The Gemini Sector Certainly Had Space Ships

World of Space Ships has posted a new chapter on their retrospective road to Star Citizen. The focus this time is Wing Commander Privateer. The most significant link between the two may be Erin Roberts who is also driving the story portions of Star Citizen now as well. WoSS isn't a fan of Priv's space combat engine, but they don't specifically describe what hasn't aged well. They do like the overall blend of open universe and storyline missions, and the author acknowledges that this is a good template to expect for the future. Strike Commander also gets a nod for its similarities and groundbreaking place as an Origin sim. Towards the end they dock Privateer 2 some points for not being helmed by Chris Roberts, but they leave out the part where it too was actually produced by his brother Erin in the UK - a model good enough to duplicate with Star Citizen! You can check out the full article here.

Sketch-a-Day Results Celebrate Wing Commander

Wingnuts make a lot of great digital art, but sometimes it's nice to step back and appreciate pictures drawn by hand. NinjaLA has put together two scenes of early Wing Commander fighters for your enjoyment. The Kilrathi collage is dominated by Ninja's popular Dralthi design. It's flying with a Gratha, Salthi and Krant escort. On the Confed page is a slightly more diverse lineup. Clockwise from the top left are a Scimitar, Hornet, Raptor, Rapier I and Broadsword. They seem to be struggling to hold formation, but that's how furballs go!
Some ‘o these designs ought to be familiar-ish to my Wing Commander people.

Saving a Dragon!

Way back in 1998, I was invited to take a tour of Origin Systems. I was a senior in High School, and was visiting Austin to tour the University of Texas… of course, what I really cared about was Wing Commander (and that hasn’t changed much!) Our PR contact, Mike “Boomer” McCoy, arranged for me to get a tour and to have lunch with the team. This was shortly after Wing Commander Prophecy Gold had shipped and the team was working on design concepts (little did I know, mere days before my visit their proposal for a co-op multiplayer game called Wing Commander Strike Team had been cancelled).

I won’t bore anyone with details of that tour (I’ve probably told that story enough times!) but I will mention that part of the tour involved a walk down to Origin’s basement. Stored downstairs were a number of arcade machines and a pile of seemingly random Origin props (a ruined Thrakhath head, some Crusader bits and bobs, old flight suits and the like.) The largest of these was what seemed to be the wall of a spaceship or a space station: a big wooden section with a window in the center.

At the time, I assumed it was a set piece from one of the Crusader games. It made logical sense to me: those were shot in Austin rather than Los Angeles, so it was far more likely that a wall segment had survived. And besides, it didn’t really look like anything I remember from Wing Commander!

Two years passed. In 2000, my (then new) friend Joe Garrity had his own tour of Origin… where he snapped his photo next to the same wall segment. After his visit, he sent me the picture with the question: what is this from? His tour guide had told him it was from Wing Commander, though he’d also assumed it was a Crusader prop. He had watched through all the Crusader videos (I’m sorry) and hadn’t come across anything like it. Was it a WC prop, or something totally unrelated?

I put my thinking cap on and ran through Wing Commander IV in my head. It felt like a Wing prop, but the windows and the exposed superstructure didn’t match anything in the game I could recall. And then in a flash of what I will maintain is brilliance, I figured it out: it wasn’t a WALL at all… it was the inside top of a Lance (Dragon) fighter! It was from the scene where Pliers reaches up into the ship and discovers the flashpak. What was hanging on the wall at Origin was actually the bottom of a spaceship, looking down! I was suddenly jealous I didn’t get a picture with it… although Joe thought I was a genius for realizing what it was! (Scroll to 2:10) Origin closed in 2004, and I think we all assumed it was thrown out along with anything else they didn’t want to ship to California (after all, what use could anyone have for a giant wooden spaceship hull slat?)

Flash forward another decade. I get a notification on my phone that there’s a new post to the exOrigin Facebook group (sorry, invite only.) There it is: a photo of the same set piece! It turns out a former employee had rescued it from being thrown out and had been using it to hold an entertainment center in the ensuing years. Now, he said, it had to go. Anyone who could haul it away was welcome too it.

I immediately replied that if he couldn’t find a home for it in Austin, I’d gladly have it shipped somewhere. That was beyond my financial means (it’s a really big prop!) but I figured I could work it out somehow. Maybe Chris would want it for the office! A conversation on the exOrigin user group ensued and several solutions were offered… including one person who said they wanted it for their charity haunted house. I figured I wouldn’t stand in the way of it going to charity, so didn’t follow up.

A week or so went by and I awoke to another update: it had not been claimed and was going to be thrown away at 5 PM today if it couldn’t find a new home! I knew I had to save it, but I had no idea how. I no longer lived in Austin and couldn’t just go and get it. Luckily, I knew a Star Citizen backer with a truck in town. After a crazed morning of trying to contact him while in the weekly Star Citizen Leads meeting (at one point missing a question about ship specs the UK guys were asking me!) I arranged to have him pick it up. An hour later, it was in the back of his truck (where it barely fit.)

He took it out to the CIG office in Bee Cave, where half the team stopped what they were doing and helped carry it up the stairs. It now sits in reception.

Ship butt PRESERVED!

Elite Pilot Takes Cockpit Design to the Next Level

Elite Dangerous is set for release this Tuesday, December 16, and Tyrranus spotted the video of an awesome way to play! The pilot below has three 3D projector screens arranged to form an immersive digital cockpit. He's also got a super slick custom touchpad setup, voice controls, top notch HOTAS controls and more. CNET has more info about his setup here. It gives everyone a good idea of what they'd need to get for a new Wing Commander game, right?
The setup also includes a custom touch interface dashboard, comprising three Treckstor Ventos 10.1 SurfTabs, running on Roccat Power-Grid software; voice commands available using VoiceAttack software; head tracking and gesture control using TrackIR and Leap Motion respectively; a Saitek X52 Pro HOTAS joystick and Logitech G19 keyboard; a Crossfire2x Sapphire RADEON R9 290 Tri -X OC video card with AMD Eyefinity, resolution 5,760x1,080; and sound via a Logitech Z-5500 5.1 surround system.

Goodbye, Larry Latham

LeHah has conveyed some unfortunate news, Wing Commander Academy producer and director Larry Latham passed away last month. I'll let LeHah expand:
Bearer of bad news, Wingnuts. One of the best of our best has passed on.

Larry Latham was the producer on Wing Commander Academy, the 1996 cartoon series on USA Network that I'm sure we're all familiar with. Despite working a lifetime in animation it was one of his few Producer credits.

I hate to say that despite my own long interest in animation and passing knowledge in Larry's main credits (he won an Emmy for his work on Disney's Talespin), this post isn't about his work but the man himself, a man that I got to know very briefly over the last few years.

BanditLOAF had asked me to track down Larry in anyway I could, in an effort to archive anything from WCATV he might have. Remembering that a lot of the crew on the show originally came from Universal Cartoon series ExoSquad, this gave me a perfect excuse to start talking to Will Meugniot who forwarded me on to Larry. Originally, I got the feeling that Larry was a little confused why anyone was asking about a show that lasted 13 episodes for one year, but he was very welcoming and humorous in his exchanges. I sat down at my work computer one day to find he had added me on Facebook and left a wallpost...

"Justin, Will told me you were looking for stuff on the Wing Commander Acadamy show. I produced and directed it. I'll be glad to share whatever I know or have with you, just let me know."

We had many brisk exchanges (much of it not about Wing Commander, but don't tell anyone that) and he was a very pleasant, very knowing person. He was very happy to divulge production secrets and brief glimpses into the production process of the show. He understood I was a fan and was part of a group who wanted to help keep his work remembered; he seemed very flattered by the idea that someone wanted to give him a legacy of sorts.

A few months after our first exchange, he started responding less and soon revealed a cancer prognosis. You can all tell where this story is heading already...

His originally quick replies in email and twitter started to peter out, but he still took the time to reply occasionally. After claiming immense frustration with a personal project on a Facebook status, he left a comment "Damn it Justin, you're already a writer! Do the work!" which meant the world to me (and was the kick in the ass I needed).

As time went on, he updated occasionally - struggling with the prognosis but slowly winning - and still drawing his webcomic "Lovecraft Is Missing". His lack of communication became commonplace, and so his passing was a quiet one. Weeks of not updating turned to months... and then stories on his Facebook from former students and coworkers filtered in. Larry passed on November 2, but I and many others didn't know until after Thanksgiving. I get the feeling he wanted to be remembered by people who knew him instead of it being a "public event".

Larry was the captain of a ship that added to the greater WC canon and he even defended the product from some people who wanted to turn it into a cheap cash-grab. He gave us a lot with those thirteen episodes (along with Adam Foshko as a creative producer) but more importantly - he was a really good guy and a good friend for the three years I knew him.

His obituary (which was the first news most of us got) - here

The announcement from his wife on his webcomic - here

I never got a chance to interact with Mr. Latham myself, but by all accounts, he was a genuine fellow with a passion for working with students to teach the creative arts. Few people are aware, but he actually did the Wing Commander community a big favor several years ago when VEI was developing Wing Commander Academy on DVD. Universal's source tape of the episode "On Both Your Houses" was missing about ten second of footage. LOAF was able to connect the two, and Larry graciously donated his personal copy of the original episode so that the series could be released whole. You can find the CIC's Academy section here. It includes the series bible, draft scripts, crew bios and more. Please take a moment to keep Mr. Latham in your thoughts as you peruse the material.

GOG Winter Sale Slashes Wing Commander Prices Again

It seems like GOG was just in the middle of its Fall Sale, but now their holiday-accelerated Winter Sale is coming to a close. They're going out with a bang, and Wing Commander is once again marked down by 80% for this weekend. This means all DOS and Windows Wing Commander games are available for under $10! This even includes expansion packs and bonus materials such as the official guides in PDF form or DVD quality videos in WC4. The series also makes a great gift! There's enough Wing Commander here to keep anyone busy for a few quite a while.

Prinze Talks Wing Commander

Wing Commander actor Freddie Prinze Jr. was recently interviewed on the Full of Sith Star Wars podcast. Prinze mostly talks about his early exposure to Star Wars and his recent voice work for Star Wars: Rebels, but around the 23:30 mark the topic shifts to the Wing Commander movie. They mention the Phantom Menace cross-promotion and making friends on set, but Prinze also blames production issues for the movie not living up to its potential. Check it out here.
Freddie Prinze, Kanan from Star Wars: Rebels joins the Full of Sith crew to discuss a variety of topics. From his earliest exposures to Star Wars, hints about the future of Rebels and his relationship with Mark Hamill to the difference between Dave Filoni and Vince McMahon, we cover it all.

Anticipation Builds As Orchestral Album Approaches

Composer George Oldziey is back with another big update on his mission to record a live album of Wing Commander music. Mixing the tracks is coming along well, and the target is to get a preview of the Bratislava portion out to backers this month. Work on the additional digital reorchestrations and the physical album CD will continue into 2015 a bit. George has also put together another awesome preview video. A larger behind-the-scenes documentary will also be available next year!
Busy creating final mixes of orchestra music!

Greetings all! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Just to keep you updated; I'm about half way through mixing the orchestral versions of the Wing Commander compositions that will be available for all of you (30 minutes plus). My plan is to have the digital downloads of these works ready this month before Christmas. They will be available in both the original, hi res 48 kHz 24 bit masters as well as 44.1 kHz 16 bit CD quality versions. The physical product as well the sample-based additional 15 minutes of music will be ready early in 2015.

I'm extremely pleased with the results of the sessions, and am having a WONDERFUL time listening to the results during the mixing process! It is my fervent wish that you will all share my enthusiasm once you get to hear them!

In the mean time, I've attached a short video that I recently, and quickly made of the process. This was done for a recent faculty show and tell type of event for the institution where I currently teach. It is not the official "making of" video, which BTW will also be available when the CD is ready, and will most likely be included on the CD. This is just a little taste of what's to come.

Yours truly,


nedstat extremetracker

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