Steam recently released a ‘Remote Play Together’ feature which is designed to allow users to local-only multiplayer games over the internet. The feature can also work with asymmetric VR games, allowing you to play in your headset while a friend remote-controls your computer as a second player. We tested the feature with the excellent asymmetric VR game Panoptic and found it to be a revelatory addition to the game which makes it easy to share the fun of VR even with friends who don’t have a headset.
Update (November 20th, 2019): Steam’s Remote Play Together feature has been released from beta and is now live to all players. We’ve update this article accordingly.
Panoptic, which launched earlier this year in early access, is a stellar asymmetric VR game where one player wearing a headset takes on the role of a giant and menacing ‘overseer’ while another player outside of VR plays as a tiny saboteur who attempts to blend in with roaming NPCs and destroy key objectives without being discovered by the overseer.
Thanks to VR, the overseer’s embodied presence and giant scale feel exceptionally imposing to the tiny non-VR player, creating tense moments where a single slip-up could lead to a suspenseful cat-and-mouse chase. The overseer may be powerful, but it can’t watch everything all at once; with a blend of strategy and cunning, saboteurs can prevail.
It’s a great concept and executed quite well, but unfortunately the joy of Panoptic has been limited by its local-only multiplayer, where the VR player and the non-VR player must both be in the same room to play the game on the same PC.
That changed just this week thanks to the new Steam Remote Play Together. The feature allows invited Steam friends to see and share control of games on your PC.
Panoptic with Steam Remote Play Together
Remote Play Together effectively gives Panoptic online multiplayer, allowing the host to play as the overseer in the VR headset while the remote player plays as the saboteur by controlling the PC view. Since the game isn’t latency intensive, it can feel like a nearly native experience, so long as both the host and the remote player have decent and stable bandwidth for the stream.
The ease of Remote Play Together and the simplicity of Panoptic make it a great VR game to share with non-VR friends. When everything is working right, playing with a friend is as easy as launching the game, right-clicking on a friend in your Steam friends list, and selecting ‘Invite to Remote Play Together’. After letting them walk through a three minute tutorial in Panoptic, you’ll be ready to start your first round.
Note: all parties must be updated to the latest version of Steam in order to enable Remote Player Together. You can manually update Steam by clicking the ‘Steam’ dropdown menu in the main Steam window, then selecting ‘Check for Steam Client Updates…’.
Virtual Couch Multiplayer
Better even than just inviting a single friend to join you, the Remote Play Together feature makes it so easy for friends to drop in and out of Panoptic that it’s easy for a group of friends to take turns playing while the others watch, almost like a virtual couch gaming session.
This ended up happening organically to when I set out to test Remote Play Together with Panoptic; using Discord as a central location for voice chat and streaming of the PC player’s perspective, three of my friends took turns trying to outwit me (the VR player). After a few rounds, one of the friends (who happens to own their own VR headset) up and bought their own copy of Panoptic on the spot so that they could try their hand from the VR perspective as the overseer in—demonstrating the accessible fun of Panoptic and the power of Remote Play Together in one fell swoop.