Open world games have advanced a lot over the years, even though some basic elements have remained unchanged since the genre became so popular.
While the term “open world” usually makes us think of huge modern games with vast immersive settings like The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto 5 and, yes, Red Dead Redemption, the very first game that’s technically open world was released in 1970, Jet Rocket. While the time between Red Dead Redemption and the sequel is smaller, there have still been some changes in mechanics typical of the genre.
Over the past decade or so, the AAA industry has had an infatuation with open-world games and the genre has become incredibly saturated. Even to the point where even long-running franchises that never before had open world installments jumped on the bandwagon, for better or worse (mostly worse), like Mass Effect: Andromeda and more recently Dynasty Warriors 9.
Numerous trends have emerged and receded over the years. Some are still present, while others are fading away, and new ones are popping up. In terms of mechanics, Red Dead Redemption was pretty standard for its time and since Rockstar is aiming to cast their net on as wide an audience as possible, Red Dead Redemption 2 will also stick to what works.
One feature that is seemingly being cut back in the name of immersion, albeit slowly, is the mini-map.
A few influential titles, such as Assassin’s Creed: Origins, have cut the mini-map in favor of a compass-like navigational aid on the HUD. This compass-like solution is hardly new – The Elder Scrolls and Fallout have been doing it for a while, just to name two – but it’s spreading quicker. Every other Assassin’s Creed game had a mini-map before Origins, but the change was for the better.
If Red Dead Redemption 2 would drop the minimap, a relatively large chunk of the screen would be freed up, and immersion would be improved with little inconvenience. Elevation is also easily marked on in-game HUD compasses, as is distance and such, so essentially no meaningful functionality would be lost.
Another shift can be seen in the style and feel of side activities, which are used to buff out the map and add fluff to mess around with in between missions.
In the past, collectibles littered around the open world were the way to go, with some games practically abusing this system by tossing literally hundreds of tiny, meaningless tidbits across the map which served no purpose other than to be collected and have the players drag themselves to a portion of the game world which is otherwise out of their way. Of course, some collectibles were implemented well in the past, but the bad apples were more numerous.
In a bid to improve on the system, many new titles phased out your typical throng of collectibles and substituted locations strewn about with some kind of side-activity linked to them.
These “points of interests” are predominantly indicated by question marks. While not introduced by it, this practice was mostly popularized by its extensive use in The Witcher 3. While Red Dead Redemption escaped the scourge of the pointless collectible, it still had its share of shopping lists, which the sequel might trade off for a more engaging point-of-interest mechanic.
Of course, both of those mechanics which we mentioned as possibly being traded off for something else are still present in some modern games, and may turn up in Red Dead Redemption 2 all the same. However certain AAA trends are shifting, and while Rockstar is often a trendsetter, they also follow those trends every now and then.
Once we get some now information about the game, as is due, we’ll hopefully be able to address these questions with more certainty.