam Link violated their App Guidelines.
The chat update is available now for players who opt-in for beta access of the Steam client, and it will be launching to everyone “soon”. Want to opt-in? Just load up Steam and go to Settings > Account and opt-in for beta participation.