Co-op video games are wonderful.
Alas, it’s not always possible to get everyone in front of the same TV — and not all co-op games have online play, so playing across the Internet is out.
With that in mind, Valve has been working on something it calls “Remote Play Together” that it’s planning on rolling into its Steam game launcher later this month. By more or less tricking the game into thinking all players are in the same room, it’ll let you play generally-local-only multiplayer games with your friends remotely.
“Your local multiplayer games will soon be improved with automatic support for Remote Play Together on Steam,” it reads. “All local multiplayer, local co-op, and split-screen games will be automatically included in the Remote Play Together beta, which we plan to launch the week of October 21.”
The pending launch was later confirmed by Valve’s Alden Kroll:
Today our team announced another great new platform feature that will be built into Steam: Remote Play Together. This will allow friends to play local co-op games together over the internet as though they were in the same room together. https://t.co/jEZyGoXEfc
— Alden Kroll @ PAX Australia (@aldenkroll) October 10, 2019
So how does it work? If you’ve ever used PS4’s remote play (which lets you push PS4 games to your smartphone) or cast a game from your PC to an Nvidia SHIELD, it’s a bit like that… just tweaked for multiplayer. One player hosts the game on their computer; Steam sends a stream of the visuals to everyone else, capturing controller/keyboard input and sending it back to player one. As far as the game knows, everyone is sitting around the same screen.
It’s important to note, of course, that some games will almost certainly fare better than others here. While streaming tech is only getting better, it inherently introduces latency — and in plenty of games, latency kills. Hopefully Valve makes it clear to players that this is all pretty unofficial; if a game isn’t playable because of latency or anything else remote play brings into the mix, it’s not really the developer’s fault. Valve says developers can opt out of the beta feature if they see fit.
Valve says Remote Play Together will officially support up to 4 players in one game, and notes that the experience will only be as good as the connections of everyone involved.