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Marathon - Halo's predecessor
September 24, 2007 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Halo 3? Phooey! Sure, Bungie's latest title in greatest series for the Xbox is released tomorrow, but for some perspective, take a look at Marathon: Aleph One — the free, open source engine to Bungie's first achievement, the Marathon Trilogy.

Once a Mac-only title, Marathon's source code was released to the public by Bungie in 2000 (shortly before joining the Microsoft empire). The Aleph One project has expanded vastly since then, and is now available for Windows, Mac, Linux & more, has multi-player support over LAN and IP, and comes with plenty of downloadable additions, including the first three Marathon games (1, 2, and Infinity) and dozens of user-created maps, graphics, tools and scenarios.
And if you wish, you can still download the original Mac games and map editors for free.
posted by Down10 (57 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
A quick retrospective of how Halo has affected the way we live.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


Marathon Infinity was so kick ass. We had it running on all the computers in the mac labs at school. Such bad children we were.
posted by chunking express at 1:07 PM on September 24, 2007


Bungie! Not having any experience with Halo, I hadn't even realized they were the company behind it. And here I still haul out Myth II every once in awhile and wonder if, with such talent, they'd done well. Ha.
posted by dreamsign at 1:09 PM on September 24, 2007


Thank God I just sold my Xbox 360.
posted by phaedon at 1:12 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Would that they had done the same for Pathways into Darkness. One of the best, most difficult games ever.
posted by cog_nate at 1:13 PM on September 24, 2007


I remember the Mac community’s collective feeling of betrayal when the purchase of Marathon by MS was announced. Steve Jobs himself promoted Halo as the next big Mac game, but after the buyout, Halo would be the exclusive flagship game for the Xbox. I never played any of the Halo series games, but I loved me some Myth.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2007


that is, the purchase of Bungie by MS
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2007


Halo jsut looks kind of dull to me. Every time it pops up on TV and tries to impress me with it's graphics I just think "wow, what boring monsters. And rather generic weaponry". Still, I hear the weapons restrictions, squad control and vehicle handling were a big deal back in the day. And Marathon kicked ass, obviously.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2007


<slight derail>
I guess this is as good a time as any to say that I'm supposed to be a talking head on a Halo 3-related show (read "30 minute commerical for Halo 3") on the Sci Fi Channel that's on, um, right now.

I'm only slightly embarrassed about this.
</slight derail>
posted by RakDaddy at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2007


So is there a decent mouse/keyboard (or reasonable substitute) for the 360? I can't stand FPS with keypads...
posted by LordSludge at 1:32 PM on September 24, 2007


Was there ever a game with a better story than the Marathon trilogy? While I've played some later games that have been much praised for the story quality -- things like Doom, Deus Ex, Max Payne, etc, I've yet to come across anything that had the immersive experience of those early Bungie games. Was that just because so much of the genre was new at that time, and after that, the graphics might be be better, but the clever story devices -- like the computer terminals, etc. had all been done before?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:32 PM on September 24, 2007


Half Life.
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2007


Peter,

Right on. Reading the story online (in that same computer terminal-type display) at bungie.org is almost as fun as playing the original game. In the Mac Lab. Where we had it on most if not all the machines.
*eyes chunking suspiciously*
posted by cavalier at 1:39 PM on September 24, 2007


I wasted so many hours playing all the Marathons (and designing a fair bit of maps) and Myth I and II in college. Many a sunrise was witnessed due to Bungie.
posted by pmbuko at 2:04 PM on September 24, 2007


While I've played some later games that have been much praised for the story quality -- things like Doom

I, uh, kind of get the impression that the sets of (1) people who praised Doom 3 for it's story and of (2) people who don't work for id are disjoint. The 10% of it that you could see with the flashlight was very, very pretty as graphical demos go, though.
posted by cortex at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I always loved shooting the bobs. And then there was killing Capn Keyes on the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn.

"He's gone rogue!!!"
posted by disclaimer at 2:08 PM on September 24, 2007


"frog blast the vent core"
posted by Freen at 2:11 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Marathon was pretty darn good. But the reason you remember it so fondly was because you played it when you were younger.
posted by anthill at 2:17 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, for all of you folks with Xbox360's... Marathon:Durandal is available via the Xbox Live Arcade.

It's been cleaned up quite a bit with higher resolution textures, and obviously tweaked for console controls.

I'm not a huge Halo fan, but I always loved Marathon. So many of the features in FPS games that everyone takes for granted now were pioneered in the Marathon games.
posted by so1omon at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2007


I'm actually STILL bitter about the bungie sellout. Halo was the last title that would have legitimized Macs as a viable gaming platform in their own right. Myst (a beautiful Mac-only game at the time) being ported over to Windows was the first blow, and the last blow was Halo. Ever since then it's been hobbyist games, cross-platform releases (God bless you and your infinite wisdom, Blizzard) and big-company ports that are months late (though the latter seems to be improving and should only get better as everyone hops on Intel).

I somehow never finished any of the Marathons, but my PC-owning friends hogged my Mac for hours to play it. The Myth series was awesome. Bungie excels at the atmosphere... (Myth III is another story though...)

When it FINALLY came out after literally YEARS of news about it, I finished the first HALO on a Mac and was kinda underwhelmed. I refuse to buy anything from Microsoft, so consoles are out. I tried Halo 2 at a friends' house- I'm sorry but without a mouse, an FPS sucks. Case closed. (Only possible exception was Goldeneye on N64)

Then again, maybe Apple needed the kick in the ass. They seem to be undergoing a resurgence as the Intel transition starts to bear fruit. I hope it continues.
posted by Lectrick at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


From Metafilter Projects (?) more on Marathon (scroll down).
posted by misha at 2:24 PM on September 24, 2007


Marathon was such a great joy-ride. Oh, the hours and hours burned-away playing that great trilogy.

Sadly, Halo never really grabbed me the same way. Nice graphics, but not nearly as captivating as Marathon. Far easier to put down and walk-away from.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on September 24, 2007


Actually, the first Bungie game I ever played was REALLY old-school... Minotaur, a really neat RPG that HAD to be played on a network. I believe I was one of the 2500 purchasers of that game, and the Bungie atmosphere and gameplay elements were already evident.

Then again this was back in the days when Macs had the best net games such as Bolo, NetTrek, the Spectre 3D tank game, Spaceward Ho!, and Armor Alley =)

/old school mac gamer
posted by Lectrick at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2007


Here's the specific project that misha's referring to.
posted by cortex at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2007


I had the original Marathon, installed on a Mac Performa 475 in the living room, and a Performa 575 in the basement, connected via AppleTalk. I spent many all-night game sessions playing with friends. No wonder it was called Marathon.

The microphone technology even worked. Amazing for its day.
posted by The Deej at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2007


But the reason you remember it so fondly was because you played it when you were younger.

I was 52 last week, so I was probably 40 when I played Marathon. Younger, yes, but it wasn't the besotted love of a teenage boy for his first beloved computer game. That place belongs to Battle Zone (in the arcade) or Elite (on the BBC Micro).

Also, I thought the Marathon stories were all much better than Half Life -- and I played both I and II. Deus Ex and the Thief series had better stories than Half Life in my opinion.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2007


My freshman year at college was at a Mac-friendly school (Windows machines not supported(!)) shortly after Marathon came out. Let's just say that Campus-wide AppleTalk network + Marathon + rampant grade inflation = good times.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2007


Never played Marathon back in the day - stuck in PC land - but I have to say it might be fun, but hasn't aged well for anyone who didn't play it as a young person. Doom, I can pick that up and enjoy despite the now-awful graphics because I have good memories of it. Marathon, well, I tried but couldn't get into it.

Halo was enjoyable. Being able to grab the vehicles and use them was a great idea. I won't buy an Xbox though, not just for the sake of a single game. Now, if we were talking a new Legend of Zelda game I might be buying a console. Other than that series I like to stick to computers, because keyboards and mice are awesome for gaming.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2007


"They're everywhere!"
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:21 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I tried to love Marathon, but there was so much about it that bugged me (even if I was in denial) that I never really succeeded. I think a not insignificant part of the appeal was that PC users had been rubbing Mac users nose in Doom for the last few years, and here was finally a FPS game on the Mac that didn't suck. I suspect if doom had originally been simultaneous released on mac and pc, marathon would still have been big, but nowhere near as big. It wasn't just that it was a good game experience, it was that for many, it was the first non-sucky FPS that was theirs to visit for countless hours on end.

I got the same feeling about Halo, actually. Mac and PC users had been rubbing consoles users nose in their lack of decent FPS games for years, so when the new generation of consoles were finally able to run a decent FPS in a world where previously you needed a computer (with a four-digit price tag) for that experience, it's a bigger deal for demographic reasons than it really is, gamewise. Halo stood out among the console fare in a way that it just didn't amongst the computer games.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:37 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've played Bioshock's demo on the Xbox and I wouldn't be surprised if in the end I enjoy Bioshock more than I'll like Halo 3
posted by matteo at 3:38 PM on September 24, 2007


(and the Halo 3 ads with the fake museum with the fake veterans remembering Master Chief strikes me as very weak)
posted by matteo at 3:39 PM on September 24, 2007


Also, for all of you folks with Xbox360's... Marathon:Durandal is available via the Xbox Live Arcade.

It's been cleaned up quite a bit with higher resolution textures, and obviously tweaked for console controls.


Don't forget the Survival game mode we added. :)

As for the controls, we actually implemented, with Bungie's assistance, Halo's look curve into our controls.

reverof nohtaram
posted by Mikey-San at 3:48 PM on September 24, 2007


we encourage anyone who gets the xbla version to get the free aleph ones too and experience the entire story
posted by Mikey-San at 3:56 PM on September 24, 2007


a not insignificant part of the appeal was that PC users had been rubbing Mac users nose in Doom

For sheer running around, shooting big guns, blowing stuff up, killing horrible monsters, Doom was definitely better. The thing that Marathon had was a story that was so compelling that you had to complete the next bit simply to figure out the next bit of the story. It was more like Myst than a classic FPS, in that it was the relationship of the puzzles to the story that was driving the action, rather than the sheer visceral pleasure of shooting monsters.

I think that the only other games I've played in which the quality of the story was in any way comparable was the Final Fantasy series, before that started to suck.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:16 PM on September 24, 2007


Then again this was back in the days when Macs had the best net games such as Bolo, NetTrek, the Spectre 3D tank game, Spaceward Ho!, and Armor Alley =)
Oh, man, bolo. BOLO. There was a game that was ahead of its time: support, in the early 1990s, for 16-player team games over TCP/IP? That was awesome. That was also why no one but university students played it. Heh.
posted by verb at 4:25 PM on September 24, 2007


Marathon was pretty darn good. But the reason you remember it so fondly was because you played it when you were younger.

I dunno. Sure, I play things like Starflight partly for the nostalgia factor. But in the last 2 years, I played both Star Control II and System Shock II for the first time, and loved the both. Sure, I realized how awesome they must have been at the time, but that didn't stop them from being great now.

Haven't tried any of the Marathon titles, though.
posted by dreamsign at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2007


(I was also a latecomer to both Deus Ex and Max Payne and loved them, also -- at least the first title of each -- but I did have a friend who came across Deux Ex "too late" and says he wasn't impressed by it. Questionable taste, that lad, mind.)
posted by dreamsign at 5:36 PM on September 24, 2007


Coming across Deus Ex late is actually kind of a boon: it'll probably actually fucking run during the big firefights.
posted by cortex at 5:38 PM on September 24, 2007


For those who, like me, have never played or had an interest in Halo ever before but would like to know, at the very least, what the whole thing is about, a handy resource I've found is this, the Entire Halo Story Summary.

Disclaimer; this summary made me want to play Halo a little bit.

Only a little...
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:16 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was going to do this post, but I was also going to include Marathon's Story. Soooo complicated.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2007


"Hold me."
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:42 PM on September 24, 2007


This might be a slight spoiler to some, but the Marathon "Security" armor is unlockable in Halo 3 by getting all of the achievements.
posted by Oktober at 8:20 PM on September 24, 2007


Another one here with a Mac-only college network in the early 90s. Marathon, Bolo and Spectre and Broadcast and Pacer Forum and BlitzMail... I miss my Color Classic II.
posted by emelenjr at 8:30 PM on September 24, 2007


OMG...I spent _so_ much time in 1996 making maps for that game (and they're even still in the "Archive"!) Such a great game, and a great platform--didn't surprise me at all when they went on to make an awesome game like Halo.
posted by LairBob at 8:58 PM on September 24, 2007


Just have to add -- Myth II: best voice acting in a videogame bar none.
posted by dreamsign at 9:29 PM on September 24, 2007


Hasn't Bungie clearly tied the Marathon universe to the Halo universe? "They're everywhere!"

Before even Doom, Marathon was the first game to give me nightmares and illuminations. I still recall solving a level from the first game in a dream.

I have no hate on Bungie for the sale. I hear tell our local scenery is important in this episode. Big, sloppy wet ones to he Chief et al. Try to keep in mind that every con you frag had a mom and often kids. If you cry in-game, you might maybe almost be getting it.
posted by mwhybark at 10:17 PM on September 24, 2007


My god, it's been this long, and nobody's mentioned Craig Mullins' fantastic Marathon artwork yet?
posted by anthill at 11:03 PM on September 24, 2007


I found Halo and Halo 2 to be much worse than earlier Bungie efforts. I agree entirely with Harlequin's assessment of the reason for their popularity.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:04 AM on September 25, 2007


I'm surprised that no one mentioned the humor appeared in Marathon. Not just written, but also physical with the Bobs running around and talking and of course, the title of the levels. Halo continued this, especially with the Grunts. There's just something about small, alien creatures saying funny things as they try to kill you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 AM on September 25, 2007


I've played Bioshock's demo on the Xbox and I wouldn't be surprised if in the end I enjoy Bioshock more than I'll like Halo 3

Apples and oranges! Bioshock is the best single player FPS of the year, Halo 3 doesn't stack up in that department. Its strength are in the multiplayer system, stat tracking, Forge editor, etc. That's where H3 will find its legs, much like the first two entries in the series.
posted by prostyle at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2007


Just so all you myth players know, you can dust off your Myth II Cds, and download OSX and Windows versions of myth from projectmagma.net, and play them on playmyth.net and marius.net.

I still do this from time to time.

Marius.net also supports multiplayer through aleph one.
posted by OldReliable at 7:22 AM on September 25, 2007


ah ah oh oh
posted by chunking express at 8:39 AM on September 25, 2007


Bioshock is the best single player FPS of the year, Halo 3 doesn't stack up in that department. Its strength are in the multiplayer system, stat tracking, Forge editor, etc. That's where H3 will find its legs, much like the first two entries in the series.

I dunno about that first sentence there. I've played both, and Halo 3's single-player scenario is way more interesting, due to the enemy AI. The battles are just more fun. (The Scarab + Banshee + Hornet battle was epic.)
posted by Mikey-San at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2007


I'll be a dissenting voice here and say I love(d) the Halo games. The campaign level design could get a bit repetitive, but the thought they put into the back story, and the designs of the vehicles, aliens, etc was awesome. The original game made popular (I'm not going to say invented since I might be wrong) some now-classic FPS features, such as regenerating shields, the limitation of only being able to carry two weapons at once (rather than the standard FPS somehow-carrying-10-different-guns-and-thousands-of-rounds-of-ammo cliche), and usable and useful vehicles. The games also all have 2 player co-op (extended to 4 player online co-op for H3), something that not enough games have.

Not to mention that the Halo 2 multiplayer was awesome - there were tons of different gametypes, great maps, and Bungie did a good job of keeping it all balanced as well as kicking out cheaters/exploiters. Oh, and did I mention that you could log on to the Bungie website seconds after finishing an online Halo 2 match, and see a diagram of the level with markers showing every place you killed or were killed, who you killed/were killed by, and what weapon was used? And that's been extended into being able to watch, edit, and share full length replays of entire online matches for Halo 3. That's pretty sweet.

And if you're complaining about using a joypad - you're probably just bitter 'cos you suck ;)

Anyway, can't wait to get Halo 3 tomorrow and get stuck into the co-op mode with my friend on Live. If anyone's up for some deathmatch (or whatever) later this week, add my gamertag: EndsOfInvention
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:10 PM on September 25, 2007


The Scarab + Banshee + Hornet battle was epic.

Ahh! Spoilers! ;)
Oh god can't wait to play this game.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:11 PM on September 25, 2007


So I never played any Halo game before tucking in to Halo 3 last night. I played maybe 2.5 levels worth of the campaign and then an hour and a half or so of multiplayer.

The single player game was okay. Maybe because I'm coming down off of BioShock, but the story felt like it was missing something (and that something could have been Big Daddies and ADAM for all I know). Play-wise, I really missed the obvious "here's where you need to go" arrows of BioShock. While I know one shows up after time in Halo, it didn't seem to be as helpful as the BioShock one. I get lost really, really easily in FPS, especially in single player modes where my tact of "just keep moving" doesn't always work.

Multiplayer was a blast, though. Still, I have no idea which weapons do what and which is the best fit for a given fight (I suspect I charged into many a firefight with the equivalent of a rubber band gun). The vehicles, so much better than Perfect Dark Zero's, were a blast. Again, I didn't know how to drive them ("How do you make this go up?") very well, but hey... I'm willing to learn, mainly because of what happened with one little scene:

It was King of the Hill on some sort of sandy open level. I had a Gravity Hammer and was making a slow, slow slog up a dune to where the scoring area was. As I crest the hill, the sun breaks over the horizon. Out of the glare comes a Mongoose, the lil ungunned ATV, at me, full speed. It's running from a larger vehicle that shooting at it (and therefore, me). Panicked, I swing my hammer, hitting the ATV, destroying it and its rider, and sending the wreckage crashing into the pursuing vehicle, which also explodes.

I felt like Thor incarnate until someone clubbed me on the back of my head and took my hammer off my corpse. I didn't realize until later that I could have recorded that. Mmaaaannn!

We'll see how long this love lasts. TF2 is out in 2 weeks. Between that, Halo 3, and GH3, I'm seriously considering getting another TV so the SO can watch her shows.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:57 AM on September 26, 2007


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