The announcement of Red Dead Redemption earlier this year was a huge source of excitement for fans. Finally they could get see the Red Dead story continued. But in recent weeks, this excitement has given way to subdued fears. The prospect of Rockstar further integrating their online component into the core experience is a worrying prospect for some – and they’re not wrong to feel like this.
Fans have become vocal in their worry about Rockstar’s direction. After all, the company hadn’t really bothered with multiplayer up until Grand Theft Auto IV. Even then it was considered more of an afterthought than anything else. A sandbox for friends to mess around in and have some laughs. That all changed with the release of Grand Theft Auto Online.
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Rockstar hit on a goldmine with their Grand Theft Auto Online platform. The revenue generated has long since surpassed that made by selling the game. It’s popularity has seen a slew of DLC and multiplayer-only content make its way into the online segment of the game. That’s great if you’re a fan of that, but it means there’s been no new and interesting single player content to expand on that modes potential.
This shift in focus has left the single player part of the game feeling almost abandoned. It’s even more frustrating when Grand Theft Auto V’s world felt like it had the potential to dig much deeper – as though gamers were only seeing a glimpse of the potential on offer in their initial run through. This was helped by the three character perspective that Rockstar implemented . This opened up a slew of narrative options for the single player campaign, allowing Rockstar to truly dig into the heist mechanics they were building the game upon. Yet this has barely been utilised since – rendering what was a really inventive idea almost pointless. If you want anything like that, you have to head online and hope you can find a decent squad. That’s not what I want from my Grand Theft Auto experience.
Perhaps the most immediate issue though is the impact on the modding potential of Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC (and by extension, consoles). As we’ve seen this week, Take Two haven’t been afraid to smack down overeager fans who dabble too deeply in the online modes files. Of course Rockstar will want to continue its success, so it’s easy to imagine that we’ll be getting a re-run of Grand Theft Auto Online with Red Dead colours.
While games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 have begun to open up modding to a wider audience, the prospect of anything similar in Red Dead Redemption or any other Rockstar title dwindles with each financial report. Because of the public nature of Grand Theft Auto Online, and its ties to micro transactions, Rockstar and Take-Two have had to rigorously enforce their online platform with a heavy hand. Back when the game arrived on PC, the company was very strict in outlining just what fans could (and could not do) to the Online section of the game.
This kind of policing ultimately hurts the community, robbing it of potential breakout hits. Grand Theft Auto IV may have had its flaws, but it became a haven for eager modders who wanted to carve out their own slice of gameplay fun. From adding in Superheroes to creating entire new landmasses, it was a wild west of modding that spawned a community – and it’s this community that has lost out most in the shift to DLC focused multiplayer action.
It’s this I worry most for moving forward. If the game ever arrives on PC, it’s likely to do so with eager modders looking to dabble and make the game their own. Sadly in chasing the micro-transactions, Rockstar has lost sight of the community that helped to keep Grand Theft Auto IV in the spotlight for so long. It was the news stories about Iron Man and Captain America in the game. It was an eager fan making an actual working Delorian in the game that made players want to come back and try it out again. It’s why the idea of Grand Theft Auto Online felt so amazing when it was being discussed initially. It’s also why fans have become so worried about Red Dead’s deeper multiplayer integrations.
Rockstar’s stance effectively threatens gamers who want to share that experience. The idea of recreating The Avengers in Grand Theft Auto Online is hopeless – Rockstar will ban you for taking such things online. The fact they don’t offer Private Servers further compounds this problem, as a quick Google search will show. Gamers want this feature – but it doesn’t make money for Take Two – so it’s therefore not offered.
With Red Dead Redemption 2 likely to feature co-op and multiplayer heavily, it’s easy to understand why fans are already growing anxious at the prospect of yet more mothering from the series creators. Instead of allowing gamers to do as they please, Rockstar has created an awkward half-way house that neither serves its community nor clears up the issues around modding. Gamers are told to “stay offline”, almost being punished so profits aren’t being hampered.
The success of Grand Theft Auto Online may thrill its biggest fans, but the tightly controlled and awkwardly managed sandbox it creates feels robbed of its potential. Grand Theft Auto has always been about doing what YOU want in the world. By cutting people off at the knees, Rockstar and Take Two are effectively removing this option for a section of their game that’s hugely important. With Red Dead Redemption, it’s a trend I sadly don’t see going away.