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PS4 Share Play: How Sony is changing multiplayer gaming in a big way

Sam Loveridge

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OPINION: Sam Loveridge explores how playing games with your friends online is going to change for the good.

Games have been social for as long as they have existed. Whether it's playing hopscotch in the playground or gathering around the table for a game of Scrabble on a Sunday.

The same can be said for video games too. There have always been elements of multiplayer in the majority of video games right the way back to the arcade era.

So why is there suddenly a renewed push on the social elements of games with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One?

We’re talking of course about Sony's GamesCom Share Play announcement.

PS4 Share Play announcmentCome autumn you’ll be sharing your game with PS4 owners that don’t even own it

What is Share Play and how does it work?

Share Play is a brand new way to experience co-operative multiplayer on the PS4. Launching in the autumn courtesy of a PS4 system update, it will let you share your game with PS4 pals, without them having to own the game.

Sony is calling it a “virtual couch” experience, creating a local co-op experience in an online space. From there you can invite a friend to join your game, regardless of their own purchasing habits. It’s like your friend is playing with you in the same room, but obviously, they are in their own house.

Each session has a one hour limit, but there’s apparently no limit on the amount of Share Play experiences you can have with each friend. This means you could repeatedly invite them back into the game. It’s going to be compatible with all PS4 games too, without any additional work from developers.

“How it works is, for example, a friend has a game that I don’t. I ask them to let me play it and if they send me an invitation, I can access their PS4 and play while watching the video that is streamed,” explained President of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida.

The idea is to give your friends a taste of what a new game will be like without them having to buy it. It also signals a new direction for multiplayer gaming.

Look at the time spent during Sony’s E3 press conference on the Far Cry 4 ‘Keys to Kyrat’ feature. PlayStation gamers will get 10 of these keys to pass to their friends upon purchase. Each one lets them add a friend to the game for a 2 hour period.

Although Far Cry 4 uses Share Play technology, Ubisoft’s approach to multiplayer is certainly refreshing. It’s indicative of the incoming wave of multiplayer experiences.

The journey of change shaped by last generation consoles

Although this new breed of multiplayer has really come to light in the past year, it started with Journey, which launched on the PS3 back in 2012.

The PSN exclusive had a unique take on playing with friends. Other gamers could join your game silently, and anonymously. They took the same journey as you simultaneously without it being a competitive event.

Some players signed into PSN didn’t realise these other scarf-wearing beings were also online players like themselves. They believed it was just part of the single-player experience.

This new breed of multiplayer is about choice. It's about having the chance to experience multiplayer gaming in a way that is accessible to everyone and in a more organic way than traditional PvP (Player versus Player).

SEE ALSO: PS4 Remote Play is Sony's killer feature and it's not even new

DestinyDestiny is doing seamless multiplayer with style and grace

Now I admit, I’m a reluctant PvP multiplayer gamer, especially when it comes to elitist titles like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Being unable to launch myself up the steep learning curve, I’ve had to endure “noob” calling and sexism in online matches. I’d much rather play multiplayer in a way that is less competitive, more co-operative and generally expletive-free.

This seems to be the way games are going with new-gen. Developers are opting to use multiplayer as an option within single player campaigns. It allows people to experience the sociability of gaming without the backlash from the seasoned pros.

For the Xbox One and PS4, there are an increasing amount of titles where players are able to join in an online co-op experience with other random players without having to deviate from the story.

Destiny is just one of those games. It is successfully implementing this new wave of multiplayer. It is something we’re prone to calling ‘mingle player’ thanks to its non-aggressive, spontaneous structure. Bungie deliberately chose not to allow players to talk to one another unless they were part of the same Fire Squad. So, you can enjoy completing story missions with your new found friends as some kind of super intelligent AI.

David Dague, Community Manager for Bungie explains the move to 'mingle player':

“The social engagements in Destiny are completely elective. Participation in cooperative missions or public events won’t be required for a player to advance through the story. The most important moments of the story are things you can enjoy all by yourself, or with the company of your most trusted friends.”

“Destiny is built from the ground up to be social and cooperative so that other players can surprise you with their antics and their heroics. Gamers with a traditionally solitary approach to their pastime may become surprised by the fact that their favourite character in the game is someone from their friends list.”

Dead Island 2 zombiesDead Island 2 will see you hacking at zombies with up to 7 other players

This ‘mingle player’ is also a strong theme in Dead Island 2, another cross platform title. Instead of the usual four player local co-op, you’ll be able to experience the zombie apocalypse with up to seven players at any one time.

Developer Yager is calling it opt-out multiplayer. You can play alone if you choose, but if you’re willing to play with other people, they can and will join your server and your world.

These games still have dedicated competitive PvP multiplayer arenas. Destiny has the Crucible and Dead Island 2 will have its own. The developers have littered the overall single player experience with opportunities to become part of a team. Even if you choose to play solo, the sheer presence of other players helps remind you that there is a gaming community experiencing the same thing as you.

SEE ALSO: Best PS4 games 2014 and beyond

Far Cry 4Unlock your Far Cry 4 multiplayer with Keys to Kyrat

How does Share Play fit in?

How then does Share Play fit into this mingle player experience? On the face of it, Share Play seems like an easy way to offer gamers an extended demo of titles they haven't bought yet.

Gone are the days where developers give us proper game demos for major titles. If you take a quick look at the Xbox Live Marketplace or PlayStation Store, you’ll rarely find any for the major upcoming franchises (if you can look past P.T for Silent Hill of course).

More importantly though, Share Play will introduce the opt-in co-op multiplayer experience to games that wouldn’t necessarily have it otherwise. Sony Worldwide President Shuhei Yoshida has confirmed that the feature works with all PS4 games. Therefore there’s the potential to add co-op multiplayer to traditionally single-player only titles.

Take Far Cry 4 for instance. From what we’ve seen so far you’ll need to use the Keys to Kyrat feature to access the co-operative multiplayer in the game. We’ve not heard whether you’d be able to experience this co-op locally as yet.

Games such as The Order: 1886 could benefit from such an experience, without the game having to have a dedicated multiplayer component.

The Order: 1886Exploring Neo-Victorian London with a few buddies? Don't mind if we do

Will Share Play weaken single-player storylines?

There’s always a worry that this renewed focus on multiplayer will mean single-player campaigns are neglected. We sincerely doubt this opt-in multiplayer will do anything but enhance the experience of playing on your own. The single player campaign isn’t dependant on this co-operation, but adds another level of enjoyment.

The developers’ main aim is to get people communicating, encouraging them to tell the friends about their games. What better way to do this but ask your friend to come play with you for a while remotely. They can do it without any cost to them - apart from time and a little broadband bandwidth.

That’s the beauty of these shared experiences, whether it’s through Share Play or other means. There’s still room for games to have strong, gripping storylines with a large dose of cinematic gloss. Opt in co-op doesn’t need to be present all the time, but it can be introduced at appropriate moments for increased player interaction.

However, there is potential for this next generation multiplayer to eat into some of the competitive PvP market. There’s still huge appetite for it now, especially with game like Evolve on the horizon.

As interest for games like Call of Duty and Battlefield wanes, it will be games with seamless integrated multiplayer that slip quickly and easily into their place.

Read more: Xbox One vs PS4

shinto

August 25, 2014, 3:07 pm

With only 1 hour play limit for each session this is but worthless...like psNow.

XbotMK1

August 26, 2014, 11:42 am

There is no limit to the amount of sessions you can have. You can play through an entire game without owning it if your friend allows it. The reason why there is a 60 minute time limit is just in case the players leave their PS4's. It's not a big deal when you can just restart the session.

SharePlay can allow for some very innovative new multiplayer modes and Twitch streams as well.

PS Now isn't worthless either. It just has a bad pricing model that many don't like. But the potential for an amazing subscription model is there.

Remote play is also great for convenience and travel.

courage7m2

August 26, 2014, 12:23 pm

You're making 0 sense. You just re-enable the session after the hours up, to play as many sessions as you would like. Your baseless opinion however, IS worthless.

Mike

August 26, 2014, 7:57 pm

Go play your Xbox One with all three other people that bought it.

Keith

August 26, 2014, 8:07 pm

Having a 60 minute time limit I don't think would be down to if they leave the PS4, a none active controller would make more sense here.

I assume it's there as a kind of Nagware, if after connecting to your friends copy of the game so many times it might encourage you to buy the game in full. Seems a good idea anyway, whatever the reason.

Bruce Jefferies

August 26, 2014, 11:45 pm

To quote a certain well known game critic, any chance of having a dedicated f**k off button Sony?

XbotMK1

August 27, 2014, 5:51 am

Obviously there has to be a time limit to boot innactive players off the service. An innactive controller wouldn't solve it. People can use multiple controllers, switch controllers, and recharge controllers. Would they have to reset the timer each time your controller dies or if you switched controllers?

Also, what if your friend has to leave his PS4 suddenly or something happens? Your friend may not want you to keep playing their game. You're controlling your friend's PS4 and we don't know to what extent.

It makes more sense to give a time limit. It also makes it easier for Sony to filter out dead traffic. It ensures that both players are active and the sessions are consensual between players.

I think your theory of encouraging someone to buy the game after so many sessions is a stupid theory. Could they not do the same thing by just prompting you to by the game after 120 minutes of play time? Why would they choose a 60 minute time limit and allow infinite sessions if they were trying to make you buy the game?

I don't think a 60 minute time limit was included as some evil plot. You're playing your friend's game as if he was passing the controller. How would they monitor which games are being streamed to certain players each session and for how long each player played that particular game?

I don't think they can and they wouldn't allow infinite sessions of 60 minutes per, if they were trying to make you buy a game. Doesn't make sense.

The only real catch I see to this feature is that you have to have PS+.

XbotMK1

August 27, 2014, 5:57 am

Yes, I'm sure you can cancel sessions if you want.

dra6o0n

August 27, 2014, 9:27 am

Shared Play is a good feature, but it requires the creativity of developers to find ways to pull it off.

For instance in paid AAA games, what if Shared Play doesn't have to be consensual to both parties, but the host just has to have 'open' status on this gameplay, and his friends with ps4s can see him playing and may select the profile and 'join game' if possible to mess with that player?

Like in a zombie game, your friends can randomly join and mess with you without you knowing, as a 'special zombie'.

Though I'd prefer it if players can download a app onto their ps4 and with it, able to do shared play with a friend but having more 'better graphics' and control as their game is more different to the player.

Not every game owner has 20Mbps downstream and 10Mbps or higher upstream and has good internet route to their friends, especially if it's cross-border between USA and Canada.

Keith

August 27, 2014, 1:42 pm

>> Why would they choose a 60 minute time limit and allow infinite sessions

I assume the term Nagware confused you, I maybe should have provided a link.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...

I actually like the idea of shareplay, and it been Nagware is not a bad thing either. Why so defensive?

All multiplayer games have to detect a dead / unused connection, it's called keep-alives, and it doesn't involve kicking you out the game after 1 hour. So I'm pretty sure Sony would know how to implement a keep-alive. I'm also sure if you sat back and thought about the inactive controller idea, you might have deduced that it's not an instant, "oh, my battery needs changing, damm. I've lost my session".. 7 brownie points if you can work out the solution.

I haven't bought a next gen console yet, I'm thinking of waiting till XMas, and a PS4 is looking like the one I'm going to get, or am I too stupid.

So in a nutshell, yes I think it is a way for Sony to encourage you to buy the game (and why not!!),.. And yes I think it's a good idea, just in case you missed that bit.

XbotMK1

August 28, 2014, 4:50 pm

I think the reason why they allow a 60 minute time limit is to filter out dead traffic or to control the traffic. I don't think they could necessarily do that by monitoring inactive controllers. This is not like monitoring multiplayer games. They aren't monitoring the game or the input like a keep alive does.

The point I was trying to make is that players can leave their controller and find out ways around it. Monitoring inactive controls wouldn't solve the problem. Some sessions will require co-op. Other sessions will be single player. The game is running on your PS4 and your PS4 would need to monitor input for each game. Also, the problem remains if the person who is holding the session leaves his/her PS4 and they don't want you to keep playing their game.

What you're saying would imply that they would have to monitor what games each player is playing, how many times they played it, which accounts played it, and how long each controller on the network has not made a command.

I simply don't think the SharePlay network works like that. I could be wrong though.

XbotMK1

August 28, 2014, 4:53 pm

SharePlay is a good feature regardless of devs. SharePlay doesn't require the devs to do anything to make it work.

But if devs want to do anything extra, such as allowing people to join at will with unique pvp or co-op, then devs will need to put that in the game. But it wouldn't be hard. Games allready have these features. SharePlay is like passing your controller and all the multiplayer modes are left up to the developers of the games obviously.

I don't think you need 20 mbps. I think all you need is 5mbps. Speed isn't a problem. Your internet connection just needs to be "stable" and "consistent".

jz100

October 9, 2014, 10:24 am

The Xbox One has no limitation like this.

jz100

October 9, 2014, 10:24 am

That comment makes no sense.

Mike

October 9, 2014, 11:50 am

It doesn't have this feature either. You can share your account but you can't let someone stream off your Xbox one. It's completely different

Mike

October 9, 2014, 11:50 am

It wasn't meant to.

Egla

October 25, 2014, 3:13 pm

Devs can already do that with multiplayer games (see dark souls). It's nothing new.

This feature is different. Somebody doe snot need to own the game to be able to play it.

dra6o0n

October 26, 2014, 11:15 am

I can see Demons' Souls 2 having a share play implementation of summoning 'spirits' of pre-made characters for other PS+ friends who are invited to play.
And especially when people will twitch stream their multiplayer and have their audience participate with them.

Summoning a friend who doesn't own the game as a 'spirit' to help you through it for 1 hour or less is a better experience, especially if the account is saved globally on a special server for players to 'earn' rewards for helping people out sorta like how Nintendo's 3DS street pass functions.

Latest news say that share play requires PS+ to use, and the invitees must have PS+ to play, otherwise is only able to 'watch' you play via stream.

sampson3121

October 28, 2014, 2:04 pm

xbots are so jealous...i love it :)

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