Forget zombies, Rockstar. Red Dead 2 needs robots

© Rockstar
By Stephen Farrelly
Maybe that’s a confusing headline, but if you followed Red Dead Redemption through to its DLC you’d know Rockstar gave us a zombies and monsters romp. But for its sequel, we have a different idea…
Original RDR Spoiler Alert: At the end of Rockstar’s Western opus, Red Dead Redemption, we were left asking a lot of questions in a lengthy build-up to its eventual end-credits moment. Why am I farming? Is this Jack dick really my son? Because he’s, well... a dick. And should I, John Marston, ever have actually straightened up? Because this settled life in the wake of everything else is, honestly, boring.
It was a bold ending though, and one worth pushing through. But then Rockstar did a funny thing. They took this serious, bold ending and threw zombies into the mix in a single-player DLC release called Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. It was odd, because all voice-actors returned and the gameplay itself remained largely unchanged, you just needed an itchier finger than usual. They even took their monster expansion to other places, with an upset Bigfoot hiding under a tree, and the four horses of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse traipsing about the place, along with other infamous monsters -- all helping flesh out Rockstar’s newly realised world of Western-fused horror. It was perfect juxtaposition, because Rockstar is so great at handling and homaging its sources of inspiration, without being too heavy on having that factor stand out.
So with Red Dead Redemption 2 actually closer than we all might be thinking while looking at the 2017 Holiday manifest of releases yet to come, we’re getting itchy fingers too. The delay was frustrating, but we trust these studios with absolution because the first game was just so damn good. Couple that with the consistency of GTA Online’s continued development and player support, as well as where we’re at from a technical perspective across both console (Xbox One X, PS4 Pro) and PC and, well, the mind just races with the possibilities waiting within Red Dead Redemption 2.
Undead Nightmare was a breath of fresh 'dead' air
Undead Nightmare was a breath of fresh 'dead' air
We’ve already dabbled a little in the base game, but let’s get heavily ahead of ourselves here, using the release of Undead Nightmare as our foundation. So we’re simply going to *suggest* an idea to the brass at Rockstar about any *potential* DLC forthcoming, post Read Dead Redemption 2’s release. And yes, that last statement was a mouthful, but what we have in store is quite the treat.
We want Westworld-inspired downloadable content. And we’re talking about the recent HBO series as inspiration rather than the older (though largely more charming) original movies. The reasons here are five-fold: having NPCs in a game-world you aren’t sure if they’re robots or not is one thing, but also having robots aware they’re robots in said game-world, and that they’re there for your sick pleasure, and so are planning against you without you knowing whether they are or aren’t, creates a level of edge-of-your-seat gameplay almost unheard of. Unless of course you've seen the non-interactive first-season of HBO's Westworld. Did we mention that it was non-interactive?
At any rate, the tension is one part. But then there’s the opportunity to introduce the player to two worlds -- a modern day (or futuristic) one, and the theme park one. But which one is real and all sorts of existential questions could stem from any of this. Add to all of that Rockstar’s trademark dark and dry humour, and you could have players questioning their real-life shadows. The possibilities are that great.
Ever questioned the nature of your reality?
Ever questioned the nature of your reality?
They could have randomly-generated handles hovering over their heads, and Rockstar could adopt some sort of technology not at all dissimilar to Forza’s Drivatar system...
The third factor to look at, which ties in with the above, is that Rockstar loves breaking multiplayer rules. Imagine if a Westworld-themed DLC struck, and featured a handful of hidden ‘players’ joining online ranks. They could have randomly-generated handles hovering over their heads, and Rockstar could adopt some sort of technology not at all dissimilar to Forza’s Drivatar system, to help create player-generated behaviours the AI applies to itself. However, they also have an agenda to undermine real-world players in sneaky and underhanded ways. And this could be tied to clever and unique multiplayer modes creating an intense level of mistrust among teams of players. It would be diabolical.
The fourth concept around a Westworld-themed expansion could be a complete departure from what we know, where Rockstar essentially gives players the Ford-forged keys to an actual theme park just as in the show. From here players manage the park, its Hosts, storylines, maintenance etc, and do everything they can to keep the Guests -- and the subsequent and required revenue -- riding that train on into the park. The challenge? Randomly, Hosts will create their own storylines requiring a Billy-like character to play through them, controlled and experienced by the player (which effectively lets players also ‘experience’ their own park management). Moreover, not being able to solve these storylines allows the Hosts to successfully begin an uprising, not only threatening your park’s functioning, but also potentially ending in a total robot revolution.
Ma'am, you seem to have spilt some wine on... oh
Ma'am, you seem to have spilt some wine on... oh
And finally, because it’s just the robots’ time. Zombies are tried and tested, sure, but they’re also everywhere (not an ironic statement). Zombies are essentially toys to play with in open play-spaces, but robots are smart and can be programmed for evil. We’re still debating in the real-world what the ramifications of advancing AI could be, and as robotics continue to progress at a Moore’s Law level, their eventual convergence and subsequent self-awareness will reach Cyberdyne levels of alert. So we should have fun with them while we can, before they become our eventual masters, and also because sci-fi and Westerns are at such different ends of the scale, it would just be cool.
Have a think about it, Rockstar. We reckon there’s some seriously powerful hydraulic legs to the above that would be perfectly suited to a studio of your vision and ability.
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