A Letter To:- Rockstar

Dear Rockstar,

So it seems you’ve lost your way a bit when it comes to video games. I’m just dropping you a little note to let you know how it should be done; hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes again because your last “effort” has been a rather painful experience.

Just over yonder there's... absolutely nothing

Firstly, the issue of narrative; building to the climax of a story is usually what writers aim to do. That’s kind of their raison d’être, if you like. So to have the climactic ending of the story: tracking down Bill Williamson, ruined by poorly implemented pacing is something of a downer. Let’s face it, overall in terms of story there isn’t much going on in Red Dead Redemption. It’s hard to see how then, you managed to speed through the only exciting parts of the story at such a blistering pace, resulting in a game that comprised of around 90% riding your horse across sparse countryside and only 10% doing anything of any interest.

Also, just a quick note related to story telling; it’s important to show gamers how to play the game and implement any features you’ve put in, but here are a few tips on how to do it properly:

  1. Tutorial sections should be short and to the point. Endlessly searching for flowers and skinning animals (with an animation that is too long and isn’t skippable – another annoyance) is no fun at all.
  2. Tutorials should be at the start of the game. Herding sections, which are basically a mechanism to tell me how to ride a horse, really shouldn’t be found after playing the game for 20+ hours.
  3. Either explain how to do everything, or nothing at all. I had to look online to see how to win at the pistol duels which are littered throughout the game like unwanted gifts a dog has left on your carpet. Even the manual was of little use, which is something of a crime.

It must be said that the setting is breath taking and you’ve delivered the beauty of everything from the setting sun to a raging storm with grace and finesse. Also, I appreciate that the Old West was a pretty desolate place with only pockets of civilisation, but please remember that this isn’t a simulation. Did you play GUN at all before brainstorming how to make a decent Western?

"Get out of the way - you're blocking the sunset!"

To someone that has played rather a lot of GUN, it seems as though you’ve taken this exciting world and simply added extra space; filled with nothingness for the player to simply traverse. You force them to follow some (achingly slow) idiot to some desolate and remote location to kill someone or do some random task that no-one cares about before heading back along the same tedious path to another, equally as boring location.

I’ve got to admit, you have done something of a magic trick with Red Dead Redemption. However, the magic isn’t in the beauty of the Open World or the accomplishment and gravitas of the narrative, but rather the astonishingly high review scores for what is essentially a competent, but somewhat mediocre, game.

Rockstar: "Now just kill this fellow in a duel... No, we won't tell you how."

Your game has highlighted one thing I guess, and for this you should be applauded; professional reviewers don’t spend enough time with a game before forming an opinion and jotting down a few thousand words. If they had played just a few more hours of your latest game, perhaps the reviews would have been a little less gushing and a little more accurate.

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Wallis

P.S. GTA IV was also a bag of shite.

Tue, July 13 2010 » A Letter To..., Articles

8 Responses

  1. DoctorEgo July 13 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    Well said. I too had to look up how to duel properly on t’internet and, as we’ve discussed, found RDR an utter chore to play through. Once your awe of the beautiful gameworld has faded, you find an empty husk of a game; a cold kernel of western dialogue where the gameplay should be.

  2. xxFORDIExx July 13 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    TOM!!!!! You are completely and utterly wrong with your letter to Rockstar!!!!

    The game is god damn awesome! so there :)

    There we go that’s my input :) lol

  3. joefeesh July 13 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    I haven’t played it. I’m not a cowboy person.

  4. ItsActuallyAdam July 13 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    i may consider writing an letter to somebody now.

  5. somebody July 14 2010 @ 3:03 am

    Wait. What?. Do you REALLY need a tutorial for a duel?. What did you do? You pressed select and look for a newspaper to read? SHOOT THE GODDAMN DUDE IN FRONT OF YOU UNTIL THE FREAKING GUN BEGS YOU TO STOP!


  6. Richard Murray July 14 2010 @ 9:16 am

    Wow I completely disagree with this review. I too played GUN and loved it but felt that RDR was vastly superior. I loved the characters, loved the story and felt there was loads to do. As someone who normally gets bored easily I was pleased with how often missions and scenarios would pop up.
    I loved the ending too , without spoilers, I thought it was amazingly cinematic and alot braver than most attempts.
    The one thing I can agree with is that I didnt like GTA4, they can do much better, and they have, RDR.

    Anyway keep writing dude we arent meant to agree on everything (Thats for communists)

  7. Crofterz July 14 2010 @ 10:10 am

    Haha seems everyone has divided opinions. I personally hated it and traded it in after a week of playing it. The online multiplayer hardly worked properly on my xbox thanks to my NAT type. And… well… I think Doctor Ego pretty much summed it up for me. Dull and boring. Not my cup of tea at all.

  8. Mightyles July 14 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    I played gun and quickly got bored of it. The world was too small and there wasn’t enough variety for my taste. Red dead isn’t a perfect game, but I enjoyed it a lot. I stand by the score I gave it simply because of its atmosphere, charm, and mostly Great writing. It did have it’s flaws, but I don’t think any of them took away from the game’s good points. The multiplayer did stop being fun after a few hours though.

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