Rockstar finally dropped a trailer of the heavily speculated Red Dead Redemption 2 Thursday morning. The reveal trailer was similar to the Grand Theft Auto V reveal in tone, focusing more on giving a glimpse of what the world will look like, rather than showing off substantive details about the plot.
So, there's not a lot to go off of here. But we sure can speculate, which is the whole point of these trailers, to begin with. Plus, given what GTA V accomplished in terms of its online and ambitious single player design, the sky's the limit.
The fact that Grand Theft Auto V was able to balance each of its three main characters so perfectly is an achievement for storytelling in general, let alone video game narratives. But Rockstar shouldn't try to go beyond that. It probably won't work out well.
The final teaser image for Red Dead Redemption 2 showed seven cowboys posing on a hilltop like a poster for a Western team-up movie. Some have speculated that all of them are playable protagonists,which would essentially be storytelling suicide.
Or, this image of a badass clique of cowboys could just be representative of Rockstar's commitment to their "brand new online multiplayer experience". Either way, Rockstar should centralize the narrative with the main character.
Though all of this considered, Rockstar Games is the last development team in the industry who needs a lecture on how to tell a story.
Without question, Rockstar produces the greatest sandbox games in the industry. One of the best ways to create a connection between the open world and the player is with a quality settlement-building system; what better way to feel a part of the Old West than to take part in some Manifest Destiny.
GTA V had some property management elements, but it was pretty rudimentary. Rockstar could look at what worked and didn't work in games like Fallout 4 and adapt that idea to a cowboy setting. Get rid of some tedious elements like collecting resources, and make maintaining relationships between allied towns an integral part of whether a settlement thrives or dies off.
Quality Over Quantity Map
As impressive as Los Santos was in GTA V size-wise, there were practically no interiors to explore. This took away a bit of character from the world, as most of the buildings you'd drive by were basically just decoration rather than functional, realized locations you could explore.
With Red Dead Redemption 2, rectify that by giving players caves, towns and cabins to play around in. Even at the cost of a smaller map, detailed locations with context and purpose is infinitely more interesting than a giant map devoid of personality.
Character customization is a given for Red Dead Redemption 2's online mode. But Rockstar needs to go beyond the cosmetic. Give players an identity and a reputation the precedes them as they interact with NPCs and other players.
Rather than an arbitrary numerical ranking system, give players a bounty that rises as they complete missions. Let users raise their horse and build relationships with them. Add a morality system for major heist missions that determine if your character is praised or vilified as they walk into a saloon.
Make a cowboy role-playing game.
Look To Past Mistakes
As big of an achievement as GTA Online was, progression was sort of a meaningless grind, and most of the activities were throw-away mini-games no one wanted to play. Keep what worked and change what didn't.
For example, keep things like setting bounties on players, but rework activities like Gang Attack and Survival mode.
Also, don't throw in a dozen of modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag that people can play in any other game. Create one-of-a-kind modes that can only exist in a Western Rockstar game.
Make a train robbery objective game type, or a (politically correct) Deathmatch mode between Cowboys and Indians. Allow us to completely live in the role of a cowboy, and Red Dead Redemption 2's multiplayer mode will be as groundbreaking as Rockstar is touting it to be.
What do you want to see out of the new Red Dead? Let us know in the comments below.