The Player's Height

"It's funny, but you've always been the colony's trouble shooter. You're bigger and stronger, and a better shot. "

The issue of the players height in Marathon was first raised by Jay Barry (Bungie Software) when he wrote on

From: Jay Barry 
Subject: Re: Marathon: the Movie
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 11:08:15 -0500
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> > > You: Arnold maybe? Some guy who looks good with a big gun and is big
> > > and strong.
> >
> > no, um... you would be John Travolta.
> Uh... nah. I was thinking more along the lines of... Sly? Possibly, He
> has the look and all, but I don't know about the voice... Rocky...
> ummmm....

Well... Jonas figured out that in real-world terms the cyborg is about
5'7" (what Hamish Sinclair will do with this tidbit I've no idea) so
Sly would be a better guess than Arnie.  Jason Jones would probably
insist on playing it himself though...


The apparent short stature of our character is surprising given the fact that we were the biggest in the colony.

It's funny, but you've always been the colony's trouble shooter. You're bigger and stronger, and a better shot. In games, you always scored the most points and looked the hero.

(Marathon Manual page 2)

Christopher Mc Craken <> and Mark Tomczak <> both pointed out at the time that at 5'7" we could still be the biggest in the colony as size was determined by two factors: height and girth. Thus we may play a short stocky guy!

While this may be true it does suggest that the colony was made up of little people (the Irish connnection no doubt!)

More recently Dan Rudolph <> wrote:

"Hats Off to 819, the MInf secret level, has something interesting in the title. If you look in the physics using Anvil, you will find that most of the characters are 819 units tall."

Thus our character is 819 units tall. Just how high is this?

Ben Yackley <> came up with the correct answer when he wrote:

Well, one World Unit, or so the Forge manual tells us, is about 2 meters. This is equal to 1024 of the smaller units that Anvil uses. The player is 819 tall. So...

2 m/1024=1/512 WU per Anvil-unit. 819/512=1.5996 m.

1.5996m, multiplied by 39.37 inches per meter, gives me 62.98 inches. In other words, our hero is 5-foot-3.

So officially we are 5 foot 3 inches. Ouch!... so much for the tall lean hero image.

However the story doesn't end here. Jim Mitchell <> points out that both the Pfhor fighter and the Player are both 819 units tall. On "Try again" we learn that the Pfhor are nearly two meters in height.

87;o hairless light-skinned bipeds, nearly two meters in height, with three red eyes arranged in a triangular patter\];POP""
<Try again (Terminal 1)> As a meter is about 3 foot 3 inches then the player would, by Jim's calculations, be about 6 foot 6 inches tall.

And so we come up with a more realistic figure for our character's height based on both physics and story details.

Ben Yackley <> writes:

... seems most of the enemies in the game are 5'3", too, except for...

the enlarged Hunters and Cyborgs(7'10" - yikes!)
the Ticks (Their midsections are 3'3" spheres)
the Drones (also 3'3")
the S'Pht (6'6")
the F'lictka (also 6'6")
the S'Pht'Kr (6'6" - do we detect a pattern here?)
the Juggernauts (all of 13 feet in height. Exactly double 6'6".)
the "tiny" enemies (2'2")

This leaves all of the Bobs, all of the Phfor (Enforcers and Hunters too!), and the Cyborgs, all uniformly 5'3".

Charles Lechasseur <> writes:

...unfortunately, i'll have to disagree on the statement that most of the enemies are 5'3". let's look at an example.

if we look in the Shapes file, we see that the Pfhor Fighter is 149 pixels high. however, this is _including_ his stick. the enemy itself is only 140 pixels high.

if the sprite's 149 pixels translate to 819 units in Mthon, it means that the enemy, being 140 pixels, is only 769.53 units high. and knowing that 819 units is 2 meters (according to the term on Try Again, which seems to contradict the Forge manual - probably another one of Durandal's tricks), this means that the Pfhor Fighter is really only 1.88 meters high.

now, if we look at the Marine's sprites, and if we patch the upper and lower part of the body, we see that the sprite is 132 pixels high but the marine himself is 131 pixels high. by using the same translation method as above, we see that the Marine is indeed 1.98 meters high.

so we see that all the enemies are _not_ the exact same height, although their height in Mthon units are similar in the physics.

Everything is not as it seems{}. seems{}. seems{}.

Miguel Chavez <> writes:

It's funny, all this talk about height. I figured that a common sci-fi/sci-fact trait of inhabitants of outer space was that the lack of a consistent gravity field would mess with your bone structure. Especially if people were subjected to hibernation for long trips out in space, which the marathoners were... don't forget that BOB means Born On Board! So maybe 5' 7" is above average for most humans in space."

At the same time, in regards to the player as a cyborg, 5'7" would seem about right as well. If you're creating a machine that has to have massive strength, agility, etc., why make it big and lanky with long limbs? These traits would require extra energy to get the same work done. Instead a smaller frame with shorter distance from joint to joint can increase the machine's torque and overall efficiency. Sort of the anti-frankenstein approach, don't you think?

Interesting point. Concerning the crew of the Marathon most were not in stasis but rather lived and died during the journey:

The original crew of the Marathon consisted of 50 senior staff, 1150 officers and 24,000 civilians all of whom were citizens of the Mars colony or Earth. Some individuals were placed in stasis for the interstellar journey, but most civilians lived and worked on the ship and raised families there. As the crew aged, a new generation of humans were born and raised on the Marathon.

(Marathon Manual, page 15)

Whether 301 years of space travel is sufficient to reduce human height to less than 5' 3" is debateable.

Dustin Westphal <> writes:

Well actually, shorter is better. A shorter cyborg would be lighter, cheaper, easier to transport, etc... We would be just as strong. We would be a smaller target...

Dustin Westphal <> writes:

Actually, When people live in outer space, it makes them taller. The less gravity puts less stress on our body and makes us weaker and taller.

If 1 world unit is aproximately two meters, that would make for extremely short corridors. However, if we count one world unit as eight feet, the standard ceiling height, and our character is .8 units high, then we would be approximately 6'4". Which is taller than the average human height on Earth. So we could still be bigger than anybody on the Marathon, even if they were taller because of space.

Jeff Care <> writes:

Forge clearly states that the Marine is .8 WU (world units high).

So that would make our character exactly... ;-)

Steve Wood <> writes:

If we *do* assume (against the Forge manual's wishes) that one World Unit is 8 feet, and our character is .8 WU, then his height would be

96 inches/WU X .8 WU = 76.8 inches tall = 6 feet, 4.8 inches tall

So he'd be almost 6'5", not 6'4" as the last bit read.

Jeff Care <> writes:

According to the default physics model, the Marine is 0.80 WU high, and has a radius of 0.25 WU. Basically, this means that the Infinity (or Durandal) game engine treats the Marine as a cylinder of 0.157 WU cubed in volume.

But perhaps more interesting is the fact that you can change either of these constants with Anvil, so really, the player doesn't even have a "set" height.

James Hastings-Trew <> writes:

The Forge manual states that a world unit is 2 meters, which works out to 6.56 feet. However, I created the building where I work as a Marathon level in Anvil, and found that it just did not look right visually using that scale. I found that a ceiling height of 1.2 world units looked like 8 feet visually. This means that 1 world unit equals 80 inches... each tick on the Anvil grid equals 10 inches. This means that our hero at .8 world units tall is 64 inches tall, or 5ft 4 inches. Sorry...

Other scales to consider: Each texture panel is 1 world unit square, and is 128 x 128 pixels. This means that each grid square holds 16 pixels of texture data. At a measure of 10 inches per grid square, that means each pixel is 1.6 inches wide. I used this fact when constructing "real world" textures such as light switches and computer screens for my level, and the scale carried through perfectly visually... the level feels like and looks like the real building. Desks appear at the correct height visually, the switches appear to be the correct size, etc.

Chris des Marais <> writes:

In actuality, it's more likely that living and growing is space would make you SHORTER, not taller, as you'd expect.

A tree in the wild will grow normally, but when planted in Biosphere 2, the plants grew weakly. The wind in the natural world caused the tree to sway around, building up a strong bark to support it. In the Biosphere 2, there was no such wind, and the trunk was not strong.

Anyway, if you were born and raised in space, you'd have little or no resistance to make you into average height. So you'd quickly assume that you'd get bigger. Well, if you have little or no resistance, then you have nothing to "build the stronger bark with," and yes, you are weaker, BUT YOU ARE ALSO SHORTER. Your body has nothing really to push away from, and it doesn't push much at all. You end up with a slightly shorter body than the average for an Earth-like planet.

However, has anyone considered that the U.E.S.C. Marathon may have been fine-tuned to 1g, so there'd be no effect on growth, anyway?

James Gurnee <> writes:

If we take what Durandal had to say about the Simulacrums, and believe it to be true:

The S'pht have informed me that he Pfhor are building cyborg simulacrums of the Marathon crew. I imagine that you will meet some of them soon, and wanted to warn you not to get too close to them: about three meters.

<Shake Before Using... (Terminal 2)>

And if we look in the Marathon 1 & 2 Physics Model, we find that the Simulacrums blast radius is 1024.

And if the players height in the physics model is 819, that would make us:

1024/3 m.=512/1.5 m. (819/512)x1.5=2.3994 m.


2.3994 m. x39.37 in.-m. =94.46 in., or 7.87 ft., or about 7-foot-11

Walk tall! ;-)

On the subject of heights and sizes Mark Levin <> writes:

Just realized something when reading this section... A Simulacrum's blast radius is "about 3 meters", right? I clearly recall that in M1 I could punch out Sims without getting hit! What does this mean, the Marine's arms are about 3 meters long?!?!

Heh... no we are just lightning fast. Float like a butterfly... sting like a bee! ;-)

Henry Fok <> writes:

There is a difference between the explosion radius and the detection radius. If you notice, they don't really seem to activate or chase you if you don't get closer, than, say three meters. Their blast radius is probably closer to two meters or so if you look at the graphics - naturally Durandal would put a little buffer space in there to allow for individual explosion variances, as well. So, you're probably still a bit under 2m tall.

A good example of this is my car alarm. It alerts itself if someone gets closer to the Jaguar than 3m. But the alarm does not activate until you are at about 1m or less.

Assuming the true blast radius is 2m, then 1m is 512. 819/512 = ~1.6 meters, or 5.2480517578 feet. A bit short, but see the previous comments about the Marine being more broad than tall...

Henry Fok <> writes:

Also, remember that the explod-a-Bob's do not autodetonate. They are command detonated, i.e., they have to contact you or be hit by a weapon impact to detonate. Otherwise they'd explode in the proximity of other Bobs.

Note: If you punch a Simulacrum before it touches you, it flies back a short distance - which is why you can punch them safely. The Marine's arms are NOT 2m long.

And in answer to the flood of mail, no, my Jag is not green, nor does it explode when someone touches it.

Ok so who was emailing Henry about his Jag? ;-)

Mark Levin <> writes:

Henry's comment is correct about M2 and MI. The keyframe for the Bobs' "exploding" sequence is 1, indicating that the explosion occurs on the second frame of animation, which is played in game when the explodabob hits the ground after being knocked backwards, resulting in the small delay. However in the *M1* shapes file the keyframe was 0 - indicating instant detonation (you can see this when firing into a crowd of Sims in both games: M2 sims go off in a delayed chain reaction but M1 sims all go off at once.) Therefore M1 sims have to be punched out from beyond their blast radius, and since a human being's arm length is about *half* of his height, the explodabob method indicates that our Marine is around 12 feet tall! 8)

As for Henry's Jaguar, you'd better go shoot it, just to make sure....

Max Etchemendy <> writes:

I just had some thoughts about the rather generous estimations of blast radii that Durandal seems to have made. There's been a lot of discussion about Durandal's comment:

"The S'pht have informed me that he Pfhor are building cyborg simulacrums of the Marathon crew. I imagine that you will meet some of them soon, and wanted to warn you not to get too close to them: about three meters."

People have been talking about this in terms of the player's height, and have found it to be rather exaggerated.

But an even worse case of exaggeration is in the M1 Manual. On p.16, it states that "[SPNKR] rockets explode on impact with a blast radius of 10 meters." Well, first of all, we know that this is way off from personal experience. Secondly, since the SPNKR Missile Area of Effect is 1536 compared to the A-Bob's 1024, the scale is clearly wrong. (The ratio 1536:1024 is not equal to 10:3).

If you used the SPNKR figure to calculate height you'd be about 5.33 meters or 17.48 feet tall!

But I think there is an explanation that no one has mentioned for all of these incorrect figures. How about the fact that explosion force wears off with distance--it doesn't disappear instantly. If you aren't caught in the incendiary fireball of an explosion, it doesn't mean you aren't hurt! In fact, in reality the most damage inflicted by explosions is done through shrapnel propelled by the force of the blast, which would fly a lot farther than the actual radius of the explosion. So realistically you'd get hurt by an A-Bob or a SPNKR explosion a lot further away than you do in the actual game. Perhaps these figures given by Durandal and the Manual include the expected range of most deadly shrapnel as well. It's quite conceivable that SPNKR Missiles, if they are designed for anti-personnel combat, would be designed to fragment, thus chucking a lot of shrapnel up to ten meters away.

This seems to be a case where we need to distinguish between "game physics" and "game story." At present, Marathon doesn't allow explosions to fade off over distance--you're either caught in it or you're not. (As a matter of fact, one of the possible improvements made in Marathon: Aleph One would be explosions' damage being inversely proportional to the distance from the explosion.)

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Last updated Mar 5, 2000