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Players find piles of dead horses in Red Dead Online

Oh no! Poor Hayseed!

Pile of dead horses in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Online
Not to uh, you know, but ... OK, OK, OK
Rockstar Games via Reddit
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Something weird and/or spooky is going on in Red Dead Online. Yesterday players started finding big piles of skinned, dead horses laying around. Others report ghost towns, with no animals or NPCs spawning. Either Tywin Lannister is guest starring, or something else is about to go down in Rockstar Games’ west world.

Here’s a glimpse of one such equine pile, in Valentine. Players report that every living thing across the entire map has apparently been eradicated, as if by some unseen (developer’s) hand.

However, others have reported constant crashes — including when approaching one of these piles — so it’s not clear how much, if any, of this is intended. Red Dead Online just came out of a long beta period this week with a huge update intended to “strengthen and stabilize the foundational world of the Red Dead Online experience.” That does not appear to be the outcome.

“There are no humans and animals at all in online for me right now. Feeling like Will Smith in I Am Legend, the world is absolutely dead but you can still hear the ambient sounds, it’s really spooky,” said Redditor MYNAMEISHENDRIK. “Every ten minutes a stagecoach without rider appears and the only people who appear are shop owners. Sometimes quest givers appear at their spot, sometimes not but missions will not start.

They continue, “There are no more animals, not even small rabbits. When I played yesterday there where only few NPCs on the streets in comparison to story mode but I thought they decreased the amount of people just for performance reasons but now every living being is gone. Must have something to do with the burned animal pile in Valentine.”

The pile of dead animals is very clearly deliberate, if not also ominous, but the gameplay impacts of having every living non-player thing not present also make this sound like something screwed up in execution. It’s unlikely this is a mordant commentary on American thoroughbred racing, which yesterday ran a dreadful Preakness Stakes, but you never know.

Rockstar Games hasn’t commented yet on what this is, being a Sunday. We still asked, concerned as we are about Cass Marshall’s big dumb horse and all of his pony friends. The company’s official Twitter is so far mum.

Update: We just received a very brief email from a Rockstar Games representative which said only “that’s been fixed.” We asked for more detail, because if it was a glitch it seemed like a weirdly portentous one. But it appears that all of this really was unintentional and perhaps tied to the big Red Dead Online update growing pains from earlier in the week.

Update: The comment from developers sounds as if this was indeed just some very large, albeit coincidentally coordinated, glitch.

“The issue affecting some players in Red Dead Online that was causing reduced numbers of animals in session and other knock-on effects has been resolved.”

The next level of puzzles.

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