After its release in 1994, Marathon, an independent title developed and published by Bungie, was able to achieve critical success and a cult following. Programmed to function on Apple’s Macintosh operating system, the game failed to gain widespread traction because of its limited audience. Hopefully, the title will finally be seen by the audience that it deserves with its introduction to Apple’s App Store.
Currently under development, Marathon‘s iOS port is being independently coded by Daniel Blezek, whose interest in mobile development and adoration for the series resulted in the project. In an interview that was published on Bungie’s website, Blezek described his motivation for recreating one of his favorite games in saying:
I tried my hand on the iOS, porting a game with a friend. That lead to poking around with other projects. When the iPad was announced, I was between night-time projects, and had been playing through the Marathon trilogy. Playing with the iPad got me thinking about playing Marathon on the platform, and so the project was born.
Marathon‘s source code was released to the public in 1999 and has been refined ever since. Because the code that Bungie gave to developers did not follow the conventions of iOS, Blezek spent a good amount of time translating the game engine to be compatible with current generation hardware.
One of the primary challenges with game development for Apple’s massively successful platform is that it lacks any tactile input. Blezek noted this challenge in the same interview:
Like Doom, Marathon was originally intended to be played with keyboard only controls. So you had to do these amazing finger gymnastics to strafe, look and shoot at the same time. Of course, with experience you could happily frag your buddies (sorry Kirby!). Using the mouse helped a lot. Now game console controllers offer so many buttons it’s a bit overwhelming. Because most iOS games are played with two thumbs, the iPad is a bit of a throw back. When you need controls to move, shoot, change weapons, switch to automap, etc… two thumbs quickly reach their limits.
He went on to describe how he fixed this issue, using a virtual joystick to control movement on the left and firing options on the right. He said that the first version of the title will not feature adjustable controls. Lefties of the world collectively sighed in disgust, but the developer was quick to say that it will be coming in an update.
Because the trilogy is open source, you can already download the whole Marathon trilogy for free from Bungie. That is if you have the technical instincts to actually make it run on a modern computer without setting yourself on fire and running off a cliff.
What do you, fellow gamers, think? Are you looking forward to playing an iOS version of Marathon? Will it be as good as its older brother without physical controls? Sound off in the comments below.