Classical Studies

Marathon and Halo: Bungie’s Connected Universe


Bungie’s storytelling introductions to upcoming games have become classic, with the most recent example being the Haunted Apiary alternate reality game (2004, funded by Microsoft, developed by 4orty2wo Entertainment, and approved by Bungie), also known as “ilovebees” (ILB).

Introduced in a movie trailer, “” appeared to be a simple site about beekeeping that had been hacked. Players quickly determined that the site, and the messages that appeared on it, were connected to Halo 2. Story wise, the activation of a mysterious artifact in 2552 caused a military ship’s A.I. to split into multiple personalities. One of these personalities traveled through space and time to land on a web server in the year 2004.

After landing, the A.I.’s mission to repair herself involved players worldwide, who answered payphones and searched websites to gain clues and, together, put these puzzle pieces together. This game culminated in a live event spread across four cities (San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Austin) – a chance to play Halo 2 before the official release on November 9th.

One of the many links between Marathon and Halo is a common term called “rampancy,” used in both series to signify when a computer A.I. goes “insane.” Rampancy occurs when a computer A.I.’s self-awareness is enhanced to the point when it learns and develops greater mental abilities. In Marathon, all three A.I.s of the UESC Marathon become rampant. To announce Halo, the “Cortana Letters” featured a Halo character that talked about her reality. The A.I. in ILB – the “Operator” or “Melissa” (the name, incidentally, comes from the Greek bee nymph who nursed Zeus) – demonstrated the effects of rampancy in a “smart” A.I., after she continued to function after her theoretical lifespan of seven years. Regardless of the fact Bungie has not considered the ILB material to be Bungie/Halo canon to date (yet approved the ILB material), this recurring theme has proven to be solid enough to forge a connection between these games for hardcore fan and casual observer alike.

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