In beta form at least. But it’s open beta! So if you want to take a play for yourself, you can. (Settings -> Account, click ‘Change’ under Beta Participation to ensure you’ve enabled Beta updates.) The news struck that it was out while I was at work yesterday, so I itched all day to give it a go.
Now that I have, it seems my earlier excitement from back in June was well warranted. The library update is every bit the revolutionary update (for Steam) that the earlier Chat update was.
Starting from the top and possibly the most obvious changes — there is a view of recent updates and recent games. These two rows can’t be toggled at the moment and are always on. There is plenty of feedback on this already though, so I expect we’ll see a change here.
The updates are kind odd in some respects and I’d be curious to know what the algorithm for selecting them is as it appears there is more going on than just freshness of the update. You can hide individual updates, but there isn’t currently a way to hide updates for games as a whole. I thought at first it might be looking at the games I ‘follow’ but this doesn’t seem to be the case as some titles that show I don’t follow presently.
The updates row I find of dubious utility then, and I’ll likely continue to use the general ‘Activity’ log for a review of updates I’m interested in for games I own and for those I don’t. Still — I don’t think I’d turn it off even should that option become available. Entirely possible something will catch my eye.
The recent titles list however may become my most common game launch point, with it showing games both recently added to the library (Hai2u last Humble Monthly titles!) and your actual last played on a timeline, which you can scroll back for further history.
The Library ‘Shelf’ Space
This is where you start getting to customise. Ohh yeaah. By default you’ll have an ‘All games’ shelf, but you can add others based on your categories (now revamped to ‘collections’, which I’ll get to shortly).
You can then sort the display order within an individual shelf on any number of criteria. Stock standard alphabetical, played time, games which have the most friends currently playing, release date, etc. Can even sort by metacritic score if that way inclined, or perhaps just looking for something to pick up next.
A particular shelf will always display one row of titles no matter what — but you can toggle between that one row only and a full display of every title within that category/collection.
In the screenshot above you can see I’ve added my ever optimistic ‘Play soon?’ category (although I guess at least I was self-aware enough to add a question mark to it). ;)
I may also end up adding an ‘Uncategorised’ shelf to the view simply so that I have a visual reminder not to let this group grow too excessively large again.
But particularly if you weren’t one to categorise your games previously — then this shelf concept may not be of too much interest yet. Which brings us to the new collections — specifically, Dynamic Collections.
Category Improvements and Dynamic Collections
Before — if you wanted to categorise your titles, it was by hand. And it involved a few clicks too many to do it. (Right Click, Set Category, tick the categories you wanted, click OK.)
It was tedious, in short.
And error prone too. Not sure entirely how I missed this given they would’ve been right next to each other all along, but I had both a ‘CCG’ and a ‘CCGs’ category. <facepalm>
Now at least — and I hope you’re seated for this, because it’s some really revolutionary tech we’re about to talk about here…
…You can click and drag from one category to another.
I jest. And of course it does demonstrate just how far behind the times parts of Steam’s interface was before. But whatever the before state was like — this? This is nice.
You can multi-select (which to be fair, was possible before too), and then drag those items into the new category you want (or to the top to simply remove from the category you’re dragging them from currently). The UI has some really nice visual feedback about where its going, with even the border in the visual display on the right turning solid to indicate the currently hovered category.
So if by-hand curation of your categories is your thing, this is now a relatively painless task even for big libraries.
But if you’d prefer, you can create and define ‘Dynamic Collections’ and I’m seriously considering converting my categorisation system over to this.
There are a number of ‘built-in’ filter toggles as it were. If you want to create a collection of only co-operative RPG games that feature trading cards and achievements — you could do that. Any new game you purchase or add to your library in the future fitting this criteria would be automatically added to this collection, too.
If — like me — you want to get a little more specific than the broad genre categorisations allow for, you can also add any number of Store Tags to your filter. Want a dynamic collection that lists your completely unplayed games that the store tags have listed as having ‘Great soundtrack’? You could do that.
Being possibly a bit more practical (for me, at least) I’m more likely to create collections of things like ‘Multiplayer titles I have installed’, add that collection to my home page and then sort it by friends playing. Gives an easy launch point for jumping into things with buddies.
I’ll also likely switch my current genre manual categories over to dynamic collections using a mix of the prebuilt/base-line criteria and store tags. Not having to manually curate any more would be a Godsend. xD
Very positive, if you couldn’t tell.
I appreciate that even the classic style ‘list’ on the left was not removed immensely. It has received the benefit of updates to searchibility, sorting options1 and the filters used to create dynamic collections will also pare down this list.
Switching to the Library view is snappy, and scrolling even a list of hundreds of games poses no performance issues (in my experience). I even flicked the scroll wheel around the place with smooth/infinite scroll mode toggled on the mouse itself and no problem. As soon as the scrolling stopped the thumbs appeared snappily, despite loading from a standard HDD as opposed to an SSD.
I’ve certainly offered some feedback on the odd thing I’d like to see added (there is a beta feedback in the top right of the Library’s homepage), but even in its current beta state — it is a night and day improvement over what came before.
Post Publish Update: The Actual Game Entry Pages
Each game receives its own mini-activity page, specific to the game itself. It now shows a log of news updates, achievements and shared screenshots from friends and yourself.
As a nice little piece of visual flair, any achievement where less than 10% of the game’s population has achieved it will be given an animated golden border.
Unsure yet whether this will change my general habit of consuming update news through the main ‘Activity’ page, but I could certainly see it being handy when interest strikes out of the blue for a particular game to see how it’s come along since I last checked it out. I used to go direct to the game store pages for that, but now wouldn’t need to. :)