Steam’s biggest missing feature

Nathan Grayson over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun comments today about Steam’s community revamp and asks about the features it’s still missing.

Steam and its Tools

And yet, somehow, he missed the thing that Steam needs the most (IMO, of course): better Friends communication tools.

I suspect that most users see the Friends list and chat interface an order of magnitude more often than any other part of the Steam community, and yet it’s woefully lacking in some areas. There’s no way, for example, to appear offline while still playing games that rely on Steam for multiplayer. If you want your Left 4 Dead match with a small group of pals, you have to be visibly online and accessible to your entire friends list. And there’s no way to appear offline to one group of people, or individual friends, without being offline to everyone. (And there’s no chat log, either, which is endlessly frustrating to me, especially given my friends’ tendency to send me links via Steam that I then lose next time Firefox crashes.)

These are, in general, pretty standard features for most chat systems. I realise that Steam’s not trying to be a competitor to a more general chat service like MSN, but these features seem like no-brainers, and adding them would help to keep more gamers within the Steam ecosystem. And, more importantly, they’d be a serious quality-of-life improvement for those of us who don’t want to have to be equally accessible to all their contacts at all times.

I’m not holding my breath, but I’d happily trade all Steam’s new community upgrades for a more feature-ful chat client.

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