This isn't my first "first convention." I was in the fray when PAX Australia debuted in 2013. It was basically a tent and a classroom where they held really interesting talks that no one could get into and where the main expo hall was nothing more than one big game commercial. But you know what? I can forgive them. They were doing it on their own, they didn't know the intricacies of Australia and their venues, and by that I mean they kinda suck. They also didn't know how utterly devoid Australia was of any mainstream gaming content and stores. Between the juggernaut EB Games and JB Hi-Fi, there’s GameTraders and that's about all we have here. But when RTX came to town, I expected more.
They managed to enlist the help of one of Australia's biggest pop culture expos, Supanova, to help them run RTX so there were no excuses if the convention wasn't good. This is where I get to run my editorial mouth for a little bit.
RTX Australia was a poorly managed mess that was incompetently run at best, and downright greedy at worst. It was to the point where I sat down with fellow TechRaptor writer Stephen outside the venue and just wondered where the hell to even begin.
Let's talk about the most obvious flaw first: the venue. The venue was the Australian Technology Park in the Locomotive Workshop. They managed to pack some twelve thousand people into what is essentially a giant tin shed on a hot, muggy day with not a fan or air conditioning unit in sight. Unless of course you were in front of the single one sitting in the corner of the hall doing absolutely nothing.
This prompted a flurry of tweets from the official RTX AU twitter account and convention goers reminding everyone to stay hydrated. Some 15 enforcers were rushed to hospital due to heatstroke, and this was after there was meant to be around 300 enforcers, which was cut down to 200, from which about 40 didn’t bother to turn up at all.
Then there's the VIP lanyards. These were sold to 100 people and they were sold for 400 dollars. They allowed people in VIP-only places (places where even people with media passes weren't allowed to go, mind you) and were allowed to skip some queues. Now this is already a terrible idea on the face of it, but they also somehow managed to double sell the passes, which meant that 200 people had VIP passes. But here's the kicker, the passes had no identification information on them, so badge passing was rampant according to the angry mob in the comments section of the RTX AU Facebook page. I don't know what management was thinking. You have people spending 400 dollars on VIP tickets only to be turned away from signings due to time constraints. If you were a fan who couldn’t afford to shell out the extra 300 dollars to go VIP, you were stuck playing Russian roulette with lines for signings, the official merch booth, and the expo hall itself, which in most cases all barrels in this particular gun were loaded.
But for me, I love games much more than I love any single set of Internet celebrities. I say this with the utmost respect to the Rooster Teeth gang, but seeing the Indie devs who had spent a fair chunk of change on a small booth hoping for a sliver of publicity from the aforementioned teethed poultry group, only to see them shoved to the side filled me with the most disappointment. There is nothing quite as sad as watching talented and dedicated individuals with sweat pooling on their brows, not even getting so much as a shoutout from the centre stage as transparent as "hey you should probably check out the devs that have come here because they paid us a bunch of cash."
I do understand the role of this convention. The whole point was to pray to the church of RoosterTeeth, but much like Penny Arcade Expo once was, if you want your convention to be more than just a fan meet up, the least you can do is give them a quarter from the collection plate for the exhibitor's troubles. But without so much as a mention of anybody except those with the biggest wallets in any of the syllabus or advertisements that were everywhere at RTX AU, it is hard to cut them slack.
After speaking to some anonymous sources, I found out that the booth renters didn't even get a press list until the end of the first day. I know this because I started getting emails from vendors to get some press for them at 10pm on Saturday night. A time when a responsible journalist would be resting up or writing articles with their headphones on. I mean, it's not like we were going to get anything done in the media room at RTX AU, since it didn't exist despite being promised.
It was just an absolute travesty, and I honestly feel terrible as the games being shown off were all sorts of awesome. Previous favourites of mine like Lupinball and Super Mutant Alien Assault were on show again at RTX AU, and it was great seeing how their games had progressed and that their mood was still high despite the setbacks from the convention itself. On top of that you had slick concepts like Objects in Space, who will get their own indie spotlight sometime in the near future, and others like Western Press from the still awesome Surprise Attack Games publishing arm. So to appease me of my own guilt, even though I really can't do a whole lot about it, here is a list of all the games that were displayed at RTX AU, and a screenshot of how much it cost the vendors to get a simple light installed on their booths. Enjoy!
- Objects In Space – Flat Earth Games
- Western Press - Bandit-1
- Super Mutant Alien Assault - Cybernate
- Super Adventure Pals 2 – Armor Games
- Lupinball – Craftven
- Desync - Foregone
- Projection - Shadowplay Studios
- Merchants & Mercenaries - Echidna Studios
- Rogue Agent – Rogue Box Studios
- Invoker – Hell Frog Studios
- Screencheat – Sumurai Punk
- I have probably missed others, as it is super hard to find any information on the RTX AU website.
I really wanted to like RTX AU, especially after seeing the lineup of indie developers, stalls, and talks, but this was rendered impossible by what I can only describe as woeful mismanagement. I don’t like to pull the media card, especially at conventions, as I find it to be in very poor taste. But when you are promised a media room and access to seats during the talks that would allow you to actually, you know, be a journalist, it is hard to come out the other end thinking there was anything less than incompetence at play. At the very end of RTX AU 2016, they announced RTX AU for 2017, this time to take place at the yet to be completed International Convention Center in Darling Harbour.
At the very least this shows that they may have learned some quick lessons from the complaints from fans. I really hope RTX AU 2017 is great, even if the chances of me getting invited again go down with every word I type. The incredibly dedicated RoosterTeeth fans are what make events like this possible, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect.
From my perspective, to improve on this for next year they need to kill the VIP tickets, get a much better queueing system—which will hopefully be facilitated in part by the new location—and give some attention to the little guys who are trying their very best, and forking out a great deal of cash, to advertise themselves to you and your fans. Because these are the people that make your fan meet into a convention.