After four years of waiting, Meta finally brings local multiplayer to Quest 2
Shared games and experiences with friends in the same room: Meta's new API opens up entirely new possibilities.
It's been more than four years since Meta first demonstrated local multiplayer. In September 2018, visitors to Oculus Connect 5 were able to enter a 450-square-foot gaming arena and engage in virtual firefights with Oculus Quest without external sensors.
The idea had great potential, especially for VR arcades that want to avoid expensive tracking accessories and backpack PCs. Surprisingly, Meta did not pursue the concept, so studios developed their own solutions. Space Pirate Trainer, for example, got a new game mode with local multiplayer. However, due to the lack of an official API, such experiences remained a rarity.
Clear the stage for local multiplayer
This should change soon. At Meta Connect 2022, Meta announced an interface for local multiplayer: the Shared Spatial Anchors API.
This interface is an extension of the Spatial Anchors API released in 2021. While the latter allows for permanent spatial anchoring of digital objects in space, the Shared Spatial Anchors API lets anchor points be shared between two or more quest users who are in the same space.
"Upon loading shared anchors, users are able to establish a common frame of reference so people in the same physical space can see and interact with the same virtual content, unlocking co-location," explained product manager Shirlene Lim in a developer session (Facebook link).
New experiences for Meta Quest (Pro)
Combined with other Meta Quest APIs that unlock mixed reality and spatial recognition, this could create exciting new game concepts. Meta demonstrated initial examples such as Beatshapers, a game in which Quest users engage in battles with remote-controlled tanks on the living room floor, or Spatial Ops, which turns one's own four walls into a laser tag arena.
The new API should also improve productive scenarios: Meta is working on a new feature for Horizon Workrooms called Magic Room that facilitates virtual collaboration using shared anchor points, whether you're in the same physical space or far away.
First local mixed reality games likely to arrive in 2023
Local multiplayer is nothing new in VR and AR per se. Smartphone AR with ARKit and ARCore has supported shared experiences for quite some time, and the Vive Focus 3 also offers local multiplayer for arcades.
What's exciting about the introduction of the Meta interface is that it's the first time this feature has made its way into a widely available headset, allowing developers to create appropriate games and experiences for the masses.
The Shared Spatial Anchors API is expected to be available to developers later this year. The first games with local multiplayer could appear in the Oculus Store in 2023. Meta announced the launch of a dedicated mixed reality category to promote such content. You can watch the full developer session on Youtube.