Bicycling through the countryside has been one of the most popular activities in VirZOOM ever since Le Tour was added to VirZOOM Arcade. And now, thanks to our latest multiplayer update on Steam and PS4, you can bring your friends along for the ride!
We know that a multiplayer cycling game is a no-brainer for a VR exercise bike, so why not just release Le Tour with that functionality to begin with? Well, we wanted to get you pedaling as soon as possible, but we needed to address some technical questions and game design considerations to allow for simultaneous player interactions. The solutions to problems like these took some time (and quite a bit of math) to figure out.
From the player’s perspective, Le Tour looks pretty much the same as before. You launch the game, get put on a course, and ride alongside other cyclists for 15 gates, 1 kilometer each. The big difference now is that, in addition to computer-controlled cyclists, you’ll also see other players riding nearby. You’ll be able to spot human players by the names and scores displayed above their avatars (VirZOOM account names on Steam, or PlayStation account names on PS4). And since Le Tour features drop-in, drop-out multiplayer, you can join or leave another player’s game anytime.
It sounds simple enough, but under the hood (or … handlebars?), there’s quite a bit going on. Rendering large spaces in VR is very resource-intensive for a computer. The bigger the space and the more objects, the less you can get away with having detailed graphics. As such, at any given time in Le Tour, we’re only rendering part of the road: where you’re riding at the moment, the space right ahead of you, and the space right behind you. We don’t want to degrade the experience by adding more people and more to render, so what happens when you have multiple human racers in different parts of the road?
Our solution was to have each player basically inhabit their own parallel universe. The shape of the road is the same; the locations of gates are the same; even the positions of other avatars is the same. The “world,” though, is all yours. What you see as “gate 1” when you join another player’s game, they might see as “gate 10.” And if you then pull way ahead of them, you continue on in your own parallel universe, and they go on in theirs: The game seamlessly moves you into two different multiplayer sessions, each with your own set of computer-controller racers. After all, if all the computer-controlled racers just followed around one player, player 2 would get pretty lonely.
Each player also gets their own set of goals each gate. Behavior gets a little weird if everybody gets a message simultaneously telling them to pass their fellow cyclists. Instead, one person might be told to draft behind another cyclist, while another might be told to sprint for the next gate. It leads to more variety and surprises during the race.
The end result, we hope, is still familiar to everybody who’s grown to love Le Tour, but a more complete experience for everybody who’s been asking us to let them play with friends. As always, we’re eager to hear how players find the newly expanded Le Tour. Please take a spin by our blog to leave a comment!