The Pfhor Egg

Kyjel Shaytolmae <> writes:

...what about those Pfhor... eggs? In one of the alien levels, there was a point where there was one Pfhor egg sitting on a moving pillar, in a huge radiation room guarded by wasps, and two S'pht who had to be destroyed in order to reach switches that would stop the pillar. Althought nothing was said about this room in the official story, this room seemed to me of major importance to this level, the two switches in the room having to be hit before you can exit. Mabye the egg was some sort of "leader" pfhor? Mabye the radiation was incubating it?

Ah yes!... the mysterious Pfhor egg on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This...", the last of the six Pfhor levels. The Pfhor eggs only ever appear on this level. There are a total of 12 eggs, eleven circling one room and the 12th on a moving pillar in a bath of ubiquitous Pfhor slime.

We drew attention to the strangeness of this level with its eggs some time ago in the answer to Question of the Week #23 (see the HoT List for details). Part of the answer posed the following questions:

What is your objective on this level? You've just killed the Alien Leader so why has Durandal teleported you here? What are the strange egg things? What is the importance of the single egg in the room with the moving platform? Why do ranks of Wasps hover above but not attack? Shades of the hive room (Sub-Level 3) in Aliens perhaps?

Alexander Seropian (CEO of Bungie Software) had this to say about the Pfhor egg in an AOL Conference dating from the 17th Feb '95.

AFC Chip : for instance, on one of the Phfor ship levels, there's a moving platform w/an egg... What's up with that?!? :) GA

BUNGIE1 : I never figured out the EGG. It really spooked me out the first time I saw it though...

AFC Tuncer : Get the Marathon Official Strategy Guide to find out ;-)

However the Strategy Guide offered NO background on the mysterious Pfhor egg.

So who would know? Perhaps we need to talk to the creator of this level - Reginald Dujour.

However we might speculate, like Kyjel above, that this level had some importance in the story at one stage. To complete the level you must stop the pillar from moving. As Kyjel suggests this may stop some type of incubation process thus killing the Pfhor embryo. Perhaps the egg on the pillar was destined to become the next Pfhor leader. Since we killed the present incumbent it would seem likely that we would also need to destroy the next in line. If this was the case why was it never mentioned in the game?

Could it have been the case that in an earlier version of the game we had to visit to the Pfhor ship a fourth time? This time with instructions from Durandal to destroy a Pfhor egg... about to hatch! This would at least have made our objective on this level a little less obscure. But perhaps a fourth visit was considered too much but rather than drop the Pfhor egg level altogether it was simply added onto the end. Which begs the question what happened to the third intervening UESC Marathon level?

Whatever the answer "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." with its Pfhor egg remains one of the more enigmatic of the Marathon levels.

Thanks to Kyjel Shaytolmae <> for passing on the following information from J. Reginald Dujour - Marathon artist and creator of five of the six Pfhor levels. Reg points out that the Pfhor eggs are in fact "incubation bubbles" and that they were originally designed to be breakable but lack of time prevented this feature from being implemented.

Reg's background information supports the theory that the level "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." was designed around the objective of destroying a Pfhor egg. Yet the objective is never made clear in any of the terminals. It was suggested (above) that this was because a third intervening UESC Marathon level, where Durandal would have informed us of our egg destroying mission, was dropped from the game.

If you review "The Pfhor" chapter in Marathon you'll note that Durandal gives us specific mission objectives before each of the three trips to the Pfhor ship. The first mission objective is given at the end of Neither High nor Low. Durandal says:

You are about to see what no human has ever seen. This is a fact-finding mission. You should explore as much as possible.

Pfhor Your Eyes Only...

The first of the Pfhor levels is a straight forward explore everywhere level. Of course Durandal told us it was a simple fact-finding mission so it makes sense. When Durandal is satisfied he teleports us out.

No Artificial Colors

Back on the Marathon Durandal has us looking for his "friend" Bernhard Strauss but we fail to find him and are subsequently informed:

I am sending you back to the Alien ship to try and rescue Bernhard, but while you're there, kill everything you see and gather as much visual information as possible.


Our second trip to the Pfhor ship has us looking for Bernhard. Lots of Bobs locked up here, a few sprawled out on tables (for what nefarious purpose we dare not enquire) and some appear to be enclosed in stasis chambers. Nasty level but it fits the plot.

Two Times Two Equals...

Pfhor... but it doesn't make sense. This, the third of the Pfhor levels, is perhaps best described as a filler. There is no objective. Why are we here? Are we still looking for Bernard? If so there are no Bobs. This level seems out of place with the plot. Indeed you might easily be forgiven for getting annoyed since you seem to wander around for no reason.

Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones...

Ah! back on the Marathon. Time to pick up some more ammo and recharge our shields, Durandal tells us we've got a big job coming up. Indeed the terminals associated with this level are designated as "RefuelandRearm" in the resource fork. At the end of the level Durandal give us our next mission:

The S'pht and myself have come to an understanding. They are controlled through their mechanical exoskeleton by a cyborg Pfhor onboard the Alien ship. This mutant Pfhor is able to direct the actions of thousands of S'pht simultaneously.

If you can kill their master, they will revolt.

So our third mission to the Pfhor ship is to kill a Pfhor cyborg who controls the S'pht.


But back on the Pfhor ship we find ourselves wandering around on Eupfhoria which isn't exactly euphoric. Strange why we should be here and not on Pfhoraphobia killing the Pfhor cyborg. Did Durandal get his coordinates wrong? Is this level in the right place? Again this level is best described as a filler with no objective other than to wander around.


The Pfhor cyborg level. Time to complete our third mission. Kill the S'pht controller and get out. Not easy of course since you also have to explore the level fully.

Ain't Got Time Pfhor This...

The Pfhor egg level and the one that causes the most confusion. Why are we here and what is our mission? We've killed the Pfhor cyborg shouldn't we be back on the Marathon unless of course Durandal has one more mission for us. A pfhorth mission to destroy a Pfhor egg? If so why didn't he tell us about it?

Cairan Wheeler <> writes:

The pfhor eggs can, i think, be explained in conjunction with other levels...

Two times two equals... pfhor as you said. But the lack of point begs the question "Why am I here?" The answer? Pfhor. They must have rerouted us, as they do again in M2 and Mi. Durandal doesn't want to admit infallibility, as he is fighting for superiority and (?) our faith in him, so he never tells us the tru7h. Another question: "What is the point of this level?" Again, pfhor. Kill the pfhor. I forget whether this level was designated extermination or exploration, but it comes down to the same thing. Every single pfhor on this level dies before we exit.

Euphoria. Not euphoric, as it wastes time and patience, but unless you have played M1 before, the S'pht master sounds like a tough cookie. I found it euphoric (for about a minute and a half) that I wasn't staring him in the face. Meeting the mutant was a let-down, as a simple karate blitzkrieg knocked him down. But i figure this level was a tension builder, and an atmosphere kick. Didn't work that much, but... Ain't got time pfhor this... exactly! Durandal loses control again, for a while. After all, the ship has funky gravity, and its _magnetic_ fields screw with the motion sensor. wouldn't that also futz with durandal's teleporter? so it misfired, so what. This level is another shot at establishing realism. The hive-like society of the pfhor is established, and we see that the ship is not just wierd corridors and dissection chambers, but rather also has stuff built for the convenience of crew. The title comes from our frustration, and the feeling of urgency in getting back to the ship. all in all, a nicely done level.

Ah yes! Atmosphere. Marathon exudes atmosphere. And the Pfhor levels are no exception - wonderfully organic and alien. Cairan makes a valid point when he describes "Eupfhoria" as a "tension builder". Agreed the killing of the Pfhor cyborg is easy once you meet it face-to-face, thus the time consuming and energy sapping approach makes sense. It should also be remember that "Pfhoraphobia" has no pattern buffer so death means a restart from the next level.

Yet was the Pfhor egg level simply designed to establish realism? Unlike "Two Times Two Equals..." and "Eupfhoria" it centres around an objective. The level is also designated as "Repair" unlike "Pfhor Your Eyes Only...", "Unpfhorgiven", "Two Times Two Equals...", and "Eupfhoria" which are all Exploration levels. Only "Pfhoraphobia" is designated as both Extermination and Exploration.

Reg Dujour went to some trouble creating Pfhor eggs (incubation bubbles). They were originally designed to be breakable. The Pfhor eggs only ever appear on one level. If they were a mere prop why not feature them on other levels? Why wait to this last level? And why make the level's objective centre around a single Pfhor egg?

But the mystery doesn't end there.

The Original Level Names section reveals that some of the Pfhor level names were interchanged. The level names comprising the Pfhor Chapter can be seen below along with traces of some earlier names.

Pfhor Your Eyes Only...|
No Artificial Colors|
Unpfhorgiven|e pfhor this...|
Two Times Two Equals...|.|or|
Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones...|
Ain't Got Time Pfhor This...|

"Unpfhorgiven" was called "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." at one stage and "Eupfhoria" seems to have traces of the name "Unpfhorgiven".

Why change the level names around? Were the levels changed around as well?

Is there a connection between the level "Eupfhoria" and "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."? On both levels you'll come across a similar looking green 'Pfhor slime' column.

First on "Eupfhoria"...

then on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."

Does this column travel through the Pfhor ship? Granted the column shape changes but if you align both maps over these columns and do some rotation you note almost near alignment with another column featured on both levels. It's not a perfect match but close. Was this planned? Was "Eupfhoria" ever meant to viewed as being above or below "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."? Just a thought.

Rony Sanchez <> writes concerning the level "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."

...why do you find some ammo and an AR on this level unlike in all the other Pfhor levels? Strange... was it that the Pfhor had gathered some samples of Marathon's weapons but they didn't make it to the lab and got abandoned in a hallway?

Interesting point. The Pfhor ship levels are almost completely devoid of weapons and ammunition. This makes sense in the terms of the story since why should UESC based weapons/ammunition be lying around on the decks of an alien ship? Of course there is always the Enforcer's alien weapon to be had and if you remember the first Pfhor level (Pfhor Your Eyes Only...) has a secret area with a cache of 10 alien weapons. This again makes perfect sense story-wise since you're on an alien ship so why shouldn't there be stores of alien weapons?

Note what Durandal tells us after our first visit to the Pfhor ship.

I will be sending you back there shortly, but first you must
do something for me and get some more ammunition at the same

<No Artificial Colors (Terminal 1: 'Unfinished' message)>

Thus we need to rearm after visiting the Pfhor ship. This also happens after returning from our second visit. Durandal says:

You are really good at killing things. I'm impressed.

Why don't you kill everything in this area and get some more
ammunition? You've got a big job coming up, so be sure to
charge up your shields before you leave.

<Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones... (Terminal 1)>

In addition this terminal is called ;L200.RefuelandRearm.Entry in the Marathon term resource which further supports the original concept of the Pfhor levels being a UESC weaponless alien environment. So everything up to now is consistent with the plot.

However things begin to get fuzzy on the last 3 Pfhor levels.

On "Eupfhoria" you find a UESC weapons and ammo cache. Ok it's secret so you might miss it but it's there. Why?

On "Pfhoraphobia" there is a secret Hypervision and Transparency BCE. These are UESC plug-ins for your suit and helmet. Why are they there?

Lastly on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." as Rony Sanchez points out you find an assault rifle and two rounds of grenade ammo just lying in a corridor. Why?

Why the sudden change from a UESC weaponless alien environment to one where you end up tripping over the stuff?

Some might claim that it's "just a game" and it's "cool to find stuff"!

True... but then why take the trouble to develop a storyline over 5 levels (Pfhor Your Eyes Only... to "Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones...") in which you won't find any UESC weapons or ammo and have to return to Marathon twice to rearm. Indeed we could extend this story development to 7 levels since on "Habe Quiddam" you have to retrieve the so-called "Alien Energy Converter" left by the S'pht. Although the exact function of this device is unknown one theory is that it allows you to use the alien rechargers on the Pfhor ship. This again makes sense from a story point view since it would seem highly unlikely that we could simply walk up to an alien recharger and expect it to work without some helpful convertor.

Yet all this realism, built up over 7 levels, is seemingly thrown away by the time you reach "Eupfhoria".

Rony suggests that perhaps the Pfhor had been in process of gathering samples of UESC weapons. Afterall they might have been interested in studying the weapons that were being used to devastating effect against them. Hence the secret cache on "Eupfhoria" and the discarded assault rifle and ammo on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."

The existence of an assault rifle and ammo on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." could be a game-play requirement. Since you need to activate two distant switches in the Pfhor egg pillar room Bungie may have felt it necessary to leave the assault rifle and ammo for this purpose. Afterall you may have run out of grenade ammo. Then again it is possible to activate both switches without the aid of a weapon. Though few may be aware of this.

Another possible explanation is that the assault rifle and ammo were put in to aid beta testing but not removed when the map was finalised. Easily done in the rush to complete a level.

Whatever the answer the fact that you can find UESC weapons etc. on the last three Pfhor levels doesn't quite gel with the story as developed over the preceeding seven levels.

The Original Level Notes for Marathon reveal that the level "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." was never originally planned to appear in the game. The last Pfhor ship level was to be "Pfhoraphobia" and after you killed the Pfhor cyborg controlling the S'pht you returned to the Marathon. The last part of the game was to contain four Marathon ship levels.

However, in the final game there are only three Marathon ship levels and an additional Pfhor ship level was added after "Pfhoraphobia".

Why? Well perhaps Bungie just ran out of time and not having a fourth Marathon ship level they opted to add a leftover Pfhor ship level. Thus it became "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." Indeed it has been suggested (above) that the presence of an assault rifle and two rounds of grenade ammo just lying in a corridor is out of character with the detailed development of the plot up to this point in the game and that perhaps they were left in by accident. Again suggesting that things may have been rushed at the end.

If "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." was added at the last minute it might help to explain why there is little in terms of an objective for this level. As explained above, everytime we go to the Pfhor ship, Durandal tells us our objective. On our third trip we are told to kill the Pfhor cyborg controlling the S'pht. We eventually do this on "Pfhoraphobia" yet rather than returning to the Marathon, Durandal sends us to "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." without any explicit objective.

From a gameplay point of view we know that to complete this level we have to activate two switches that stop a pillar (platform) from moving up and down in a 'Pfhor slime' pool. The fact that it has a Pfhor egg on top makes it all the more odd. Possible explanations for this weirdness are given above.

However in a usenet post dating from 12 January 1995 Jason Jones revealed the following about the Pfhor ship levels. Jason wrote:

"As soon as you killed the Pfhor cyborg which was telepathically controlling the S'pht and deactivated the Pfhor reactor,"

Deactivated the Pfhor reactor? So was this our purpose on "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..."? Was the moving pillar the reactor and by stopping it from moving we deactivated it? Again, in gameplay when you stop the pillar from moving the lights dim down, reinforcing the idea that this is some sort of power reactor.

So perhaps the Pfhor eggs have no significance on this level. The true purpose was to deactive the Pfhor reactor. But the lack of a Marathon ship level between "Pfhoraphobia" and "Ain't Got Time Pfhor This..." meant that Durandal could not give us any instructions prior to arriving.

But why did we need to deactive the Pfhor reactor? We might speculate that having killed the Pfhor cyborg and thus releasing the S'pht, the Pfhor seeing that things were not going to plan may have opted to escape in their ship. Since Durandal wanted their ship this would not have been a good outcome. Thus he had us deactive the ship's reactor preventing the Pfhor from escaping and giving Durandal time to transfer his sixty-four billion exobyte core to the Pfhor ship.

Which all makes a lot more sense. :)

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Last updated Jan 23, 2011