Marathon: Durandal XBLA Q&A
Posted by lukems at 7/17/2007 3:20 PM PDT
So what the heck is Marathon: Durandal? Well the odd thing is that Marathon: Durandal is actually a sequel, rather than the original game. It's a 3D shooter, often compared with id's masterpiece, Doom. That's not exactly accurate. Both games feature wildly disparate pacing and feel. But yes, it's an olde-worlde 3D shoot 'em up with corridors and monsters. The reason we chose to port Durandal rather than the original, is that it's the more accomplished and feature rich game, more modes of play and a better Campaign mode.
You'll certainly enjoy some hints of what would eventually come from Bungie in here. There are unmistakable similarities to Halo that if anything, are compounded by the new 360 control scheme. Marathon: Durandal, while primitive compared to today's efforts, was a remarkably complex and sophisticated offering back in the day. We hope you spend some time with it and enjoy a rich and mysterious sci-fi universe, with lots of story woven into its action and take it for what it is - a brilliantly reproduced homage to one of our old classics.
We chatted with Bruce Morrison from Freeverse about their Xbox Live Arcade-bound port of Marathon: Durandal.
Who is Freeverse and why are they messing with my Marathon?
Freeverse is one of the oldest Mac game developers out there. Founded in 1994, Freeverse has been a fixture in the Mac community. When Bungie was at the MacWorld Expo with Marathon, it was Freeverse's booth that was right next door. It was common to trade games between companies and of course to play some Marathon over Apple Talk.
How did it come about that you guys were remaking a Marathon game?
Long answer: Microsoft contacted Freeverse in late 2004 to construct a camera game for the Xenon (later to become the Xbox 360). Freeverse was invested in a company called Strange Flavour, two brothers based in the UK who had made a game called ToySight for the Mac. Strange Flavour began work on a game for Microsoft. A while later, Microsoft realized Freeverse, based in New York City would need Xenon Dev kits to test the games with Strange Flavour. This mystery box was of course the Xbox 360, but it was an oddity in the office, it had to hook up to a Windows machine to run, so nobody knew what to do with it at first. It was Steven, the resident Windows guy who noticed he could compile out games to this Dev kit.
Why Marathon: Durandal? Why not the first game?
Marathon 1 was built for the 68k Macs in System 7. Our team is a bit younger than that (Average age 25). This format was less known to us. Marathon 1 also was much more dependant on older Macintosh resources such as system sounds and resource forks.
We prototyped with the GPL Marathon source code. It was available before we had a contract and it was well documented. *NOTE* Marathon: Durandal does not in any way use the GPL Marathon 2 source code.
Marathon 2 was released for Windows with a Windows version and Windows source code.
Marathon 2 for the Mac was built for PowerPC-based computers, something Freeverse is very familiar with.
The Mac tools Forge and Anvil work with the Marathon 2 assets.
Marathon 1 is a very tiny game. The maximum size of a Marathon 1 level is 256 polygons. The maximum size of a Marathon 2 level is 1024 polygons.
We had to look at this project from worst-case scenario: We only get to bring one of the 3 games to Xbox Live Arcade. With that in mind we had to say, which is the most appropriate? We universally agreed that Marathon 2 was the best. It had the richest story and environment of the 3, and it was more mainstream and traditional than Marathon Infinity. It was the right fit.
Liquids, Marathon 2 supports liquids, which add depth.
Dual Shotguns, quite possibly the best weapon ever created.
Thunderdome, one of the best multiplayer maps out there, Halo fans might remember it as Foundation.
Durandal, as a character he is very cool and his story is quite fun.
Robert Blake was played by none other than Jason Jones, we just had to get his smiling face on Xbox Live Arcade.
Haven't folks been playing Marathon games via Aleph One for a while?
New Engine. Marathon: Durandal is running in a true 3D engine on the Xbox 360.
New Save System. You still must find Pattern Buffers to save, but let's say you beat the first level and get to the 2
level. What used to happen is if you died, you'd load a save game back on the first level. Now if you die, when you respawn you are brought back to the start of the new level (with all your weapons). Also if you save then immediately die the game takes note of this. If it happens really often (as in you saved in a really bad spot) it will respawn you back at a previous save point. This is to remove frustration.
HD Graphics. You can turn on HD graphics (they are on by default). This is a total replacement—walls, guns, aliens, effects even the marine.
720p Widescreen. The game is running in true widescreen at 720p. This actually gives you a bit more visual room.
60 frames a second game play. Marathon 2 was originally locked to 30 frames a second. We increased it to 60 (and ensured the existing logic transferred over to 60 ticks a sec instead of 30). This gives the game a much more fluid presentation than it's computer counterpart.
Brand new networking layer. Instead of using the old Marathon networking system, we implemented a new one with ReplicaNet. This allows the game to play smooth and reliably over the Internet, something the original Marathon 2 could not do. This also allow for online coop play with up to 8 players (the original supported 8 players, but getting the game to not fall apart was another story).
A control scheme designed for the 360. Bungie was very nice to us, and assisted us in setting up a control system very similar to Halo. Using these acceleration curves we are able to give players a fluid control system.
Achievements, Rich Presence and Leaderboards. Staples of the Xbox 360, but these give ultimate bragging rights. Plus our Achievements were designed with hardcore Marathon fans in mind.
French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean translations of the entire game. This is the most accessible Marathon to date. Every terminal (even the secret ones) were translated by Microsoft's expert localization team.
A screenshot from "Calm Like Your Mom"
Another screenshot from "Calm Like Your Mom"
An image from "Road Warrior"
An image from "Full Roaming Vapor"
Does Marathon: Durandal support fan content?
Does Marathon: Durandal support films?
Why should I buy Marathon when I can just get it for free? You are ripping us off!
However, Marathon: Durandal is the best Marathon experience to date. The game plays better than ever and looks better than ever. Once you pick up a 360 controller and play on your HDTV you will never go back.
Yes, Marathon: Durandal fully supports downloadable content packs. There are no plans currently for downloadable content, as the game has not been released yet.
© 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.