Valve has announced that a hefty update for online games platform Steam is now open for public beta testing. The free update introduces a new set of social networking and online multiplayer features designed to connect users, create groups and organize matches and tournaments.
Initial features rolled out in the beta version include Steam ID, which lets users create a personal profile with avatar and favorites, a friends list that shows who among added peers are online and available to chat and game, groups that can be formed around common interests, and user statistics display.
The beta also has integrated instant messaging, text and voice chat features and an event scheduler to coordinate, track and view upcoming multiplayer matches.
The Steam community features are accessible within the client itself, or from within any game in Steam's library. Certain features, such as the user's Control Panel, Friend's List, and Groups pages, may be accessed and managed using any Web browser.
Valve says this upgrade is the largest extension it's made to the Steam platform since its first commercial release in March 2004.