Marathon Part 1

This is the first part of a 3 part retrospective of the game Marathon, a subject very close to my heart.

To say that Marathon is an important game to me is an understatement. It has pretty much influenced my entire working career as well as my education.

It all starts with an Apple Computer.

My father was put in charge of picking out computers for DHL back in the early 80s. He choose to go with Apple because of some sales guy somewhere, or perhaps the IBM guy was a dick. Not really sure on the specifics. But anyway he picked Apple (I mean it was the early 80s who wouldn’t?)

That started my family on a Apple path that I would thankfully continue. We had an Apple II LGS which I remember fondly as being a good computer. It had no hard disk, and everything ran off 3.5 floppies. I never owned one of those 5″ monsters, I’m kind of sadden by that.

I had great games for that computer, Thexder, Apache, Kings Quest and Space Quest 2 (my favorite). It also had system disks that let you into the GUI Mac OS (maybe 5 or 4? I don’t remember).

It was a great computer and was used for years. Eventually I learned to draw on it and I had drawn an awesome thing as part of a report for school and tried to print it out (we had an Image Writer with a color printer ribbon). I ran into an error with not enough memory when I tried to print out this report. Not realizing this was a RAM issue, I tried deleting things. Ultimately I lost my entire report. I was rather heart broken. At this time, very few kids would do reports in schools typed on computers. And if they did, I can guarantee I was the only kid putting in computer generated graphics.

This prompted my dad to take me with him that weekend to buy a new computer. As I had said, we stretched that Apple II way longer than we should of. We saw two computers. I think there was an HP something running Win 3.1 and then we went to an Apple Retailer and they had a Macintosh LC III. It was amazing. They had it hooked up to this beast of a 17″ monitor. It had a CD ROM kit.

The sales guy offered the LCIII in a config with an Apple II emulator in it (on retrospect, I bet they just put a Apple II on a PCI card or whatever they were called back in the day). The idea was we could keep all the old LGS software we had. Sadly the Apple II emulator wasn’t compatible with the LGS. But by that time we were set on the Mac.

Don’t worry this gets to Marathon soon.

This new computer was a beast. It played CD ROMs and music CDs. When Christmas rolled around, all those great computer catalogues started to arrive. MacMall, MacZone, MacSomething. I always went right to the games.

I wasn’t a huge gamer. I was the last kid on the block to get a Nintendo. I was a Senior in high school before we got a Playstation. But somehow I really loved games. In the middle of the games section was a postage stamp sized screenshot of what looked kind of like Doom, but with aliens and space. Looking back on the image, it’s hard to tell wtf is going on.

But there it was “Marathon” I had never heard of it, my friends had never heard of it. So many games back then had amazing descriptions for what was a dinky little racing game, or some asteroids clone (I’m looking at you Spaceway 2000).

Marathon arrived for Christmas of 1994. It had a strange box and came on 4 floppies that were impossible to install (seriously, Insert the last part of the archive first?). But once it was up and running, holy crap. It was this amazing world of aliens and darkness. I played it a ton and it was enjoyable. But I wasn’t hooked. It would never of been my favorite game. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn’t grab me.

A year or two later I was out furniture shopping with my family and we stopped by a bookstore and there on the shelf was a yellow box. Marathon 2. I didn’t even know they made one (I didn’t have the Internet until sometime in 97).

I picked up the game and installed, as it came on a CD. It was such an impressive box. Sadly the game was a bit more advanced for my 8MB of RAM LCIII. To whoever at Bungie spent all the time on the phone with a kid from Nebraska, thank you. I know I burned an hour two or three trying to make the game not stutter on my old computer with you on the phone.

Eventually there was only one solution, we needed more RAM. First we got RAM doubler, a magical program that I still don’t know how it worked, but I turned 8 MB into 16MB. This was good, but not good enough.

Eventually we upgraded the computer to16MB of real honest to god RAM (at probably a cost of $2,000 or something absurd). With RAM Doubler it skyrocketed to 32MB. I was flying high.*

And thus I played Marathon 2. I still don’t think I fully understood what happened in the game. But it was fun, vibrant, and supported mods. By this time I had the internet and had discovered the world of online Marathon resources. I beat Marathon 2 using a few mods (and never beat it legit like). This held my interest for a while. But still I wouldn’t say I knew what happened in the game. I had a love of reading at that age (still do) and I loved scifi. So why I don’t remember the plot is beyond me. All I can think is my gaming sessions were short and spread out over a long time.

At some point we upgraded at a Macintosh 7500 or something. I forget the model number exactly. It was in incremental update, let me go back and revisit Marathon 2 a bit.

Then we moved from Nebraska to South Carolina. This was a devastating move for me. It was at the start of my Junior year. I was leaving all my friends, and going to a school I would only be at for 2 years before leaving it for College.

There was much bargaining between myself and my parents. One thing I got was the family would get a new computer after the move. It was a PowerMac 300 something slash something. I know it was 300MHz, had a built in Sub, but was not the G3 chipset. It was a beast. I just went from 75MHz to 300! It even had a graphics card. Some 2MB of video ram ATI thing. A friend of mine got me a copy of Unreal since I now had a computer with a GPU. I never played the first Unreal past the 2nd level. Tucked away in the box that came with the computer was a small silver and black CD in a white sleeve.

It was Marathon: Infinity. Now I knew Infinity existed at this point, but nobody ever described it properly. It was billed as an expansion or maybe just a collection of levels. Not as a complete story. I thought it was little more than D!ZONE but for Marathon. But I put the disc in to check it out. I think I finished the first level (I might not of) but there was this other folder with Forge and Anvil. The Marathon editor tools.

This was the moment, this is where I fell in love with Marathon.

Continued soon in part 2.

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