The origin of Frog Blast The Vent Core
(and some other stuff too)

<frogblaster@bungie.com>


Job creep.

Doug Zartman joined Bungie in May 1994. Describing his early days at Bungie Doug wrote:

I was Bungie's first full-time employee, hired as a combination PR guy/customer support/tech support/order fulfillment/copy editor, etc. (There's always been a lot of "job creep" here; everyone here is originally hired for a specific job which then slowly evolves into a vastly broader and more complex suite of duties as we get busier.) I started by doing tech support for Pathways Into Darkness the summer that we were creating Marathon.
Doug Zartman, The Bungie Newsletter. Vol 1 Issue 1. October 15, 1996

One of these "more complex suite of duties" was being the Voice of Bob.

The Marathon manual provided the background to this:

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. By some, these children were looked down upon and called "Bob", short for born on board. These citizens grew to run the ship and many can be seen in the game running for their lives. It is your sworn duty as a security officer to protect Bob.

Not an easy job.

According to the Marathon Scrapbook:

Bungie planed to included a defenseless civilian character running around the Marathon from the start; later in development, they decided to give Bob, as he was formally know, a chance to speak his simple mind. Alex decided that Pathways tech support was less important than adding some color to Marathon and dragged Doug into his office to record some test phrases for the Bob character. The tests went over well, and the now-classic phrases "They're Everywhere!" and "Thank God it's You!" became part of the Marathon experience.


About three meters.

In Marathon there were two types of Bobs - good Bobs and bad Bobs (aka simulacrum Bobs). Durandal warned you about the later in a terminal on Shake Before Using...

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.

Dressed in green overalls and packed full of explosives these cyborg simulacrums of the crew had a nasty habit of running towards you, shouting "Thank God it's You!" before exploding...

Unsurprisingly terms like "kamikaze Bobs" and "exploda-bobs" gained popularity.

So some Bobs were cyborg simulacrums?  Well Jason Jones (BungieCorp) gave a different view in an eWorld Conference with fans on January 10, 1995 (just weeks after the game's release):

Peter A.   : What gave you the idea for exploding BOB's?
BungieCorp : well, we hate bobs and couldn't think of anything more
             fun than having them get their guts scooped out by the
             aliens and packed with dynamite and sent back to the marathon
             on a kamakazi mission. 
             cool, huh?

The idea of live Bobs with their guts scooped out and packed with explosives gave Marathon a more darker edgier vibe.


Since good Bobs and bad Bobs were all dressed in the same green overalls players quickly learnt that a sure fire way of telling the difference from a distance was to shoot them. Good Bobs would bleed red , bad Bobs would bleed yellow...

A later Bungie joke about good Bobs and bad Bobs was immortalised in the form of map writing on the Marathon 2 level  God Will Sort The Dead...

Q:  How do you tell the difference between the good Bobs and the bad ones?
A:  Good Bobs?


Bob art by Shogoki.


Marathon Bob versus Microsoft Bob.

Around the time Marathon was released Microsoft were working on a more user-friendly interface for their operating system called Microsoft Bob.


Marathon fans were quick to notice the connection. Jason Jones (BungieCorp) responded to questions in an eWorld Conference with fans on January 10, 1995:

Inside Games : do the "Bobs" in marathon reflect the "Bob" of Microsoft?
BungieCorp :   hehehe ... actually i think the downfall of microsoft will
               result from their choice of name for "microsoft bob". ....
               who could take that seriously after playing marathon?  :)

Downfall indeed.

To add fuel to the fire Bungie released a Marathon Bob versus Microsoft Bob T-Shirt. Note the broken Bill Gates glasses.


Also if your name was Bob you got a Dear Bob letter dated July 7, 1995 from Doug Zartman offering a 20%-off coupon if you bought a Marathon Bob versus Microsoft Bob T-Shirt.

Microsoft Bob lost the fight and was discontinued just one year after launch. However Bill Gates did not forget Bungie and began to plan his sevenfold revenge. (Genesis 4:15)


It's Miller time!

With the release of Marathon 2: Durandal on November 24, 1995 it became clear that Bob was back and packing. He was also more vocal thanks to the efforts of Doug Zartman. The Marathon Scrapbook explained:

Civilians became leaner and meaner in Marathon 2 as well. The once-hapless Bob had worked up the nerve to return fire and developed some witty repartee in his spare time. Doug Zartman once again supplied the vocals. Doug and Alex pared down a list of roughly 80 phrases (including "Hit the deck!", "Had enough, tough guy?", "It's Miller time!", and "Pull my finger!"), to the 36 which were included in the final game. Bob's voice was a balance of nuance and extremity, prompting fans to wonder if Doug had been attacked with a pair of pliers during recording. Doug explains how he managed the wide vocal range:

"I can't tell you exactly, but it has something to do with a vise and my gonads... I've had a lot of choral training and I used to sing backup vocals in a rock band, so I'm used to vocal performance. Also, we recorded multiple variations of each phrase; i.e., I did about 6 different versions of 'Get me outta here!' at different pitches, volumes and stresses, some more funny, some more frightened, and we picked the one that fit best."

A list of the original Bob phrases that Doug and Alex worked on can be seen here.

One phrase that did not feature on this list was the one simulacrum Bobs used as they ran towards you.

Durandal warned you again about these on the Marathon 2 level  We're Everywhere:

Do you remember the Pfhor-built human
simulacrums during the Tau Ceti invasion?

The elaborate Pfhor bureaucracy has a
Ministry for the Eradication Through
Imitation of Hostile Species Unsuitable for
Enslavement, Phan Pfhar Sfaern-Wsawn Tshah,
which is responsible for the design and
construction of such machines.

They meticulously constructed seventeen
different human body types and mixed them
with sixty-one unique facial models. The
resulting walking bombs were in every way
indistinguishable from real humans.

Their one mistake, dressing every last one
of the six thousand simulacrums in the
plain green overalls of a Marathon airlock
technician, had the amusing side-effect of
making all the real airlock technicians
wander the ship naked during the invasion.

But what did they shout as they ran towards you in Marathon 2?

God Bless the Peace Corps?
God Bless the Marine Corps?
Frog blast the Vid Corps?
Frog blast the vent core
etc...


Finally the answer was revealed in this alt.games.marathon thread in January 1996.

As is the order of things this didn't stop people asking the same question repeatedly.

It was even sent as a question to the Bungie WebMaster in July 1996 and got back an uncharacteristically informative answer:


I know you probably get this question a million times, but what the phrik
are those !@#$ Assim. Bobs mumbling about? "Frog blast event tore!"

Kris Norberg, knorberg@usa.pipeline.com


Kris-

That's "Frog blast THE vent core!" to you, buddy.


But what did "Frog Blast The Vent Core" mean? One fan asked the Bungie WebMaster in September 1996 and got back a most unexpected answer... or maybe not.


What exactly does Frog Blast the Vent Core Mean??

Rob, FHShort@cris.com


Rob-

"Frog Blast The Vent Core!" is actually the punchline to a really dirty joke. Those of you out there who've heard it will know why we can't print it here.


Predictably the Bungie Webmaster got the following question about the "dirty joke" in the next round of letters:


I don't usually go for dirty jokes but you've captured my curiosity; what is the Frog Blast the Vent Core joke? Please tell me!

Michael Lamb, mlamb@isd.net

Michael-

Judging from the mail I got about it, there are a lot of people out there who haven't heard the "Frog Blast The Vent Core" joke. That's a shame.

I'm not going to just come out and give away the joke; that's no fun at all. No suffering involved whatsoever.

So here's what I'll do: send in a joke with "Frog Blast The Vent Core" as the punchline, and you might win a free copy of Marathon Infinity. Second prize will be a t-shirt. Third prize is a Bucket O' Guts from Moo and Oink, or something.

Rules are as follows:

  • SUBMISSION: Submit all jokes to joke@bungie.com
  • CONTENT: No restrictions. Be creative. Don't be boring ("What did the Assimilated Bob say to the Armageddon Beast?") or you'll get the Bucket O' Guts.
  • STRUCTURE: Joke must have "Frog Blast The Vent Core" as the punchline. Other than that, no restrictions: it can be a knock-knock joke, a limerick (good luck) or a "Two nuns and a pack mule are riding a monorail to Vegas...." story-type joke.
  • JUDGING: Submissions will be judged by a random selection of Bungie staffers. Winners will be announced Friday, November 1, 1996, on this page.

  • Two weeks later...


    And now, the moment you've all been dreading...


    The winning entries in the

    Frog Blast The Vent Core Joke Contest

    Two weeks and dozens of rotten jokes later, our humble humor contest draws to a close. Resounding success or abysmal failure? You be the judge.

    The rules were simple: send us an actually funny joke with "Frog Blast The Vent Core!" as the punchline. Despite the overwhelming simplicity of the rules, many of you managed to ignore them completely. Especially the bit about making the joke funny.

    Submissions were judged earlier today, Friday, November 1, 1996. The judges (a panel of Bungie staffers willing to suffer anything if it would give them an excuse to not work for half an hour) handed in their ballots, which were tallied by the humble and entirely trustworthy Bungie Webmaster.

    Third Prize (a Bucket O' Guts from Moo and Oink) goes to...

    Arend. C. Miller

    Arend drags this one out a lot longer than he has to, and the very last words in the joke are not "Frog blast the vent core," but his joke is funnier than most so he got the votes.

    Arend wins the Bucket O' Guts from Moo and Oink. Although we may have problems sending that through the mail, so we might offer him an alternate prize instead.

    Once there was this boy.  He was the only son of a rich man.  Before the
    boy's first day of school, the man told him that if he tried his best, and
    got good grades, that he would buy him anything.

    The boy's first report card came, and it was filled with A+'s. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    The boy's second grade report card came, and again he got straight A's. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, still not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His third grade report card came, and he maintained his 4.0 average. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    When his 4th grade report card came, he again achieved perfection. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 5th grade report card came, once again he got straight A's. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 6th grade report card came, To everyone's surprise, he got all A's. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 7th grade report card came, he again achieved perfection. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 8th grade report card came, but he got all A's. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 9th grade report card came, and he got straight A's. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 10th grade report card came, he again achieved perfection. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 11th grade report card came, and he was a 4.0 student again. The man told his son that he was proud of him, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    His 12th grade report card came, he again achieved perfection. The man told his son that he was especially proud of himfor graduating with high honors, and asked him what he wanted most out of anything in the world. The boy told his dad, that he wanted nothing more than to frog blast the vent core. His father, again not knowing what to do, nodded, and got him nothing.

    Well, the boy continued through college, and always told his dad he wanted to frog blast the vent core. He got married, gave his dad grandkids, and still only asked to frog blast the vent core. His father still had no idea what the boy wanted.

    Then, the boy suddenly came ill with a mysterious form of cancer. On his deathbed, his father asked what he most wanted in the world for his last few days. Again, he said he wanted to frog blast the vent core. His father, finally decided it was time to ask what it meant.

    His son replied ....."Well, dad, .....Ugggghh"

    AND HE DIED.



    Second Prize (a Bungie T-Shirt) goes to...

    Matt Segur

    Matt places with a longish piece in the classic tradition of the story joke, scoring big for his blatant cynicism and casual attitude toward extreme violence.

    A drug dealer, a priest, and a computer game programmer walked into a 
    bar one day. The bartender looked at the drug dealer and said "You 
    drug-dealing worm! You prey on the weak and keep the people down by 
    giving them drugs to distract them from the everyday horror of their 
    pitiful existences! I have more respect for the deformed rat that 
    subsists in the county morgue by eating chemical-laden autopsy remains 
    than I do for you!" And with that, he stamped his 300 lb. bulk down upon 
    the drug dealer's gold inlaid suede platform shoe.
    

    The drug dealer shouted "You radge @#$%! I don't gotta listen to this bucket o shite," and ran out.

    The bartender then turned to the priest and said "You preaching dog! You prey on the weak and keep the people down by giving them religion to distract them from the everyday horror of their pitiful existences! I have more respect for the ascaris worm slowly working its way through my lung than for I do for you!" And with that, he stamped his 300 lb. bulk down upon the priest's shiny black patton leather shoe.

    The priest screamed "May the Lord forgive you! You'll burn with the other sinners in the hands of your angry God!" and ran out.

    Then the programmer said "Save it, I know what you're about to say. I'm a game-programming rodent. I prey on the weak and keep the people down by giving them computer games to distract them from the everyday horror of their pitiful existences. You have more respect for the dog that eats the buckets of guts thrown out in the gutter by Moo and Oink the butchers than you do for me. I'm on my way out. Just don't step on my gleaming white running shoes."

    But the bartender grinned, slowly shook his head, and roughly pulled the programmer to his chest. He whispered into the programmer's ear, and the programmer frantically pulled free and ran for the door.

    The patrons were bemused by the programmer's sudden terror, but they understood when green chunks of the exploding bartender's synthetic flesh ripped through their bodies, killing every last one of them. And just as the orgy of gruesome death ensued, they each heard the bartender repeat in a bloodcurdling scream his final words to the programmer:

    "FROG BLAST THE VENT CORE!"



    ...And First Prize (a copy of Marathon Infinity) goes to...

    Jesse Peterson

    In marked contrast to the other two winners, Jesse's joke is short, direct and to the point. This alone endeared him to our jedges, who had long since passed the breaking point. We can all learn a little from young Jesse Peterson.

    teller: *ahem* Knock, Knock
    victim: Who's there!?
    teller: Interupting Bob.
    victim: Interupti-
    teller: FROG BLAST THE VENT CORE!



    Honorable Mentions

    These folks didn't win anything, but we feel compelled to mention them:

  • JasonG69@aol.com, for his truly repulsive joke which hinged on the gastrointestinal traumas of certain key Bungie staffers
  • Paradox, for his piece about the "Trouser pilot"(?) and two midgets
  • Ben Van Dusen, for the "bell-ringer" story, which got a couple votes from our judges
  • Justin Mayer, for his limerick describing the dangers of consorting with prostitutes
  • Dug Stanat, for "what did the New Zealander say when Jaque Shirac (or however the hell you spell the guy's name) conducted another @#$%^&* nuclear test?"
  • And finally, Thomas Fisher, for his remarkably short entry, which was:
     `z
    A master of minimalist Dada, Thomas will no doubt be hailed as a genius 100 years down the road.


  • So there you have it... wait 100 years or just read the Marathon Scrapbook for the answer. Doug revealed:

    "The idea was that some of the assimilated Bobs become insane from their conversion and run around yelling nonsense. Alex said to me 'say something random', and that phrase tumbled from my lips. Totally spontaneous. While I could have sat down and thought up something more random than that, it worked out well, since it sounds close enough to a real sentence that it kept people guessing and generated some fascinating (and totally wrong) discussion about what the phrase was and its meaning. One popular theory was 'God bless the Marine Corps!', which was a fair guess, but still wrong."


    As is the order of things (see a pattern here?) Marathon fans continued to ask Doug about the meaning of Frog Blast The Vent Core. Cornered on Reddit Marathon in July 14, 2019 one fan remarked:

    "People have been trying to make sense of it for decades."

    Doug replied:

    "It's supposed to not make sense, that's the point. Possessed BoBs are insane."


    Back in 1997 I had the opportunity to ask Doug about this aversion to frogs, he replied:

    "It's... too... painful. I see them in my dreams, leaping, croaking, spawning; staring at me through their huge nicitating membranes. You see, a frog killed my mother."


    Years of therapy later Doug recorded another version of Frog Blast The Vent Core just before he left Bungie. A sort of last hurrah to Marathon fans.

    It's a pretty rare piece but you can hear it here for the first time. Thanks Doug.



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