Bungie Wiki
The subject of this article is Bungie Lore; one of the many myths, legends, and easter eggs that have been created by Bungie.


The Bungie Soapbox was a series of rant articles written by Bungie employees about things that interested them about the gaming industry.

Secrets of the Mac Game Market That Shouldn't Be[]

April 1996

By Eric Klein, Jr., Bungie's former Director of New Business

The Mac game market is a mysterious and misunderstood entity. Ask some large game developers what they think about the Mac game market, and here is what they will say:

  • The Mac game market is too small to justify development
  • Mac gamers are too picky, and don't really buy games anyway
  • Mac game development costs too much relative to sales
  • While I really like the Mac, there are bigger game markets to penetrate
  • The Mac can't really perform well enough to handle my games

While I agree that publishers looking at Mac game development should do extensive market research before developing a title, I also believe that games other than Myst rip-offs can sell well on the Mac. The key to success is forgetting the myths of the Mac game market that you may subscribe to. The Mac game market has changed tremendously in the last eighteen months, and success is dependent on knowing what the market is like today.

Given our "myth-busting" motif, I will spend this column dispelling some of the marketing myths of the Mac game market. Next month I will dive into the seven deadly sins of Mac game development (technical), and will ask some of the leading Mac game developers to comment on them.

Myth Number 1: "The Mac market is sinking like a rock"

Okay, and you believe everything you read in the National Inquirer. The Macintosh installed base is now 22 million strong, and is expected to grow to 28 million in 1996. Vendors like UMAX, Motorola, Power Computing, and Daystar are all shipping Macintosh clones, meaning Apple isn't the sole source of Macintosh sales. With CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform) coming, Macs will soon be sold with standard PC hardware on the motherboard, making the platform even more appealing to clone vendors. And did I mention Bandai's Atmark box in Japan?

The Mac market is growing, not shrinking. While the mainstream IS press is harping the end of the Macintosh, when the rubber hits the road, the Mac is still a great place to do business.

Myth Number 2: "The Mac game market is really small"

Okay, and the 3DO market is the size of my thumbnail. Apple has committed to four major markets; one of those is entertainment and another is the consumer market. With 40% of all Mac sales going into the consumer channel, this means that in 1996 2.4 million Macs will go home. Add that to the existing 6-7 million Macs in the home, and we have a huge potential game market. Let's play hypothetical. If 50% of the Mac consumer installed base actually has Macs that can handle games (68040 and PowerPC), that is a game installed base (GIB) of 4.4 million machines. If you get 1% of the GIB to buy your game, that is 44,000 units. If your game doesn't suck, you will get more than 1% of the GIB. The sky is the limit.

The Mac game market is growing because the Mac consumer market is growing. As long as the Mac consumer market continues to grow at its current pace, the Mac game market will be a great place to do business. Any market research should illustrate that the Mac game market (aka installed base size) is bigger than all of the second tier console platforms, and is still bigger than the emerging 32bit platforms. The key to success is telling the Mac game market about your game, and appealing to the Mac game customer.

Myth Number 3: "Mac game customers are too picky, and won't buy my game"

Okay, does that mean that Wintel gamers are stupid and will buy anything fed to them? No. Neither Wintel or Mac game customers are stupid or picky. They all want the same thing, great games.

There was a time, fairly recently, when Mac gamers often panned games coming from the PC. Why? At the time, developers ported PC games to the Mac without changing the game to take advantage of the Mac. A game with low res graphics, cheesy sound, and no Mac interface or enhancements wasn't going to sell. And it won't sell today.

Developers today realize that the Mac customer just wants a good Mac game. Further helping the picture, the PC and Mac hardware standard are much closer. To sell a game on the PC today, you have to have SVGA graphics, stereo sound, networking, and support for leading edge technologies. Those technologies mirror Mac standards. This means that a Mac game doesn't require an extensive (and expensive) port. Look at the current flight of Mac games, then look at their PC versions. They look the same.

The Mac gamer wants the same quality of game that the PC gamer wants. The only additional thing that a Mac gamer wants is a game that feels like a Mac game. The added investment by a developer in Mac specific features and interface will be rewarded by increased sales to a Mac gamer that does buy games.

Myth Number 4: "Developing a Macintosh game costs too much money"

Okay, and spending money to make more money is a bad thing, right? As I stated earlier, the convergence of technology on the Mac and PC means that cross platform game development is easier than ever. Much of a game's artistic content can now be used on both the Mac and PC. Faster processors mean that the game developers' dependence on assembly code is over. Portable C and C++ code again lead to decreased costs in moving games from the PC to Mac (and vice versa). Windows 95 brings a real GUI to the Wintel customer. Developing games that take advantage of the GUI means that the port to Mac (a machine that always had a GUI) will be much easier.

The costs of porting a game to the Mac (or vice versa) have dropped tremendously in the last two years because of technological advances. The real cost in developing a Mac game is not in development. If your incremental cost of doing Mac and Wintel development simultaneously is low, you can amortize the development cost across two platforms. Let's play hypothetical. If it costs $500,000 to develop a Wintel game, and you sell 100,000 units at $25 each, you will make $2 million (let's forget marketing for this example). Since your Mac code is based on your Wintel code, it only costs you $200,000 to develop the Mac game. Even if the Mac game only sells 50,000 units @ $25 each, you make an additional $1.25 million on an investment of $200,000. Not bad money, eh?

Myth Number 5: "Marketing a Mac game is too difficult"

Okay, and you actually tried to market the game, didn't you? Many game publishers develop great Mac games, but fail miserably in the marketing department. Marketing a Mac game is not like marketing a PC game. If a publisher takes their PC marketing plans and robotically uses it as the Mac marketing plan, they will fail.

Mac customers are plugged into different channels. They don't have as many game magazines to read. They are influenced greatly by on-line discussions. They buy much more software through the mail order channel. They attend user groups in greater numbers. They more often buy games that are rich in Mac features. And the list goes on and on.

My recommendation to any publisher that is going to tack into the Mac game market is to research before launching. Use the same techniques you would use entering any new market. Study the techniques of successful Mac game companies, and work with Apple to find out what the Mac customer is (and isn't). Work with Apple on marketing. Remember that the Mac is a closed market, in the sense that there are few hardware vendors. This is good. Less people to work with for a greater return on marketing investment.

If you actually market a Mac game to the Mac gamers, they will come.

Myth Number 6: "Even if all goes well, my Mac game will not sell well"

Okay, and obviously all those Mac game publishers that are doing well are selling drugs on the side. A great Mac game will do over 100,000 units. And you can carve that in stone.

A Mac game that has great quality and is marketed well (a combination not often mastered by game publishers) will sell well. Even a game that misses one of the factors (bad quality or marketing) can still do well if the other factor compensates for it. One missing factor still means a game can do 40,000 to 75,000 units on the Mac. And you can carve that in stone.

I am constantly amazed by publishers that enter the Mac game market by bringing an old title, poorly ported, with little marketing, and then watching it languish. Then they complain that the Mac market doesn't support games. If you want to test the Mac game market, take one of your top selling PC games, port it quickly and well to the Mac, and give it some marketing. If it sells well, then the myth is dispelled. If it doesn't, then you have the right to complain about Mac games sales.

Comin' Outta the Booth On Computer Game Violence[]

June 1996

By Doug Zartman, Bungie's former Director of Publicity Engineering (and of course, the Voice of Bob from the Marathon series)

(A couple brief notes: I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, but I'd like to see some feedback on this, particularly if you think I'm full of it. Also, the following is my personal opinion and does not represent an official position of Bungie Software.)

Recently I took a call from someone who received the Marathon and Marathon 2 demos on his new SyQuest drive. He called up to say what wonderful games we make, and when I thanked him, sneered "I guess you didn't hear the sarcasm in my voice".

He then went off for several minutes about how our "video games" were training people for war, how he didn't want to be subjected to such violence and how our society has enough problems as it is. I listened politely and pointed out that if he felt that way he should trash the demos and not play our games. "Oh, I won't", he sputtered. Fine with me.

The reasoning behind his call, though, bothered me enough that I had to rant about it. Leaving aside for the moment his conflation of video and computer games, which tend to be quite different in terms of both content and customer base, the idea that violent electronic games promote real-world violence is an oddly persistent one. It is widely held among large segments of our society (including educators, sociologists, politicians, and my mother), but is directly contradictory to the experience of the people who make and play these games, i.e., us.

Anecdotally, the gamers I encounter on the phone, at conventions, and through e-mail, are almost without exception intelligent, imaginative, friendly, and of course, playful. If violent games truly did encourage violent behavior, or at least desensitize gamers to violence, you would expect the average computer gamer to be a dull-witted, sensation-seeking drone with a short fuse, eager to fight and cruel to the weak. This does sound like a few people I know-steroid-pumped jocks, mostly (no offense to all our loyal, steroid-using fans), but not computer gamers.

A less subjective counter-argument is that the people who are most violent in our society are the least likely to be owners or users of computers. Poverty, weak family structure, poor education, and other real-world conditions have much more to do with fostering everyday violence in our society than the cultural effects of movies, TV and games. There are studies (sorry I don't have the references) which find that people who are temperamentally prone to violence have unusually high stimulus thresholds, and are not interested in sedentary, relatively abstract entertainments like computer games.

While I've always been a bit skeptical about the argument that violent games prevent violent behavior by blowing off steam, I do think that people have a better sense of the distinction between everyday reality and the obvious non-reality of a computer game than scholars give them credit for. I know exactly what would happen if I shot my co-workers as casually as I might shoot an inconvenient B.O.B. in Marathon (not that it hasn't occurred to me, Matt).

So the next time someone tells you that computer games foster violence, speak up. If they're trying to prevent violence by fighting the content of entertainment, they are part of the problem.

Comin' Outta The Booth On Distribution Myths and Lies[]

August 1996

By Alexander Seropian, co-Founder of Bungie and former CEO

When I started Bungie, all I wanted to do was write a computer game and sell it. Like the way I sold popsicles during the summer when I was in fifth grade, or my chemistry notes in college. My naive vision had an elegant simplicity, a kind of commercial innocence.

It wasn't long before that innocence was betrayed by the long list of vendors, distributors, retailers, and mail order companies who were more than eager to reach their hand into my pie. Now, don't get me wrong. We couldn't have made it to where we are, or get to where we are going without these channel partners, but there's a lot that goes on behind the shelves that consumers don't always know about.

Bungie sells to different kinds of customers. We sell direct to the end user, we sell to mail order companies (from which consumers buy), and we sell to large distributors (that in turn re-sell to stores, from which consumers buy). While selling directly to the end user is a simple process, retail distribution gets a little complicated.

Channel 1: End User Sales (easy)

  1. Bungie places ad
  2. Customer sees ad and buys product
  3. Bungie ships product to customer.

Step A can be a magazine ad, direct mailing, newsletter, web site, demo, etc...

Channel 2: Mail Order (less easy)

A) Bungie submits product to mail order company for evaluation. If approved, Bungie doesn't ever have to do this again. This didn't happen until we released Pathways for most of the mail order companies.

B) Bungie Buys an ad. Yep that's right, Bungie doesn't just sell to the mail order companies. The mail order companies have sales people, whose job it is to sell ads to Bungie (they get commissions too).

The tricky part here is that Bungie must buy the ad two to three months before the ad comes out, i.e. a December catalog is booked in October. So planning for new products can be hard, and mail order companies, by law, are required to estimate shipping dates, which is why they are frequently saying "two weeks" even when Bungie is saying "we don't know."

C) Mail order company sends Bungie an order for product. Note: This absolutely doesn't happen until Step B is done.

D) Customer sees ad and buys product from Mail Order Company.

E) If Mail order company bought too much, then they send the product back. That's right, NOBODY ACTUALLY BUYS PRODUCT FROM BUNGIE. It's all consignment. If they don't sell it, it comes back to Bungie. Remember this lesson, it repeats itself later.

Special Notes: With entertainment software, a mail order company derives most of its profit from the advertising sales, not the product sales. A full page ad in one of the big Mac catalogs cost about $25,000.00 (times 150 pages is 3.75 Mil... per month!). On a given month we may pay $9,000 for an ad. For the mail order company to make more than that ad price they would have to sell over 1200 units of product that month, which only really happens around Christmas. Consider Microwarehouse, a publicly traded company, which does around $750 million a year. They produce 4 catalogs with a total of over 600 ad pages a month. This generates a mammoth $180 million per year. The remaining revenue ($570 million) generated by product sales, yields only a 20% margin. That makes the ending score $180 million for ad sales, $114 million for product sales. Remember this lesson, it repeats itself later.

Channel 3: Retail Distribution (hard)

A) Bungie submits product to distributor for evaluation. Distributor says, "Bungie who?"

B) Bungie spends years and lots of money, trying to make a name for itself, so Bungie can go back to distributor with an established customer base.

C) Repeat steps A and B as long as is necessary.

D) Distributor offers Bungie a contract with the following options:

  • Bungie guarantees that distributor is getting a better price than anyone in the world.
  • Bungie agrees to take back any product distributor is unable to sell (remember the consignment lesson).
  • Bungie agrees to give distributor anywhere from 3-6% of sales as a marketing fee. Note that distributors typically mark up software by 1-3%, remember the marketing profits outweight product profit lesson?
  • Bungie agrees to spend at least $10,000 on product launch marketing with distributor. Again, remember the marketing profit lesson.
  • Bungie agrees to pay shipping to the distributor.
  • Distributor agrees to pay Bungie 30 - 90 days after delivery of product. Note: this is the biggest joke here. THEY NEVER PAY, until they need more product.

E) Bungie tries to negotiate, but ends up getting the shaft like the rest of the software developers and bends over for the contract.

F) Distributor says, "OK, to get you into Retail Store X, you'll have to spend $5,000 on their in-store catalog" or even better "You'll have to pay $25,000 on their end-cap". That's right kids (this is an important lesson) every time you walk into a store and see 100 copies of "Mutant Death Machine" stacked on the end of the aisle, it isn't because the store thinks it's great. It's because the publisher paid big bucks to get it there. And the store gets to keep those big bucks as profit.

G) Now we sell some product to the distributor.

H) Now we realize to compete with all the other software that the distributor sells, we have to bribe the sales people. It's called a SPIFF. That's when Bungie says, "OK, I'll give you a dollar for every unit you sell to a store". Or we have to tell the distributor that we'll give them a rebate of 5% if they sell a certain amount.

I) OK, here's the best part: DISTRIBUTOR GOES OUT OF BUSINESS owing Bungie a ton of money.

Now, this whole rant may sound like a bunch of whining from a company that's made plenty of moolah selling a great game, and it is whining. But, wouldn't it be nice, if selling software were like selling popsicles on a hot summer day?

Alexander is CEO & Founder of Bungie Software and is constantly evolving his job role by hiring talented people to work with. Eventually there'll be enough smart people around that he'll be able to sit on his butt all day and do nothing.

Duty Now For The Future[]

October 1996

By Matt Soell, former Bungie "Official Human Pincushion" and Community Guy

I could write an entire rant on the subject of this rant and why it took so long to appear. Suffice it to say that the Webmaster told me to write a rant some time ago; I agreed and then promptly set about doing other things. Several months later, the Webmaster (with no small amount of help from The Man) applied thumbscrews as necessary until I found myself sitting here typing this.

Because this is known unofficially as a "rant" I will do my best to switch topics as many times as I can - mid-sentence, where possible - and to avoid any sort of general theme, logical arguments or common sense. I should also note that if you disagree with anything I write on this page, your beef is with me, not Bungie. If that's fine with you, read on.

Release The Kraken

Since this is appearing on Bungie's Web site, it makes sense that I would talk about my job here at Bungie, or at least some aspect of it. My job involves reading a great deal of e-mail, reading lots of posts on Usenet newsgroups, and talking on the phone. Having done this for many moons, I suppose there are a couple of things which stick in my craw. Let's rant, shall we?

Release Dates

Those of you who read game-related newsgroups on any sort of regular basis are probably familiar with posts titled:

[Eagerly-Anticipated Game X], WHEN?!

And because Game X is so eagerly anticipated, there are a number of follow-up posts from people sharing the latest rumors. More often than not, rumors prove to be just that: elaborate fantasies with no basis in reality.

Those of you who have been reading alt.games.marathon with any regularity over the last couple years are probably already familiar with Bungie's position regarding release dates. For those of you who arrived late, here's a quick primer:

EARLY 1994 - Bungie announces Marathon. People (particularly those with net access) begin to salivate uncontrollably. Bungie's internal timeline calls for Marathon to be finished in August. Bungie rather naively relays this tidbit of info to a stoked online community.

AUGUST 1, 1994, 12:00:01 AM - August arrives. Unfortunately, due to a number of unforseen difficulties, Marathon is still not done. Some overly zealous people get angry, but most continue to wait patiently.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1994, 12:00:01 AM - August is gone. Unfortunately, due to a number of unforseen difficulties, Marathon is still not done. Bungie is now officially late. The flames begin to trickle in like water seeping through a quickly-growing crack in a dam.

SEPTEMBER THROUGH DECEMBER - Unfortunately, due to a number of unforseen difficulties, Marathon is still not done. The dam bursts. Bungie is getting all sorts of angry e-mails, phone calls, faxes and voice mails, all demanding to know why this Marathon game wasn't released back in August, as promised. Bungie mutters something about boxes not being done and works frantically to complete the game.

DECEMBER 23, 1994 - Marathon is finished and released to a public that had been clamoring for it for the better part of a year. The game is done, but Bungie has managed to inadvertently anger a healthy chunk of its customer base by not getting the product out on time, even though Bungie had a number of perfectly good reasons for taking as long as it did.

EARLY 1995 - Bungie commences work on Marathon 2: Durandal. It is determined long before the game is even announced to the public that NO RELEASE DATES WILL BE GIVEN TO ANYONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. This is seen as the best possible option for everyone concerned: there's no way to accurately predict a release date until a game is done, so why bother? Why not just be honest with the customer and say "Well, we don't know when the game is going to be done and we're not willing to guess because we tried that once and it didn't work. You'll just have to be patient."

So that, in a nutshell, is how Bungie came to institute a No-Release-Dates policy. Everyone still with me? Good.

Here's where it gets tricky.

There are a lot of software mail-order houses and retail stores out there. Like most mail-order and retail outfits, they like money; in fact, they won't survive if no one gives them money. There are a whole lotta fish in this particular pond, and they all want your money. (There's nothing inherently wrong with this, by the way, unless you think capitalism is evil.)

Now those of you who read our last Soapbox know that these places are REQUIRED BY LAW to give release dates for the products they pre-sell. Even if the bad evil people at Bungie Software choose not to provide a release date, these poor souls are legally obliged to tell the customer when the software will ship. This law has resulted in the creation of an industry-standard phrase, "Two Weeks" (as in "Sorry, that title is currently out of stock, but we're expecting a shipment in two weeks...." Ring any bells?) If the title hasn't actually been released 14 days later, the mail-order places and stores can just say "Oh, the publisher pushed back the release date. We're expecting a shipment in two weeks." This process is repeated until the software actually ships.

These companies are smart. They know that if you go to the trouble of placing a pre-order, you probably won't go to the trouble of cancelling it unless you find someone else selling the same product for a lower price. The most important thing is making that initial pre-sale. Having a release date, valid or not, can be an important asset; it somehow makes the sale more concrete. "It's currently out of stock, but we'll get a shipment in two weeks." At least they know when the software is coming, thinks the trusting consumer. They do this for a living, so that date is probably pretty firm. And the guy on the phone was so quick to tell me that it would only be two weeks. They certainly sound like they know what they're doing.

Back to concrete examples. In August 1995, Bungie was still working on Marathon 2. We'd released a playable preview at MacWorld, and catalogs began to run ads for it. There was a great deal of interest, and every day we fielded dozens of calls from people who wanted to know when the game would be released. But we weren't giving a release date, for reasons described above.

But the mail-order houses and retailers had release dates. Sometimes very interesting ones.

So one day I got a call from a customer who had ordered Marathon 2 from a mail-order company (which shall not be named here, because I'm a nice guy who doesn't want to deal with a slander lawsuit) and wanted to know when it would ship. I told him we didn't have a release date. He thanked me and said he was on a limited budget, so he was going to call the mail-order company and cancel his order because he couldn't afford to max out his credit card for a few months. I told him to call back in a couple months, when we might have a better idea of when the game would be done. He said goodbye and hung up.

Ten minutes later he called back, infuriated. He was "appalled at our customer service." He wanted to speak to my supervisor. "How can you lie to your customers like that?" he asked.

"I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean," I said.

"I just called the mail-order company to cancel my order. The guy who answered the phone asked me why I was cancelling, and I told him I didn't want to order any games right now if I couldn't find out exactly when they would ship. He said that Marathon 2 is already out. He said that they got a shipment last week but they sold out of them right away, but they're supposed to get another shipment next Monday. I told him that Bungie claims the game isn't out yet, and he said that Bungie was lying to me because they had Marathon 2 in stock just last week."

Keep in mind this was in August of '95, three months before Marathon 2 was released.

Eventually I was able to calm the guy down and assure him that I wasn't lying about Marathon 2's status. I pointed out that, if the game actually was available, I would be shooting myself in the foot by telling him otherwise: we want to sell as many copies of our games as possible. He accepted the logic in this. He vowed to call the mail-order company and chew them out instead.

Over the next few months, I heard the same story from different people. "We're getting a shipment tomorrow." "We just sold our last copy, but we'll be getting more in about a few days." "If you place your pre-order now, you'll get it right after we get the shipment this Friday." And of course, "The publisher pushed back their release date another two weeks."

All before we'd said a word to anyone about a release date.

Most people who buy software on a regular basis hear this every time they place an order. Most of them eventually come to realize that release dates, such as they are, are subject to change at a moment's notice. Other people don't notice this...or they believe the "Publisher missed the release date" routine.

Obviously this is just my experience. Obviously there have been plenty of occasions when a company has announced a product's release date and failed to meet it. Obviously there are plenty of reasons that I should stop whining about what is essentially a trivial issue.

But just the other day I got a letter from a guy named Ira. Ira works for Cyberian Outpost. Ira is a pretty nice guy. He couldn't understand why I was saying all these horrible things about mail-order houses, especially the one he works for. (Apparently they've been getting letters....) Cyberian Outpost is run by a bunch of nice people. They certainly don't intend to misinform their customers, and it's not necessarily their fault that products don't always ship by the release dates listed on Cyberian Outpost's Web site.

Ira chastised me for condemning all third-party vendors and distributors of software. It's not fair to attack the whole bunch based on the actions of a relative few.

Ira's right, for the most part. It's wrong to think that every computer software/hardware vendor in the world is an evil charlatan who only wants to separate you from your wallet. Some of them are, as the saying goes, nice people to do business with. Buying software should be like buying anything else; you may need to look around for a while before you can find someone you're comfortable giving your money to. But they ARE out there.

So what do I want you to take away from this segment of the rant? Two things:

1. If you buy software through mail-order, you might find that a certain percentage of the software you order arrives later than you expected. This is an unfortunate fact of life. Get used to it. Why? Because...

2. Developing software is an art, no different than writing novels or directing movies. Sometimes writers miss their deadlines. Sometimes movies go over budget or over schedule. This does not necessarily mean that the artists working on the novel/movie/computer game are lazy sods or incompetent at their job; it's just taking a little longer than they expected. Developing software is not like churning out widgets on an assembly line. There's a great deal of creativity involved, and a good number of hurdles to be overcome. Getting upset at the programmers for taking the time to do their job well is not an answer.

Selling Out

Over the course of the last year, we've had to deal with an interesting new charge. Ever since we announced our intention of porting Marathon 2 to the Windows 95 operating system, we've received all manner of phone calls, faxes and e-mails accusing us of "selling out."

This makes me laugh.

The idea of "selling out" implies (to my mind anyway) implies the lowering of artistic, aesthetic or ethical standards to make a quick buck.

Imagine you play in a rock band. You are meandering along in your small-time rock band way, trying to write creative and original songs which you hope will someday catapult you and your bandmates into the limelight. Suddenly a band called Mr. Whipple and the Triple-Nippled Crippled Hippos release a single that sells a billion copies and propels them to the top of the charts. Their concerts sell out in minutes, their videos are in heavy rotation on MTV and they sweep all sorts of music awards shows. They are also making enough money to fill several grain silos.

You want your band to be as rich, famous and universally adored as Hootie, I mean Mr. Whipple. So your band changes their style. You write a bunch of new songs that sound eerily similar to their songs. You cut your hair the same way and wear the same sort of clothes. In short, you try to look, sound, and act just like the much more famous band in the hope that doing so will somehow interest fans, record companies, and other people who might want to give you money. Maybe you succeed; maybe you don't. But you've traded your creativity and individuality for a shot at a lot of money.

That's what selling out is.

Bungie hasn't done that. We're still making original games. We still think they're good. If we didn't think they were good, we wouldn't release them. Thankfully, other people still agree that our games are good, and keep buying them. We have no need to sell out.

So why do people persist in making that utterly groundless charge? Because of...

Platform Bigotry

Some of you out there are still under the delusion that ONE TRUE FLAWLESS COMPUTER exists, and you are one of the intellectually-superior people who bought one. People who bought the same brand of computer are brothers in arms, companions in your struggle against the OTHER PEOPLE who bought the BAD AND TOTALLY USELESS COMPUTER. And you spend a lot of time arguing the point in any newsgroup you can access (except the advocacy newsgroups, of course.)

Please stop.

The whole "My Mac/PC/Amiga/BeBox/Linux box is better than your puny little {insert computer name here]" debate is stupid. It's a result of living in a society which seems to be losing the intellectual capacity to handle grey areas. Black/White, Republican/Democrat, Mac/PC. No in-between, and no sympathy or even basic respect for people who don't make the same choice you did. Are we really so pathetic that we can't accept people who buy a different kind of computer? Are we really so starved for things to do that we must resort to flooding newsgroups with irrelevant blather trying to prove that one computer is better than the next?

So many of the postings I read on this subject (try as I might, I never seem to find a way to killfile all of them) are so vituperative that I have to wonder why the posters are so insecure. I suppose it's obvious, in a sense: anyone who spends two to five thousand dollars on a way-cool computer can get uncomfortable if someone accuses them of wasting their money on an inferior machine. But the freakish fanaticism some people display towards their computers mystifies me. It reminds me of those guys who spend a lot of cash on a flashy car and make a big show of it to others in order to compensate for certain...shortcomings.

Evangelism should not be totalitarianism. If you have opinions, you are entitled to express them. So is everyone else. Deal with it. If you feel the need to vent some sort of bizarre hatred for an operating system you do not use, please try to confine it to the relevant advocacy newsgroups.

And please, don't write to us accusing us of "selling out" just because we don't feel like confining our development efforts to a single platform. Life is too short, and there's a big world out there. A big world full of all sorts of computers, and all sorts of people who want cool computer games. We want to make them ALL happy. We don't discriminate. And neither should you.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation[]

January 1997

By Robt McLees, former Bungie Art Director

This is totally a company sanctioned rant, or at least I guess it is, as it is being censored by "the Man". Anyway, to make a short story rather long and convoluted, I will talk about three different subjects simultaneously and go off into seemingly unconnected stories at any given moment. This will give you what might be called "a Virtual Taste of actually listening to Rob talk". By reading all the way through without taking a break to get something to eat or drink and not getting a word in edgewise, but occasionally stopping in the middle of a sentence and then starting up again inexplicably will give you the full "VT" effect! Oh, by the way, "the Man" want's me to "play nice" so I'm not going to (or at least I'll try not to) step on any toes or get too full of myself or use naughty words or threaten anyone's life etc., etc., etc.

Why being a geek may suck but it makes playing games more fun...

I am a staunch believer that games need to have more of a storyline than "you're in hell, get out!" or "hey... there's some evil-type geezer down in that hole! KILL HIM!!!" if they are going to be worth playing all the way through. Sure I played my share of RPG's when I was younger (yes I was younger six months ago) and the aspect of the game that I get the most fun out of is the "story telling". Most computer/video games are only capable of supplying you with enough material to tell your friends a story like "so I snuck up behind him and BLAM... that was cool". Stories of that ilk just aren't as entertaining as "at this point the forces of the damned were storming the keep, so feeling rather confident (in retrospect maybe a little over-confident) I leapt from the parapets to place myself directly in the path of Gorgo as he raced his chariot of death towards the opening where the main gates had once stood. I took a bold stance trying to intimidate this loathsome Duke of Death and the unwholesome beasts that pulled his chariot, but to no avail. He ran me down and left me in such a state I knew not whether I was alive or dead." Even "I landed my strike force in the northwestern quadrant of the city and fanned them out in a 'strong-right' formation. Like an idiot I hadn't accounted for the 'artificially' accelerated passage of time caused by the journey eastward, so when they got there they weren't exactly prepared to fight a night battle. 'Luckily' within minutes of my arrival there were enough fires to light the entire city to near daylight conditions. By the time it came down to 'mopping up' I was no longer sure the citizens of that fair city wouldn't have been better off I had never responded to their cries for help", which is just the recounting of a single skirmish out of a campaign consisting of 102 such conflicts from one of my old favorites is more compelling than the entire storyline of some of the games on the market today. It has always been my opinion that at least half the fun in playing a game is talking about it later and "hey, you know that game? I beat it last night, must've killed like a thousand dudes, man! That was cool" is not what I would call a compelling story.

Why I can no longer just sit down and play a video game...

In the same manner that working in the paper and pencil RPG industry made me incapable of sitting down and playing a role playing game while maintaining the same level of "suspension of disbelief" that I had been capable of before, I am now forced to "figure out the flaws" of every game I play "as I play it" instead of enjoying it from the word 'go'. I see an effect in a game and I try to figure out how it was done (or "wasn't" done, if you get what I'm getting at) and how I could mimic or improve upon it. When something happens in a game that I can't figure out I can't just kick back and say "WOW, that stuff is pretty neat", I think to myself "... hey, I'll have to ask one of the cats in the lab how these guys pulled that off."

Why it sucks that we make cool games...

This is the part where I try not to get too full of myself because as you will soon discover I am fully convinced that given the time and resources we here at BSPC could make the GREATEST COMPUTER GAME THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN!!! Having said that let me just go on to say that it would probably take a real long time to make and would cost a lot of money at the stores... but it would totally rock and everyone who knew their stuff would be playing it. I'm not just saying this to tow the company line (nor am I fishing for a raise), but I am saying this because the team we have assembled here is ...

ok ok ok ... enough of that. Unfortunately it also means that I will have a hand in the endings of some of the coolest games around, which means that I'll already know how they're gonna end... No ultra-groovy-surprise-ending-shock-o-rama-fest for me, dammit!

oh well, I'm sure there'll be some nifty games out there that will have likewise nifty endings for me to enjoy...

So here I am playing this new game and it totally rocks EXCEPT for a couple of things that most people would consider as minor flaws, but they really stand out because the cats who made it should have spotted them or at least you would have thought they would have because I KNOW we would have! OR when you can tell that they really saved memory on THAT set of textures. OR when you can see that they rely too heavily on one thing more than another to get a point across or to show that something is supposed to be cool just because it's all techno-zowie-hey-look-that-stuff-is-all-computeriffic but if they would have been paying attention they would have noticed that that joint just blew up into twenty-four-odd triangles that were over an acre per side! Plus some grenades totally would have helped but I can see why they didn't put them in and I've been a big fan of hers since the eighties so don't even try to front!

And if I'm shooting the guy driving the getaway car in the back of the head I expect him to do something other than stomp on the gas and head down a side street. And if I've poured enough lead to keep the gas bloated corpse of an elephant pinned to the ocean floor into someone I don't expect to hear them talking smack from beyond the grave two minutes later. And if I jump out from behind a rock and press my shotgun against somebody's ribs and squeeze the trigger I expect them to do a little more than to just turn around and start shooting me in the chest. Especially if it's just a man.

I'm no twelve year-old with hands like steel, but over the years I've gotten pretty good at this whole video/computer game-thang and occasionally I even get to enjoy it, but ever since evolving "the third lobe" I find myself not so much trying to "out-think" the game, or my opponent, but rather trying to out-think the people who made the game. I will try to take advantage of the game's weaknesses or just stand around eating up the eye-candy instead of playing the game. If you know the turtle wont die then you go out to sea for three days and come back with the lethal techniques that can kill the unkillable. If you know that the rats are queuing up "off screen" waiting for you to re-enter the room you know that you can make the local furrier a very poor man. If you know that the universe is finite you know that nothing can attack you from beyond its edges. The only drawback is painting yourself into a corner with your own blood.

It is well known that I like to think of myself as a stickler for the realistic portrayal of brutal, painful death. I find it extremely saddening, not that people like to play the "blood sport" variety of games, but rather that they want it sanitized so that their youngsters can play with them without being exposed to "the horror". They don't want them to see all the "blood and guts" that might make them nasty violent-types in years to come after seeing that when someone is killed they usually fall in a bloody heap on the ground or that when a bomb goes off near someone they are usually reduced to pulped meat and viscera not shiny bouncing stars.

Controversy for controversy's sake like technology for technology's sake like violence for violence's sake is empty and without impact.

Cursing and killing and exposing your floppy bits with no more reason than "because we can" is, at best, a pitiable exercise in the sophomoric. Unfortunately there are people who are more concerned with creating hype than with creating content. In fact, when you try to look "hard" when you have no concept of what "hard" is, beyond what you've seen in the movies, you wind up looking silly to the people who normally wouldn't know the difference and like a fool to those who do.

Just because you can do a thing does not mean that that thing is necessarily the best thing to do. Unfortunately people too often associate techno-glitz with quality. In fact, one might say that the "cheese" factor is proportional to the disparity between ones access to new technology and ones ability to use its analog analogs.

War is a violent endeavor that few people can see the point in but lots of people like to play the game because thinking tactically is a serious mental workout. Unfortunately people die in war. In fact, one might say that war and violent death go hand in hand.

Smelling the roses[]

November 2001

By Marty O'Donnell, former Bungie Audio Director

Wow, a new Bungie Soapbox...after how many years? Don't answer that. I think I'll try to bring back the tradition of shorter rants, which will hopefully inspire more of my fellow Bungieites to follow in my footsteps before the end of this decade.

Okay, I have many subjects that I could expound upon, and maybe in future soapboxes (if they give me another turn) I will, but for now I'd like to write about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Music? Sound? Game audio and how people take it for granted? No. There is a statement that is made in game magazines and online gaming forums that has gotten my dander up for a long time (if you're allergic to dander stop reading now). When I see or hear gamers say, "I beat (insert game title here) in (x) hours" it makes my blood boil. Why should I, or anyone else for that matter, care how long it took you to "beat" a game? Here's the deal; some games are meant to be beaten and some are meant to be experienced. None of us should pay attention to the fact that you beat a game in a short amount of time if the concepts of "beating" and "duration" weren't the intention of the game's designers.

Take Riven for example. I remember reading messages from fans coming online soon after it was released who proudly said "I beat Riven in 12 hours!" What does that say about the kind of experience the player enjoyed? I would have rather read "I played Riven for 12 hours and it bored me to death!" How about "I just watched Gone With the Wind in 25 minutes!" Does that tell you anything about the movie or the experience of the viewer? No, it just means that they had the fast forward button pressed down a lot. "I watched Dune for 25 minutes and then I walked out laughing" — now that tells you something.

The time that someone takes to finish a game is usually not that important. Years ago, I played a game called "Return to Dark Castle" and after thoroughly enjoying the entire experience, it became a bit of a contest between my friend Mike and me to see who could get through it the fastest on the highest difficulty. The fact that I ruled and got the whole game down to under 20 minutes (from the start until I turned into the Black Knight) doesn't diminish the game or in some way make me manlier. Okay, maybe it made me manlier than Mike, but that's not my point. My point is that I loved the game when I played it slowly, and enjoyed all the richness and depths of the environments (hey compared to Shufflepuck Café it had depth).

And another thing - this concept of "beating" a game. Does one say, "I just beat War and Peace, and it rocked"? No, one would sound like an idiot. Rather one should say "I just finished reading War and Peace and I more fully understand the poignancy and futility of striving against man's inhumanity to man". One would still sound like an idiot, but at least one might have a better chance at impressing a chick at a party (although my daughters would never fall for it so don't even think about trying).

So in conclusion, please don't start posting how you beat Halo in this many hours, or how you can beat Halo faster than Jason Jones's best time on Legendary (which isn't that hard to do by the way). It cheapens the experience and frankly it reflects poorly on you. Take your time with the game. Explore hidden nooks and crannies. Shine your flashlight on walls and admire the incredible level of detail, reflections, and bump mapping. Try and understand all the intricacies of the story and make sure you hear every possible piece of dialog we recorded, just in case there are any hidden messages. Never, ever skip a cut scene and make sure all the music plays as long as possible. Close your eyes and listen to all the incredible sounds that envelop you in 5.1 Dolby Surround. And while you're at it, notice how an elite just snuck up behind you and wailed on your ass. On second thought, you might want to work on running real fast.

Joseph Goes to the MS Company Store[]

(Or, "How I survived 2 hours in line with the entire European 'Windows' sales team")

January 2002

By Joseph Staten, former Bungie Director of Cinematics and Writer

One of the strange ideas we had to accustom ourselves to when we moved to Seattle was the idea of a "company store." At Bungie, all our products were available to employees free of charge; if you wanted a copy of the Mac Action Sack or a Don't Make Us Kick Your Ass t-shirt for your girlfriend, you just grabbed one from the mail room. Here at Microsoft, if you want a copy of the product you just shipped, you have to drive over to the Company Store, stand in line, and pay for it. Assuming they have it in stock in the first place. On the bright side, you do get a steep discount, and there's an extraordinary variety of Microsoft-branded tchotchkes you can buy. Because sometimes it's not enough to have a cute little beanie-baby animal; you need one with the Microsoft logo seared into its belly. Microsoft coffee mugs, Microsoft sweaters, Microsoft briefcases and umbrellas and sunglasses and terrycloth robes: if you want a consumer product, chances are the Microsoft Company Store has it with a Microsoft logo stamped on it somewhere.

Some Bungie employees have embraced the Company Store more readily than others. The Bungie Webmaster, for example, buys Microsoft golf balls by the gross in order to pursue his favorite hobby: flinging golf balls at the most expensive cars in the Microsoft employee parking lot. Others are more restrained in their enthusiasm for the Company Store. Case in point: Bungie's High Priest of Cinematic Glory, Joseph Staten, who returned from a jaunt to the company store earlier today and penned the following essay.


Ask yourself this question: how many copies of "Zoo Tycoon" does one Belgian family need? Well, if you're the talkative mother from Bruges with whom I just spent the last 90 minutes of my life, 17.

"That's a lot of Zoo-keepers," I smiled in a half-conscious effort to pass the time.

"Oh, yes," she replied cheerfully, her flushed, pretty face half-hidden behind a stack of brightly-colored rectangular boxes. "All my boys, they just love the Zoo!"

The elephant emblazoned on her topmost package looked down his tusks at me as if to say, "It's true you know."

I did a quick, quiet calculation, and decided that (unless I was in the presence of a Guinness world-record holder) her definition of "my boys" extended beyond the confines of her household.

"But they love the 'Power-Point' even more!" she grinned.

I furrowed my brow. She might as well have said: "those silly boys of mine--when they're not wrangling Zebras, they're busy creating fun, colorful presentations for a variety of business purposes!"

"Weird," I thought. But stammered, "Yeah," adjusting my basket from one arm to the other. After an uncomfortable pause, her pale blue eyes peering into mine, I blurted: "I use a Mac."

The woman eyed my 3 copies of 'Office for OSX' with suspicion.

"Oh, they don't allow that," she whispered turning quickly back toward the register, still some 40 feet away behind a colossal stack of "Dot.Net Now!" coffee-mugs.

"They?" I thought, my mind filling with a variety of twisted Orwellian thoughts. I wondered if some database deep in building 110 was, even now, tabulating the number of Mac-related products I had in my possession, and automatically deducting dollars from my next bonus.

"Heh-heh," I chuckled, turning to the man behind me. "'They!'" I said, rolling my eyes, inviting him to share in the humor of the woman's comment. But he said nothing, his eyes dull and gloomy. "Jet-lag," I thought. In his arms were a teetering stack of XBOX titles. I noticed he had 6 copies of most of the first party games--save Halo. I thought about biting my tongue, but the boredom had seeped so deeply into my being, that my mouth moved involuntarily.

"XBOX, huh?" I smiled, "Nice."

The man cocked his head, exhaled heavily, but said nothing.

"Um, you may not know this," I said taking a second look at his stack, "But I don't think those DVDs will work on the European hardware." Still no reply. But the man's eyes jettisoned their passivity, and began to glare. I got the idea that my helpful insight was unwanted.

"My children," he bellowed, shifting his Herculean, Bavarian weight from one hip to the other, "They want the 'Halo.' But I tell them: 'No! No Halo! For you, only the 'Frenzy'! The 'Frenzy' and maybe some 'Munch'."

I looked at him in stunned silence, his voice still ringing in my good ear. The "No, Man! Don't do it!" synapse fired desperately in the back of my brain. I paused a moment more.

"Why no Halo?" I asked, perhaps a bit too defensively.

"My boys also want this 'Halo'," the woman in front of me groused over her shoulder. "And I say 'no' as well!"

The elephant nodded in agreement.

"Good!" the German man growled, "With guns, I have said 'no' for Halo is best."

Still wrestling with his grammar, I looked nervously past the man at the line of people behind him. I half-expected all 200 of his fellow salesmen to join in. "No Halo!" they would chant, "Hey-ho, hey-ho! Halo good for Europe? No!" rattling their bursting baskets like so many cheerleaders' pom-poms.

But they didn't, and with this exchange my neighbors fell silent.

"Yeah, gotta love that Munch," I grinned feebly, "great for kids."

The man stared at me, hard. Then coughed, and pretended to take great interest in a basket full of neoprene, PC-shaped, squishy stress-reliever things nestled next to his knee-cap. I felt ashamed. And a little ill. I opened my mouth like a fish, paused, then buttoned it, and remained thus for the final 20 minutes it took for me to wind, snake-like, around the multifaceted displays of MS-branded T-shirts, pens, tote-bags, fleece vests, and "IntelliMice", pay for my merchandise, and shuffle exhausted to my car.

The moral of my little story is simple: if you need to go to the Company Store, do so with trepidation. It is the most confounding cauldron of culture and consumerism in which I have ever dipped. Spend and converse therein at your peril.

- Joseph

On the Bungie Way[]

February 2003

By Matt Soell, former Bungie "Official Human Pincushion" and Community Guy

Job titles have never been a matter of big importance at Bungie. That is, we've never accorded them the sort of lofty respect you might find at larger companies. Bungie's egalitarian structure and ethos allowed us to worry about our work rather than the politics that inevitably arise when people compete for a higher rung on the ladder. Consequently you'll see a lot of joke titles on Bungie business cards. I used to have a funny job title, but when we made the move out to Washington I decided on a simple approach - a boring, direct statement of my job responsibilities.  My new business cards say "Community Guy / Keeper of the Bungie Way."

The strange thing, from my perspective anyway, is that people inevitably think it's another fake job title.  "Keeper of the Bungie Way, eh?" they say - even if they're not Canadian. "What do you REALLY do?"  Inevitably this question takes me by surprise because the answer seems so obvious.  If someone walked up to you on the street and asked "Do you have bones?" you wouldn't say "yes" even though that's the answer.  You'd be too busy looking for a police officer to save you from the obvious psychopath asking these bizarre questions.  But when I thought about it I realized that my knowledge of the Bungie Way came from full-time immersion in it, a benefit to which few have access.  And while it's easy to huff with disdain when someone doesn't understand, it's difficult to explain yourself in a way that allows them to understand.

I thought it might be a benefit to myself, my coworkers and the general public if I tried to explain what the Bungie Way means (at least to me) and why I thought it was important enough to mention in my job title.  This is merely one man's take on the subject, not an official proclamation of our collective philosophy.  Bungie's circumstances have changed over the years, and someone who joins the Bungie staff today will have a very different experience than I did.  But the basic tenets are all still the same.

A Subtle Separateness

As long as I have worked at Bungie, I've been aware - subconsciously at first - that there was something different about us.  Some people might wonder how I can make this claim when I did not have the "benefit" of industry experience.  How can I say Bungie was different when I didn't have the perspective that comes from working at other companies?  I can't really explain it except to say that the notion of Bungie's essential difference from every other company in our industry took hold in a gradual, organic way.  There was never a company meeting in which we all learned how different we were, or how to cultivate "difference" Bungie-style.  It was never something we could trivialize with a slogan or teach via a rulebook.

To some extent, our sense of separation from others in our industry was less an ideological bent than an unalterable circumstance.  Our offices, for example, were in Chicago - two thousand miles away from the home of America's tech industry.  There are some game companies in Chicago, but not many (and there are probably fewer now than when Bungie began).  There was also the monetary aspect. In a business increasingly dominated by massive publishing companies with money to burn, Bungie was a shoestring self-publishing operation.  Even at the perceived height of our independent years, when we had more employees, got more press, won more awards and sold more games than ever before, we were still a very small fish compared to most of the companies we were competing against.

Those elements are probably pretty common among small businesses.  I'd worked for small businesses before, so it was no surprise to me that a company like Bungie would have to hustle to compete in a global marketplace dominated by big money.  The surprising thing about Bungie was that we chose to compete on our own terms.  There was no rush to adopt the tactics and characteristics of our competitors.  We saw value in not being part of a herd.

The Cool Rule

One of the few rules in Bungie culture was summed up with characteristic flair by Alex Seropian: "Only work with people you think are cool."  This affected everything from our interview process to the deals we made (or didn't make) with other companies.  Job interviews at Bungie were family affairs, with just about everyone stepping in to meet the prospective candidate and sound out his or her general vibe.  People who didn't seem like they'd mesh well on an interpersonal level did not get hired.  Likewise, we saw no point in making a licensing or publishing deal with another company if we did not hit it off with them on a personal basis.  It could be argued that not every deal with a cool person worked out as well as it could have, but it's an unavoidable fact that the few situations where we deviated from this rule inevitably ended in angst and disaster.

The Flattened Pyramid

Bungie never spent any time building an internal hierarchy.  The two founders of the company were always in charge, and they always had a vision for where we should go next - but there was no ladder beneath them, just a pool of employees whose contributions were valued equally.  There was no jockeying for position, no politics, and no grandstanding for the press.  Everyone pulled toward a common goal and no one was excluded by rank from contributing to the games or the company.  In fact, everyone was expected to contribute in any capacity they could.

There's a popular conception of game developers as rock stars too busy "having ideas," driving sportscars and counting money to mix with the common volk, even within their own company.  Maybe that's true at other companies, I dunno.  It was never true at Bungie.  When I first started as Bungie's tech support guy, people used to ask if I'd ever met Jason Jones.  Some of them could barely believe it when I replied that Jason and I, along with the rest of Bungie, sat on the same carpet and ate the same greasy burritos for lunch every day.

The basic concept underlying Bungie's corporate structure - strong leaders but no egos - extended to our dealings with the people who played our games.  We didn't hire booth babes and talking heads to meet our fans at trade shows.  Even if we had that kind of money to throw away, there was something to be said for getting out there and meeting the people who use your product.  We all went to the trade shows  We all read the fan sites. We all took tech support calls.  Again, this was partly pragmatic - there was always more work than people available to do it - but it had the side effect (one might even say benefit) of keeping customer interactions on a palpable, human level.  We never saw our fans as wallets with legs and they never saw us as faceless drones.

A Muse with No Brakes

On a creative level, Bungie habitually confounded expectations.  It wasn't a deliberate attempt to mess with anyone's head, just something that occurred when we made the choices that seemed best to us.  Everything we did made sense to us, but you could tell from public reaction that many of our major creative decisions seemed like a curve ball to people who were not intimately familiar with our thought process.  People couldn't figure out why we'd abandon the Marathon universe for a fantasy series like Myth, or why the Myth II team decided to follow up that title with something other than Myth III, or why Oni was third-person instead of first.  We listen to that outcry when it happens, but we almost always do things for a reason and it's hard to sway us from our vision.  By challenging ourselves, we avoided complacency.

Reckless Optimism

At times, Bungie has been criticized for being too cocksure, too full of itself.  I can't see us operating any other way.  When the cards are stacked against you (as they always were with us) you need an almost irrational faith in your own capabilities to pull off a success.  When Bungie started, conventional wisdom held that Mac games were unprofitable, but people in the industry took notice of the numbers that the Marathon games sold on the Mac, even though they paled in comparison to the sales figures of PC hits. Conventional wisdom held that Mac game developers were somehow inherently inferior, grinding out second-rate derivative products for a captive and ever-shrinking audience - until Myth came out of nowhere and started winning "Game of the Year" awards from the same magazines that wouldn't return Bungie's phone calls a year earlier. Conventional wisdom held that simultaneous Mac/PC releases were not worth the effort, but Bungie's internal data showed a remarkably close split between the number of Mac and PC buyers when the Myth games first shipped .  We did it, all by ourselves, long before Take 2 and Microsoft came knocking.  We broke every so-called "rule" in the book.  I think Bungie's primary legacy, apart from the games, is the knowledge that the conventional wisdom prophesying your doom doesn't mean jack if you work hard enough to circumvent it.

Our belief in ourselves showed up in other ways too.  How many other developers would spend an entire marketing meeting making "sack" jokes and then decide to name their new compilation the Mac Action Sack, and follow through even after a major national retailer refused to carry it?  How many other developers would have a severed dog head as their de facto mascot?  There was a gleeful anarchy inherent in us, an unspoken belief that the rules didn't apply.  It didn't always make things easier, but it definitely made them more fun.

The One Thing You'd Think Would Be Obvious

Hard work.  Work that always lasts well beyond the confines of the standard 8-hour workday.  Work that occasionally crowds out every other thing in your life for months at a stretch.  Work that consumes you and digests you and deposits you in a quivering, shellshocked heap on the neighbor's lawn.  Bungie is not unique in its work ethic, but that's one of the things people tend to overlook.  That's a mistake.

I was at a trade show once, chatting with some seemingly amicable fans.  "I can't believe you're being so nice to us," said one, "since our company is going to put you guys out of business in a year."  Watching that company collapse under the weight of the founders' hubris without shipping a single title was a source of great amusement for me.  Bungie worked hard all the time and succeeded wildly.  Others did not.  If you're going to talk big, you'd better sack up and follow through.

Doing the Right Thing

It's a little ridiculous for an essay that attempts to define an indefinable like "the Bungie Way" to contain a supporting statement as vague as this.  But this specific phrase recurred often in Bungie policy decisions and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

One of the popular misconceptions about Bungie is that we didn't care about money until the summer of 2000.  I could write a whole rant about how insulting it is to think a small independent company like Bungie survived and prospered in a cutthroat business for nearly ten years with only our naive faith in the marketplace of ideas to sustain us, but let's keep this positive.  I will say that, contrary to popular belief, pre-Microsoft Bungie spent a lot of time thinking about money and how to acquire it.  But we didn't always opt for the road that would make or save us the most money.  Goodwill might be intangible and difficult to measure, but we knew enough to hold on greedily to what we had and mint more when possible.

When Myth II first shipped at the end of 1998, the PC uninstaller had a bug which in certain circumstances could wipe out a user's hard drive.  By the time we found out about it the game was already in stores.  Another (larger) company had a new title with the same problem.  They dealt with the crisis by posting a patch to their website.  We could have done the same thing, but we chose to recall Myth II.  It cost a ton of money, angered fans who'd been waiting for the game, and cast a pall over our holiday season.  For us it was the only responsible choice.


I don't think I've done what I set out to do at the beginning of this essay; distilling Bungie's essence into seven (!) key traits seems like a fool's errand.  I could write much more, but I'd be just as likely to cloud the issue as clarify it.

It occurs to me now that some innocent reader might think this is some sort of guideline.  I'd hate anyone to think I was writing self-help literature, some half-assed Bungie version of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  The tenets listed above - recognizing and embracing individuality, working only with those you like and respect, eschewing status for teamwork, following your muse regardless of where it takes you, believing relentlessly in your own abilities, busting ass all the time and Doing The Right Thing - aren't especially original or groundbreaking; none of them sound insane or heretical.  Maybe Bungie just applies them more assiduously than most.

When I first came to Bungie I was a naive young punk rocker.  I knew all about the DIY ethic and had plenty of friends who claimed to espouse it.  Everyone was always talking about starting a band or forming an indie record label or shooting a movie, but none of it ever happened.  Bungie stood in stark contrast to the rest of my peers.  They talked but never acted; Bungie was all action and no talk.  It was a revelation.

I thought after all this time I might be able to explain what made Bungie unique, but the Bungie Way is hard to define succinctly, and it's probably a little different for everyone who works here.  For those who don't work here, all I can say is: if you can find a way to do all the stuff listed above and still have fun, you're getting close.

Special Bonus Mini-Rant Postscript!

I wrote one of these rants several years ago.  It's a pretty cringe-inducing read for me, all the more embarassing because (thanks to a couple salient points buried in the muck of poor writing and unclear thought) Bungie fans keep quoting it.  After writing so many words on one subject (without really getting to the bottom of it), I thought I should throw in a quick update of my thoughts.

  • That whole bit about "Selling Out" sure got topical again, didn't it?  Various events brought up a whole slew of new thoughts on the subject, and I even wrote a follow-up rant solely devoted to that topic. I never published it because I've come to the conclusion that the people who most need to read what I have to say on the subject are also the least likely to take it seriously.  So I'm not going to waste anyone's time except to say this: those who continue to insist at this late date that Bungie sold out (whatever that means this week) should look into the acquisition of a life and a clue as soon as possible.  If Bungie was an ex-girlfriend who dumped you and you were still complaining about it, none of your friends would take your phone calls at this point.
  • On the topic of platform bigotry: since making the move to console development, we have heard a curious new criticism from PC owners too cool to ever touch a console.  "Consoles are toys," the argument goes.  Whenever I read those words, I always hear them in the voice of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.  The point of playing a game is to entertain yourself and the people who play with you, not to equate penis size with the number of buttons on your controller.  Give it a rest.  Why are you so defensive and eager to distance yourself from "toys" anyway?  Are you one of those squares who secretly longs for the day when he outgrows videogames and starts buying Celine Dion records like the other old folks?
  • And now for the Revisited Topics Hat Trick: now more than ever, game release dates are utterly fake and you should not pay attention to them.  That is all.


June 2003

By Lorraine McLees, Bungie Artist Extraordinaire

I should have called out a "wait a sec" in his general direction before stopping at the infant aisle at the local Target. By the time I looked up, Robert was nowhere in sight. And wouldn't you know it, the first thing I did was scan my surroundings for the telltale green triangle that I expected to see floating above my partner’s head! Muttering something about being such a geek, I shook my head and walked on to look in the toy section for my man. If that failed, I would find him in the video game section. All of a sudden, I had to check my reflex to look for cover when the distant sound of somebody triggering the alarm at the front door made me glance where my shield indicator would be recharging. Ahh...geekdom.

The "green triangle" incidents happened fairly often following those months of furious Halo play-testing as builds were put together and bugs were smashed. We played co-op for hours. We were the first ones to "spot for the tank" - where I would ride on the Scorpion’s fenders with the sniper rifle and look downfield out of the enemy AI’s range and point out targets to my partner. "To the right of that tree!" blam! "Left a notch!" blam! " Down a little *bit*!" blam! "...yeah, he’s dead." I would even dream Halo dreams IN-ENGINE. But I guess one would expect that out of the "Bungie couple." And, because there seems to be some rela7ionship between Bungie and the number 7, I suppose it could be construed as "natural" how things and events in our lives have a relationship with 7, or even Halo.

Robert had been on the Halo team since the very beginning. Now, with the departure of Matt Soell, he is second only to Jason Jones as the oldest Bungie member still here. When the Master Chief's visor used to be translucent, he once wore Robert's face. So, yeah, I'm particularly fond of our green cyborg, John, Spartan 117. Did I mention that Robert's middle name is John?

Seven years after losing touch with Robert after we graduated from school, I came on board Bungie as a freelance artist for Oni back in 1998 and became full time seven months later. 34 months after meeting Robert again, we are married on 4/21 in 2001. 7 years. 34 months. 4/21. Haha. Very funny. But true.

But then we bought a house... and saw that the title said we had "Building 7, on Lot 7, plot 142." We laughed, shook our heads and decided it must be fate. I mean, come on... we own the seventh house from the corner of the nearest intersection, which is then the seventh intersection from the nearest major road. There were also seven steps to each landing on our stairs! We practically live and breathe Bungie and Halo. Having 7 show up everywhere... :: shrug :: what the hey. It makes for a funny story.

But then, on October 3 last year, our son was born at 3:43! No, we did not call him "Guilty Spark"!! Tempting, but no. Again, it was just too damned funny. We figured it all has to end at some point, though. Right? This was getting ridiculous.

E3 2003. Grueling, relentless... yet ultimately rewarding. But we had to take a break once it was over. So, on Memorial Day weekend, we decided to go down to Mt. Rainier for some sightseeing. It was a trip we'd been wanting to do for some time. And what route did we have to take...? That's right. Highway 7. We checked in to the historic inn on the slopes of the volcano after a somewhat creepy, almost scary drive through fog we could barely see two car lengths into. Tired and eager to get some sleep, we get into our room. It was up in the mountains, so I don't know what I was expecting... The room was just big enough for the two double beds and a small nightstand in between. The heater was a little box, a space heater, set into the wall just far enough away from the curtains and the corner of a bed to not set fire to them. The bathroom had just enough room for one person to stand in. The shower stall was teeny, barely enough room to pull your knees up or to bend down. "Rather spartan, don't cha think?" I commented with a grin. Then I noticed that all the towels had GS on it and there was a little card that spoke of hospitality that was "Legendary". We had to laugh. We were, after all, in room 117.


The Seattle Myth[]

August 2003

By CJ Cowan, former Bungie Cinematics Lead

Seattle. You can’t read the word without thinking of rain. Well, rain and coffee. Rain, coffee, and grunge. Rain, coffee, grunge, and Frasier. Well anyway, rain is definitely one of the top five things that come to mind when you think of Seattle. At least that was the case with me before I moved here.

When I received my offer letter from Bungie in March of this year, I had been to the Seattle area exactly twice. Both times were for the interview process here, and they occurred in January and February. On both of these trips, it rained from the moment I got off the plane to the moment I left the state. Many of you may say that sucks, but after living in Southern California for three years where I saw the sun more often than my wife, it was a nice respite.

When I accepted Bungie’s offer and started the relocation process, my wife and I were very excited about moving to a cool climate where it rains more often. Every time it came up in conversation that we were about to move to Seattle, invariably the next thing we heard was "Get ready for a lot of rain!"...usually accompanied by jeering, finger pointing, and occasionally some comment about Noah. Honestly, we became tired of explaining to people that no, we aren’t crazy...we happen to LIKE the rain, and we can’t wait to get away from crazy people like you that talk endlessly about how nice the weather is in SoCal. I mean, the sun is nice and all, but who doesn’t like the sound of a good thunderstorm rolling in? I remember a conversation I had with my wife on the plane ride up where we were so thankful to be leaving the harsh sun of the desert of California for a place with real SEASONS and WEATHER PATTERNS. We might even get to wear COATS!

Then we arrived.

In the four months we’ve been in the Seattle area, it has rained six times. In fact, it has been sunny and on the upper side of 90 degrees more often than it has rained. And if it isn’t 90, it’s pretty darn close to it.

"Oh but CJ," you say.

"It’s just the Summer time! It will rain plenty in the winter, and you can enjoy it then! Just be thankful the weather is nice and you have a window office where you can see it!"

Ordinarily, I would do just that. I mean, I’m an easy going guy. I can roll with the punches. I’m typically not demanding. Unfortunately, not only are Seattle residents less wet than I anticipated, they are stupid. They are stupid because even though the temps have been in the upper 80s and 90s pretty consistently over the past few months, nobody has air conditioning in their homes.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in Texas. I understand that high 80s and 90s can’t compete with the 110s of Texas Augusts. I lived through them. I know. I worked outside during my summers in high school. I completely accept that it could be worse.

But I also realize it is the 21st friggin Century. And given the fact that air conditioning has been around for years and years, I expect to be able to go home at night to a house that is at a temperature I am comfortable with. And since my wife is starting her own business from home, I expect to be able to give her a place to live where she doesn’t have to spend the days working in her underwear. And I expect to have a home where my cats aren’t passed out and panting and laying in their water bowl at 3 in the afternoon.

This isn’t much to ask, people. If the weather is this warm for a noticeable percentage of the year, you would think most people are putting air conditioners in their homes. However, not one apartment community that we looked at had air conditioning. There are NEW homes being built that start in the 400,000 dollar range near our place that don’t offer air conditioning. They don’t even offer it as an upgrade!

The reason? Seattle people are stupid. The most common response I’ve had so far is: "It’s only hot for a little while out of the year...it’s no big deal."

Well I only eat for a little bit out of the day, but I BUY FOOD! I only sleep for a little while out of the night, but I HAVE A BED! I only clean house twice a month, but I HAVE A VACUUM! This has got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Just because an inconvenience only happens a few months out of the year doesn’t mean you can’t DO anything about it! And the way they talk about it, you would think it hits 75 for 3 minutes on July 14th, and then it goes back to below freezing. I just can not understand.

So I submit this to the soapbox in the vague hope that if any of you are moving to Seattle and are afraid of the rain, you will realize there are much greater fears to be had from the weather of Puget Sound. And if anyone wants to stand in line with me at Home Depot for the one window unit AC they get in next week, let me know.