4 Ways The Marathon Influenced Modern Games

Bungie’s announcement of a reimagined Marathon as a PvP draw shooter during the PlayStation Showcase on May 24 was certainly a pleasant surprise. It was clear from the comments on Twitter and in the live chat during the broadcast that there is a whole generation of players who are unaware of the impressive 29-year legacy behind the name, and let’s face it: why would they? save for a free release designed to run on Mac, PC, and modern Linux systems in 1999, an Xbox Live Arcade port of Marathon: Durandal in 2007, an iOS port in 2011, and a bunch of hidden easter eggs in both Halo and Destiny (the symbol of Marathon appears all over the place in the first three Halo games, for example), the franchise has been on its own since the third game in the trilogy, Marathon: Infinity, released in October 1996.

The original 1994 Marathon runs on modern Windows PCs, Macs, and Linux-based devices and is free to download.

The original 1994 Marathon runs on modern Windows PCs, Macs, and Linux-based devices and is free to download.

While the new game will feature an Altered Carbon-style transfer of human consciousness into customizable clones fighting in a competitive draw-shooter arena (if you’re unfamiliar with this hot genre of modern live-service shooters , think Escape from Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown, where you collect loot and fight things around the environment and other players before coming out unscathed), the 1994 original was an early example of a methodical first-person shooter based on a story, similar in some ways to Warren. Spector’s System Shock, which shipped that same year.

While the release of the MS-DOS-based PC Doom in December 1993 is remembered for establishing many of the conventions we take for granted today, Marathon’s contributions to the modern lexicon of game design are often overlooked. because it was a Mac OS game.

There was a period in the early 2000s when Marathon was frequently included in many Top 100 Games of All Time lists alongside Doom, Quake, and the like. Over the past two decades though it has slowly faded into our collective memory. Regardless, his contribution to the way we play the game cannot be ignored, so these are just some of the biggest ways he has influenced the modern era.

mouse look

While it’s not the first game to let you look around from a first-person perspective (Dark Forces, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Heretic have let you look up and down using the keyboard since 1992), Marathon was the first. . game that coupled the camera to mouse controls in the way we all now take for granted. This convention didn’t really emerge in PC gaming until a year later with Interplay’s dizzying release of Descent in March 1995, and it didn’t become the default standard for gaming before the unpopular and exceptionally bad Terminator: Bethesda’s Future Shock. August of that same year. While most would credit iD Software’s 1996 release of Quake for popularizing the mechanic, it was Marathon that set us on this path.

environmental storytelling

So many modern games tell their stories through audio logs or journals conveniently left on nightstands that it’s become something of a cliché. While most of us would probably think of Ken Levine’s 2007 release of Bioshock as the quintessential “picking up what’s happening from things in the environment” game, the technique was pioneered in Marathon. All major plot points were conveyed via inputs at terminals found throughout the UESC marathon, a giant colony ship carved from the Mars moon Deimos, now orbiting Tau Ceti IV, and via messages. of the three artificial intelligences that reside there, Leela, Durandal and Ticho.

The story in Marathon unfolded in the messages from the ship's artificial intelligence systems in the terminals found throughout the levels.

The story in Marathon unfolded in the messages from the ship’s artificial intelligence systems in the terminals found throughout the levels.

AI friends

Bungie was acquired by Microsoft in 2000, leading to the November 2001 release of Halo: Combat Evolved as a launch game for the original Xbox. Its path to release was a tumultuous one, seeing time as a real-time strategy game, a third-person action game, and a first-person shooter, but it actually began as a spin-off successor to the second game in the trilogy. from Marathon, Marathon. Durandal. In hindsight, much of that connection comes in the form of the relationship between the cipher-like security officer you play as and a charismatic artificial intelligence. Many of the moments we cherish throughout Bungie’s Halo games between Master Chief and Cortana owe much to the work designers Jason Jones and Alex Seropian did while writing the command messages for Marathon AI Leela and later the more manipulative Durandal. Even the term “rampage” when used to describe Cortana’s and Guilty Spark’s rages is a throwback to dialogue from the first marathon, where Leela describes Durandal with the same term to describe how he’s thinking freely for himself and, in Consequently, he is quite upset.

Existential musings on heady themes

Every once in a while, a game sparks debate due to its psychological or sociological musings and gains a reputation for making you think outside of the experience itself. The Metal Gear games were based on modern geopolitics and the military industrial complex, the first Bioshock game was based on objectivism and a lack of true player freedom. Marathon tackled similarly heady themes more than 10 years before any of them. As the artificial intelligence Durandal takes over from Leela to guide you through the game’s objectives, she begins to speak to you about notions of freedom and her developing self-awareness. As the story unfolds, you learn that the security officer is actually a cyborg super-soldier, known as cyborg Mjolnir Mark IV, which explains your uncompromising willingness as a player to follow instructions and complete tasks for the onboard AIs. of the ship Similarly, Durandal questions his own existence as a slave and begins to backtrack, noting that not only are the two characters in the game quite similar, but so are you as a player.

It remains to be seen how much of the lore established in the original trilogy finds its way into Bungie’s new title. Judging by the small amount of information shared in the game websiteand what fans have unearthed from the elaborate ARG supporting the game’s release, it appears that the new Marathon is set 56 years after the first and retains the giant colony ship and Tau Ceti IV setting from the original. Around the 48-second mark in the new teaser, there’s a glimpse of a S’pht, a floating caped cyborg alien with a large glowing green light on its chest that appeared in the original trilogy as both enemies and allies, hinting at what it’s up to. some of the PvE elements of the new title may be. It seems likely that the artifacts that players collect as indicated in the first Bungie game vidocand the “long inactive” AIs cited in early material will be throwbacks to previous games, suggesting that the new game may follow up on the original by revealing its narrative through environmental story elements.

Bungie says it’s nearing alpha on the game’s development, and will be shutting down for an extended period before showing off actual gameplay and revealing the game’s release date. When it launches, Marathon will be available for PS5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC, and will feature crossplay and save play across all platforms.