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.
When the Marathon trilogy wound up, 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.
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.