The History of Red Dead Redemption & Beta Version


What’s up, people? Here we are with a new episode of Hot Topic focusing on something a bit different from the usual. I’m Gary7 MT for the GTA Series Videos crew and in honor of the upcoming release of Red Dead Redemption 2, we’re delving deep into the red dead series’ history. From its birth to the key of its success and, of course, we’ll try to analyze the beta and removed content from the two already released titles of the series, Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption. Before going into the details, thanks are in order to Monokoma, Firex and all the users and staff members at Unseen64.net, MobyGames.com, TheCuttingRoomFloor, GTAForums, RedDeadForums, Reddit and the Red Dead Wiki. It’s thanks to them and their passion that we’re able to prove theories, locate the right sources and even find new things we’re able to show you. Here you go. Looks like you still got some business with them brothers. They ain’t what you call kindly fellows. Open the damn door, woman! Rockstar San Diego are the creators of Red Dead but before they were known as such, the California studio was known as Angel Studios founded by Colombian artist Diego Angel in 1984. The company originally produced 3D work for various media, the first of which was a volcano animation for Scientology’s Dianetics. Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. Still, the studio’s 3D effects are best known from films like “The Lawnmower Man” and music videos like Peter Gabriel’s song “Kiss that Frog”. Angel Studios shifted its focus toward the video game industry only in the 90’s, joining a group of companies that would develop video games for the Nintendo 64 console. From 1996 to 2000, Angel Studios both ported and developed games for Sega, Nintendo, Microsoft and Capcom – titles like “MR. Bones”, “Midtown Madness” and “Resident Evil 2”. Capcom offered Angel Studios an opportunity to create something entirely new, following the acclaimed success of Resident Evil 2’s porting. The title’s codename was “SWAT” and Angel Studios first envisioned the project as a single player split-screen title where you controlled a 4-man SWAT team. This title’s premise was quite similar to hired guns, an Amiga game developed by the GTA Series’ original developer “DMA Design”, known today as Rockstar North. Capcom video game designer from 1984 to 2003, Yoshiki Okamoto, author of another western title, Gun.Smoke, was put in charge of the angel studios project. His personal fixation with the genre in general and one Western movie in particular called “Blindman” with the one and only Ringo Starr, believe it or not, changed the project entirely. SWAT ceased to be the game’s title, but rather became a codename for Spaghetti Western Action Title. And this is where the history of Red Dead Revolver began. Capcom and Angel Studios announced the game and showed it to the public during a few events using images and videos. What was shown was heavily programmed and not actual gameplay because, due to the troubled development, the game was unplayable. Chris Bratt’s YouTube show, “People Make Games”, exposed more about the initial concept and status of the title thanks to Dominic Craig, one of Red Dead Revolver’s Lead Designers. In his opinion the game wasn’t fun because the shooting mechanics were weird: partially inspired by Japanese action games and partially by “Panzer Dragoon” and “Tenchu: Stealth Assassins” – with the latter being the very first stealth game ever produced. Capcom not only financed the project during the first years, but like we said, also sent some of their developers and lead artists to California. With Okamoto as project leader, while Akiman designed all the characters in the game using the developers as models. Because of Bratt’s video we learned that the character of Pig Josh was based on Lead Designer Josh Needleman-Carlton, Mr. Kelly was based on Michael Kelly the Lead Engineer while Perry shared not only the name but likeness, of Particle Artist Chris Perry. The liaison between Angel Studios and Rockstar Games began in 2000. This was when Angel Studios developed and released under the Rockstar label, Midnight Club: Street Racing, Smuggler’s Run and Smuggler’s Run 2. On November 20th, 2002, Take-Two interactive announced that it had acquired Angel Studios for a combined cash and stock value of 34.7 million dollars. By the end of 2002, Capcom had already been funding the project for three years and started getting cold feet culminating with their complete backing out of it after Take-Two’s acquisition. Unlike many corporate buyouts, for Capcom, that acquisition was far from bad news – this is because at the time the Japanese publisher was already courting Take-Two and Rockstar Games to obtain the rights to publish the Grand Theft Auto series in Japan. In June 2003, the deal was finally sealed and Rockstar Games announced a partnership agreement with Capcom to localize, publish and distribute the blockbuster title GTA 3 for PS2 and PC in Japan. Following their purchase, Angel Studios was renamed Rockstar San Diego and Rockstar Games executives reviewed the studio’s projects in development to sort out what was worth keeping. Dan and Sam Houser once remarked that one project that always caught their eye was “a cowboy game that looked very good.” “For the time it looked visually spectacular, but speaking to the management guys there, it was a complete mess. It didn’t really exist yet as a game.” according to Dan Houser. “Capcom were prepared to walk away from the project, so we said we’d finish it and all they ever wanted was the rights to publish it in Japan if we ever did finish it – which they never thought it could be.” Despite being unplayable, Rockstar Games started work on the game after sending the Capcom designers home and taking over the development. They salvaged whatever good they found and scrapped almost everything else. The original version was more like a classic arcade “on rails” shooter with fast paced gameplay, while the final version ended up being more an action-adventure title with a bit of free-roam in the levels and a definitely slower but more rewarding gameplay. According to Dominic Craig, the controls were the first thing redone with a more robust cover system, but the narrative remained the game’s primary flaw. At that time Rockstar were more narrative developers, while Capcom’s interest focused more on gameplay. What they ended up doing was stealing from Western movies from the 60’s and 70’s, environments and characters, and blending them all together into the story of a bounty hunter seeking revenge on his parents killers. Again thanks to the “People Make Games” episode, we now know that the game’s narrative was originally heavily inspired by the film, “High Plains Drifter” in which Clint Eastwood reprises a role similar to the one from Leone’s Dollar Trilogy. Go ahead. Thus the story is of a mysterious cowboy seeking vengeance on behalf of a murdered man. Now while implied, it is never confirmed that this cowboy is in fact the same man back from the grave. In the first draft of the story, Red was supposed to die with the rest of his family at the very beginning of the game and return from the beyond to satisfy his own personal vendetta. Red’s name was supposed to be “Red Hand” due to his burned hand being wrapped in a red bandana, which would serve as an identifying mark to fear. Not just those responsible for his family’s death but all outlaws as well. From the original idea to what we got at the end, technically speaking, the game was scrapped and rebuilt, surely using the same assets, but with different visuals, graphic style, HUD, animations and more. Various things in the original title have been completely dropped by the way. Starting from a snowy level, and more frequent use of the horse. Jack’s Dead-Eye ability in the final game was originally Red’s ability – and maybe even the power-ups were all available to Red after reaching specific criteria like any arcade game. The multiplayer was already part of the game, but we lost some special abilities, like flying. Still from “People Make Games”, Dominic Craig also talked about the train chapter of Red Dead Revolver. He explains that Capcom’s original level was like a Mario title with a big heart shaped coach and a princess character in it with armed enemies with Gatling Guns shooting at you as you rode by on your horse. Thanks to the original trailers, some of the differences between the Capcom version and the final version are made manifest. Other than these videos, not much is left from the beta version of Red Dead Revolver, except a logo, artwork and some images – and while we’re on the artwork tip, here’s some trivia from Bratt’s video. Red Harlow’s face in the game’s cover art was apparently inspired by Owen Wilson’s screaming face from the 2000 film “Shanghai Noon’s” poster the developers just happened to have hanging on the office walls. Wow. Despite the enthusiasm and effort that went into developing it, not everybody had faith in Red Dead Revolver. According to a rumor shared by Chris Bratt, Rockstar’s idea was to publish the game under the “Global Star Software” label, Take-Two’s low-budget publisher for second-tier titles. The point was to avoid the game being released as a “Rockstar title”. Due to favorable reviews and almost a million copies sold between PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox, very little time passed between the release of Red Dead Revolver and the first glimpse at a sequel. Originally, Red Dead Redemption was to be a direct sequel of the first game being named “Red Dead Revolver 2”. We can see that Red and John somehow share the same facial scars. According to Dominic Craig, originally the plot for Red Dead Redemption was meant to center around Red’s son, with the boy being angry at his father who’s been a wanted man ever since he killed the governor. After he obtains some semblance of a normal, happy, life, of course the bad guys show up and shoot that all to hell. At that point the protagonist starts his revenge mission – to find his dad again. Craig’s idea was more a “Once Upon a Time in the West” sort of story. He wanted an action title that felt like a “Spaghetti Western “, while Rockstar’s vision was more “The Wild Bunch” – a tale of wanted criminals from a time that unbeknownst to them, has already passed. We’re gonna stick together, just like it used to be! When you side with a man, you stay with him, and if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal. You’re finished! We’re finished. All of us! The very first time Rockstar showed Red Dead Redemption was in 2005 with this brief teaser at the Sony E3 press conference – which was really more of a tech demo that showcased the lighting effects and new graphics. After this teaser, four more years passed without news, screenshots or videos until the game was officially announced on February 3rd, 2009 with its Red Dead Redemption moniker. With over 15 million units sold as of February 2017, and an average score of 95% from world reviewers, Red Dead Redemption is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest games for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Like its predecessor, the game was never released for PC – and according to leaked documents, ex-developer statements and more, a troubled development is something that also marked Red Dead Redemption. Built in different compartments it used at least three or more different versions of the RAGE engine forcing the developers to create new tools for compatibility and more. But we’re not interested in technical rabble but the leftover goodies, so let’s get to it. Let’s start with the game’s logo. Thanks to Aaron Rix, Rockstar San Diego’s ex graphic designer, we do have some concept logos for Red Dead Redemption before the final version made the cut. We also have some digital compositions with illustrations by George Davis featuring in-game items like the special rosary given by a nun after reaching the maximum honor, the 2D design of the promotional playing cards and some in-game graphic designs of stores, journals, signs, posters and more for the game’s world. In Steve Hartman’s portfolio, a 3D artist for Rockstar New England – formerly Mad Doc Software – we can see building images in the game clearly taken using internal tools to manage camera position. All these buildings look like finals – even the on-screen radar’s identical to the one used by Rockstar in the final build of the game. On Sinclair’s YouTube channel instead we see a small clip of the gate exploding in Cochinay – the clip shows the model of the area and the explosion without any effects or texture applied. Meanwhile a beta radar appears in images from Jason Muck’s portfolio. He was the sole Senior Environment Artist specializing in vehicles, props, and weapons for Red Dead Redemption. This radar was bulky, and lacked any transparency effects whatsoever. The icons were way different too with the poker table marked always with the ace of spades card, the nearest safehouse with a classic house icon and the stagecoach with the wheel of a cart. Other icons were a pitchfork in a green circle, a silver circle inside a red circle and a big black circle inside another red circle. What all these icons are supposed to stand for, we have no idea. On another shot the radar is more familiar – the only difference is the color of the stamina bar being dark blue, instead of light blue. On another screen we see an unknown icon showing a golden bull skull – maybe indicating cattle – and two other rounded ones with a B and F inside – the first one’s for Bonnie or Seth Briars, while the F may be for Luisa Fortuna or some cut character. What’s interesting is that there’s no way to have a pending mission in the game for Bonnie or Seth while also having one for Luisa. Another noteworthy point is, on the radar we can still see placed on the shore a white and a red icon mimicking either the wheel of a stagecoach or steamboat. These icons could mark the docks where the player would be allowed to use the steamboats or even dock rafts, canoes and other boats. Thanks to Muck’s portfolio we can see the general style of the game at this point in its development was completely different, a more classic western, than a gritty, violent one. The High Power Pistol didn’t have the engravings or the handle in mother-of-pearl and apparently, the rifle was attached directly to the bandolier, not shoulder strap. Thanks to promotional images, videos, and files from inside the game, we can see a younger or at least less detailed John with a slightly slimmer face, Abraham Reyes’ hair was slightly shorter and he was sporting a goatee without the big mustache. Allende‘s facial hairs were different too and the character was supposed to be definitely fatter according to the very first artwork. Ah, perhaps I should tie you to a horse and let it drag you around town, or let the dogs fight you, huh. Thanks to pre-release sketches by Hethe Srodava, former Rockstar Senior Concept Artist, we can see how Luisa Fortuna has slightly changed – the starting points to the final design. And a recent sketch of John Marston – recent because the original concepts are all in Rockstar’s hands. Except for drawings of the main character, the artist had chances to share more of his work, like this one depicting the first rendition of the Treasure Hunters gang – or maybe originally they were part of a grave robbing gang opposed to Seth. We can also see various images of NPCs and side characters that made it into the final game – some in Red Dead Redemption, others in Undead Nightmare. Some are unchanged, others instead are very different, like the Sasquatch shown in this sketch and six other possible variants of the creature in this one – perhaps this indicates six choices that had to be narrowed down or that the idea was to make all six sasquatches that you have to kill in the game somehow unique. We eat berries and mushrooms, you fool. Or we did. Now, none of us are left. Some maniac’s been murdering us. Various other characters had a different voice actor or simply a different accent all together. Nobody needs to kill anyone Bill. You do so love to talk in riddles, Mr. Marston. You do so love to talk in riddles, Mr. Marston. The Elegant Suit lacked the hat according to artwork and an official screenshot. I hate to take money from a lady, miss. While the US Marshal Uniform was more a Sheriff Uniform – the original badge was shaped like a Sheriff’s. Targeting changed a bit. The original reticle resembled the GTA 4 version with the health segments inside – this feature was cut from the single player, but it’s still available in multiplayer. The Dead Eye reticle was also different, just like the marks set over the enemies during this ability’s use. And while we’re still on weapons, if we take a look at the weapons wheel shown in the gameplay trailer reveal of Red Dead Redemption we see originally there were only six of the eight weapons slots: pistols, lasso, shotguns, rifles, sniper rifles and the knife. The two missing are the fist and throwing items that in the original concept could totally be placed as a sub-selection of the one showing the knife. Speaking of differences – without delving again into the various steps of the minimap – we can see that originally while wanted, the amount of the bounty and the last committed crime was shown in the top right of the screen with the word “Wanted” – and yes, there’s also the black background missing. The honor bar was smaller and without the various segments indicating the grade of Marston’s honor. Money owned was simply placed on the left middle of the screen. The inventory was totally different with all icons inside a red border. Now let’s analyze other beta aspects of Red Dead thanks to this shot from this gameplay reveal of Red Dead Redemption from 2009. Without considering the developer’s annotation on the selling page, we can see here how things were a bit different in this build of the game. The “Basic Campsite” for example, despite being placed in Kit, was a Consumable considering the “x2” written on the icon, meaning that while the player could always use the improved camp-site, the basic site could run out of resources and needed to be purchased at stores like ammo to be used again. We can also see other things used in the final game like the Pleasance Deed for the Stranger mission “Water and Honesty”, the Nosalida package from “Poppycock” and the “Letter from Sam” obtainable in the last encounter of the mission “California”. If not tied to a removed Stranger mission to be discussed later, the Sacred Relic could be the first rendition of the Rosary given by the nun in the game after reaching the maximum honor. The treasure box is still a mystery. Maybe it’s the original reward for the Treasure Hunter Challenge or something completely different. One more departure from the final version of the game is that the player was supposed to be able to buy not only a bandolier, but a double bandolier as well. Another leftover from GTA 4 was the original icon marking the location to start missions. The Cheats option was originally shown directly in the main menu, not under the Options menu and the font used for the subtitles was different, more similar to the one already used in GTA 4. Considering the E3 2005 teaser trailer for a possible comparison, we can see that the small town shown at the end of the video is similar to Armadillo from the final build, only smaller and with slightly different building models. Also, at some point in the development, there were no buildings at the end of Armadillo. The MacFarlane’s Ranch was originally named McFarling’s Ranch with Bonnie MacFarlane named after the aunt of former Rockstar San Diego Designer, Rob Hanson. Bonnie MacFarlane. Miss, Bonnie MacFarlane. This is unconfirmed though, as the only source we have is from the Wiki pages. The Chuparosa bank is apparently impenetrable in the game, but according to a couple of pictures, we were supposed to be able to rob it – maybe during a cut mission given by someone. Another difference we do have proof of, is that at some point during development, the top of the Nekoti Rock, in Tall Trees, wasn’t covered in snow. Thanks to a trainer, we can also navigate way over the natural borders created by Rockstar and see that the map, despite not being heavily detailed, stretches far beyond what can even be seen in the game. Originally, the player would be able to hunt and skin bats, but then they were removed and left only as scripted atmospheric events. Just like the bats, the 3D model of the Sasquatch was already in files of Red Dead Redemption – both creatures ended up being added in the DLC “Undead Nightmare”. While the first creature was even shown in an official image of the game, it’s unlikely that the Bigfoot was to be present in Red Dead Redemption. Maybe as an Easter Egg or a very rare event just to freak out the players, who knows? There were originally more bounties to collect – five more members of Dutch’s Gang, four unknown outlaws and a Mexican. There were originally also wanted posters for both John Marston and Abraham Reyes. Likewise, in Undead Nightmare there was supposed to be another missing person, Lloyd Duffy, but it’s unknown why Rockstar chose to get rid of him. Next to nothing is known about beta or removed story missions – probably due to the lack of analysis and decryption tools for the game. Thanks to videos and images from Rockstar we are able to uncover some differences between the missions we played and how these missions were supposed to be. In “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Bandit”, the player was supposed to be able to reach the balcony on the second floor from outside and shoot at the enemies with the hostages inside the house. The mission “Father Abraham” originally intended the player to throw dynamite at the Mexican army convoy, not rig it on the road and later blow it with a detonator. Do it now! Lastly, the showdown with the Mexican army during the mission “Cowards Die Many Times” was way different. The army was supposed to enter and take position on various vantage points inside the town of Chuparosa, as seen here. It could also be that originally the mission wasn’t tied to De Santa at all, but only to Reyes. But there’s not always a video or image left and such is the case in the mission with Norra Hawkins. According to Wiki, Norra was a woman in Great Plains that once encountered, would call Marston for help in retrieving her stranded dog. Wiki further claims that in the final version of Red Dead Redemption, as soon as Norra spawns, the game kills her to prevent the mission from starting, but said through modding it was possible to still play this mission. Unfortunately, none of this seems to be true: there are no images or videos of the lady or her mission. We even delve through the files searching for her 3D model, her name or anything else in the subtitles and mission objectives, pertaining to her but nothing surfaced. Thus the process of killing her to avoid the player starting the mission seems far-fetched. Modding permits us to play with items that aren’t supposed to be obtainable, like the Undead Horse that turned out to just be a prop for a specific mission. Then to drive an automobile – a totally cool thing to do, even possible in multiplayer now that the game has become an actual lawless wild west for modders. Some things that can’t be reinstated in the game through modding are the Stranger missions “Mother Superior” and “The Dwarf and the Giant”. Of these missions, all we have left are some audio files. Mother superior wants Marston to find four stolen Relics – and as said before, one of these Relics could be the one shown by Rockstar in the Kit menu inside the gameplay reveal of Red Dead Redemption. Mother Superior? Remember me? How are ya? Hello, gringo. So, Providence has brought you back to me. I guess it has. But you are too late. Last week… yesterday and everything could have been saved. Saved? I think I’m a little too late to be saved. Not you, you poor devil. We had little of value but a few Relics. They were probably fake but they had value to our community. Fourteens have been taken from us: a hermit in New Austin has one. One is being sold at a shop in the Pacific Union Railroad Camp up north. One by a criminal who lives in Tumbleweed, and one by a man that… that is now wanted by bounty hunters. Mother Superior, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been robbed. I have my own problems. Of course, of course. If I see you back here with our Relics, then I’ll know you are more than a killer. But my hopes aren’t high, Señor. I knew you were sent by Providence. Well, I brought you back something that people could actually steal from you. Despite your complete lack of confidence in me I was able to bring back your stolen Relics, Mother. Ay, gringo. I must admit I never really thought I would see you back here again, much less with the things I asked for. You didn’t so much ask so much to compel. Well, maybe I did. Thank you, gringo. And you go with my blessing. The other Stranger mission starts with Marston meeting a lonely dwarf where he agrees to find a friend for him. What are you looking at? Nothing. What the hell are you looking at? I said nothing. Is that what I am, is it? Nothing? I didn’t say that. Just like all of ’em. Just like… Why don’t you shoot me you… Wha-what’s your problem, friend? How can you ask me a question like that? Look at me! Just look at me. Even the whores turn me down laughing and you’re asking me such a question. I’ve seen people have it worse. I ain’t. So you’re the worst creature in all of creation? Must be nice to be so special. Damn you. Damn all of them! Calm down with your damnations, friend. I ain’t got no friends. Alright then, I’ll find you one. He first reaches a drunken man who directs him to a giant who supposedly lives in the hills. Hey there, partner! You from around here? …born and raised me… Well, uh, forgive me but I got a kind of a strange question for you. And I will have maybe a strange answer… for you. I ran into this little guy not so long ago. Real little and real lonely. Sad sort of fella. Hoping to help the guy out. You know of any other weird people around here? You mean… you mean like circus freaks? No. Oh, psst, come here. Mrs. Bennet. So damn ugly you get mistaken for this bearded lady, ’cause… Haha. Alright, ok. Thanks. Thank you, thank you. Actually… Uhm, no, come-come to think of it I haven’t mentioned that there is a rumor of a giant who lives up in the hills. People say that he eats folks and he makes beds out of their bones. I think my little pal’s gonna become somebody’s friend, not a snack. Once found, the giant greets Marston with hostility and John is forced to fight him to calm it down. Aaaaaah! Who the hell are you? Go away! Go away. Wow, wow, wow. I’m not trying to start trouble. Came to ask a favor. Go away! GO AWAY! I don’t know no favors. I’ll kill you. I’ll KILL you! You want to fight? I’m ready, but I’m no giant killer. Come on! Ok, little man. You win, you win. Now will you listen? Speak, speak. Living out here all by yourself ain’t healthy. You need to find yourself a friend, especially if these fools living out here get it in their heads to take out a giant. I don’t like people. That’s perfect! I met a fella just like you, mentally anyway. Another man living outside of regular conventions. Little fella. Short and angry. You two should talk. I’ll think about it. After the fight the giant agrees to meet the dwarf, but they don’t get along and with no better explanations, the giant ends up accidentally killing a girl. You fool! Why did you hit her? She’s breathing no more! I just wanted to hold her, then she got scared, and I got scared. She’s dead! Dead! Now how we gonna get any? I’m sorry. I’m sorry! You boys seem to be having fun. Fun? I’ve had more fun at a funeral. Show him what we do to murderers around here. Put this big chump out of his misery. You want me to kill him? I thought you two were friends. Oh. The murder upsets the dwarf who directs Marston to kill the giant, but the player is given the choice to whether kill him or not. You damn co***ucker. You just killed my only friend! You got no balls, cowpoke. I’ll shot him myself. It’s not unusual for developers to reuse cut content in new games or new iterations of a video game series, but in Rockstar’s case, with Red Dead Redemption 2, this is highly unlikely – even with their new habit of recycling old content into new the way they’ve done in GTA Online. Despite that, surely Red Dead Redemption 2 will have its own removed and beta content, some of which will be revealed thanks to pre-release screenshots and videos, and then in the future through in game files – hopefully using a PC version of the game. And that pretty much wraps this episode of Hot Topic. Of course more will be discovered in the future and we hope this video will encourage you guys to search and find more info. Soon Red Dead Redemption 2 will be in our hands and we’ll be able to play and enjoy a new adventure with old and new characters that will accompany us to a Western world of outlaws and criminals. And when it does, we’ll do a full examination of the game with walkthroughs, graphic comparisons, Easter Egg videos and much more, so be sure to watch this channel for all the upcoming updates about Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto Online and other Rockstar titles. Keep following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or jump in our Discord server to holla at other fans of Rockstar Games. From GTA Series Videos, this was Gary7 MT. Peace.

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