| Since its early days, Bungie has been a leader in the Macintosh
games market. Although I did not start following them until my purchase of Marathon in 1995, I know many people who
have followed them for much longer. Ever since I cracked open
that Marathon box I have worshipped them as much as I have anything
else. Bungie was cool, happening, and neat. I had aspirations
to work for them.
In October of 1997 the demo for Myth: The Fallen Lords was released.
I spent 4 hours downloading it only to have my computer crash at 99%. My FTP client did not support resumes.
I stayed up until 2 in the morning on a school night just to play
the demo. The following weeks were spent doing as little homework
as possible, staying up as late as possible, and playing as much
Myth as possible. When I heard that the full version was available
I drove to the nearest software store, which was 45 minutes away,
and purchased it on the spot. And this was a mere two hours before
meeting my girlfriend for a date!
Myth is a classic. Over a year after it was first released I
still played it regularly. When I heard that Bungie was taking preorders for Myth II, I signed up as soon as I could.
After an e-mail from an ordermate saying "Its on its way to much
HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!" the air was filled with anticipation of the
sweet package that would arrive soon.
When I started it up I was wowed. The intro movie amazed me.
The solo play was everything that Case, in all his bragging glory, had said it would be. Bungie.net2 was... empty, but very
neat. Fire quickly placed itself in the ranks of Intensely Cool
Things. However, now that I have had a few days to play with it
my opinions are maturing. Myth II still amazes me and it is still
fun. However, I encountered many problems and bugs which make
it seem like something of a rush job.Here's a quick list of some
of the bugs I found in a mere three-day period:
- Assassin on Venice ends immediately.
- Stampede on Drowned Kingdom is missing several stampede units. Players who trade for however
many stampede units end up getting significantly less, sometimes
none at all.
- It is possible to select and attempt to join in-progress games. joining is not
actually allowed, but it's still bad user interface.
- The arrow keys will move units even during planning time.
- I was playing a game on Venice, a map with only 4 starts. However, I had the player limit set
to 5. Rather than boot someone, I decided to play as a server
observer. However, on player left, so I turned it off. This fact
was confirmed independently by people in the game; from outside
the game, server observer was not seen to be turned on, and it
was not on when I reset the game.However, I was placed in observer
- Out of Sync errors happen, rarely, during solo play.
These are not fatal flaws. They aren't even particularly bad:
the buggy games can be avoided, the arrow keys don't do anything useful during planning time, and server observer is
rarely used. Indeed, even with these bugs in place MythII is eminently
playable. They are, however, frustrating, and they display a disturbing
trend. While Bungie has been committed in the past to never releasing
a product before it is completely finished, and they have stated
that they remain committed, the faults of Myth II seems to show
this to be false. Myth II, while good and fun, is most definitely
not a finished product.
Bungie is an icon of the Macintosh gaming world. Their products
represent to us the pinnacle of perfection. Many PC users, swelling the ranks with the release of Myth, also see Bungie as being
something very special. Bungie was Mac-only, then Mac-first, and
in an era where the best of the big game publishers are settling
for ports by MacSoft, and some of the others are either not porting
at all or many months behind, Bungie is releasing for both platforms
simultaneously and doing it with style.
Bungie truly is something special and up until now I considered
their games to be as perfect as can be in an imperfect world. They are still good, but Bungie seems to be sliding down the
slippery slope to join the rest of the industry. There is no doubt
in my mind that releasing a buggy product early and then following
up with a patch to fix bugs later will be more profitable for
them. It has become such a standard in the game industry that
users have come to expect it. A game released early sells better,
especially if it involves a release that comes right before Christmas.
While I become incessantly annoyed at the unpolished feel of these
products, I don't try to deceive myself. Early releases will probably
help sales to the average gamer far more than the resultant bugs
from a hasty gold master can hurt. And the average gamer makes
up the vast majority of all purchases.
Corporations grow; this is nearly inevitable. Bungie would seem
to be sacrificing their hallowed position at the top of the quality heap in return for added profits. I can only hope that
this is a one-time deal, and that after Myth II they will go back
to their normal, polished, finished products. But I somehow doubt
that this is the case.
Bungie, you are at a crossroads. You have divergent paths. Which
one would you rather take? One road leads to increased financial success and
mediocrity, the other to moderate wealth and lasting fame among
an extremely devoted group of followers, as well as the knowledge
that you have created something that is truly excellent and special.
I know which path I would take. Money is transient, but fame lasts
much longer, even in an industry that changes as quickly as this
one. Think carefully,and make the right choice. After this juncture
passes, the paths will grow ever more divergent and it shall become
increasingly more difficult to switch.
Mike Ash 'HeghmoH'