In anticipation of Red Dead Redemption 2, we often look back at the two games that will likely influence it the most – RDR and GTA 5 – for ideas about what our expectations for the upcoming title should look like. We’ve previously discussed things like various game mechanics and the implementation of single player cheat codes. Now, we’re going to look back at a shared feature between the two precursor games that both earned much praise in their time – the open worlds.
Both Red Dead Redemption and GTA 5 featured game worlds which were groundbreaking for their time in terms of detail and vibrancy. In video games, “immersion” has become a throwaway buzzword used by execs during E3 presentations to describe the trailers that will look nothing like the final product. But in the case of these two titles the word can be used legitimately.
In the previous Red Dead title, which was released in 2010, various small touches in the world really made it feel like a bonafide environment which was more than just a static backdrop for your shootouts. When it rained, the water gathered in the various bumps in the road, NPCs would behave in tandem with the day/night cycle and if you whistled to dogs, sometimes they would start following you and helping in hunting.
GTA 5 took things to a whole new level with the NPCs living their daily lives without giving a care about the acts of the player. They’re not just there to react to the player. If you fire up GTA 5, stand on a busy corner somewhere in Los Santos and put down the controller, something interesting is bound to happen nonetheless. The game’s world is so vibrant that it has been used in art projects seeking to prove that the real world is just a simulation as well.
We hope to see a similar level of detail when it comes to the depiction of the American midwest in the upcoming RDR2, and an open world that surpasses everything we’ve seen before.
The level of immersion isn’t really tied to graphical fidelity anymore, since the visual improvements in games these days are marginal at best. Overall, it is the activity of the world around you that immerses you, specifically the kind of activity that occurs without your input. Players should feel like they’re part of the world, not its center.
This could mean various groups of outlaws roaming the map and doing outlaw-things even when the player isn’t nearby, meaning that we’d only see its aftermath. When we’re out in the wilderness, maybe we come across two random NPCs who just happened to meet and are having a contextual conversation.
A food chain for the animals would be great too. While we might have hunting minigames, the NPC foxes will be hunting NPC rabbits for sustenance nonetheless. When the sun is shining right at NPCs, they should lift their arms to shield their eyes, windy weather should blow trash and papers around and more.
We’re confident that if any developer can pull off a truly immersive and vibrant open world, it’s Rockstar, and we’re eager to learn anything new about the upcoming title.