Dedicated gamers who pour tens of hours into a single title can often find themselves listening to the same repetitive songs over and over, particularly in long strategy or management sims. Turning down the volume and busting out the MP3 player of choice has always been a quick remedy. However, Valve is making the solution even easier by adding an ingame music player directly to Steam and celebrating with some free music from their Half-Life series. Countless other great gaming soundtracks, such as Bastion or To The Moon, can be purchased for a fee. The feature has been available in Beta before, but has now gone live in the regular version.
The new media player has all the basic functionality one could need from a media player, such as playback, playlists, shuffle and loop. However, while Steam instantly picks up all the albums downloaded via the service, the interface for managing custom playlists is rather cumbersome. Adding songs from one’s hard drive is buried under the “Add Library” feature in SteamOS, rather than directly in the music panel. Further, Steam allows to search for tracks by Album or Artist but not by the song titles themselves. Needless to say, building custom playlists is a test in patience. However, somewhat lackluster initial versions which get improved with time are typical of Valve’s style.
When Valve released Steam around the launch of the highly anticipated Half-Life sequel, many fans groaned and complained about the bugs, glitches and other instabilities. Many were not even able to play their new purchase due to these issues. However, Steam has evolved significantly from those days, embracing Gabe Newell’s mantra: “The easiest way to stop piracy is … by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.” Indeed, their DRM service expanded with key features such as elaborate user profiles, achievements, friends, voice chat, or an in-game overlay to access all that while playing. The ingame music player is another promising addition to Steam, and the free music is a nice treat as well.
Just two days ago, Guardian Liberty Voice also reported a significant overhaul of the Steam store front-page, which did away with the tedious carousel lists of newest titles. Instead, it now features a highly customized page for each user based on their gaming preferences. It takes into account their favorite games, play time, wishlist, and many other factors. On top of that, it also added a curator system where various groups and individuals can become sort of critics and recommenders of best titles for others to follow. Notable websites such as Eurogamer and PC Gamer or prolific YouTubers including TotalBiscuit already have their curator pages set up.
It is good to see that Valve is not resting on its laurels but continuously strives to improve its service. Granted, some of the additions might not have worked out as planned, such as the Green Light system which has been receiving increasing amount of criticism in recent years. Nonetheless, the only way to move forward is by taking risks and seeing how those new ideas pan out. Even if the new ingame music player that Steam added is a little lackluster at the moment, the free music is easy enough to play and the tedious song management will undoubtedly be ironed out in the future.
By Jakub Kasztalski