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If I designed Steam v2.0

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  • If I designed Steam v2.0

    If I were the lead designer of the "second coming" of Steam, my main emphasis would be on making it easier for gamers to connect with others that are more likely to give them the experience they are looking for.

    Most gamers who play both PC and console games notice that the multi-player experience is a little different for each platform. I usually hear that "PC gamers are more mature than console gamers". When people talk about the "Halo crowd", it is usually meant as an insult within the confines of a place like Tactical Gamer. I've talk to people that have different opinions about why this happens. Some people say that younger, less mature people have access to consoles because they are cheaper. But I've played with plenty of young people on the PC. Other people say that console games are "dumbed down" so that they can appeal to a wider audience which causes the disparity. But I would say that game publishers have just as much of an economic incentive to have the PC versions of their games reach broad audiences as their console counter-parts.

    I think the big difference is control. With PC games, you can set up your own private servers and run them however you want. You can create communities like Tactical Gamer which appeals to specific audiences. Looking for a particular style of play? No problem. Just search for a group, clan, community, etc. that panders to your flavor of the online experience. Console gamers on the other hand, have very little control.

    When I'm playing on my Xbox, I have a mute button, which is nice. But other than that, I can't really search out and find a group of people to play Ghost Recon with who are more likely to know what bounding over-watch is. On consoles, the control is centralized and games are auto-matched. They attempt to match you based on skill levels which turn out to be vague mathematical equations that don't translate so well to the real world.

    In my opinion nobody knows what kind of people you want to play with better than you do. So to create better online experiences, we need to get away from matching algorithms and focus on giving us players the information we need to make better choices. We all know that here at TG, we are much more likely to find people who want to cooperate and play as a team than connecting to random online servers. But I think a platform with the technology that Valve has at their disposal is in a unique position to leverage that technology and provide an even better experience.

    I've tried playing with various "clans" and "realism units" throughout the years. It's always been the same old story for me. Finding that group which plays the game the way that you want to play it is the easy part. But making a long-term social commitment to a group of people that I really just want to play games with and not much else is why I've always ended up drifting away from the group after a short time. I've played with lots of quality groups out there from the 506th PTR, to ShackTactical, and they are all really good groups of individuals that I still enjoy playing with when I get the opportunity. I've told myself that THIS time, I'm going to make the social commitment to stick with this group, contribute to the group, and meet the social expectations of the group. But eventually I just wanted to go back to being some random player on a server that could disappear from gaming for a few months without letting others down.

    My significant other spends a lot of time on Facebook and I think Valve could take a little something from their playbook. On Facebook, you can "become a fan of <something>" like Jazz, fashion magazines, antique watches, or capitalism. Anything you can think of can be added to the database of "things".

    What we need with Steam is a way for the players to add this information to the cloud and then use Steam as a tool to make better choices about who to play with based off this information. I want to use Steam and "become a fan of bounding over-watch". And I want the next time I play Operation Flashpoint to have a little check mark to prefer others who are a fan of the same thing. The next time I'm looking for a game, I don't want to browse by servers. I want to browse by players and sort based on these criteria.

    Say it's 3AM and I'm in the mood to play some Team Fortress 2. I'm too tired to think a lot and I'm in a goofy mood, so playing non-competitively and basically screwing around appeals to me more at the moment than playing as I normally do. I need to be able to change the things that are important to me whenever I want.

    Now lets say I search for those kinds of players, but nobody like that shows up. Right now, the only games available are tagged "teamwork" "tactical", etc. Normally, auto-match would just connect me to those players because the ones that I really want to play with aren't online at the moment. But what I really want is that information, so then I can make the choice of whether or not I even feel like playing. Maybe now that I know those kinds of players aren't online right now, I'll just go to bed instead of ruining someone elses game or not having much fun myself.

    Forums are great for pre-planning events and getting people connected and working towards a coordinated goal. Clans are great if you want to socially interact with other players outside the game. By my fantasy Steam v2.0 would make it easier for everyone to decide who they want to play with and who they don't. I could be a serious, tactical, or competitive player one minute, and then decide I want to play with the "Halo crowd" the next without any obstacles or pre-planning required.

    What would Steam 2.0 look like if you designed it?



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