and Steam platform creator Valve has announced Steamworks, a suite of free publishing and development tools giving developers access to amongst others, Steam's real-time stats, auto-updating and matchmaking utilities.
Valve notes that the tools are the same used on its own Half-Life 2, Orange Box
and other titles currently on Steam, and "may be used a la carte or in any combination."
The suite, designed to further increase market penetration of Valve's Steam PC digital download store, includes real-time stats on sales, gameplay and product activation, its encryption system, key-based territory and version control, as well as the auto updating feature currently employed on Steam.
Steamworks also gives developers voice-chat, multiplayer matchmaking services, and the rest of the full range of recently implemented social networking services including achievements, leaderboards and avatars.
Finally, Valve says its development tools lets developers "administer private betas which can be updated multiple times each day," and data collection tools for for QA, play testing, and usability studies.
Said Valve president Gabe Newell, "Developers and publishers are spending more and more time and money cobbling together all the tools and backend systems needed to build and launch a successful title in today's market. Steamworks puts all those tools and systems together in one free package, liberating publishers and developers to concentrate on the game instead of the plumbing."