Earlier this month, Rockstar brought a number of changes to the Red Dead Online beta with its March update: some more popular than others. Despite tweaks to the parley system, many players felt griefing was still a significant problem, and that some of the changes actually worsened the situation.
In response to community feedback, Rockstar has pledged significant changes to the beta in order to solve the griefing problems.
The latest blog post details a new "hostility system" which will "build upon the anti-griefing measures added in February". This appears to solve some of the problems created by the bounty system, as players who have damage inflicted upon them by attackers "will be able to defend themselves without incurring bounties or hostility increases". This will also immediately flag the attacking player as an enemy (rather than both attacker and target), so now even third parties will know who the aggressor actually is.
Rockstar has also promised a number of other functions to help "balance experiences for all play styles".
Another considerable change is the introduction of two different playing modes to help players choose how they want to play online. As I found from my own experiences, rampant griefing means much of Free Roam (Red Dead Online's open world) currently involves self-defence rather than exploration. Often you just get shot in the head out of the blue for no reason, essentially making the entire mode a long deathmatch.
This is something Rockstar has now acknowledged, explaining it wants to allow players to "feel more connected to the experience of living as cowboys, outlaws and gunslingers in the wilds of 19th century America".
To tackle this, players will now be able to choose between "offensive playing style" and "defensive playing style" options. The former will function "much like the current Free Roam play as we know it", but the defensive option will work as an "evolved version" of GTA's passive mode.
One of these changes involves adjustments to lassoing (a favourite griefing technique): defensive players cannot be lassoed by others, but a defensive player can de-activate defensive play if they try to lasso a player themselves. Seems fair.
While defensive players cannot lock on or be locked-on to by other players, it sounds like they can still be shot by guns. The difference is they "cannot deliver or receive critical hits", and can survive a headshot. In theory this should prevent random griefing attacks, giving players precious time to make a speedy exit. Hope you've got a good horse.
As these changes are planned and not-yet implemented in-game, it's impossible to say whether they can completely solve the griefing issue. Some things remain unaddressed, such as the daily challenges which encourage players to kill each other, and continuing complaints about Red Dead Online's economy. Still, Rockstar's focus on providing more peaceful ways to play Red Dead Online is certainly promising. I guess the developer's not horsing around.
Meanwhile, over the next four weeks, players can expect the arrival of some new Showdown and Racing modes (to add to the new Spoils of War mode) along with new Free Roam events, cosmetics and missions. Dynamic events, in which players will spontaneously "fight off ambushes, initiate rescues" and "defend folks in need" sound like a particularly great addition. Maybe I'll stick my head back into the beta again after all.