History of the Oni community

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As one would expect, Oni's main community of fans has its roots in the larger Bungie fandom. The same handful of Bungie superfans worked together on project after project, interweaving the fates of the Bungie games. Therefore, in order to properly cover the history of the Oni community, this article focuses on the overall Bungie fandom, with extra emphasis on the Oni-related details.

Beginnings of the fandom

Bungie Software was founded in 1991 by Alex Seropian and Jason Jones, and released Operation Desert Storm (1991), a tank combat game, and Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete (1992), a multiplayer dungeon crawler.

While Bungie accrued fans with each of its releases, their next two releases, Pathways into Darkness (1993) and Marathon (1994), added hugely to their reputation. These two games had deep stories and gave fans something to talk about, primarily on AOL and Usenet's comp.sys.mac.games and alt.games.marathon. Additionally, Marathon was the start of Bungie's support for modders. Jason Jones worked closely with fans, who in turn made map and physics model editors for Marathon.

Early fan sites

The existence of Marathon map editors naturally led to the creation of many, many maps. The abundance of maps created a need for sites that could store them all in one place. For a time, the main server for maps was an FTP server run by the Arizona Macintosh Users Group (AMUG). In the spring of 1995, Steve Wood of Boston, Massachusetts created the Marathon HyperArchive, an HTTP front-end for the AMUG site, to make it more user-friendly. Meanwhile, Bungie registered bungie.com and used it as their first permanent haven on the Web.

Shortly after this, another Marathon fan, Claude Errera, decided to mirror the HyperArchive (combining the original HTTP and FTP servers into one, for improved reliability) from his university computer in Portland, Oregon. He called this site the Marathon HyperArchive NorthWest. A second mirror site sprang up in 1996, the Marathon HyperArchive Midwest, run by Steve Campbell out of Oklahoma. Also that year, marathon.org was registered by Simon Brownlee and christened Marathon Central.

At the end of 1996, Claude went on an 18-month world-spanning trip with his family, so he left the HyperArchive NorthWest in Brownlee's hands. By this time, Wood's original HyperArchive had shut down, leaving the hosting of Marathon files in the hands of the NorthWest and Midwest mirrors. In 1997, Campbell merged his Midwest mirror with Brownlee's marathon.org and NorthWest archive, leading to Marathon Central becoming the true center of the Marathon file hosting universe. Also in 1997, Bungie registered bungie.net, which eventually became their primary web site address (being redirected to from bungie.com).

The founding of Bungie.org

Steve Campbell was one of the Bungie fans who exhibited an early interest in Oni. When the game was announced in 1998, he opened a fan site called Oni Central, at onicentral.org. However, towards the end of the year, he was dared by James Pillar (who ran RuGGeR's Tavern, a Hotline server for Marathon files) to buy bungie.org, as a counterpart to Bungie Software's bungie.com, and use it for a Bungie fan site.

Campbell took the dare and, together with Hamish Sinclair, Marathon superfans Gary Simmons and Claude Errera, and James Pillar and Nathan Kline (who helped with design), he opened the web site early in January 1999. In April, Bungie.org introduced its familiar subdomains devoted to each Bungie game: pid.bungie.org, marathon.bungie.org, myth.bungie.org, oni.bungie.org, and blam.bungie.org (moved to halo.bungie.org once the game's name was revealed).

Hamish Sinclair and Matt Smith handled Pathways into Darkness and the massive Marathon Story page, Campbell and Simmons handled the rest of the Marathon subdomain, Forrest Camaranesi handled Myth, Campbell handled Oni (which was still in development), and Errera eventually handled the Halo subdomain. Miguel Chavez handled bs.bungie.org, the Bungie Sightings page. The bungie.org domain came to be known as B.org for short, or sometimes simply Borg.

In May of 1999, Campbell opened a simple forum on Oni Central, where fans would discuss Oni all the way up to its eventual release in January of 2001. Soon after the opening of the forum, the Oni Central subdomain was handed over to a fan by the name of Harry Al-Shakarchi, who had become acquainted with Campbell while spending time at the #bungie IRC channel. At this point in time, Bungie.org enjoyed a close relationship with Bungie Software, as evidenced by Harry being granted interviews with the Bungie West staff in August 1999. The Oni Central Forums (OCF) saw visits from members of Bungie and had an unofficial "official" status among fan forums.

The first heyday of the Oni fandom

Oni Central reported the latest news from Bungie West, with contributions from Clem Freeman, Chris Camacho and Steve Campbell in addition to Harry himself. Besides updates on the game's progress, the site also covered the development by fans of early game utilities such as Oni Key Config and OniTools. Other fan sites sprang up over time, such as OniShots (focusing on screenshots taken by fans, and game tips and cheats, with a forum that accumulated 7000 posts), OniRes (focusing on game modification and also hosting a forum), and OniChars (a forum for discussion of Oni's characters). OniShots and OniRes were eventually hosted on Oni Central.

The later years of Bungie.org

In time, the activity on the PID subdomain lessened, and the Marathon and Myth communities began to shift towards other domains, so the founders of b.org generally moved on. Steve Campbell went on to found forerunners.org in 2002, devoted to covering the Bungie fandom from a different angle by hosting personal fan sites and serving as a general portal to the rest of the community, and cortana.org in 2003, for hosting Halo maps and mods. Eventually Claude Errera was left in sole charge of the Borg domain and its servers. Today, most of the domain's traffic goes to the Halo subdomain and the subdomain for Destiny (created in 2013). A subdomain for Gnop, arguably Bungie's oldest game, was also added in 2013, containing an emulator of the game.

The original Oni Central Forum, now referred to as the Carnage board because it (and other B.org forums) ran on the carnage.bungie.org subdomain, was a threaded board running on simple software known as WebBBS. In March 2003, Harry decided to move to modern forum software, and OCF was restarted on the ikonBoard software, which presented the indexed, flat style of forum that is usually seen on the Internet today.

The ikonBoard forum's database became corrupted in April '05, at which point OCF was moved to the Infinite Core Technology (ICT) software. Due to general dissatisfaction with ICT's quirks, OCF moved to the speedy, simple PunBB software starting in January '07. Longtime members of the community stated their hope at the time that this would be the final move of the forum. In April of 2011, a minor change in the forum software occurred when the board was moved from PunBB to FluxBB, a fork of PunBB that was being more actively maintained.

Historical forum posts can be found below:

Oni Central Forum Other forums
carnage.bungie.org (WebBBS, 1999-2003) OniShots (WebBBS, 2001-2002)
No Archive Available (ikonBoard, 2003-2005) OniRes (No Archive Available) (WebBBS, 2001-2002)
No Archive Available (ICT, 2005-2006)
oni.bungie.org/forum (PunBB/FluxBB, 2007-2024)

The second pillar: Oni2.net

In 2005, at a time when most gaming fandoms would be starting to decline, a new Oni fan site was opened, Oni2.net, run by Christian Illy. The purpose of his site was to serve as a community portal and also as a place for fans to store Oni-related content under personal subdomains.

One of the sites Illy linked to, modestly called "Oni Stuff", was run by a fan named Ssg. The site documented much of the inner workings of Oni's game data. In October of 2005, a member of OCF named geyser suggested using Oni2.net to host a wiki which could store this information in an easily-editable format so that others could help in the reverse-engineering efforts. Thus OniGalore was born. Over time, nearly everything about the game has been documented here. Later on, Ssg's original site joined the Oni2.net domain in September 2007.

Other important uses of the oni2.net domain included the OniPlayer project and the subdomain of user EdT, which became the number-one source of information for Mac users on how to mod and run Oni on their machines. 2007 marked a high point in the community's reverse-engineering activity, leading to a near-complete understanding of the engine. With this increase in knowledge came an increase in the number of mods being made, and so in September of 2008 the Oni Mod Depot was opened by Iritscen in order to serve as a central location for the community's mods.

The community today

The primary activity of the modern Oni community has been producing mods, including totally new levels, developing new modding tools, and patching the game engine. The timeline of the community's achievements is recorded at History of Oni modding. To see the mods that have been produced, browse through the Anniversary Edition installer or visit the Mod Depot. To see the engine patching work, which now includes the production of new engine builds, see the Patches category. Fans have also speculated on possible Oni 2s and worked on multiplayer projects.