The story of Halo 2’s last Spartan standing
In the spring of 2010, Microsoft took the original Xbox Live servers offline, but a group of gamers dedicated themselves to keeping one game alive. That game was Halo 2 and the Noble 14 (as they became known) managed to keep the popular online shooter alive for an additional 26 days. When the last player was booted the game finally died. We spoke to that final Spartan standing, APACHE N4SIR, to get the full story ahead of Halo 2’s return with The Master Chief Collection.
Q: How much time would you say you put in to Halo 2 overall?
APACHE N4SIR: In all these years I have never had anyone ask me that question. To be honest with you I can’t really give you a numeric answer. What I can tell you is I played it from November 9th 2004 right up to last weekend (Had a throwback old fashioned Xbox LAN BBQ-Party). But if you are asking me how long I have played Halo 2 online for then I would have to say from November 9th 2004 @ 00:30 (Midnight Launch) to May 11th 2010 being disconnected at 01:58 local (Montreal Quebec Canada) Time. Now, needless to say that wasn’t straight through, but it was a major chunk of my online gaming library. I originally got an XBL account a few years before and had it laps for almost a year as I felt there were no good games out there at the time that justified me spending and having an online account…. Then Halo 2 came out and I made a new account that I still have to this day.
Q: What was it like playing in the days running up to the deadline?
The days leading up to the deadline were stressful. I say stressful as I didn’t have a working Xbox to use and play with. See my Pro Console was being repaired as it had the dreaded RRoD. I couldn’t take it any longer and went out and bought a brand new factory sealed console JUST to play a game that would be obsolete in 24 hours… but that was fine for me as Halo 2 had a special place in my heart. Once the “Deadline” approached… players in the game would stop in lobby and say… “Hey Apache… Are you connected?” I’d reply: “Ya I’m still here are you?”. We then thought that it would be disconnected en-mass within the hour and we were playing on borrowed time. As time jumped further and further away, we (the group of friends I was partied up with) figured the deadline must be West Coast time… That too passed and we thought maybe it was Alaska’s time zone or Hawaii’s time zone they were talking about. Needless to say that wasn’t the case.
Q: Did you have a goal in mind when you broke the deadline?
The only “Goal” if you can call it that was to have fun playing a game that brought a group of strangers together, where over the years we became good friends. We might not have spoken to each other during the week, but Saturday Nights we could be found online playing Halo 2 together… Like every Saturday for YEARS!!
Q: Were you getting a lot of support from the Bungie fan community?
Not me personally at the start… (I tried to keep a low key. I was doing it for personal reasons). I also didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself as at the time I was working in the Interactive Entertainment Industry as a QA / Game Tester and didn’t want anyone from the studio to know (especially my direct boss as I didn’t want my gaming activities to interfere and potentially jeopardize my job) I was one of the gamers that was holding out. I don’t remember what day I poked around and found the thread on the Bungie forums and found the post that Joe made (if memory serves me correct) asking who was still connected? I put my GamerTag down and that’s when people would take note. I’d say there was some support, but there was also a lot of hate and people “trolling”.
I still get to this day (although it has dropped off tremendously in the past few years) messages on twitter but mostly directly to my GamerTag thanking me for trying to keep Halo 2 alive for as long as I could. It’s heart-warming knowing that what I did made a difference (to the young and old) and made an impact to many people. Whereas at the time my actions weren’t for anyone else but were me doing my part to show a game studio (and Microsoft) that there is support for older games. Sure it’s not played the same and with the same frequency as what it was in the past, but it is still (or was) played!!! Heck even now it’s still played in LAN party’s and other means. Not all games have that following or devotion.
Q: What were those last few moments with just you and Agent Windex online like?
Honestly? It was lonely! See I worked 2nd shift and would get off at midnight, by the time I got home it would be after 1:30am and there wasn’t many people playing, same would happen when it was just me and Agent Windex, I would get home… turn on my TV and see if Agent Windex was online and wanted to play any vs games. Most of the time he was almost ready to turn in for the night but wanted to play the Halo Reach Beta… so we would go to our alternate accounts that we made and would play together in a Reach game or two. We would be constantly asked if we were the same guys that were playing Halo 2 (the GamerTags that both Agent Windex and I made looked very similar to our main GT’s).
Q: How did you feel after finally having to walk away?
Excruciating every time I did walk away. I had to walk away twice every day not knowing if when I returned if I would still be connected or not. Once when I went to bed… and the other when I would leave for work.
Now if you were to ask me: “How did you feel after having to walk away after being disconnected?” I would say: I was a tad miffed. What I mean by that is I was doing an homage or tribute to the game by doing all the glitches, exploring the landscape , looking at the artwork in the scenery, playing with the physics of the game while blowing things up with primary and secondary explosions and Warthog Jumping & Flipping. I was recording these actions and memories. People wondered how I would end my online connection and what I thought about doing was like I said the video and my plan from the very start was to stay connected online one hour for each of the Noble 14 and an extra hour for the community resulting in me logging off myself at 07:58 exactly May 11th 2010. I was just shy of my target as I was forcefully removed at 01:58.
Q: How do you feel about a Halo 2: Anniversary edition?
Mixed feelings as I want them to not take away from the game or experiences we all had with Halo 2 originally. Now that shouldn’t happen as the Anniversary edition to Combat Evolved looked and felt close to the original, I just hope that the experiences that we all grew up with (I sound old lol) like the glitches etc haven’t been “fixed” for the most part. Other than that I’m STOKED!!! Sure, at the time Halo 2 was for all intensive purposes the backbone and the building blocks for the modern Multiplayer online console experience. Sure some games had it but not to the extent that Bungie had with Halo 2. I have always said that Halo 2 made online console gaming what it is and has evolved into today and would be nice to play the game with new and old friends alike. Nice work to all the Bungie employees.
Q: What made Halo 2 special to you?
Halo 2 was special to me for a few reasons. One of the reasons was for the friendships that I made because of that game. The close friendships that I still hold onto today. Without Halo 2 I wouldn’t have met E.J. & his wife S.S., F111, CRS, RRP to name a few.
Halo 2 was extra special for me and holds a special place in my heart as it helped me recover when I was on medical leave in 2006-07. I had chronic migraines that had me sedated for most of the day, I would be awake for a few hours in the early morning (say between midnight and 4am) and the only contact I had at that time of the night (for months) was my crew playing Halo 2. Without Halo 2 at that time of my life I would have gone “Bat-Sh!t Crazy” lol.
Q: Did you stay in touch with any of the other Noble 14?
A few… I have a few on Facebook, and a few still on my Friends List on XBL. Unfortunately there is still a lot of animosity towards me. A lot of people (not only the Noble 14, but a lot in the community that didn’t have any interactions with me personally) thought I was a “lurker” and didn’t play in games (as they never saw me in games that were streamed – I always said that I didn’t want to be streamed and have video proof that I was online till after the sun came up playing video games, heaven forbid I would call into work legitimately sick). They all jumped to the uneducated conclusion that I was just in it for monetary gain or fame.
Q: Did anyone from Bungie or Microsoft get in touch during that time or soon after?
Get in touch with us during? No. Not that I was aware of. There were tweets from Stepto & Major Nelson directed at us. As far as I know we weren’t contacted by Bungie or Microsoft.
The easiest way would be to send me (or anyone else for that matter) a message directly to the GamerTag. I didn’t have a Twitter account at that time but started one up as I was suggested when I did a live interview on a podcast a few days after I was removed, and only then is when I saw the Tweet from both Stepto & Major Nelson.
I reached out (or tried to at least) reach out to Microsoft after I was asked by several parties to have some sort of confirmation that I was in fact the person that “owned” the Handle / GamerTag “APACHE N4SIR”. To this day I haven’t been able to link my given name with the GamerTag. From what I’ve been told is the GamerTag is owned by Microsoft and I “rent” the chance to use the name.
People keep asking me what did Bungie or Microsoft send me afterwards? And for the record, I received nothing from either Bungie or Microsoft. What I did receive was a 3 month XBL code from a random person who sent me a message thanking me for the effort. I really didn’t think the code would work and thought it was a joke but alas it was not. Thank-You random person (I just looked up his message on Bungie.net… The GT doesn’t exist) Other than that I received nothing at the time or soon thereafter.