The Wild West: just one of the many perfect locations for sandbox, story-led and multiplayer gaming. Saddle up! We ride out again soon… However, let's hope for the following:
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1. No interfering, overblown cut-scenes!
The single-player campaign needs to be slicker and more involving than last time.
What’s the point of single-player campaigns? To open up the map, develop characters, unlock new possibilities, inject a sense of wonder - surprise - about the game’s potential. It should Introduce and reveal the scope of the game, before letting us rip into the multiplayer PvP and cooperative game modes….
In fact, why is this game not going to be an MMO right from the outset? ? It would be a dangerous place… But the answer is we don’t want to miss out on the above potential of a well-crafted single-player campaign. Maybe it will end up that way, like Skyrim.
But….if there’s going to be a western-set story then we need less long-winded dialogue between characters. Some from the first game would just ramble on for ages. Most of GTA V seemed pretty unnecessary and the characters were not greatly loveable. There were moments of surprise and humour, but please remember Rockstar: we’re here for the quality of the tasks and not for the next cut-scene and ‘story’. They could take a leaf out of Far Cry or Uncharted, where the missions and story lead into each other, keeping the pace. It was difficult to feel much for John Marston at the end of Red Dead Redemption, but it was well done overall (great music too). I do remember the ending of the barn sequence. And... there were some cool characters we cared about - like the old cowboy survivor. Let’s hope to see some moving deaths or characters like that again.
2. No restrictions to player freedom
Isn’t it always annoying when you find you can’t do something or go everywhere in a game? The map is closed or something. Well, let’s hope there are as few restrictions as possible. Let’s hope that lots of choices are simply left open. Examples? Multiple endings? The use of the world for planning and setting up defences or strategic use in mini-quests, like learning the train time-tables on station notice-boards to overhearing talk about events as we wait on the station. I loved how the map changed over the course of the story, with newspapers revealing these changes. Progression is important. However, the changes should be undetectable and not restrictive. There was a little too much riding in the last game, so faster rides in carriages might be an option (although stealing a horse might be necessary). Maybe the game could have realism settings.
3. The sheriff is coming!
A hallmark of Rockstar and GTA titles is being chased by the AI cops. Let’s hope the AI is just as capable, but what might be cool is if you get rewarded for helping others escape and get a request to join up with fellow outlaw players.
It was unrealistic - and unfair - when unrelenting scores of lawmen come along and rain on the parade, if memory serves me. There should always be a way to escape or give up. It should just feel more...realistic. The idea that the sheriff is on your trail is a great aspect in cowboy games. But when they all miraculously show up it basically sucks. Make sure there’s enough time to feel a bit worried or prepare for a big shoot-out.
4. Sieges and town shoot-outs
On that note, let’s hope to see more of this kind of setup. Preparation for attacks and defences were a bit lacking in the first game. From turning tables over to shooting chandeliers. It will make for some fine western set-pieces and emergence.
5. Ready for Streaming and Captures
Why are so few games exploiting the potential of video captures and spectator modes?
On some modes, you could even have a western movie setting, which allows you to set up characters, cameras and things, and ‘film’ a capture of an entire attack. Then edit the results. It could be an extra DLC or extension for Youtube creators to have to get their teeth into….
IDEA: Wouldn't it be cool to walk into a movie theater in Red Dead 2 (as you could in the first one) and have an option to 'project' your best captures to other players around.
6. Game-Changing DLC
The Undead Redemption DLC was a great success. It reinvented the entire game map we’d been playing and gave it a huge new level of involvement. Will they do something similar here? Turn the game into an Undead masterpiece… If you’re going to update everything, it’d be a big shame not to let some kind of apocalypse or extra dimension strike again. Indians?
7. Multiplayer modes and Mini-Games
Co-operative play. I remember well the zombie mode where all players had to fight together until the end. These game modes had been prepared with love and attention to maximise co-operation and fun. Some more brilliantly-crafted scenarios with this kind of engagement would be essential, and make for some top Twitch entertainment.
Mini-games… there should be so many that this could form a huge feature.
Basically, if Red Dead Redemption 2 wants to be a classic, massively successful game, it needs to present a full sandbox world - that is the game itself. The single-player should simply make the most of that sandbox. But in the end, the sandbox needs to pull gamers back with the prospect of fine, guided - and shared - experiences.
8. Something new...
Most of these suggestions are inspired by the foundation of what Red Dead and GTA have already brought to the gaming table as a whole. Let’s hope there’s something more to push things forward, no-one has thought about…
You have to come back to the root of why people put a game disc into their console for in the first place, or why they click on the game to load up…. It’s about seeing how your character and gameplay unfolds. It’s about playing alongside other people and sharing the madness and mini-scenarios. My suggestion: let’s try and cut-down on endless mass shooting that is multiplayer. Sometimes I enter multiplayer and I just die continually. Or I don't want to play alongside a load of unknowns. How about if you help other players in the wilderness you see an option to add them to Friends, or Ride in their Posse? Or Challenge to a Duel?! What about something new in multiplayer mode that encourages bonds in the game?
IDEA: A character who MUST meet an end? ‘Blaze of Glory’ setting…?
Gamers want to ride into the game, with friends or without, or with cameras rolling and develop a veteran character that goes somewhere. Beyond the single-player story, where can this go? What about a continuation? Maybe there should be a time-limit on your multiplayer character, before he dies of heavy drinking or something and you have to bury him and make a new one. This could add a fascinating edge to the game beyond the game. How will he or she end up? Perhaps you’ve escaped from that single-player past to become a man of the law, a bounty-hunter always adventuring or have chosen to go back to being an outlaw, within a band of outlaws who may be taken off one by one. If you’ve chosen to go it alone, the game would be more of a survival adventure. You’ll need to make careful choices about companions, even if it’s just your horse you need to look after or use effectively. In every case, maybe it will just be a matter of time before you’re hung - literally - out to dry, or cornered and go out guns blazing. The trick will be in seeing just how your doomed, customised character will end up. How glorious will be that end?
What are your ideas? One thing is clear, judging by the Youtube and Twitch community: games are now entertainment with players acting out the role of hero or sensational victim.
9. Skill-up! A ‘Chilled-out’ Game Mode
Let's have an option to slow down the game a little. What other skills will a character emerge with from Red Dead Redemption 2? Wouldn’t it be good if - besides poker and mini-games - there were other skills you could pick up? River fishing? A knowledge of steam train sabotage? As game-worlds get more and more detailed, why not give the players an experience of the world they can use and take away. Horse training? It’s the fine balance of what is fun and what is boring, but if a player profits from spending time building a fire that doesn’t blow out in the wind, or digging a hole in which to trap an animal or opponent player - it’s not only an experience, an effort - but rewarding fun.
10. Capturing freedom...and weird events.
Or ‘emergent gameplay’ - where strange, unpredictable events can happen in a game….
Let’s see tons of stuff like this again. From horses bolting when snakes are present to horses falling on trains and generally just great re-play amusement. The would probably involve wildlife and NPCs. Greater interaction and depth with NPCs in Rockstar games - where they’re so heavily populated by villagers and townsfolk - is long overdue.
The Virtual Wild West...
So Rockstar. A lot to live up to. Don’t rush it. I’m not sure whether to pity or envy the game-developers or - especially - the testers. But... what do you get if you really ‘go to town’ with this project, or even, ‘the extra mile’. Not just a sequel with a lot of shiny, upgraded elements. Maybe not another Skyrim, with a massive load of depth and longevity that breaks records for awhile. But possibly... some new winning formulae inside that will push the sandbox game further down the line; push the sharing, streaming and multiplayer longevity….and which you can then apply to your next title, or expand on. Until you realise: you don’t need to keep making new titles. You could just keep on feeding and expanding one 'ultimate' map or setting. Maybe bring portions of it into the virtual…
The point is, before the virtual 'happens', have we really pushed the sandbox genre as far as it can go yet?