Steam Labs lets you peek into Valve’s experimental projects

Like most companies, much of what Valve (the company behind the hugely popular Steam game store) tinkers with behind the scenes never sees the light of day. Concepts are born, torn apart and rebuilt, and sometimes tossed away without anyone outside the company ever seeing a hint of it.

Seems Valve is trying to change that, giving users an opportunity to provide feedback on potential new features before they’re fully baked. The company has just debuted a new project it calls “Steam Labs,” which will give super-early adopters an early peek at concepts that may or may not eventually make it into Valve’s Steam game store.

You can find the new Labs page right here.

The first three “experiments” are all focused around helping users find new games:

  1. Micro Trailers: Six-second looping video trailers that start playing when you hover over a game’s in-store graphic.
  2. Interactive Recommender: Because the Steam client is used to launch most games you purchase through the Steam store, Valve has a good idea of what you’re playing, and for how long. This experiment takes that data and uses it to find other games you might like based on which ones you’ve played the most. Want something no one has ever heard of? You can filter out the popular stuff, limiting results to just the lesser-knowns.
  3. Automatic Show: An automatically generated “shopping channel”-style show of sorts, highlighting footage of the latest releases. In time, they hope to have auto-generated narration that tells you a bit about what you’re seeing; for now, though, it’s mostly just game footage over music.

Valve is quick to point out that all of these experiments are just that — there’s no promising that any of the stuff that hits the Labs will make it all the way to the official client. They also say that even “Steam Labs is itself an experiment,” which will probably change and evolve a bunch over time. If you particularly like/dislike a feature, Valve’s also put up a forum for user comments and suggestions.

Now if someone at Valve could go ahead and classify Half Life 3 as a Steam experiment and give us a look into what the hell is going on there, that’d be great.