Red Dead Redemption 2, the upcoming sequel to 2010's Red Dead Redemption and overall third installment of the Red Dead franchise, is being constantly hyped up with next to zero concrete information.
Something we do know for a fact, however, is that the title will be an open-world affair. These days, size is what most developers think matters in an open world, but just how big can a map be when all available forms of transportation are slow while still being fun?
Year after year, AAA developers try to outdo one another when it comes to the map size in open-world games. Sure, some older titles like The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall still haven't been upped, and other procedurally generated worlds reach immense sizes, but when the whole world is hand-crafted, titles like Just Cause 3 reign supreme. GTA 5 has a pretty big map, however players have access to all manner of vehicles, ranging from high-powered race cars to jet planes, meaning that reaching one end of the map when starting from the other is no big issue. Speedy transportation is the norm, and a major gameplay element to boot.
Red Dead Redemption 2, however, is set in the Old West era, when automobiles were extremely rare provided they even existed, and the average frontiersman had access to a tired old horse at most. If RDR2 has a map as big as GTA 5, it will certainly feel a hell of a lot bigger simply because it will take forever to gallop anywhere.
Between horses, stagecoaches and wagons, the trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 - basically our only source of official information - showed trains. Now, there is a very good chance that the map of RDR2 will be bigger than that of GTA 5, because the industry mentality today dictates that a smaller map is equal to inadequacy (not that we agree - quality matters more). This presents Rockstar with the issue of solving the potential tedium of getting from point A to point B.
One of the most obvious ways to solve this is with a fast-travel system. Fast-travel systems have been used in games for decades, and there are many varieties. You have your on-the-rails fast travels system and free fast-travel. The former is restricted to fast-travel hotspots, and you can instantaneously jump between these points. However if your destination happens to be far away from such a point, you're shit out of luck.
Fully free fast-travel systems allow you to open up the world map and instantly teleport to literally anywhere on it. While this is convenient for the player, it raises the issue of being too convenient. With such a system at their fingertips, players will begin to rely on it, and they won't see much of the carefully crafted game world the developers put effort into. This system stifles the will to explore.
Sure, some games make it a prerequisite to go visit a location the old fashioned way before fast-travel to said location is unlocked. This is a good way to encourage exploration while also providing players with a convenient way to return to someplace they already discovered. While this method is usually linked with the on-the-rails fast-travel systems, blending it with a free fast travel system also works.
Rockstar could potentially divide the RDR2 map into "districts" or "zones". Each zone would have a number of different activities and missions within their area. Initially, fast travel is disabled in the zone. As the player completes objectives, being forced to ride or walk everywhere, they explore the zone, and experience the game's world. Once they reach a certain percentage of completion, fast travel is unlocked as a reward.
It's an ideal compromise. Locking fast travel behind a progress barrier forces the player to do some exploration, however once they've trekked through the area a few times, as evidenced by the activities they have completed, the fast travel system being unlocked prevents the activities remaining from turning into a chore that the players would rather skip.
Either way, the train might prove to be an alternative to horseback riding in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. In lieu of details, this all amounts to speculation, but with Rockstar being mum, we might as well fuel our own discussions on the game.