What Red Dead Online should take from GTA Online—and what it shouldn’t
It’s been a long time since gamers have seen the release of a Rockstar open-world game. Since reveling Red Dead Redemption 2, we know where all the time and effort has been focused. In addition to the expansive single-player campaign, the developers promise the game will come with its own brand new multiplayer experience, one we assume is the evolution of the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto Online. Using everything Rockstar has presented in Grand Theft Auto Online, we’d like to respectfully suggest what they should keep for Red Dead Online, and what they should toss.
Things to keep
While Heists weren’t included in the initial release of Grand Theft Auto Online, their introduction completely changed how players viewed the open-world multiplayer experience. The game’s original array of missions were fun, but also rather simplistic and quickly became repetitive. The Heists, on the other hand, took the complexity of campaign missions and allowed players to run them with friends, bringing out the game’s true crime-spree potential. If Red Dead Online takes anything from the success of Grand Theft Auto Online, it should be that the more inclusive and complex the missions, the better. In a time and setting centered around bands of outlaws robbing and pillaging, players should get to rob and pillage with friends, creating some high-octane adventures.
Some of the smallest yet most impactful things about the first Red Dead Redemption were the random narrative moments that players could come across in the world. They operated independently, but players could engage for the sake of some physical benefit or just to flesh out the story. Grand Theft Auto V took a more gameplay oriented direction with these side events, and Grand Theft Auto Online diluted them even further. Taking this feature and building on it would be one of the more impressive things Red Dead Online could do. To fully immerse players in the multiplayer world, it must feel like it functions without us, rather than being a stage with actors that only play their part when we are around. The spontaneity of these events combined with the cohesion of playing with friends could create some truly memorable moments.
In Read Dead Redemption’s campaign, players had the MacFarlane’s ranch to use as a homestead, but the multiplayer didn’t offer them anywhere to hang their hat. This was remedied in Grand Theft Auto Online with apartments, which only got grander through various updates. The upcoming Red Dead Online seems the perfect opportunity to combine both ideas into a Homestead system where players can set up shop on various areas of the map. This could serve as a spawn point and cache zone, but the opportunity is there for it to be more than that. Unlike Grand Theft Auto Online’s apartments, homesteads could feature a variety of mini-games like racing or horseshoes. If they wanted to step it up a notch, the homesteads could periodically be invaded by bandits or even other players, forcing the inhabitants to defend their turf.
One of Grand Theft Auto Online’s biggest strengths was the sheer breadth of its content. There were a variety of missions and Heists to accomplish, but those objectives were only part of everything the multiplayer experience had to offer. Different servers for vehicle racing or competitive shooting made the experience feel like three complete games in one, and that’s not even accounting for the random shenanigans players could engage in across the open-world. Don’t feel like pursuing a goal today? Just stampede around the city with friends, causing destruction everywhere you go. Feeling a little more chill? Take you friends over to the club or back to your apartment for a drink and some TV. The sheer head-crushing depth of Grand Theft Auto Online’s content was key in maintaining its longevity, and Red Dead Online should strive for the same.
Things to put out to pasture
Griefing is as old as multiplayer gaming itself, and putting gamers into a world like Grand Theft Auto Online, with so many tools at their disposal, it is inevitable. No one could come into an experience like Grand Theft Auto Online and expect to come out unscathed, but that said it could have been better managed. For those moments when you’re sick of dealing with other players, the primary means of avoidance was a passive option that disabled PvP damage. Unfortunately, this mechanic could unintentionally limit the game’s enjoyment in certain scenarios, and gamers eventually found loopholes to allow the killing to resume. The simplest remedy for this issue in Red Dead Online would be to have different servers for competitive and cooperative play, something Grand Theft Auto Online never got around to. Features like passive mode can still exist, but for those nights when a gamer wants nothing to do with the griefers of the world, different servers would offer a viable escape.
Considering how excellent Grand Theft Auto Online became over the years this may seem a petty gripe, but if there is one thing Red Dead Online should not take from Grand Theft Auto Online, it’s the game’s cataclysmic launch. Grand Theft Auto Online didn’t launch until two weeks after Grand Theft Auto V hit shelves, but the rabid anticipation of fans was assuaged somewhat by the thought that this extra development time would mean a smoother experience. If only that were the case. Most players on day one couldn’t even get into the service, and those who could found the experience nearly unplayable. Problems persisted for several weeks, with a high frequency of players losing character saves, a detriment for a progression system where all the best toys take time to unlock. No one is saying it’s easy to launch an online service that popular, but let’s hope Rockstar learned from its mistakes in time for Red Dead Online.
The player progression in Grand Theft Auto Online is divided into two categories. First, players go through a standard leveling system that unlocks different gear, weaponry and abilities. The second part is based on the player’s actions rather than the acquisition of points, where doing things like fighting, driving and shooting built up the respective stat, making the player more proficient in that area. This may sound like a solid way to progress, but while the sequential unlocking of gear offered a balanced method for distributing the game’s toys, the player progression was rather limited. The gameplay difference between the maximum and minimum of each stat was negligible. The stats could decrease over time, if the player went without honing them, but the lack of impact caused the necessity of stat maintenance to fall by the wayside. Red Dead Online will want to employ its own, new progression system, perhaps with some manual specialization that gives the process more individuality.
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Developer: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
ESRB: M- Mature
Release Date: N/A