Just in time for E3 to be open, Valve has announced that its long-awaited updates to its chat system are now in open beta and available for all users to test out.
In a post on the official Steam blog, Valve's Emily Kent details the overhaul that Steam's friends list and chat functionality have undergone.
Friends List updates: The friends list now has a customizable favorites section at the top... You’ll also see in-game friends at the top of your list, grouped together by game or even by party, making it easier to join in, or just to see which games are popular among friends.
Group chats: The friends list now has a dedicated area for group chats, which can range from casual chats with a couple of friends to larger communities... You can also save your group chats with a name and avatar, making it easier to come back to them later to pick up the conversation or to play games with those same friends.
Voice chat: The entire voice chat system has been rebuilt, to ensure a more seamless experience when playing games on Steam with friends. It’s now one click to start a voice chat and organize your group pre-game.
This update includes many more items of note, including: invisible mode, so you can appear offline, but still access your friends list and chats. And adding friends is easier now with custom friend-request links you can email or send outside of Steam.
These updates, including Opus Interactive Audio Codec encoded voice chat and a WebRTC based backend, as well as a new invisible mode for users that don't wish to be disturbed but still want to see which of their friends are online, bring Steam's chat functionality in line with its gaming chat app contemporaries, such as Discord.