But what about Rooms as a pregame lobby for players to meet up and choose which games they want to launch into together? Mitchell anticipates that as my next question, but he’s choosing his words carefully.
“What does that mean for Rooms? [long pause…] We have some bigger sort of plans on the Rift side for the Rift community. There’s some things that our team has been working on for… a while now… that are really sort of the next evolution of where we think the Oculus platform on PC goes. And we can’t talk about too much of it today, but what I can say is that… we have a vision for the Oculus platform really being the epicenter for the VR community,” he said.
And then he drops the M word, elevating the discussion to something more ambitious than making multiplayer Rift gaming painless.
“[our vision is that] it really should feel like when you put on your Rift, you’re dropping straight into the metaverse. And we’re gonna continue to move forward the Oculus platform on PC toward that vision, and that starts on the social side with Parties, and things like Spaces, but it’s gonna get much much bigger, and we’ll have more to share later in the year.”
As enticing as it sounds, by this point we’ve veered away from the central topic of the discussion; I ask Mitchell if he’s referring to an expanded scope of Rooms on Rift, or if he’s talking about something different altogether. His answer suggests that the existence of Rooms for Rift is still largely hypothetical.
“So here’s the caveat. Rooms may still come… I am talking about different things [with regards to the vision for a metaverse-like experience on Oculus]. Rooms may still come to Rift—that’s not out of the question by any means—but I’m not sitting here today saying it’s coming in the next couple of months. So we haven’t ruled it out […].”
Promises of Things to Come
At least on the mobile side, Rooms is real and being actively developed, Mitchell says. On the Rift side, he says the community can trust him and Oculus to deliver an answer to the present issues with multiplayer gaming on the Rift.
“[…] what I can say is that the [Rooms] team is focused on the mobile community. So the mobile community—if you’re a Gear VR owner—you should be fired up that there’s a ton more great stuff coming to Rooms in the near future for you. If you’re a Rift owner you should—maybe you’re a little upset like ‘Wait that means Rooms isn’t coming to me?’—but I promise you—and [the Rift community] can trust me—that we’re going to be bringing some really great things to the Rift community very very soon, and then down the road Rooms still may come to PC, we’ll see.”
Mitchell, who admits that he personally relies on Discord’s voice and text chat to coordinate multiplayer Rift sessions with friends, says that he thinks in the near term global VOIP through Parties will answer a lot of the complaints Rift users have today. However, he acknowledges that one feature of Rooms anticipated by the Rift community is the ability to launch into Rift games together from the same place. Regardless of whether or not it comes in the form of Rooms, Mitchell says, he understands of the desire for the function.
“We’ll see when coordinated app launch makes it over to Rift, I mean we’re aware of all that stuff, we built all that stuff [on the mobile side], so it’s just a question of kind of when and what’s the timeline that makes the most sense.”
Looking more broadly at the Rift multiplayer experience, I told Mitchell that while Parties and coordinated app-launch sound great, still one of the key issues is communicating from within the headset to friends who aren’t in a headset. I asked him if he saw the need to be able to reach friends across VR and non-VR platforms without juggling a phone or a mouse while in a headset: a way to invite a friend from inside or VR and have it delivered to their phone or PC, with chat and VOIP reaching friends regardless of where they are in RL or VR.
To that, Mitchell smiled, and a cunning tone came over his voice.
“[I] Definitely see the need for it. It’s almost like you’re on the Rift team…”