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Looking for the Marathon-class Cruiser Carrier, or the Halo 3 achievement Marathon Man?

Marathon is a series of science fiction first-person shooter computer games from Bungie Software released for the Apple Macintosh. It was Bungie's most popular video game prior to the Halo series.

Contents

Background

The first game, Marathon (1994), was followed by two sequels: Marathon 2: Durandal (1995) and Marathon: Infinity (1996). Marathon 2 was also released for Windows 95. One can download all three original games free of charge via H.B.O.'s download page for Mac OS or as convenient installations with the Aleph One engine on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. One can also download the three games and the Aleph One engine at http://source.bungie.org/get/. The original Windows version of Marathon 2 is also available for download but requires a serial number. For Xbox 360 users, "Marathon: Durandal", a port of the second installment, is available for Xbox Live Arcade purchase for 800 points. It features enhanced graphics and sound versus the original version.

Games in the series

Marathon

Marathon was released for the Apple Macintosh and was one of the earliest first-person shooters to appear on the Macintosh. Unlike some other similar games of that era (for example, id Software's Doom) Marathon and its sequels, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity were notable for their intricate plots.

Set in the year 2794 A.D., the game placed the player as a security officer aboard the human starship UESC (United Earth Space Council) Marathon, orbiting the colony on the planet Tau Ceti IV. Throughout the game, the player attempts to defend the ship and its inhabitants from a race of alien slavers called the Pfhor. As he fights against the invaders, he witnesses the three shipboard AIs' interactions, and discovers that all is not as it seems aboard the Marathon.

Marathon 2: Durandal

Marathon 2: Durandal was the sequel to Marathon. In addition to being released for the Apple Macintosh, a Windows 95 version was also released.

Marathon 2 begins 17 years after the first game ends, as the player's ship arrives at the ruined S'pht homeworld Lh'owon. Durandal (one of the Marathon's AIs from the first game) sends the player and an army of ex-colonists to search the ruins of Lh'owon for information that would give Durandal an advantage against the Pfhor, who are planning a new assault on humanity. Among the new characters in this adventure are Durandal's evil counterpart Tycho, who played a minor role in the first game; a Lh'owon-native species known as F'lickta; an ancient and mysterious race of advanced aliens called the Jjaro; and the long-lost S'pht'Kr clan.

The game engine itself underwent several changes from its first incarnation. Although most of these changes were "under-the-hood", a few were visible to the user. The Marathon 2 engine offered performance gains on some machines, in addition to support for higher resolutions, higher color depths, and better quality sound. The enhanced engine also allowed the loading of maps from external files, allowing for users to (later) create and play their own maps.

On August 1st, 2007, Marathon 2: Durandal was released on Xbox Live Arcade by Freeverse. Since the original game hadn't been released, the Xbox Live version was renamed "Marathon: Durandal". Multiplayer gameplay modes include Co-op, King of the Hill, Kill the Man With the Ball, Tag, and an all new Survival. [1][2]

Marathon Infinity

Marathon Infinity included more levels than Marathon 2, which were larger and part of a more intricate plot. The game's code changed little since Marathon 2, and many levels can be played unmodified in both games. Marathon Infinity was only released for the Apple Macintosh. The most dramatic improvement in the game was the inclusion of Bungie’s own level-creating software, Forge, and their physics editor, Anvil. Forge and Anvil allowed a new generation of players to create their own levels using the same tools as the Bungie developers themselves. In Forge, distance was measured in World Units, which are roughly equivalent to 2 meters (6 or 7 feet). Another improvement was the ability to include separate monster, weapons, and physics definitions for each level, a feature heavily used by Double Aught, who designed the Marathon Infinity levels. In addition to the three Marathon games, several games (e.g. Damage Incorporated and ZPC) used the Marathon 2 engine.

Marathon Infinity begins as the Pfhor destroy Lh'owon using a Jjaro-derived doomsday weapon known as the Trih'Xeem (early nova). Unfortunately, the weapon also releases a powerful chaotic being which threatens to destroy the entire galaxy. Because of the chaos, or by means of some Jjaro tech of his own, the Security Officer is transported back and forward in time and through his own dreams, finding himself jumping between timelines and fighting for various sides in a desperate attempt to prevent the chaotic being's release.

After multiple instances of "jumps", the player (seemingly the only being who realizes he is being transported between possible realities) 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.

Halo and Marathon

Main article: List of Marathon references in Halo

Halo: Combat Evolved shares many features with Marathon, though Bungie claims that it is set in a different universe. Common features include the Marathon logo embedded in the Halo logo, Hunters, and SPNKr (also known as Lazyboy or Spanker) rocket launchers, not to mention other similarities to other weapons and also can be seen on captain Keyes' shirt in with his medals when you first go to see him. Halo plays very much like a modern, high end version of Marathon (although it has far fewer puzzles). Bungie often recycles components, famous phrases, and jokes from its games, such as the Security armor, which intentionally resembles the armor worn by the Marathon series' protagonist.

Characters

The Pfhor

A Pfhor Fighter from Marathon 2.

The Pfhor are an extraterrestrial ancient spacefaring race of alien slavers seeking to control the galaxy and perform numerous evil deeds in the games. The Pfhor are bipedal, somewhat taller than humans, have three red eyes and green skin, and come in a variety of classes and flavours. In Marathon, the three eyes are arranged in a triangle, pointing down, making the unmasked Pfhor look clownish, but the later games shifted the "arrow" to point up, with the third eye in a more "enlightened" position in the middle of the forehead.

  • The most basic variety is the Fighter, a lightly armored Pfhor wielding a shock staff that is used as a melee weapon. The orange and blue Fighters wield a staff with a slightly greener crystal, and these staffs have the additional ability of launching projectiles. Fighters are divided into two classes: Melee (wielding a normal staff) and Projectile (wielding the greener staff). A Melee minor has green armor and a Major has purple armor. A Projectile minor has orange armor and a Projectile major has blue armor. The Super Fighter, which appears in Marathon Infinity, wears black armor and attacks more constantly. The Majors and the Super Fighters always attack at least twice, but the Super Fighter can attack up to four times.
  • Troopers are heavily armored and pack automatic rifle/grenade launcher combo weapons. Troopers are also divided into minor (green) and major(purple), but not in orange or blue, although some custom marathon scenarios use the blue variety and the Super variety is also used towards the end of the games because they are harder enemies.
  • Hunters are the Pfhor assault troops. They wear very heavy armor and have shoulder-mounted energy cannons. Their minors wear brown armor, are weaker than majors and also fire more slowly. Majors wear green armor, are harder to kill and fire faster than minors. A Mother of All Hunters (MOAH) wears a blue armor and is a very uncommon kind of hunter. Being stronger than a Juggernaut tank, they are extremely hard to kill. They fire their cannon in massive burst and are very dangerous in enclosed spaces. The Super variety wear black armor and are twice as strong as a MOAH, are used in custom scenarios and in the last level of the Infinity game. This was probably the source of the idea for Hunter in the Halo trilogy.
  • Enforcers essentially serve as the Pfhor police force. They wear cloaks and possess handheld alien weapons (these are the only enemy weapons the player can wield in Marathon, being somewhat like an SMG in Marathon and more like a directional flamethrower in Marathon 2 and Infinity). They come in two different types, with blue/orange enforcers being tougher and faster than green/blue ones.
  • The Juggernaut, aka "The Big Floaty Thing That Kicks Our Asses",(sic.), is essentially a Pfhor tank. These flying armored weapons platforms are like a mix of a tank and an attack helicopter, only larger and more dangerous. They fire dual homing rockets ("Warpedoes") as well as enforcer weapon (N-cannon) bursts. They come in two varieties: grey and brown.

Exceedingly tough, monochrome-colored versions of all the Pfhor (except for Juggernauts) appear in the Vidmaster Challenge stages, a series of skill challenges hidden at the end of Marathon: Infinity.

The Pfhor also utilize the 'Conditioned Ranks', or enslaved soldiers, who are forced to fight for the empire. Conquered races make up the majority of the conditioned ranks.

Conditioned Ranks

S'pht
The S'pht are a race of alien cyborgs, cybernetically enhanced by the Jjaro to terraform Lh'owon. They were enslaved by the Pfhor c. 1810 A.D., and liberated en masse by Durandal and the never-enslaved and technologically superior S'pht'Kr clan in 2811 A.D. The S'pht consist of extremely complex brains carried in floating cybernetic bodies, with long, flowing cloaks. They are armed with a built-in energy pulse weapon and some carry cloaking devices.

Drinniol
Known to the Marathon's crew as 'Hulks', these creatures stand over ten feet tall. Slow moving and tough, they are nevertheless deadly at close range due to their heavy crushing strikes. They appear only in two levels in Marathon, both times on BoB-heavy levels, leading some to believe that the Pfhor use them only to gather prisoners.

It should be noted that Halo 2 was planned to include a similar Covenant-controlled creature called the Drinol. It also has some similarities to the Flood Tank Form.

Wasp
Wasps are large flying insects that appear to be used to distract, confuse and injure any humans who offer resistance. Although able to spit a corrosive compound at their enemies, they are easily killed and pose little threat. It is not clear whether they are merely pests that infest Pfhor ships or are controlled by the Pfhor. They are clearly a source of inspiration for the Drone race in the Halo series.

Looker
Lookers are large, floating beetle-like creatures who run at the player or the BoBs and explode violently, dealing a considerable amount of damage. As they often inhabit tight corridors, it can be difficult to escape these explosions. It is not clear whether they are merely pests that infest Pfhor ships or are controlled by the Pfhor. This could be an inspiration to the flood carrier forms in the Halo series

Flick'ta

Flick'ta are native creatures of Lh'owon, living in sewers, water pools, and lava. They are ancestors of the S'pht and often harass Pfhor forces. Flick'ta have a simplified digestive system, absorbing nutrients from the sludge they live in, and are extremely irritable. Entering their territory unarmed is not recommended. They take on various colors and properties depending on their surroundings -- blue Flick'ta in water (who have powerful melee attacks, but no projectile attacks), red Flick'ta in lava (who have weak melee attacks, but can throw lava projectiles) and green Flick'ta in sewers (who strike powerfully and throw damaging sewage). Flick'ta allow their eggs to develop in their large mouth-like orifices located on the front of their abdomen.

The Jjaro

Little information is known about the Jjaro, an extremely advanced species which appear to have vanished from our galaxy millions of years ago (they are not seen in-game), leaving much of their technology to fall into the hands of the Pfhor. The Jjaro are known to have possessed high-quality cyborg technology (such as that used to create the S'pht), a star-destroying weapon known as the Trih'Xeem, the ability to move entire planets by folding space around them (as used by the S'pht'Kr), some sort of time manipulation technology, and various ways of dealing with the Wrk'ncacnter. Only two individuals, Yrro and Pthia, are ever named.

The Jjaro were first used in an earlier Bungie game, Pathways Into Darkness.

BoBs

The majority of the human characters in the series are referred to as "BoBs" (which stands for "Born on Board"). They wear different-colored suits, but all have the same face in-game. In Marathon, most are harmless (this is referenced in Marathon 2, where the default player name is "Bob the Ill Fated") and generally ignore the player (and occasionally announce "They're everywhere!", a phrase shared by Grunts and Marines in Halo); in Durandal and Infinity they carry pistols and fight for Durandal with the player. If the player attacks them often enough, they will consider him a traitor and eventually return fire. However, a few, called simulacrums (or "assimilated BoBs"), are actually android bombs; upon seeing the player's character, they will run directly towards him (usually shouting things like "I'm out of ammo!", "Thank God it's you!" or the infamous "Frog blast the vent core!" (see below), and when close enough (according to Durandal, less than 3 meters) they will explode and inflict severe damage to anyone nearby. This is especially a problem on levels where a certain number of BoBs must be protected to succeed. There are other differences between human BoBs and Simulacrums: simulacrums have red pupils, only two toes, no genitalia and deformed teeth (though these differences do not appear in-game). Also, simulacrums will run directly towards the player, whereas humans will run erratically, and simulacrums never shoot at anyone.

The Security Officer

The character portrayed by the player is known only as The Security Officer (sometimes, The Marine.) In many ways, he bears a resemblance to the Master Chief: he is a two-meter cyborg who wears green battle armor (though the armor is just completely mundane, vacuum-enabled armor he pulls out of a shuttlecraft locker, his superhuman prowess implied to originate from his transformation into a MJOLNIR battleroid centuries before, in spite of which he looks perfectly normal among other humans) that never speaks in game. At the start of Marathon, he appears to believe that he is merely a human, although a talented, dangerous and powerful one. However, persistent references to "nine MJOLNIR Mark IV cyborgs" throughout the game has led many fans to believe that The Security Officer is in fact the tenth member of this group. However, The Security Officer himself does not come to realize this until Marathon Infinity, when he starts having surreal flashbacks, trips into his own mind, and spontaneous, bizarre dreams as a side effect of Jjaro technology employed in his cybernetic enhancements.

It has been speculated, probably incorrectly, that The Security Officer's mind is that of an AI in a human's body (though during one point in "Infinity", the player does very likely upload Durandal's core matrix into his own brain before merging it with Thoth). In Infinity, he seems to be undergoing a sort of rampancy. (The three chapters of Infinity are called Despair, Rage, and Envy, which would seem to parallel the three stages of rampancy- Melancholy, Anger and Jealousy.) Since rampancy is defined as "an artificial intelligence's coming to realize that it is not real," this may show that the player is not, in fact, human. Alternately, it may symbolize the entirely human security officer wresting control of his own destiny from the AIs that he has been serving for the last three games, and unlocking mastery over the latent powers of the Jjaro cybernetics that were integrated into him so long ago.

The Security Officer's mind and personality, unlike the Chief's, are mostly left up to the player to speculate on. Although Durandal describes him as "a magnificent killing machine" and asks if being allowed to kill more Pfhor will "make you happy," the AI is more likely being malicious than accurate. While The Security Officer does not seem to be a mindless psychopath, he is clearly comfortable enduring and quite capable of carrying out violent acts on a scale unimaginable to any normal person. However, in the third game of the series, he seems to lose any sense of morality he may previously have possessed, working for the indisputably evil Tycho and killing BoBs on Tycho's orders in a desperate attempt to keep the Wrk'ncacnter trapped in Lh'owon's sun. In Infinity, we are given greater access to his mind and feelings. He seems to recognize some sort of guilt or weariness for the atrocities he has committed, and appears to believe that he has been forced to do what he has done. Ironically, this seems accurate. All three games consist chiefly of doing what various people tell him to do - only once does he act of his own initiative, and this is in the Marathon manual.

The AIs

The Marathon possessed four artificial intelligences, all of which, at some point in the series, control The Security Officer's actions, and three of which undergo rampancy.

Leela
The ship's command AI, Leela, was The Security Officer's first 'master', guiding and helping him through the original attack on the UESC Marathon. She does seem to care about his well being, is rather cold, and does not show high levels of emotion at any point (being a computer, and not having gone rampant). Although she manages the Marathon through the events of the first game, she is captured and dissected by the second Pfhor fleet that arrives at Tau Ceti after Durandal has already kidnapped the player.

Durandal
The ship's function-control AI, Durandal, is the plot focus of all three games. It could even be argued that he, not The Security Officer, is the main character of the series. He undergoes rampancy over the course of the first game, have been purposely brought to that state by Dr. Bernhard Strauss as an attempt to achieve "meta-stable rampancy". By the beginning of the sequel, he is meta-stable, and guides the player through the whole game. Although he is very sarcastic, with a cruel sense of humor, and seems to despise humans, he is not predominantly evil, and is never seen to abuse The Security Officer or other humans without some ulterior motive. For instance, while it was in fact Durandal that secretly detected and then intentionally made the Pfhor aware of humanity's presence in order to hijack a Pfhor space-folding FTL ship - knowing full well that they would likely destroy the human colony and the Marathon, killing or enslaving every human being in the solar system before he could gain control of a Pfhor spacecraft- he considered his actions to be in humanity's long-term interest because an ambush set up by him (even with Alpha Centauri's humans as bait) would be better than the Pfhor stumbling on humanity's home in the Sol system later on.

Tycho
The ship's science AI, Tycho, features only briefly in the first two games. It seems that he was captured and conditioned by the Pfhor. By the events of Marathon Infinity, Tycho seems to have lapsed into a permanent Anger stage of rampancy. He kidnaps The Security Officer and uses him as a tool to take control of a Pfhor fleet as the first stage of the game. He seems, however, to have been rampant as early as Marathon, proclaiming floridly to The Security Officer, "I AM TYCHO! I SHALL DESTROY DURANDAL!" Cruel and bitterly sarcastic, Tycho is probably the least sympathetic character in the game.

Thoth
An ancient AI, created by the Jjaro and given to the S'pht'Kr, Thoth is an enigmatic, powerful being. Although he only ever speaks in strangely written, choppy free-verse poetry which is hard to decipher, he has very definite goals. He seems to care little for the wars between the S'pht, the Pfhor and the humans, serving only to keep the Wrk'ncacnter imprisoned. Thoth is based on the Egyptian God of the same name. "His roles in Egyptian mythology were many. Thoth served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other."[3] As with the Egyptian God, Thoth (The AI) is focused on preserving balance in the battle between Durandal and Tycho. When Durandal is "killed" in Marathon 2, Thoth assists the player by causing the return of the 11th Clan. It is implied by Durandal later on that his death was a hoax in order to gain the assistance of Thoth. The theme of balance is seen again in Marathon: Infinity, in a timeline where Durandal and the player cripple Battle Group Seven before arriving at Lh'owon, Thoth refuses to assist Durandal, as he is now clearly the greater power. In one of the potential realities created by the waking of the Wrk'ncacnter, he merges with Durandal, creating a strange hybrid.

The W'rkncacnter

The W'rkncacnter are a race of immortal "chaotic beings" dating from prior to the dawn of time. Said to corrupt and warp the very space around them, the W'rkncacnter caused Yrro and Pthia to flee their home and come to Lh'owon. When the W'rkncacnter followed the pair, Pthia was killed. Yrro, in a rage, flung the W'rkncacnter into Lh'owon's sun. This is the main plot point of Marathon Infinity, as it struggles for release, attempting to destroy The Security Officer, the Pfhor, the S'pht and everything around it.

According to text found in Marathon 2:

In primordial space, timeless creatures made waves. These waves created us and the others. Waves were the battles, and the battles were waves. Fleeing all W'rkncacnter, Yrro and Pthia settled upon Lh'owon. They brought the S'pht, servants who began to shape the deserts of Lh'owon into marsh and sea, rivers and forests. They made sisters for Lh'owon to protect and maintain the paradise. When the W'rkncacnter came, Pthia was killed, and Yrro in anger, flung the W'rkncacnter into the sun. The sun burned them, but they swam on its surface.

A particular text screen in Marathon Infinity describes the W'rkncacnter as a race of beings who "live in chaos, creating it around them." Over time, they have become imprisoned in the more "chaotic" aspects of the universe; stars, storms and black holes are all named as prisons. Freeing a W'rkncacnter is possible, but very difficult (given the nature of their prisons). One would have to be insane to even try: their ability to generate chaos enables them to destroy on a cosmic scale. The W'rkncacnter are present in the myths of thousands of worlds, most of which are now uninhabitable, and tales of their destructive power have survived all over the galaxy for over 60 million years. In Marathon Infinity, a W'rkncacnter is imprisoned in the sun of planet Lh'owon. It is theorized by some that the W'rkncacnter's powerfully chaotic nature may be responsible for the jumps between realities seen in the game. When the Pfhor use a trih xeem device to send the star into early nova, the creature is released, to the horror and destruction of the Pfhor.

Whether W'rkncacnter is a singular entity or an alien race is unclear. Marathon 2: Durandal contains many mythological texts of the S'pht, but they are inconsistent on this point. It is possible that the W'rkncacnter is a race which is represented as a singular entity in the S'pht mythos, much like their mythological character Yrro has been speculated to be a singularization of the Jjaro. Durandal/Thoth in Marathon Infinity describes the legendary W'rkncacnter as having distinct identities. Another theory is that the W'rkncacnter is both a multiple and singular entity, in some incomprehensible way (possibly multiple manifestations of a single entity). Due to the contradictory descriptions, it is entirely plausible that the W'rkncacnter is a hive mind or functions in a fractal way, possessing multiple bodies/incarnations that can either act separately or as a single entity, and would be identical on any given scale. Given the being's chaotic nature, almost anything is possible.

The W'rkncacnter also figured previously in Pathways Into Darkness. Referred to as "The Dreaming God", it is a nearly two kilometre long comatose hulk which, floating through space after a cataclysmic battle for untold eons, slammed into what is now Earth's Yucatan Peninsula. "There it lay for tens of millions of years until it began to dream (twisting the surrounding earth into inconceivable nightmares in a gradually increasing radius, a radius which had just touched the surface by our times), to stir, and to awaken."

Their nature is quite reminiscent of the endless appetite of Gravemind and the Flood.

"Frog blast the vent core!"

This is a phrase synonymous with the Marathon series. Explosive "simulacrums" occasionally shout the phrase, trying to blend in with the regular BoBs and explode around a large amount of humans. Since they are only piecing together random words, their nonsense gives them away. Doug Zartman, who performed the BoB voices, was instructed during recording to improvise a random phrase, and this is what he came up with. It is very popular to say in the text chat of a network game of Marathon; meant more as a joke than anything, the sheer randomness of this phrase means that it can be used at any time.

The phrase has appeared hidden in other games, such as Myth, Tron 2.0, and Oni. Also, a Morse code deciphered from the Halo 3 map High Ground also states this.

Trivia

  • Interestingly enough, the music for Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity was performed by a band called "Power of Seven".
  • Marathon is actually a territory in ancient Greece where the first battle of the Greco-Persian War was fought, thus going with Bungie's theme of ancient Greek references in their games, such as the Spartans. Also, Marathon may be named due to the fact that you run around a lot, and with a considerable running speed to top it.
  • In all Halo games the Marathon logo is on the difficulty shields.
  • In Halo 2 and 3 the Marathon logo is a selectable emblem for your character.
  • In season 3 of Red vs Blue when Church is blown back in time the game used for the scenes is Marathon: Infinity.
  • In all of the Halo games, there are many references to Marathon. For example, the symbol can be seen on 343 Guilty Spark's eye , the CCS-class Battlecruiser outside of the hangar on Crow's Nest, and the Prophet of Truth's crown.
  • Many Bungie fans believe that the Halo series is a prequel to the Marathon series. This theory, however, is constantly denied by Bungie, and various inconsistencies exist between the two stories making it unlikely. See also: Legendary Planet.
  • In the episode "Cutting Edge" of the Beast Wars animated series, Rattrap is seen playing a game similar to Marathon. The noticeable differences are that Rattrap himself appears to be the main character and that the "Wasps" are portrayed as Waspinator in his beast mode.

See also

External Links

  • marathon.bungie.org, a general Marathon news site which is still regularly updated as of 2007
  • Download the Trilogy for Classic MacOS, or the Aleph One-converted versions for OS X and Windows
  • Marathon Open Source Project, the official website for Aleph One which also posts news updates on other Marathon fan projects
  • GURPS Marathon - A fan-made Marathon roleplaying sourcebook based on GURPS.
  • Marathon's Story Site - An essential reference if you're lost in Marathon's plot.
  • Traxus, the Marathon Wiki - Currently active Marathon wiki
  • Pfhorpedia- Abandoned Wiki site dedicated to all things Marathon.

References

  1. http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=news&cid=12649
  2. http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=news&cid=12684
  3. (Budge Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 405)

This article uses material from the "Marathon (Video Game Series)" article on the Halo wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.







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