I think it’s fair to say – without giving away spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2’s story – that many of us wish we could have spent more time just chilling with the gang before everything went tits-up. Be it fishing with your pals in a boat, or having a laugh over a drink, the early game is filled with plenty of heartwarming moments and camaraderie.
Now, consider the fun you could have if Dutch, Sadie and Micah were controlled by your real friends. Well, er, maybe not Micah.
A group of players has managed to do exactly that by recreating the Van der Linde gang using the character creator in the game’s online mode. While some of the characters look closer to the originals than others, as a whole they’re pretty convincing. The group has been exploring the world of online together – and even engaging in some role-play.
After a post displaying the group’s handiwork sailed to the top of the Red Dead Redemption subreddit, I got in touch with user JP_Doctor, real name Jamie, to ask him a bit about the gang’s activities.
To my surprise, Jamie told me the role-playing group didn’t come into the game as a pre-formed set of friends, but actually found each other after creating the characters.
“I’ve always enjoyed trying to recreate characters in character creators,” Jamie told me. “The idea of having the Van der Linde gang online seemed like a really fun idea, so I decided to make Dutch. Over time, I met others who had made characters from the story and we went from there.”
The group now has four regular members, along with a rotating cast of other players who drop in to play characters.
According to Jamie, the process of recreating the gang in Online’s character creator – notorious for giving everyone terrible teeth – was particularly tricky.
“The character creator is somewhat limited, as are the hair and clothing options,” he explained. “It took each of us a long time to make our characters and even longer to level up and purchase the correct clothing. Our Sadie had a particularly hard time recreating the character. But together, we like to think we look the part.”
Alongside posing for photos, when the group gets together they explore the world on horseback, preferring this method of transport to fast travel. During this time, Jamie says they engage in “tongue-in-cheek” role-playing.
“We have fun with it, all spouting familiar lines and calling each other ‘boah’. As Dutch, I’m always telling everyone that ‘I have a plan’, which usually involves getting more money.
“It almost feels like co-op for the main game.”
But this isn’t a world containing only the gang: other players often notice the group and come along for the ride. Jamie tells me random players often join them for a drinks at the saloon, or give the gang a hand with stranger missions.
On occasion, the encounters can be rather more violent – all thanks to one particular group member.
“Poor Micah will often get shot on site and get the whole gang in trouble, but it’s to be expected and all in good fun,” Jamie noted – adding on Reddit that seeing Micah shooting up Blackwater was “awesome”.
“Someone had to take one for the team. Unlike the actual Micah, he’s a real team player”.
So, what’s the plan now? Westward expansion, of course: Jamie says he’d love to grow the gang even further to fill in the missing character slots. “One day, we might have the whole Van der Linde gang riding together,” Jamie told me. Quite the aspiration – and one that would make any O’Driscoll quake in their boots.
But more than anything, the group described themselves as blown away by the positive reaction on Reddit – and hope their posts encourage other Red Dead Redemption 2 players to try their hand at role-playing in online.
“One of my favourite comments was from someone who said he was inspired by our screenshot to give the online mode another try,” Jamie explained. “As limited as it may be at the moment, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with friends.”
Or enemies – if you’re the one playing Micah.