Gaming, Marathon, and AFC Ydnar

Tl;dr — gaming is hella fun, Bungie is awesome, and Randy Reddig is a genius. For a smile, visit the links below to go back in time.


After a nearly decade-long hiatus, lately I've been getting back into gaming — specifically Bungie's Halo series for Xbox, and a few other iOS and Android games. I was a die-hard Marathon player way back when, and vividly remember Halo's public unveiling at MacWorld '99. My nerd-tastic devotion even went as far as participation in Marathon's map-making/mod community, which is where I first encountered "AFC Ydnar" and his legendary map, Pfhactory.

Playing through Halo has been a blast, and has brought back some great memories. It prompted me to brush up on Bungie's fascinating history, and 17 years later Marathon still has an active community of fans and hackers, complete with Mac OS X and iOS ports and even a filesharing network.


For some reason, "ydnar" stuck in my mind. It's distinctive and unique, and is "Randy"spelled backward. In the mid-90s I was a teenaged Mac gaming nerd in southeastern Ohio, and this guy Ydnar was somehow dialed in with the actual Bungie people, which blew my mind. He was doing multiplayer sessions with them, designing textures and maps for Marathon Infinity, and even doing web stuff. I and the rest of the community held him in the highest of regard! For example:
The Battle of Brooklyn

Hangar 96

http://forums.bungie.org/story/?noframes;read=41603 — "At the age of 17 Randy Reddig created the Mac game Troubled Souls. It won a 1994 Macintosh Game Hall of Fame award for Best Brain Game."

http://forums.bungie.org/story/?noframes;read=26905 — "This level is interesting in that 3 people worked on it: FM, ydnar, and Colin James. Ydnar's core architecture is stunning, as virtually the entire level is a single open space, along with the 4 towers and very long views."

Inside Mac Games' Marathon mapmakers' IRC roundtable (ftp!)

Marathon Trilogy level credits
12. Whatever You Please — "This was Randy's first level, and he designed it on Double Aught's first hardware purchase ever, the 7100AV. Greg told Randy to name the computer 'Whatever You Please', and so he did. I guess he liked it so much he named the map too. If you've played the 'hard path' on Whatever You Please, you know that this level can be one of the most difficult in the game. Well, Ydnar's original design was just about that hard on the 'easy path', and the 'hard path' was impossible. We used to routinely run out of fusion batteries and be unable to finish. Greg got tired of taking a lava bath and Ydnar scaled back the difficulty so that mortals could complete it. It's one of the more fun levels, in my opinion. Try the 'hard path' (the moving pillars above the walkway)--it's really tough."

20. A Converted Church in Venice, Italy — "Ydnar cranked out Converted Church near the end of Infinity, and it's one of his more complicated designs. The twisting passageways, lava channels, and all those #*^% switches emerged from a design that neither Greg nor I could figure out while it was developing, we just stood back and said, 'Wow.' The level has Ydnar's trademark geometric shapes, with lots of sharp angular features and overlapping hallways. Like the design, I have no idea where the name came from."

24. You Think You're Big Time? You're Gonna Die Big Time! — "Ydnar designed this level in record time. I think it's my favorite to play. Greg made the physics models and the black Phfor. He also came up with the chip trick for getting to the secret area with all the guns and ammo. Come to think of it, we should play this level net. The line is from Carlito's Way."

25. Aye Mak Sicur — "No matter how you spell it, this is the motto of the Kirkpatrick clan: I Make Sure. According to the family coat of arms, the Kirkpatrick claim to fame is stabbing one of Robert the Bruce's enemies in back after the Bruce wounded him in a duel. The miscreant was foolishly hiding in a church, but the Kirkpatrick went inside and 'Made Sure' he was dead. As many people know, this map is based on Phfactory, the map that Ydnar has been working on since the dawn of time. In fact, work on this map spanned the entire development of the game, right up until the last moment when Ydnar was putting the finishing touches on it. It's one polygon short of the 1024 Marathon limit."
http://forums.bungie.org/story/storyarchive.pl?read=5251 — "Randy writes about his own level Ne Cede Malis"

ydnar on Infinity — "Shamelessly archived from Double Aught Software's first generation web site in early 1997. Those who were around at the time will no doubt remember how innovative those early Randy 'ydnar' Reddig designs were."

The Finn on Double Aught and Duality — "Randy was also responsible for the early DA websites. These sites were a lot of fun -- very "designy" with lots of hidden messages, hints and clues many of which only made sense when going back to look at them later. Randy left DA before it had completed its run. more ydnar trivia: ck (Colin Kawakami) once told me that he thought Randy was the best Marathon netplayer he'd encountered. Randy only used the keyboard (the default settings) disproving the theory that mastery of the mouse was essential for netplay. Check out the Battle of Brooklyn films to see Double Aught employees in action in Marathon netplay."

Miguel Chavez — "When I chatted with the DA guys at E3, they mentioned that alot of their HTML inspiration came from jodi.org and some other website whose name escapes me at the moment. I think it goes without saying that Randy's javascript and frame html work on some of the later Duality/DA webpages was nothing short of genius. To come up with such creative brain hemmorages like that by writing code the *wrong way*...."

Colin Kawakami — "There were nights when the earth's orbit poised on a longitude's edge directly beneath the Double Aught offices, and I was able to see three seconds into the future. Those three seconds didn't spare me from a humiliating death at the hands of greg, or ydnar, or monkey, but there might have been a moment of hope, and a pause where I was struck with the absolute FUN."

...and lots, lots more

Ten years later I was living in San Francisco (working on Blogger at Google), and had gotten to know some of the LJ and 6A folks. One night at BradFitz's place someone said "Ydnar" out loud, a name I hadn't encountered in at least a decade. Could this be the same AFC Ydnar from my gaming past? A quick search revealed that coincidentally, Randy also lived in SF and was working at 6A!

Krissy T introduced us in late 2007, and having both left our jobs around the same time in 2008, we went on to start a company together with @ceedub and make Domainr. Though we each have day jobs we still hang regularly, hacking on Domainr and enjoying life in the Bay Area.


  1. I <3 Marathon, and was similarly obsessed with back in the day: https://www.google.com/search?q=mihai+parparita+site%3Abungie.org

    I was similarly surprised when he cropped up at Six Apart.

  2. What are your favorite iOS games, Case?

  3. Here are a few I've dug / am digging:

    - Crimson — http://harebrained-schemes.com/crimson/
    - Quell — http://www.fallentreegames.com/wpblog/quell
    - Fieldrunners — http://fieldrunners.com/
    - http://www.hemispheregames.com/osmos-ipad/