Doug Zartman: He's Everywhere!
Tuesday, February 18th, 2003, 7:09 PM
The name Doug Zartman is familiar to most old-school Bungie fans; for years he was the official mouthpiece and Social Engineer of Bungie Software. He did the interviews, wrote the press releases, box copy, and basically every written word to come out of Bungie for the bulk of its existence. But many fans know him primarily for his spoken-word contribution to the Bungie legacy: as the Voice of Bob, the chucklehead cannon-fodder of the Marathon series, Doug's heartfelt delivery of lines like "Thank god it's you!" and "They're everywhere!" lodged solidly in the psyche of everyone who ever played those games.
After Microsoft bought Bungie in 2000, a nasty rumor spread that Doug Zartman had elected to stay in Chicago because he couldn't stomach working for the Evil Microsoft Empire. We're happy to inform those people who see Doug as a downtrodden martyr that he's alive and well and working for Microsoft in Washington. What's more, he's working extensively with Bungie, helping us make our longstanding dreams of action figures and other cool tie-ins a reality.
With ToyFair going on in New York this week, I thought this would be a good time to sit down for a chat with Doug so Bungie fans old and new can find out what he's up to these days.
What are you up to these days, Doug?
I'm up to my armpits in the Halo universe. And a couple of other universes. Sort of a multiverse. I work in the Franchise Development Group, part of Microsoft Game Studios Licensing. We're a small group with a big heart, who are responsible for all licensing of first-party titles for ancillary products, like action figures, novels, strategy guides, comics, board games, film/TV, soundtracks, etc. etc.
What was your role in the whole Halo Action Figure saga?
"Was"? I and Melethia Campbell are managing the relationship between Bungie, MS and Joyride Studios, who are currently working on the Halo figures, prototypes of which are on display at Toy Fair this week. I keep track of asset transfers, approvals, current versions, prioritizing next steps. The Bungie action figure team of Lorraine, Shiek, Juan and Rob have worked their tails off creating guides, screens, drawings and other assets to guide the sculptors. There's a ways to go yet - just as it's necessary to show beta software to the press and buyers at E3, it's necessary for Joyride to show unfinished figures at Toy Fair - but we've come a long way thus far.
And how about them Halo novels? What's happening there?
William C. Dietz wrapped up the novelization of the game a couple of months ago, which is slated to come out the first Tuesday in April. I haven't checked a calendar to see what date that might be - I'm sure it has no significance whatsoever. My role there is to provide the writer with story bibles and other material to get them up to speed on the property, answer questions or get them from the right person at Bungie, edit, fact-check, try to enforce continuity in the franchise and provide a shoulder to cry on. <wring, wring>
My colleague Eric S. Trautmann has not gotten all of the props he deserves for his giant contributions to "Halo: The Fall of Reach" and "Halo: The Flood". His assiduous editing, and even rewriting of significant sections as needed, is largely uncredited but has been a great benefit to the novels. Brannon Boren, as you may read on another site, has also contributed greatly to the universe.
What's the best part of your current job?
It's fascinating to me to see how aspects of a fictional universe need to be altered or expanded upon when it's brought into a new medium. For example, Halo the Xbox game isn't very specific about what the inside edge of an Elite's armor looks like, or where all those Pelicans that ferry the MC around are based, but those details have to be created for action figures and novels, respectively.
What's the biggest change moving from an organization like Bungie to Microsoft?
The shirts. Bungie shirts typically come in a wide range of colors and artwork, while Xbox shirts tend toward the traditional black, white and Xbox green, with the familiar logo. Other than that...
Do any of your new Microsoft co-workers recognize you as the voice of Bob?
Yes, Trautmann was a Marathon junkie going way back, and Boren is getting better acquainted with my high-pitched squeal thanks in part to fine M1A1 crew that put out Aleph One.
I hear you Licensing guys are Halo fiends. How do you stack up against your co-workers?
My corpses stack up in a neat ring around Trautmann's feet. The SPNKR skills I developed in Thunderdome translate well to Halo, and in a small, SPNKR-rich environment, I can dominate, but he's still better with the sniper rifle. And plasma grenades. And headshots generally. You know, with the killing and all.
Not many people remember that you were Bungie's resident space colonization buff. Has any work been done in that field lately that you'd like to discuss?
Not many? Joe assured me my BTV interview on the subject reached an audience in the tens of millions. You might wanna check your figures.
No, there hasn't been much recent advancement in the field that's worth getting excited about, and it's a damn shame. How long did it take to move from Kitty Hawk to Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon? 60 years. It's been 30+ years since then, and how much farther have we moved into space? Why aren't we getting 30% of our total energy needs from space solar power? Why aren't ordinary people able to book a 3-day stay at an orbiting hotel for $10k instead of $20 million? Why aren't there wilderness domes under the lunar surface, spreading life in a lifeless environment? There are a lot of reasons why, but (to varying degrees) all this stuff could have been done by now, and it irks me that I may not live to see it.
The most encouraging recent development, for me, is the surprisingly broad expression of public support for a continued human presence in space following the loss of the shuttle Columbia. While I feel for the families of the Columbia crew, they've made it clear they think that those astronauts died well and without regret. Doesn't mean we should turn our backs on that frontier. Just gotta get rid of the shuttle, and restructure NASA.
You were also our resident expert on primitive man. Which interest came first, cavemen or space-men? Is there anything that sort of links them together for you?
I've been on a unsuccessful, years-long quest to find a book that I loved as a child, which showed a boy of "today" (the late 60's or early 70's) visited by his counterparts from the past and the future. There was a cave boy who wore furs and carried a spear, and a future boy who zipped around on a circular flying platform. I remember very little of this book (no inkling of the title, author, or pub date), but I believe the gist of it was that, while these boys lived very different lives, they still had common human experiences, and could relate to each other. AFAIK, these two interests, in the long view of the human race collectively, began simultaneously. If this book sounds familiar to anyone, please email info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That first band of Homo Erectus (you, in the back! No giggling!) who crossed the Sinai to leave their African homeland and venture into a new, hostile environment took a giant leap for humanity comparable to landing a man on the Moon. Prehistoric humans were tough, resourceful, badass heroes in my book, and it's high time someone made a game that gives them their due. Or perhaps someone already is.
Reputable sources inform me that you front a rock band in your copious spare time.
Are those sources reputable for their lies? I can neither confirm nor deny reports that a band called Doug and the Rockers is rocktastic, rockalicious and chock full of Douggy goodness. I can confirm that I was once fortunate enough to sit in on a session of the Webmaster's Jug Band - now there's a band. If they weren't so secretive, they'd be the talk of the upcoming Lollapalooza.