This has been a heck of a week for Valve. They finally put the Steam Community out to the masses, finally out of beta. It’s essentially Xbox Live for the PC, except it’s free, doesn’t suck, and isn’t full of foul-mouthed 12-year olds.
The neat part about this is the ability to create a profile for yourself, describing your person to the world a bit, listing some of your favorite stuff, and tracking various gameplay stats. Here’s mine. It also lets you better track what your buddies are doing, and form or join groups with them. For example, the group I started this week for Mercenary Coalition, the EVE alliance I play with.
All of this comes with the eminent release of The Orange Box, Valve’s new Half-life 2 bundling which includes Team Fortress 2. The kicker is this week, if you’ve preordered that, they’ve treated you to a beta of TF2. TF2 is so ridiculously fun practically everyone I know goes home after work and plays it. It’s stylized like a Pixar cartoon, though one that doesn’t suck. Though the best way to describe how it looks is to see it, so here’s a clip. And I dare say the finished product (this clip is from GC2006) looks even more impressive.
Again, insanely fun, and there’s so many little goofy details in how the characters move and react. Definitely worth the wait. Valve’s also added some insane stats tracking for TF2 that adds achievements, similar to Xbox Live. Though here it doesn’t seem like some contrived way to make you play the game more, just some nifty stuff it keeps track of so you can compare with your friends.
To be honest, this has been the most impressive effort for Valve, in my opinion, to date. The whole package is there, and it’s a ton of fun at just the right price.