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The Slacker's Guide - Marathon Redux

by Chris Barylick
August 19th, 2005

There are some moments that simply define a transition, a new stage of life. A first driver's license signifies a form of freedom as well as an element of responsibility. An 18th birthday entails the right to vote and be considered an adult under most circumstances and a 25th birthday portends the less-than-awe-inspiring privilege of legally renting a car.

Some changes are more momentous than others.

On a cool fall afternoon in the mid-90's, I entered a stage of my life that's arguably persisted to this day. Bungie Software's Marathon series demonstrated what a first person shooter with interesting puzzle elements and detailed story line could be in an era of near-plotless shooter titles such as Doom. As I installed a copy onto my family's beleaguered LC II (complete with a whopping 4 MB of RAM), there was no turning back.

Here was a title that showed what attention to detail could do, a hungry young company working from a hellish neighborhood in Chicago and pouring everything they had into making their game not merely adequate, but something that pushed the technology of the day to its limits. Intricate plots involving psychotic, megalomaniacal artificial intelligences that play upon and betray loyalties at a drop of a hat are never a bad touch either.

A familiar logo to warm any Mac gamer's heart.

The better part of a decade has passed since the final Marathon installment, Marathon Infinity, a fact that hasn't dampened the frenetic enthusiasm surrounding the game. In the past few years, Bungie has released the games and their source code for free to the public, as well as the accompanying development editing tools, Forge and Anvil.

The Aleph One project group, a network of dedicated fans, artists, designers and developers, have picked up on this and are currently working to create an improved version of the game based on the original technology with improvements to the online, graphical, scripting, mapping and engine elements in a Mac OS X-native application.

With the standard release of the original trilogy, an amazing game series lives again for free, albeit under Classic mode. Users can open the application, expand the game to full screen, remap the keys to their liking and have one of the finest first person shooter series back again, complete with improved network play as well as custom maps, engine additions and the old hacks you used to love.

Floating attack probes and a .44 to fight them with.

Even if your computer is a bit long in the tooth, as long as you have 133.5 MB of hard drive space available and a Mac made in the past seven years, odds are you can comfortably store and run all three games to your heart's content.

Where the Aleph One project is concerned, this looks like an open source effort headed in the right direction. Most development efforts of this kind take place with nothing but enthusiasm for a game driving the efforts of those involved. Projects such as the Marathon Rubicon project, which added new scenarios, weapons, maps, characters and content to the Marathon story line, are labors of love with little to no money involved in their creation.

Aleph One is a similar project, having brought the Marathon series up to date via a program that runs natively in OS X while creating additional content where possible for the series. Additional efforts are currently being made by the group to bring the game to Windows, POSIX and Unix distributions as well.

Nothing kills a classic game, and if there's an interest in keeping it alive, it'll invariably happen over the Internet. For more information, visit, and to add your two cents or see how you can help these efforts.

Until next week, happy fragging and if your first true multiplayer experience included receiving 14 SPNKR included rounds in the space of one second since your friends had used a flag editor to hack their weapon traits followed by their hyena-like laughter across the room, have fun reliving the memories.

A player prepares to go hand to hand with approaching aliens in the Rubicon game mod.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

To install and run Aleph One, first download the current build, then copy the program over to any folders the freely distributed versions of Marathon, Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity )available over the Internet through the beloved happen to be in. The program will tap into the resource files in the folder and launch the app natively within OS X and bring you to the main screen where you can start a new game, load a saved one or adjust your preference settings.

As always, if you see something interesting in the world of Mac gaming, let me know and thanks to Robert Kuykendall for pointing out the efforts of the Aleph One project.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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