Steam users will soon be able to link up online and play games that are normally limited to local multiplayer, thanks to a new beta feature called “Remote Play Together.” While Valve has yet to announce the new feature publicly, it has emailed a large number of developers with games on the platform, who have taken to developer forums to share the news themselves. A beta test of Remote Play Together goes live on Monday, October 21.
Just like in real life couch multiplayer scenarios, only one person will need to own the game for multiple people to play it via Remote Play Together. “A player can simply launch any game with support for local multiplayer, local co-op or shared / split-screen features and then via the Steam Overlay, invite a Friend to join their game for some multiplayer fun,” Valve says in an email posted to the Unity developer forums. “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.”
And yes, that does say “any game.” No changes are necessary on the software side of things, and there’s no need for either the developer or Valve to host dedicated servers for each game. “All games tagged with local co-op, local multiplayer, or split-screen will be included,” according to a FAQ included in the email. Developers who wish to have their game exempted from the upcoming beta trial of Remote Play Together can opt out by emailing the usual Steam publishing contact email address, though Valve encourages developers to participate.
On its face, this is totally rad. If it works the way Valve says it will — the internet connection quality of everyone involved will impact performance, Valve says — this means that people will be able to enjoy games like Towerfall Ascension or Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime online for the first time. But this also means that Valve is adding a major feature to potentially thousands of games without first getting the developers’ expressed permission, and while game makers can opt out of the Remote Play Together beta, there’s no indication that they’ll be able to opt out of the feature once it exits beta.
Maybe I don’t want my game to have online features, you know? Maybe I’m a developer that thinks the artistic integrity of my work hinges on the IRL experience. Maybe I don’t want to deal with randos tweeting at me to make my game work better with Remote Play Together. Maybe I want to implement true online play in a patch down the road, so that online multiplayer is contingent on additional sales, thereby allowing me to purchase bread and milk to feed my starving family and our hundreds of dogs. Did you stop to think for one second about my starving family and our hundreds of dogs, Valve? I didn’t think so. You’re always like this.