Alex Seropian and Jason Jones were seniors at the University of Chicago when they created their first game: Gnop, a simple Pong clone written and released nearly 20 years after the original. The name Gnop is simply Pong spelled backwards. The game proved popular enough among Mac gamers since the game was a free, user friendly alternative. After that game's release, Alex founded Bungie Software Products Corporation in May 1991 to self-publish his own creation: Operation: Desert Storm, a game he wrote and packaged himself, with financial assistance from family and friends.
Pathways into Darkness and the small expansion
The two then released "Pathways into Darkness" on August 1st, 1993. You play as a member of a US Army Special Forces team on a mission to prevent an ancient godlike being from awakening and destroying the Earth. In order to succeed, the team has to enter an ancient pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, reach the bottom level, and detonate a low yield nuclear device in an attempt to stun the Dreaming God and bury it under millions of tons of rock, with more permanent measures to be latertaken by the "Jjaro", the alien race which warned the US government of the threat. However, before the game begins, during the team's deployment, the character's parachute fails to open, and the resulting impact both knocks out the character and breaks or scatters most of his equipment. Believing their comrade to be dead, the rest of the team enters the pyramid. Several hours later, their teammate arrives, armed with only a flashlight and survival knife. Alone, the player must fight his or her way through the monsters which inhabit the pyramid, and complete the team's mission to detonate the device before the god fully awakens in five game days. PiD was coded on a Mac IIFX; Jason worked alone on the code, while his friend Colin Brent designed the graphics. The game received several awards: MacWorld's Game Hall of Fame, the MacUser 100, and Inside Mac Games' Adventure Game of the Year. With money, Bungie was able to invest in an above ground office and a staff.
Marathon and the expansion of the Bungie community fanbase
On January 5th, 1994, Bungie first demonstrated their sequel to Pathways into Darkness, a science-fiction themed first-person shooter entitled "Marathon" (later dubbed "Marathon Zero") at the MacWorld show in San Fransisco. At the second MacWorld show that year, on August 1st, 1994, this time in Boston, Bungie demonstrated the greatly revamped Marathon game, with a graphics engine rewritten since earlier in the year and an entirely new plotline. Later that year on December 21st, 1994, Bungie released this groundbreaking new game. Marathon was a milestone not only for Bungie, but the Macintosh as well. Marathon takes place in the year 2794 aboard a large, multi-generational colony spacecraft called the UESC (United Earth Space Council) Marathon. The um setting its sight on the future, even launching "bungie.com" over the young Internet. The website became the nexus where fans could interact with Bungie extensively, something Bungie was well known for doing. Here began early Bungie traditions, legends, and mysteries such as Ling-Ling, the "Webmaster" (some unknown Bungie guy in a gorilla suit and a cowboy hat), the Disembodied Soul and weird mysterious phrases such as "frog blast the vent core!", and "where the heck did the name Bungie come from?".
Following Marathon's success, Bungie realized that a sequel was necessary, both because of the many additional features and enhancements the programmers had in mind and overwhelming public demand. The team announced there would be a sequel to Marathon on July 19th, 1995. Marathon 2: Durandal was released later that year on November 24th, 1995, and far from being a cheap rehash of the Marathon story, distinguished itself by being a new game in its own right. Seventeen years have passed since the events of the first game. Durandal, one of the three AIs from the Marathon, sends the player and an army of ex-colonists to search the ruins of Lh'owon, the S'pht home-world. He does not mention what exactly he is looking for, although he does let it slip that the Pfhor are planning to attack Earth, and that being on Lh'owon may stall their advance. Marathon 2 brings many elements to the game that can be considered staples of the series such as: a Lh'owon-native species known as F'lickta, the mention of an ancient and mysterious race of advanced aliens called the Jjaro, and a clan of S'pht that avoided enslavement by the Pfhor - the S'pht'Kr. At the climax of the game, the Security Officer activates Thoth, an ancient Jjaro AI. Thoth then contacts the S'Pht'Kr, who in turn destroy the Pfhor armada.
With Marathon 2 released, Bungie hired more artists, programmers, tech support, marketing staff, gained nearly 500% sales growth, and ventured to make the leap from Mac-only releases to multiplatform titles. "Marathon Infinity" was released on October 15, 1996, which included more levels and a much larger plot then the previous two. The story in the single-player version of Marathon Infinity, titled "Blood Tides of Lh'owon", is often considered to be confusing. For example, it begins as if large parts, if not all, that the events in Marathon 2 had not happened. Theories differ on exactly what happens in this game, but the consensus is that the player somehow jumps between alternative realities, seeking to prevent a chaotic entity, the W'rkncacnter, from being released from Lh'owon's dying sun. These jumps are apparently caused either by Jjaro technology or by the W'rkncacnter's chaotic nature. For example, the player begins the game as Durandal's ally, only to be transported to a reality where Durandal did not capture the player after the events of Marathon. As such, he is controlled by the Pfhor-tortured AI Tycho. After multiple instances of these "jumps", the player activates the ancient Jjaro station, preventing the chaotic entity's release. The ending screen of Infinity leaves the story's resolution open-ended, taking place billions of years after the events of Marathon Infinity. Despite the player's being teleported to a Jjaro station by Durandal and left with a grim message in the beginning of Infinity, both Durandal and Earth did survive in the original timeline as can be seen at the end of Marathon 2.
Bungie Publishing, Abuse, and Weekend Warrior
This was also the time Bungie released "Abuse" for the Mac OS. Abuse was created by Crack dot Com but was published by Bungie for the Mac by Bungie's newly created "Bungie Publishing," which came out October 25th, 1996. The protagonist of the game, Nick Vrenna, has been unjustly incarcerated in a prison where the staff is performing unethical medical experiments upon the inmates. A prison riot occurs and an experiment goes horribly wrong. The people inside the prison - except for Nick, who seems to be immune - get infected with a substance called Abuse that transforms them into monsters. Nick takes a laser gun and goes on to single-handedly destroy all mutants, stop the substance from spreading further, and escape from the prison complex. Around this time a less well known game Bungie also came to publish was a little gem called "Weekend Warrior." Developed by Pangea Software and completed for the Mac OS platform by Bungie on December 1st, 1996, Weekend Warrior became available on store shelves sometime soon thereafter. Weekend Warrior puts a uniquely entertaining spin on the fully 3D action game. Weekend Warrior is a game show where you assume the identity of an ordinary, everyday character and enter a challenging 3D arena. Cash and prizes can be yours by escaping traps, completing missions and pummeling other contestants into submission.
Myth and Bungie West
With the Marathon book closed, the Bungie team decided to try something they have never done before. Bungie fans were expecting another first-person shooter, but instead, what they got was a Real Time Tactical game announced on December 6th, 1996, seven weeks after Marathon: Infinity released. Bungie realized thousands of gamers will pick up "Myth: The Fallen Lords" and will be hungry to test their mettle in online battles without reading the manual or dealing with complex network settings. With this in mind, on October 14th, 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 5th, 1997, Myth: The Fallen Lords was released. The Myth series is set in a fantasy world that was inspired in many ways by Glen Cook's Black Company novels. It details the 17th year of fighting in the West, in battle against the Dark. The Dark is lead by 6 Sorcerers of breath taking power known as The Fallen Lords, and are lead by Balor. The war effort in the West is lead by a council of 9 powerful Avatara known as The Nine. In the middle of all of this lies an elite group of soldiers within the Armies of the North known as The Legion, and the story revolves around their exploits, and journey, within the war. The Story is told from the perspective of a journal writer within the Legion, and follows his perspective on events, often with historical inaccuracies and rumors of events. 1997 also marked the year when Bungie opened a second studio in Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, called "Bungie Studios West" or "Bungie West", where it worked on a separate project than "Bungie East."
Myth II: Soulblighter and Oni's beginning
At E3 in 1998, Bungie announces two new games in development: "Myth II: Soulblighter" (Bungie East) and "Oni" (Bungie West), on May 23rd, 1998. Several months later on November 30th, 1998, Myth II was put on store shelves. The game features an improved graphics engine, new multiplayer maps and units, an all new story that takes place after the events in The Fallen Lords. The story is told through a series of journal entries from a lone soldier who at first is a part of a small contingency lead by Cruniac who while passing through the town of Tallow are asked to investigate reports of grave robbing. Arriving at Willow Creek, they find it swarming with undead. After clearing the town, the soldiers are then sent to rescue live men being held at a cemetery by brigands. After freeing them one is escorted back to Tallow where he reveals to the mayor that the instances of grave robbing lead back to Keep Kildaer, under Baron Kildaer. Cruniac's forces lay siege to the keep and kill the Baron, however upon leaving scout armies of undead following in pursuit, also with word that Tallow has been ravaged by undead. In this pursuit Cruniac is killed with warrior Garrick hearing his last words that Soulblighter had returned where after retrieving from his body a Journal taken from the Baron's library that is in fact the Journal of the soldier who fought in the Great War (being the same who narrated the plot in The Fallen Lords). The Journal later helps in locating the Total Codex that like in Great War spoke events that would yet to transpire. Upon reporting back to Alric, he believes that Soulblighter is trying to locate the Summoner that the Codex describes as man not yet born who would resurrect the Myrkridia, a race of bloodthirsty monsters. In his search for the Summoner, Soulblighter marches through and destroys major Cath'Bruig cities, before the capital Madrigal where Alric has stayed to save any remaining survivors. A man before, however, reports back after having been interrogated by a horrific woman, later confirmed to be Shiver. Before setting sail, Alric and his men narrowly escape the now confirmed resurrected Myrkridia. Seeking to fight fire with fire, Alric then leads the search to find the Deceiver who while once fought for Balor was less devout to his follow fallen lords. He is found and resurrected after having been left for dead in a frozen lake for many years. Allying himself now with Alric, the Deceiver and a small reluctant force head to the ruins of Rhi'ornin, a dominion of the Trow Giants who the Deceiver convinces to join. With the help of the Trow, the Light recaptures the lost city of Muirthemne, once to capital of the Cath'Bruig and the Ibis Crown that is given to Alirc, granting him more power and becoming Emperor, where also the ancient order of the Heron Guard is reestablished. In order to quell the onslaught of Myrkridia, the Deceiver plans to travel to Forest Heart and locate a fragment on the Tain, an artifact that once imprisoned the Myrkridia and enter it to hunt down the Summoner. While at first successful, the Deceiver than independently plans a sneak attack on Soublighter's camp right after, one that fails and results in his and his forces' imprisonment. During this time however, the jailor Phelot, a shade frees one group of men with the rest quickly fighting back against the Dark. Following this, the Deceiver hunts down Shiver with a group of heroes south of Silvermines. Upon their confrontation, Shiver is betrayed by her Shade general that lays waste to her army while the Deceiver kills Shiver, however her death results in a shock wave, killing the Deceiver at the same time. Alric and Soulblighter lead their armies into one final confrontation at the foot of the volcano Tharsis. Soulblighter is pushed back into the volcano itself where there he plans a last desperate attempt against the Light by shattering the Cloudspine, a mountain range that would cause widespread devastation over the land. Alric eventually tracks him down and breaks the rock Soulblighter stands on, causing him to fall into lava, killing him. The journal writer/narrator concludes that man once again rebuilds his land and speaks of the cycle of the Leveler, that he is never dead, but only returns as a different form every millennia yet Soulblighter was not the Leveler as he .tried to force to cycle at his own peril and as a result might have even broken the cycle. Although if this outcome is true is still unknown. The original version of the Myth II: Soulblighter contained a serious bug. The bug was that the CD contained an uninstaller which would remove Myth from a computer by deleting the directory in which it had been installed. If the user had overridden the default and installed Myth to the root level of his hard drive, the uninstaller would delete the entire contents of the user's hard drive. This bug was caught after Myth II CDs had been sent out and also duplicated and boxed to ship to stores. Bungie employees went to the factory, tore open the boxes, and replaced the faulty CDs with new CDs on which the uninstaller bug had been fixed. Luckily, only the marketing person who discovered the bug had her hard drive wiped. After Myth II was released, and before Microsoft bought Bungie, Take2 traded their Bungie stock for the rights to the Myth franchise from Bungie. Take2 released several Myth related titles including Myth Worlds (including 2 CDs of fan-created add-ons), Green Berets (conversion from medieval setting to a Vietnam era setting), and Myth 3: The Wolf Age.
The start of Halo
On February 15th, 1999, marathon.bungie.org started receiving letters from a mysterious entity from firstname.lastname@example.org. These letters continued until July after the seventh letter, although an eighth letter was found in the 1.3 version of Myth. These were dubbed the "Cortana Letters". Then on July 21, 1999, during the Macworld Conference & Expo, Steve Jobs announced that "Halo" would be released for Mac OS and Windows simultaneously. Before this public announcement, game industry journalists under a non-disclosure agreement had previewed the game in a private showing during E3 1999, and were reportedly amazed. Bungie Studios later stated an even earlier development build of the game centered on real-time strategy and was "basically Myth in a sci-fi universe." At E3 2000, the first trailer of Halo was well-received. The version shown there differed greatly from the one exhibited previously, marking the first major overhaul in the game's development. At this point, Halo was a third-person action game, in which a transport starship crash-lands on a mysterious ring world that orbits a star. Early versions of Covenant aliens appear in great numbers and loot what they can, and war erupts between them and the humans. Unable to match the technologically advanced alien race, the humans on the ring world resort to guerrilla warfare. This version of the game featured Halo-specific fauna, which were later dropped because of design difficulties and the creatures' "detraction from the surprise, drama and impact of the Flood." As rumors had predicted, Microsoft announced on June 19, 2000 that it had acquired Bungie Studios and the company moved to Redmond, Washington. Halo became an exclusive game for Microsoft's Xbox video game console, and Bungie Studios rewrote the game's engine, heavily altering its presentation and turning it into a first-person shooter. Originally a key element, the game's online multiplayer component was dropped because Xbox Live would be unfinished at the time of Halo's release.
Oni and the absence of a legend
Released on January 29th, 2001, "Oni" was Bungie West's only game. It broke new ground by blending third-person shooting with hand-to-hand combat, resulting in a unique, yet familiar game for third-person shooter enthusiasts. The action of Oni takes place around the year 2032. The game world is a dystopia, an Earth so polluted that little of it remains habitable. To solve unspecified international economic crises, all nations have combined into a single entity, the World Coalition Government. The government is Orwellian, telling the populace that what are actually dangerously toxic regions are wilderness preserves, and using the Technological Crimes Task Force, its secret police, to spy on citizens and suppress opposition. The character, Mai Hasegawa (code-named "Konoko"), begins the game working for the police. Soon, she learns her employers have been keeping secrets about her past from her. She turns against them as she embarks on a quest of self-discovery. The player learns more about her family and origins while battling both the Technological Crimes Task Force and its greatest enemy, the equally monolithic criminal organization called the Syndicate. In the game's climax, Konoko discovers a Syndicate plan to cause the Atmospheric Conversion Centers, air-treatment plants necessary to keep most of the world's population alive, to catastrophically malfunction. She is partially successful in thwarting the plot, saving a portion of humanity. But after Alex Seropian finishes his part in Bungie's next project, he announced on July 19th, 2001 that he would be leaving Bungie for Chicago, to form "Wideload Games."
On November 15th, 2001, Bungie released "Halo" to coincide with the launch of Microsoft's first console: the Xbox. Within five months over a million copies were sold worldwide and became a smash hit, breaking sales records. In Halo's twenty-sixth century setting, the player assumes the role of the Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced "SPARTAN" super-soldier. The player is accompanied by Cortana, an artificial intelligence who occupies the Master Chief's neural interface. Players battle various aliens on foot and in vehicles as they attempt to uncover the secrets of the eponymous Halo, a ring-shaped structure. The game has been called "easy to learn", and has been praised for its "engaging story", which actually followed a novel by Eric Nylund entitled "Halo: The Fall of Reach", released October 30th, 2001. Two more novels followed after Halo was released and Halo 2 was announced: Halo: The Flood (April 1st, 2003) and Halo: First Strike (December 2, 2003). A PC/Mac version of the game was released as well on September 30th, 2003 with online multiplayer capabilities, new weapons, vehicles, and maps by Gearbox Software. Halo: Custom Edition which basically gave the tools the developers used to the fans to make their own creations within the Halo engine. And before, on January 20th, 2003, Bungie announced that in cooperation with Microsoft and Joyride Studios, Halo Action Figures and vehicles would be available for fans to buy in the near future. Figures continued to be made for the whole Halo series in the years to come.
August 8th, 2002 saw the announcement of a sequel to Halo, simply called "Halo 2", and thus, the hype and excitement began. Bungie kept very quiet for months to come as they worked on Halo 2 with very little to speculate on. E3 2003 showed Halo 2's game play for the first time in front of a live audience and simply made fans foam at the mouth for more. On July 18th, 2004, ilovebees.com was launched and gave way to more questions to Halo fans. At the end of Halo 2's theatrical screening, at the end under the Xbox logo, "xbox.com" turned into "ilovebees.com" for a split second. Fans immediately investigated. A message on the front page directed viewers to the blog of a girl named Dana. Dana claimed that she built the ilovebees site for her Aunt Margaret and recently her site got in this bizarre state, and asks if anyone could help her. Dana acted essentially as a narrator in the game, describing events for people who missed the action. The front page had a counter counting down to July 27, 2004 (when it says "network throttling will erode"), August 10, 2004 (when "this medium will metastasize"), and August 24, 2004 (at 8:06 am, when it will be "wide awake and physical") - many thought something big would happen related to Halo 2 on these dates, however it was only related to the ILB game. Currently there is a counter counting down to the day the Covenant will attack Earth, 500 years in the future. On 8/10/04, a list of GPS coordinates with times were added to the site's Links page, along with a countdown to "Axons go hot". With the exception of one leading to the Pacific Ocean, all of the coordinates lead to pay phones. On 8/24/04, the countdown ended as it reached the first set time. People who answered the pay phones (the "axons") at the scheduled times spoke to a recording of the A.I. and were asked basic questions about the character. If answered correctly, an audio clip would be released and a number would be added to a counter on the website. The audio clips, when threaded together formed an audio drama about characters in the Halo universe. As the number reached 777, the AI, as played by a voice actor instead of a recording, began interacting with players through the pay phones. The AI would ask for their name, rank and proof that they were human. Players would provide their usernames, choose ranks and improvise proof (eg. joking, singing). Their names were added to the site, crediting them for activating the axons. After the game was over, players were invited to go on a "training mission". Various sites around America were used to host the event, including movie theaters and malls. Players were told to say the phrase "The Operator left a message for me." to gain access to the event. Unfortunately, several of the hosts were unaware of ILB and thought it was just a Halo 2 event, disappointing many fans. At each event, players were given DVDs containing all of the ILB audio files as well as deleted material. At this point, Halo 2's long awaited release date was already announced on May 10th, 2004 and on November 9th, 2004, Halo 2 released to the masses. Within 24 hours, there were 2.4 million copies sold and earned over $125 million. The game sold over 5 million more in the next two years. Edge noted in its review, "It's fitting that we're able to steal a line from the script to sum everything up. No spoilers here, just an epitaph, from the moment Cortana turns to Master Chief and says this: It's not an original plan. But we know it'll work.'" Then in March of 2005, Bungie moved to Kirkland, Washington to once again upgrade their living space and make their next game...
With Halo 2's open-ended ending, fans immediately expected another sequel to be given to them. And sure enough, at E3 2006, Bungie announced Halo 3 with a trailer depicting the Master Chief again on a war ravaged Earth with an unearthed Forerunner object, leaving unanswered questions to fans yet again. Halo 3 had several marketing campaigns that built up its hype up to and including "Iris", "Believe", "Landfall", and it's two other trailers that were released. September 25th, 2007 saw Halo 3's release which yet again broke records making over $300 million within the first week. Although Halo 3 leaves the story open-ended yet again, Bungie denounces its involvement in the expansion of the story within the series. This follows the announcement that Bungie would be separating from Microsoft on July 7th, 2007. But it wouldn't happen until October 5th, 2007, for legal reasons. Currently, Bungie still thrives and has fans biting their nails to see what they got in store for them in the future. Until we know, Halo 3: ODST will be dangled in front of us with one of Bungie's hands, while the other is behind its back doing something perhaps... awesome.