RIP RDO

Photo credit: RDR2 gameplay on PS4

Two months ago, Rockstar Games announced there would be no more Red Dead Online updates. Those of you who know me, read this blog or follow me on Twitter (@cindyjacks) understand what a loss this is for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favorite alternate reality. And the chance to create my own character in that simpler, albeit much more violent, time…well, I was hooked at once. And now living in Kansas the wild, wild west feels even more relevant. Seriously, look up Cowtown, the replica of old Wichita. It’s totally Blackwater.

Granted, the online version was never quite fully baked. The beta period only offered four story missions and you had to grind like it was your job to level up. Nary a bird flew past me without meeting its death. Hey, they were 10xp each! But there was something about going on , hunting and fishing and embracing the simulation of living off the land. It is my understanding, however, that skinning a deer or rabbit is much more complicated than depicted in the game. Who knew? ๐Ÿ˜‚

Once the game left beta though, there were moments of brilliance. The addition of the trader, bounty hunter, and collector roles. The evolution of the trader to moonshiner, the collector to naturalist. The addition of the Call to Arms saved us from complete boredom and frustration with the lack of updates. The world evolved and allowed me to sink deeper into the fantasy of living in the Wild West…but, you know, without the actual risk of dysentery or tuberculosis. Or being barred from owning property cuz I’m a girl, lol.

It got to the point thatย  Halloween wasn’t Halloween without the RDO update. Christmas, too. But when the last Christmas “special” coat was nothing more than a black leather coat that looked much like every other black coat in the game, I could see the writing on the wall. The end cometh.

To be honest, I haven’t played the game much since then. I steeled myself for the inevitable demise of RDO. And now that it’s official, I feel as though I’ve lost a group of friends. In a way, I have. Cripps, my beloved Bacchus (he’s my favorite horse), Maggie, the lady with the awesome voice who narrated the cutscenes for the legendary bounties. Even Sean McGuire, who it was lovely to have alive again (oops sorry, mild RDR2 spoiler, my bad).

Granted, Rockstar hasn’t deleted the servers so all those folks are still there for me to visit. I probably will from time to time once the sting of the game’s stagnation wears off. But I’m level 260-something so without new content, there’s not much for me to do other than the same mind-numbing loop of grinding. Perhaps I’ll stalk a 3-star whitetail buck or reel in a massive sturgeon, just for old times sake.

There’s also the Call to Arms to take out the day’s frustration with, but since me and my honeypie have mastered all of them, well, the thrill is gone. RDO has become that lover who doesn’t switch up things in bed. Ya like what they do, but ya wish they’d throw you a curveball every once in a while. Alas, there will be no gimp suits and gagballs lurking in RDO’s closet. Sorry, I took that metaphor too far, lol.

Being the gaming addicts we are, Charles and I have found some substitutes for the gaping hole RDO has left in our co-op playtime. State of Decay 2 has a decent substitute for the Call to Arms. We’ve yet to best Daybreak so that’s on the agenda for this weekend. But having fallen in love with a cowboy and living in a state that is literally part of the Old West mythology, there’s nothing to do but wait for a dev to creat a new Western masterpiece. I suspect it’ll be a very long time before I crush on a game quite so passionately. I suppose time will tell.

My dearest RDO, you will be missed. You filled many a dark day with joy and laughter and headshots. No other game could ever replace you and you’ll be in my heart always. Whenever I sip a little Tennessee whiskey, I’ll pour a some for you in remembrance.

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It’s My Birthday and I’ll Shoot NPCs in the Face if I Want to: RDO Call to Arms

Ammo at critical levels, minty and thyme big game meat damn near gone, buffs applied every couple minutes, enemies surrounding the roof where I’ve posted up, I’m in deep shit now. And I love it.

I’ve been leveled up in Red Dead Online for a minute. All the best ammo and weapons. Full health, stamina, and dead eye stats. Ability cards set so I’m damn hard to kill. Players that f@#k with me get they head blown off, several times till they choose to parley or leave the lobby. Even the new Blood Money Crimes posed little challenge. What’s a bored gamer girl to do with all this gear and gold buffs? Well, Rockstar, you done got it right for once (at least in RDO, I know GTA Online is a pampered, spoiled little game)

I woke a little late Tuesday morning and Charles was already on his PS4 as I padded out of the bedroom, yawning and stretching. I asked what he was up to. He said A New Source of Employment missions. Meh, I curled my lip. Wasn’t overly impressed with those re-packaged stranger missions. Then he said the magic words: “And these Call to Arms missions are tough.”

Whaaaaa? What’s that now? Something in the game I’ve never heard of. Wait! It’s update day…could it be? My breath caught in my throat. New content? It’s f@#king Christmas morning! Now, hold on now, Cindy. Don’t get too excited. Remember the first Quick Draw Pass. yawn-a-palooza for the most part. But as soon as Charles loaded into MacFarlane Ranch and wave after wave of pissed off NPC kept trying to murder him I got that sweet shot of adrenaline. Oh yessssss. Let’s do this.

Tried it solo at first, thinking I’d face-tank my way through it like I do every other mission in RDO. Then, it happened. I got my a$$ handed to me. Oh yes! Please hand me my own a$$. Make me try, make me think, make me bring my A game cuz I been coasting far too long. One lost day and night later, we finally defeated one of these beast missions. Granted I’ve been trying to solo or duo it with Charles. Nope, can’t do it yet. We had a very helpful high level and the three of us finally got the damn thing done.

The other cool thing about these missions is that they take place in different locations, each posing a different strategic and tactical challenge. Valentine requires more of a rooftop, pick ’em off approach, Fort Mercer you gotta have a player posted at every corner. MacFarlane Ranch takes a whole lot of running and gunning. Strawberry and Blackwater need a balanced plan of attack with their many avenues of entrance and egress.

Properly armed for bear and loaded with recovery items, waves 1-5, possibly even 6 don’t pose too much challenge and are totally possible to solo for a higher level player. It’s just a lot of killing hordes of enemies and you’ve got your NPC allies to back you up. But as they get picked off in the battle and the enemy brings in heavy artillery (Maxim guns and/or cannons), not to mention those hard-to-kill jerks with the machetes, things get a lot hairier. I’ve made it half way through wave 8 completely solo (in the video above I did clear wave 8 mostly alone, but my teammates were there for the other waves). I am bound and determined to solo one of these beasts before I officially consider myself satisfied. Yes, I’m a masochist. I admit this freely.

I don’t know that I’d recommend this update for lower levels (anyone under level 75) because it might prove overwhelming. However, if you’ve got a couple high level friends or are just a sucker for pain like me, why the f@#k not? Jump on in. It’s great practice for flickshots and running and gunning. And even if you fail, you still get a ton of gold, RDO$ and XP. When we first started these missions I was level 206, in two days time, I’m level 213 which is unheard of progress if you grind the old-fashioned way on this game.

Though I often give Rockstar a lot of crap for treating Red Dead like the red-headed stepchild of their online endeavors, I am woman enough to admit that this time, they done good. I hope to see more cool, challenging updates like this one. It’s so freaking awesome to have to focus and sweat and cuss my way through a mission. Explosive ammo isn’t just for trolls anymore! Yay! Yes, I’ve found a whole new method of anger management.

Don’t get me wrong, based on my last post, while I am happy, happier than I’ve been in decades, I still got lots of frustrations to take out on NPCs (cuz I don’t mess with other players unless they mess with me and I try my best never to take my bad mood out on those I love). But yeah I still got stuff. Little things like the IRS is taking its sweet time “reviewing” my tax return, cuz, you know, they owe me a lot of money. And big things, like it’s my birthday tomorrow and both my parents are dead. It’s not the first year without them, but things were so fresh and raw last year that I didn’t celebrate, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was my birthday. I just soldiered on with probate headaches and ignored the day. In fact, I think it was about that time last year I hit level 100 on RDO. Coincidence? I think not.

But this year my baby daddy (not the guy who tried to kill me, that’s a different ex) and my son want to throw me a party. Charles and I are headed back to WV with his son for the festivities. While having my blended family together for the first time warms my heart, that same heart breaks a little for the people who will be missing. I mean, my parents were the reason for the day after all. Most folks might sit and have a good cry about that, and I might, but really, I prefer to shoot machete wielding a$$holes in the face. Yep, that’s what works for me. Get the bad stuff out and game on.

Until next time, my friends! You know where I’ll be, battling it out in the Old West till I can’t see straight.

Rockstar, Where’s My F@#king Fast Travel?

Image credit: Red Dead Online gameplay “If I stare hard enough, maybe I can fast travel”

Dear Rockstar,

Why do you continue to break my heart? Actually, it’s my fault because I continue to let you do it. -Sincerely, Cindy.

As soon as weird sh!t started happening in free roam on Red Dead Online, like wave after wave of wolves spawning in places they don’t usually spawn, I knew the update was imminent. it’s happened that way before and I was so excited. There’s been so much speculation about what the Summer update would include.

So, the Blood Money update. Where to f@king start? Let’s start with the positive. The contracts and emerald heist were a great deal of fun. The general missions to earn the newest currency, capitale, weren’t all that different from usual stranger missions, but you know, RDO is like pizza. When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good. They also seem to have fixed the legendary animal spawns in free roam. I came across five just getting from place to place.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe. As I’ve written about before, I’m a spoiled little outlaw. I’ve got the best of the best gear and cosmetics. I love the damn game even when it doesn’t seem to love me. Like right now. I’m loading in and I’m stuck at 90%. For like fifteen minutes. Sigh.

I’ve done every update to completion and beyond. The biggest reward, for me, from the Naturalist DLC was the wilderness camp from which you could fast travel. I abused the hell out of that perk. So last night, as I worked my way through the Blood Money missions, I figured it didn’t matter that Lemoyne is hell and gone from my camp and moonshine shack because I could just drop my wilderness camp and fast travel. Ummm…nope.

To my surprise and dismay, that feature is GONE. I’m hoping it wasn’t intentional and a later patch will fix it (and of course break something else). And don’t get me wrong. I’m not dogging on the devs. I’m sure coding a video game is the same type of sweat shop work situation we all seem to deal with these days. Longer hours, higher metrics goals, less pay and less benefits.

There was some other wonky stuff, such as every flavor of moonshine listing as selling for $75 even if it’s the correct buyer. You do however get the appropriate amount of pay at the end of the mission so it’s more of a typo than a bug.

Also, the surroundings were slow to load in at times. And my horse seemed oddly fragile. Never used so much horse reviver in my entire RDO experience. But all these things I can deal with. Why…oh why, did my fast travel have to disappear? Yes, you can still ride to a FT post, but sometimes those are quite far away. My right thumb is killing me today, lol.

Did I love the update, no. Did I hate it? Nope, wouldn’t say that. I just wonder when Rockstar is going to stop treating Red Dead Online like the red-headed stepchild and let it blossom into its own. Yes, GTAO is their main money maker, but RDO has a solid fanbase. Just once, it’d be nice to be treated like we’re important to the company.

Keeping it 200: Red Dead Online

The goal is a waste of time. I know this. After level 100 on Red Dead Online you gain no more advantage from leveling up further. That’s it, all weapons, horses, clothing items, and abilities are unlocked by then. Okay, yes, every five levels you get a treasure map. Whooptie freaking doo. I’ve got more gold and RDO$ than I know what to do with.

So why can’t I stop playing this f@#king game?

There’s so much about RDO that irritates me. The forever load time. The way my saved outfits magically disappear from time to time. Cripps and his sudden need to pack my camp up while I’m en route. How my character gets stuck walking like John Wayne after certain missions. I picked the flamboyant walk because she’s a cute little ladylike outlaw, dammit. I don’t want her walking around like she’s saddle sore. You get my meaning ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sorry, sorry. That bug really bothers me.

There are countless other bugs and glitches, not to mention the always half-baked updates. So I ask again: why can’t I stop playing this f@#king game? Not just continue to play it, but grind on it so often that I’m almost level 200?

To put this in perspective, once you hit level 100, it takes about 10,000 XP to rank up. And that increases little by little so that at this point it’s around 11,000 XP to level up.

For the sake of simple math let’s stick with 10,000. That means I’ve earned almost 1,000,000 XP. And to put that into perspective, the average bounty yields around 300, naturalist and moonshiner missions, maybe 500. The motherlode is the trader goods delivery which takes forever to build up to, but it rewards players with 2000 XP. Yes, there are other ways to get a little extra XP here and there, but when you consider chalking up 1,000,000 in a few months time, that’s a lot of wasted days and wasted nights. It’s okay, I’m woman enough to admit it.

So, if the game irks me and it’s grindy as all hell once you get to a certain level, what attracts me to it over and over again? It’s kinda like that lover that’s no good for you but who’s too much fun not to answer the phone when he calls.

But what’s so fun about it? I don’t know. Really I don’t! There’s just something about shooting a bandit in the face after you’ve tackled him. There’s a thrill to the ever increasing difficulty of the Legendary Bounties. And yes, I’m that player who’ll start Harriet’s naturalist missions but instead of sedating the Legendary animal, I kill it, skin it, and give the pelt to Cripps. But c’mon it makes the trader role so much easier. And then there’s the almost slots like discovery of collectibles throughout the world. Most of the time it’s just going to be a measly playing card, but once in a while you hit the jackpot and get jewelry or a rare flower.

Okay, so I do love unleashing my inner bada$$ in RDO. And it could be said that IRL, I’m a bit repressed. I follow rules. I’m nice even perhaps when I shouldn’t be. So maybe RDO gives me an outlet for all that inappropriate behavior I’ve got locked inside me. Better to release it in virtual reality than real reality.

I also think my affection for RDO comes from my love of the story mode. Red Dead Redemption 2 moved me in a way I can’t quite explain. I wanted so much to save Arthur, but we all know how that turns out. Perhaps continuing to inhabit his world is a way to stay connected to a character I grew to love.

What ever it is, I’m level 196 and I know I won’t stop until I reach 200. And then, really, who am I kidding, I’ll keep playing because I love the game. Maybe it’s just that simple.