The Legacy of Bungie – How it Became Such An Iconic Developer

Bungie has undoubtedly grown to become one of the most iconic developers that has ever graced the gaming industry.

With Marathon and Myth blowing the minds of MAC and PC gamers around the world, the Halo trilogy and its expansions doing the same for Xbox owners, and Destiny becoming the most preordered new IP in history, Bungie has repeatedly done what no other studio has come close to: Defining generations of gaming while singlehandedly creating and innovating the very things that we’ve come to love in games.

From a one bedroom apartment in Chicago with the founders Alex Seropian and Jason Jones doing everything from developing to producing the physical copies of the games they made, to a now bustling studio that sits in the heart of Bellevue, Washington, Bungie is the poster child of entrepreneurship that sits on a throne of games (The North Remembers).

With Destiny having gone gold a week ago and soon to drop on consoles everywhere on September 9th, we thought we’d take a look at the legacy of Bungie, and how they became such an iconic developer.


A Marathon of Myths

The Marathon Trilogy was originally planned to be a sequel to Bungie’s first commercial success, Pathways Into Darkness, but quickly became an independent game series that would introduce players to a futuristic world that, for the first time in FPS history, emphasized storytelling over simple run-and-gun gameplay á la Wolfenstein.

The first installment was borderline revolutionary because it brought gamers classic and now-standard game mechanics, specifically the rocket jump and the ability to look down and side to side with the mouse. It introduced vertical gameplay and even featured a plethora of environments and mechanics used throughout the series, some of which would transfer to future games, like Halo.

That’s not the only thing that made Marathon a classic to fans. It featured online multiplayer that went beyond the standard deathmatch mode you’d see in other games, employing unique game types like Tag, Kill the Man with the Ball, and King of the Hill. Like everything however, all good things must come to end. Bungie announced its decision to move into new territory, Real Time Strategy, and, thus, Myth was born.

Myth took the Real Time Strategy genre by surprise with its gameplay, which let players use physics and terrain to their advantage, a rare feature in many other RTS games of the late 90’s. But what set Myth apart from all the others was the lack of micromanaging of resources and a constant grind to make your army bigger to attack your enemy. Myth took almost all of the features of an RTS and scrapped it for a more tactical approach that focused on players utilizing their pre-built army and managing units to defeat the enemy. This distinction spawned a new genre called Real Time Tactics, which focused on what Bungie created with Myth. Shortly after Myth II was released with more critical success than its predecessor, there was now new kid on the block that would turn into the very thing that made Bungie a global name.


Combat Evolved

Halo, as it was called in the early days of development, was suppose to be a Myth clone with a sci-fi skin. It featured a massive open world on a large alien ring and “amazed” those who play-tested it before it was officially announced in 1999 at MacWorld. But in the course of two years, Halo went from being an RTS game to a third-person action game to its now-classic first-person shooter form.

On November 15th 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released and went on to sell five million copies worldwide in its lifespan. Its gripping and intriguing story about a lone wolf super-soldier called “Master Chief” who was tasked with saving his fellow soldiers along with destroying a mysterious alien artifact called Halo became a cultural phenomenon for gamers, ultimately beginning a legacy that Bungie never could have imagined would live through two, let alone three, generations of gaming.

Halo was more then just a game of struggle, though. It gave players something refreshing to play by themselves and with friends through the power of LAN parties and co-op. Featuring 13 maps in the original release and a plethora of game modes, the multiplayer aspect quickly grew to be one of the most iconic aspects of the original game, even inspiring gamers around the world to start teams of competitive players to compete in tournaments. But, Bungie didn’t count on multiplayer becoming so big in Halo; Halo didn’t even ship with an online mode as Xbox Live wouldn’t be finished by the November launch. Still, this didn’t stop fans from wanting more, spawning a new drive in the Seattle team to create not only a dramatic narrative, but to give the fans and players what they wanted: A robust, balanced, and well-executed multiplayer. Bungie delivered.


A Classic is Born

Hitting commercial and global success, it was expected that Halo would be graced with a sequel that would continue Master Chief and Cortana’s journey through such an enthralling war. Bungie was bound to deliver on the pitfalls of Halo: Combat Evolved and work to give fans of the series an extension of the story, along with a bigger focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game.

After a rigorous development period, Halo 2 launched with record making numbers. Selling 2.5 million units and making $125 million in the first 24 hours, it became the highest grossing entertainment release in history at the time. Bungie struck gold by sticking to the formula that made the first Halo so amazing, but also by switching things up and introducing two sides of the same story. But, what made Halo 2 so successful was not a tale abruptly ended with a cliffhanger. No. It was the very thing that would define Halo 2 in the later years, its multiplayer.

With 12 maps in the vanilla game followed by three map packs that ramped that number up to 26, a ton of new game modes, and weapons to enhance the game, it was clear Bungie struck gold for a second time, delivering what is hailed as the very thing that jump-started online multiplayer for console gaming. While Bungie never intended to make Halo a trilogy, they needed to finish the fight, and Halo 3 was the ending a legacy needed.


The Beginning of the End

That legacy’s ending was already in the concept stages before Halo 2 even launched. But, Bungie being Bungie, they dropped subtle hints to fans that they were indeed working on a new project. That project would later be revealed to the masses at E3 ’06, and it was quite clear that Halo 3 had fans reeled in.

As Bungie kept fans updated in weekly blogs about how the third installment was coming along, the hype rose higher than most anticipated, and when it finally released, Halo 3 made $170 million in the first 24 hours, setting the record once against for highest grossing entertainment product within a day. The numbers seem high, but they are justifiable because Bungie went big instead of going home. The campaign was all but a masterpiece of ingenuity and had everything you loved about past Halo installments worked into it: Covenant, the Flood, dual wielding, Guilty Spark — everything.

As always, however, Halo shines even brighter when you hop into multiplayer, which was even more ambitious than Halo 2’s. Introducing Forge, an editing tool that gave players a limited but vast experience to alter maps to their pleasing. Halo 3 skyrocketed with player created maps and custom game types, but let us not forget the four 3-map DLC add-ons that turned Halo 3’s already varied pallette of exotic locations into a paradise of play and strategic annihilation of your opponents.

Halo 3 is the love child of two games and their concepts formed into one legendary piece of art that finished the fight, but began an entirely new generation of Xbox, becoming a monument to the brand. The Master Chief’s journey was concluded, but Bungie still had a couple of stories left to tell.

Send Me Off With A Bang

Shortly after the final installment of the main Halo trilogy was released, Bungie announced that it had regained its independence from Microsoft, but at the cost of losing their rights to the Halo franchise. However, they were still set to release two more installments before fulfilling their contract, and what came out of a completed legacy were two tie-in games that some say are even better than their source material. These two games were Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, and they’re considered gems in their own right.

Halo 3: ODST featured the famed elite non-Spartan soldiers of Bungie’s created universe, the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers — top-tier soldiers who dropped into combat zones from orbit. Players would, for the first and only time, step into non-Spartan boots (aside from the Arbiter in Halo 2), and jump feet first into hell as the rookie of an ODST team trying to board a Covenant vessel. When the ship makes an unexpected slip space jump while in orbit mid-drop (you might remember this incident from Halo 2’s campaign), you find yourself and your team scattered in the ruins, trying to find each other and survive.

Formed out of the cancelled Halo: Chronicles, Bungie wondered what its now project-less side team would create before the prequel, Halo: Reach, launched. Grabbing inspiration from detective themes, Bungie wanted to make ODST a more personal story for players, which translated into a tactical, well thought-out narrative that gave players a sense of brotherhood and struggle, something rarely seen in the main games.

While Halo 3: ODST gave players a taste of the tactical operations and human side of the war on the Covenant, it was time to go back to where it all began, to the origins of why the Pillar of Autumn made a random slip space jump to lead the Covenant away from Earth. Enter Halo: Reach.

Halo 3: ODST

“I’m Ready. How ‘Bout You?”

With one half of the team working on Halo 3: ODST, the other half was conceptualizing the final installment Bungie would develop before handing the reigns over to 343 Industries. The question was where would they take the franchise, even discussing at one point creating Halo 4. But, instead, they looked to Reach, the mysterious planet you first hear about in Halo: Combat Evolved.

As creative director Marcus Lehto put it, “we were like: ‘Okay, that’s it. We’ve just got a lot of things we can do there so we can build an immense story with it.'” Reach became more than just a prequel to the entire Halo trilogy, it also became an experiment that took what Halo originally was, but broke it into new things that Bungie could toy with. One example of this would be introduction of a major feature (and criticism), Armor Abilities. These pickups ranged from the ability to Sprint to the more notorious Armor Lock. It also brought to life a new in-house engine that updated the graphics and provided smoother motion capture to give the Spartans of Noble Team a more realistic feel.

Bungie didn’t stop the breaking of established features with the story, however, as it took also radical approach to the multiplayer as well. As always, they hit a high note with their fans for creating innovative and new ways to enjoy Halo.

All things must come to an end, though, and the thought of Bungie making Halo forever is absurd. This was a developer that strives to change and innovate, not recycle and rehash old themes for 10 years.

Halo: Reach

O Brave New World

Bungie introduced verticality and emphasis of story telling in first person shooters. It delivered and spawned a new genre of game that focused not on real-time strategy, but real-time tactics. It delivered a trilogy of games that left its own legacy on two generations of gaming. It took the universe of that legacy and expanded on it successfully before parting ways with Microsoft. Now, the studio that wants nothing more than world domination is about to take gamers on Xbox and PlayStation on their next adventure — the apex of all their unimplemented ideas combined into one. That game is called Destiny and you may have heard of it.

Bungie has done what no other developer has even come close to in terms of achievements, and this is why they are such an icon in an industry that brings to life the imagination of others for millions to partake in and enjoy.

If you wish to watch everything stated here but with a more behind the scenes feel, you can watch “O Brave New World,” a documentary celebrating Bungie’s 20 year legacy, which you can watch below.

Do you have a favorite Bungie game? Name it in the comments below!

Featured Image Source: Guitarman381

Denny Kovacs
Writer - News
I used to write articles and reviews for games. I still do, but I use to too. Writer/Reviewer for MP1st & Tech Support for another company.
  • TheTru Cypher

    The devs at bungie actually care about halo enough to stop making it and let it be the masterpiece it is. But Microsoft has no soul and just keeps running it into the ground just like cod is doing to itself. You don’t need 15 versions of the same game. Learn to make something new. Bungie has respect for their games and that’s why I respect them. Long live bungie!

    • I don’t believe Microsoft is running it into the ground at all. Halo 4’s story was great, the multiplayer was good for big team battle but was crap for comp. That much is so prevalent that Microsoft and 343 are making Halo 5’s MP feature the same “no bullshit” approach that Bungie took when making Halo 2’s. 4v4 Arena Styled gameplay, both teams have indentical setups and must fight for map control.

      A new story can be told with the Master Chief, and I think before we start condemning the developer and publisher because of their first non Bungie developed halo, we should wait and see what they can deliver.

      • TheTru Cypher

        But like bungie said it was the perfect ending (halo reach) it was suppose to be over. Not milked until the cow can no longer stand. Microsoft is milking the name halo and the game series. It’s time for them to make their own game and stop riding on the wave that bungie left behind.

        • The Winter Soldier

          Oh believe me, Bungie had ALOT of plans for Halo even after they supposedly ended the fight. Just because they decided to move onto a new IP doesn’t mean there weren’t thousands upon thousands of ideas and ways Halo could move on! The books alone prove that they wanted to leave a universe behind that could still thrive. They made sure of that by providing us with that tease at the end of Halo 3 aswell. Bungie, the cheeky little devils, were most definently prepared. They’re giving us something new, and helped spawned the evolution of the iconic franchise they left behind.

        • I don’t see how Halo is being milked. 90% of all the Halo games ever released were made by Bungie. Spartan Assault, Halo Wars, and Halo 4 are the only games(I may have missed one) not developed by them.

          No, Microsoft is simply giving the fans what we’ve always wanted. We wanted a halo movie, we wanted a halo tv show, we wanted more halo and we’re getting it. Master Chief’s story will end, but the universe that had been created is full of fresh ideas to let people play in.

          As stated in the editorial – Bungie even considered making Halo 4. Want to know why? Because they knew there could be a sequel. It’s not milking, its taking the idea and running with, and actually doing the very things that were canceled, or never made it out of preproduction.

          • Sams0n

            “We” wanted a movie? “We” wanted a TV show?

            No offense but anyone over the age of 12 couldn’t give two shits at that garbage.

            • The fact that the demographic for Halo is well beyond 12 in the majority proves that’s not true.

        • Skullking920

          Dude they released one game Halo 4, one HD Anniversary remake Halo 1, and one cheap downloadable game Halo spartan assault yeah they are running it into the ground. (sarcasm)

          • TheTru Cypher

            It’s Turing into cod having a new game every year that every just has to move to. It’s bs $$$

            • Do you really think this?

              Halo 4: 2012
              An arcade game called Halo Spartan Assault: 2013
              A remastered Halo collection: 2014

              If you don’t count the $15 Spartan Assault game, 2 years passed between major releases, and Halo 5 will have been 3.

              Try harder man. 😛

      • roland0811

        “Halo 4’s story was great.” LMAO!! Funniest thing I’ve read all day!

    • Skullking920

      Dude Bungie helped Halo become irrelevant with that garbage called Reach which introduced things that were in modern military games at the time; which it didn’t need and made that game not very fun or competitive. Then 343 made Halo 4 which has some people from Bungie but all 343 did was take what Bungie did, but added even more crap that was in modern military shooters at that time. Also there is not that many Halo games there is Halo 1,Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Reach, and Halo 4 which are compete halo games with multiplayer and are FPS; Then there is Halo 3 ODST which is just a campaign and firefight, Halo CE anniversary which is just a remake of the 1st games campaign, Halo Wars RTS (Real Time Strategy), then Halo spartan assault which is a cheap downloadable game.

    • roland0811

      I would’ve been happy with just the first three Halos. ODST and Reach were just absolutely fuckin’ terrible.

      • TheTru Cypher

        Reach was fun if they didn’t have armor lock

        • roland0811

          I couldn’t get into it. The maps were terrible and mostly seemed like they were half-assed in the Forge. None were up to the quality of Halo 3’s original maps at all. I will admit, though, that some of Halo 3’s DLC maps were pretty shit, too. I kept running into the Sandbox CTF matches the last couple of years the multiplayer was relevant.

      • The Winter Soldier

        Well then, your solution is simple. Dont buy anymore Halo games, the community dont want you here! There, wasn’t that quickly resolved. If you’re going to bitch about games/ a series that you obviously no longer care for, do it somewhere else man.

        • roland0811

          Didn’t say I didn’t care for the series any longer. I just don’t care for the shitty direction it’s gone. Just like I still love Ghost Recon even though Ubisoft have forgotten how to make a good Ghost Recon game.
          Love hitting nerves with people who are complacent with buying shitty games. Enjoy your day!

  • GreenB3r3t_47

    I am pretty sure my favorite bungie game comes out in 7 days lol

  • Just 8 more Days

    I feel sorry for the people waiting for the reviews before purchasing Destiny.Actually no I don’t. No faith in Bungie then you are a moron. You have to remember the servers do not go live till the 9th so no review sites or media will have access to the game till the 9th. I predict at least 2 or 3 weeks before a review goes live.

    Also thought this was cool.

    Looks like we are gonna have a smooth launch. Take note DICE.

    • “No faith in Bungie then you are a moron.”

      That’s pretty dern dickish.

      • SangheiliSpecOp

        I thought it was a bit cockish

    • George

      I think you are a moron because some people might want to make an educated purchase before they buy a new ip that they may be skeptical of. People have the right to do that and I was skeptical of it until I played the Alpha so now I have the Destiny Digital Guardian Edition on meh PS4, you pretentious Bungie asshole sucker.

      • Just 8 more Days

        Thanks for proving you are indeed a moron. Bet you buy every COD day one. LMFAO

    • roland0811

      “No faith in Bungie then you are a moron.” ODST and Reach are proof that even Bungie can fuck up.

  • theplantain

    Destiny will be my second Bungie game (after Halo:CE)…i’ve developed alot of respect for Bungie, just like i do with Naughty Dog…bring on Destiny!

  • Pingback: The Legacy of Bungie - How it Became Such An Iconic Developer - MP1st - TEG UK()

  • awkenney

    Maybe it’s just me, possibly my age and recalling a history of games
    that never had any story that were amazing, but I really only derive
    value from the gameplay. The story is typically worth zero as part of
    the asking price.
    Halo was a big deal, but there were story-driven FPS games before it, such as Half-Life and I didn’t even like that. If the only gaming you were to consider would be consoles, I would agree. While I agree that Halo:CE was fantastic, I don’t say the same for the rest of the series, mostly because of accessibility changes to the MP side that were unnecessary and detracted from the pacing of the action. As a side-effect of Halo as well as other games, I think we’ve also seen a rise in designs that prioritize story over gameplay. Obviously because of my preferences, much of Bungie’s work doesn’t stick out for me.
    Then fast-forward to the Destiny beta. I’m not even really sure what it is supposed to be. Is it trying to be all things for all people? Does it really succeed at doing even one thing particularly well? In my experience, not really. Historically I think games are better when they focus on doing one thing very well. Destiny – is it Borderlands meets Halo in an open-world scenario? In any case, it fails to catch my attention because I don’t care about any of those 3 factors.
    In the end, Destiny will go on to set a trend in the industry that puts game designs farther and farther away from what I enjoy about gaming. Destiny may turn out to not even be any good to anyone, and it will still sell so well that it will set a trend for design.

    • I differ in that I really enjoy a good story in a video game, especially in a type of media where story can be fleshed out over a longer period of time and when you can dig deeper into plot points at your own pace. Sadly, a good story in a first-person shooter is pretty rare. To your point, if they can’t do it well and if it takes away from gameplay, it shouldn’t be a focus.

      I think it’s clear that Crysis 2 and 3 suffered heavily from this. It felt like the now-linear gameplay was only there to serve the story, which wasn’t that captivating in the first place. Crysis 1, on the other hand, is a good example of superb gameplay with a story that’s still there if you want to dig deeper into it.

      Anyways, those are some good shower thoughts right there: Trends that catch on, even if it isn’t for the betterment of a genre. Destiny does appear to be a trend setter, which might suck for those who don’t enjoy always-online games. I’m curious to know when shooters will stop trying to be the next Call of Duty!

      • awkenney

        I generally just don’t have time for “open-world” and I’m also sick of that marketing buzz-word. I feel like devs are generating open worlds just for the sake of having it in their game. But really all I’m looking for is to get into the game, get a gauge of how I could be playing better, and get out.
        Call of Duty… well… the campaign stories for the past 5 games now have all been pretty contrived and lose a lot of the militaristic themes. The MP has tried to compete with Halo since MW2 through accessibility. COD itself could learn something from its own designs of the past, and I think that if some other shooter wanted to beat COD, all they’d have to do is pick up where World at War left off and go a different direction – one that doesn’t try so hard to appeal to as wide of an audience – and one that isn’t designed for the lowest common denominator of gamers (mainly trolls, cowards and griefers).

        • Sgt. Mofo

          Bungie titles are about fostering a passionate community. Considering the lack of voice communication being utilized by players or playing in groups, the ‘open-world’ element forces the social aspect on gamers. For ex., if someone’s excuse for not playing with others is that sending invites/friend requests or finding gamers on forums is too much of a hassle, they no longer have an excuse. The game essentially brings the social aspect to you with no effort on the user’s end.

          Hopefully, by being forced to interact with others, many gamers will realize playing without a mic and just pairing up with randos all the time is nowhere near as fun as playing with others.

  • Bungie also made the PS2 exclusive Oni tthat was a very innovative 3rd person shooter up until Resident Evil 4. But nobody likes to talk about it.

    • Oni was interesting, but not anything that really helped Bungie gain its inconic rep.

      • Nope but it was still noteworthy for advancing the genre, and it only came out 11 months before Halo: CE

  • Deciver95

    Great article, thank you very much for a brilliant read 🙂