‘I’m excited to be here’
At RTX 2018 last weekend, I got a chance to catch up with Rooster Teeth Games’ own David Eddings. Having previously worked for Gathering of Developers and Gearbox, Eddings is now the head of game publishing for the budding company and is looking to bring his expertise in the games industry to RT’s future projects. This wasn’t the first time I had met the man, though. I originally ran into him at Screwattack’s SGC in 2015.
At that event, Eddings was a guest on a panel that was roasting the legendary Jon St. John (voice actor for Duke Nukem). After putting on a hilarious show, he took to the audience to introduce himself and give autographs, but I had a bigger request. My sister is a massive fan of Clap-Trap from Borderlands and Eddings previously voiced him, so I thought it would be great to have him talk to her and encourage her to continue pursuing her dream of acting.
The crowd was a bit overwhelming, though, so we never really got the chance to make that happen. Instead, Eddings gave me his business card and told him to pester him with e-mails until he got the free time to do a proper recording of Clap-Trap for my sister. That eventually come to fruition and she still has the message to this day.
History aside, the first thing I wanted to know from David was what drew him to joining Rooster Teeth Games. I’m not trying to cast shade on the work they are doing, but going from Gearbox to an up and coming indie dev seems like a huge cultural shift for a guy who has worked with industry icons. As luck would have it, one of David’s old colleagues from Gathering of Developers happens to be the head of Rooster Teeth Gaming (Michael Hadwin) and he was pleading for David to join the company.
“My friend, Michael Hadwin, is the head of game development over at Rooster Teeth Games and has been around for a number of years,” Eddings said. “When they were looking at expanding, they basically looked at one spot, which was primarily me as I understand it…They actually asked me and brought me in and it was a fantastic meeting of minds. I’m excited to be here.”
Eddings’s previous role at Gearbox was Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Licensing, where he worked with retailers to distribute merchandise and even had talks with film producers about potential movie deals. Tales from the Borderlands happened, in part, because of a deal Eddings struck between Gearbox and Telltale Games. He also famously provided the voice of Clap-Trap, the breakout star of Borderlands, so you’ve likely heard his acting without even knowing it was him.
His history with licensing goes much deeper than I realized. The last title he remembers publishing at Gathering of Developers was Max Payne, but shortly after the company closed, Eddings started up a publishing company called RadioactiveClown. They issued action figures for Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, and America’s Army in the early 2000s. Perhaps in a sheer coincidence, I happen to still own one from my youth.
After that period, he started a DBA known as Funhouse Interactive. While lost to the annals of internet history, his work there resulted in a couple of PC ports of mobile games — one being Promag Rally — that launched alongside the original iPhone model in 2007. Following that, Eddings joined up with Gearbox and worked with the company until roughly 2016 before he was hired at Rooster Teeth Gaming last year.
In Eddings’s own words, though, Gearbox’s publishing success is owed to Steve Gibson. Gibson is the Head of Publishing for Gearbox’s publishing company and Eddings mainly provided him with contact information for various retailers to get projects off the ground. “Really, over at Gearbox, that was all Steve. He’s a fantastic guy,” Eddings stressed to me.
As for what Rooster Teeth Games has been doing in the year since I last spoke with Hadwin, it now has its hands on the console rights to Bendy and the Ink Machine. I vaguely remember hearing about that but it slipped my mind until the week before I was set to arrive in Texas. Since the game is launching in roughly one month, I wanted to know what RT Gaming has in the pipeline for the future.
“We have a project right now in development that looks beautiful to me,” Eddings told me. Not being able to speak too much about it, the only hint me gave me was a genre and theme. “I can say it is a sci-fi shooter. It’s got a huge twist on it and it’s going to be funny…we hope.” I do believe Eddings since he explained to me how projects he takes on must have some creative zest to them for him to be interested.
As he put it, “I’ve seen so many games and we’re friends with so many people that make games, it can sometimes be hard to get excited since it feels like you’ve seen it all. What I’m looking for in projects that we can have in the future of RT Games are things that we can build shows around.” In this instance, shows are referring to online programming and not trade events. He specifically mentions that interest lies in games that could break out into Let’s Play projects or even animated series.
The biggest show that Rooster Teeth has, at the moment, is the anime inspired RWBY. RWBY: Grimm Eclipse was actually the catalyst that got Rooster Teeth into games publishing and the series eventually made it into the hands of Arc System Works, who have so famously introduced the franchise to a wider audience when it was revealed characters from RWBY would be included in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. I was curious how that deal happened since it seems like such a random pairing.
David wasn’t a part of Rooster Teeth when that contract was signed, but he did get to meet with some of the developers in Asia close to the game’s launch. Reception to the show by Japanese fans was huge and it naturally lent its attention to Arc System Works. From there, a licensing deal was struck and the cast was included in the game. It really wasn’t a complex ordeal as Arc System Works simply wanted it to happen and Rooster Teeth was willing to see it through.
Before any of this, though, Rooster Teeth had famously been a part of the Halo series because of its original show Red Vs. Blue. The last thing I remember seeing in the series was the inclusion of “Grifball,” a game mode based on a random joke from an episode of Red Vs. Blue. While it has remained with Halo since being introduced in Halo 3, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for RT Games to continue down that avenue. “You never know,” Eddings said. “I’m friends with the guys over at Bungie, so we could be out late drinking in Vegas and come up with something that feels good. Right now, I have nothing in the works.”
As for my final question to David, I was very curious about the possibility of him returning to Clap-Trap for an eventual Borderlands 3. His voice is iconic in the role, so even attempting to replace it sounds absolutely ludicrous. If you were hoping for good news in regards to the series, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
“I have absolutely given up doing Clap-Trap,” Eddings said, a stern inflection in his voice. “The only time I’ll do the Clap-Trap voice is when I can make a kid smile and if it’s something of value to them. For me, I’ve got a lot of work to do at Rooster Teeth Games and there’s no reason for me to go back and revisit anything. I wish them [Gearbox] the best, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do, but no; I will not be reprising my role for Clap-Trap in any video game.”
In the lead up to me interviewing Eddings, I was drawing a blank on questions for him. I took to the community to get some potential material and got a couple of intriguing responses. TriCerArok was interested in knowing what he thought about the resurgence of a possible “Game Devs as Rockstars” movement like what had occurred in the ‘90s at Gathering of Developers. Both he and his personal assistant thought the question was fantastic and had a lot to say on the matter.
“Seeing a rock star kind of gives you this picture of folks that might be a little out of control,” Eddings explained, “maybe throwing things out of hotel windows, etc. What I think you’re going to see is something like with Rooster Teeth, where fans seek out the people that created something usually because they want to emulate what they’re doing or find out how they can get on the path to do that.”
“With the age of the internet, what surprises me is, with something like Bendy and the Ink Machine, I’ve had little kids come up to me at San Diego Comic-Con that knew who I was. They were asking for me by name. They knew all the players and the developers and they knew every single line in the game. What I think will happen is you’ll start seeing developers end up like celebrities instead of rock stars. Maybe something like celebrity scientists or technology people that inspire others to create instead of living in excess.”
This then trickled into a conversation about how studios are more than just an individual. Gaming is a collaborative effort between multiple people and the smart ones know when to give credit to others. Eddings made special mention of Cory Barlog, director of this year’s God of War. In interviews with Barlog, he been very humble about his involvement with the project and gives special notice to the creators under him that helped bring God of War to light.
“When people start to say like, ‘I’m the Mick Jagger,’ or whatever,” Eddings continued, “It creates this weird sort of separation that I think is not healthy with the rest of the team. While there will always be individuals that are celebrated, the rock star mentality is one of being selfish. I find the best developers are the ones that are not selfish.”
To cap things off, I took Boxman214’s joke question of, “If God can do anything, can he microwave himself a burrito so big that he himself cannot eat it?” Even I had to laugh as I was asking, but Eddings played along and offered an interesting answer.
“First of all, I’m impressed God likes burritos, so I wouldn’t put anything past him. Maybe he couldn’t eat it in one sitting, but I bet if he was able to stick it in his God fridge and keep it overnight, he would probably go back and eat the rest.”