Games Using The Marathon 2 Engine - A Review

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Games Using The Marathon 2 Engine - A Review

Post Jul 14th '14, 21:31

With the recent discussion about reverse engineering Damage Incorporated's code, I wanted to write down my experiences with the obscure games that used the Marathon 2 engine, and see what other people thought about them. I figured the Chat section would be the best place to do so.

ZPC: To be honest, I never managed to beat this game. I found a Wineskin version of ZPC about a year or so ago and played it a bit, but never got past half an hour or so of gameplay. To be honest, it's a pretty mediocre game at best. The art style is sorta interesting but looks ugly and eye straining in practice. As far as gameplay its basically Marathon 2 on acid; honestly I'd rather just play through M2 or MInf again than ZPC. I found the fact that 95% of the weapons in game are actually one gun that has a myriad of functions to be pretty cool, however.

Prime Target: This one appears to be the most obscure of the three Marathon-based retail games. Unlike ZPC or Damage Incorporated, Prime Target was only released for Mac and as of such I can't get it to work with my PC or Mac OS X computers. Like ZPC I never had this game as a kid so this is the only one I haven't played yet. Can anyone hook me up with a Wineskin version? I've found a copy on Macintosh Garden but emulators don't seem to work too well on my Mac, I'll have to give it another try sometime.

From what I remember from playing the demo version a long time ago it was very much like a cross between Marathon and Duke Nukem 3D. The graphics were colorful and cartoonish but looked great (as did the map design), and the weaponry were some of the most inventive I've seen in a FPS game. Apparently the game is semi-non-linear and supports backtracking. Its definitely one I want to try out sometime.

Damage Incorporated: This one appears to be the most well known of the three and its the one I've had the most experience with, having played it as a kid around the time when it came out. I got into playing the game again when reading an interview with the game designers of the now-cancelled Rainbow Six: Patriots about two years ago and seeing the familiar name "Richard Rouse III." Intrigued, as I didn't quite recognize *where* I had seen that name, I did a quick internet search on Richard Rouse III and discovered that he was the project lead on Damage Incorporated, a game I last played over a decade ago. It quickly dawned on me that Rainbow Six: Patriots appeared to be a near remake of Damage Incorporated, or what Richard Rouse had originally wanted to do with Damage Incorporated but couldn't given the constraints of the time. So, I found a copy of DI, downloaded it, and played through it again.

Damage Incorporated incorporated (pun intended) major changes to the Marathon 2 engine. Though the graphics are grainy and unclear compared to Marathon 2, especially at distance, the weapon in hand animations are much smoother and more detailed than anything else seen in the Marathon engine. If memory serves me the vanilla Marathon 2 engine has problems handling more than two-frame animations in the Weapons In Hand collection; I recall most DI weapons had something like eight-frame animations for firing and reloading. Another thing I want to note; DI has the best incarnation of a shotgun in a Marathon engine game in my view, bar none. Whereas the WSTEM-5 depicted the shotgun's rechambering after firing inaccurately as a reloading animation (thus implying that the shotgun had an implausibly long magazine tube), the DI shotgun had the rechambering animation played after each time the player fired the shotgun and had a separate reloading sequence whenever the tube magazine ran dry. This was an interesting detail that should be used as a model for any Marathon mod attempting to depict a pump-action shotgun or any other repeating firearm. The ability to switch ammo types was another interesting idea, as was the inclusion of a usable Stinger missile launcher that finally allowed the player access to guided weaponry in a Marathon game.

But the biggest and most crucial difference between DI and Marathon is the ability to command a fire-team. As far as I recall this was the first FPS to have fully controllable teammates, and likely one of the first FPS games to have a realistic setting rather than a fantastic sci-fi one. The fire-team really was a feature that put DI over the top for me, especially when I replayed the game with a firmer grasp of tactics than I had as a 10 year old. Some people have complained that your trigger-happy teammates would shoot you more often than not, but on my second playthrough I had much less of a problem; perhaps the PC port had improved AI compared to the earlier Mac version that I played as a kid, or it was due to the fact that my tactics had improved beyond "play the game as if it was Doom or Marathon and have my fire-team follow me everywhere." This time around I was sure to set ambushes using my fire-team and had a much easier time of it.

I have to say that DI was remarkably successful with the team-based gameplay; the AI was surprisingly intelligent for its time and you could make most firefights a one-sided slaughter in your favor with proper application of squad-level tactics. In addition, the developers really put in the time to distinguish your team members' personalities, recording dozens of lines of dialogue for each squad member. They even would say different things depending on the events of the mission, and would vocally react to events occurring during gameplay.

The map design for Damage Incorporated was pretty impressive, easily up there with Marathon Infinity. You got the impression that the places visited in game were fully functional spaces, and mastery of terrain features was key for success. Damage Incorporated, in my view, is a sadly unappreciated gem of its day. I remember there were a few third-party maps made for the game but DI never had the fanbase and modding community Marathon did (and I felt DI deserved). Its a shame it came out in 1997; I'm sure plenty of potential buyers were turned off by the primitive and ugly 2D sprites at a time when if a FPS didn't have polygon-based graphics it was immediately disregarded (see the fate of the original Shadow Warrior). Today, you can download it for Mac OS 9 and PC, as the game appears to be abandonware. I highly recommend giving it a try.

PS. I remember playing through a third-party mod for Damage Incorporated titled "Year of the Tiger" many, many years ago but I can't find any information on it today. I remember the creators somehow managed to mod the game to add new textures to the campaign, and wouldn't mind giving it another try today, if anyone manages to have a copy or know where I can find one. Sadly, given how obscure Damage Incorporated is today and the fact that it's been nearly 20 years since that mod was released, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Year of the Tiger has been permanently lost.
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Alric

Post Jul 18th '14, 05:12

Alric wrote:I remember playing through a third-party mod for Damage Incorporated titled "Year of the Tiger" many, many years ago but I can't find any information on it today.


The Wayback Machine has the scenario pages archived, and trawling the Wayback Machine turned up two other third-party maps not on the official Damage pages, but no Year of the Tiger downloads.
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Hopper

Post Jul 18th '14, 09:00

Prime Target felt the furthest iteration of the Marathon Engine. The mechanics for Damage Incorporated's squads were impressive, but where DI had swinging doors, crouching/jumping, and squad control, Prime Target had swinging doors, crouching/jumping, quicktime movies for walls, persistent levels, and bullet holes left around. Emphasis on the last two.

It has been a while since I have played it, but if my memory serves me correct there was also the ability to read notes. Whether that was implemented like a floating terminal, I'm not sure. Either way, what held Prime Target back was the level design and texturing. Each room began to look the same.

At the bottom of this page there's some interesting comments from one of PT's developers:
http://weaselsblaugh.blogspot.com/2010/ ... arget.html
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Zott
Earth

Post Jul 20th '14, 13:19

Interesting stuff. I remember Year of the Tiger was pretty nice and somehow they managed to hack the DI engine to add new textures and scenery graphics. The site implies that there were new weapons/enemies but I don't remember seeing any.

Yeah, Prime Target always looked real interesting to me, especially the weapons and the map design. I recall there were notes you could pick up in your inventory, select, and read at any time using the action key. I don't think it was quite like the terminal; the note would come up on the left side of the screen and you could move around and view the game world while reading.

I downloaded Prime Target from MacGarden but it requires the CD to play. Since MacOS9/SheepShaver doesn't seem to recognize disk images I'm in a bit of a bind. Anyone know a way to help me out so I can play the game with sounds and music?
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Alric

Post Jul 21st '14, 10:31

Alric wrote:I downloaded Prime Target from MacGarden but it requires the CD to play. Since MacOS9/SheepShaver doesn't seem to recognize disk images I'm in a bit of a bind. Anyone know a way to help me out so I can play the game with sounds and music?


Did you try burning the image to CD?
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ukimalefu

Post Jul 22nd '14, 04:58

When making the game, we added tech to the Marathon engine like swinging doors, moving sidewalks, elevators, quicktime movies playing on walls, and lots of new weapon types.

moving sidewalks

quicktime movies playing on walls

those features aren't in Damage. I wonder whether Prime Target even uses the same system for swinging doors as Damage.
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Asylum
Location

Post Jul 22nd '14, 15:22

I also vaguely recall an educational game being created which used the M2 engine to teach kids what it's like to be disabled. Or something like that. Don't remember the name though, and can't find anything about it online.
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kineticturtle

Post Jul 22nd '14, 17:25

I think it was called Wheels, or something like that.
Youtube Channel:Crosstroop3r // Traxus Wiki User Page: Crosstrooper
My Marathon uploads: Destiny
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Destiny
USA

Post Jul 22nd '14, 23:05

Destiny wrote:I think it was called Wheels, or something like that.


Aye it was.
http://www.rjcooper.com/wheels/more.html

The uniqueness, besides the work on the controls, was the level designer put invisible liquids near walls that pushed you away. Although based on the Marathon engine, I have trouble putting it in the same league as DI, ZPC, or Prime Target as a retail game.
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Zott
Earth

Post Jul 22nd '14, 23:25

Asylum wrote:those features aren't in Damage. I wonder whether Prime Target even uses the same system for swinging doors as Damage.


Actually the moving floors are in Damage as well; I recall there being conveyor belts in several levels.

ukimalefu wrote:
Did you try burning the image to CD?


Unfortunately, my Mac computer is a MacBook Air, which has no CD drive.
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Alric

Post Aug 4th '14, 20:57

Alric wrote:
Asylum wrote:those features aren't in Damage. I wonder whether Prime Target even uses the same system for swinging doors as Damage.


Actually the moving floors are in Damage as well; I recall there being conveyor belts in several levels.

ukimalefu wrote:
Did you try burning the image to CD?


Unfortunately, my Mac computer is a MacBook Air, which has no CD drive.


You're right, there were conveyor belts (I got further into the game via cheating). I had no idea Wheels existed until I read this thread. The Windows version of it resembles the Windows versions of M2 and Damage. Makes me wonder why Bungie didn't release the Windows port with the Mac version.
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Asylum
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