Rants Technology

Steam updates and issues

Valve have been busy with Steam recently – amongst the recent launches an updated front page, targeted curated views, and a new music player feature.

However, there are still many (and indeed growing numbers of) rough edges and ill thought-out features.

An easily-solved annoyance is that Community pages seem to switch language at random. This is actually easily resolved by visiting – but should this really be necessary?

Another limitation of the Community pages is that there’s no option to specify a default language. It appears that Wasteland 2 is very popular amongst Russians, for example, and it would be nice to be able to filter Cyrillic documents by default, rather than having to add an additional language filter to every search.

The new personalised (read: trying to get you to part with more cash increasingly frequently…) home-page has also made searches much more difficult – previously, if I wanted to see new Free To Play games then I could have clicked Search, Advanced, Mac Only, Games Only, Free To Play, and the sort by Release Date. Six separate clicks, sure, but a useful result. Now the need to select Advanced has been removed, but the same search returns only twenty results rather than the fifty-plus that it should do.

The most egregious new misfeature, though, is the much publicised Music Player. From initial problems finding it (soundtracks are treated as DLC, and so clicking on ‘Play’ will launch the parent title. However, this will not provide access to playing the soundtrack – instead, “Music” must be selected from the ‘Library’ menu. However, what you then get is a mess: no enhanced metadata is provided, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect if you used Windows Search to locate sound files within the SteamApps directory. Some games include in-game sound-sample clips, whilst some (I’m looking at you, Super Meat Boy) somehow manage to have every track in a different album, sometimes with identical names. All this means that the only sensible way to handle the new system is to manually create Playlists for each game/album which actually contains music, and then collect all of the tracks within. Even having done this, there is no option to edit any details, and so name track names appear as “05IDontBelieveInSpacesOrPunctuation” whilst others are “08_I_Don_t_like_them_much_either”. Once in the Media Player, but not in the main Steam window, an extra item of metadata is visible – however this appears to vary between composer, artist, intended track use, and “Valve” if all else fails. Very few tracks are both appropriately named and correctly grouped. Grouping tracks into albums should never be a manual step, and Valve should have worked much harder to ensure that all the tracks it distributes have detailed metadata and, preferably, representative album art prior to launch.

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