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This article is about Bungie the company, for Bungie's office facility, see Bellevue Offices. For a full history, see the History of Bungie.

"From the black depths of the primordial soup, rose a single crouton."

Bungie, Inc. (formerly Bungie LLC, Bungie Studios, and Bungie Software Products Corporation) is a video game developer and publisher based in Bellevue, Washington. The company was founded in May of 1991 in Chicago, Illinois, by Alex Seropian, who later brought in programmer Jason Jones.

The company is most known for its development of the Halo and Destiny series, as well as its charity work and mysterious lore. During the 1990s, Bungie was known as a Macintosh games developer, creating the Myth and Marathon series.

History

The Beginning

Alex Seropian

Jason Jones

In 1990, Seropian self-published a Pong clone called GNOP! (Pong spelled backwards) for the Macintosh. The game was released for free, but Seropian sold the source code for $15[1]. In May 1991, Seropian officially founded Bungie Software Products Corporation to publish his next game, Operation: Desert Storm, which he packaged himself with financial assistance from family and friends[1].

At the University of Chicago, Seropian met Jason Jones in an artificial intelligence class[1], joining forces to publish Jones' game, Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete. Seropian handled the design and publicity of the game while Jones finished the coding, with help from Jones' friend, Colin Brent, designing graphics.[2] When the game was complete, they assembled Minotaur boxes by hand in Seropian's apartment.[1]

Due to Minotaur's success, the duo wanted to release a sequel in 3D. Discovering that Minotaur's top-down perspective didn't translate well, they developed a new storyline for the first-person shooter genre that became Pathways Into Darkness, which was released in 1993. Winning awards including Inside Mac Games' "Adventure Game of the Year" and Macworld's "Best Role-Playing Game,"[3] Pathways was Bungie's first commercial success, resulting in the company moving from a one-bedroom apartment to an office studio and hiring Bungie's first full-time employee, Doug Zartman in May 1994.[4]

The Marathon Era

Wanting to capitalize on Pathways' success, Bungie's next project began as a sequel to the game, but evolved into a new FPS game set in the future called Marathon.[5] The game 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.

On January 5, 1994, Bungie first demonstrated "Marathon" (later dubbed "Marathon Zero") at the MacWorld show in San Francisco, California. While it was faster and more elegant than Pathways, it didn't make much of an impact.[6] Bungie decided to overhaul the game, rewriting its rendering engine and creating a new plotline.[6] At the second MacWorld show on August 1, Bungie demonstrated the greatly revamped Marathon game. On December 14, the game was complete, and Jones and a few other employees spent a day at a warehouse assembling boxes so that some of the orders could be filled before Christmas.[4] On December 21, Bungie released the game to critical and commercial success, establishing the studio as a leading game developer for the Macintosh for bringing attention from press outside of the Mac gaming market.[4]

Bungie realized that a sequel was necessary, both because of the many additional features and enhancements the programmers had in mind, and because of overwhelming public demand. The team announced there would be a sequel to Marathon on July 19, 1995, entitled Marathon 2: Durandal. The sequel was released on November 24, and, far from being a cheap rehash of the Marathon story, distinguished itself by being a new game in its own right. Bungie soon announced that a port of the game would be released on Windows 95. This angered many Mac players, who felt betrayed that a Macintosh developer would work with Microsoft, resulting in Bungie receiving a flood of negative mail.[4] With Marathon 2 released, Bungie gained nearly 500% sales growth, and hired more artists, programmers, tech support, and marketing staff. This growth allowed them to release Marathon Infinity on October 15, 1996, which included more levels and a much larger plot then the previous two.

1997 - Bungie Publishing

In 1996, Bungie was contacted by video game company Crack dot Com to help them publish their new game, Abuse, on the Mac. The game was ported by Crack dot Com's Oliver Yu and published by Bungie on March 5, 1997. Also during that year, video game company Pangea Software contacted Bungie to publish their newest game, Weekend Warrior.

Myth, Bungie West, and Oni

Wanting to move away from first-person shooters, Bungie announced on December 6, 1996, seven weeks after Marathon Infinity's released, that they will be creating a new real-time tactical game in 1997, Myth: The Fallen Lords, for Mac and Windows. Bungie realized that thousands of players would pick up the game and test their mettle in online battles without reading the manual or dealing with complex network settings, so on October 14, 1997, Bungie announced it would configure a free Internet game server, called Bungie.net, to include every feature one could wish for to deliver one-click multiplayer gaming as quickly and easily as using a web browser. On November 5, 1997, Myth: The Fallen Lords was released.

The success of Myth enabled Bungie to change Chicago offices again and establish a satellite studio in San Jose, California, called Bungie West. The satellite studio operated from 1997 to 2001 and released a single game, Oni, on Mac, Widows, and PlayStation 2, in 2001.

At E3 on May 23, 1998, Bungie announced two new games in development: Myth II: Soulblighter (Bungie East) and Oni (Bungie West). On November 30, 1998, Myth II: Soulblighter was released with an improved graphics engine, new multiplayer maps and units, and a brand new story. Both games won several awards and spawned a large and active online community,[7] launching online forums on Bungie's website for the first time. However, due to a bug that caused the game to wipe all of the contents of the directory it was installed on instead of just the game, Bungie recalled the 200,000 copies and replaced the defective CDs with new ones, costing the company $800,000.[4]

As a result, in 1999, Peter Tamte, Bungie's then-executive vice president, was brought in to generate cash.[8] Bungie re-released some back-catalog products in collections (such as the Bungie Action Sack), while Take-Two Interactive took a 19.9% equity stake in Bungie and secured exclusive North American distribution rights to four Bungie titles, including Halo, Oni, and two undisclosed projects. In addition, Take-Two's Rockstar Games obtained rights to publish video game versions of these games.[9]

The Halo Era Under Microsoft

Halo: Combat Evolved

During Myth II's development, Marcus Lehto had joined the team and was immediately working on a small "side project" with Jones, codenamed Blam.[8] At the time, Jones wanted a real-time strategy or real-time tactics game, in the spirit of Myth but sci-fi. They wanted to one-up all of the other sci-fi RTS games, having vehicles that moved like vehicles and terrain that really mattered.

On February 15th, 1999, marathon.bungie.org started receiving letters from a mysterious entity from "cortana @ bungie.com." These seven letters, dubbed the "Cortana letters," continued until July. An eighth letter was eventually found in the 1.3 version of Myth: The Fallen Lords.

Tampte was a former Apple employee, and soon after joining Bungie, he called his old boss, Apple's then-interim-CEO Steve Jobs, and asked him to introduce their new game to the world.[8] Before the meeting, Jones and Joseph Staten met with Jobs about the game. Jobs didn't seem to be that impressed because Pixar could create dozens of suns, and Jones' immediately reply was that their game could render them in real time. Jobs told them that they were in, and on July 21, 1999, Halo was unveiled to the public during Macworld Conference & Expo's keynote address[10] by Jobs,[11] with Jason Jones and Staten explaining the tech and the story. At the time, the game was intended to be a third-person shooter for the Mac and Windows. Bungie later stated an even earlier development build of the game centered on real-time strategy and was "basically Myth in a sci-fi universe."[12]

At E3 2000, Bungie showed off a demo trailer of the game, using in-game graphics mixed with Marty O'Donnell's iconic musical score. The game didn't have any sounds in it yet, which was why the score was put on top of the action. O'Donnell said he and his team at Total Audio, including Michael Salvatori, had one weekend to create the score, and that his only direction came from Staten who told him that it should give a sense of ancient, epic, and mysterious.[8] The game was still in third-person, but the graphics had changed considerably[13] between the two demos, and a basic story appeared for why the aliens were fighting the humans.

Due to continued financial difficulties as a result of Myth II's launch, Tampte contacted Ed Fries, head of Microsoft Game Studios, about a possible acquisition. Fries only had two years to put together Xbox's launch portfolio, so he contacted Take-Two and negotiated an agreement with them to gain the rights to the Myth series and Oni, while Microsoft acquired Bungie, the rights to Halo, and Bungie's other games.[8] With the consent of the entire company, on June 19, 2000, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Bungie,[9] with Halo becoming a launch title for the Xbox.

Over the next year, the entire game was overhauled. The game changed from third-person to first-person, the story was rewritten, graphics were updated and changed, and the game had to feel good using Xbox's gamepad controller. At the time, FPS games on consoles were rare because of controller inaccuracy. To solve this, Jaime Griesemer wrote code to discern player intent and assist the player's movement and aiming without being obvious. Player inputs showed the desired player movement rather than the movement players were actually making.[8]

As for the name of the game, a branding company was hired to come in and help create one. They came up with hundreds of names and it was decided that the name of the game would be "Covenant."[8] Paul Russel, an artist, didn't like the name and came up with five or six alternatives, one of which was "Halo." No one liked the name at first because it was too religious and too on the nose because of the ring world setting, but Russel wrote it on a whiteboard wall and Jones decided that would the name.[8] As a compromise to Microsoft, Bungie said that they could add a subtitle, so "Combat Evolved" was added to explain the futuristic setting and shooting the game featured.

Seropian said that Bungie had to incorporate new features to the game to take advantage of the Xbox, such as surround sound and cinematics. As a result, many features were cut from the game to make the release date, such as open-world maps, a lengthy campaign, and online multiplayer. To save time, Marcus Lehto suggested that they reuse campaign levels, adding directional arrows to them so players wouldn't get lost.[8] Four months before release, it was decided that the multiplayer still wasn't fun, so it was scrapped and rebuilt by those from the Bungie West Oni team who had moved to Washington.[8][14] The team was promised that, after launch, they could begin working on new Bungie project, codenamed Monster Hunter.

Seropian also said that the last 10% of the game felt like "impending doom of the 'tijuana momma game,'[15] meaning that it finished up incredibly hot before release date. Staten finished all 33 cutscenes on September 9, 2001, and O'Donnell and Jay Weinland only had three days to add music and sound, respectively.[8] On September 11, after the World Trade Center attacks had occurred, most employees still went into the office because of deadlines, including Weinland, but O'Donnell sent them home.[8]

On November 15, 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released worldwide. Reviewers praised the game, calling it "the most important launch game for any console, ever,"[16] and "it's easily one of the best shooters ever, on any platform."[17] The game received numerous Game of the Year rewards, including those of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Edge, and IGN.

A PC/Mac version of the game was released by Gearbox Software on September 30, 2003, to fulfill Bungie's promise from Macworld 1999.


Halo 2, Projects Cancelled, and Seropian Leaving

Almost everyone at the studio took at least a month-long break after Halo's launch, but some immediately moved over to the Phoenix team. Returning from break, there were no plans to create a Halo sequel, but everyone wanted to do so due to the amount of content they had to cut. Jason Jones spoke to Marty O'Donnell about it, saying that, while he didn't like creating sequels, he "owe[s] it to everyone here."[8]

Jones, however, wasn't a visionary leader; no one helped the team focus on an overall vision, so a lot of discussions at the beginning of development happened in little groups that didn't talk with each other. Jones did, however, push for their next Halo game to have a strong online side. Jaime Griesemer recalled that the team "tripled everything," rebuilding the game engine, changing the physics engine to Havok, and prototyping a system for stencil shadow volumes. For the first year of development, no one could play the game.[8]

The multiplayer team wanted to scrap the arena-based multiplayer mode and split-screen in favor of something more PvPvE called Warfare, fighting more players than a regular match could provide while also fighting against the Covenant. Max Hoberman believed this to be a mistake, and argued to keep the traditional multiplayer side because it was what kept Halo 1 alive long after release. Seropian and Jones agreed with Hoberman, and put him in charge of that feature. The team working on Warfare called the regular multiplayer a "party game," but in the end, Warfare ended up being scrapped entirely, and the "party game" became Halo 2's main multiplayer component.[8]

On the campaign side, there wasn't a clear direction either. Joe Staten wanted to focus on the Covenant side, not just on Master Chief, and already had a protagonist in mind, Dervish, who would later become the Arbiter. Staten wasn't to do the unexpected in the sequel and give people a new view of the Halo universe. Jones was only focused on big-picture moments, such as Master Chief standing on a space station and looking down at a battle, and for Captain Keyes' daughter to be angry with the Master Chief for letting her father die in the first game.

During this time, O'Donnell was speaking to Pete Parsons (then-Microsoft executive at Bungie) about a bonus check they had received for Halo, and how they'd love to "go pirate" one day and either convince Microsoft to give the team more, or somehow leave.

Seropian, then-CEO, left the company at the end of 2002 after realizing that he wanted something new and that Bungie would be working on Halo 2 for a long time,[8] so he moved back to Chicago with his wife to start a family.[18][19] He formed a new studio in 2003, Wideload Games, using a modified version of Halo's engine to create a new game, Stubbs the Zombie.

With Seropian gone, the team had to figure out how to work together, since he was the one to solve problems for everyone. Jones decided to become Phoenix's creative director and project lead while also working on Halo 2. He eventually formed a Halo 2 leadership team: Griesemer, Lehto, Chris Butcher, and Michael Evans. [8] The engineering team decided to use a stencil lighting model to create dynamic lighting for the game.

In May 2003 at E3, Bungie showed off their Halo 2 demo, which featured the new lighting system, new weapons, new enemies, big open spaces, and more. The demo received rave reviews, however, upon returning back to the studio, Bungie realized that they would have to scrap it and completely redesign the campaign.

In early 2003, another game, codenamed Gypsum, was being developed by a small team. After E3, it was cancelled, along with Phoenix and Monster Hunter, and the teams were folded into the Halo 2 team.[8] Jones returned and met with Staten and Paul Bertone to figure out a new play for Halo 2 while the team continued working on the game. What came out of their meeting were new missions with encounter beat moments from space to space, and a list of narrative beat moments. The third act was cut out completely.

While this was happening, Ed Fries had a meeting with senior leadership at Microsoft to decide when Halo 2 should ship. The game was already scheduled to launch in November 2003, but Fries was asking them to push it back a year. A vote was cast, and the original date stayed in place, so Fries threatened to quit on the spot. A vote was recast and they gave Bungie an extra year to create the game.[8]

Halo 2 was released on November 9, 2004, on Xbox. A PC port, Halo 2: Vista, was released by gaming studio Hired Gun on May 31, 2007.

Crunch, when a team forces themselves to work extended hours beyond a normal working day, took its toll on the team, Many slept at the office for several days in a row, many relationships ended, divorces happened, people's bodies hurt due to the amount of stress they were under, and Jones took a long sabbatical to figure out if he wanted to make games anymore.[8]

Halo 3 and Independence

A few months after Halo 2's release, the team decided that Halo 3 needed to get made. They wanted to right the wrongs of Halo 2 while also ending the story of Halo and the Master Chief, and then move on to something else. Jason Jones went on sabbatical, coming back toward the end of Halo 3's development. The team decided to print out a cardboard cut-out of him and put it in the corner, using it during meetings.[8]

At the beginning, there wasn't a project lead, and Jones nor Pete Parsons (then-Microsoft executive at Bungie) gave someone the title, so in-fighting began. Staten ended up taking a sabbatical himself after fighting with Lehto. Bertone took a break six months into production. Max Hoberman became the multiplayer lead until he moved (Tyson Green took over), Paul Bertone and Rob Stokes become the campaign design lead, Marcus Lehto became the art director, and Jaime Griesemer became the gameplay design lead.

While this was happening, talk continued (from Halo 2's development) among a small team of employees about re-negotiating with Microsoft about profit sharing for Halo 3 and giving them a bigger bonus, or they would leave. Things came to a head, and the team told Microsoft that they would complete Halo 3 if Microsoft gave the company back to them. Microsoft agreed, however, they wanted three more Halo games, which became Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach.[8]

While Staten was on sabbatical, he began helping out Ensemble Studios with the story in their upcoming game, Halo Wars, so that the story they wanted to tell wouldn't interfere with Bungie's story. He also helped explain the Halo universe to the movie studio production team for the cancelled "Halo" movie.

During this time, Bungie didn't have a lead writer for Halo 3, so a story committee was formed to create an outline based off of Halo 2's cut third act, but characters from Halo 2 were missing, including Lord Hood and Miranda Keyes, and there were no surprises. Marty O'Donnell wrote some plot points after watching the movie, Serenity, to make the player feel that the Master Chief was at risk. His outline killed off Miranda Keyes and Sergeant Johnson, and 343 Guilty Spark (who has killed Johnson), and that was incorporated into the story committee's outline.[8] When Staten returned, he worked with Rob Stokes, a design lead, to write up drafts and make the story as good as it could be.

As a result of Microsoft's new console launching in 2005, the Xbox 360, Halo 3 would launch only on that platform. The Xbox 360 took Halo 2's multiplayer features, such as matchmaking, having a friend list, sending messages, voice chat, and sending invites, and incorporated it into the system. This meant at Hoberman wouldn't be able to use any of those features in the game, so multiplayer would have to be rebuilt. He and his team spent a year getting feature parity with Halo 2 in the online feature set, mostly trying to figure out how to have party system in the game while the 360 was offering it separately on the console. Hoberman left Seattle in early 2006 and moved to Austin, Texas. Tyson Green took over as the multiplayer lead, while Homerman continued work on the online systems. He also starting working on DLC maps for Halo 2. Around Christmas 2006, he officially gave notice and started a new company, Certain Affinity, to continue working on DLC maps independently.[8]

Towards the end of Halo 3's development, Jones returned, and instead of working on ODST or Reach, he began working on the game that would eventually become Destiny.


Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach

Following the launch of Halo 3, Bungie's employees purchased Bungie back from Microsoft, going independent on the 1st of October 2007 and employee-owned while developing Halo 3: ODST and, finally, Halo: Reach, the final game it would develop under the Halo franchise.

Destiny and Activision

On April 29, 2010, Bungie announced that it would be entering into a ten-year publishing deal with Activision-Blizzard for Destiny, under which Bungie retains control of the game development cycle and Activision publishes the game. Destiny was released on the 9th of September 2014 worldwide (11th in Japan), please visit the dedicated wiki for more information.

Destiny 2 and Separation from Activision

The company has held headquarters in various suburbs of Seattle, Washington, including Redmond, Kirkland, and now Bellevue. As of March 31, 2012, the company has transferred management of the Halo series of video games to 343 Industries, allowing it to focus solely on its new title.

The Bungie offices are loaded with snacks, action figures, and cluttered whiteboards. Bungie has changed its name from Bungie Studios to Bungie LLC to Bungie, Inc., and is currently attempting to take over the world, using their 7-Step Plan for World Domination.

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  • Bungie Studios' former office building in Kirkland was sometimes referred to as Bungie Towers.

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