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NYCC 2014 Interview: Monty Oum and Rooster Teeth Talks What's Coming for RWBY

Monty Oum, Barbara Dunkelman, and Kerry Shawcross discuss season 2 of RWBY and the upcoming game RWBY fighting game - that started with a single fan.

For some people, having the benevolent eye of one of the biggest tech corporations on the globe looking kindly upon you, would be wonderful. Garnering fame and fortune, enough to build a thriving business with a name anyone can remember, would be a dream come true. Owning the longest-running webseries on the planet would be hey, good enough. 

And then there's Rooster Teeth.

Based in Austin, Texas, Rooster Teeth is a production studio specializing in live action shorts, animated shorts, and machinima. What began as one man's project - that is, recording gameplay videos and voiceovers using popular FPS game Halo: Combat Evolved - turned into an award-winning comedy sci-fi webseries that has spanned 10 years and is still going strong. 

As if this wasn't enough, they also punch out:

  • Comedy gamer series The Gauntlet
  • Immersion, a show testing video game concepts in the real world
  • The Achievement Hunter website
  • The Rooster Teeth podcast (voted Best Gaming Podcast in 2013)
  • RTX, an annual gaming and internet convention for gamers, online video fans, and Rooster Teeth community members from around the world
  • RWBY, award-winning animated series and animator Monty Oum's pet project

This last has been a long-standing concept of Creator/Director/Writer/Animator Oum's, one which he came up with while working on animating Red vs. Blue - to color-code character names and design as a hook for the series. 

I caught up with Monty Oum, Writer/Co-Director Kerry Shawcross, and Community Manager/RWBY Voice of "Yang" Barbara Dunkelman while they were manning the Rooster Teeth booth at NYCC, waiting to meet the fans straining eagerly to meet them and still coming down off the high of the Rooster Teeth panel a few days before.  

(photo courtesy of Venisia Gonzalez)

Set in the fictional, magic-filled world of Remnant, the series follows the doings of Team RWBY (so named for its members: Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long). 

Barely a year old, the first episode of the series was pushed into the public eye in mid-July last year - and has since won multiple awards, debuted the first episode out of upcoming RWBY Vol. 2, and millions of fans - many of whom were clustered around the Rooster Teeth booth at New York Comic Con in a line that wrapped around their booth... and the one behind it too. 

All of this in just a little over one year - and it all began with a napkin and some ketchup. Unable to keep still, Oum was nearly dancing on his feet as he related the origin story of one of the biggest internet hits of the year: 

"Yeah! I was getting pancakes. I was like 'I'mma make a map!' Napkin. Ketchup. Put it together, mashed it up - you got a map.

And there was a night during Red vs. Blue season 10. I wanted a break [so] I'm like 'I'mma make a map!' so I took the ketchup map, took a picture of it, posterized it so I had the silhouettes of the continents and then I started making the globe-looking version where I wanted mountains and forests.

We were deciding where the heights would be, and so to add detail to it I started getting pictures of food like bacon and mashed potatoes and pizza... I used it and I took the pictures of food and made it the texture of the map so there are mountains that are made out of bacon, deserts that are made out of ice cream or mashed potatoes, there are some ocean parts that are made out of, like, you know, other creamy substances... Some of the mountains are bread. There are forests that are made out of garlic bread... yeah. Yeah."

These are the building blocks of creativity. And it made us all hungry.

But it wasn't just all about the show. RWBY is one of those web series that looks like it was made for video games. And why not? Considering Oum's rise to fame making famous internet shorts like Haloid and the Dead Fantasy series, his first self-created project under the Rooster Teeth umbrella is bound to feature something game-related. Fan covers like the one pictured right have been flying around the Internet for months and interest in a RWBY game has remained at a high.

"Yeah, we know a bit. But development is slow at the moment, so all the details that we have are probably all that are available."

The cool thing is, it was the fans that got the ball rolling for them - one fan in particular. And so they brought him on the team. 

"When someone makes something like that and if we are a human being that has eyes we will see it. ... For three weeks months straight I was getting tweets and messages like 'HAVE YOU SEEN THIS, OMGGGG!' and -- 'yes, I have seen it! It is very good!'

There was no reason to not contact him and say 'Hey guy, that was cool!' My favorite thing about it he made it and he stayed quiet about it for five months - just working on it before putting it out there... which is kinda my philosophy of doing things. There's a lot of people where if they work on a big project they go 'Oh, here's a bit of this. Here's a bit of this!' and it influences the product.

It shows very responsible production when a guy can sit down, make a product, deliver it and shove a finished piece at us, and I really like that." 

Unfortunately, getting something pushed out as a fan-made project and getting it out as a fully-backed title are two different things, and it looks like we'll have a while to wait if we're hoping for a chance to check out a real live RWBY game:

"We're still working out the logistical side of the contracts and stuff. ... In the meantime  he's working on it, we're working on our side of the project... that's about it."

Check out the original clip of the game demo here:

As for what we can expect out of the RWBY series in this volume? Will some of the other characters get their own epic battle scenes and take in a little bit of the limelight?

"Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe. Yes. There's definitely a quota to fill of people to keep an eye on."

Season 2 is going to try and shift the focus back on the main group, at least for a little while. Only after getting all of that sorted will they turn to spreading the attention around to other characters. 

"It's funny the reasons why people latch onto certain characters. A lot of people really seem to like Neopolitan, and she hasn't even said anything yet. I think a lot of it is design-related."

Aside from that, you can expect more of the miniseries, which is RWBY's answer to the RvB PSAs if you're interested in knowing more about the background of the world and stuff that you just can't fit into the story all on its own. And you can expect tons more action because this series (and its creators) promise: "If you keep watching it, we'll keep making it!"

Let's hope it'll be for many years to come! If you haven't caught up with these series yet, you can find the available episodes for season 1 and 2 on the Rooster Teeth website here. 

Published Oct. 31st 2014

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