Macworld Expo - Bungie Fanfest III - Hamish Sinclair's visit to NYC - July 2000



01.08.2001 updates: Mark Levin's Fanfest report!  -  Where's the new Bungie Trivia video?  -  BS Home

Well, where to begin? Preparations for the fanfest only started in earnest around May and June. Why? Well, I was still reeling in shock over Microsoft's acquisition of Bungie and was very unsure of how I felt about the whole thing. But I think over time I came to realize that I really couldn't care less where Bungie actually 'lived'; I had their games in my possession, and really that's all that mattered. Like a good book that you treasure in your own personal library, Bungie's games, as flawed and incomplete as some of you may think, are still head and shoulders above all other games I've ever played. If Bungie were to fold into nothingness, or even if they folded into "Microsoft"-ness, I would be saddened, but glad that I had as much of what they had done so far. I dunno, did that make sense to you?

A personal reason this was very troubling for me was that Claude Errera, Alan Greene, and myself had all chipped in to buy an airplane ticket for Hamish Sinclair, someone we all look up to as the true spirit of Bungie fandom. Hamish, who has never visited the States, has done much for us... his Marathon Story page has helped us collectively bask in all the genius within Bungie's games: their plotlines, their secrets, their attention to detail. In short, if it wasn't for his website, I would have lost sight of how large a group we really are. And yet, being a true international community, many of us didn't even know Hamish is from Ireland! So yes, the plane ticket was to get his arse over here in time for the Macworld Expo here in NYC. A chance for him to meet many folks he's only corresponded with over the years. I offered him my home here in New York City as his base of operations.

Yet, with the acquisition and all the tremors it was causing, there was serious concern that Hamish's visit was going to be a bust. The Expo was only a few weeks away and Bungie had still not committed to a booth and the show. Many people assumed this was because Bungie was turning its back on Macintosh users, but in actuality (and if you read enough websites, you would've found corroborative evidence to support this claim) IDG World Expo, the folks managing Macworld Expo, had been raising booth prices at the NY show over the years, to the point where it was getting very hard to justify the expense involved. So there I was, fearing that a roving mob of Bungie-haters, unable to vent at an official Bungie booth, would be present at the fanfest itself, assorted cream pies and plump tomatoes in hand. As for Hamish's actual trip over here, I think the phrase 'ticket refund' was bandied about a few times. If a refund was easy to do, what follows might have never occurred. :(

But my faith was restored somewhat when in conversations with Max Hoberman and Matt Soell of Bungie Studios they claimed that Bungie was committed to keeping things running as they were before. Max's proof? "Miguel, when's the next fanfest? I got a ton of goodies here that I want to give away."

It was on!

The first fanfest I arranged was very small in size, around 30 bodies total, and held in San Francisco during January '98 Macworld Expo. The 2nd occurred during the San Francisco January '99 Macworld Expo, but in a slightly larger venue (iCafe); we totaled about 50 folks. Sadly, iCafe recently shut its doors.

Now this 3rd fanfest had to happen here in my hometown of New York City. NYC is different from San Francisco. Not only is it more expensive, but it hasn't caught up really with the whole gaming center concept. Thank the gods that I stumbled upon Neutral Ground. Yep, it's a gaming center, but not a computer one, really. It *does* have 12 computers, but it's mainly a gaming room for, what the owner Brian Marshall likes to call, "brick and mortar" games... meaning card games like Magic: The Gathering and others of that type. Located around midtown Manhattan, it's only a short walk from the Expo convention center and is basically a large loft space. Picture lots of table space.

That was actually OK with me because in the back of my mind I wanted to make this fest bigger and better. (I figure each one should be a little better than the previous one) Bungie had shown an exclusive DVD of a 10 Minute Halo movie at E3 a few months back. I skipped going to E3 and I regretted it ever since. Now here was a chance to not only show the Halo movie on DVD, but show it on a BIG screen to anyone that had missed out on it!

It took a little convincing, but we were able to secure funding for a DVD/mini-theatre setup. We rented a 6x8 foot screen, DVD player, stereo speakers, and a microphone. I really had my heart set on a Dolby 5.1 surroud sound speaker setup, but it was just WAY too expensive for a 1 day affair.

At this point in my tale, I would like to hand out major props to Bungie Studio head Alexander Seropian for funding this fest. Thank you Alex!

I did my best at scribbling a Press Release about the fest and sent it to the major Mac gaming websites as well as all Bungie/Myth sites. The press responded favorably. Some of the pics taken at the fest show some journalists keeping tabs on our activities. That was important, because I wanted the press to see that Bungie, even with all the Microsoft turmoil, still has a very strong following. Conversely, I also wanted Bungie and our new 'family members', Gathering of Developers and Take 2 Interactive, to see that we are a solid group of fans. It would be ashame if the Myth and Oni franchise fell by the wayside because of a perceived 'paucity' of support for those games. Myth III? Bring it on! GoD/Take 2 are in a good position to borrow some of our support, if they're willing to match it by producing good stuff and listening to our wishes on what's to be expected in these games.

Even with heightened expectations, I didn't expect more than 50 or so participants. I figured some folks would just not be able to make the Expo or they would 'boycott' the fanfest in protest or something.

Boy, was I wrong!




Hamish lands at John F. Kennedy Airport the day before the Expo starts. I meet him at the arrivals wing but, as usual, didn't think enough to capture the moment on video. heh, my bad.

As we drive back to my place, he tells me how HOT New York City is compared to his home of Dublin. Well, I say, count your blessings 'cause the previous couple of years we've had heatwaves that are alot worse than this! He also tells me the rather horrific story of his plane's landing attempt with a near miss of a small plane on the runway! Man, we're off to a weird start!

When we get home, I introduce him to my wife Frieda and son Rafael. We all rest for an hour and get back into the car with my family and head for our first Macworld 'event', an Apple Investors Dinner Party in midtown Manhattan. We arrive early and take a walk around the city, spotting the latest summer craze here: Painted Statues of Cows.:) We make our way to dinner at this fancy hotel and I get to meet some folks I've chatted with over the years but never met face-to-face... but that's another story. I did manage to get Alex's hotel room number so I decide to give him a call since his hotel is not that far from us. The two of us chat with him via cell phone. We asked if he wanted to hook up later that evening, and he politely declined, saying he had to get up early next morning for some meetings. That took us by surprise (remember, Bungie was not exhibiting on the show floor) but we didn't really think much more of it.

Cut to the following day, after resting a bit and Hamish getting his bearings at Casa de Chavez, we decide to play it smart and listen in on the webcast of Steve Jobs' Macworld Expo Keynote. We sat around one of my machines and watched as Steve talked about the all new Cube, and the new iMac and Dual Processor G4s. We were wondering if he was going to make a dig at Bungie, since it was at the same keynote last year that he introduced Jason Jones and Halo to the world. Now, after the Microsoft's acquisition of Bungie, no one knew what to expect.

So imagine our surprise when Steve introduces Ed Fries, head of X-Box development! Ed quickly takes some potshots at himself, for being a 'bad guy' and then really makes us do a double-take when he introduces Alex! So that's the 'early morning meeting' Alex was talking about! :) Alex, suffering a little stage-fright, quickly announces that Halo will definitely be coming out for the Macintosh platform.

Well that's certainly a great way to start the day!

Mark Levin now continues the story... Thanks Mark!

So we come to Friday. After three days, the Macworld displays have become a bit tired, a bit worn. A giant green inflatable castle can only be amusing for so long, and the uncomfortable angle at which 3Dfx had placed their monitors was finally causing neck pain. And to top it all off, there had been no official Bungie presence!

The first thing we saw when we got to Neutral Ground was a flag hanging from a pole that read, unsurprisingly, "Neutral Ground". The place itself was on the fourth floor, so we stuffed ourselves into the elevator and went on up.

Neutral Ground turned out to be a largish room lined with real-life role-playing memorabilia decorating the walls: D&D stuff, Magic cards, Boris Vallejo posters, Magic cards, D&D stuff, and Magic cards. In one walled-off area was a small LAN, also in the area were shelves of D&D stuff and Magic cards, a freezer full of soda, an empty place with chairs (the real site of the fanfest), D&D stuff, and Narcogen with a clipboard and raffle tickets.

The next thing that struck our eyes was the table of goodies the Bungie guys had brought with them. And what a bounty it was! There were Total Codexes, Total Soundtracks, Tales From Myth TFL comic books, a whole lot of Sack, posters... And then there were the collectors' items, the real prizes. Copies of Marathon Infinity and Marathon 2, still sealed. Two medals, from the Bungie Olympics. And the creme de la creme de la creme, two framed animation cels from the Myth II intro movie. Each of those would go to one lucky winner in the approaching raffle.

The room quickly filled with people arriving from Macworld. Being an Old Sk00l Marathoner, I knew few of them, but it's a testament to the solidarity of the Bungie community that I was able to meet many Mythers that day. I even recognized a few other people I knew online. Then, as the Bungie guys arrived, the chat was silenced.

Matt Soell and Max Hoberman stepped to the front of the room, and with that the Fanfest was officially under way. First order of business: Introducing the legendary Hamish Sinclair. He had a few things to say, and then revealed the winners of the What The Hell Is Matt Soell Thinking contest. The contenders:



  • "'They're everywhere!' 'Doug, don't you have WORK?!'"
    - Tom Van Sinden

  • "Want Gate's brain in a jar too?"
    - Yours Truly

  • "Well, what do you know? Myth 1.4."
    - Allen E. Pendarvis

  • "I just killed Sibrax. It was fun."
    - Thomas Powers (Strangely, this one got the most applause.)

  • "Why does Alex always leave this thing on!"
    - Jesse McInturff

  • "...and then we'll pretend Microsoft bought us!" - Michael Watson

  • And the winner: Nik Manak, with "She falls under Wishes, wouldn't you say?"

After the fanfare had died down was the second event: Matt and Max introduced the brand new, never-before-seen, only-seven-were-ever-made (this is no longer true) Bungie T-shirts! Featuring Ling-Ling's head, the contract with Microsoft, and the 7-Step Plan For World Domination, they were given away in a trivia contest (highlight for answers).
  1. What is The Only Water Stuff Item? [The Soffish]
  2. What commercial jingle was written by Marty O'Donnell? [The Flintstones Vitamins jingle.]
  3. What is the name of the PVC pipe seen lying around the Bungie offices? [The Shaft, not to be confused with The Other Shaft.]
  4. What were the two development codenames of Halo? [Blam and Munkie Nutz. Armor, the most common wrong answer, was a discarded name for the final product.]
  5. What is the last name of the editor of BabySue magazine, in which Ling-Ling's Head first appeared? [Seven. Don W. Seven. We are not making this up.]
I somehow answered TWO questions correctly before anyone noticed, so I got an extra shirt, and used it to ask my own question. Thinking frantically, I came up with:
  1. According to the Marathon 1 demo, what is the official definition of "vid"? [To look up and down at will. The more common meaning of the word was derived from "vidmaster" much later in Marathon's history.]
 

And Now For Our Feature Presentation!

Miguel fired up the projector and the expensive speakers, and anyone who brought a video showed it. First up was a video taken that morning, at New York's Columbus Circle, where someone with a lot of Sack had done a very silly thing with the Maine memorial the previous night. Then, Matt and Max pulled out the big guns in the form an exclusive Halo double feature, the Wazzup movie and the Geforce 2 promo, to thunderous applause. At last but far from least, big expensive speakers got a good workout from the Halo E3 movie, in all its 10 minutes of glory.

After that, the games started up, and the raffle was under way. I won a Don't Make Us Kick Your Ass shirt and a Tales From Myth TFL comic book. Somewhere along the line the pizza showed up. At first it seemed like there wasn't enough to go around,. but later it became obvious that much of it had been stolen by nearby Magic and PPRPG players. For shame!

The games... The walled-off area of PCs was turned over to the Myth guys, but enough powerbooks had been brought for a Marathon LAN on an empty table. Unfortunately there was only one extended keyboard among all the machines (on Phil's G4), so I didn't get to 0wn all the other people who couldn't play on a powerbook keyboard. Since the G4 was going back to my house anyway, I was able to hav filmz mb, and now you can too (requires the Corliolis Loop netpack) [link file to come soon we hope!]. I still insist to anyone available that Marathon Infinity is the best network game of all time.

- Mark Levin

Miguel here again. Can you believe it, there's actually more that hasn't been told.... the bungie.org and myth players dinner at Don Giovanni's, our evening trip to the Empire State Building, and the late nite excursion after the fest itself. If you attended the fest or any of the above mentioned events, send me your personal report and I'll post it right here.
  



















































































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