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Marty O'Donnell

Martin "Marty" O'Donnell (a.k.a. Marty The Elder) is a composer and former audio director at Bungie known for creating the soundtracks for Destiny, the Halo series, Oni, and Myth series. His frequent composing partner from the 1980s until 2014 was Michael Salvatori. He also worked alongside C Paul Johnson, Skye Lewin, and more composers at Bungie for the Halo and Destiny soundtracks. As audio director, he directed voice talent and sound design for the Halo series and Destiny.

During his time at Bungie, he frequently appeared in ViDocs and promotional material for Bungie and the Halo series. His sound studio at Bungie was called The Ivory Tower, lending its nickname to the Halo 2 multiplayer map "Ivory Tower." In addition, this location in the game is noted to be owned by a character named "Lance O'Donnell," another nickname for O'Donnell.

He has been married for 30+ years to his wife, Marcie, and has two daughters, Alison and Christine. O'Donnell is a self-described political conservative, and his fellow co-workers at Bungie have described him as the most right-leaning employee at the company.[1]

On April 11, 2014, O'Donnell tweeted that he had been "terminated without cause" from Bungie.[2]


O'Donnell received piano lessons and wanted to start a rock band when he reached junior high school. Despite his interest in progressive and fusion rock, O'Donnell studied the classical component of music and composition and received his Masters of Music Degree in composition with honors from the University of Southern California in the early 1980s.

Prior to joining Bungie, O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori owned their own audio studio (O'Donnell - Salvatori Total Audio Studios) in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1980s. In their early career, they wrote the jingles for Mr. Clean and Flintstones Vitamins, and owns the rights to the melodies and used the melody for Flintstones Vitamins for the Bungie Podcast. According to O'Donnell, after 15 years of doing television and radio commercials, he decided he wanted to work on video game soundtracks.

The composer's first foray into game-related work was working as a sound designer for the video game Riven, the sequel to Myst. During the same year, Total Audio started doing contract work for Bungie during their Chicago years, starting with Myth: The Fallen Lords, and Myth II: Soulblighter. Total Audio later composed the music for Valkyrie Studio's Septerra Core, Legacy of the Creator; O'Donnell met Steve Downes while working on the game, and the composer would later recommend the voice actor to Bungie for the role of the Master Chief.

Shortly after completing Myth II, Bungie founders Jason Jones and Alex Seropian asked Marty and Michael to work on the Oni and Halo soundtracks full time as employees. Marty accepted while Mike continued working as a contractor alongside Marty to keep their Total Audio Studios business running.

At E3 2000, Bungie showed off a demo trailer of Halo, using in-game graphics mixed with O'Donnell's iconic musical score. The game didn't have any sounds in it yet, which was why the score was put on top of the action. O'Donnell said he and his team at Total Audio had one weekend to create the score, sent it to New York the same night the piece was finished, and that his only direction came from Joseph Staten who told him that it should give a sense of "big, exciting, and unusual with a classical orchestra touch to give it some weight and stature. We also wanted it to have some sort of 'ancient' feel to it."[3] The game was still in third-person, but the graphics had changed considerably[4] between the two demos, and a basic story appeared for why the aliens were fighting the humans.

Staten finished all 33 cutscenes for the game on September 9, 2001, and O'Donnell and Jay Weinland only had three days to add music and sound, respectively.[5] On September 11, after the World Trade Center attacks had occurred, most employees still went into the office because of deadlines, including Weinland, but O'Donnell sent them home.[5]

In 2002, O'Donnell was speaking to Pete Parsons (then-Microsoft executive at Bungie) about a bonus check they had received for Halo, and how they'd love to "go pirate" one day and either convince Microsoft to give the team more, or somehow leave.[6]

A few months after the release of Halo 2, Bungie didn't have a lead writer for Halo 3, so a story committee was formed to create an outline based off of Halo 2's cut third act, but characters from Halo 2 were missing, including Lord Hood and Miranda Keyes, and there were no surprises. O'Donnell wrote some plot points after watching the movie, Serenity, to make the player feel that the Master Chief was at risk. His outline killed off Miranda Keyes and Sergeant Johnson, and 343 Guilty Spark (who killed Johnson), and that was incorporated into the story committee's outline.[7] When Staten returned, he worked with Stokes, to write up drafts and make the story as good as it could be.

On May 8, 2006[8], then Bungie-president Harold Ryan and composer Marty O'Donnell formed a company together called Podophobia Entertainment, Inc.[9], to seemingly trademark "Destiny," a logo, with a description that read, "Computer game software; Computer game software downloadable from a global computer network; Video game software; Virtual reality game software." This was discovered in May 2011[10][11] after a disgruntled ex-employee at the time said that they were working on a game called "Destiny."[12] On October 5, 2007[13], Bungie announced their independence from Microsoft to become a privately held limited liability company named Bungie, LLC.[14][15] In April 2010, "Arete Seven, LLC" (doing business as Bungie, LLC) officially changed its name to "Bungie, Inc."[16]

The music for Halo 3 contained refinements and revisions to previous themes heard in the series, as O'Donnell stressed the importance of using previous motifs in the final installment of the trilogy. O'Donnell also introduced a distinctive piano theme which had never been heard before, and first made its appearance in the Halo 3 announcement teaser. In an interview, O'Donnell stated that he had always approached music from the keyboard, and that at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (where the trailer would first be shown) he had a feeling that "no [other announcement] would start with a piano." In addition to composition, O'Donnell has also arranged his work; a special arrangement was used for a Halo 3 segment of Video Games Live in London, England, after which O'Donnell appeared.

Sometime in 2011, O'Donnell began working on the score for Destiny, deciding that he and Michael Salvatori would compose the score for the entire franchise at once.[17] To begin, they would create a prequel soundtrack entitled "Music of the Spheres" that would be released shortly before Destiny's release. During development, they were assisted by Sir Paul McCartney who created a song specifically for Destiny entitled, "Hope for the Future."[18]

At E3 2013, an official trailer for Destiny was shown off at Sony's Press Conference.[19] Shortly after the trailer was released, O'Donnell tweeted that the trailer hadn't been made at Bungie, but had been made by Activision instead,[20] noting that the music wasn't created by him and threatening fellow employees to not share it. This led then-CEO Harold Ryan and others on the management team to file a complaint against Activision, but it was overruled. O'Donnell was given a poor performance review due to his tweets.[21]

In February 2014, due to internal arguments with O'Donnell, Bungie drafted a termination agreement where O'Donnell could continue working on the game until his work was complete - no later than July 31. O'Donnell declined to sign it but agreed to continue working.[22] On April 11, Bungie's board of directors terminated O'Donnell without cause, wishing him luck in his future endeavors.[2][23] On May 1, 2014, Marty filed a lawsuit against Bungie CEO Harold Ryan for "unpaid benefits." In his response, Ryan denied that Bungie owed Marty anything additional. The lawsuit was resolved in 2015 in favor of O'Donnell[24] where he was awarded $142,500 in profit-sharing for his work on Destiny, as well as $95,000 in unpaid wages.



  • Marty O' Donnell created one of Bungie.net's first Groups, The Marty Army.
  • He enjoys calling himself "The Maestro" and "God."
  • When he joined Bungie, he was the oldest member of the company, hence his nickname, "the Elder."
  • Marty is the self-proclaimed Etch-a-Sketch champion of Bungie.
  • Both of his daughters were part of the singing children's choir for the Flintstones Vitamins commercial which Marty wrote.
  • His favorite movie is Ben-Hur.
  • He drives an electric blue Acura TLS.
  • He has a Bachelor's Degree of Music in composition from the Wheaton Conservatory of Music.
  • He has a Master's Degree of Music in composition from the University of Southern California.
  • Whenever Marty is composing in his studio, he hangs a sign on his door that says "Email or Die."
  • He was the "arch enemy" of Frank O'Connor.
  • His father is Bob O'Donnell, who voiced the Prophet of Objection in the opening cutscene of Halo 2, Dr. Kerr in Oni, the Surley Dwarf in Myth, and Brother Vance in Destiny and Destiny 2.
  • Marty and Joseph Staten, on one of their many trips to LA for dialog recording, went to the theater to see 28 Days Later which inspired them later, while sharing a hotel room, to start discussing the idea of a Halo movie. However, the discussion quickly ended when the night was soured by something that shall forever be known as "The Spectravision Incident." The Halo 2 Instruction Manual was the only manual of all the games that referred to Martin O'Donnell as "Marty O'Donnell" in the Game Credits section. All the other manuals refer to him as Martin.
    • In the Halo 4 credits, he is also credited as Marty O'Donnell.
  • In the Halo 3 Microsoft Sam Easter Egg, O'Donnell is referenced twice; "Happy Easter Marty," and "I am a monument to all of Marty's sins lololol."
  • When G4 announced Halo 3 as 2008 Game of the Year, Marty was the one who appeared with flaming Recon armor and many other players in a video to thank G4.
  • The ODST achievement Be Like Marty is a reference to him, who apparently hung back and let other people kill enemies in games of Firefight. This was explained in the Bungie Podcast.
  • In Halo: Reach, there is a Fireteam trooper named "1LT M. O'Donnell." The Fireteam trooper's call sign is MRTY.
  • In Halo: Reach should the player die in a game of Firefight with Cortana's voice equipped, she may exclaim, "Marty, I'll always love you!"

From Marty's Meet the Team page from 2004[25]:

Nickname: Marty the Elder, Lance Classification: Grizzled Ancients
Current Job: Audio Director, Bungie Studios Origin: Vienna, Austria
Age: Wise Height: 6'0"
Weight: Wide Hair: Flaxen, waxen
Talent: Beyond years
First Job: Outdoor Department Manager, Abercrombie and Fitch
Hobby: Etch-a-Sketch Master.
Ultimate Halo Match: Sidewinder, Two Player Lan only, Snipers
Ultimate Snack: White Cheddar Cheez-Its
Ultimate Website: www.TotalAudio.com
Best Recurring Party: Friday night wine & cheese at the O'Donnell's featuring Bungie Iron Chef
Fake Weapon: Jenga Death-Ray


One of only three people still at Bungie to have done solid work on titles as far back as Myth: The Fallen Lords, Marty O'Donnell has composed music, directed voice talent, created sound design, and wowed artists with his Etch-a-Sketch skills. Obviously the oldest and wisest member of the Bungie team, Marty also has the most stable family life, celebrating 26 years of wedded bliss to his long-suffering wife Marcie, and fathering two wonderful children (now adult size) Alison, and Christine. Little known factoid, both daughters are part of the singing children's choir for the Flintstones Vitamins commercials, which Marty wrote.

See Also[]



  1. Bungie Podcast (archived) - "The Bungie Podcast 12/12/2007: With Martin O'Donnell" (December 12, 2007)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Twitter - Marty O'Donnell (April 15, 2014)
  3. Vice.com - The Complete Untold Story of Halo (March 2018)
  4. Halopedia - Halo E3 2000 Trailer
  5. 5.0 5.1 Vice.com - The Complete Untold Story of Halo (March 2018)
  6. Vice.com - The Complete Untold Story of Halo (March 2018)
  7. Vice.com - The Complete Untold Story of Halo (March 2018)
  8. OpenCorporates - Photophobia Entertainment, Inc. (Deleware)
  9. OpenCorporates - Photophobia Entertainment, Inc. (Washington)
  10. Halo.Bungie.Org - New discovery support old rumor (May 29, 2011)
  11. GameRant - Trademark Confirms Bungie's Next Game Is Titled 'Destiny'
  12. Kotaku - 'Destiny' The Next Game From Halo Creators, Says Source (February 17, 2011)
  13. Bungie.net (via archive.org) - 10/05/07 Bungie Weekly What's Update! (October 5, 2007)
  14. Bungie.net (via archive.org) - Bungie Announces Independence: Press Release (October 5, 2007)
  15. Seattle Times - Microsoft, "Halo" maker Bungie split (October 6, 2007)
  16. Rampancy.net (September 8, 2015)
  17. Kotaku - How Halo and Destiny's Composer Got Fired From Bungie (September 7, 2015)
  18. Destinypedia - Music of the Spheres
  19. YouTube - The Game Station: Destiny - Official E3 Trailer
  20. Twitter - Marty O'Donnell (June 11, 2013)
  21. Kotaku - How Halo and Destiny's Composer Got Fired From Bungie (September 7, 2015)
  22. Kotaku - How Halo and Destiny's Composer Got Fired From Bungie (September 7, 2015)
  23. Bungie.net - There are those who said this day would never come... (April 16, 2014)
  24. Engadget - 'Halo,' 'Destiny' composter Marty O'Donnell wins lawsuit against Bungie (September 5, 2015)
  25. Bungie.net (archived) - Meet the Team: Marty O'Donnell (December 11, 2004)