During yesterday's Seattle press event attended by Gamasutra and intended to highlight digital distribution and dispel fears that PC gaming is a troubled market, Valve announced upcoming features to be included in its Steam download platform.
When released and integrated into games, the Steam Cloud will allow users to access their game-generated data such as saves or key bindings from any Steam-equipped PC. The service already allows players to run titles they own anywhere as long as they log into their Steam account, but all further data is stored locally.
When the Steam Cloud is first rolled out, it will be applied to Valve's existing titles. Valve's John Cook specifically pointed out the Half-Life
franchise as well as Counter-Strike
and Team Fortress 2
as titles whose saves and configuration options will become persistent across a user's Steam account.
Game-generated data will be stored server-side. There will be no quotas or limits on how much data a player can store per game.
Developers must add Steam Cloud support to individual titles, so - with the exception of Valve's own games - it is likely to mainly be used in forthcoming titles. Like the rest of Steamworks, Valve's recently-released feature suite for developers, the Steam Cloud is free to implement.
No timeframe was given for the Steam Cloud's release beyond the "near future," but Valve did look a bit further, sketching out a number of planned features for Steam.
Still within the near future, Valve expects to add driver auto-updating and a per-game system requirements checker, which aim to make the overall PC experience more comprehensible and accessible to users.
As Valve's Robin Walker pointed out, a requirements checker would be able to access the vast amount of user performance statistics Valve already maintains via Steam, providing an accurate, empirical system. Gabe Newell looked further, imagining a feature that recommends specific hardware upgrades to users that would give them the best dollars-to-frames-per-second benefit.
For the Steam Community, Valve plans to expand event planning functionality to include RSVPs and a calendar function, as well as support for "official" developer-created communities to create feedback channels.
The storefront itself will see localized pricing, more available payment methods, game recommendations based on buying history, and a shopping cart.