It's been nearly a year since GTAForums member RedDagger started a thread dedicated to "landmark analysis" of Red Dead Redemption 2 — a game that, at the time, was still nowhere close to coming out. "The aim is to get an idea of real-world locations within the game, and hopefully recreate the in-game map, using official trailers and screenshots," RedDagger wrote.
Image source: Rockstar.
In the months since, the thread has blossomed into a behemoth of nearly 30 pages, a connect-the-dots effort that's one part legitimate sleuthing effort and one part that conspiracy image of Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This, despite the fact that Red Dead Redemption 2 trailers and screenshots have been so scarce that it's considered a gosh-danged-to-heck event every time Rockstar reveals something new.
GTAForums user GourangaMaster points out the same landmarks across multiple scenes.
The biggest boon to the mapping effort has also become one of its most controversial elements. Around the time Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced last year, somebody posted what they claimed was a "leaked" image of the game's map to NeoGAF. The map was taken down, but not before it spread to the roughest, rowdiest corners of the internet, and Techradar spoke to a source who claimed the map was real. As Rockstar's divulged more info about Red Dead Redemption 2, locations from the map have shown up in trailers, lending it credence. Mappers have taken to identifying landmarks and then placing events from trailers at their approximate locations on the map.
GTAForums user JeyM shows the possible locations of events from the latest Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer on the leaked map.
One user, Alz, compared the leaked map to the maps from the first Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto 5. Red Dead 2 weighed in at 91,207 pixels, or around 22.8 square km, while Red Dead 1 was a more svelte 59,385 pixels, or 15 square km, and GTA 5 tipped the scales at 230,257 pixels, or around 57.8 square km. But one shouldn't directly compare the two map sizes, since they're from radically different games. "It should be obvious though travelling across land will be slower on horse than a Ferrari," Alz said. "It will still feel very big in the sequel."
A few mappers, however, are still sceptical of the leak, or at least worry that it might end up dated or inaccurate when the game finally releases in the autumn of 2018.
"I still see no reason to give the 'leaked map' any credence," wrote user Chinese Takeout. "Everything I see posted here since it leaked is purely confirmation bias. I remain committed to sketching out the map from the official sources we have been given (2 trailers and some screens)."
"I think most of us agree now that the 'leaked' map is just too good to be a fake/fan made map," wrote a user named DuPz0r. "Even though the evidence is overwhelming, I will still create my fan map alongside the trailers and screenshots with no influence from the leaked map."
So even though not everyone agrees on how to go about mapping out the game, it's clear that they're making serious progress. We'll see if the mappers are right soon, unless Jason Schreier delays the game again.