Making exposition optional in Red Dead Redemption II

Games News


“Nobody starts out thinking they’ll work for eight years. We just kind of go.”

– Rob Nelson discusses the development of Red Dead Redemption II.

VentureBeat recently published an interview with co-head of the Rockstar Games studio in Scotland, Rob Nelson, who discusses the development of Red Dead Redemption II and why certain design decisions were made.  

It’s no secret that Red Dead Redemption II had a long development cycle– Nelson acknowledges this, explaining how conversations surrounding scope of the game weren’t clear-cut or easy. 

“Once you hit this tipping point in development, where you have a world and you have a narrative that you roughly think are going to work, and then you have the elements, the mechanics, the things that are going to support the narrative — the game tells you what it needs and what it doesn’t need, what’s superfluous and what’s not,” he explains.

“Once the team was full steam, really rolling and making the thing–I guess there were things we could have cut to save a bit of time. But really, for the whole thing to feel resolved as a whole piece of work, it needed everything that we put in it. You just have to finish it.”

Of course, certain design decisions made along the way would contribute to the scope of Red Dead Redemption II growing larger. For example, telling multiple stories from different protagonists. 

“We wanted to make it feel different from the last game. We didn’t want to do another game about just another lone outlaw making their way through the world,” Nelson explains. 

Committing to the camp and having a big gang was hard, but Nelson describes the effort as having been worth it. All of the exposition and extra story components were fully optional to the player, but it was designed that way to entice them into wanting to learn more.

“If you don’t you can walk past it and you don’t have to engage. Everyone is going to want to hear something about it and feel more invested — hopefully — in these characters because they’re hearing stuff that they weren’t paying attention to a minute ago.” 

“That’s a really interesting and exciting ability that games have and other mediums don’t: that optional, additional narrative that you can choose to engage with or skip over.”

Be sure to read the entire piece over at VentureBeat, where Nelson provides some more detail about Red Dead Redemption’s development. 



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