Valve is getting ready to introduce a new feature to Steam that will bring automatic online support for local multiplayer games. The feature is called "Remote Play Together" and it enables a player to invite up to three online friends to join the local multiplayer experience. What's neat about this mode is that the online friends do not need to purchase the game.
The new feature is "just like handing a second controller to a friend," just that friend happens to be in another location entirely.
"When the Friend accepts an invitation to play, it’s as though they’re playing side by side at the same machine. Much like a traditional split-screen experience, the host’s computer is running the game, but with Remote Play Together friends can join using their own controllers, voice, audio, and display—regardless of whether they also own the game on Steam," Valve explains.
The new feature is described in an email update that is being sent out to developers, and which is posted in its entirety on a Unity development forum. Valve's plan is to beta test the Remote Play Together feature in Steam starting on the week of October 21.
According to the email, any controllers connected to the second player's PC will act as if they are plugged directly into the first computer. The person hosting can choose to allow or block inputs to their shared keyboard and mouse.
This new feature is built on top of Steam's existing Remote Play technologies. It supports up to 4 players and renders 60 frames per second at 1080p, Valve says. A connection speed of 10-30Mbps is required for a "successful low-latency session," though results will vary based on everyone's connection speed.
"This feature is designed to add value to multiplayer games which do not already have native online capabilities. It will soon be enjoyed among friends online using the Remote Play Together Beta, enabling fans to introduce your local multiplayer game to new audiences," Valve says.
Valve also notes that multiplayer games not explicitly designed for local play are still best enjoyed using the game’s built-in online system.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Latency will be key, and it could be a tough ask for a single PC to manage multiple connections while keeping the action smooth and responsive. We'll have a better sense of things once the feature arrives in beta.