Valve opens Steam community spigot

Half-Life 2 developer rolls out upgraded member-focused version of download service.

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With Half-Life 2: The Orange Box's launch less than a month away, Valve has pulled the stopper on a large-scale update for its Steam download service. First hinted at in May, the update adds a robust set of community features to the game-download network, which boasts around 13 million subscribers.

New to the service are personalized member pages and profiles, as well as the ability to create and join user groups, schedule games with friends, voice chat with others both in and out of game, and track other players' in-game performances. Many of these features can also now be accessed within games hosted on Steam.

A welcome page on the just-launched Steam community Web site has an introduction to all the new features. Steam subscribers who prepurchase The Orange Box will also be able to participate in the Team Fortress 2 beta beginning September 17.

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