February 9, 2003

An Interview with Jay Barry

As a reporter for Bungie Sightings I've been to many places. I've seen the poverty stricken chaos of Somalia, the sterile beauty of the Siberian peninsula, and the crushing pop-art madness of Tokyo. But no place fills me with fear and dread like the backseat of an AMC Pacer, especially when I am sandwiched between two forbidding looking street thugs in expensive Armani suits. To think all this started because Hamish Sinclair dared me to do some research on the identity of the Bungie Webmaster.

Hamish, speaking from his heavily booby-trapped island fortress [Ireland - ed], pointed out that a former Bungie employee (now missing) had fingered Jay Barry as the Bungie Webmaster. "Do an old pal a favor and look into this," he wheezed. If you know Hamish, then you know you never turn down an opportunity to do him a 'favor.'

Using my highly extensive network of cleaning ladies, hotdog-stand vendors, and overseas professional pen-wipers I scoured the United States looking for Mr. Barry. The one thing I never anticipated was that Mr. Barry's reach would be longer than mine. Thus, I find myself kidnapped from the Iowa State Dianetics Convention and stuffed in the custom leather backseat of a gold AMC Pacer with tinted windows, between 'Chucklehead' and 'Tranz.'

After a few hours of driving and having a femur nearly snapped when I tried to roll down a window, the car comes to a stop in an deserted parking lot. My two minders exit the vehicle and in steps Jay Barry, former Bungie employee. As he sits next to me I have a few microseconds to size him up. It is hard to make out his features in the dim light but I can tell it is him; he still has those haunted, distrustful eyes; identical to the ones I saw on the secret stalker films Hamish showed me in his basement.

I decide to warm him up with memories of Bungie game development before I move in for the kill. The interview begins.


Mr. Barry, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me.

[He raises an eyebrow but says nothing. After an uncomfortable moment I continue.]

What was it like at Bungie as the company faced starting a new genre of games?

When I started at Bungie, I really didn't understand the creative process within the "Studio" since I was mainly there to answer the phone and fix servers and workstations. From what I gathered though, the development team was stuck for a while after M2 [Marathon 2: Durandal - ed]. The success of M2 meant the dev team had time to figure out the next move, but there was some pressure from the business side of things to get working on the Next Big Thing.

At the time, alot of RTS [Real Time Strategy - ed] games were starting to come out. One thing they all had in common was a focus on resource gathering and unit building, rather than combat. Myth was a very different take on the RTS games. It eliminated the farming/mining/whatever and got down to blowing stuff up very quickly. Hardcore RTS people hated it.

Interesting. I myself like going straight to the blowing up parts.

[Jay gives me a toothy smile that isn't entirely friendly. I feel vaguely uncomfortable.]

It was also the first simultaneous dual-platform release for Bungie. I was doing level design at the time, and all of the level and map tools were Mac-only since that's where Myth's development had started. One of the big knocks against the game was the lack of mod tools available at release, but it just wasn't something that existed to be released for both platforms at the time.

It was an interesting place to work, and was a valuable experience.

You are credited with level design on Myth: The Fallen Lords. What levels did you work on?

I wound up doing level design because the project was hitting a time crunch. The single-player levels were the last thing to get done and everyone on the dev team was pretty busy, so Jason Jones asked me to take a shot at a level. That turned into about 3 months of 16+ hour days and 5 and half levels.

Homecoming - Ryan Martell had started it, and I finished it off. One thing I remember about that level was trying (and failing) to get a series of blocking forces to engage the player between the knot and the cathedral, to make it really difficult for you to "save" the team with the book.

Force Ten from Stoneheim - this was one of the levels I had the most fun with. Something that had way too much time spent on it was the vignette of the ghols slaughtering villagers on the hill, near the shrine. It's a nice touch though if you go in for that sort of thing.

[My first reaction is to exclaim, "I do! I do!" But I hold back when I realize Mr. Barry may make a vignette out of me.]

Bagrada - I didn't do much on this, Ryan had done most of it.

Ambush at Devil's Overlook - this was a debacle. Jason Jones wanted it to be something like a Galaga board - waves of enemy snaking around and coming at you down the lake. I tried, and it was just awful. The beta testers hated it so much ... yeah. It sucked. It devolved into a running battle on the ice with the opportunity, if you do it right, to blow up all of your enemies with one grenade! Not something I was proud of.

Seven Gates - this was cool. Getting the game to fight itself convincingly took time, but I thought that this level was fun for a player who went right at it and didn't just inch forward waiting to trip the events.

The Road North - the idea I had originally mostly came through at the end - tracking a wounded guy via a blood trail. The darkness of the ground made it hard, and I actually got yelled at about it by a red-green colorblind beta tester. However, I thought it was an interesting idea. Of course, once you get the magic bow its not too hard.

[With the trip down memory lane Jay seems more relaxed. I pounce on the opportunity.]

In June, 1997, Jason Regier said, "Jay Barry is pretty much our website/network guy." Does this mean you were the first Bungie Webmaster?

Regier said alot of crazy stuff. Of course I wasn't the Bungie Webmaster. I was the schlep who worked on the servers, but never the website. Getting near the Webmaster meant enduring the smell. Plus he was always hitting me up for money.

[With that revelation, my hopes deflate. Mr. Barry seems to sense this and prepares to leave.]

Can you share any harrowing tales of Bungie Fans Gone Mad?

Nope.

[He opens the car door and steps out. I have been dismissed.]

Mr. Barry, it's been over 5 years since you worked for Bungie, what do you do these days?

[He replies over his shoulder as he walks away.]

I'm a developer, doing boring corporate development.


As 'Chucklehead' and 'Tranz' enter the car, I see part of a sign on the building Jay Barry is walking towards. Is that the lazy 'E' of Enron? Or perhaps part of the Global Crossing deathstar? I can't be sure. Leaning forward between these two massive walls of corporate flesh would surely be fatal. I vow to keep my head down on the trip back home.

Suddenly, I have a thought; maybe 'Chucklehead' knows who the Bungie Web...

[This is the entire contents of the interview we received via carrier pigeon at Bungie Sightings HQ. It appears another BS reporter has gone missing. Please forward any information you have on poena.dare's whereabouts to Bungie Sightings. - ed]

Jay Barry

Jay Barry Status: Former Bungie
Last Sighted: 02/09/2003
Doing: Boring corporate development, or so he says.

Has his own collectable trading card because he was such a rad Ultimate Frisbee player. Windows team "whatever", Marathon 2: Durandal PC. Production assistance, quality assurance, Marathon Infinity. Level design, documentation, Myth: The Fallen Lords. Not the Bungie Webmaster.


Posted by poenadare at February 9, 2003 12:00 AM
Comments

hey i really enjoyed your article, i hope when i get a job like jay i can have hired goonz too!

Posted by: stewart mccoy aka oldtrow on February 9, 2003 12:27 PM

Good article. You might want to change the picture to a shot of Jay Barry though. :-)

-Matt

Posted by: Matt on February 9, 2003 1:14 PM

That _is_ Jay Barry! It's just not _your_ Jay Barry.

So far, a picture of _your_ Jay Barry has eluded me.

Update: Jay just got in touch with me. He said, "That picture you attached to my name on bs.bungie.org is so unlike my extraordinarily handsome visage as to be unrecognizable. Excellent..."

So it looks like he's not going to be any help.

Posted by: poena.dare #CP# on February 9, 2003 2:34 PM

They're out there if you know where to look.

http://www.ibiblio.org/darkside/alumni/fools95/jay.html

-Matt

Posted by: Matt on February 10, 2003 2:56 PM

Y'know in googling for Jay Barry images, I did see this one, but I dismissed it because I thought he looked too wholesome. That'll teach me.

Poor Jay will be so disappointed.

Matt, as always, you are the master and I am but a small razor bump on the heavenly visage that is your life.

Posted by: poena.dare #CP# on February 10, 2003 3:07 PM
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