Bungie History
The Juggernougat


The experience with Pathways into Darkness had taught Bungie two important lessons: One is that without a story a game is a lesser thing and secondly, that it's a lot easier to tell a story with convincing graphics. Roll these two elements together and you've got what's arguably the greatest Macintosh game ever: Marathon.

Although begun as a sequel to Pathways, Marathon was reworked dramatically, both aesthetically and creatively. Set on a starship hurtling through the void in a distant future, you play a lone security guard on the UESC Marathon, fighting off a boarding party of alien slavers. Marathon would introduce elements that would become recurring themes in the Bungie experience – networked play, full 3D movement, state of the art graphics, and advanced, disembodied AI characters that aided the player…

Marathon was released in late 1994, and picked up a number of awards in 1995. It was an unqualified success. Not only did it go toe to toe graphically with PC games like Doom and Descent, it bettered them at every turn with network play, compelling story and sheer energetic originality. The game even supported voice communication using the Mac microphone. It changed Bungie from boutique developer to leading Mac publisher almost overnight.

Jason Jones remembers its flaws, recalling wistfully, "All the characters are bitmaps, you could only draw trapezoids. When you looked up and down in Marathon – it's actually just distorting the geometry. It's an optical illusion."

So they hit the ground running in 1995. With barely a pause for breath, Bungie started work on Marathon 2: Durandal. The eponymous AI Durandal kidnaps our nameless hero and whisks him off to a distant world to battle an alien race. The game was more than just a sequel, it was a big expansion of the technology, the story and the gameplay. It included game modes like Tag, King of the Hill, and Kill the Man With the Ball, and allowed the single-player scenario to be played cooperatively. Sound familiar?

Marathon 2, released in November 1995, was also the first Bungie game to be ported to PC (Windows 95, in September 1996), marking Bungie's transition from Mac specialist to multi-platform publisher. It coincided with tremendous growth – the company's revenues shot up an astonishing 500%. This was now a company with a marketing staff, programmers, artists, desks, Post-It notes – the whole deal!

1996 was also the first multiple game release year: Bungie published the Crack Dot Com-developed shooter Abuse. They also released the aptly-named Marathon: Infinity for the Mac. Developed in conjunction with ex-team member Greg Kirkpatrick's (he actually wrote the Marathon storyline) Double Aught Studios, it featured built-in editing tools, so players were able to create, save and swap their own levels and scenarios. It was the last new Marathon game, and the beginning of a new era.

Worst. Bug. Ever

Now you've seen some nasty video game bugs in your time, right? Like bits of 3D geometry that pass through each other in FPS games, or games that crash just in the middle of your save – ooh that stinks! You've seen games that drop frames when anything bigger than a Space Invader shows up, but Bungie had one that could beat 'em all. It was a doozy. How about a bug that erased your entire hard drive, and wiped it cleaner than Ghandi's driving record?

It was discovered by a very nice young lady in a Japanese office as she worked on the Asian versions of Myth – just as she was trying out the final build. She attempted to uninstall it from the main root folder of her hard drive – not brilliant, but pretty common practice – and perfectly fine for most games. The game proceeded to eat her hard drive like a fresh Bento Box.

Luckily (if the word luck can be applied to this horror) the game hadn't actually been shipped to stores yet. It had however been burned, printed and boxed. It was ready to ship. Bungie employees had to actually go the factory, tear off the shrink wrap and replace bad disks with good. It cost the company roughly the profits the game earned, to swap out the faulty disks. But you know, rather than a class action lawsuit…