Where Should Rockstar Visit Next?

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

There’s no denying that there’s something about Rockstar’s game worlds that make them special. Is it the NPC’s that go about their day, with their seemingly endless amounts of character and explicit dialogue? Or is it the setting itself, which always manages to be as expansive and yet contain a level of detail unmatched by any of their competitors.

Regardless of what exactly their magic ingredient is, Rockstar it seems has done it again with Red Dead Redemption. As always both the critics, and consumers have found a special place in their hearts for the game, which has once and for all put to an end the belief that the Wild West will ever truly die.

Considering the game’s success, it would be foolish of Rockstar not to continue what has turned into a successful partner franchise with Grand Theft Auto, but why should they stop there? Given that they’ve now proven that worlds other than the New York/Miami/California combination are ripe for open-world mayhem, where should they visit next?

In short: potentially everywhere.

England, 18th Century
England during the 18th Century was changing. The Industrial Revolution was just getting underway, sending the previously rural working class headlong into newly emerging towns and cities to work in factories which made use of the wealth of technological innovation going on at the time.

This period also encapsulated the heyday of the highwaymen, robbers on horseback often romanticised in folklore and legend. These men would pray on the stagecoaches carrying the wealthy from place to place, allegedly giving rise to phrases such as “Stand and deliver!” and “Your money or your life!” when they emerged from their hiding places to ambush them.

This rich history of folklore would make any game with this setting an incredibly interesting place for Rockstar to explore. The GTA and Red Dead series have played homage very successfully to cinema history, and with 18th Century England they could do the same thing for the written word. This could even potentially be more interesting, as there exists no de facto standard for the aesthetic of the era, allowing Rockstar to develop its own rich look of the time, without relying on a pre-existing template such as with the GTA3 trilogy.

Though from a historical perspective it doesn’t quite work, there’s also potential for overlap here with a cockney London, complete with a contrived appearance by Jack the Ripper of all people. Given the developer’s refusal to shy away from the nitty-gritty, a date with the Ripper could be a truly terrifying experience.

What ultimately would make 18th Century England an interesting setting would be Rockstar’s approach to it, seeing as there’s very little precedent of how to do so. That said, the Wild West but greener might be a good start.

Tokyo, Modern Day
Asian culture has always had a significant role to play in the GTA games of the past, most notably in the handheld ‘Chinatown Wars’ but it’s taken a back seat to American mob life for the most part, or been forced to operate in an American city.

The opportunities offered by such a setting are numerous. The GTA games have always at their core been about American pop culture, the films, television and music that make up the nation. Sometimes the games take satirical swipes here and there, but for the most part their games are lacquered with the infinite hopes of the American Dream. A foreign setting could be used to do exactly that, but for a completely different country, with its unique culture, stereotypes and ideals.

Vice City was fantastic for me personally because of how it managed to take a place I’d never been, from an era I’d never experienced, and put it together in such a way so that by the end of it I’d felt as if I’d been there, even if what ‘there’ was was a surreal pastiche of the real place. For those who’ve never been to Tokyo (myself included), a GTA game could do a similar thing, and transport us to a world we’ve never come close to seeing in the flesh.

The Caribbean, Early 18th Century

Much like the Wild West, the age of pirates is another criminally under-explored setting in the world of video games, especially in the action genre. Notable exceptions include the RTS Tropico, and of course Tim Schafer’s Monkey Island series. Rockstar could take the setting grittier than it’s ever gone before, as far removed from the child-friendly seven seas of the recent Disney movies as it’s possible to get.

Without a doubt the biggest challenge to face any developer of a pirate-themed open world game would be sea travel. Almost without fail, sea travel within games manages to be slow and monotonous, lacking any of the excitement of pelting down streets filled with countless living and metallic obstacles. Worst of all is falling into the water, and being forced to swim for any length of time.

If Rockstar were to fix – or at least find their way around – these niggles then players could have a really unique experience, working their way up from the rank of lowly cabin-boy to captaining their own ship, getting into bar fights, and pouncing on enemy crews to steal their treasure maps and of course: rum.

Anywhere, The Future
Perhaps the most unlikely suggestion on this list (though probably not any less likely than the others) is the possibility of Rockstar going all science ficion on us for the first time in their history. My initial justification for heading to the future for some open-world mayhem is a little thin on the ground – think hover cars – but there are some interesting angles of such a setting that a developer with Rockstar’s pedigree could explore.

Futuristic cities always tend to have more than their fair share of unpleasantness about them, and who else to better explore what directions our twisted human desires will take in a few centuries from now? Rockstar could really go wild with future crimes such as organ production, or alien smuggling, and in doing so shock people for the first time in years simply because these’ll be crimes we’re not used to seeing in popular culture.

So where would you like Rockstar to set their next franchise? Do you want something historical like Red Dead Redemption, or simply somewhere different, yet still set in the modern time frame of Grand Theft Auto? Do you even want a change of setting at all, or are the characters the real stars of Rockstar’s franchises for you?


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