There aren’t too many companies as downright ludicrous, hilarious and hard working as the guys and gals from Rooster Teeth. Formed in 2003 by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey, Gus Sorola and Joel Heyman, the founders struck gold with their Machinima series Red vs Blue and soon forged a powerhouse that cultivated regular content spanning multiple channels.
It was with this new found internet fame and loyal community following that the company launched their own convention, RTX, that celebrated a convergence of internet and gaming culture.
Starting out with a mere 400 attendees in their home of Austin, Texas in 2011, the con grew exponentially. It was announced last year that the gang would be holding RTX outside of the States for the first time ever at Sydney’s Australian Technology Park. That weekend just passed.
You never really grasp just how many fans there are of something until every single freaking one of them floods an exhibition center and this was the case, with people snaking round Technology Park, itching to get through the doors.
The floor was quite spacious considering the number of people and indie developers and niche stores enthusiastically awaited fans. After the initial surveying was done I huddled around the large crowd awaiting the keynote speech on the main stage. Burnie welcomed everyone to the show and passed the mic along to our very own, Good Game’s Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen.
She waxed lyrical on her beginnings in the game industry, the tumultuous times and the good and drove home the very essence of Rooster Teeth’s MO, community and and the evolution of the gaming industry because of us.
Next up was Big Head Mode in the Theater Room presenting Truly Awful Games. The panel chuckled and jested over live demos of critically panned games including Ride to Hell, Naughty Bear, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers and Star Trek. It felt right at home at RTX – Achievement Hunter (a subsidiary of RT) of course make a living out of playing whatever game will incite the most laughs.
Norman Wang of Opaque media, visionaries working with VR, hosted Virtual Reality is Here. Throughout the hour Norman highlighted the history of storytelling in video games and told of his company’s ambition to elevate that idea with VR technology and fully immerse you in vivid worlds.
Center stage was home to all things Rooster Teeth. The Cast and Crew of their debut feature film Lazer Team, including surprise guest Gavin Free, discussed their time on set and treated us to some brand new footage from the film.
The guys at the recently acquired Fun Haus challenged the Rooster Teeth team to some Rocket League, which proved to be not only majorly one sided but stupidly funny.
I took a seat at one of the most important panels of the con too – Diversity in Games with some of the crew behind GX Australia (They will be holding their own convention in Sydney on February 27-28 and we’ll be covering that too).
The trio had an in depth talk about the lack of gay and ethnic characters in games as well as the roles that women facilitate in an industry that is filled to the brim with white, male protagonists. It was a thought provoking talk and one that needs to happen more consistently in order subvert the cliched and “safe” way in which we view games.
Day 2 opened with Lindsay Jones, Micheal Jones, Geoff Ramsey and Ryan Haywood of Achievement Hunter going Off-Topic on the main stage. It was easily the funniest portion of the con, with Geoff doing what he does best and regaling fans with his wacky stories.
Freddie Wong hosted Rocket Jump. The Show, The Panel and spoke about his numerous projects and shorts on YouTube. The charismatic host cast aside the formalities however and kicked off and impromptu Q&A. It was a nice chat as he liked to put it and put into perspective how down to earth and community driven this team really is.
I also saw a couple of panels dedicated to two of Rooster Teeth’s more news oriented shows. The cast of The Know turned out to answer questions about games journalism, procuring sources within the industry and what it’s like to battle prank videos on YouTube in order to stand out.
The Patch, which is a podcast focused on all things happening with video games spiraled into talk of Gus’ hemorrhoid problems and arguments about laptop gaming and AR vs VR. Rooster Teeth are always at their best when they’re winging it and straying from the subjects they’re supposed to be talking about and The Patch panel really cemented that.
If panels weren’t your thing, you could line up for signings or take a load off in the Doom bar, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Me, I wandered through the indie games section, checking out titles like the always fun Screencheat and the tense, stealthy Rogue Agent from Roguebox studios.
I talked with a couple of developers that had their games on show. First up was the team from Shadowplay Studios and their Limbo-esqe platformer Projection. It’s about an orphaned girl who’s lifeless city has fueled her curiosity about the outside world. In doing so she explores lost cultures and must use light sources to create platforms and get through each level. The game looks wonderful and has a style (think shadow puppets and Kirigami) that is not only unique but makes beautiful use of light and shadows. They want to keep it relatively simple and have stuck to puzzle solving rather than combat. Projection looks to have another year left in development but the team is excited to release it on Steam and hopefully PS4 and Xbox One.
I also spoke with the guys at Corrupted Games about their new game Super Adventure Pals 2. The first question I asked was whether it was inspired by Adventure Time or not and I was assured that it has elements. It revolves around a boy and his giraffe who must save the world from a tyrant, intent on turning your dad into a hotdog. Yep. It’s a platformer with different quests, new towns to discover and a heap of upgrades to aid you in combat. It’s bright, fast and loony and they are looking to release it in April on Steam and hopefully Playstation.
As is always expected for a first time convention, there were a few kinks that need to be looked at in the years to come. I say kinks but in reality they are glaring flaws that deeply affected the con. The first of which was the heat. Sydney was a muggy 27 degrees over the weekend and with no solid air conditioning, The Expo Hall was relegated to a sea of waving guide books as fans tried (in vain) to cool themselves down. The air, subsequently was quite thick and unpleasant due to the voluminous turn out. This became much of a running gag as hosts of panels joked about coming to see them in the smaller rooms because they were cooler.
My second concern was the placement of the main stage. Situated in the very same hall that the exhibition took place, a high number of chairs were placed but in no way whatsoever were they able to cater for the masses. This subsequently meant that people needed to stand on the sides but the stage and screens were blocked by the architecture of the hall. It was kind of a catch 22 – on one hand it was nice that there was always something going on in in the expo hall and you didn’t have to remove yourself but it meant that unless you got a seat first thing in the morning, you were shit out of luck. It deterred people (me at least) from watching those panels that they really wanted to see because they didn’t want to stand for an hour looking at a giant pillar.
My final complaint is a dual one. RTX was revered for being one of the first places that you could play AAA titles such as Halo 4 and Rainbow Six: Siege. But in Sydney this past weekend, there was not one major title to be seen and only a handful of Independent titles. Let me be clear, indies are amazing and I think we should be supporting them. In fact if RTX wants to pitch itself as “home of the indies” then I am all for it, but that isn’t the case and isn’t what we were lead to believe. Furthermore, that gripe may have been rendered a mild inconvenience if it wasn’t for the very visible fact that the merchandise stands far outnumbered the game pavilions. The Gametraders booth for instance was bigger than any other vendor there. Dave said it about PAX 2015 in his wrap up last year but that paled in comparison to RTX, where a majority of the expo hall was taken up by vendors hawking their wares.
RTX AU wasn’t without its issues (or Rooster Teething problems – My fiancè is super proud of that, let her have it) . The heat, main stage and lack of things to do unless you were planning on watching panels all day were its main detractors. But at its core, RTX has always been about one thing, and that is getting up close with your favourite personalities and this was offered in spades. Rooster Teeth have always invested a lot into their community and they will be the first to admit that they would be nothing without them. The very simple objective to give back is the reason that RTX exists in the first place and they are an infectious, fun, warm and thankful group of people so what I lament, may not have mattered to everyone else.
These complaints are now moot though because it has been announced that RTX will return in 2017 on Feb 3-4 at the brand new Darling Harbour Centre. This should not only fix a number of problems but shoud give it new life and a fresh new vibe, just like PAX in Melbourne when it moved to the Exhibition Centre.