Red Dead Online has been something of a roller coaster in recent months: after the community protested the lack of updates by wearing clown costumes, Rockstar pushed a major update to introduce legendary animals and the naturalist role, and players appeared to be relatively satisfied. The celebrations didn't last long, however, as a subsequent bug fix update brought a range of issues so severe that Rockstar had to roll back the entire patch.
The latest chapter in the Red Dead Online saga is a particularly strange one, as many players have experienced significantly reduced lobby sizes in recent days - and some believe the game has improved as a result.
On a normal day, you might expect to encounter lobbies of around 20 players on Free Roam, but this week players have found themselves placed in lobbies with around two to seven people. This seems to have occurred across all platforms, although the change to smaller lobbies hasn't always been consistent, and some players have been able to access full lobbies at varying times over the past few days.
While the jury's out whether the smaller lobbies are an intentional change or a bug, the whole thing has gone down surprisingly well with the community, and many have argued that it seems to have solved the game's long-standing problems. Most notably, the issues with low animal spawns have disappeared, while lobbies are now more populated with NPCs and random events. In some cases, the sudden appearance of all this content has been slightly overwhelming for players.
"I'm not sure if these low-player lobbies are a glitch or not, but this is how Red Dead Online should always work," said one Reddit user. "It's so much more fun. I feel like I'm hardly missing the player interaction, and if I really wanted PvP or Free Roam Events, they're still there."
"The small lobbies make this game actually work," Reddit user orkan added. "Tons of random things spawn in the game that you basically never see in 20+ person lobbies."
Alongside the increased spawns and random encounters, some players have reported fewer connection issues and improved framerates in dense areas. It's also provided a solution to the human problem of griefing, with players anecdotally reporting a reduction in toxic behaviour. Fewer people, fewer problems.
Not everyone's a fan, however, and some have mourned the loss of frequent player interaction provided by the big lobbies. It seems to have sparked something of a debate on the Red Dead Online subreddit, with players arguing over whether the smaller lobbies should be kept.
Considering Red Dead Online has been criticised for problems with griefing, broken animal spawns and having an empty-feeling world, the smaller lobbies could be a solution to many of Red Dead Online's more persistent bugs and issues. We'll have to see whether Rockstar intends to keep the smaller lobbies and give players some options on lobby sizes... or whether this entire thing is simply a bug that will be ironed out.
Meanwhile, something Rockstar definitely did intend to add was yesterday's sightseeing mission update, which introduces the new Milk Coyote for players to track down.
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