Bungie began as a company one crisp morning in May of 1991, but that wasn't exactly the beginning. Before it emerged, fully formed as the multinational corporate behemoth that published Operation: Desert Storm (on which they later based a war), "Bungie" released a Pong clone (nearly 20 years after the original, mind you) called Gnop! That's Pong spelled backwards, and it was that type of brilliant marketing strategy that would catapult Bungie into the gaming stratosphere. But surprisingly, there was a long way to go between Gnop! and Halo 2.
To be fair to Gnop! – its price was right. The game was free, although a couple of users did send its creator $15 for the source code.
But Chicago in 1991, when Alexander Seropian set up the company to publish his self-penned Operation: Desert Storm, was a very different world. The country was seeing epic deficits, unemployment was at record levels, Janet Jackson was topping headlines and we had just been involved in a short but messy war in Iraq . Unrepeatable events, for sure.
Back then, the PC was clearly the dominant computing platform, but that didn't stop Seropian and his Artificial Intelligence class compadre Jason Jones from embracing the Macintosh, for reasons of familiarity and ease of use rather than any fundamental business thinking. That and the fact that Jason Jones had a mostly complete build of Minotaur ready when Seropian convinced him to join forces.
"Yeah, I grew up on the Apple II and then the Mac," says Jason, "I wrote all this C code for PCs though, before I even went to school. This was the heyday of PCs, with Wing Commander and stuff. The PC market was really cutthroat, but the Mac market was all friendly and lame. So it was easier to compete."
Jason remembers things weren't all sweetness and light, "I didn't really know [Alex] in the class. I think he actually thought I was a dick because I had a fancy computer. He was looking for another thing to publish after Operation: Desert Storm, so we published Minotaur – and it was after that we set up a partnership. What I liked about him was that he never wasted any money."
There was no money to waste in the early days, when the whole operation (if you can call two guys in a basement an operation) was something like a garage band – and early players of Minotaur (Bungie's second or third release, depending on how you count 'em) might have been shocked to see Jason and Alex sitting cross-legged in Alex's apartment, hand-assembling the Minotaur boxes. And although Operation: Desert Storm had been a minor hit (2500 copies sold!), it was Minotaur that would raise profiles, eyebrows and expectations.