Rockstar co-founder and vice president Dan Houser has been courting controversy this week, opening up about the development of Red Dead Redemption 2 and revealing a few more tidbits of what’s in store.
We’ll start with the good news, which is that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be rocking a 60-hour single-player story campaign that’s allegedly all killer and no filler. Even just recently, five hours of gameplay were chopped from Red Dead Redemption 2 as Rockstar attempts to trim the fat. Entire missions and love interests were axed because they felt “superfluous” and not “quite slick enough”. That’s certainly a lesson a few other open-world games could learn from. Cough, Assassin’s Creed.
We’ve got a mighty big game on our hands when Red Dead Redemption 2 launches on October 26th then. For comparison’s sake, the original Red Dead Redemption clocked in at a relatively succinct 20-25 hours for a typical playthrough, while Grand Theft Auto V was around about 40 hours. Red Dead Redemption 2 is shaping up to be the longest Rockstar game yet then, we just hope it can deliver on its promise of no filler.
The seedier side to a game of Red Dead 2’s scale and ambition though is the human cost. Houser didn’t seem to be reading the room that well when he bragged of the team “working 100-hour weeks” throughout 2018. This was down to the immense amount of content that’s being crammed into this open-world, comprising some 300,000 unique animations, half a million lines of dialogues, a 2,000-page script for the main story, 2,200 days of motion capture, and the use of 1,200 actors. The Witcher 3, for point of reference, featured a 450,000 word script, while Red Dead Redemption 2 is half a million lines. It’s quite simply the most gargantuan effort we’ve yet seen put into an open-world, but the level of crunch required isn’t ever nice to see.
Houser himself has come back out to elaborate on this point though, sending a statement to Kotaku saying “There seems to be some confusion. The point I was trying to make in the article was related to how the narrative and dialogue in the game was crafted, which was mostly what we talked about, not about the different processes of the wider team. After working on the game for seven years, the senior writing team, which consists of four people, Mike Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow and myself, had, as we always do, three weeks of intense work when we wrapped everything up.
“More importantly, we obviously don’t expect anyone else to work this way. Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release. But that additional effort is a choice, and we don’t ask or expect anyone to work anything like this.”
100 hours a week, which is 14 hours a day for seven days, is no way for anyone to live, so hopefully, this was just a short-term, small-scale thing rather than an indicator of a wider crunch problem at Rockstar. I’m sure it’s something we’ll be hearing plenty more on in the coming weeks.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 26th. There's still no word on a PC version, although hopefully, we'll hear more in 2019. For now, keep your eyes peeled for reviews...