Valve releases Steam upgrades

Redesigned store gives gamers more options; changes are the first of a series to be released in the coming months.

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Valve Software has updated its Steam client software, making changes to the integrated Steam Store and available games list. Steam users will have the update applied automatically the next time they log into the service. Steam allows players to download full versions of games directly to their hard drive, and also serves as a multiplayer matching service and authentication utility once the games are downloaded.

On the official Steam Web site, Valve announced the changes as "part of a larger set of features (collectively known as Steam 3) which will be introduced over the course of the coming months."

The biggest addition in this update brings a la carte purchasing options to the service. So, if gamers don't want to buy a bundled edition of Half-Life with all the expansions and mods, they can pick out the specific pieces they want and pay for them separately. Prices run from $9.95 for the original Half-Life to $39.95 for Half-Life 2. Nuclearvision Entertainment's 2D Half-Life-inspired shooter Codename Gordon and a Half-Life 2 demo are offered free for Steam users.

Changes to be implemented in the rest of Steam 3 updates include improved server robustness and support for third-party games. The next major piece of the upgrade the company is working on is a complete overhaul of Steam's friends system.

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