Videogames: On Set with Mark Hamill

We have two more sets of scans from 'Videogames' magazine to close out the week. The first set (October 1995) is the most interesting, a report from the set of Wing Commander IV complete with an interview with Mark Hamill. The second pair of scans (November 1995) explain how to access the debug menu in the 3DO port of Wing Commander III... a cool tool that lets you select your mission, view any texture in the game and even play any movie.

Kickstarter Fails to Launch

George Oldziey has updated the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 with some sad news, the campaign is not going to make it. But he also reports that this is NOT the end: he has a plan for first funding the music and then the orchestra separately. Here's the post:

The next phase. Please hang with me!

Hello everyone. I wanted to follow up on the last post about where we go from here. I think it's obvious that we won't meet the entire goal on this campaign. So I'm going to follow this up immediately with another, more modest campaign in terms of financial goals.

There will first be another Kickstarter campaign that will probably be in the neighborhood of $15K, an amount which we easily surpassed on the this one. Unfortunately, since the goal won't be met on this campaign I can't keep the funds (and of course you WON'T be billed for your pledges).

So, you might ask, what will $15K buy. Well, it will buy covering the costs and time of preparing all the pieces for volume 2 for recording with orchestra (transcribing the originals and creating the PDF scores) AND creating a CD and digital downloads of the MIDI mockups for volume 2. What that means is I will have an initial CD and downloads of the volume 2 music available using my vast orchestral instrument sample library, very similar to the digitally sampled tracks on volume 1. There will also be other rewards much like for this campaign.

THEN, once we have the foundation, we will build on it using other crowdfunding techniques which will be more open ended in terms of time. The secondary campaign will be used to cover the costs of the musicians, choir, recording engineers and facility, and all the other expenses required to make a wonderful orchestral version of the music. We'll also have the luxury of more time to raise those additional funds.

SO, if everyone who has already pledged can come right back and pledge the same amounts, or at least close to it, we'll have phase one already covered! And, since phase one includes the orchestration of the music, the PDF rewards will be available on this first tier!

Of course, as always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, and VERY much value your support and dedication. SO, keep a look out early next week for the next launch!

A setback, for sure, but we'll keep fighting! As Admiral Tolwyn says in Fleet Action: "By God, Baron... there'll come a day when we'll come back. If it takes a hundred years, we'll come back and we'll watch Kilrah as it's burned to ashes."

Pak it Up

We recently ran an article running through the history of Electronic Arts' "CD-ROM Classics" line of re-releases. This week, I made a cool discovery on eBay: a bundle containing five of the first wave CD-ROM Classics together in a slipcover. Bundling unsold software in this way has a long tradition; in fact, Origin's own "Ultima Value Pak" (1990) is one of the more sought-after Ultima collectibles! But until today, I'd never seen a Wing Commander (in this case Privateer) re-released in such a manner.

In honor of this discovery, I thought I would put together a quick guide to 'Paks.' What's a Pak? Well, it's a seemingly-intentional misspelling of 'pack' that Origin and later Electronic Arts used to market 'shovelware' budget re-releases. The concept is simple: once a game is no longer selling new copies, it can be re-sold bundled with others in collections (sometimes at a discount.) The sales strategy for 'Paks' really came into its own with the rise of the CD-ROM, which significantly decreased the cost of reproducing older games.

Here we are listing every known 'Pak' that includes a Wing Commander game. Electronic Arts marketed many 'Pak' products beyond those listed, often with themes such as the 'Fantasy Pak' or the 'Sports Pak'... but since they didn't bother to include any Wing Commanders in these, other communities will have to do that research! We've identified eight Paks that include Wing Commander games and there may be more out there... if you know of another, please let us know!

Top Ten Pak (1994)
Notes: The original! The Top Ten Pak is a single CD-ROM with all of the games listed below. Includes: Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Deluxe Edition, PGA Tour Golf, Ultrabots, Kasparov’s Gambit: World Championship Chess, Ultima VII: The Black Gate, SEAL Team, Indianapolis 500: The Simulation, Grand Slam Bridge II, Financial Workshop Top Ten Pak II (1995)
Notes: Harder to find than the Top Ten Pak. This came in a short 'half box' with multiple CDs rather than a classic 'big box.' Also a rare example of Electronic Arts re-releasing Wing Commander I on CD-ROM (which was problematic from a technical standpoint at this time.)
Includes: Wing Commander Deluxe Edition, Shadowcaster, Michael Jordan in Flight, Grand Slam Bridge II, Seven Cities of Gold Commemorative Edition, Starflight 2, Kasparov’s Gambit: World Championship Chess, Heroes of the 357th, Indianapolis 500: The Simulation, PGA Tour Golf 10 for $10 Pak (1995) Notes: A spinoff of the original series. Very similar to the original Top Ten Pak, it does notably add Strike Commander to the mix.
Includes: Extreme Pinball, Grand Slam Bridge II, Populous II, Power Poker, Strike Commander, SEAL Team, The Complete Ultima VII, Ultrabots, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Deluxe Edition, Chuck Yeager's Air Combat Top Ten Mac Pak II (1996) Notes: This Pak contains the Macintosh versions of the games listed AND a copy of the Wing Commander IV demo! It also features an amazing box. Unfortunately, it seems somewhat hard to come by today. We're aiming to track down nice versions of each of these for preservation, and will update the picture when a better copy is found.
Includes: Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, PGA Tour Golf III, Wolfpack, System Shock, Shockwave Assault, Spaceship Warlock, Super Wing Commander, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Putt-Putt & Fatty Bear’s Activity Pack Electronic Arts Presents CD-ROM Classics Gift Pak (1995)
Notes: Newly discovered collection of five early CD-ROM Classics in a slipcase. Could there be other CD-ROM Classics Gift Paks?
Includes: Wolfpack, Wing Commander: Privateer, System Shock, No World Order, Kasparov's Gambit: World Championship Chess & Grand Slam Bridge II Space Adventure Pak (1996)
Notes: EA put out two 'wide box' paks in 1996, both of which included Wing Commander III (the other was the Origin Pak, listed below.) These included the original documentation for each game.
Includes: Crusader: No Remorse, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, Shockwave Assault Origin Pak (1996)
Includes: System Shock, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, Bioforge Extreme Fun Pak (1997)
Notes: Although this uses the 'Pak' name, it was actually produced by Apple Computer rather than Electronic Arts! That's right, Apple released a version of Wing Commander III. The Extreme Fun Pak was sold through direct mail and alongside Apple computers of the era... and boy is the artwork from the 1990s!
Includes: Marathon 2: Durandal, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, Flight Unlimited, Panzer General, Entomorph, Diamonds 3D

Custom Wing Commander Controller Stuns

djfx has an incredible fan project to share: a custom Wing Commander arcade controller! It's designed to seemlessly play Wing Commander I, II and Privateer... and boy does it look cool! Here's his story, and you can learn more details about the build here.
A while back I had the idea to build an arcade cabinet version of Wing Commander.

After some initial work on the project, I realized I had no place to store such a large gadget in my small house, so I downsized the idea to just the control panel--I can upgrade this to a full cabinet later if I want.

  • Able to play WC, WC2, and Privateer without a keyboard--luckily the control schemes of these games overlap.
  • All controls should be clearly labeled so people can play without instruction
  • "Space arcade" look

    Here are the results: there are 32 buttons on the panel (most of them backlit), and a display that describes the button assignments on the flight stick--these can be updated by replacing the printed transparency. Flight stick is a CH fighter stick.
  • Kickstarter Progress Update

    George Oldziey has posted an update on the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2. The numbers aren't looking good for the current Kickstarter, but it sounds like he's willing to keep fighting! Whatever happens, we'll be there for the ride.

    Greetings WC music fans! We had a flurry of activity which took us JUST shy of the $17K mark this weekend. That's really incredible! But with $28K to go in just 6 days I have to admit that the challenge of meeting the goal at this point is pretty steep. That's not to say that something wonderful can't happen, and I'm definitely not giving up!

    I did post that there would be a live stream event yesterday. But that ended up being a brainstorming meeting with my team about possible contingencies going forward. We all originally thought that going for the full amount needed in one campaign would work, just as it did for Volume 1. But, should this current campaign end without meeting our goal, we've decided to have a "tier" system of campaigns in which we have milestones instead of the "all or nothing" approach.

    Again, we are NOT giving up! I'd be absolutely thrilled if we were able to make it happen right here and right now. I just wanted to let you know that there is indeed a plan in case it doesn't work out this time.

    I've received some great advice from contributors about other ways of raising the needed funds to make this project happen. I encourage you all to send me your thoughts about how to make this a successful project!

    Again, thank you all for your wonderful support. That's what makes it all worthwhile for me!

    Everything Looks Worse in Black and White

    Computist magazine was something of an ‘alternative’ gaming publication in the 1980s. Originally conceived to cover Apple ][ gaming, the magazine had a special focus on how users could remove copy protection from their games. As a result, it was treated as something of a black sheep by contemporaries and the nascent gaming industry. By the very end of its run in the early 1990s, Computist expanded beyond the Apple to cover MS-DOS games.

    The reviews of Wing Commander are odd, to say the least: the original game (Issue #78) is given one star because the reviewed felt weapons didn’t have enough of an impact. Wing Commander II and Special Operations I (Issue #84) are given rave reviews and both receive a four star rating. There are also articles covering how to remove the copy protection from the original game and one reviewing a joystick that mentions how great Wing Commander I was. Huh! The Internet Archive has published galleys for the unprinted Issue #90, which include a review of Special Operations 2 (three stars) and the Wing Commander II speech pack (two stars.)

    RSI Museum Looks Back at Wing Commander III

    I was honored to get to spend another hour talking about the history of developing Wing Commander games on this week’s RSI Happy Hour. Wing Commander III marked a major shift in the scale of how games are managed and created… setting the stage for games like Star Citizen. Enjoy!

    COMBAT ALERT: George Oldziey Live Q&A Tomorrow

    Wing Commander composer George Oldziey will be holding a live Q&A tomorrow in support of his Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 Kickstarter. We'll be joining in to help get your questions answered (and some of ours!) Here are the details, straight from the main himself:

    Greetings everyone! With a little over a week to go we've passed the $14K mark. Unfortunately this leaves quite a challenge in the remaining week to meet our goal. I'm very grateful to all of you who have supported the project already! I hope you can find some long lost friends whom you could persuade to help us out! :)

    With that in mind, my team and I are planning to set up a live stream on Facebook for tomorrow at noon CDT (Central USA). We are trying to work out the tech details to have all four of us from different parts of the country online at the same time to answer questions and talk about all things WC. I'll give you all an update later today to either confirm or deny the live stream!

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