We're now just weeks away from the long long long awaited release of Red Dead Redemption 2, the first new Rockstar game in five years and the sequel fans have waited over eight years to experience. Now, with the finish line in sight, Rockstar San Diego art director Josh Bass and Aaron Garbut, Rockstar North's director of art, have spoken to Hollywood Reporter about the sheer scope of the game, and how it represents the pinnacle of everything the acclaimed studio has been working towards.
It's mouth-watering stuff.
Among the topic discussed are the decision to make the game a prequel, set 12 years before the first game and following the dissolution of the Van Der Linde gang that drove the original's story. "In Red Dead Redemption 2 you get to see that gang, including [original protagonist John] Marston, at the peak of their notoriety and at the very moment things begin to fall apart", says Bass.
They also touch on the choice to drop the multiple playable character system from Grand Theft Auto V. "Switching characters made sense and was a lot of fun in Grand Theft Auto V," says Bass says. "Sticking with a single character felt more appropriate for the structure and narrative of a Western."
We already knew you'd be playing as a new character called Arthur Morgan, but now we're getting an idea of how he fits into this story. Taken in as a boy by outlaw Dutch van der Linde, and raised in the gang, he's now Dutch's most trusted enforcer and has never known any other way of life. "Arthur lives with and fights alongside the other members of the Van der Linde gang," Bass explains, "and they are a group of fully realized characters with relationships to each other and to Arthur, but this is Arthur’s story and we are placing players firmly in Arthur’s boots as he and the gang deal with a rapidly changing world. We think people will really love the feeling of being in the gang. It isn’t like anything we’ve done before."
What the team seems most proud of, however, is how they've been able to craft a living breathing frontier world in their first original game for current generation consoles.
"When you first enter a town and you see the townspeople going about their business, building houses, selling papers, hanging out, you can instantly tell that we’ve never experienced this detail in an open world game before," says Garbut. "Where you see a shack on a hill and you know there is something interesting for you there, maybe you will break in and stumble onto a mystery, or meet the owner and end up getting tangled in something. I think that’s when you can tell that it's new territory, when you are not even sure if what you’ve done was a mission or not. When all the systemic parts of the world come together with our scripted content in the right ways, it’s kind of incredible."
"Making the player forget they are playing a game, and instead leaving them with a memory of a place," Garbut added. "That’s how I leave this project personally, now we are finishing up, I’ve spent years living in this world every day and I’m going to miss it. But I leave it with memories of a place I’ve lived in. That’s pretty amazing."
It certainly is, and makes the wait for Red Dead Redemption 2's October 26 release even more tantalizing. The full interview is well worth a read if you feel your hype glands aren't quite pumped enough. Until then, we'll just keep counting the days.