Red Dead Online’s recent announcement created more questions than it answered, and one of the biggest questions I have is how (or even if) Rockstar plans on keeping it from devolving into a murder-happy grief fest.
I played a lot of Grand Theft Auto Online, but I was never a hardcore player. It was mostly a place for my friends and I to goof off. We’d create our own metagames, like Freeway Boxing, Bicycle Jousting, and Musket Versus Hatchet, all of which should be pretty self-explanatory. It was our gaming equivalent of recess, where our imagined games were way more interesting than playing stuff like basketball or four square.
After signing on to GTA Online for the first time in at least six months, I found the playground I once knew and loved had turned into an apocalyptic hellhole for the have-nots like me. The first thing that tipped me off to the change was when, immediately upon me stepping out of my westside apartment, a flying motorcycle blew me to smithereens. After respawning, I grabbed a car out of my garage, merged onto the freeway, and was shortly exploded by a flying car. I literally couldn’t go for two minutes without getting demolished by another player who had way more in-game money than I did.
GTA Online isn’t the only online game that trolls love to ruin. My fear that Red Dead Online will quickly and easily slip into an anarchic home for the gaming world’s worst trolls is founded in many years of personal experience with online, open-world multiplayer. The first Red Dead Redemption’s online multiplayer was mostly filled with horse-riding rebels without a cause shooting any lone ranger they encountered. Sea of Thieves immediately turned into a lobby of four-player galleons mercilessly sinking my paltry, defenseless single-player sloop. Red Dead Online will undoubtedly slip into similarly dark places if Rockstar doesn’t do something to stem the troll tide.
This might seem like an insurmountable problem. Jerks are always going to be jerks, especially online, and there’s little that developers can do to change these players’ minds. There is hope, however, in another game that’s launching this November.
Fallout 76, by its very definition, faces a similar problem, maybe even more so considering it’s an RPG where players of all different levels play in the same lobby. However, developer Bethesda came up with an innovative concept: PvP consent.
Both players will have to agree to fight in Fallout 76. If one player shoots at another player, the victim will only take minimal damage unless they fire back. At that point, PvP commences, and both players can go crazy shooting at each other.
Rockstar can learn a thing or two from Bethesda. One of the most exciting things about Red Dead Redemption 2 is how its NPC interactions will have more options and a more significant impact on the game world at large, creating a more immersive role-playing experience than anything else the developer’s ever done. It would be a real shame if Rockstar let all of this world-building go by the wayside by letting trolls overrun its Red Dead Online servers. By preventing players from instakilling the friendlier folks online, Rockstar could create one of the best, most community-oriented online games we’ve seen yet.