This past April 1st marked the four-year anniversary of the premiere of the machinima series that brought massive attention to the genre – Red vs Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles. It was also the day that series creator, Michael “Burnie” Burns announced to fans everywhere, “Episode 100 is going to be the last installment…100 is a great number, and it seems like the perfect place to call it a show.”
The perfect time came three-and-a-half months later. Roosterteeth Productions, the seven-man production company behind the series that boasts over 500,000 registered users and over 1 million downloads per week, posted “RvB Episode 100 – why were we here?” late last night, and with it came the bittersweet end of an era.
No, RvB wasn’t the first machinima series. This niche art of “filmmaking within a real-time 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies” first started gaining appeal with the release of the first-person shooter Quake in 1996. Instead of requiring prohibitively expensive and complex professional animation software, gamers with a pension for cinematics could tap into Quake’s virtual world and create their own films in real-time, with relative ease.
The relatively silent, 90-second Diary of a Camper by United Ranger Films was the first movie to tell a story independent of the basic shoot-em-up Quake premise, and the first true piece of machinima. Just as Rocketboom inspired thousands of would-be videobloggers to put themselves in front of the camera, United Ranger Films energized its own cross section of gamers to film their own virtual stories.
And no, RvB isn’t the only popular machinima series. The French fighter pilot comedy Bill et John took home four awards from last year’s Machinima Festival. And the Ill Clan, a studio out of Brooklyn, NY that’s been around since 1998, has seen substantial followings for its bumbling escapades of lumberjacks Lenny and Larry and energetic rag-doll talk show.
But RvB is arguably the best machinima series. As Wired’s Chris Kohler notes, “The comedy series, featuring two squads of hapless Halo heroes locked in an endless civil war prolonged mostly by their own ineptitude, took the emerging machinima medium mainstream.” Burns and the Roosterteeth crew placed a sci-fi-inspired storyline inside of a click-click-boom video game world, and made it accessible way beyond gamer geeks and l33t sp34kers.
With sly and witty writing they infused character, emotion, and quirky comedy into empty, robotic Halo soldiers. After only a few episodes, Sarge’s gravely Full Metal tone seems only fitting for his particular shade of shiny red metal body armor, and Boose’s dense and abstract antics fit perfectly with his person and within the Blue Team as a whole.
I have to commend Roosterteeth for ending the series on their own terms, and while there are promises for the occasional Red vs. Blue special, the show will surely be missed.
After correcting his rather conspicuous position in front of a Red base, Boose once energetically remarked “I’m having a lot of fun!” It was an exclamation that I think perfectly encapsulates the series, and I was glad to hear it. I had a lot of fun watching.