Red Dead Redemption 2 launched six months ago today. In those past six months, developer Rockstar faced criticisms over crunch, the main game released to great reviews, Red Dead Online launched and grew, and a country-trap hybrid hit song used the game in a music video. Here’s what’s happened in the last six months.
- In the weeks before Red Dead Redemption 2’s release, Rockstar’s culture of crunch is criticized. An interview with the co-founder of Rockstar Games, Dan Houser, causes outrage after a comment implies that he and his staff are working over 100 hours a week. He later says that this was just a small group of writers and that Rockstar didn’t force anyone else to work that many hours.
- Kotaku’s Jason Schreier releases a report days before the game’s release that reveals the crunch problems at Rockstar weren’t relegated to only a small group of writers, as Dan Houser claimed. Creating RDR2 involved many individuals and studios spread across the world, with each studio and team having their own experiences with crunch.
- On October 26, 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 is released for PS4 and Xbox One. Reviews are mostly positive, with many critics praising the game’s visuals and storytelling, including Kotaku. The game grosses $725 million in its first weekend of sales, making it the biggest opening weekend in entertainment history.
- As players explore the world, they discover that the most dangerous animals in the game are possibly the deer and elk. Players share videos of these creatures attacking them for no reason. Other players avoid the deer and instead focus on growing their beards as large as possible. They are glorious looking.
- Players exploring the massive world of Red Dead Redemption 2 also begin to find creepy, odd and interesting easter eggs and secrets. Some of their discoveries include ghosts in the swamp, UFOs, vampires, time travel and a ghost train. These secrets lead to the formation of a subcommunity of Red Dead players who hunt for clues to find even more hidden secrets and mysteries.
- On November 27, Rockstar launches the beta for Red Dead Online. The release is staggered, with base game ultimate edition owners getting access first. Eventually, on November 30, all players who own the game are given access to Red Dead Online. The initial response is that the game feels empty but is a solid foundation.
- Almost immediately after the release of Red Dead Online, players begin to complain about the game’s economy. Many find the mission and activity payouts too low and the in-game prices on items too high. Players say it feels like the game is asking them to grind for hours to get simple things like weapon upgrades or boots.
- The first few weeks and months of Red Dead Online are mostly filled with small updates and tweaks to the game’s economy and world. Some of these tweaks help make the game less grind-y, but players still find the world too empty.
- Red Dead Online begins to suffer from griefing and trolling. Players are angry that the game seems to do very little to stop players from griefing. Others point towards strange design choices, like showing all players on the map at all times, that make trolling easy.
- Over Christmas, Red Dead Online’s bars feature piano players playing holiday music.
- Rockstar starts 2019 off with a roadmap, outlining how they will improve Red Dead Online’s biggest problems and shortcomings. They promise new missions and events while also teasing new features that will help make trolling and griefing harder.
- In the middle of January, Rockstar is sued by the Pinkertons. This old private security and investigation company featured in Red Dead’s single player campaign is still around, and they aren’t happy about Rockstar using their company name and agents in the main game.
- After weeks of teasing, Rockstar releases the biggest update to Red Dead Online yet, adding a new bounty system, new clothes and changing how player blips work. These changes are fine, but further tweaks to the game’s economy leave players upset. They feel Rockstar is making it harder and harder to earn cash in the game.
- Some players begin to protest Rockstar’s update by cloning cougars using a duplication bug. They then sell these duped cougars and earn money quickly. This is patched by Rockstar soon after it is discovered.
- This big update also rubs some players the wrong way after they notice what they believe to be graphical downgrades in the game. Players point towards shadows missing and other small details becoming less noticeable or losing some quality. These supposed downgrades are not confirmed by Rockstar.
- While it was nominated in multiple categories at the DICE Awards in February, Red Dead Redemption 2 would only win one award that night for “Outstanding Technical Achievement.” Red Dead Redemption 2 also received multiple nominations but won none at the 2019 BAFTA awards, losing out against the popular God Of War in many categories. Red Dead does win “Best Narrative” and a few other awards at the Game Awards 2018.
- Crafty players find different ways to break out of bounds and explore parts of the map they shouldn’t have access to. Some players even use a canoe and some tricks to swim through boundaries and explore Cuba.
- Red Dead Redemption 2 becomes wrapped up in a massive viral moment. The game is used in the video for the incredibly popular country-trap hybrid hit, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. According to Kotaku’s Gita Jackson, this song is a banger. I agree.
- The Pinkerton Detective Agency drops their lawsuit against Rockstar in April.
- Over the course of March and April, Rockstar adds new PvP modes to Red Dead Online. These new modes are a mix of good, bad and boring. While some players are happy to have new content, many wish Red Dead Online would lean more into its Western setting and feature more story and co-op missions. Others hope that Rockstar has single player DLC planned for Red Dead Redemption 2.
And that’s where things are at. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a wonderful single-player game that fans are replaying and enjoying to this day, but Red Dead Online is still in a sorry state for most fans. Some players are leaving the game, and how many will come back remains to be seen. Grand Theft Auto Online had a rough first year or so too, but eventually got better. Perhaps Red Dead Online will seem similar improvements.