Last night, Epic Games announced a bunch of new features on the way to their storefront, revealing some upcoming social systems that will let you properly interact with your pals. They're adding parties that support both voice and text chat, and players can drop in and out of them whenever they like. On top of that they're improving the social search function, adding a Do Not Disturb mode, and a load more.
Unfortunately, Epic don't give an exact date for when this new party system will arrive, though it should be some time this year. In a blog post, they say you can be in parties with friends who aren't playing the same game as you, and you'll be able to invite them from there to join.
There'll be no single host of the party, so if one of you goes offline, the others will still be able to chat - much like how Discord channels work. In-game you'll be able to see a small window showing the party you're in as well, so you can see party members and their statuses.
It's good to see Epic finally getting around to adding proper chat stuff, though it's frustrating how far they're still lagging behind Steam. Valve's platform got a similar feature back in 2018.
Parties are still a ways off too, though Epic is getting some new social stuff this month. This includes customisable player cards that can be pulled up from the social panel, letting users manage their friendships, send out invites and that sort of thing. They're also improving the social search function to make it easier to find your pals, and adding a Do Not Disturb feature so you can choose not to be bothered with notifications.
Epic are also getting rid of the Whisper feature (a way to privately message friends), because it supposedly isn't used much. They hope to bring it back at a later date with "improved functionality", though it does strike me as odd that they're just removing it entirely until then.
If you're interested in keeping track of what updates are coming to the platform, take a look at Epic's public Trello board.
Elsewhere in the land of Epic Games, here's a friendly reminder that the platform's current free game is Surviving Mars, and you have until 3pm GMT (8am PT) to claim it. After then, the next freebie is sci-fi point and click adventure, The Fall.