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The Slacker's Guide - Myth Lives on through Project Magma

by Chris Barylick
August 26th, 2005

Every once in a while, we have to face facts: The game industry, whose content we may love and revere, is a business, and a schizophrenic one at that.

What might seem like an endless party one moment can be turned on its head at a moment's notice given what happens around a conference table, the goal of a firm consolidating itself to provide a better future moving into the background but never being forgotten.

When Microsoft bought out Bungie Software in 1999, it simultaneously took the crown jewels it needed to help launch its XBox console and threw the Mac gaming world's perception of what titles could be expected over the next few years out the window.

In the middle of this lay Take Two Interactive, a publisher that sacrificed its 19.9% stake in Bungie to acquire the rights to the esteemed Oni and Myth titles. When all was said and done, Bungie, the company the Mac universe had adored for the quality of its games and die-hard devotion to the platform, would hang its hat in Redmond, while Take Two Interactive found itself in possession of two valuable properties to be molded by their Gathering of Developers programming division.

Six years, several political transitions and a moderate name change later, Take Two Games is still in business, its Mac titles having more or less fallen by the wayside. This is the business and, no matter what you may think of it, the reality at hand.

One of the greatest real time strategy games ever developed (and without a doubt some of Bungie's finest work), the Myth series was worth losing the tail end of my freshman year and the better part of my sanity, especially where multiplayer was concerned. Tolkien's dream world come to life, the series pitted the forces of good against the undead and corrupt with a detailed, character-driven story that showed what a motivated creative team could do.

A group of knights tangles with thrall warriors and soulless archers on a bridge in Myth II: Soulblighter.

Bungie's baby until the bitter end, the series pushed the envelope of the technology available at the time. In an interview with developers prior to Myth's release, game play footage showed a Thrall unit rebounding a bottle grenade with its axe back toward the thrower, who summarily exploded into tiny crimson bits. A programmer murmured "we didn't know the engine could do that," leaned back and went on with the interview.

Couple this fervor with incredible team balance, an innovative point-based system that meant the player had to carefully choose its team when crafting it, squads that could be split among multiple players for integrated control, destructible terrain, free editing tools (Fear and Loathing), a mod-friendly architecture, 3D sound and an overall system that meant you had to think your way through the puzzle and the gaming world is undoubtedly poorer for Myth's having left the building.

Archers and a dwarf bomber take aim at the Baron's men in the Myth II: Soulblighter demo.

Politics aside, if a game is meant to survive, it will, even if through unconventional methods. To this end, the lads at Project Magma have stepped forward to pick up the reins.

Take Two, despite owning the rights to the game, no longer actually sells the title, the "Buy Now" link on their web site linking to eBay for sales of the game. Not the best support in the world, but still a chance to buy a great title dirt cheap.

Officially unsupported, in relative limbo and with a code base that's become open source, Project Magma has created Mac OS X-native versions of the program that serve to make Myth: The Fallen Lords and Myth II: Soulblighter operational under the current operating system.

Myth II, which has been updated to version 1.5.1, can be directly downloaded for Mac and Windows with a direct update to the 1.5.1 version being available via this link. The demo, available for both Mac and Windows can be run from any computer running at least Mac OS 8.6 or Windows 95 with a 233 MHz CPU, 64 MB of RAM and 100 MB of available disk space.

When code is released to a community, they will tinker. When an absolutely fervent fan base receives full access to their favorite discontinued video game, the results will blow your socks off. Project Magma has added the following features to version 1.5.1 of their Myth II application:

  • Native support for modern graphics cards and video technologies such as OpenGL and DirectX.
  • Multiple bug fixes.
  • An Autohost feature that enables the user to create a list of maps to run through in multiplayer.
  • A plugin viewer to see which ones have been activated for multiplayer games.
  • New mapmaking enhancements to allow for easier control in editing modes.

Customization and mod editing provided additional value to the Myth series in its heyday and this lives in via Project Magma's current work. Not only will old mods function under the updated application, but mods and conversions are in development. Efforts such as Requiem of the Dead, WWIIi: Recon and SF2 allow the game to grow along its traditional fantasy storyline as well as be restructured into more modern structures.

A warlock targets a group of opponents in multiplayer game play.

When support for the Myth series died out, so did's hosting of Myth's multiplayer traffic. MariusNet and PlayMyth took on hosting duties and continue to run fully functional multiplayer games for those looking to prove they still have what it takes to divide, conquer and leave nothing but your opponent's entrails on the map, as your ghol scouts drop satchel charges near an undefended group of thrall while your archers light fire arrows, ignite the charges and blow them into next week.

True, there are fewer people playing these days, but it's still multiplayer Myth with competition as fervent as it ever was and the tell-all icon by your name displaying your rank, commanding either respect or scorn at a glance. As fun as it ever was, this never died and while I don't envy the hosting bill of whoever picked this up, I do thank them from the bottom of my heart.

So, there you have it. The Myth series lives on via the efforts and updates of Project Magma, which has also put up new application programs, maps and expansion maps for Myth: The Fallen Lords, Myth II: Soulblighter and will be posting new content for Myth III: The Wolf Age.

If you can chase down an old, functional copy, install it, grab the Mac or Windows updater, install this and you're good to go. Thanks to Alexei Svitkine for bringing this effort to my attention and if you've seen anything cool in the Mac gaming world, please let me know.

Lastly, to whoever was able to somehow sneak a wight around my entire flank via a small lake and blow away 70% of my multiplayer force in the space of three seconds, I salute you, you absolute bastard.

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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