A lot has happened since we last
spoke with the guys at Red vs. Blue.
Back in July of 2003, the Red vs. Blue projectwas still in its infancy and just starting to take over the world and bring the art of machinima to a whole new level. Now, 16 months later, Red vs. Blue is practically a household name. Frominterviews on the BBC to producing videos for Xbox kiosks in retail stores to starring in a big chunk of the Halo 2 bonus DVD, the team from Buda, TX has come a long way in a short time.
With the release of Halo 2, the winds of change are blowin. A new game, full of new content and materials, opens up a whole new array of possibilities for the future of the series. I recently hada chance to catch up with Buzby, aka Burnie Burns, and get some insight into how life has been for team RvB and how Halo 2 will shake things up. And, we've got a special video treat to share as well!
Hey Burnie, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us! It's hard to believe it's been 16 months since we last interviewed you guys for Bungie.net. A lot has happened since then! How would you describe the past year and a half?
It's been pretty crazy. Red vs Blue surpassed even my wildest expectations about four months into the project. It really just started as a writing project for me and quickly grew into this time-consuming monster. The first six months were absolutely crazy. We went from 3,000 hits a day to 850,000 downloads a week. We routinely have about 180 Terabytes of downloads in a month now. It was a struggle just to manage that and keep producing episodes AND work our day jobs.
Did you guys really expect to still be creating episodes of RvB this long after the series' debut? Why do you think it's caught on so well and become so popular?
The original run was expected to be about six episodes. We had the Warthog stuff and some jokes about a private getting stuck with pink armor. It grew so fast, the pink armor bits ended up around Episode 15, by then we knew we would be doing it a while. I can't really say what made it so popular. I've worked on a number of different website writing and such that never really went anywhere. Consistency is a big part. There are lots of content sites on the web but the updates are sporadic. And machinima certainly existed long before Red vs Blue. We just started doing regular episodes every week and people had something to come back and see.
So, what's the BEST thing and the WORST thing about now being international celebrities? Seems like everywhere I look I see RvB. Hell, I even saw Season 2 discs on sale on the counter at a local Gamestop. That's BIG TIME! Surely you have some wacky stories you can share (keep in mind this is mostly a PG-13 website).
Well, we're not jaded. It's still a very cool and really odd experience to see a Red vs Blue piece on G4 or playing on an Xbox kiosk in a retail store. The biggest perk was getting to play Halo 2 three times before launch -- I had no problem flaunting that to all my friends.
I don't think you can call internet famous actually being a celebrity. I have never been recognized anywhere, but Gus gets it all the time. When he goes to Best Buy or Fry's, he's recognized about fifty percent of the time.
He even got recognized in London. That was pretty odd. I'm just really happy if people know what RvB is when I talk to them. It's difficult to explain if someone is not familiar with it.
Speaking of websites, your own site just finished going through a major overhaul. For those who haven't yet seen the new hotness, what can you tell us about it?
Yeah, we had a forum on the old site, but it was just a simple phpBB forum that we did not put much effort into. At E3 this year, we met with some web designers and started building a community for gamers and filmmakers at roosterteeth.com. It's a fun design where everyone has a journal, you can link to friends, and the forums are integrated with the news pages. We're moving to v1.5 of the site very soon, which should be great because the site itself will start to have some gaming functionality. Like using the site will gain you points that unlock certain features of the website. Should be fun, if we don't completely screw it up.
Ok, now for what we really want to talk about - Halo 2. What did you guys do to ring in Halo 2uesday? Any midnight madness antics or sudden "illnesses" to cope with?
We went around to a bunch of Gamestops in town and talked with people in line about the game. The one closest to my house has only been open about six months, but had a line for pre-orders down the block. We saw another one that was the entire length of the shopping mall. It seemed like it was a quarter-mile long. It was crazy. Since launch, I have been playing Team Skirmish on Live almost non-stop. Gus and Geoff are Co-Oping the Campaign and we're all spending lots of time testing the bits and pieces that help us make Red vs Blue. Any "illness" on the day of launch was legitimate and came from releasing three episodes of RvB in 48 hours. I got 4 hours of sleep in three days. After Episode 43 came out, I actually fell asleep in mid-sentence while talking to someone. They thought I died.
What are you guys most excited about in regards to Halo 2 - the multiplayer or singleplayer?
I love multiplayer, but that's the way I have always been. RvB is all about the crazy aspects of multiplayer games, so it's easy to guess that I always loved multiplayer games. I probably have logged about 5x the hours on Live that I have in Campaign. My favorite part of Campaign are the cut scene cinematics done by Joe and his team. They're really tremendous. I just read they did them in the game engine and not as a pre-rendered video. I have no idea how they managed that, but I hope to be that smart one day.
Who's the best Halo 2 player around there? The worst?
I'm by far the best, although Gus would probably incorrectly disagree with that. I say "incorrectly" because he is not better than me. I am far superior. Matt (Sarge) is the worst. Also, I am better than Gus. Internet connections in Buda, TX kind of suck. I'm lucky if I can get a solid ping every time I want to play. It's amazing I am still able to beat Gus so easily.
Do you have any game tips of your own that you'd be willing to share with our readers?
Never underestimate the power of a dual wielded plasma pistol. Taking out a shield with one shot is a big surprise. Also, dual wielding has made people forget about the glory of a well placed grenade. Don't be afraid to kick it old school, people.
I think a lot of fans have been looking forward to seeing RvB make the jump to Halo 2. In the days leading up to Halo 2 release, you guys overwhelmed us with back-to-back-to-back episodes of RvB. This mini saga concludes with the team being blown into the future, where they appear a lot "shinier." (btw, the throwback to Marathon was genius!) What was it like making that first episode with the new game?
The hardest part was not playing the game since it was new to us. I have no idea how any work gets done at Bungie once you get some playable builds, if I worked there I would just play Single Flag CTF all day and claim I was testing. There's lots of new quirks with the new engine, some stuff that makes RvB easier, some that makes it a little more challenging. A cool new feature is that the multiplayer MC's can now walk instead of just running very slowly. That's really cool and looks more natural cinematically.
The Marathon throwback was a big twist. We knew people expected the jump to Halo 2 and since we were presenting Halo 2 as "the future" in RvB, in seemed like a funny and surprising way to represent the past. We have had many, many e-mails informing us that while Marathon was released before Halo, it actually takes place many years after Halo in the official Bungie timeline. I want to remind these people that we made our characters travel through time by literally "knocking them into next week". You're going to have to suspend your disbelief a little.
When you guys were here visiting Bungie a few weeks ago, it was really cool seeing and hearing your reaction to all the changes in the game. What kinds of things are you most excited about in regards to using Halo 2 to further the RvB stories?
Sketch showed me the features of bungie.net that have shots of all the maps with stats and kill locations. That blew me away -- I am total stats monkey.
As far as furthering RvB stories, we get most of our inspiration by playing. That's why we made the first H2 episode fairly story-independent, we had not had much playing time yet. We chose Burial Mounds for the set, because it looks so post-apocalyptic. As we play on the maps and explore the world, we'll be building stories based on the possibilities. I want to stay away from Zanzibar for a while. We have so many ideas for that map.
The most exciting feature is the Covenant model. We got a lot of mileage using identical characters with different colors, it's going to be very refreshing to have a whole new model to work with.
The head look bug in Halo that made RvB possible (the bug basically meant that when his gun was pointed at the ground, a Halo character's head remained looking directly forward) was fixed for Halo 2. Was this something you guys were worried about? It must have been a big relief to discover that the team added in an intentional (i.e. nonbug) way to lower your gun and still move your head. You know the only reason that's even in there is to support the kinds of projects you guys are creating...=)
I cannot tell you how much sleep I lost over the removal of the head look bug. I can remember when we first discovered it. It made the whole series possible. The fact that the designers went out of their way to add the feature back in was very humbling considering how busy I know everyone was -- we cannot thank them enough. I know that everyone who makes narrative Halo machinima thanks you as well. The feature that allows you to lower your gun has no impact on gameplay, so adding it for machinima filmmakers just shows how much you guys support your fans.
(note - In multiplayer, if you press down on the D-pad, your character will lower their weapon (doesn't work with all weapons) and you can move their head around independant of the gun. It's not obvious in first person but if someone is looking at you they'll see it. - sketch)
Where do you see RvB in another year? Two years? Five years? How long will you guys keep doing this?
Who knows? I would like to think we'll be doing this forever. We have so much fun doing it.
I know you've moved on to some other projects now besides strictly doing RvB. Care to talk about those at all?
Sure. We just started a new series in The Sims 2 called The Strangerhood. It's very different from RvB, both in theme and mechanics. We think some RvB fans will like it, but it's more experiment to try something totally new. It's linked off the
site if anyone would like to check it out.
Thanks again for chatting with us guys. All of us at Bungie are huge fans and we continue to be blown away by the hilarious and awesome things you guys have managed to do with our little ole' game. We can't wait to see what you do next. And, on a side note, team RvB better start practicing - We're looking forward to meeting on the battlefield in a future "Halo Humpday Challenge."
Now that we don't have to look at our feet to make episodes, we should actually be halfway decent at playing.
As a special thanks to the Bungie team and in celebration of the release of Halo 2, our pals at Rooster Teeth Productions created a special video for us to show at our team launch party. It's simply too hilarious to notshare with the rest of the world so we're making it available on Bungie.net.
You can get "Go for Launch" (Windows Media 44.3mb) right
Right click "save as")
And, if you haven't been keeping up with the latest RvB episodes, do yourself a favor and head over to
and check 'em out now! The final multi-part story that makes the jump into the realm of Halo 2 is not to be missed!