Official Marathon Screenshots

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


Many people have pointed out that official Marathon screenshots rarely represent what we see in the game. Invariably they contain fight scenes which just don't happen simply because the aliens involved are no longer present on the levels shown. In other cases the levels and indeed the aliens themselves may no longer exist, removed before the final cut.


So what? Such screenshots are taken early on in game development. Many are taken when new levels, aliens, weapons, etc are being tested so it is quite natural for things to change over time. Nevertheless some might find it odd that most of the seven screenshots on the Marathon 2 box (Mac version), for example, don't represent scenes from the game inside.

But I digress.

Can these screenshots reveal something about the early development of the Marathon story?

Aaron Freed <aaron@packet.net> notes that if you look closely at the Marathon 2 box screenshot of a cyborg tank on what appears to be "Beware of Abandoned Rental Trucks" you'll see red blood as the cyborg is shot.


Aaron remarks:

...this is odd since their blood is purple - perhaps another clue to an earlier story with cyborgs being modified bobs?)


Arron also asks whether it is possible to identify the level in this Marathon 2 box (Mac & PC) screenshot?


It might be from the underwater grotto on "Ex Cathedra". But the exact spot is difficult to pin down with any certainty. Does the level actually exist? Also why has the player got his/her fusion pistol out underwater?


Other screenshots suggest possible plot changes. This "Aye Mak Sicur" screenshot from the Infinity box features Vacuum Bobs. But there are no Bobs on this level in the final game.


Now if you remember back to the Infinity Demo you'll note that there were Vacuum Bob and Hunters on "Ne Cede Malis". But these disappeared in the final version even though the terminal graphic for a Vacuum Bob remained.

Is "Ne Cede Malis" supposed to represent "Aye Mak Sicur"? The first terminal in the Infinity Demo relates:

The secrets of this station have evaded us,
we understand nothing of it. We fear that
they will soon unleash chaotic destruction
on us all. Yet there is nothing to do but
try.

and on the same level in the full game Durandal say:

It's too bad, perhaps if I could have
delayed the Pfhor from using their weapon,
I could have sent you to explore the ruins
of Lh'owon, perhaps what you found would
give us the answers that we now need so
desparately: how to stop this chaos, the
purpose of the station on which you're
currently standing, and why the chaos
hasn't come here yet.

Both terminals seem to suggest that this level is the Jjaro space station, except in a different timeline.

Was it the case that in an earlier version of the Infinity plot Vacuum Bobs were to appear on "Aye Mak Sicur" as they did in the demo version of "Ne Cede Malis"?




Concerning the presence of a fusion gun in the following Marathon 2 box screenshot:


Kieran Wheeler <kieran_wheeler@hotmail.com> suggests that perhaps at some stage in early Marathon 2 development the fusion gun was meant to work underwater. Kieran writes:

When a number of critters are near enough underwater, firing the fusion gun would electrocute them. Lots of fun if you didn't feel like bruising your knuckles.

Interesting point. Though realistically this would cause us damage as well. While Marathon 2 implimented liquids many people bemoaned the lack of a weapon capable of being used underwater. Indeed it does seem surprising that no underwater weapon was ever designed for Marathon 2. Recognising this fact Bungie may have toyed with the idea of using the fusion pistol underwater but eventually dropped it for one reason or another. But the screenshot stayed.

However some have suggested that the presence of the fusion pistol in the screenshot is simply to show the new look fusion pistol. If this was the case why is the screenshot underwater? Why not show the fusion pistol on dry land and actually in action? Note how all the other screenshots on the Marathon 2 box show a weapon in action. Indeed most Marathon screenshots show a weapon in action. Here are two examples:


So could the fusion pistol have worked underwater at one stage during early development hence the underwater fusion pistol screenshot?




Concerning the underwater Marathon 2 fusion pistol screenshot (above) Dan Rudolph <rudolph.family@mcleod.net> makes a valid point when he says:

They wanted an underwater screenshot and one weapon was as good as another.

Good point. The underwater screenshot is officially entitled water-yeti.gif. Indeed all seven Marathon 2 box screenshots are given a name representing the main feature displayed in the shot.

However, if Bungie simply wanted an underwater shot why did they show a weapon that does not work underwater rather then the new fists, the only weapons that do work underwater? Bungie did have a "fists in action" screenshot on the Marathon 2 box. It would seem more logical to have had a screenshot of these in action underwater.


Then again what does logic have to do with this. ;-)




Kieran Wheeler <kieran_wheeler@hotmail.com>, Charles Srstka <csrstka@earthlink.net>, Michael Dawe <dawe@frontiernet.net>, and Aaron Freed <aaron@packet.net> all point out that the fusion gun can in fact be fired underwater but it causes the player damage since the electricity is discharged into the surrounding water. Which of course is very realistic. This electrical discharge can also cause damage to aliens who are very close to you. However on Total Carnage it's not a recommended way to kill aliens unless you have a 3X recharger close by. ;-)




Aaron Freed <aaron@packet.net> also draws our attention to the fact that none of the official Marathon screenshots show the Alien texture set. What's up with that?




Mentioned above was the possibility that "Ne Cede Malis" is a version of "Aye Mak Sicur". This was based upon the text of the first terminal in both the demo and full game and an early screenshot of the level "Aye Mak Sicur" which had Vacuum Bobs and Hunters much like the demo version of "Ne Cede Malis". So was "Ne Cede Malis" supposed to represent "Aye Mak Sicur"?

Aaron Freed <aaron@packet.net> writes:

To tell you the truth I think Ne Cede Malis is actually supposed to represent the Marathon, or rather, another Jjaro connection on Earth. Why else would a Jjaro-constructed station look so much like Arrival?. See The Infinity Demo Terminal Text page for the comparisons.

There are the door on switch (the one at the end of Arrival, and the one that can crush you on Ne Cede Malis), the secret ammo caches in said room, the first terminal, the half-opened door, "You pull out your pistol, and pound the switch to open the door. Oddly, this is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember...".

Besides these there are the S'pht at apparently damaged terminals and pattern buffers, a big maze, a lone Pfhor ship visible outside a window...

Interesting point. "Ne Cede Malis" does resemble "Arrival" level in a number of ways. Here is what Randy Reddig, the creator of this level, had to say about it.

this was the last single player map to be started. i wanted to get that "fear in a bottle" feeling. yes, it was inspired by "arrival," can't deny that. :)

it was also inspired by that absolutely great m1 conversion "noah's ark," the alien scenario. the first level in that was genuinely fear-evoking. which is how a game should be. parts of it were also culled from the prison level in dark forces (the jumping puzzle to the secret terminal).

the last section of the map (the bright section where you find the bright slate lights and textures) was originally part of an m1 netmap called "pfhoundry." that particular netmap was not well loved--maybe because of all the lava?

i tried to make as real a "ship" as possible, with all the light fixtures, broken as they were, only illuminating small parts of the map. it ended up being a lot larger than i had planned, though.

So "Ne Cede Malis" was inspired by "Arrival". But was this supposed to have any meaning in terms of the plot?

Chris Geisel (Double Aught Software) joins the story. Chris wrote:

Ne Cede Malis. The first level of Infinity was designed by Randy, but the name comes from a mystical ring that has been in Greg's family for years. The ring has a picture of an elephant with a snake coiled around its trunk and an inscription that reads 'Ne Cede Malis', which means roughly: Don't Give in to Misfortune. This level was one of the last designed, and was meant to evoke M1--claustrophobic hallways, dark corners, and atmosphere. We thought the title was appropriate considering the game begins with a nova, destruction, and the end of Lh'owon.

Mystical ring?!!!... but we won't go into that. ;-)

So "Ne Cede Malis" represents the end of one Infinity timeline where we fail to stop the nova and the destruction of Lh'owon. What is odd however is the fact that in all the other failed timelines we end up on an instantly recognisable part of "Aye Mak Sicur", namely:

Aie Mak Sicur
Carroll Street Station
You're Wormfood Dude

Yet "Ne Cede Malis" is clearly not a recognisable part of "Aye Mak Sicur"... or is it?




Randy Reddig mentioned above that the design of Infinity level "Ne Cede Malis" was partially based on the Marathon level "Arrival". Concerning the similarities between both levels Kieran Wheeler <kieran_wheeler@hotmail.com> points out that down a narrow hallway past a Compiler and a secret terminal is a napalm canister.

...this is again another throwback to M1. (Its beginning to seem (more than it did before) as if this is just "Arrival" moved around a bit...) But I digress. In M1 there was another napalm canister, also with no seeming point, down an elevator in a dead-end room (the other side of the hanger). This one's _up_ an elevator.

Interesting point. Did Randy Reddig plan it this way?




Todd Bangerter <tabanger@hcs.harvard.edu> writes:

This is a screenshot. In fact, it's the first released screenshot of Marathon Infinity. According to the creation date, I downloaded it the night of April 16, 1996.

My question is, where is this screenshot supposed to be? After playing through Infinity, I don't ever remember coming across a swamp tunnel area like this with vac-BOBs and bad guys. Is this somewhere in the game, or is it just a quick thing Bungie made to have a screenshot showing the new BOBs and textures?

Again this is one of those screenshots that depict a fight scene that doesn't appear in the final game. This appears to be staged in the sewage tunnels on Aye Mak Sicur. Again we see VacBobs on this level, a point that was discussed above. Was the Infinity story changed later on in development requiring the VacBobs to be removed? The VacBobs were seemingly replaced by the S'pht'Kr. If so what was this early story treatment?




Concerning the apparent lack of official Marathon screenshots showing the alien ship texture set Matthew Payne <sfeira@pacbell.net> writes:

The reason there are no alien texture set screenshots seems pretty obvious to me. You aren't supposed to know that the texture set exists! Realize that Durandal doesn't ever tell you where you're going before you go there. The only way to know is the chapter screen and that fact that you can see the Marathon. However, I believe there IS a screenshot with the alien texture set! Whether it was distriubuted on the net or not, in my Summer '95 More Things... catalog, there is a picture in Waldo World Arena of two players flying apart due to a missile.

Why there were none for M2 and Infinity is beyond me. Perhaps they didn't want to ruin it for those who hadn't bought M1? ;)

Ah yes! the famous twin rocket death screenshot which appeared under the Marathon Network Player ad in Bungie's Summer '95 catalog. Alien textures clearly visible here. Yet was there ever an official screenshot featuring a solo level with alien textures?




Ajay Ayyagari <nirvana@mail1.halcyon.com> sends in a high res. screenshot of the Marathon Interface (73K) from the Codewarrior CD. Concerning the screenshot Ajay writes:

in one of the pictures on the cd that is on the back of the marathon 1 box it shows you reloading your magnum (which is a .44 but you're using .45 ammo according to the screenshot, blatantly beta) while a pfhor is swinging a stick at you. but the part that is odd comes if you look behind the pfhor, there is a hunter. it's hard to notice this from looking at the box but since i have the original screenshot, bwahah. :) now look at the motion sensor, you the green square in the middle, the pfhor the red triangle and the...hunter the green square above the red triangle?! from the position of all the characters in the picture that assumption seems correct.

Ajay also points out:

...there are seven bullets in the pistol's clip!

As Ajay points out this screenshot appears on the back of the Marathon box. But it first appeared in the Marathon Screenshot Collage. But note the difference. Something not quite right here. Some Photoshop'ery perhaps? Were the motion detector dots added later? Of course to those of you familar with the now famous Pathways Into Darkness interface screenshot such oddities are nothing new.


Concerning the above interface screenshot note how the oxygen level is not full. Are we in a vacuum or is this a level after a vacuum level? Evidence would point to the later. There is a non-vacuum capable fighter Pfhor present and the weapons inventory lists weapons that don't show up when in vaccum. But if this is a level after a vacuum level note the absence of a Fusion pistol in the inventory. Did the player have to go through a vacuum level using magnums and fist only? And does the stairway in the screenhot ever feature in the final game? If so what level?




Michael Park <macgamer@ohana.com> writes:

I would also like to point out another graphical difference in the Marathon 1 Screen Shot Collage ad. In the scene with the Hulk, the player is holding a Spanker with a pretty detailed picture of it firing at the Hulk.

Notice anything different about the Spanker?

Yep, thought you would. The Spanker is placed at a bigger height than the Spanker you have in the full version. The height is so high that you can actually see the player's right hand along with the rest of his arm holding the "handle" of the rocket launcher.

In the full version, your Spanker is held pretty low. You can barely make out the bottom of the rocket, and if you move your head down, it might be even possible to make out the beginning of your right hand. But other than that, the rocket launcher in the screenshot collage is much more detailed.

Also, I thought the rocket's contrail was a little shorter in the full version of Marathon 1?

Here's an enlarged version (116K) of the screenshot Michael is referring to.




The following is a set of Marathon 2 and Infinity box shots. Back on the 23rd and 24th Jan '98 it was pointed out that the screenshots on the Marathon 2 box were the same as those on one of the Infinity boxes. Not only that but the screenshots looked unfamiliar. The trouble was they were two small to make out the detail. Jim Mitchell <jim@sover.net> points out that you can see these in much greater detail in a set of hi. res. box shots on the Codewarrior CD. You can see them here (75K). The screenshots appear to be taken from the Marathon 2 Preview level "BaseDestruction". This was later renamed "Eat It, Vid Boi!" for the official demo and full game. But what is the weapon the player is carrying?




In a Story forum post,  GrimCleaver writes:

It's interesting that [this section] doesn't make any mention of the possibility of composite screenshots. I was always under the impression that this was the method used to create many of the official screenshots. It seems like a more logical approach to creating the complex, action-packed scenes.

For example, this screenshot is almost certainly a composite image, because the scale of the aliens and Bobs is much too small. The giveaway is in the texture size - which is 1 world unit. Those Bobs would be less than half a world unit in height, and probably wouldn't even be visible due to the depth of the sewage (if they were actually standing on the ground, and not floating right at the surface, like they are).

I don't think the above screenshot was the first time Bungie used this technique, and it wasn't the last (link - scroll down to the part written by Lorraine Mclees).

He goes on to add:

Some other things in that screenshot that suggest that it's a composite image, are:

1)   No light coming from the player, illuminating the shadowed areas, in which the player is standing.

2)   There are still some blue pixels left on the dying Pfhor Fighter, which would never happen if it was actually in the game (assuming it's not a bug).



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Last updated June 10, 2012