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How Rockstar Games art director Aaron Garbut created the epic world of Red Dead Redemption 2

How Rockstar Games art director Aaron Garbut created the epic world of Red Dead Redemption 2
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]


When Rockstar Games released its Western epic video game Red Dead Redemption 2, in October 2018, it was the biggest entertainment launch in history, generating $725 million in revenue in its first three days. Behind the game’s debut was a team of 2,000 developers and artists, who worked for more than seven years to create its hyperimmersive American Southwest landscape. “My goal is to create a real place—or as close as we can get to one,” says art director Aaron Garbut, who led the world-building team. While the creative process for most games involves writing a script and then creating the setting, Garbut focused on building the world first: swaths of undifferentiated forests and rough boxes for buildings. Slowly, a rectangle would become a house, as the story team thought out who would live there, what they would own, what their routine would be, and even how the grass would be matted where they walked each day. Only then did the team plot out the characters’ actions. The result is an environment so realistic that it’s even drawn bird watchers seeking glimpses (and sounds) of American fowl, circa 1899.

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