Microsoft Easter Egg Discussion with Ed Fries

January 27, 2022

Here are my goals from a top-down level: I hope I can learn about— and then accurately portray— the culture where the easter eggs came from: the flight simulator and DOOM-clone in mid-90s Excel, the pinball game in Word, and other eggs from the applications group.

I'm preaching to the choir here: specific circumstances often motivate the creation of an easter egg, and form a narrative shedding light on who made them. It's my hope that when people see this interesting experience and learn that it was embedded in Microsoft Excel twenty-five years ago—

Even thirty-five years!

—they'll also have answers to some of the questions I've had since then.

Beyond that, I'm eager to listen to anything that you'd like to talk about. It's exciting that you yourself have taken an interest in this subject of computer history.

One of the first questions anyone has about an easter egg is, "How the heck did this get discovered?" There's often a story there; some people crack open the software decades later, seeking something no one had found before. But in the case of the easter egg in Excel 97, it was found as early as 1999.

How do you think it was found? Was it leaked, or discovered? Did someone [at Microsoft] look through the code after it shipped and see this thing someone snuck in?

Ed's beginnings at Excel

I don't know how this easter egg was found or why. Most of my experience is more on the inside, at least when it comes to Excel, and it might be more fruitful for me to talk about how and why we made them.

After we'd ship a version, we were kind of on to the next version, and I don't remember thinking about [our easter eggs] beyond that. If someone found it later, great! Because we put it there for someone to find. But I personally don't remember thinking about it after they were in the product. That's one thing.

Second thing, I basically worked on Excel from '86 when I joined the company to about '91, so when you're talking about the Flight Simulator easter egg or the DOOM easter egg, those were after my time.

In the summer of '86, when I joined the company, seven of us just got started working on the first version of Excel for Windows. They had shipped a Macintosh version before that. Ours was going to be called Excel 2.0, both because it was technically the second version of Excel, but also because it was going to ship with Windows 2 and required it to run.

I just remember there being a culture of easter eggs even then! In fact I think there were easter eggs in all the Windows Excel versions.


When I worked on Excel 2 for Windows, we made the code portable. We knew we'd have to do a version for Macintosh, a version for OS/2 Presentation Manager (which was kind of the IBM version of Windows), and a Windows version. We created a kind of hardware abstraction layer, and we ported Excel to it and added more features. That was the Excel 2.2 series.

Ed's first Excel easter egg

Then we did Excel 3. By then I was the lead programmer on the project, and I had more influence over what happened. And I believe it was that version that I worked on the easter egg, which was based on a dream that I had. Back then the easter eggs were simpler, for sure!

Lotus 1-2-3 was our main competitor at the time, and was kind of our reason to exist. (In fact, I had applied to Lotus when I graduated, and they sent me a rejection letter. That letter always had a proud place over my desk when I was working on Excel.) In my dream, there was a box of Lotus 1-2-3, which started to shake, then broke apart. Bugs then kind of crawled all over it—

You made the Lotus bugs easter egg, where Excel ran up and booted it off the screen!

Exactly, yeah! I can't remember if I did that alone, or if multiple people worked on it, but it was definitely my dream that it was based on!

Microsoft's easter egg policy

Anyway, I would say we had a kind of weird rule about easter eggs, which was that they were perfectly fine to include in the code, as long as there was no code that actually executed the easter egg!

It was like plausible deniability by management— "Oh, you know, they put all kinds of code in there, but we made sure there was nothing that actually called the easter egg"— I assume that's why; I never had this conversation with upper management. It's weird in retrospect! But at the time, that was the rule. So you'd be able to find the easter egg very easily in the source code, but there'd be nothing that called it.

So in these early versions, most of the tricky stuff had to do with the way an obscure set of key sequences or other actions would cause changes to some location in memory that would somehow point to the easter egg— and then a call that looks like it's going to one function would actually jump to the easter egg instead. From a programmer's point of view, it was super clever how these things got called! Maybe more effort went into hiding the way they were executed than actually making them look cool, in those early days.

Excel 1.0's copy protection file

I don't know if there was an easter egg in the very first version of Excel— the Mac version that was before my time— but there was an easter egg of sorts that you may have heard about: a very weak sort of copy protection.

When it installed on the Mac, Excel would create a hidden file, and when it started, it would check and see if that hidden file existed. If not, it wouldn't open. The filename they chose for that file was the initials of several of the programmers appended together. I believe they were Bill, Bob and Steve. Stuck together, the letters came out to something like "Bostbeval". They weren't trying to make it sound like anything, though.

At the time I joined as an intern, a complaint letter to the company was being passed around the office, written by a preacher from somewhere in Africa. In it, he said that he had been poking around the files on his Mac, and he found this hidden file named "boss be evil"— why was there this evil file on his Mac? He renamed it "Bestbgood"— and then couldn't run Excel anymore! So Microsoft was clearly trying to spread these evil, hidden files around, and he was going to tell everyone in his parish to not buy Microsoft products unless this was immediately removed. That's basically the threat of the letter.

So in that example, the programmers put their initials on a hidden file, but whether it qualified as an "easter egg" gets into what makes something an easter egg or not. But it's a good story!

It also harkens back to that era when filenames could only be so long, and so lots of files installed as part of common software had conspicuous names that drew suspicion and inspired rumors. Which dovetails in an interesting way with easter eggs, because these are tech folk tales. When most people think of tech, they think of what was marketed to them, and maybe the success stories from the industry that end up in business magazines.

90s-era misperceptions about Microsoft and "Swing around the Wing"

Speaking personally, one of the most interesting things about discovering the easter eggs that most captured my imagination was that they showed a very personal, human side to software development. I'm sure you're intimately aware of how Microsoft was regarded in the nineties, before basically you and your team [the Microsoft Games Division] blew those misconceptions out of the water. But until I saw that easter egg in the late nineties, I suffered under those common misapprehensions about Microsoft employees— about how you were all serious, maybe business-centric people. Self expression and passion never really worked their way into this notion about who software engineers are on consumer products— except those easter eggs! They show that human side, don't they?

Yeah! It's funny! It was really weird to me to see that view of Microsoft evolve. It was almost 180 degrees from the way we viewed ourselves. First of all, when I joined the company in the mid-80s, as an intern in '85 and then full-time in '86, we were the underdogs. Lotus was the largest personal consumer software company in the world. We were trying to battle them. But we were also the anti-IBM; to us, IBM were the guys in suits and ties! That became more emphasized when we started to work on OS/2 stuff. Like I said, there was a version of Windows called Presentation Manager that we were building for IBM. Fortunately, I almost never had to deal with them (though I have a few stories about dealing with them). But the Windows group had to deal with these IBM programmers, and they were like how you were describing!

I mean, at Microsoft, I used to run a golf tournament in the hallway, you know? Every Friday for several years, I would get about fifty, sixty people coming out, I'd organize them into little groups, and we would play what was called "Swing around the Wing", where we would just hit golf balls with putters as hard as we could, to try to get them all the way down the hallways of this long building, around the corners— it was like an X-shaped building, you'd go down one arm of the X and then swing back around and come back the other way— and the rule was you had to play it where it lied. We'd be under or even on top of people's desks, if that's where the ball landed. The ball could go down the stairs and we'd be trying to chip it up the stairs. We were leaving golf ball sized divets in the walls!

But it was totally allowed by management. Several times, security tried to shut me down, and I would just ask them who their boss was, and then just keep asking until I got up to a high enough level where they'd say "Oh yeah, that's okay".

Microsoft's culture and pranks

They would let us do what we wanted. Look at pictures of us back then! Half the people there didn't wear shoes and were walking around with long hair. I had long hair! It was a very "Hacker" kind of culture, I would say— as in the book "Hackers"— not at all an IBM-type culture. So later when I saw that description of Microsoft, it was totally not the way we were back then. We were sort of the underdog hackers fighting people who we saw as bigger than us. We were trying to change the world, and ultimately we did.

It's too bad later, with the Department of Justice and all that stuff. But pre-1995, almost nobody knew where I worked. I could be in an airplane, I could go wherever, maybe wearing the Microsoft logo on my shirt or something, and nobody would even know what that meant. It was really weird. It really changed when Windows 95 came out, and we went from pretty unknown to VERY known. By then if I wore a Microsoft shirt, people would ask me to fix their laptop! It changed a lot, from an outside perspective.

I was probably more this way than most people in the company. I don't know why I attracted attention, or trouble. But there was a big thing about pranking me whenever I went on vacation. My office got trashed many times in many different, creative ways. You can find this on YouTube— they covered the entire floor of my office with little dixie cups full of water that made a fish mosaic. Because I'd created this fish screensaver that everybody ran.

...My preschool class "LARP"ed that Macintosh screensaver. I wasn't going to admit that, but you brought it up...

That's funny! I made the Mac version with a work buddy of mine named Tom Saxton, and so we had a little company called "Tom and Ed's Bogus Software", and we made screensavers on the side.

As I was saying, we were playing golf, we were trashing each other's offices, we were having a good time. It was a very lighthearted culture, and very much went around trying to be the smartest programmers and doing cool stuff.

That raises an interesting question. I've never personally experienced the "Hall of Tortured Souls" DOOM-clone easter egg in Excel 95, but it does seem like the Excel 97 flight simulator is a continuation of the previous easter egg. I think Jason Allen played a role in producing both. It seems as though there is a level of technical skill being demonstrated here— first by hiding the DOOM-clone in Excel, which is impressive enough, and then by running that 3D experience on fairly standard office hardware. By Excel 97, the easter egg required early version of DirectDraw. It does seem like the experience of building one easter egg contributed to the next one.

It's difficult to track down Microsoft alumni who'd rather be left alone, but I wonder if part of the motivation was showing they're the smartest programmer, or like "Let's see the Word team try to respond to our flight simulator, this time!"

There was some rivalry between the Word and Excel team. You know how some sports rivalries are like, the #2 guys will say "our rivals are the #1 guys", but the #1 guys won't acknowledge them? That's basically the way it was between Word and Excel. And I went from Excel to Word, and I tried to get the Word guys to have more of an Excel type attitude about being the best. We made some progress. There's some stories about that, if you want to hear.

If you'd like!

Fixing the Windows scroll bar

I first wanted to react to something else you were saying, though. A couple things— one, about the culture. One thing to remember about back then is, we were working on pretty slow equipment and a pretty big project for that era. We had custom compilers and linkers that were written by other people just down the hall, and even the Windows team wasn't that far away. I was a video game programmer when I came in. One of the first things I did on Excel 2.0 was I sped up scrolling, because I thought it was too slow and I was used to making things go fast for games. I got to the point where I couldn't make scrolling any faster, because the slowest thing was drawing the scroll bar on the side of windows. So I asked [the Windows team] if I could rewrite the scrollbar code, and back then they said, "Sure, here's the project." And I went into the Windows code and rewrote the scrollbar— which was terrible, actually! And I made it smart about how it drew itself.

I have to admit, when I first read about that, I asked myself, "How poorly written could a scrollbar possibly be??"

You'd be surprised! You would be surprised!

Compile-and-link downtime and Solitaire

But beyond that, what I was trying to say about how our environment was slow, is that we had a LOT of spare time, okay? You would make as many changes to the code as you felt comfortable making, and just do a big compile and link. And it would take about ten minutes. So you had ten minutes to kill. What are you going to do for ten minutes?

That's actually why I brought my putter in, originally, which is what started the Swing around the Wing. I said, "I'm a bad golfer, so I'm going to work on my putting while I have this time." We also took up lockpicking, for example. We figured out how we could buy lockpicks, so we'd sit around with our locks, working on our lockpicking skills, which is a fun thing to do. Most programmers could juggle for the same reason, it's something you'd learn to do as you sit around waiting for this thing to compile.

So there was always time for special projects. When I called that Fish! program "Tom and Ed's Bogus Software", when we wanted to make it a company, that name is long and complicated because we were part of this looser, bigger group that was called "Bogus Software". So we were "Tom and Ed's Bogus Software" to differentiate itself from the larger virtual entity of "Bogus Software", which was other people around the company making fun stuff just because!

Take Microsoft Solitaire, for example. Why does Microsoft Solitaire exist? We had an intern named Wes Cherry, and that summer when he was there, in our many "spare ten minutes", we were writing little networked poker bots to compete against each other, and we were trying to see who could write the best poker AI to compete with each other. One of the guys, Darrell Plank, had created this dynamically linked library that had a bunch of card backs and faces in it for our poker thing, to display their hands of cards on the screen as they played each other. Wes just took that and used it to make Solitaire. That's how it came into being.

This was Wes Cherry?

Wes Cherry, yeah.

Interesting. He was credited as being on "Team Wes" in the credits in the Excel 97 easter egg.

Well, he worked in the group for a long time, starting originally as an intern, and that's where Solitaire came from.

By the way— have you done an adaptation of the Swing around the Wing since the Wrecking Ball Reunion?

How campus has changed

Hah! That was the last Swing around the Wing, and probably will be the last one. That was right before they tore the buildings down. It was very fun to go back there and see a lot of my old coworkers to play.

I guess they don't make X-shaped buildings that often. Although maybe the XBox team will one day!

I like that idea. I haven't been back to the campus since that reunion, to see the new buildings. It's a little weird. It feels a little like when they tear down your high school. The place where you made all these memories is gone.

The software remains! The easter eggs remain.

It does, it does! I'm just saying why I haven't felt the urge to go back there.

That's fair.

I'm curious about Bogus Software! I don't know how much has been written or shared about it over the years. How large a group in Microsoft was this, more or less? And what things might they have been responsible for?

Bogus Software and Fish!

There was a thing on Facebook about this, where a bunch of Bogus people were trying to explain... I wonder if I can find that? Basically, there were two main instigators of Bogus Software, separate from me. One was David Norris. He did Taipei, that solitaire game played with Mahjong tiles. Hans Spiller was the other guy. And what was Hans's game?... I'll have to get back to you on that.

Anyway, those were the guys who first came up with this name, "Bogus Software" as far as I know.

Actually, I wrote the very first version of Fish! as an intern. That was a character-based version. When I came on full-time and got put on Excel, I decided I would write a Windows version of it, because I was learning what Windows is. That's when they approached me. At that point I think I just put "Bogus Software" on it, because that's what they were putting on their apps. These were very early Windows apps, when very few people in the world were writing Windows apps at that time!

After Windows Excel shipped, I started to work on the Macintosh for the first time, and was learning about the Mac— and that's when I met Tom, who was a Word programmer. We teamed up to do the Macintosh version of Fish. Then we got approached by Berkley Systems, who made After Dark, the first successful commercial screensaver. They didn't want to just rip us off; they tracked us down and said, "Will you do the Fish! screensaver for us?", which was nice of them. They could have easily written it for themseslves, it's not that hard.

Bogus Softare was fun. I ran it with Tom for a bunch of years. At first, we put it out for free, but we included an address and asked people to send us their fish. The feature Tom added to the screensaver was a fish editor, which we both brought to the Macintosh and Windows versions.

That's a very early "user-generated content" system!

I guess. So people started to send us their fish, but some people also started to send us checks written out to "Tom and Ed's Bogus Software", because that's what we wrote in it. So we had these checks we couldn't cash. How do you go to a bank with a check that goes to "Tom and Ed's Bogus Software"? "I'm Ed!", you know? "I'm right there on the check!"

So, we decided we had to make a company, and decided we might as well make Fish! shareware, so the fish editor would unlock once you sent us the five bucks or whatever it was. And we got ourselves a little post office box, and instead of calling it a "P.O. Box A3334", we said "Suite A3334". We felt that gave us more gravitas, if there was any gravitas that would apply to Tom and Ed's Bogus Software.

One day I went to pick up the mail, and there was a note in the mailbox that said, "I came to visit you guys in person, but discovered that your 'suite' is best measured in inches!"

We got letters from all over the world. Timbuktu, all over the world! It was super fun to go get the mail and see who was writing us and what they were saying. We'd receive weird currencies we couldn't cash. People would write about their experience with the program, or send pictures of all the things they created with it. It was a fun thing to do at the time.

It's a testament to how any act of creativity you put out there can connect people in a meaningful way.

It's true. It always feels like trouble at the time to make something and share it. And I always feel like I get rewarded ten times more than I expect, or deserve. It's probably what keeps me going, making new stuff and trying new things.

Easter egg responses

Let me shift gears, just to cover two specific questions. Let's say you're back there working at Microsoft. You learn from somewhere that an easter egg has been newly discovered in some other team's product. What was the general reaction?

Like I said, I honestly don't remember ever thinking about them once we shipped them. I don't remember ever hearing much about them, or anything. It was just a thing we would do. We kind of hoped that someone would find it. We'd make it hard but we hoped they would find it, because otherwise it was kind of a waste, all the work we did on it. But we worked on a lot of silly stuff just for fun.

My other question involves secrecy. I don't know if you ever worked in an open office. I'm curious, was there some level of privacy and having space to oneself at that time in the organization so that somebody would feel...

...this is a leading question.


It just seems to me that maybe someone felt more comfortable about inserting something into the software because they had a cubicle or office to themselves, or sat in some corner where no one would bother them.

Excel's team work ethic

Hmm. I get what you're asking. And I don't think so. What I would say is, it was a very free environment for us to be ourselves, as long as we got done what we were doing.

We in the Excel group took a lot of pride in shipping on time. Sometimes that meant we had to work really hard, but we got to own our own schedule. Everyone scheduled their own features. If you got it wrong, you might work late one night because you scheduled it wrong, you know? It was your own fault. It's not like somebody said, "You have to have this done by Thursday". That's one of the first things my boss Chris Peters taught us when I joined— that we do our own schedule, and why.

So it was definitely an environment where you could be yourself and do what you want, as long as you were getting your stuff done. You could dress the way you wanted. As long as it wasn't bothering other people you could do a golf tournament in the hallway, make a fish screensaver, whatever! On our schedule, we had to check off forty hours every week; as long as you were doing that, nobody was going to hassle you about anything unimportant, like how you looked or anything like that. It was a very free environment.

As far as the easter eggs go, like I said it was built into the culture from as early as I can remember that they were okay to do—

—As long as they weren't directly executed.

—right, we'd just hide how they were run. But yeah, we did one every version. I don't remember us ever getting hassled by upper management, as it was, or anyone else.

Do you remember when the Trustworthy Computing Initiative was sent out in 2002?

No, no. That was way after my time. I mean, I went over to run the games group in '96, and I left in '04. So that would have come out while I was doing games. But games were like the last place where they were worrying about security. It was first the operating system, then the applications, then us.

Doug Klunder

I do remember, the first programmer was a guy named Doug Klunder, the main programmer who made Excel 1.0 from scratch. He basically took Multiplan, which he'd also worked on, and wrote Excel for the Macintosh. He was, and still is, a very interesting guy. Doug had quit the company several times, and came back. For me, he was the legendary first programmer on Excel when I was working on it, and I was porting a lot of that Macintosh code to Windows when I first started full-time. I'd see his name and code a lot— and it was some pretty amazing code.

Most of the time, Doug didn't wear shoes; he had hair down to maybe his waist. He liked to wear a kind of shawl around. He looked a lot like Jesus Christ, is one way to summarize it. And he was the smartest guy in the room: a self-taught programmer, like most of us were back then, but just brilliant. It was people like him who created a hippie-like culture, you know, to what we had.

There are a lot of Doug stories. At the time, he was super anti-authority. He didn't have a driver's license, because he didn't want to have his picture on a card, or any kind of ID card. Originally when I joined Microsoft we had these special magnetic coded keys, but then they rolled out these magnetic cards that was supposed to have your picture on it. Doug did not want his picture on the card, so they made a special blank one for him.

Doug didn't want to put his name on documents to send to the IRS to pay his income tax, which was a real problem for him, because he still had to pay the tax. What he ended up doing was, he would figure out how much money he owed, and he would send them that amount in cash, along with his name, but with no documentation. He lost a lawsuit with the IRS, which stopped him from being able to do that! But his argument was, "I paid my amount."

He was just an interesting guy in that way. By the way, after he left Microsoft he went to law school, got a law degree, and then he joined the ACLU. Up until recently, he's done computer privacy kinds of issues for them.

In light of all this stuff, it's frustrating to me to see the image of what Microsoft is now, or what people thought it was in the mid-90s, because that wasn't my experience at all. For me it was a bunch of young, talented, nutty, hippie-type people having a good time making software that kind of changed the world. Not at all guys sitting in suits!

I'm very glad to hear that!

Microsoft's relationship with Apple

If I can just inject something personal— I was raised on Macs, the perceived underdogs at the time, and I've gravitated toward underdogs ever since. This conversation is like "Mohammed coming to the mountain"; you're somebody who's made a career out of creative expression through programming, at a company I was very happy to equate with the Borg for the first half of my life.

There is a perception of early Apple as an organization with roots in the hacker ethos— a culture of anti-establishment people who saw computing as an extension of the mind, or as a domain where they could comfortably contribute something— and it sounds like the same things can be said about early Microsoft.

Considering how Apple has transformed from that underdog period, the parallels I can now draw between these two companies provides valuable perspective. We take for granted that tech companies often start from humble beginnings. Microsoft existed for years before you joined, but your arrival coincided with a beginning for the company: the development of Windows applications. So I'm grateful for your perspective.

I think people want to simplify history, and boil it down to good-versus-evil. You know? This group versus that group. Of course, the reality is much more complicated. People who want to turn this big "war" into Apple-versus-Microsoft forget how closely Bill and Steve worked together. Bill was there, visiting Steve on his deathbed.

By the way— the only reason Apple's here today is that Microsoft lent them $150 million when they were about to go out of business [in 1997], right around the time Steve came back to the company. These are just a couple examples.

The first version of Excel was made for the Macintosh, to help Apple, before it was made on the PC! A bunch of the people who worked on that worked really closely with Apple to help make their operating system better, so they could make Excel in the first place. They changed the user interface; they came up with a bunch of ideas that ended up going into the Macintosh.

So, you know, whatever.


The whole time I was at Office— which was ten years— we made Windows versions, and we made Macintosh versions of everything we were doing. We tried different strategies— sometimes we tried making them from the same codebase, and that had pluses and minuses, whereas other times we tried having different groups, and sort of porting features back and forth, and that had its own pluses and minuses. Right now, they're back to that strategy; I was one of the people who tried to move them to the other strategy, but each one has pluses and minuses.

It's getting a little late; I can probably do one or two more questions, but that's it.

I think that's all of my questions. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and provide your insight!

Before I share one personal anecdote that might amuse you, I'd like to say: I've read your entire blog about restoring classic arcade games and hunting old easter eggs yourself. It's a great read, and captures the meaningful and engaging story of recovering something. I hope you add more stories, just as long as you're still restoring and hunting!

I'd also like to say, if you have any questions or concerns about this transcript, my project, or my portrayal of what we've discussed, I'm an open book and my door's open. Thank you again.

Yeah, all right.

Now for my anecdote: as a kid raised on Macs, I once had a playdate whose sole premise, it turned out, was for my host to flaunt Halo on his XBox


—because it was shown at Macworld before Microsoft acquired Bungie and made it a console exclusive. He said, "How's it feel to have this cool game canceled for the Mac?"

And I said, "It's fine, it'll work out in the end." And as you know, it did!

I have a story about that, too, if you want to hear it.

By all means!

Calling Steve Jobs after buying Halo and the Bungie devs

I've told this a few times publicly. In the Spring of 2000, XBox had been approved, and I was trying really hard to pull together all the content for something that was going to ship in eighteen months, which is a really short amount of time. I got a call from Peter Tamte, the business manager at Bungie who I knew, and he said they were going out of business and had to sell the company. I ended up buying them, moving them out from Chicago [to Redmond], to write the first Halo.

Then one day, I walk into the office and I have an email waiting from Steve Ballmer— which was unusual! The email said, "You bought this company and pissed off Steve Jobs. Can you call him and calm him down? He's basically"—

HA ha!

So I'm just sitting there, staring at this email on my screen that's got this number to call, blinking at me, right? And the email's from Steve Ballmer, the #2 guy in the company. I'm like, "Well, I guess I'm dialing that number and calling Steve Jobs!" But I take a minute to think about what I'm going to say to him.

I want to tell him that I don't have anything against the Macintosh, that I'd worked on a bunch of Macintosh stuff. But I also saw this as an opportunity for a couple things: one, my department had a big PC games portfolio, including Age of Empires and Flight Simulator; maybe I could make more money by getting those onto the Macintosh. I also knew that Peter Tamte was kind of the only guy who didn't come out of the purchase with a job, because we didn't need him— he kind of got screwed in the end— but I knew he wanted to start a Mac porting company.

And so, to me, these two things kind of clicked in my mind, and so I dialed the number. Steve Jobs answered. I told him— well, I was nervous, like how you were nervous at the beginning of this conversation— I mean I'm talking to Steve Jobs. I was used to working with Bill Gates to some degree, that was a little scary, but Steve Jobs...

Well, I told him how I felt about the Mac, and that I thought there was an opportunity for us to work together; I knew just the right guy to do it, Peter Tamte; if they would support his new company, we'd give them the rights to our intellectual property in exchange for royalty, so they could make ports of our games. Not just Halo, but a bunch of other games.

Was this MacPlay? [Edit: No, it was MacSoft.]

You'd have to look up the name of the company, but it was Peter Tamte's.

So it was a relatively short conversation, something like three to five minutes. He was friendly when he picked up; then I told him who I was, then launched into this whole pitch, and his response was "Yeah, that sounds interesting, I'm going to have so-and-so who works for me follow up with you and we'll work on that." They funded Peter Tamte, and that caused several games to be created from Microsoft Games.

But the one hitch to it was that they wanted me and Alex Seropian, one of the two cofounders of Bungie, to be on-stage with Steve Jobs at the next Mac..Macworld? One of the big Mac events they had, that was in New York City. We had to fly out there and be on-stage with him in front of ten thousand screaming Mac fans.

As a Microsoft guy, it was a little scary to walk up on that stage. I thought the knives or sniper rifles would come out!

I might have been there!

It was in New York City, and it would have been the Fall of 2000. What Jobs wanted from us on-stage was to reassure people that Halo wasn't going away permanently from the Mac, that here they were with Microsoft, the guys who bought it, pledging to do a Mac port of it.

Isn't it thanks to you that Halo's here at all? I'm not sure who else would have bought it.

It's hard to say. Take Two already owned a third of their company. What would have happened was, it would have all gone to Take Two. When I went to buy the company, I negotiated with Ryan Brandt, the CEO of Take Two at the time. I told him he could have Bungie's whole back catalog, and that we would finish the game "Oni" for them, that they were developing in California at Bungie West.

All I wanted was the whole development team, and Halo. I just wanted that one game, and that team, and that was worth X million dollars. That was the deal we struck; we kind of split the company up between us. But I got all the people, and I got Halo, which is, in the end, what mattered! It was a good deal for Microsoft.

And a good story.

A good story is almost as valuable.

Your time is also valuable. Thank you again! I greatly appreciate your time and insight. I hope you have a great rest of your night and week! Please, feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Awesome, Jeremy. Good luck with your project— I think this stuff is really important. That's why I do some of it myself, too. I really appreciate what you're doing.


Hopefully these stories will be remembered in the future.

Here's hoping! Keep up the good work on that front, too! Take care!

All right. Take it easy, man.