The Bungie Webmaster

Note: the above picture has NOTHING
to do with the subject... honest ;-)


The identity of "The Bungie Webmaster" has been one of the most closely guarded Bungie secrets. OK probably not as closely guarded as the origin of the "Bungie" name itself or the significance of the "Greek Flag" but it's one of the "Seven Secrets Bungie do not want YOU to know!" ;-)

"Letters to the Webmaster" began in April 1996. Marathon Infinity and the Windows version of Marathon 2 had just been announced and Bungie's new game, the yet uannounced "Myth", was in very early development.

The initial round of letters to the Webmaster were quite formal, straight questions with straight answers. It wasn't until the "slinky on an escalator" question during the fifth round in late June 1996 that The Bungie Webmaster revealed something of his true form (note I'm using a masculine descriptor here). By the eighth round of letters he was in full swing.

Here's a classic example of his early form:

WHERE'S MARATHON INFINITY!! I WANT THE GAME NOW!!! IF I DON'T GET IT IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS MY HEAD WILL EXPLODE!!!!!!!!

Damon Holmes, damon@inter.ab.ca

Dear Friends-

We received young Damon's letter last week. It galvanized the entire office. Artists, programmers, level designers, beta testers and marketing masters dropped all their other projects and came together as one incredible creative machine and pulled a frantic all-nighter, trying desperately to get Marathon Infinity into the hands of our Canadian friend before the unthinkable happened.

Sadly, we failed. A call to Damon's domicile the next morning confirmed our worst fears: Damon's head had exploded. We spoke briefly with Damon's mother, who informed us that our efforts, though valiant, were too little, too late.

Bungie Headquarters was quiet that day. I suppose we were all wondering the same thing: whether we could have saved young Damon's life had we worked just a little harder. Those kind of thoughts lead to depression and inertia, however, and we couldn't afford to let ourselves sink in the quicksand of despair. To take our minds off the tragedy, we started up a net game with a beta of Marathon Infinity.

The hours that followed were among the most pleasant we have ever spent at the office. We reveled in the carnage of a Marathon net game, shrieking with glee when someone shot yet another SPNKR missile at Matt's feet and sent him careening across the arena, giggling madly as we bifurcated Jay's spine with SMG projectiles. Slowly, we all came to realize that Damon's death was not in vain, because it had brought us all together for the common goal of getting Infinity out as soon as possible, and though we hadn't quite achieved that goal, we were closer to it now than we had been twenty-four hours earlier. We vowed to keep Damon's dream alive, and we're still working late into the night, every night, to make sure the world will not be without Marathon Infinity much longer.

If you'd like to mark Damon's passing with quiet dignity, may we humbly suggest that you eschew the tired cliches of flowers and Hallmark cards. Rather, you can remember Damon by purchasing a copy of Marathon Infinity, and playing it until carpal tunnel syndrome shrivels your hands into useless gobs of flesh and bone dangling at the ends of your arms.

Damon would have wanted it that way.


An inkling of what the "Letters to Webmaster" would eventually become was revealed during the 11th round of letters in November 1996. At the top of the letters page were the words:

Letters To the WebMaster

An Exercise in Terror

Yes writing to the Webmaster was (and still is) damaging to your mental health. Indeed the whole process of writing to "The Bungie Webmaster" and (god forbid) getting a response published was summed up in Chris Pruett's excellent "That Bastard" ballad. You can grab it here (MP3 format, 4932K).


But who is The Bungie Webmaster? Here are some of the submissions to the Story page concerning his identity. They are listed in chronological order and the formating remains roughly unchanged.


June 30, 1997

Every wondered who Bungie's elusive Webmaster is? Wonder no longer. Thanks to Scott Jaeger <pablo@izzy.net> the individual's true identity has been revealed. Jason Regier (Bungie Software) was overheard on IRC #marathon saying:

JRegier: No prob... Jay Barry is pretty much our website/network guy.

So there you have it. Thanks to Scott for this little piece IRC gossip. Remember folks... there are no secrets on the net... well... maybe just a few. ;-)


July 2, 1997

Would the real Bungie Webmaster please stand up?

Yes folks the mystery deepens or so it seems. The Story page received the following cryptic mail:

From: "Webmaster" <webmaster@bungie.com>
To: <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>
Subject: Identity Crisis
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 1997 10:20:38 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-MimeOle: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE Engine V4.71.0913.1

Mr. Sinclair:

"Ever wonder who Bungie's elusive Webmaster is?  Wonder no longer."

An investigative reporter once wrote an article claiming that reclusive
authors Thomas Pynchon and J. D. Salinger were one and the same.  Pynchon
responded:

"Some of it is true, but none of the interesting parts.  Keep trying."

Of course, it's since been proven that they are two distinct individuals.

Cheers,

The Bungie Webmaster

Keep trying... indeed! :-)

The Story page never one to let a challenge slip away will now pose a challenge to the Marathon community:

Bring me the head of Bungie's Webmaster!

err... that was Ling-Ling... sorry...

Who is Bungie's Webmaster?

The race is on to find the man/woman behind that mask. Bungie's Webmaster has taunted the Marathon community for over a year now and it's time to end this charade. Is Jay Barry really the Webmaster or simply the person responsible for the technical side of the website? It's safe to assume that Jason Regier's comment on IRC #marathon was accurate as there was no apparent need for deception at the time it was said. Jason remarked:

JRegier: No prob... Jay Barry is pretty much our website/network guy.

If we assume that this is true then Jay Barry _is_ the Webmaster and the above letter is meant to mislead us _or_ he acts as website tech support leaving the more arduous task of letter writing to our mysterious friend above.

OK so when in doubt go to source of _all_ Bungie knowledge... the soul.

The soul's reply to the question "Who is Bungie's Webmaster?" was

He's the guy that answers the letters to the webmaster.

Right... good start. So what else have we got. Well... note how the above Webmaster signed himself/herself off with "Cheers,". This is not a cursory one off use of the term. No sir! Check the What's New section for Apr 11, 1997 and you'll see the same sign-off from Bungie's Webmaster to Christopher Norehad <cnorehad@gonzaga.edu>. Is our anonymous Webmaster prone to using the same sign-off? A fatal error for one who hides behind a mask. Check your Bungie mail folks and look for the following:

Put the two together and we may get Seven! Note do not trust any Bungie mail after the 1st July. Expect a flood of the Cheers virus to confuse us.

Those who are familar with the excellent usenet archive Deja-News might like to draw up a list of all Bungie people who have posted to usenet. Have they used "Cheers" in the past? Those with real time on their hands and stomachs of iron can read through the Bungie's old letter's page finding those little personal details left by our mysterious friend. Sometimes the little things can pay off. Know any Bungie dude who digs Harlan Ellison? The Bungie Webmaster does!

Lastly all correspondence to the Story page concerning the true identity of Bungie's Webmaster will be treated with complete anonymity (if required) provided that the evidence submitted can be substantiated in some way and can be published on the Story page. Rat on a friend today... tomorrow it could be you! ;-)

Bungie's Webmaster is coming out... and you can help... let's go to work... the truth is out there!


July 3, 1997

Well the search for the true identity of Bungie's Webmaster has raised much debate. Please note I cannot print hearsay and slander... even if true. ;-)

First off I'd like to quickly dispell a rumor that has started on the net. Namely that yours truly is Bungie's Webmaster because I always use the sign-off "Cheers". A few people have written in claiming this. Chris, Forrest, Charles, and Peter... thanks guys.;P However while I do use "Cheers" I do not use "Cheers,". Note the subtle difference. Sometimes it is the little things that are important.

A number of people have written in saying that they also have had mail from Bungie's Webmaster with the sign-off "Cheers,". But does he/she use any others? Keep checking those Webmaster mails.

How many Bungie people use the sign-off "Cheers,"? Not many it would seem. Thanks to Simon Brownlee <Simon.Brownlee@pobox.com> for finding this interesting usenet post:

Subject:      Re: id Software is dead!  Long live id Software!
From:         Jay Barry <jay@bungie.com>
Date:         1997/05/05
Message-Id:   <336E1825.5574@bungie.com>
References:   <5kkjjt$m6j$1@mark.ucdavis.edu>
To:           Alex Kubiak <awkubiak@ucdavis.edu>
Organization: Bungie Software Products
Reply-To:     jay@bungie.com
Newsgroups:   comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.action
[Fewer Headers]

Alex Kubiak wrote:
> 
>         This is all just speculation, but I think we're witnessing the
> final transformation of id Software into what they stated they were
> primarily all along: a technology-based company that specializes in
> developing bleeding-edge 3D gaming engines.

[snip]

(none of this has anything to do with my employer, Bungie Software).

Absolutely.  The Quake engine speaks for itself - however, the 
'content' side of the product does as well.  The most apt synopsis
I've heard is "you're in hell - get OUT!" or "There's this geezer 
down some hole, kill him!".  Unless you're a drooling moron (and
apologies to all of you droolers out there) its not really the type
of plot that stimulates. (Yeah yeah, tell me "dOOd u suk quake r00lz" -
then wipe your chin)  Gaming is more than eye candy for many of us,
and there are many opportunities for companies who can create 
compelling content - art, stories and gameplay.

We'll see more of this in the future with all sorts of 'genres' - 
company A develops kickass engine and licenses said engine to company 
B who do content and release the product.

(the rest of this might be construed as a plug for my employer, 
Bungie Software)

And speaking of kickass engines, if any of you are into tactical 
combat games you might be interested in Myth. 
http://www.bungie.com/myth

cheers,
jay

jay barry
bungie software

Of course Jay Barry doesn't always use a sign-off... but... when he does. :-) Apparently you can check all this out by using the Power Search facility at Deja News. Just pop in an email address of the author you're looking for and watch them dance.

Simon also points out that all the Webmaster replies on Bungie's letters page are addressed to "name-" (i.e, a '-' after the name). Another trait? Yet the Webmaster doesn't split his/her sentences with '-'s like Jay Barry. A trait or a disguise?

Information made available to the Story page indicates that Jay Barry moved to Chicago around the end of April 1996. Bungie's present web page went live at the beginning of April that same year and the letters page didn't start until a few weeks later. Coincidence?

Aaron Snyder <wittnietz@datatek.com> writes:

I can help you narrow the quest for the Webmaster's identity pretty quickly--who in Bungie is from New Jersey?

In one of the "Letters" pages, a fan complains about the page not being updated in a timely fashion, and the Webmaster's reply is (I'm paraphrasing, here), "Jeez, I go to visit Ma and Pa Webmaster in Jersey for..."

But it could be that the Webmaster's parents merely *moved* to New Jersey, after bringing up Junior.

Some people have asked why I didn't post the full address header from the Webmaster's email. Well here it is...

Return-Path: webmaster@bungie.com
Received: from dux2.tcd.ie (dux2.tcd.ie [134.226.1.12]) by sun1.tcd.ie (8.8.5/8.7.3)
with ESMTP id QAA25001 for <hsinclir@sun1.tcd.ie>; Tue, 1 Jul 1997 16:21:22 +0100 (BST)
Received: from mail.bungie.com ([206.158.155.22])
	by dux2.tcd.ie (8.8.5/8.8.5) with ESMTP id QAA14984 for <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>; Tue, 1 Jul 1997 16:21:13 +0100 (BST)
Received: by mail.bungie.com from localhost
    (router,SLmailNT V2.4); Tue, 01 Jul 1997 10:21:03 Central Daylight Time
Received: by mail.bungie.com from tuncerpc.bungie.com
    (206.158.155.33::mail daemon,SLmailNT V2.4); Tue, 01 Jul 1997 10:21:03 Central Daylight Time
From: "Webmaster" <webmaster@bungie.com>
To: <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>
Subject: Identity Crisis
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 1997 10:20:38 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 4.71.0913.1
X-MimeOle: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE Engine V4.71.0913.1
Message-Id: <19970701102103.148f37cd.in@mail.bungie.com>

Make of that what you will.


July 4, 1997

The noose tightens around the neck of Bungie's Webmaster. The list of possible candidates is getting shorter... soon there will be only one.

More IRC #marathon gossip! Yes folks it appears that the true identity of Bungie's Webmaster has been whispered in the corridors of IRC. Back in late 1996 two Bungie people independently confirmed his true identity.

The first is Alex Rosenberg (a former Bungie employee) who apparently came on #marathon using the aka 'bungiedoo' along with a colleague hence the (alexr) at the beginning of his remark.

bungiedoo: (alexr) The WebMaster is his own diety.

The second is Jason Regier:

J_Regier: The almighty Webmaster mispelled it.

Could it be true? Does God work at Bungie? Well one individual at Bungie certainly acts as if he was a God!... but I digress. ;-)

Was the NAME of Bungie's Webmaster ever actually revealed on IRC? Well we'll let the seemingly 'anonymous' one sweat it out for awhile.

The Story page has had more confirmation that the Webmaster's preferred sign-off is "Cheers,". Indeed we haven't come across any other as yet. Thus we suspect it's a simple sig file. But keep sending those Webmaster mails in.

Scott Jaeger <pablo@izzy.net> forwards this Webmaster post from Bungie's letter page. It's a reply to a somewhat bizarre letter dating from around Mar 1997.

Hi Bobby-

Likewise, I hate to be the one who has to break the news to you, but I just can't fob this off on someone else.

The entity you know as 'Bungie' is, and has always been, a scarecrow. A diversionary tactic. A front for a far more powerful (and infinitely more sinister) organization.

But, like any average aspiring megalomaniac, you fell for it. You barraged 'Bungie' with letters, you poured your money into their coffers, you devoted your life to your silly crusade against this 'Bungie'...while we waited. And plotted. And grew stronger.

And now that you're physically, spiritually and financially exhausted - and don't give us any of that "I have halted payments" crap, you're totally broke and we both know it - we will strike back.

To add insult to injury, we will most likely strike back through Bungie - simply to prove that even the weakest arm of our organization is more powerful than you can ever imagine.

Meanwhile, the rest of us - the ones at the top - will concern ourselves with more important issues.

They don't call me the Webmaster for nothing.

Note anything odd about the style? The large use of dashes perhaps? Not like the Webmaster's usual style! But a style very similar to...


Jim Mitchell <BobJam@aol.com> writes in with a sure fire way of finding out who the Bungie Webmaster is.

Get them all to do a Maths test! ;-)

hehehe... below the belt Jim... below the belt... ;-)

Jim was referring to the Webmaster's mathematical wizardy. Here's an example:

Do I have to spell everything out for you?

69 can be sparated into the component numbers 6 and 9.

6 + 9 = 14.

14 / 2 (Marathon sequels) = 7.

Now do you understand?

It's simple numerology, not rocket science.

Is it a sick joke? Maybe - if you think the idea of Bungie subtly and slowly assuming complete control of the entire universe is FUNNY.


July 6, 1997

In the search for the true identity of Bungie's Webmaster a number of interesting tidbits have been uncovered. Here are just a few. Thanks to Simon Brownlee <Simon.Brownlee@pobox.com> for sending these in.

Apparently Matt Soell (Bungie Software) made a brief appearance on IRC #marathon back in July 1996, a week before Macworld Boston Expo '96 in fact. Matt used the aka "Tellus" and revealed the following:

<Tellus> We did have this one film of us going through M2 cooperatively one night...It was a huge film. We might still have it on a DAT somewhere

Does Bungie's cooperative M2 film still exist? Write to Matt and find out. Maybe they will upload it to their home page. Hopefully they did it with Style! ;-)

Alex Rosenberg (a former Bungie employee) also revealed the following about the Win95 version of Marathon 2 on IRC #marathon:

<MVBeast> alex: Are you gonna give the PCer's M1???
<alexr> MV: Nope. We did tweak a few of the M2 levels, so a bit from M1 does appear as an easter egg.

An M1 Easter Egg in the Windows version Marathon 2?!!! Now this is news! Can anyone confirm this? What bit of Marathon made its way into the Win95 version of Marathon 2? There have been rumors that certain levels were slightly different from the Mac version but no hard evidence to support these. Maybe one day we'll know the truth.

Oh yes... we'll leave the last words to Matt Soell. When ask which one of the Bungie crew he was... he replied.

<Tellus> What 'one' am I? I'm the smart one.

Yes... there's no denying that. ;-)


Dec 5, 2000

The identity of the Bungie Webmaster REVEALED? Did Nathan Bitner let the secret slip? In a rampancy.net forum post Nathan Bitner (aka Island Four) had this to say on the subject of Cortana and the Bungie Webmaster:

I wouldn't worry
Island Four

Posted On: Tuesday, December 5 2000, 6:25am

: As before, this was cross-posted to HBO.

: I really admire the effort, but it could detract
: from the fun when Bungie decides to crank up the
: hype machine for real.

I don't think anyone's doing too much of an interpretation of Cortana that it will affect the real Cortana much.

It might piss her off enough to finally have to open her mouth though! God forbid those on the other end. She may make the Webmaster look like a tamed little prairie dog (well, okay, MORE like ... SORRY Matt ... =)

Or so I hear.

Nathan

Is Matt Soell the Bungie prair... err... Webmaster? Of course it could be the other Matt... but them again maybe not! ;-)


Mar 8, 2001

Mike Yocom <pfhreak333@hotmail.com> writes:

Here's an interesting tidbit for the search for the Bungie Webmaster. It's from a post by Matt Soell on I4.org.

http://www.islandfour.org/4um.asp?view=20010301121846

[snip]

The thing about the Webmaster is that he's so over-the-top that it's impossible to take him seriously. The funniest thing about the Letters page is not anything the Webmaster says but rather the fact that we've hired this utter degenerate who is only occasionally capable of cogent thought to run our website. It wouldn't work at all if the community wasn't smart enough to implicitly understand that. I think of it as a meta-joke, though with the Webmaster the joke is often on us.

[snip]

So, all we need to do is figure out who at Bungie is an "utter degenerate" and we'll know who the webmaster is! ;-)

Who at Bungie is an "utter degenerate"? That's easy! ;-)


Apr 26, 2003

If Matt Soell was "The Bungie Webmaster" then you should see a change in the Webmaster's style after April 2003, since Matt called it quits on Apr 25, 2003.

Matt Soell posted the following to the HBO forum.

Come in Number 7, Your Time is Up.
Posted By: Matt <matt@bungie.com>
Date: 4/25/03 4:00 p.m.

Even with eight years' experience in the fine art of Damage and Spin, I'm having a hard time figuring out a good way of saying this. Might as well just say it: today is my last day at Bungie.

Before the juicy conspiracy theories start, I'd like to state for the record that there's no intrigue or drama behind this decision. No political machinations, no long-simmering rivalries, no epic struggle between the forces of light and dark. My reasons for leaving are pretty mundane. It's just time for me to do something different.

The rest of the community team will be picking up my slack, and they're committed to doing cool stuff for you guys. With any luck, you won't even realize I'm gone.

Working at Bungie is probably the best thing that's happened to me. I've learned a lot and enjoyed myself immensely. I've had the honor of working with some of the most intelligent, creative, fun people on the planet. I got to contribute (in my own tiny way) to a great company's products and culture. I'll always be proud of the work we've done. Not too many people get to say that about their jobs, ever.

When I started at Bungie, my job title was The Man in the Online Asbestos Suit. Now I'm the Community Guy. Things have changed. Getting paid to watch them change is nice work if you can get it. Working at Bungie wouldn't be half as cool if we didn't have a fan community with such dedication, energy, imagination and wit. You honor us with your presence. Thank you for making my job so much fun.

"We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..."

-Matt Soell
Community Guy/Keeper of the Bungie Way
1/16/95 - 4/25/03


Three days before his announcement Matt was observed on the Bungie Webcam holding up a very rare copy of the Marathon keychain. Perhaps a final salute to Bungie fans.


Check the Bungie webmaster letters pre- and post-2003 for the tru7h. ;)



Go Back to Marathon's Story Home Page
***TRANSPORT WHEN READY***


Hamish Sinclair
Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie
Last updated Apr 26, 2003

Oh and just a small note for the humorlessly impaired and overtly serious... this is all just a bit of fun.