Let’s talk about multiplayer in video games. It is in fact the reason I, and probably a good portion of gamers, got into gaming. Playing games is fun, but it can get boring rapidly. The great thing about multiplayer is the fact that no two experiences are the same.
This all started off with the Mario sort of games, where you would sit down with a friend and one of you would get the immense pleasure of being Mario (usually the older brother or the owner of the console) and the other would get stuck with Luigi. This then evolved to something else, playing together with people you probably never met across the internet. These experiences were never the same. You never knew how other players would react. Every match was different. One last thing we could do was not only play with each other, but also against each other.
No matter how well they made AIs, it was never the same as playing against a good player (emphasis on “good”). But this is not the main reason we play multiplayer games. The main reason is simple and hard to argue, it is fun. The experience, competition, and amusement you can get out of great multiplayer games are hard to beat. This is song to developer’s ears; multiplayer games have a much higher replay ability than most single player games. One hour of single player content can equal to hundreds of hours of multiplayer content.
Some companies have thrived in a specific segment of multiplayer games and arguably the most amusing: couch co-op. Despite it’s very successful single player Mario games, Nintendo has always excelled in couch co-op. From all the Mario Karts and Mario Parties to my personal favorite, Mario Tennis, these games were meant to be played in a relaxed environment with friends. Where you always had that one lost friend that didn’t know which screen to look at. This is where most games found success, in the interaction between players, be it in game or outside of the game.
Now let’s look at multiplayer from a new light: virtual reality. Do multiplayer experiences exist? Yes. Yet, they work in a different way. Couch co-op is almost impossible to recreate in virtual reality. The system is simply too expensive to have multiple sets at home. It is an expensive experience and extremely hardware reliant. You need a great computer, to install outside trackers, wear a heavy headset while holding controllers. Now today headsets have integrated microphones and headphones, making it easy to communicate with others online. Games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew did this very well, allowing for players to “be in the same room” without being in the same room. You could point stuff, speak and hear others.
But how can we create multiplayer experiences and really feel the interaction with others? Well there are many solutions. First, tracking, there are VR Arcades that do this, you get to be in the same room with your friends while enjoying the same experience. This experience works and is a real multiplayer experience, interaction is an important part of this experience. You get to freely move on top of being able to interact with your friends (without running into them).
The second solution is being creative. Finding ways around this technological wall that stops us. Games like Keep Talking and Nobody Dies did this to perfection. You don’t need more than one headset to have a group of people play the same game. It is a mix of both virtual reality and board game fun. Naturally there are many ways to incorporate virtual reality experiences to real world fun. Developers are cracking their heads to find ways to create multiplayer experiences with just 1 headset.
The third solution would be technological breakthroughs. Pretty easy, right? Having cheap hardware that would allow players to have more than one set at home to play co-op style while being in the same room and not needing any outside tracking. The inside-out tracking new phones have could be an option. Although we are a few years from this being viable as a multiplayer experience.
All in all, we are not there it when it comes to having multiplayer experiences in virtual reality like we used to. We are destined to play alone at home with people over the internet, or go to virtual reality arcades and have the real experience for a few bucks an hour. The later is what we are going for here at VR Tracker. We loved the idea of having multiplayer experiences in virtual reality, and we are pushing for that. We are almost there.
On a closing note, virtual reality is really special and there will certainly be amazing experiences coming to us in the near future, it’s all about time. Technology has proven that time and time again when you give people a new tool, wonderful things can happen. We will just have to wait and see what the future brings.