BOB Splatter

Dr. Lex' Marathon Techniques

BOB Splatter

This is a pretty old text describing various techniques to improve your Marathon gaming skills, and some ‘semi-hacks’. Don't assume they will also work in other (especially more recent) games, for instance running + strafing will not increase your overall speed in most games, although in some, it still might ;-)
Version: 1.1 (09/1998)


These techniques apply to Marathon 1, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity, from Bungie SoftWare.
They have been gathered after months of playing, and thousands of dead BOBs, and should be known by every self-respecting Vid-Boy. If you know these 'tricks', you'll be ahead of those dirty Pfhor, or your even dirtier network players. There is absolutely no cheating involved, everything is 100% total carnage!

Running techniques

No need to say that the faster you can run, the harder it will be for aliens (including your network-friends) to hit you. Being able to run fast can be important too to jump large spaces, or just to save time.
First of all, your running key must be easy accessible. This means don't use F1 or F15 unless you have reeallly long fingers. Some people recommend using the caps lock key but I strongly recommend against it since it is incredibly unhandy under water, and everyone will find you're a loser.
I use Shift as my running key, like in the good ol' Doom II and Wolfenstein. Control, option, command and space are respectively 1st trigger, 2nd trigger, sidestep and action. As "instant" sidestepping keys I use "1" and "3" on the numeric keypad. It is important that you are able to push the "run", "walk forward" and "sidestep left/right" keys at the same time easily, since this is necessary to reach the highest speeds.

Indeed, if you run and sidestep at the same time, you'll move faster than when you just run. In fact, your forward velocity will be the same as when running, and your sideways velocity will be the same as when sidestepping. A bit of maths learns us that the resulting (or total) velocity will be higher. The only disadvantage is that you won't run forward this way, but a bit to the left or right, so you'll need to correct a bit by turning to -respectively- the right or left.
I calculated, with the constants in a normal Physics file, the difference between just running and sidestepping+running, and with the latter you'll move at 117.44% of running speed - considering you move in exact the same direction!
This may not seem spectacular, but those 17.44% of extra speed can be necessary to reach that fantastic stash of ammo or to escape that SPNKR!
If you just walk+sidestep, you'll even go at 122.13% of plain walking speed. This is a useful hint for underwater, where running is impossible.


Weapon Techniques

Killing is as easy as point and shoot, but killing efficiently is a different thing. For example, you can kill in the same situation with one SPNKR only 3 BOBs, or as much as 10 BOBs (don't ask me why I choose BOBs here in this example, that's a personal matter).

There is not much to say about the "small projectile" weapons, like the Magnum or MA-75(B); for these I can only say: exercise as much as possible. You must be able to shoot a lamp at reasonable distance with maximum 3 Magnum shots. The MA-75(B) is recommended for close combat.
Remember that the firing error of the Magnum and Fusion Pistol is very small and thus suitable for long distance shots. Only one thing: an "overload" fusion bolt flies higher than a normal one, so if you align your aim on a switch with plain shots, you can still miss it with the subsequent overload, even if you didn't move. You should correct for this by aiming down slightly.

The weapons with exploding projectiles demand more attention: the SPNKR has a big blast radius, but it requires a bit of technique to take full profit of this. First of all, don't point it directly onto your target, but on a piece of floor directly in front of, or next to it. Most aliens will be blasted into the sky this way, and they won't have a chance to shoot at you while they are flying (surely not when they're dead already). This technique has more results when shooting at a large group: try to point at an empty piece of floor in the middle of the group instead of shooting a missile onto the frontmost creature. You can get nice "volcano-eruption-effects" this way! If you can't shoot at the ground, but the aliens are running or standing close to a wall, shoot at that wall and they'll be flying around the room.
This also counts for the grenades, which work very well on Pfhor fighters (and BOBs, see above for comment).

Although you don't see an explosion when you shoot a grenade into a liquid, it does explode, and the effect is the same as when shooting it onto the ground. What's more, any creatures in the liquid right below the grenade (or SPNKR) impact will get hit as well!

Everyone knows the effects of a fusion bolt underwater, but remember that not only you suffer damage: everything within a certain radius will take as much damage. The damage and radius will be greater when using the overloaded fusion shot. You can use this in emergency situations, like when you're surrounded by F'lickta, or when a recharger is nearby; it goes much faster than hitting them to death! It also appears that creatures directly in front of you take more damage, but I'm not sure of this.

Everyone should know grenade (and eventually missile) hopping, so I won't start ranting about it here. For the dummies: point your MA-75(B) at the floor and fire one or more grenades, works best in low gravity conditions. (If you try it with a missile, just make sure your shields are full 2X or higher.)
I only need to mention one special "exception" of this...
At the end of the first level of Infinity, there is a teleporter which brings you up to an alcove from which you need to jump onto a stairway. At the right of that stairway, there is a ledge with some precious shotgun shells, but for now I have not found a way to get on it, except with the following trick:
Kill the fighter on the ledge first (if you stand at the very end of the large corridor, it won't shoot at you and you can practice your gun technique a bit). Next, teleport up and watch out: there is another pfhighter on the stairway. Don't kill it! It will help you get onto that ledge. As soon as it spots you, it will shoot. Now the point is to jump out of the alcove while getting hit by one of its projectiles. This 'blow' will kick you slightly upwards, enough to reach the ledge, which is normally impossible. Get those shells and to thank that fighter for his help, gently blast him away with your fresh ammo.
Looks easy, but isn't: the projectile must come from a specific direction to give you the 'lift' effect, and the timing must be perfect: if you wait too long, the projectile will kick you back into the alcove, if you're too fast it'll miss you. Don't forget to save right before you jump down into that corridor.
I practiced this move in the demo, where it was useful to have some extra ammo for the second level. You can imagine my disappointment when I noticed that in the full game, the player is stripped from all weapons and ammo in the second level. So there's not really a point in going through the ordeal described above unless you're playing the demo.
I haven't found other situations where this technique comes in handy, in most cases a non-sado-masochistical Marathon player will want to avoid getting blasted by aliens.


Killing Pfhor without wasting a bullet

These "techniques" can come in handy when you're low on ammo, or don't want to waste those magnificent SPNKR missiles you just collected on small targets.
There are three ways to achieve this:

  1. Have the Pfhor killed by other aliens,
  2. Let them kill themselves,
  3. Hit them to death.

1. Thanks to the famous Artificial Intelligence, if a certain alien gets hit by another, it will start shooting at that alien, and continue until it's dead. (This doesn't count for all sorts of aliens: if a hunter hits a hunter, they won't start killing each other, but will continue shooting at you.) The target-seeking Compiler projectiles can come in handy here: if you see one coming towards you and there is another alien close to you, try to run in such a way that the projectile hits that alien. It will attack the compiler, and you have all the time to choose your favourite weapon to blast the winner of the resulting battle.
In all cases, if you are in a room with a lot of aliens, start running around them and they will most likely begin to slaughter themselves because of missed shots at you.

More useful are the aliens that are "berserk", this means that when they're almost dead, they'll start fighting much more ferocious than normal. A bit too ferocious, because they usually start shooting at anyone who comes too close, Pfhor included! So if you stumble across a bunch of troopers and shoot one until he's almost dead, he'll start to kill the rest of his crew. This will continue until only one remains, which will be almost dead as well.
So the technique here is to get at least one alien "berserk", and then run away and watch the show at safe distance, or do something else.
The next types of aliens are berserk: Troopers, Fighters (all kinds) and F'lickta.

(A tip: make a new level in Forge, with a large space stuffed with BOBs. Use Anvil to change the physics model and set the "berserk" tag of all bobs ON. Merge it, open the level and start punching a bob until he yells "look out, he's nuts", and run away. What you'll see next can make you laugh so hard you can choke, watch out.)

2. To make a Pfhor kill itself is not that easy. What you need is an enemy which shoots exploding projectiles (like a Cyborg or a Trooper), a door and good reflexes.
You know that shooting explosive projectiles against objects close to you can be very unhealthy, for example: you are standing before a doorway, pointing with a SPNKR at your BOB-friends (look out, he's nuts!), and just at the moment when you pull the trigger, the door closes and your body gets splattered all over the place (and even worse: all those Bobs start laughing at you!) Well, this same thing counts for aliens too.
How to (ab)use this feature? You only need to get a trooper or cyborg behind a door, and yourself at the other side. The alien will open the door and immediately launch a projectile. So if you close the door fast enough, it will explode against it. Once recovered from the blast, the alien will re-open the door and launch a new attack. Just repeat your procedure until you hear “skrwitsh-ka-boom” or “ââuuughh”. You can imagine what happens when a whole troup of aliens is waiting just behind that door... And when the info from the previous paragraph applies, it will add to the fun.
There is one thing you must take care of: take enough distance from the door. This is necessary because a trooper won't shoot a grenade if you are too close to him, he will spray you with bullets instead.
This technique can be a little tricky with very fast doors. In such case it's better to keep hitting your action key so that the door opens and closes the whole time, but never opens completely.
Also, this technique works best on Major Damage or Total Carnage, since aliens shoot much faster at these fun levels. But reading this document suggests anyway you always play at one of these levels, so read on.

3. Hitting a Pfhor to death is something for the more experienced. Remember that the faster you run, the more damage a hit will do to an alien. You can reach the highest speeds with a combination of running and sidestepping (see above). Exercice is necessary here! You must be able to kill each green Pfhor with only one blow.
However, some aliens can be killed in a rather stupid, but effective way: if you stand right in front of a hunter, and you keep pressing the "hit" key, the alien won't shoot at you, because it has to recover after each blow. Before it can shoot, you'll have hit it again, and so on, until it drops dead.
There are only two disadvantages: 1. it takes quite long to kill a hunter this way and 2. blue hunters always explode when they die, and you will most likely explode with it.
This method works well with Hunters, F'lickta, drones and Compilers; other aliens (like the troopers) recover too fast from your hits and will shoot you.
You can even kill juggernauts flying close to the floor this way, because its projectiles won't hit you at such a short distance; but you know it'll take you half an hour to kill it, and when you finally succeed, it will drop on the ground in half a second and you will be nuked. Morale of the story: make sure to always wield a SPNKR.


Saving and recharging at disabled buffers and rechargers

It may sound amazing, but it is possible to save your game at some pattern buffers that have been disabled! There is no cheating involved here, only a little bit of luck.
If you have made some maps yourself in Forge, you should know that switches, terminals and so on can be "light dependent", which means that they are disabled when their light is below a certain level (I think about 70%). Most buffers and rechargers in M1 and M2 have a "flickering" light when disabled. This means that their light level changes randomly.
Now what's the clue? At some moments, this randomity causes the light level to go slightly beyond the minimum level for operation, and thus if you press the "action" key at that moment, you'll be able to save or recharge as usual! The only problem is that this happens not too frequently.
But if your shields are almost down or you haven't saved since 3 levels ago and the only rechargers and buffers available are disabled, you may want to try it: go stand in front of the pattern buffer/recharger and start hitting the "action" key as fast as possible. If you're lucky, you'll have a hit after a few seconds; if you're not, you may be standing there a few minutes and then you'll have to give up because your fingers and/or keyboard are melting...
One note: if you're recharging at an active recharger and you hit the action key again, you'll stop recharging. Luckily, this doesn't happen with the inactive ones, unless you hit the action key again at another moment when the light is high enough...
Mind that this may (read: will) not work with all buffers/rechargers. One level where it will surely work, and comes in handy, is ‘All roads lead to Sol’, where you do can recharge yourself before slaughtering the small room with the blue hunter, and save after having killed the two juggernauts in the room after that. Very time-saving since in most cases you won't be able to finish the final part in one try, and it's very annoying having to blast those juggernauts again and again.


Legal Stuff

The names Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal, Marathon Infinity and Bungie are property of Bungie Software Products Corporation, Copyright ©1996.
This document is Copyright Dr. Lex (Alexander Thomas), ©1997-2009. It may be freely copied and spread, as long as the contents remain intact and this copyright message is included, and no money is asked for it. If you want to use parts of it or include it in a software collection, please contact the author first.