Yesterday a leaked image started circulating on a Grand Theft Auto forum showing a cowboy that looked an awful lot like John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. Unlike what many assumed, this wasn’t Red Dead Redemption 2, but it could be a PC gamer’s best chance to eke out a living on the frontier. Wild West Online is an open-world PvP MMO that wears its inspirations on its dusty, sun-bleached sleeves. Players will form gangs to either break or defend the law, roam the hinterlands, or settle in for a game of cards at the local saloon. In PC Gamer’s exclusive reveal, I sat down with Stephan Bugaj creative vice president of publisher DJ2, to find out more.
The creators of Wild West Online expect to launch a $250,000 Kickstarter at the end of the month, with stretch goals tied to additional funding. The team is already working a core version of the game, which they anticipate will arrive later this year regardless. The Kickstarter is simply meant to secure extra funding to expand its features. Wild West Online takes plenty of cues from Red Dead Redemption’s excellent online mode only with one major difference: It’s an MMO. No, this won’t be the typical routine of questing and grinding levels, but a seamless open world using server shards where a few hundred players will coexist together or die trying.
Even so, that Red Dead Redemption DNA is intentional, says Bugaj. Tired of waiting for a proper Red Dead Redemption on PC, the newly formed 612 Games decided to take matters into its own hands. “There’s an audience for this that just wasn’t being served on PC,” Bugaj explained. “So we wanted to make this big, open Wild West world with a bit of a twist that, like the best MMOs, is a place where people can really live in.”
It’s an exciting proposition on behalf of the new studio 612 Games, which is partially owned by DJ2 and made up of developers and artists that have worked on a wide variety of games from Crysis to League of Legends. Because DJ2 owns equity in 612 Games, they’re more than just a publisher with the likes of Bugaj and DJ2’s CCO Dan Jevons driving creative vision using their extensive history at companies like Pixar and Sega.
From what Bugaj revealed to me, Wild West Online is more than just a knock-off version of Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer. You won’t just be locked into an endless game of cops and robbers. Players can also specialize as gatherers, like prospectors who mine for gold or farmers, and the resources they harvest funnel into a player-driven economy. “Resource gathering and building camps is going to have more of the social aspects of other MMOs,” Bugaj said. There’s a crafting system that relies on finding and learning recipes as well.
Unlike most MMOs though, Wild West Online won’t necessarily feature an overarching progression or skill system. “It’s something that we’re still kicking around,” Bugaj said. “There’s going to be story, character, and gameplay-driven motives to keep playing, but we haven’t yet fully worked out what the progression system is going to be for that.”