Local multiplayer is the kind of thing that has fallen out of grace in the gaming community compared to its previous reign. In the old days, local multiplayer was the magic of playing a shooter splitscreen with your sibling or friend, or racing against them as you both reclined on the couch. With how important online gameplay is these days, local multiplayer has become a lot less important, with some games not even offering it. That said, you can usually accomplish what you wanted to through online multiplayer, but not always, and that’s why Steam has launched a new beta program in which you can play local multiplayer with your friends over the internet.
It’s called the Remote Play Together feature. Its existence was actually alluded to earlier this month, and according to Valve, it will be able to support four players, or even more in ‘ideal conditions.’ It will allow those players to engage in local multiplayer, as though they themselves were all in the same room, playing on the same platform.
There are a couple of things to take into consideration about this, of course. For one, in order to get access to it, you’ll also need to participate in the Steam Client Beta. Once you have signed up for that, you’ll be able to see the “Remote Play Together” option in your Steam friends list, but only for compatible local multiplayer games. Once you are connected, the game will function as though each player’s controller is connected directly to the host’s computer. Valve also says that you’ll be able to share control of both your keyboard and your mouse if need be.
However, one of the most important and noteworthy things about this Remote Play Together feature is the fact that only the host has to own the game that is being played. That’s right; so long as one person out of a group of four own the game, the other three people can also play it with this beta feature, which is actually kind of interesting move on Valve’s part; they aren’t exactly maximizing profits this way. After all, this would be a good way for multiple people to try out a game without having to buy it in order to experience online multiplayer. Only one person would have to buy the game, and everyone could pitch in to help do that.
Moreover, this beta feature will even be cross-platform, so even if the host is using Windows, he could set up a local multiplayer match for all of his friends on Linux of Mac. Valve has even stated that they are looking into the ability to facilitate this same cross-platform functionality with iOS and Android. However, when they may happen to do that has not been revealed, as there is no prediction as to when such a feature would be available or even feasible.
Of course, it’s not all good; network latency could give the host a slight edge in games where they are competing against their friends. Of course, if everyone playing has a good connection, it’s unlikely that this will be too much of an issue, but since the game will be hosted by players and not a server, latency and lag has the potential to be a major problem depending on how stable everyone’s connection is.
Valve has also stated that the Remote Play Together Feature will include thousands of compatible titles. However, developers are free to opt in or out of the feature at any time they want. It’s a little unclear as to why any developer would choose to do that, but the fact remains that they could, and it is up to their own discretion on that front.
Of course, this feature is just in beta right now, so it’s reasonable to expect some potential bugs or glitches along the way; it may not even possess that stable of a connection, for reasons that are outside of the host or player’s controls. Moreover, the feature could also be removed at some point since it is only a beta feature right now. But if it’s popular enough it is unlikely that something like that will happen.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this feature only covers local multiplayer; that means it won’t be the full experience of any multiplayer game; if it were a multiplayer shooter, you would only be able to play a match with your friends, and not bring them into a full online match. So while it may be a good way to try out the mechanics or content of a new game, it definitely won’t be a means to get full access to a game without buying it, which may explain why Valve is willing to have this feature.
Either way, the Remote Play Together feature is available right now, and you have to do is download the beta Steam client to get access to it, so don’t miss out.