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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Animators turn to video games

By Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

A riotous animated series called Red vs Blue, which pokes fun at modern video game culture, is proving hugely successful online.

The internet has become a popular repository for DIY culture in the last 10 years.

Novels, comic strips, music, films and cartoons produced by amateur artists, directors and writers are available in abundance on the net with varying degrees of quality.

But a group of writers, performers and gamers in Texas have produced an increasingly popular and unusual cartoon cartoon series.

Red versus Blue
Would you find these men funny?
The cartoon details the life of two rival camps of soldiers, the Reds and Blues, who spend their time ruminating about life, the universe and everything, stationed in separate bases in a creek called Blood Gulch.

"Red vs Blue pokes fun at the basic tenets of modern video games," explained Burnie Burns, the writer and creator of Red vs Blue, who also voices the characters Church and Tex.

The series, which has reached episode 14, is unusual because it is created using a video game called Halo.

Instead of running around shooting each other the animators use the high-quality graphics engine of the game to create a believable animation world.

It is akin to digital puppetry. Just as a marionette is restricted by the strings, the characters in Red vs Blue are restricted by the limitations of the game.

The series is animated within the game, scripted dialogue is added and it is then edited and released on the net.

"It's a merger of two interests - film making and game playing," said Mr Burns.

Full-time job

"I've always been an aspiring film maker and a lifelong game player... you spend enough time doing anything, eventually it just comes together."

"We all do it on the side but in itself it's a full-time job and takes about 50 hours a week to make, " added Gustavo Sorola, who voices Simmons in the cartoon.

The animators turned to Halo because they were fans of the game.

"It's one of our favourite games and extremely popular worldwide," said Mr Burns.

He said the use of a video game saved time on animation and character design, but there were also disadvantages.

"You give up a lot of freedom - you have to write around the limitations of your chosen universe.

South Park
Red versus Blue is reminiscent of South Park
"It's great to have the minutia of animation handled by the graphics engine, but at the same time, we are limited by the movements that come pre-animated in the game."

Fans taking matters into their own hands and producing original material is nothing new.

Cult TV show Dr Who has inspired a large amount of fan fiction, as have series such as Buffy and Star Trek. The internet has also produced a number of amateur fan films

Red vs Blue is reminiscent of the anarchic energy of South Park, using at times crass and crude language which is not suitable for children.

But above all it is riotously funny and word of the series has spread virally across the internet.

Halo details
Three million copies for the Xbox have been sold
A PC version is imminent
The game has sparked a huge amount of fan fiction
Many fans have posted videos of Halo "stunts" online
Halo 2 is in development
"It's been phenomenal - far beyond what any of us expected," said Mr Sorola.

"In April we had about 200 hits and now we are getting more than 30,000."

"I never imagined that the series would be become this popular so quickly," said Mr Burns.

He said he was amazed at the appeal of a "group of videogame characters cracking a bunch of dumb jokes while they bob their heads up and down".

"We have talked to a few people at Bungie and Microsoft and from what we can tell they really enjoy the series," said Mr Sorola.

Mr Burns said: "We give voices to these grunts who have been dropped into the middle of a box canyon to battle for supremacy.

Red vs Blue
The creators are considering extending the series
"The only question is - supremacy of what? They don't know why they are there or what the purpose of the war is, they just know they're not supposed to like the guys on the other side."

Mr Burns originally planned just 22 episodes but he concedes that the popularity of the series is forcing a change of mind.

"When we first started out, we didn't think that we could spend more than one "season" in this little box canyon.

"But, as we quickly approach our goal we're realising we have a lot more story left with these characters.

"We have not decided what we will be doing next, but we'll probably be taking a short break, during which I will do an enormous amount of sleeping."




SEE ALSO:
Xbox Live put to the test
23 Feb 03  |  Technology
Delays hit Halo game sequel
10 Mar 03  |  Technology


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