Marathon's Ling-Ling's

since 1995

April 1, 2023 (Saturday) 01.04.2023

Now's your chance to own your very own Ling-Ling's Head t-shirt.

Front. Click the image to enlarge.

Back. Click the image to enlarge.

That's right! There's one for sale on eBay right now for $700.  No kidding.

Max Hoberman and Matt Soell unveiled the Ling-Ling's Head t-shirt during the Bungie NY fanfest on July 21, 2000.

The Ling-Ling's Head t-shirt was the first product Bungie produced as Bungie Studios following their acquisition by Microsoft a month earlier on June 19, 2000.

Ironically Bungie first introduced fans to Ling-Ling's Head on the eve of announcing the porting of Marathon 2: Durandal to Windows 95 four years earlier.

(circumstances are cyclical)

The seller also has a  t-shirt  for sale. The artwork on the front is by Ian McConville (Mac Hall webcomic). The artwork on the back is by Craig Mullins.

Front. Click the image to enlarge.

Front. Click the image to enlarge.

It's important to note that this is not an official Bungie t-shirt. It is a fan made t-shirt. It was available for sale via the website back in July 10, 2001.

March 31, 2023 (Friday) 31.03.2023

A number of people have pointed out that you can read part of the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] letter to the Bungie Webmaster (yesterday's news item) in uncensored form in the Chicago Reader's  "Monsters in a Box"  article published in March 2000. You can see the full article in the Blasts from the Past section here.  Parental discretion required!

The article was actually the cover story for that issue of the Chicago Reader.

Image courtesy of Doug Zartman. Click the image to enlarge.

It has been pointed out (numerous times) that the article's uncensored text does not exactly match the original box acronym TBWSAF from 1996. But you will get the general gist of it nonetheless.

There is some discussion about the article in this Story forum post. Some familiar names in there.

Paul Russel had this to say about the group shot on the front page.

"I remember the article being about the Myth team, but the editor used the blam! team photo because we were "more photogenic". "

Here's a pic of the actual Myth II team.

The Myth II team and the late-night Bungie crew pose with the
Myth II Gold Master CD. Shot taken at midnight on December 10, 1998.
Tuncer Deniz (Project Leader) holds the Gold Master CD.

March 30, 2023 (Thursday) 30.03.2023

"You're gonna die, [EXPLETIVE DELETED]! I'm comin' outta the booth!"
Letters to the Bungie WebMaster. May 14, 1996.

Happy TBWSAF Day!


Yes folks, on this day 27 years ago Bungie officially announced  that Marathon 2: Durandal would be ported to Windows 95.

Bungie's new web site also carried the announcement. Ling-Ling's Head proudly announced:

NEW!! Find out about the upcoming Marathon 2 for Windows 95!

In truth the cat dog was out of the bag some weeks earlier when fans found out that Cyberian Outpost were advertising Marathon 2: Durandal for Windows 95. You could even pre-order it. This lead to some acronymous usenet posts at the time such as:

"A sad, sad day..."
"Bungie should apologize."

Matt Soell (Bungie Software) provided the following explanation in an post on March 20, 1996:

"We had planned to make the announcement of the M2 Windows 95 port at the end of the month, to coincide with the Computer Game Developer's Conference. I had planned to deliver my promised announcement to the Mac game newsgroups around the same time.

I had no idea that Cyberian Outpost knew of the port, or that they had put up an order form for it on their site. So when I came in Monday morning to find that all hell had broken loose online and my e-mailbox was full of letters calling me a liar and worse, I was pretty surprised.

I had every intention of telling you folks about the port. That someone else released the info first was an unfortunate accident."

Whatever outrage fans had at this stage it was nothing in comparison to what was to come following the official announcement on March 30, 1996.

The 3rd round of letters to the Bungie WebMaster in May 1996 contained the following letter from a rather disgruntled fan.

"You [EXPLETIVE DELETED] [EXPLETIVE DELETED]s have gone and done it now. You said you wouldn't create Marathon for PC. [EXPLETIVE DELETED] liars! What have I to hold above the PC gamer's heads now, huh you [EXPLETIVE DELETED]s?!?!


You know, I was actaully gonna buy the Marathon/Marathon2 Bundle. But not now! You [EXPLETIVE DELETED]s ain't getting any of my money. I'll [EXPLETIVE DELETED] use a copy from a friend.

You're gonna die, [EXPLETIVE DELETED]! I'm comin' outta the booth!


Fortunately for the sender the real persona of the Bungie WebMaster had yet-to-manifest itself resulting in a rather muted response.

It is no surprise that Bungie immortalised the whole Win95 affair in the acronym on the bottom of the Marathon Infinity box.

Happy TBWSAF Day!

" WAIT!  What does it mean?"

March 29, 2023 (Wednesday) 29.03.2023

"...if you were to save the image of Ling-Ling's Head, BinHex it five times and open up the resulting file with HexEdit, who knows what sort of secret message you might find?"
Bungie WebMaster. Letters to the Bungie WebMaster. May 14, 1996.

Happy Ling-Ling Day!

The what?

Yes folks, on this day 27 years ago Bungie unveiled their 3rd web site and introduced us to Ling-Ling's Head.

Oddly, Bungie made no official announcement about their new web site it just appeared on Friday March 29, 1996... Phhht! Just like that.

How do we know it was Friday March 29, 1996?  Well Claude Errera did a little bit of detective work to establish the most likely date the site went live.

Bungie had in fact taken over development of their own web site replacing the Marathon-focused one created by Art & Science in October 1995. Gone were the bandwidth consuming server-push Marathon animations and in their place were images of a rather mangy looking dog's head.

This was the Age of Ling-Ling.

The banner on the main page featured Ling-Ling's Head and was used to announce upcoming Bungie products and events.

Ling-Ling's Head brings news of upcoming Bungie products:

Since it wasn't April 1st yet this was no April Fools' joke!

Bungie had taken back control and where about to unleash...

But I am getting  'ahead'  of myself.

Today is Happy Ling-Ling Day!

The original Ling-Ling (1994).

March 26 (Sunday) 26.03.2023

All of this is stated somewhere in the game (though some of it is on hidden terminals).
Jason Jones. Jason defends the Marathon plot on Usenet. January 12, 1995.

Blaspheme Quarantine has the distinction of having the hardest terminal to find in the Marathon Trilogy. Indeed it took the development of map editors (Pfhorte, MIA or MME) to actually find it. Map editors were also necessary to read the map writings, such as JJARRO WERE AT TAU CETI.

So fans needed to develop the technology to find this stuff. Greg Kirkpatrick was going full 2001: A Space Odyssey on us here.

But I digress.

Today Jeoku continues his in-depth playthrough of Marathon with the Greg Kirkpatrick level Blaspheme Quarantine,  the seventh and last level of the Counterattack Chapter.

Sources in the video include:

The video goes into some detail about how the mechanics of the map work. So if you ever find yourself stuck down an elevator shaft with a non-functioning elevator you'll know why.

And here you are, stuck at the bottom of a hole. How droll.

There is an interesting discussion about the super secret Tycho terminal in this Story forum thread.

Durandal's little game on Blaspheme Quarantine was the inspiration for the first interactive puzzle on the Story page.

Odd that you never see a Hulk ever again after Blaspheme Quarantine. But that's a story for another day.

March 25 (Saturday) 25.03.2023

Thanks to Jesse Schooff <> for sending in a picture of a piece of Marathon memorabilia, the Instant Carnage! coupon.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Jesse writes:

"Despite the pairing in the photo, I received this "Instant Carnage!" coupon in my Marathon 2 box back in the day. It offers a bargain on additional serial numbers for network play - and to FAX them back to the buyer in mere hours! It's not really in-universe lore, but I can't find any reference to its existence anywhere else on the internet."

Aahhh, life in the glorious 20th century. The fax (short for facsimile). I am sure there will be some people reading this asking "What is a fax?"

But I digress.

'Carnage' is one of those words that is synonymous with Bungie during the Marathon years. Here are seven Bungie phrases/titles with the word 'carnage' in them.

  1. Total Carnage (Difficulty Level).
  2. Postgame Carnage Report  (check out Greg's netgame name)
  3. Carnage for the Rest of Us (slogan used on a Marathon t-shirt)
  4. CAR.R.O.T's (CARnage Rule Of Thumb)
  5. Carnage Palace (the first map Bungie built... but lost!)
  6. Carnage Palace Deeee-Luxe (Jason's attempt to recreate the original Carnage Palace)
  7. Carnage Rules (map writing on No Artificial Colors)

And this is before we even get to Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity

Le Carnage.  Maximum Air.

Bungie screenshot from September 11, 1994.

March 21, 2023 (Tuesday) 21.03.2023

"Maybe you are Hamish Sinclair, and the prospect of a scrapbook filled with Marathon's dirty little secrets and heretofore forbidden knowledge sets your heart a-flutter."
Matt Soell (Bungie Software). The Marathon Trilogy Box Set announcment. March 21, 1997.

Happy MTBS Day!

Yes folks, on this day 26 years ago Bungie announced the Marathon Trilogy Box Set. All three Marathon games in one box, plus Pathways Into Darkness, plus over 1200 third-party maps and add-ons, plus the winners of the recent Marathon Mapmaking Contest, plus Bungie-created maps they had been selfishly keeping for themselves, plus new and improved mapmaking tools, plus...

"A scrapbook that details the development of all three games, and the attendant Marathon craze in the Mac gaming world. Interviews, anecdotes, dirty little secrets and more..."

Finally... the tru7h about what really happens in Marathon Infinity would be revealed!

What happened to the original 700 page Marathon Scrapbook is a story for another day.

Bungie crammed everything into an iconic Black Monolith box which was bigger on the inside than on the outside. Opening the box revealed a cryptic clue.

Doug Zartman demonstrates
dimensional transcendentalism.

And if you thought the seven2 dollar price tag was too much you could win a free copy in Bungie's Marathon Trilogy Box Set Trivia Contest.

Want to know more?  Then check out Bob-B-Q's MTBS unboxing.

" WAIT!  What were the Bungie-created maps they had been selfishly keeping for themselves? "

March 18, 2023 (Saturday) 18.03.2023

The top seven pages folks have been reading recently. Why? Should be reading them? Now you can.

  1. The Origin of the Vidmaster Rules
  2. The Marathon Art of Craig Mullins
  3. Bob Sayings
  4. The origin of Frog Blast The Vent Core
  5. The Text That Never Was
  6. Counterattack
  7. Pathways Into Darkness

March 17, 2023 (Friday) 17.03.2023

It's tough being green!

Except on St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all Story page readers... everywhere!

On this day of days we bring you Uprising by José Connolly, a concept illustrator from Venezuela.

Click on the image for a larger view.

This is not the final version of this image but this one is the best in terms of being uncluttered. It nicely captures the eeriness of the iconic compiler as it floats in front of a terminal during the rebellion stage of the game. The security officer stands guard as the compiler does what compilers do best.The phrase "I've got your six!"  springs to mind.

All the versions of this image including the final one can be seen on José Connolly's Artstation page.

March 16, 2023 (Thursday) 16.03.2023

Well I must admit I missed this when it first came out over 2 months ago (Jan 4, 2023). As did a lot of others apparently.

It's a whopping 2 hours 29 minutes video of how Marathon advanced the FPS genre by Hey Blondie. That's about seven minutes longer than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hey Blondie (a Clint Eastwood reference) actually played Marathon when it first came out and admits to even printing out the story to better understand it. When I did that an odd thing happened.

But I digress.

A large part of the video delves into the game's story and in some parts he provides his own interpretation of what the terminals mean.

So grab your popcorn and clear your calendar.

March 15, 2023 (Wednesday) 15.03.2023

One of the most iconic sounds of Marathon 2: Durandal is...

It first appeared in the Marathon 2 Preview back in August 1995 and would go on to be used in both the demo and full game. It's one of the first Bob sounds you will hear at the start of the game as they teleport out after successfully completing their mission.

This of course assumes you didn't apply Vidmaster Rule #7.

According to Doug Zartman (SirLoin) on Discord this is one of his improvised lines. It was never written down as part of the brainstorming both he and Alex Seropian did prior to recording. It was created and performed spontaneously like Frog Blast the Vent Core.

It has been suggested that "See you starside"  is a variation on the old disk jockey line "See you on the flip side" or "Catch you on the flip side". The 'flip side' being the other side of a vinyl record. Only Doug would know how or why this sprang from his mind.

According to Doug some of the Bob sounds that were brainstormed were recorded but never used, such as "That's some nice shootin' boys"  which is apparently from the Simpsons.

There are 12 Bob sounds in the Marathon 2 Preview that don't appear in the full game. One of these sounds "I've Got A Bad Feeling About This"  was used at the start of the "Jingle Bobs" track on the Marathon 2 CD. Hopefully one day someone will extract these 12 sounds and convert them into a format we can all listen to.

As for the other unused Bob sounds?

We live in hope that one day Doug's "PULL MY FINGER!" Bob sound surfaces.

In the mean time we do have this long forgotten gem.

March 13, 2023 (Monday) 13.03.2023

P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.
Durandal. Marathon. Blaspheme Quarantine (Terminal 2: 1st message). December 1994.

Thanks to Jeoku for pointing out another piece of text which doesn't display in the original version of Marathon but does in the current version of Aleph One. See The Text That Never Was section for details.

March 11, 2023 (Saturday) 11.03.2023


Directed by Thomas Edwards

A reimagination of the events on the UESC Marathon in orbit around Tau Ceti. Excellent graphic work, dialogue, music and sound effects.  And that... rocking chair!

What was Bernhard Strauss really up to on the Marathon?

March 10, 2023 (Friday) 10.03.2023

Thanks to MurgenROoF on Marathon Discord for pointing out that Doug Zartman (Bungie's first employee and former PR Director) made a surprise appearance on the Marathon Discord channel under the moniker SirLoin, a variant of his Marathon network name Tender Loin.

Doug, Mouthpiece, "I'm not very good", Tender Loin, the voice of Bob (both flavors). The man in the on-line asbestos suit.
Bungie's ``secret credits terminal on Ingue Ferroque. December 1994.

To prove his identity to the Marathon Discord denizens he had to provide the customary insider scoop material.

But Discordians are not easy to convince. His back against a 'brick' wall he revealed:

"Oh, Fantasy Siege (working title), what happened? A great prototype, a game where you destroy a castle brick by brick. One side defends the castle walls, the other attacks it. I guess a real time strategy game? It had so much promise. I genuinely don't know what killed it, probably not figuring out how to let players move around the walls quickly enough or something. I'm sure a build still exists on a server at MS somewhere, like the Ark buried in the warehouse at the end of Raiders."

When MurgenROoF asked him if he had heard anything about Marathon Extraction,  Doug replied.

"No, I'm only vaguely aware of continuing work on Marathon."

Spoken like a seasoned PR Director.

"When I use a word it means
just what I choose it to
mean—neither more nor less."

March 8, 2023 (Wednesday) 08.03.2023

The Labyrinth is infinite— not in space, but in time. Its twisting corridors and vaulted chambers will never remain for long in the same configuration. Each time you enter the maze, it will be different.
Bungie Software. Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete. Minotaur Manual. February 1992.

It is always interesting to see one of Bungie's earlier games being held up as a good example of game design.

Graham Benedict <> writes in to say that he found a reference to Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete in the book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. Schell is a game designer in his own right and professor of entertainment technology for Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center.

The reference to Minotaur comes under what Schell calls "The Lens of Time" where games need to strike a balance between being neither too short nor too long.

Graham kindly sent in the relevant text from the book:

"The designers of Minotaur (who later went on to make Halo) had another interesting method of balancing the length of their game. Minotaur was a networked game where up to four players would run around a maze, gathering weapons and spells, and try to destroy the other players in the maze. The game ends when only one player is left alive. The designers saw a problem where a stalemate could result if players don't confront each other and the game would run the risk of becoming boring. One way to solve the problem would be to set a time limit and declare a winner based on a point system, but instead they did something much more elegant. They created a new rule: after twenty minutes, a bell sounds, and "Armageddon" begins; all surviving players are suddenly transported to a small room filled with monsters and other hazards, where no one can survive for long. This way, the game is guaranteed to end in less than twenty-five minutes, in a rather dramatic fashion, and one player can still be declared the winner. Modern "battle royale" games have followed this same model, gradually shrinking the area over a fixed time period, eventually forcing all surviving players to encounter one another."

The description of Minotaur is not totally accurate as you can have up to seven players in a network game.

I leave the last word to Jason Jones in a post he made about Minotaur's game play in November 17, 1992. Here is part of what he said:

"The balance between the various attributes and items is one of Minotaur's strengths. If your friend, the brawn-beast, manages to find Durandal and a Dimension Door or Shadowgate in the opening seconds of the game, he can easily hack a wizard into puppy-chow (but wouldn't you expect this?). If the wizard, however, has even thirty seconds or a minute to gather items, the battle will be far different..."

Jason Jones packing Minotaur boxes.

And Jason's parting advice to those who want to rule at Minotaur?

"Bungie sells a "Survival Guide" of undocumented features (and lists of spell and weapon damage, etc) for $4. It won't help you much until you know the basics. Lore beasts rule in two player games!"

March 6, 2023 (Monday) 06.03.2023

A number of people have written in asking about this piece of Bungie artwork. Who did it, who are in it, where can I get one, etc?

The artwork depicts members of the Bungie games family sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal. However, that's no turkey being served up... it's a PID Nightmare!

But hey... I'm getting ahead of myself.

The artwork was created by Bungie's very own Lorraine McLees (aka Mehve on It first appeared on (in cropped form as a banner) on their TWAB page for December 16, 2021. You could even download the banner as a wallpaper (4K 3840x2160). You can see it on the Story page here.

Bungie would later post the full artwork (in framed form) on their Facebook page with the tagline "Happy holidays to you and yours!" .

Lorraine, who is married to Rob Mclees, has worked as an artist and graphics designer at Bungie for over 20 years working on both Halo and Destiny. She also created Bungie's 10th anniversary party artwork in 2001.

Lorraine gave some background to her 2021 artwork on Twitter on January 7, 2022. She wrote:

"I've always loved how Norman Rockwell seemed to imbue a soul to his illustrations. In my homage to his wonderful "Freedom from want" illustration, I wanted to bring in characters across Bungie's history like I did in my 10-yr anniversary party illustration.

And I really wanted to express a sense of belonging, and of familial togetherness that so many of us couldn't partake in in 2021."

Below is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" painting depicting a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. You can easily see where Lorraine's inspiration came from.

Lorraine continues:

"I couldn't fit everyone in the shot, and figured fans could elaborate on the story happening outside the frame.

In my version, Eris is out on the balcony brooding a little, and Drifter went out to get her to come in just as Saint-14 transmats. Mark is finishing up the gravy after he handed John the casserole. Sweeperbot sweeps as Amanda brings the baskets of fresh baked breads.

Shaw (who is hanging out with blueberries), Petra (who is sharing her cookies with her Corsairs), and Saladin (who is hanging out with Efrideet) will call in later with their holiday greetings. Tess has set the table at her apartment waiting for her Uncle to come home.

Crow? well, The Guardian, Ghost, and Glint are trying to help him not feel overwhelmed with emotion as they sit in the front room by the fireplace.

I had a pretty rough 2021. Here's to a happier 2022! Cheers!"

Lorraine also provided some of the finer details in the scene. She wrote:

Avery is still alive in my mind, so he is there on the lower left by Ikora's elbow. Top of Myth Warrior's helmet is at the bottom by the Leviathan fruits. Marathon Cyborg AT lower right. Shaxx is putting his drink down by Mara. Devrim is sitting next to Suraya.

Salt and pepper shaker Ghosts. Legendary celery. Dawning tablecloth. Bungie Foundation wallpaper. Cayde's picture from the Bazaar ramen shop behind John. PiD "Nightmare" as the holiday turkey. Myth claymore cutting knife. Bungie Store pint glasses."

For Marathon fans the artwork is made famous for the Security Officer ("Marathon Cyborg") turning to the viewer (appearing to break the fourth wall) with that smile.

A smile which reminds you of something from your past, but you can't remember exactly what it is.

Perhaps he knows what they'll be eating.

"Should have got Chockisen!"

March 4, 2023 (Saturday) 04.03.2023

Iritscen on Marathon Discord points to website with a name that is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember...

Matt Soell's website dates back more than a decade but like the Tsetse Fly its life span was short (March 19, 2012 - June 1, 2014).

The website comprised a diary/blog of sorts, information on past games Matt worked on (Stubbs the Zombie, Hail to the Chimp, and Guilty Party) and testimonials from former work colleagues, etc.

Notably the first testimonial is from Alexander Seropian his former boss at Bungie and later Wideloadgames. Alex wrote:

"Matt and I started working together in the early nineties when he had nothing but creative genius going for him. We worked together for almost two decades in which time he invented one of the most widely known secret personas on the net..."

The reference to "the most widely known secret personas on the net"  is of course a reference to the Bungie WebMaster. The best kept secret for all of seven days.

You can read about the efforts made to identify the Bungie WebMaster back in 1997 on the The Bungie WebMaster section.

As for the Letters to the Bungie WebMaster? Well the Story page is close to obtaining the rights to the unabridged version of these letters. The uncensored replies. Most notably the infamous response to the reported death of Greg Kirkpatrick.

Rumor has it that the FBI use these letters to train law enforcement profilers on how to detect and classify the major personality and behavioral characteristics of those with dissociative identity disorder. And that these letters formed the basis for a film by M. Night Shyamalan.

However, I leave the last words to Iritscen. Was Matt Soell the Bungie WebMaster?

"I could see that being the case, because whenever Soell spoke as himself, his incredible wit shone through. He would have had to pretend he was a humorless dullard when speaking as himself in order to keep distance between his own voice and the voice of the Webmaster.

I wasn't a part of the online community back in those days but I wouldn't be surprised if the fans who talked about the Webmaster's identity were converging on Soell as the likely candidate. No one else at Bungie was quite as funny or had the same way with words as he did."

Add that to your testimonials Matt.

M. Night Shyamalan was unavailable for comment.

If you are reading this the FBI have your IP address.

March 2, 2023 (Thursday) 02.03.2023

He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:  "The horror! The horror!"
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Three-part serial story in Blackwood's Magazine. February, March and April 1899.

On the subject of Frog Blast The Vent Core... ukimalefu in a recent Story forum post writes:

I gave that prompt to an "AI art generator" and it made this.

Frog Blast The Vent Core!  AI generated art.  Fed by ukimalefu.

While AI art generators are not exactly new there has been a recent increase in web-based free ones resulting in a plethora of AI generated art from the casual and curious. A quick web search will find the top ones. The more professional ones typically charge a small monthly fee.

Aaron Freed who has used AI generated art throughout the third party scenario Eternal writes:

I find it rather fitting that AI has been used to generate artwork for a fan game in a series centred so heavily on AI.

As of yet no AI has successfully captured the horror that is the W'rkncacnter. Just as no human throat will ever learn to pronounce its name.

Perhaps it is for the best.

To quote Durandal:

"On the Marathon, I saw your stupidity through the lens of victory. And now I see it in defeat. Maybe it is fate that your ignorant pride would unleash this horror and destroy the galaxy."

But I leave the last words to High Admiral Tfear:

But the trackless whisper chattering through the hollow space in these cursed walls buzzes and threatens madness. The abomination cracked the shells of my crew and sucked the husks, tossing them unseen and shattering the spindle like a dried creche.

The shields are gone, not down, but gone, and so are the engineers. It's coming back, I'm sure: and my last mercy is immolation.

"The horror! The horror!

March 1, 2023 (Wednesday) 01.03.2023

Happy 1st of March.

And now for something completely different.

Marathon Caption Competition (Take Two)

First prize.

"I thought this was a grenade jump!

Runner up.

"Did he just say... Frog Blast the Vent Core?"

Worthy mention... 3rd place.

"I'm glad they didn't give us green overalls."

The Evel Knievel Foundation would like to point out that they do not condone these types of jumps now.

Bungie Inc. were unavailable for comment.

The first Marathon Caption Competition can be found here.

Go to What's New for Jan - Feb 2023

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Page maintained by Hamish Sinclair
Last updated Apr 1, 2023