There’s a standoff right now in Red Dead Online. It’s pistols at dawn, 10 paces apart, a duel of significant proportions. On one side stands the western crime sim’s dedicated community, holstering passion for their favourite open-world sandbox and a hashtag, #SaveRedDeadOnline. On the other stands Rockstar, accused of inaction, of failing to provide adequate support for Red Dead Redemption 2’s online offshoot; a game, according to a large and growing facet of its playerbase, now cowering in the shadow of its older cousin, GTA Online.
The campaign means no harm. Their message comes from a good place, a place of love and respect, born from a desire to see the virtual American frontier restored to its former glory. Yangy is one such campaigner, and is one of the #SaveRedDeadOnline movement’s most vocal patrons. He’s committed to the cause. So much so, he’s written a provisional yet meticulous five-year plan, comprising 11 persuasive updates regarding where Red Dead Online might turn next. “I’ve updated it over time,” says Yangy. “It started off at 33,000 words, and now it’s at 36,000. There are also additional scripts linked elsewhere that are around 26,000 words.”
Ultimate Concept Bundle
Named the Ultimate Concept Bundle (opens in new tab) and now housed on fansite GTA Base, Yangy’s proposal is a sight to behold. It really is a massive undertaking, a veritable road map-meets-bible brimming with quality of life adjustments, seasonal updates with limited-time perks, lore-friendly suggestions on how world-building might be improved, and cartloads of new items, skills, minigames, and missions, to name just some of the proposed content spread across 13 jam-packed pages.
First formulated last year – published on the creator’s 21st birthday, no less – Yangy has and continues to add new angles and options he reckons could improve Red Dead Online as they spring to mind, complete with ‘Justification’ sub-headings which reveal his thought processes and reasonings for each decision in turn. This – to me at least, as a seasoned GTA Online player with a working understanding of Red Dead Online – is the jewel in the Ultimate Concept Bundle’s crown.
“A few people had asked me questions about certain things, such as why my zombie update suggestion is a paid DLC as opposed to a free one with microtransactions; or why by Update 11, I’ve included more mystical and magical elements; why the earlier updates don’t have much in the way of playthrough content, but are more quality of life features; or even why I was doing seasonal events at all and bringing in the story,” says Yangy. “So, instead of answering those questions a bunch of times, I decided to use the justification sections to explain all of my thinking in a clear and concise way for each update.”
The zombie update Yangy mentions is, of course, a Red Dead Redemption 2-flavoured slant on Undead Nightmare, the similarly-themed expansion for the first Red Dead Redemption in 2010. Inventive modders have since crafted their own take on the fumbling phantom add-on for PC, but with 10 different zombie types, a five-story mission for 2-7 players, three side quests for 1-4 players, and a Plague Free-roam mode thats sounds both terrifying and hilarious, I really do wish Yangy’s work was playable right now.
As you might expect, this feeling of want while reading through the Ultimate Concept Bundle – written in the style of official Rockstar Patch Notes, almost tricking the mind by way of familiarity – is constant, testament to the quality and plausibility of Yangy’s work, underpinned by his passion and deep knowledge of the game which shines through on every page.
He adds: “I’ve seen some lovely responses, which is very flattering. I’m glad that people are enjoying it, I do like the attention and it’s nice to see the support. Ultimately, though, I’m not pretending I know better than developers or anyone at Rockstar, I don’t. I’m studying performance, for the love of god. It’s not my area of experience, I’m just a fan who’s sharing the ideas that I have.”
From the heart
This degree of humility is something that typifies the #SaveRedDeadOnline campaign. For the most part, this is a dedicated group of impassioned players who see Red Dead Online in its current state as wasted potential, and are voicing constructive criticism in a bid to catch the eye of the powers that be. If you listened to Take-Two’s recent earnings call, you may have heard Rockstar’s parent company hailing Red Dead’s strong sales – a result, it said, owed to a “series of updates” introduced to the game during the last financial quarter, a claim which Yangy and his peers contest.
“The mention of Red Dead online there was a little rough. They said Red Dead Online had had a series of updates in the last year, when, you know, us fans know there was one update, a couple of outlaw passes, and the weekly bonuses that have now gone monthly. That’s not what I’d call a series,” says Yangy. “It’s good to learn that Red Dead Redemption 2 has outperformed expectations, I guess that could perhaps be a good sign. They expect it to perform well within the next quarters, that it’ll make a lot of money. So maybe that’s a sign of a DLC, but who knows.”
Yangy dismisses the idea that the reason support for Red Dead Online appears to have waned of late is tied to money, or the fact it’s easier to be creative in a modern day timeline a la GTA Online – two prominent opinions currently circulating in the GTA/Red Dead forums – and points to other live service games that are thriving with smaller followings than anything Rockstar is doing as proof of this. Yangy’s Concept Bundle is proof alone that there’s plenty of scope to expand on the existing set-up, but while Rockstar realising and releasing all of his suggestions is surely the dream scenario, what would he and the wider #SaveRedDeadOnline movement consider a win at this stage?
“I think if we were getting consistent, decent content I’d be happy. The main thing that we’re all looking for is communication,” says Yangy. “At the moment, I think things will either pick up again, and things will be great, or we’ll get more radio silence and it’ll be more of the same… Or Rockstar will quietly take it round the back and shoot it in the head.”
“I feel like at the minute, the most likely outcome is that it’ll start to pick up and become great again. That’s me being an optimist but with the development on GTA 5’s Expanded and Enhanced edition having been completed, I think Red Dead Online will receive more attention. Whatever its five year plan is – as much as people praise my imagined one, Rockstar will obviously already have one – I think there could be a focus on development again. That’s what I really want to believe anyway!”
In terms of his own suggestions, Yangy well understands his ideas are just that – the hopeful ponderings of a fan who wants the best for their favourite game and its community. Still, the Ultimate Concept Bundle makes for compelling reading. The #SaveRedDeadOnline movement asks for official support and more content to be introduced to Red Dead Online, and Yangy’s work is, in essence, a blueprint for these very requests. There are some things on the list that probably couldn’t be implemented in the game’s current, PS4-generation iteration of the game, granted, but Rockstar could, for my money, do worse than riff off some of Yangy’s ideas.
Yangy himself, it turns out, is all for that. “I know there are sometimes intellectual property issues with game devs and fan ideas,” he says. “But Rockstar has my full consent to use any and/or all of the Ultimate Concept Bundle. Because it only benefits me and the community. If they really want to compensate me, all I’d need is a cameo!”
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