Wednesday software developer Overwolf announced that the open beta of its self-titled social client is now available. This program is a free-to-use software overlay that works within a long list of PC games, allowing players to connect with friends and family without having to exit out or minimize the game currently at hand.
Essentially gamers can chat on Skype, take screenshots, check their email, surf the internet and even film video clips without having to completely exit out of World of Warcraft or ALT-TAB to the desktop. Even outside the gaming environment, Overwolf resides on either side of the desktop, tucked away like a half-moon tab until the the user moves the mouse over it, thus it emerges as a planet-like widget with smaller icon moons orbiting its side (see desktop screenshot below).
By default, Overwolf comes pre-installed with a Facebook feed app, a built-in web browser, a video recorder, a Skype app that connects to your pre-existing Skype installation, and a Windows Live Messenger app. Users can also choose to activate a Gmail client, a screen capture utility, a Meebo client, a Twitter feed client and lots more. Again, all this can be accessed from within numerous PC games both new and old ranging from Batman: Arkham Asylum to Dungeons & Dragons Online to Left 4 Dead 2 to RIFT.
According to the company, game publishers can add this functionality without touching a line of code in their game, making it fast and seamless to integrate social media into their games. Overwolf is entering beta with multiple launch partners and their own branded versions, as well as an Overwolf-branded version of the software client which can be downloaded at www.overwolf.com.
“Publishers are looking for ways to ignite the viral potential of online games, but integration has been difficult, especially with all of the demands of operating live titles,” said Uri Marchand, CEO of Overwolf. “We’re offering a way to add this functionality with zero effort required on the publisher’s side. We’ve been getting amazing feedback from gamers telling us they love Overwolf and it’s a great way to engage friends and share their gaming life with their real lives, which has the effect of bringing more users into online games.”
One of Overwolf's cooler features is the "shoot to record" function which allows the user to map the video record function to the in-game's weapon trigger. When the player fires the virtual weapon, Overwolf starts recording and will keep doing so until a few seconds after the player releases the trigger button. As an example, if a gamer has assigned the Fire function to the left mouse button, the user simply clicks on the button to shoot and record, but then keeps it pressed so that the recording can continue.
Captured video footage can be saved directly to the hard drive, or uploaded to Facebook or YouTube immediately. Below is an 8-minute clip taken from Torchwood with the recorder set on "web recording" capped at 20 frames per second. Once the user stops the recording, an in-game window pops up asking whether you want to share the clip on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Because Overwolf is an OS overlay, the sharing window remains on-screen long after the game is shut down.
All in all, given that this is beta software, there's room for improvement. Still, Overwolf has a lot of potential to make any PC game a social experience. In the future we'd like to see actual desktop recording with this software – desktop screen captures are possible, but the video option is only available in-game.
"Our new partnership with Overwolf will finally link the fantastic world of online gaming with the diversity and accessibility of multiple social platforms," says Daniel Ullrich, Chief Marketing Officer at Frogster Online Gaming GmbH. "It will allow our millions of players to stay in touch with their guild members on Facebook, post screenshots and videos on Flickr and YouTube, search databases for new items or simply check their game account settings while they are still in the game."
To give Overwolf a try, head here.