A subjective and provocative statement, but one that I stand by nonetheless. I am going to explain my perspective surrounding the recentlyreleased beta for Red Dead Online, but before getting into why I have an issue with it in the current state, I must provide a little bit of context.
Firstly, Red Dead Redemption 2 is, in my opinion, the best game that this generation of gaming has to offer, excluding the Last of Us Remastered, as that’s just an updated version/re-release of Naughty Dog’s magnum opus from the previous iteration of consoles. From a technicalstandpoint, Rockstar’s Western is phenomenal, from the graphical fidelity allthe way down to the day-night cycle. Simply flawless. From a gameplayperspective, the game is fantastic, offering in-depth and dynamic mechanicsthat provide the player with an enthralling and captivating experience. Thestory is one of the best told in this medium, expanding the world and lore ofthe Red Dead franchise and adding new characters, such as the fan-favouriteLenny, as well as fleshing out the backstory of a handful of characters foundin the first game, from Dutch, to Marston family and even the ever sodetestable Bill Williamson. However, the game falls short at the final hurdle:multiplayer.
The Modern Player
It is no secret that GTA: Online was a huge success, not only on release, but to this day. This can be attributed to many things, such as the persistent updates adding enormous libraries of content that would take the average player months to play through, or the huge world, or the creation kit that allowed for players to design and customise their very own races and deathmatches. The list of reasons why GTA: Online is successful is almost never-ending. However, one of the key reasons why I believe that Grand Theft Auto’s multiplayer component was as huge as it was is due to the toys thatRockstar supply the players with and feeling of achievement a player feels after buying their first supercar. That feeling provided Rockstar with an innate springboard for which to base supplementary content, if players enjoy buying fast cars and flashy apartments, add more fast cars and flashy apartments. This is the key reason why Red Dead Online will probably never supersede its’s predecessor in the hearts of the masses. The options to buy fast cars and flashy apartments aren’t there in a Western. Yes, there is a lot of land and there are many animals, however, all that Rockstar can do in terms of transport is adding slightly faster horses… meh. To the average Red Dead Online player, the difference between a horse with five points of speed and a horse with seven points of speed probably isn’t noticeable: but to the average GTA player, the difference between a car that can travel at two hundred kilometres per hour and a car that can travel at two hundred and fifty kilometres per hour is abundantly clear. You get my point, there isn’t that much that Rockstar can do in terms of land transport to keep their fanbase attentive and eager for the next update. Forbes’ Paul Tassi speaks of the fact that “there’s no power fantasy”, and he speaks of how “Arthur’s horses got a tiny bit faster, his guns got slightly better stats,” the disparity between the players desire for visual progression and the nature of the game are idiosyncratic. Red Dead Redemption is not a game about high-octane police chases, fighter jets and acting like a pimp in your car that possesses six-wheels. The player is merely provided with statistical buffs rather than shiny vehicles that spit fire when you travel fast enough. You can’t even change the main colour of your horse. The most customization that a player can do it to their saddle, and that’s arguably the smallest thing on your screen. This type of progression won’t sit well with a modern audience that want instant gratification and to be provided with the shiniest new toy as soon as it’s released.
There have been countless articles appearing discussing how badly Rockstar have handled the market within Red Dead Online. I will admit that there is a clear problem with how everything is valued, such as beans being more valuable than a wedding ring. However, I would say that these issues can easily be solved by tweaking the prices and values. The first thing they could do is to increase the amount of money you receive for looting bodies, because nine cents simply is not enough, especially when many weapons are five hundred or more dollars. Perhaps just double this value, that would certainly pacify me and arguably a large amount of the player base. I understand that Rockstar needs to keep players playing and the easiest way to do that is to make the game grindy and repetitive, so that they are compelled to sink a plethora of hours into earning a weapon or a new horse. However, they could simply do this by making the game as enjoyable as possible, because spending days to earn enough money to finally purchase a new rifle simply isn’t acceptable and it’s an injustice to fans who just want to play this phenomenal game with friends. Despite everything I have said, I don’t mind grinding for cash and I think that these issues will be resolved. This problem seems to just be as a result of corporate desires to make as much money as possible, and due to overwhelming backlash, I reckon this issue will be ironed out relatively soon.
Lack of Private Sessions
Red Dead Online has been released with a few modes for the players to enjoy. These include the battle royale ‘Make It Count’ where the player is provided with a weapon, such as a throwing knife or bow and placed in a shrinking zone with their peers, one hit kill, last player standing is the winner. My personal favourite game mode is the aptly named ‘Choose Your Weapon’,a standard free-for-all, or team deathmatch, where the amount of points you acquire is tied to the weapon you use, such as the shotgun, which offers three points, or the throwing axe that offers a grand six points to the player for using it. Other game modes are essentially variants of the standard free-for-all or team deathmatch mixed with a bit of signature Rockstar flair, that GTA players will be familiar with. However, despite these game modes that do feel fleshed out and impressive, there is so far no way, that I am aware of anyway, to start these games and to host a private session with friends or fellow posse members. This also extends to the Free Roam sessions. The game seems to lack private sessions in any capacity, however, this is probably just an issue that will be solved once the beta is over. All these good game modes are somewhat limited in their potential as the players cannot attempt them in an isolated session, with just friends of posse members. But, as I said, Rockstar will probably sort this issue out sooner rather than later.
I’m no genius, however, I like to think that I know a thing or two about games. I am going to try to detail some ways in which Red Dead Online could be improved.
Fix the economy: In order to improve the Red Dead Online experience, Rockstar must first allow for their player base to enjoy everything that the game mode has to offer. This issue can simply be resolved by reducing the prices of items and making them relatively achievable to the average player. Alternatively, Rockstar could increase the amount of money that can be found on corpses, as well as increasing the value of products that can be sold, reward players for spending time hunting and fishing.
Revitalise the camp: Rockstar has implemented a system in which players can visit their own camps, or posse’s camp, depending on the scenario. This system should be similar to the one found in the singleplayer mode, there should be a fund for the posse that all members can donate to, rather than just keeping the burden on one player. Furthermore, add more tents and NPCs, add a chef to the camp that cooks a pot of stew each day, add the ability to keep animals in the camp; have a pen with livestock that can be upgraded, from chickens, to sheep and then to cows. Each level could provide a small amount of revenue that goes directly into the aforementioned posse fund.
More NPCs: I would argue that why Red Dead Online feels ‘off’ to so many people is that it doesn’t feel alive like most Rockstar games. This was never an issue with GTA, the streets were always teeming with cars and people walking about. It doesn’t seem possible that Saint Denis, a modern city, only has a few people wandering about, when it’s supposedly the epicentre of culture within this game world. Adding more people, and even perhaps the ability to rob them would provide another aspect to the online experience and make the player really feel as if they are part of a lived-in world.
More Clothes: I understand that Rockstar will add more items and more clothes throughout the lifecycle of Red Dead Online, and it’s only in its infancy, however a good improvement to the game, at this stage, would be to add three or four more models for each aspect of the player’s attire. This also applies to the horses, add more customisation options.
Red Dead Online, in my opinion, is very underwhelming; still fun, as long as you play with friends, but underwhelming nonetheless. Rockstar can easily adjust their game, and I’m confident that they will, not only to appease the legions of fans who seem upset and similarly let down, but also to impress them. These minor adjustments that can be made are simple fixes, such as price adjustments and upping the spawn count of NCPs throughout the world.