When Halo Was On The Mac, And Was A Totally Different Game

It seems an age since the world first saw Halo. It was the 20th century. Back when it was introduced by...Steve Jobs. And was a...third-person shooter.

The series has come a long way since then, but sometimes it's fun to look back. At blocky space marines and a major game being announced in Comic Sans.

While synonymous with the Xbox brand, Halo was originally never meant for Microsoft's console. Instead, it was a game developed for the Mac. And this was before Macs got "cool". As you can see by those jeans in the clip up top.

Bungie, the developers behind the game, had made a name for themselves on the back of two excellent franchises: the Myth series of strategy titles and, more importantly in this case, the Marathon series of first-person shooters.

The three Marathon titles were the best games on the Mac in the 1990s (though some were also ported to the PC), shooters that added a ton of fresh features to the genre like fully-integrated co-op and dual-wielding, things that still constitute cornerstones of Bungie games to this day.

A 1999 screenshot of the Mac version of Halo

When the Marathon trilogy wound up in 1999, then, it came as little surprise to see Bungie take to the stage at Macworld in 1999 (see video above) to unveil a new sci-fi shooter: Halo. A game that had begun development behind closed doors as a strategy title had by the time it made its public debut evolved to become an ambitious third-person shooter, with graphics (like advanced lighting technology) and a scale of map size that simply blew contemporary games out of the water.

Halo was so far ahead of the pack that this 1999 presentation was, and remains, one of the most impressive and memorable game reveals of all time.

What you're seeing here, though, isn't the Halo you eventually got to play after Microsoft stole Bungie away from Apple and had the game released on the Xbox.

The switch to a first-person shooter was born of Bungie's experience and the needs of a console market, but when the game was intended for the Mac, it was a different beast. It was originally designed as a third-person action game, with online gameplay a key selling point for the game (a point that would of course be dropped for the Xbox release, and would not return until Halo 2).

Halo's story was also different. What's now become a slightly convoluted space opera was much simpler back then: there were two races (human and Covenant) on a planet, and they were fighting over it.

Another screenshot of the original 1999 Mac version

One thing you'll note is similar is the game's visual style: only slight changes would be made to the units and vehicles of both sides by the time Halo was actually released on the Xbox two years later, and the terrain is also almost identical to that you find on the Xbox version.

And one thing you'll notice is exactly the same is the game's iconic score, which is as haunting now as it was all the way back in 1999 when it too made its debut alongside this clip.

While we'll never know how this original Halo would have played had it made it all the way to release on the Mac, Apple's home computer did at least get to see the game in the end, when a port of the PC version (itself a port of the Xbox original) was released in 2003.


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    Halo first started as a strategy game.


      Would be nice if Plunkett had mentioned that :|

        " A game that had begun development behind closed doors as a strategy title had by the time it made its public debut evolved to become an ambitious third-person shooter, with graphics (like advanced lighting technology) and a scale of map size that simply blew contemporary games out of the water."

        He did, but only briefly.

    There are so many similarities between Halo and Marathon, definately a spiratual successor.

    Marathon 1 was the second computer game I ever played, and still one of the most difficult. Some of the best aliens ever devised. Nothing like turning a narrow hallway and come face to face with a menacing S'pht, and you're out of ammo except for grenades. :(

    I remember that vid from when I was crazy-eager for Halo (this amazing looking 3rd person shooter) back in 1999. I was a member of a forum for a site about Halo for a long while there and archived all the videos and pics I could find about it (unfortunately lost all those archived files since :/) as I was crazy about this awesome looking game! It was supposedly gonna come out on PC & Mac in 2000, of course the wait was a bit longer :P

    hahahahaha, jobs was so happy, then bill killed his joy LOL

    Looked like a Tribes clone then, still does now.

    it's so dark. i would of hated that.
    p.s marker felt =/= comic sans.

    Can u still get this version for Mac and where can u get it? it looks cooler than halo reach!!

    Wow. This was a very strategic move on microsoft’s part. I wonder how much Bungie was bought for, considering they had to redesign parts of the software to work with the xbox and pcs. I wonder what would’ve happened if the Xbox didn’t have Halo, the game that redefined console shooters, and brought sophisticated game physics to the masses, at it’s launch. What if Halo was just as much of a success, but on the smaller scale of the mac community, and ushered in more sales of macs. Following the great success of Halo, Apple could have designed their computers with better graphics cards, developers could have made the mac platform great.

    This one buy could have changed a whole lot about history. Looking back, I’d be pissed too. I mean, Jobs has the co-creative director come on stage during a mac conference with what I’m guessing is a 75% finished product from the design and graphical elements displayed in the video. The game is using OpenGL, not DirectX, it’s coded for mac, he says everything is rendered in real time on a mac, and then…BAM! Jobs finds out that not only is this revolutionary game not going to be released on his company’s computers, but it’s being bought to promote his biggest competitor’s new system.

    Honestly, that’s a pretty big betrayal just for some money. I generally think of Bungie as a decent company, considering the quality of games they put out before the halo franchise was taken over, but this shows that they caved to the greater buying power of microsoft, at the time. I hope more developers take advantage of the gaming capabilities of mac computers. For example, Valve’s Source engine works very well with macs, partly because of its greater use of CPU than GPU. Games like Portal 2, LFD2, Counter Strike: Source, and Half Life 2 run at great framerates on highest settings at 2880×1800 on my Retina.

    I know Macs get a lot of hate from the gaming/tech communities at large for various reasons, but I could see Apple emerging as a much more dominant force in gaming if Halo had been released as planned on the Mac.

    Grandpa’s done rambling now. Please tell me why I’m wrong and how Macs are terrible.

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