EXCLUSIVE – Bungie’s ‘Marathon’ Gameplay Loop, Features, Progression, And More


Late last year, Insider Gaming exclusively reported early details on Bungie’s new Marathon game and now we’ve reapproached our sources to get more in-depth details.

If you’re unaware, Bungie’s next shooter dubbed ‘Marathon’ was officially revealed at this year’s PlayStation Showcase with a short CGI trailer. Bungie’s Brian Ekberg dived a little deeper into what Marathon entails, including confirming all of the details we previously reported.

So what exactly is Marathon? Marathon is a 3-person extraction shooter with features that you might find familiar if you play games like Escape From Tarkov. However, if you’re not a fan of playing as a team, it’s understood that you can jump into a server as a duo or solo if you wish, but you’ll still face bigger teams. Extracting without your team is also seemingly a feature.

One of the biggest and potentially controversial features within the game is an oxygen system. All players have a limited oxygen supply that essentially acts like the match countdown timer – Once the player loses oxygen, you begin to lose health. Extracting before you run out of oxygen and health is the goal, but players can also find O2 canisters in the match, or subsequently buy them at an expensive price on the market before heading into battle.

The oxygen system also ties somewhat into the injury system of Marathon, with certain injuries causing the player to suffer different effects. For example, being shot in the waist area may cause damage to your oxygen supply, which will cause it to deplete more rapdily. Another example given was being concussed, which would cause the player’s screen to blur periodically.

If your oxygen supply does become a huge hindrance though, Marathon’s ability and perk system can solve that. We’re all familiar with perks and abilities in shooter games now, so I won’t bore you, but yes, perks include the likes of faster revives, less O2 usage, faster movement in the water, etc. Abilities are more game-changing and powerful, allowing the likes of Night Vision to spot enemy outlines. The more the player progresses, the more perks and abilities they unlock.

Several more interesting details that were mentioned several times by sources were that Bungie was aiming for Marathon to be the “ultimate live service”. To achieve this, the team is aiming to have minimal load times, with one source saying that the team is aiming for single-digit load times from “Readying Up” to playing on the server. For replayability, it was said that Marathon’s maps will have plenty of secrets for players to explore – Presumably new secrets will come to the maps throughout the games seasons.

The core gameplay loop of Marathon is as follows:

  • Chose your missions (to complete in the game)
  • Buy / Chose your loadout/perks/abilities/gear
  • Drop into a server
  • Hunt for loot / Complete missions / Explore and find secrets
  • Extract
  • Spend XP on Updates
  • Repeat

The game features three different types of items, loot, implants, and perks. In the current game, permadeath is a feature, but it’s understood that players will only lose their loot (weapons, artifacts, currency, etc.) whereas implants are sometimes lost and perks are never lost.

It’s understood that Bungie is currently developing three different maps for Marathon, but if all three released on launch remains to be seen.

Marathon currently has no set release date, but will launch on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

  1. Hi! Does “3-person extraction shooter” means that we’ll play as 3 in a team, or just “Third Person extraction shooter”?

  2. That’s a shame. When I saw the trailer it was one of the most intriguing and interesting to see them bring back a classic franchise. But it sounds like it’s everything I don’t want in a shooter. I was thinking solo campaign and some innovative multiplayer, but an extraction shooter with an oxygen countdown? That’s the hardest of passes.

  3. In fact, I read this article on the very day it was published. Initially, I approached it with a curiosity for new information about Marathon and didn’t have any particular thoughts about it. However, recently, upon learning about the leaked status of ARC Raiders and The Division Heart, as well as the announcement of The Cycle: Frontier shutting down its servers and fading away from people’s sight, I suddenly realized that learning from the failure of The Cycle is essential for any striving developers looking to make a successful extraction game. Unfortunately, I don’t have any means to make Bungie or other studios aware of this issue, so I can only express my shallow comments here to convey the perspective of an avid enthusiast of extraction-shooters like myself.
    So far, the most successful extraction shooter game is “Escape from Tarkov.” Many game developers are eager to try their luck but seem to miss the essence. For example, games like “Marauders” or “The Cycle” have only scratched the surface and failed to understand why players are addicted to Tarkov.
    Some may argue that it’s because “Escape from Tarkov” provides a realistic and hardcore gaming experience, while others may point to its rich weapon customization system or its complex gameplay and meticulous design. They are not wrong, but these are not the essential elements required for a breakout extraction shooter game. If we simply focus on these aspects and then incorporate elements of PVPVE, it would just seem to be “like” Escape from Tarkov but never surpassing—or even reaching—the captivating gaming experience that Tarkov offers.
    To attract players, a game must have its own unique features and should not be limited by the framework of Tarkov. However, this doesn’t mean it should be overly simplified or solely focus on lowering the learning curve to expand the potential player base. That’s not the key. The real key lies in shaping the character development and providing players with a sense of achievement during gameplay.
    Why do I say this? Just ask any long-time loyal player of Escape from Tarkov about when the game was most enjoyable, and almost everyone will say it was during the early stages of a new wipe. During this period, everything the players obtain is fresh, significant, and the experience of starting from scratch is a primal human desire for acquiring possessions. Moreover, it’s a kind of “progression” experience where every action the player takes feels rewarding. This is why Tarkov is so captivating, while other games lack this enticing experience that provides players with a strong sense of satisfaction and achievement. Similarly, as a Tarkov wipe approaches its end, nearing the “wipe day,” player retention is at its lowest, and the gameplay experience leans more towards pure FPS, lacking much enjoyment. BSG’s Nikita understands this, which is why Tarkov has been regularly wiping for many years—not just to give new players a chance but also to reignite the desire for a fresh start among experienced players. In fact, Nikita has even stated that during the official release of Escape from Tarkov, there will be two servers: one with wipes and one without wipes.
    So, how can a game provide players with a similar level of satisfaction and a rewarding “progression experience” like Tarkov? This shaping can take various forms, such as a rich skill system where players can improve their skills and earn different rewards. At the same time, there should be risks associated with losing or forfeiting these skills to give players a sense of achievement when acquiring them. For example, having the ability to increase movement speed through training or leveling up can incentivize players to invest time in the game. Additionally, ensuring that these skills can be lost or taken away, without implementing a wipe system like in Tarkov, can create a system similar to Hunt: Showdown. In summary, players need to realize that the skills and everything they acquire in the game are not easily obtained, which significantly enhances their satisfaction while playing. I believe this is also why, as leaked in this article, Marathon will have similar settings. That’s excellent.
    Furthermore, introducing a leveling system can let players track their progress and increase the sunk cost of playing the game, making them more engaged. The inclusion of hideouts or shelters can also provide motivation for players to scavenge for resources and give them a sense of accomplishment through constructing and managing their own base, as well as engaging in trading activities. ARC raiders did a good job. However, if a regular wipe system is not implemented, the game should provide opportunities for players to continually enjoy the pleasure of building camps and creating cozy homes—stagnation is an absolute taboo for an extraction shooter. And for ARC raiders, the current Chambers are too standardized. The rooms have the same layout, and players can freely place tool benches wherever they want. While this allows players to do what they want conveniently, it would be better to impose some restrictions. For example, certain rooms should only allow specific tool benches, or some rooms should have a limited number of tool benches. Additionally, facilities that provide skill boosts to players can be introduced, such as increasing player inventory or improving shooting abilities. These aspects can be designed with reference to Escape from Tarkov. In summary, it is crucial to give different rooms in Chambers distinct purposes, rather than simply providing additional space for placing tool benches. But from the leaked information in this article, it appears that Marathon doesn’t have a similar shelter design. I think this is a significant drawback and it will have an impact on the players’ sense of achievement. It doesn’t have to be exactly like Escape from Tarkov; instead, they could try to explore a new approach that allows players to experience a satisfying gameplay progression of “investment-reward-more investment-more reward” in a short period of time. This could indirectly increase player retention and alleviate the frustration players might feel from long-term investments.
    Additionally, the quantity of loot should be sufficiently abundant, and the game should include more seemingly “useless” loot items with a minimal value. These items should not be collected by players but should make players aware that there are more valuable loot items waiting for them to discover through adventure and exploration. Their existence is essential because without them, players would find the game world empty and devoid of the joy of exploration. In this regard, “The Division: Heartland” did a poor job. There were hardly any resources to collect on the map, and the available resources were presented as “necessary,” greatly reducing the enjoyment of scavenging for loot. Therefore, the game needs to design different loot containers that can exist as backpacks, safes, or even as part of armor, just like in Tarkov. These containers must have different capacities to stimulate players’ desire to acquire all of them.
    Lastly, there should be more and a greater variety of AI enemies distributed throughout the map, with strict level differentiations, including a large number of low-level AI and a few high-level AI that drop enticing loot. This makes battles more meaningful and forces players to consider whether it’s necessary to engage in combat at a particular time and assess the risks involved. I believe in that regard, Marathon is definitely doing a great job. We can already see the intimidating boss from the official trailer. However, I also hope that Marathon can set a reasonable number of small AI enemies to avoid the drawback of having overly empty maps.
    At the same time, “Escape from Tarkov” still has its shortcomings, and newcomers need to compensate for them. It is evident that there is a significant gap in the console gaming market that awaits someone to fill it, making extraction shooter games have a significant presence on consoles. Additionally, due to the frustrating nature of these games, when considering cross-platform play, it is advisable to separate console and PC players as much as possible. This not only reduces controller players’ fear of M&K players but also mitigates the risk of encountering cheating software on the console platform. Games like Apex Legends, Overwatch 2, and even Rainbow Six Siege have differentiated between PC and console players. Allowing complete cross-play, like in Call of Duty and Fortnite, would undoubtedly conflict with the experience of extraction shooter games.
    This leads to the issue of cheating. Completely eradicating cheating from a game is virtually impossible from a logical perspective. Therefore, the best approach is to ensure that cheating on the PC platform is under control while minimizing the impact of PC cheaters on the console platform. Anti-cheat measures at the hardware level are always superior to software-level solutions, and the closed operating system of consoles is beneficial in this regard. However, the console platform still requires some anti-cheat systems to prevent a small number of cheating software from disrupting the game.
    Furthermore, “Escape from Tarkov” currently lacks a skin system and a battle pass system. These two systems significantly increase player engagement and retention, so it is essential to consider incorporating similar features into the game. Tarkov’s monetization model mainly focuses on the size of safe and acquiring DLCs through the buy-to-play approach. This conflicts with the majority of F2P games today, but it is crucial to ensure that sensitive content like stash or safe is reasonably priced. The optimal solution would be to include them as rewards in a premium battle pass, ensuring that a significant portion of paying players can obtain them. Alternatively, a season pass or monthly subscription model could be considered, but it may not generate the same positive reputation within the player community as a battle pass system. Regarding the skin system, it is essential to design it appropriately and make it the core content for monetization. Continuously releasing new and high-quality skins will encourage players to willingly make purchases while ensuring the fairness of the game.
    Anyway, Marathon is a game with great potential. I hope the development team can continue to maintain it and listen to the community’s feedback. At the same time, it’s important to have their own design ideas and reflect on why other extraction shooters have failed being successful, understanding the essence of Escape from Tarkov’s success. I wish the development work of Marathon goes smoothly.

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