Steam finally lets you take control of your game collection, but needs more options

(Image credit: Valve)

Steam's long-awaited library redesign is now available in open beta, and I'm excited about being able to sort my 405 games into useful categories without tons of manual fiddling. In the past, I've used the third-party tool Depressurizer to automatically create library categories for my games based on store tags, so I can scroll through nice clean groupings of RPGs and Shooters and so on. But that was an entirely manual process, and I'm always too lazy to tag the new games I buy, which inevitably makes my library sorting kind of worthless.

Dynamic Collections, which are defined by tags and will add new games automatically, solve that problem. They're by far the library redesign's best new feature.

Creating a new dynamic collection is super easy. You can right-click on any game in your library and add it to a new collection, or you can click the new collections icon (the four squares next to the new library Home button) and make one from there. Choose one or more criteria (Singleplayer or multiplayer, unplayed or installed, controller support, etc.) and any store tags you want, and boom: you have a collection that will dynamically grow any time you buy a new game that fits the bill.

I now know I own six ninja games with controller support, and I have a collection for them.

(Image credit: Valve)

The most basic use for dynamic collection is simply organizing everything by genre, as I used to, but without the manual fiddling of putting every new game you buy into its proper place. I now have all the FPS games in my library in one place. Thankfully you can also do some manual pruning on dynamic collections—I removed Velvet Sundown from my FPS collection, for example, because it is definitely not a shooter and I don't know why it has the tag applied.

As useful as dynamic collections are, you're probably going to end up doing some manual curation on all the ones you create. It's great that I can quickly round up all the RPGs in my library and browse through them, but tags are applied so liberally on the Steam store, I end up with some pretty strange results. Endless Space 2 and Into the Breach are strategy games that don't belong in an RPG collection. And what's Binding of Isaac doing there?

Valve's current implementation of dynamic collections is a great start, but a few more options would make them a lot more useful. While there's a risk of overcomplicating the interface, I'd like to see dynamic collections offer some basic logical functions (e.g. "and" and "or") in how it uses tags. Right now, if you use more than one tag, dynamic collections can only give you the results where the venn diagram overlaps. This ends up being pretty limiting.

Metacritic rating is an interesting new sorting option—you can't sort by Steam store reviews. (Image credit: Valve)

For example: say I wanted to create a collection of all my shooters. I add the "first-person shooter" tag and get 61 results. But then I also add the "third-person shooter" tag. I have 31 of those games, but the dynamic library shrinks to only nine results, because only nine of my games are tagged both third-person shooter and FPS. Here I need an or instead of an and.

It would be a fairly simple option to include, and would make dynamic collections of more loosely related games easier to put together. There's no singular tag for good party games, but I'd like to be able to group together games tagged "Funny" and "local multiplayer" instead of requiring both tags. Some basic logical functions could also help clean up some messy tagging, too—if I could make sure my RPG category excluded games with another tag, like 4X, I wouldn't get an odd result like Endless Space 2 mixed in.

Dynamic collections could also use more options when it comes to how they're displayed on the home page. I love the new "Add a shelf" feature, where you can plop down a collection and then choose how it's sorted. There's the obvious alphabetical, and options like number of friends playing, hours played, and release date. But strangely there's no way to reverse the sorting order—it would be useful to sort by fewest hours played, not most, but that Z-A reversal isn't an option.

Size on Disk would be more useful if it was Download Size, or let you sort by smallest to largest. (Image credit: Valve)

Size on Disk could be a great sorting option for players with limited drive space or strict bandwidth caps, but it's not very useful the way it's implemented right now: it only shows you the size of currently installed games. I'd like to be able to sort a co-op collection by download size, smallest to largest, so that if I want to play something with friends on short notice, I can look at what would be easy to install in a few minutes instead of a few hours.

With some more options like those, I can see myself obsessively sorting my library into dynamic collections that will grow with my library, and help surface some games I don't even remember are in my library. Steam just needs a few more power user tools to make that a reality.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).