The Origin of the Vidmaster Rules

Bigger Guns Nearby by deimos-remus

The term "Vidmaster" first appeared in the December 1994 issue of Inside Mac Games (IMG) magazine. The Marathon Demo had just been released the previous month and the December issue of IMG ran a Strategy and Tactics section for it.

Written by Tuncer Deniz (IMG editor) and Greg Kirkpatrick (Bungie Software) it contained helpful hints on weapon use, net tactics and walkthroughs for each of the solo demo levels. The Strategy and Tactics section ended with a short Guide to Vid-Mastery. You can read it below.

A Guide to Vid-Mastery

There is a certain mystery surrounding Vid-Mastery, but there are certain characteristics that separate a true Marathon Vid-Master from an acolyte.

A Vid-Master never loses the draw. You are on a ledge, he is on a floor. Who wins. A vid-Master can "look" up or down fast enough to always get a shot off. A true vid-Master will get off a good shot.

A Vid-Master never uses CAPS-LOCK for a run key. This is simply the wussy way to do it. The pinky finger is perfectly designed to constantly hold down the control key. It is true! The easiest way to spot fodder is to look at the preferences file. If you see CAPS-LOCK anywhere, you know that guy is no Vid-Master.

A Vid-Master can climb at least two world heights by grenading himself up a wall. I will not say anything more about this. It is very important that you learn this skill without any more help.

A Vid-Master can kill with the Rocket Launcher at will. See the target, feel the target. Know where the target is going. When you fire, imagine the target exploding and flying across the room. A true Vid-Master fires at the target's feet, thus insuring "Maximum Air".

Vidmaster Rule #1.   A Vidmaster never uses CAPS-LOCK for a run key.

Greg's view on using "wussy" CAPS-LOCK was quite controversial at the time but he never really changed that view. During the Battle of Brooklyn in April 1997 he wrote:

"actually there is a cheat code that i use all the time in netplay. it's shift-option F9. it resets the keys back to the default setting while you play. it rules. i'm not lying it's totally undocumented hardly anyone knows about it.

it's handy if you sit down at the puter and someone was just playing who uses pussy keys like caps lock."

Claustrophobia by Phobos_Romulus

When Marathon was released on December 21, 1994  the manual made reference to the term Vidmaster in the Controls section. It read:

Difficulty Level.

Allows you to determine the difficulty of the game. Spazeroids should play on an easy level, Vidmasters play at higher levels. You may have to play a few times before you can make it though on the Total Carnage setting.

And so the term "Spazeroid"  (Spaze-roid) was added to the Bungie Lexicon. However Bungie would quickly drop the use of this term since "spaze"  and "spaz"  were considered derogatory.

Security Cyborg by LukeDenby

Just over a month after the release of Marathon Jason Jones posted the  "marathon vidmaster challenge"  on the usenet newsgroups and Jason wrote on January 25, 1995:

"I challenge anyone who thinks they rule at Marathon to complete all of the game's levels on Total Carnage starting with only the pistol and x1 health (via Command-Option Begin Game). Upload your replays!"
Since you had to upload your replays (a film file) the completion of a level had to done without saving your game at any stage. So by default the Marathon Vidmaster Challenge had to be achieved without saving.

Thus was born the Marathon Vidmaster Challenge and three more Vidmaster rules added.

Vidmaster Rule #2.   Total Carnage difficulty level.

Vidmaster Rule #3.   Command-Option Begin Game start.

Vidmaster Rule #4.   No saving.

In a follow-up post which began  "School is now in session"  Jason Jones posted a Vidmaster film of the level "Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones". You can watch it on YouTube here thanks to the VidmasterChallenge channel.

A few hours after Jason posted the Marathon Vidmaster Challenge it was pointed out that that some levels needed certain weapons to activate switches not available under Command-Option Begin Game start. This lead to Tim Seufert creating the Marathon Vidmaster Challenge Physics Model which allowed pistol bullets the ability to toggle switches.

Unsurprisingly the Marathon Vidmaster Challenge generated a lot of interest and a certain amount of scepticism. Regarding the level "Bob-B-Q" one fan remarked:

Problem is there aren't any easily accessible (read : no) weapons on the level...I would really like to see the original poster's film. Bet he survived the initial onslought by sheer luck.

Jason Jones replied:

ah, grasshopper, the most accessable weapon of all is your own fists, you must learn to lay aside your weapons of steel and use your flesh.


i'm posting the binhex'd BBQ film in it's own thread. i hope that everyone agrees after watching it that luck played no part in this replay.

If you want to see Jason's BBQ film then go to the VidmasterChallenge YouTube channel here. The opening is classic twisting, turning, dodging and berserking Vidmaster style.

Jason's remark about laying  "aside your weapons of steel and use your flesh"  would sow the seed for the 'fists only' Vidmasters.

Blaap! by Michio Hashimoto (aka Miha)

Marathon Security Officer by Paloma P. Torres

When the Marathon 2 Preview was released on Power Computing's The DISC at Macworld Boston on August 8, 1995 the Command-Option Begin Game option gave you a dialog box with the Oath of the Vidmaster which read:

Note the Marathon 2 Preview only contained 3 levels
contrary to what it said on the back of the CD cover.

The Oath of the Vidmaster would later appear in exactly the same format in the Marathon 2: Durandal demo and the full game.

It's not hard to see where this Oath came from. Greg was already on record about his views on using "wussy" Caps Lock as a run key and Jason had been quite vocal about killing Bobs in the first game.

Vidmaster Rule #5.   Punch all switches.

Vidmaster Rule #6.   Never shoot were you could use grenades.

Vidmaster Rule #7.   Never, ever, leave a single Bob alive.

Rule #5 and Rule #6 are perhaps the most controversial. On some levels it not possible to punch a switch to activate it because it is inaccessible. A little common sense is required here. The use of grenades is an odd one and is perhaps down to fact that both Jason and Greg enjoyed watching their opponents achieve 'air' when grenades were fired at their feet or a side wall.

Counterattack (unused version) by Jay Faircloth

Marathon Infinity didn't give us any new Vidmaster rules but it did give us the Vidmasters Challenge levels. Though based on the terminal graphic it was actually called the Vid-Master's Challenge which is a throw back to the Inside Mac Games article A Guide to Vid-Mastery from December 1994.

UESCTerm 802.11 (remote override) 05.10.2337

<Incoming message from Double Aught>
Prepare for the Vidmasters Challenge.

This is not for the weak of heart.

This is very very hard.

Press <Escape> to save your pathetic skin.

Ok. But before you go, save your game
and sign your will...

<Teleport when ready>
PgUp/PgDn/Arrows to Scroll Return/Enter to Acknowledge

The Vid-Master's Challenge could be accessed via Double Aught's secret credits terminal on the final level Aye Mak Sicur. Unfortunately accessing it this way allowed you to carry your weapon and shields from Aye Mak Sicur thus it didn't comply with Rule #2 (starting out with pistol and 1x shields).

The Vid-Master's Challenge was in fact created by Randall Shaw who took three levels, one from each of the Marathon games, and modified them for the challenge. The first level 'Try again' from the first game had its only pattern buffer removed. The map writing added to this level made reference to this.

Marathon by John Wallin Liberto

When the Marathon Trilogy Box Set was released in May 1997 the Trilogy manual had a section entitled "What does it mean to be a Vidmaster?".  It read:

What does it mean to be a Vidmaster?

It is being balanced in the calm center of a whirling and untouchable tornado of destruction, while showers of grenades patter harmlessly around you and bullets crawl toward you in slow-mo.

It is when your brain develops a new bundle of nerves whose only function is to re-route impulses directly from your eyes to your finger muscles, so that you can twist and snap off a rocket long before you're conscious of the yellow blip in your motion detector.

It is when the difference between a roomful of alien warriors and a carpet of them is a matter of seconds. The word "vid" entered the Marathon lexicon during development of the first game, to distinguish the excellent players (particularly in net games) from the fodder. The Oath of the Vidmaster was inscribed into the skip-levels dialog (Command-Option-Begin New Game), to remind players of the highest level of excellence they could aspire to:

"I pledge to punch all switches, to never shoot where I could use grenades, to admit the existence of no level except Total Carnage, to never use Caps Lock as my "run" key, and to never, ever, leave a single Bob alive."

To do these things is to invite maximum peril and requires one to play the game as hard and unrelentingly as possible, at the highest level of skill: to play as a Vidmaster.

These three games, the Marathon Saga, are the best training and testing ground for Vidmasters. You can play against aliens alone or in a networked group through more than 80 levels. But the true challenge is surviving in one of the 50 included netgame arenas against other people. It is in such trials by fire that mighty Vidmasters are forged.

Rage hard...

This reiterated the Oath of the Vidmaster but stated that the true challenge was surviving in one of the 50 netgame arenas against other people.

Bigtime by TychoVII

Fast forward ten years to August 1, 2007 and the release of Freeverse's Marathon Durandal for Xbox Live Arcade. This included the VidMaster achievement, ostensibly the hardest achievement in the game. According to the Xbox achievements website:

There are three criteria for unlocking this achievement:

1. All bobs, aside from evil bobs, have to be dead or have teleported out before you end a level

2. Every switch that you use needs to be either A) Punched with fist, B) Shot with Assault Rifle's Grenade, or C) Shot with fusion pistol. DO NOT USE/ACTIVE THEM NORMALY, NEVER EVER. To press is not to punch.

3. The difficulty must be set to "Total Carnage".

There are also three different ways that you can go after this achievement, each with its own pros and cons.

1. You can simply start a single player game, set the difficulty to "Total Carnage" and play through by yourself. The major advantage to this approach is that you're able to save your progress, quit whenever you like, and pick it up later. The downside is that Total Carnage is very challenging and you'll be taking it on alone.

2. You can find up to seven other players and play a co-op game on Total Carnage difficulty. The only real downside to this approach is having to coordinate a time with everyone else because you cannot save in co-op games, so you'll need to play the entire thing in one sitting. The upside is that you have unlimited respawns for everyone and you can choose to start a co-op game on Level 18 (The Big House), so you'll only have to play levels 18-28, instead of the entire game. Note that if one player accidently activates a switch manually, it only invalidates the achievement for them, not for everyone in the game.

3. You can play a split-screen co-op with a second controller and a spare account. This approach allows you to start your game at Level 18 and have unlimited respawns, but you still cannot save, so you'll have to beat it in a single sitting. This is a great approach if you don't want to coordinate with a group or you have to play offline. Just play through the game with the spare account and leave your main account sitting at the spawn point. That way, if you mess up and activate a switch manually, it won't prevent your main account from getting the achievement.

Bigger Guns Nearby by juzo-kun

So to recap.

Vidmaster Rule #1.   A Vidmaster never uses CAPS-LOCK for a run key.

Vidmaster Rule #2.   Total Carnage difficulty level.

Vidmaster Rule #3.   Command-Option Begin Game start.

Vidmaster Rule #4.   No saving.

Vidmaster Rule #5.   Punch all switches.

Vidmaster Rule #6.   Never shoot were you could use grenades.

Vidmaster Rule #7.   Never, ever, leave a single Bob alive.

Yes, seven!

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Last updated February 16, 2023