Wing Commander in Game Player's

Game Player's magazine was an American publication which ran from 1989 through 1992 and aimed to cover all forms of electronic gaming, ranging from coin-op arcade games to console titles to PC and Amiga releases. The January 1991 issue featured a Wing Commander cover story (look closely!) which was a whopping five pages long. The following month, the magazine named Wing Commander the action game of the year... just slightly losing out to Railroad Tycoon for the top honors. The final scan is from the April 1991 issue, which featured an early mention of Wing Commander II.

It WAS Art!

And the record for most time to follow up a news story goes to... us! Way back in 2000 we ran an update on a newly-released Velvet Acid Christ CD which was said to contain hidden mp3 files from another abandoned project... one of which sampled speech from Super Wing Commander. At the time, I promised I would try and find a copy to learn more. Seventeen years later, I remembered to do just that! The CD in question (now an antique) does, indeed, include files visible when loaded onto a PC: 11 mp3s. An old-style README explains:

Hi low. Unreleased Dimension 8. Now released Dimension 8, for everyone! but mostly you die hards.

Disease here. Let me explain, this is an old release, very old. it's a gift, for free to all the hard core fans who are after ultra rare Velvet Acid Christ, i think maybe a total of 10 people have and or heard Dimension 8. So from me to you (hope you like). We wrote all of this heavily intoxicated on weed, lsd, and other tame mind expanding drugs. fuck all the hard drugs, they destroy you and take your soul, thus is the subject of much of twisted mind generator. Gear used on this old stuff: mks-50, dr 660, peavy dpm 3, juno 106. not much at all. Peace to Gary Slaughter, he and i wrote all this back in 1993 to 1994. These mp3s are free, you do not pay for any of this, you pay for twisted mind generator. upload, and download this material as you see fit. I pulled these off of analog tape, so please forgive the sound quality. 224. joine the 160 + mp3 generation. fuck 128 and lower. do not pirate, if you like something buy it. artwork is cool! so is having an original.. This is Velvet Acid Christ's Material, please do not rip, take credit, change the song names. Leave in original form if you do decide to upload..

What is funny, when we did this, djs, and radio people who heard this wouldnt play it, saying "its to weird, changes to much). Funny how this has become the vac trademark, changes, and weirdness. Now we sell thousands and thousands of CDs worldwide. Critics, eat my shit. Dimension 8 is by no means up to par with the VAC that has been released, that is why it is free. For the hard core. I like it when i'm on drugs. that is why we wrote dimension 8.

love you... peace to you.

brap on!

Well, uh, okay then. Track #2, appropriately titled "Furless Freak," does indeed feature voice and sounds from Super Wing Commander. We've put a copy here (11.5 MB mp3) for your listening pleasure. Case closed!

Pix Goes to Towns

Pix has an FM Towns! The FM Towns was a CD-based multimedia PC released in Japan in the early 1990s. The system is best-known for running unique, updated editions of Ultima titles and Lucasarts adventure games, but four Wing Commander ports were also released. Pix, the host of Pix’s Origin Adventures, is in the process of getting the first of these to run, which has meant upgrading the RAM, adding a hard drive and picking up a special joystick supported by the game! You can start the adventure with his ‘First Look’. If you’ve ever dreamed about setting up your own FM Towns, this doubles as an excellent how-to guide.

Songsworth Imagines Kilrathi Battle Cruiser

Here’s a weird one: the electronic music group Songsworth creates music inspired by science fiction worlds… and it seems they’ve taken some inspiration from the Wing Commander universe! Tracks on their 2013 album Second Star to the Right are titled "Wing Commander" and "Kilrathi Battle Cruiser." They appear alongside other songs inspired by Star Trek, Dune, Isaac Asimov’s Robots and more. Neat stuff! You can listen to both via Spotify.

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.

Goals:
  • 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.
extremetracker

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