An Afterburner Saga: The History of Wing Commander

Journalist Andrew Schour published a major Wing Commander article in the November 2003 issue of Russian PC gaming magazine Game World Navigator. More than just an article really, this 18 page spread dominates a major portion of the magazine. Virtually all aspects of the Wing Commander universe are covered in close detail. Starting with Wing Commander 1 and touching on spin off games, novels, merchandise, the television show, Privateer Online, Prophecy Advance and much more, he provides a complete Wing Commander history for all to see. Using dozens upon dozens of pictures and extensive background information available here at the CIC and WC in Russia, he's crafted something of a masterpiece Wing Commander work. There's good news and bad news about this however. The bad news is that it's not available for sale outside of Russia (and the November issue should be off news stands), but the good news is that they have supplied us with a high quality, complete and exclusive PDF of the entire article! It's really quite a joy to look at, even if you can't read Russian, because of the obvious attention to detail, research and numerous pictures of a diverse range of Wing Commander items. I'm inclined to print this out and use it as a reference when introducing new acquaintances to the Wing Commander universe. You can download this 10 megabyte PDF file for yourself here. Furthermore, on the magazine's cover DVD they included some of our Wing Commander Academy episodes, various patches and other great files. This is an awesome tribute to Wing Commander.
The following article appeared in the November 2003 issue of the Russian language Navigator Igrovoga Mira (www.gamenavigator.ru). The article was translated into English by Stewart Todd Morgan in June 2004.

An Afterburner Saga: The History of Wing Commander - by Andrej Shchur

Instead of a Foreword

The universe of Wing Commander is huge. In the nine years of the development of the series, more than ten games and seven books have been released, a feature-length film has been produced, and an animated cartoon serial was created. One can lose the way in this variety very quickly, and so I will push off in my story from the time of the release of this or that product. And another thing. The universe of Wing Commander was not completely conceived beforehand. It, like the Battletech universe, developed by means of plot "outgrowths" into the initial skeleton of an idea, so if desired, it is possible to discover a large quantity of "holes" and discontinuities. Don't be surprised by this if suddenly you decide to delve into the history and events of Wing Commander with your own hands.

On our DVD we tried to include the maximum possible quantity of demo versions, add-ons, and fan patches which are available at no cost on the Internet. We did NOT include a SINGLE Wing Commander game in its entirety for completely understandable reasons. However, as far as we know, if you search, it is possible to find almost all parts of the epic on the Internet (especially in Russia).

1986. The Beginning of the Journey

It will be best to begin the story of the creation of Wing Commander with the story of its creator. In 1986 Christopher Roberts, who prefers the shorter "Chris," went from England to the United States of America with the goal of securing his own place in the (computer) gaming business which was actively developing there. The young talent was noticed: Chris established himself at work, and not just anywhere, but at Origin as a game designer. In 1988 the first games were published in the creation of which Chris had taken part: these two were the RPGs Ultima 5 and Times of Lore (the last of which, by the way, strongly influenced the stylistic future of the sixth "Ultima").

Having favorably recommended himself after the completion of his first projects, Roberts took it upon himself to develop the concept for Origin's next game for which he planned to become the supervisor of work. As a result of the active flight of fantasy of the young designer (Chris Roberts was born in 1968, i.e. in 1988 he had just left his teens), a certain document appeared describing a game under the codename "Squadron." The game was a space simulator describing the struggle of the human Imperium and the Military Council of the alien Kilrathi in the 27th century of R.H. Player, a young graduate of the Imperial Flight Academy who was assigned to the 2411th Squadron "Blood Hawks," quartered on one of the best Imperial carriers, the ISS Tiger's Claw. Chris Robert's document formed the basis for what was subsequently called Wing Commander.

1990. Wing Commander: The Vega Campaign

Although Wing Commander was built on the basis of Squadron, there were quite a few differences between the design document and the final version of the game. For example, the Earthlings changed their state structure to the more politically correct Confederation while at the same time, the Kilrathi received the status "Imperium." The plot of the game unfolds in the Vega Sector, whereas primordially the mention of the struggle in this sector had been planned only as a pre-history for some other events. Certain aspects of Squadron where not realized at all (for example, it had been planned that before each flight the player would not only listen to the assignment, but would ask the commander several questions concerning the mission) or appeared only in later games of the series (for example, the possibility to choose a wingman in a mission). However, Wing Commander embodied a great deal of the initial idea.

Thus, 2464 has come, the Terran Confederation with varying degrees of success conducts interstellar war with the Kilra Imperium (Kilrah), a humanoid race resembling cats. However, a more accurate comparison here would be with lions: the erect aliens attain two and one half meters in height and conduct themselves extremely aggressively. The Kilrathi (and thus this race of cats call themselves) have a strange political system including traits of a totalitarian structure and a caste society with a large number of strict rules of conduct among which, for example, is the complete and silent submission of the vassal to his suzerain (clearly this was copied from medieval Japan).

At the height of the military action, the player, under the guise of a student of the Terran Flight Academy, Christopher Blair, arrives on the carrier TCS Tiger's Claw and, in the capacity of one of the fighter pilots, takes part in a campaign for the liberation of the Vega Sector. For its time, the game contains so many interesting innovations that you don't even know which to start with. I will dwell in greater detail on the special features of the first

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Wing Commander, for they form the basis of the series, giving to all of its following games recognizable family traits. In essence, the genre of space combat simulators itself was opened - prior to this, only the very ancient (for that time) Elite (published in 1983) is noted here, and other more or less contemporary examples on the space theme were, as a rule, arcade games where small ships were guided among crowds of alien enemies. As far as space combat simulators are concerned, there were only two simulators of flight technology published in 1990, LHX and A-10 Tank Killer, so "Wing" simply had no competition.

But this does not mean that the game made it on account of its isolation. In and of itself, the structure was new and engaging from the very beginning: the player became not simply the pilot of a fighter who obtusely and cynically completes mission after mission, but a live person who between flights can drop into the Officer's Club and chat with pilots just like himself. Having grabbed a buddy who is having lunch or playing cards, it is possible to hear instructions from full-fledged aces, telling the latest developments, describing different tactics of the struggle with fighters and capital ships of the Kilrathi or simply shooting the breeze. On the Board of Honor (this is the killboard) adjacent to the bar counter, one can look at the number of enemy ships destroyed by each pilot. Of course, by the end of the game you were always securely at its top, but after any of the initial missions, you always, as a first order of business, feel like looking to see if this time you made it past Maniac Marshall or the quiet Japanese Mariko with the nickname "Spirit."

The "implantation" of the player in the role of a pilot is greatly facilitated by the frequent animated cartoon scenes which accompany practically every game event, be it a briefing prior to a mission or the landing of the player's fighter after the completion of an assignment. I liked the latter exceedingly - depending on the damage received during a mission, the fuselage of a docked fighter was pockmarked of a differing sort with dents, burn marks and holes that looked simply wonderful. When one of the pilots perished or the player was awarded the next medal, this was always an event organized according to the rules of military science fiction: with a crowd of people and heartfelt speeches of the wing commander.

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Yet another distinguishing feature of Wing Commander was the non-linear campaign. The plot of the game was divided into sections of three missions apiece extending to one of the sector's star systems. Depending on how many assignments in that section the player completed successfully, he set out farther either along a "good" line or a "bad" line. The "bad" plot line naturally meant more difficult assignments and the necessity to complete all of them in order to return again to the "victorious" path, for at the very first failure the player proved to be on a notoriously losing line of the plot and almost certainly perished together with the Tiger's Claw.

As with the plot, so too did Wing Commander have no equal from the technical point of view in 1990. The very fact that the game supported 256-color VGA at a time when not many were experimenting with 16 and (that it) astonished qualitatively by means of rendered models of ships when the majority of simulators only attempted simple three-dimensional objects says a great deal. The secret of the beauty depicted in the pictures of Wing Commander is sufficiently simple and, at the same time, elegant. Instead of trying to reproduce honest three-dimensional objects (ships, bases and the like), as was done by their rivals, the developers "hid" them, having made them invisible: they put pictures drawn beforehand on top of invisible parallelepipeds of the fighters, replacing them depending on the turn of the object relative to the point of view of the player. Thus, the player saw in space a genuine enemy fighter which, although it was rotated sufficiently discretely, and in tight close-ups became pixelated, was nevertheless more beautiful and realistic than any other faceless three-dimensional block consisting of several cubes, however honestly it was drawn.

Gameplay was also the raisin in the pie of Wing Commander. The proposed flight model was based on the fact that, during the mission, the player had to fly to several waypoints of the patrol route, and it was possible to instantly overcome the distance between them by pressing the autopilot button. Next to such control points revolved the basic battle in space. As a rule, a flight of Kilrathi consisting of about three to five opponents came out against the fighters of the player and his charges. The tactics of battle were built on getting on the tail of the opponent with active use of the afterburner engines which consequently became one of the most memorable visiting cards of Wing Commander.

Game balance in the first "Wing", as in almost all of its continuations, had a preponderance on the side of fighters and bombers; all capital ships in the game were no more than tin cans with not too great a number of

(Page 123) hitpoints, and they dashed off sufficiently quickly. For both Kilrathi ships and Terran ships, the assignments to escort friendly "traders" turned into a real toothache: the opponent contrived to destroy a ship entrusted to you with two or three runs, therefore it was necessary in a literal sense to lay one's self out, mercilessly shooting down and ramming the enemies' fighters.

Having so many positive sides in its assets, Wing Commander became a genuine discovery in the world of computer games and was recognized immediately by two venerable magazines as the best game of 1990, and it sold over three million copies. In spite of the proverb "the first pancake is a lump," Chris Robert's first pancake was hardly a lump.

And what is a pancake without butter and jam: in the same year Origin immediately released two mission packs for the game titled Secret Missions 1 and 2.

1990. Wing Commander: Secret Missions 1

Another name for this project was Operation Thor's Hammer. The addition was typical of all add-ons, a collection of missions tied together with a new plot line but with all of the same old principal heroes and technicians already encountered in the game. In Secret Missions 1 the "Tiger's Claw" was urgently detached to the Deneb Sector where communications were lost with a colony on the planet Goddard. Having arrived on the scene, the carrier discovered that the colony had been completely destroyed by some sort of new Kilrathi super-weapon. For the entire add-on, the Tiger's Claw pursued the enemy's squadron, penetrating deeper and deeper into the heart of the hostile sector. Having cut off the retreating Kilrathi from supply lines and having destroyed transports with reinforcements, the "Tiger's Claw"overtook the hostile flagship Sivar - a dreadnought carrying an experimental weapon on board which increases the gravity on a planet one hundred-fold. Since up to that time Blair was considered the very best pilot on the ship (already having risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel), the honor of blowing up the opponent's mega-tin can fell directly on him. Who would have doubted it, right?

There were two basic innovations in Secret Missions 1: first, in one of the missions of the new campaign it was possible to engage not the fighters of the Kilrathi, but those known to the player as "Raptors" and "Rapiers" and at the same time to blow up a corvette of the Confederation (they were supposedly seized during one of the Kilrathi raids). It is possible to call the second innovation a sharply increasing difficulty of a passing grade. The add-on did not show any sort of leniency to the novices; straight-away from the first mission, the player is placed against up to twice as many enemy ships than was the norm in the original game (if earlier ten destroyed Kilrathi seemed a first-class result after one mission, then now it became the norm).

1990. Wing Commander: Secret Missions 2: The Crusade

The Crusade appeared practically simultaneously with Operation Thor's Hammer, but it proved to be much more studied and deep. The plot of the add-on revolved around Sivar-Eshrad, a Kilrathi religious ceremony foretelling the success/failure in future hunts of the Kotyar. This ceremony was the central event of the Kilrathi society and it demanded the presence of all of its soldiers. In 2655, following after the events in the Vega and Deneb Sectors, the planet Firekka was selected for the holding of the Sivar-Eshrad, and at that moment negotiations were taking place on the planet concerning the conclusion of an alliance between the people of the Confederation and the half-bird local inhabitants of Firekka. The protection for the diplomatic mission was, understandably, the Tiger's Claw. And so, imagine: from the beginning the player was engaged in intrigue, reporting between patrol missions that the Kilrathi for some reason suddenly began to retreat from all sectors of space, and then they are gladdened by the fact that all hostile fleets began to head right for the Firekka system. The add-on is devoted to how the Tiger's Claw wiggles out of an increasingly complex situation, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the hostile armada and attempting to save Firekka (having just entered the Confederation, the Firekkans are threatened with a complete massacre - the Kilrathi won't tolerate it if the presence of some non-believing local population hinders the ceremonies).

The add-on is also interesting due to the fact that personalities of the principal characters are more strongly described. Now it is clear that the war directly touches the pilots of the Tiger's Claw: "Bossman" Chen perishes, and his wingman, the always "very proper" Angel, begins to be upset, accusing herself of incompetence. Hunter's younger brother perishes, having entered the Space Commandos; "Maniac" Marshall finally goes downhill, having been pretty well damaged in Secret Missions 1; Mariko "Spirit" pines for her fiancée who proved to be on one of the stations seized by the Kilrathi, and Iceman, completely impenetrable at first glance, hopes to meet with his refugee daughter whom he lost six years ago.

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Apart from the already well known characters, another trio of forerunners of the second part of Wing Commander appeared in the add-on, appearing for the time being only in the capacity of auxiliary heroes: these were the pilots Doomsday and Jazz and also the Kilrathi prince Thrakhath. In a continuation of the tradition of suicide missions begun in Secret Missions 1, The Crusade went even further: 20 heavy fighters against a pair of light Hornets was a frequent occurrence in the add-on. Fortunately, sometimes such missions did not demand a head-on attack and having met with 10 enemy ships, it was sufficient simply to bolt home on afterburners. Little joy was supplied by new missions in which it was necessary to fly in a Dralthi, a light Kilrathi fighter which had fallen into the hands of the Terrans. Reminiscent of a thick pancake cut in half, these fighters proved in actual fact to be not very far removed from a thick pancake in terms of firepower, so that to fight in them against the heavy Krant and Gratha was almost pure suicide.

Concluding in The Crusade the foolishness with add-ons for Wing Commander, Chris Roberts undertook a full-scale continuation which was released the following year.

1991. Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi

The beginning of the Nineties was nice because the sequels of games were released far more frequently. Not everyone had managed to obtain Secret Missions 2 when Wing Commander II went on sale. The continuation of the best game of 1990 did not go face down in the dirt and proved to be no worse than its predecessor, and even better in some respects.

The sequel greeted the player far from joyously: some time after the events of The Crusade, the "Tiger's Claw" was destroyed by Kilrathi ships armed with a stealth generator. Blair was at this time patrolling the vicinity and returned when only fragments of the Tiger Claw remained. Fleet Commander Admiral Jeffrey Tolwyn took charge of the investigation of this emergency situation personally - He did not believe Blair's story about an invisible ship, he publicly accused him of betraying the Confederation, he reduced his rank to captain and sent him to the middle of nowhere to serve on a bedraggled space station. The game begins on this very station where, after the passage of ten years, the earlier hero of the Confederation, but now universally branded "traitor of K'Tithrak Mang'a" Blair quietly kills time as an escort vessel pilot. The state of affairs radically changes with the appearance of the TCS Concordia, the Confederation attack carrier which is being pursued by Kilrathi ships. In view of the complexity of the situation, Blair as an experienced pilot is called to active duty and enters the staff of Concordia pilots in which it turns out that a number of his old acquaintances are serving: Jazz, Doomsday, Spirit and Angel who has attained the rank of wing commander. Apart from them, there is a very memorable character, a Kotyar by the name of Ralgha who earlier was a captain of a Fralthi class cruiser during the battle for Firekka in Secret Missions 2. Having proved his loyalty, he was put on the staff of fighter pilots and chose the callsign Hobbes which was the surname of the well-known English philosopher.

The basic plot line of Wing Commander 2 is the same struggle with the Kilrathi - the "Concordia" jumps from system to system, and Blair flies his own missions, shooting down hostile ships. Simultaneously with this, espionage horrors unfold: it is discovered that there is a traitor on the ship who is reporting intelligence to the Kilrathi. In parallel, a love story develops between Blair and "Angel"

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Devereaux. In the end, the good guys triumph: the traitor is revealed - he proves to be "Jazz" Colson who, it is explained, 10 years ago helped the Kilrathi destroy the Tiger's Claw in order to take revenge for the fact that the carrier failed to arrive in time to save his home, the Goddard colony. Blair shoots down Colson as he attempts to escape, destroys the Kilrathi headquarters on K'Tithrak Mang, proves to all (and Tolwyn in particular) that the invisible fighters do in fact exist, and in general clears his besmirched name no worse than Aunt Asa. The result is the final triumph on the deck of the "Concordia", heartfelt speeches, medals and the main reward: a demand from "Angel" to appear in her cabin with a bottle of champagne.

In comparison with the first part, the structure of Wing Commander 2 was somewhat recut. Now the plot is advanced not simply through tales of fellow pilots and briefings of the wing commander - instead of this, between missions it was possible to knock on the door of the ward room and look at the next part of the plot (often this was the same idle talk, but sometimes animated scenes were encountered), after which the door opened allowing access to the next mission.

Graphically, Wing Commander 2 made use of the same technology of the application of pictures to invisible three-dimensional objects. Of course, the pictures were redrawn and looked more detailed than in the predecessor, but, following the wishes of someone who apparently turned their nose up at the militaristic gray style of the first Wing Commander, the ships in the second part looked crudely adorned. All of these green-red- and gray-brown-crimson Confederation spacecraft and also the Kilrathi ships daubed in yellow, red, and bright brown tones which, from the side, only lacked the inscription "shoot me, here I am!", looked quite unpleasant.

Gameplay acquired a clear-cut definition of flyable tin cans for fighters and bombers (more accurately, torpedo bombers) - this was now very clearly felt in both the speed and maneuverability of ships. The presence of bombers became more justified on account of the fact that the principal capital ships were made vulnerable only for torpedo attacks: neither cannon fire nor ordinary rockets had any effect on them now.

As a whole, as was already said, the game proved to be a worthy successor of the series. Many liked the greater support for the personal sufferings of Blair, the stronger accentuation on him in particular as the principal hero rather than his co-workers. Also pleasing was the diversity of the missions which, in general, literally invited themselves after the monotonous patrols of the first Wing Commander. Of course, one can be put off by the rather threadbare notion of personal vengeance which had been defeated in the plot, but that sort of trifle was not felt in the general plan - Wing Commander II became a new milestone in the development of space combat simulations.

1991. Wing Commander 2: Secret Operations 1

As was the case with the first Wing Commander, Origin decided to develop the success of the sale of the second part of the game and went along the well-trodden path of the creation of add-ons. In the course of two years from the moment of the release of Wing Commander 2 yet another two add-ons were released: Secret Operations 1 and 2. They were created analogically to the Secret Missions - using all of the available resources of the game (ship models, interiors, character pictures) plus minimal innovations for the creation of self-sufficient plot branches of the swelling Wing Commander game universe.

The plot of Secret Operations 1 seemed to consist of two parts: in the beginning of the add-on, Tolwyn summons Blair and first of all returns his old rank and raises him at the same time to lieutenant colonel, and second, he offers him entry into a special secret sub-unit of daredevils in an intelligence corps, which according to Tolwyn's expression, "takes on insane assignments and, as a rule, fulfills them." The commander of this sub-unit is "Paladin" Taggart who retired on a pension as a fighter pilot, but instead became an intelligence officer. Blair accepts Tolwyn's offer, but before he can begin to fulfill "Paladin's" secret assignments, he has to take part in the capture of the mutinous cruiser "Gettysberg" by the "Concordia." The situation proved to be

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incoherent to him: The ship's crew refused to carry out the captain's unjust order to attack defenseless transports of Kilrathi refugees after which the senior commanders were placed on a shuttle and sent packing. Having considered that as a result of such open disobedience according to the laws of the Confederation the entire crew would be brought before a tribunal, the mutineers decided to become "romantics of the highway" and took to robbery, successfully seizing the Confederation station in the Rigel System. All along the first half of the add-on, Blair has to communicate with the mutineers to persuade them to enter into negotiations, to explain that the misunderstanding has been resolved (and that they are not considered social outcasts), after which he must destroy the remainder of the mutineers who have decided that being a pirate is a lot more interesting.

Having dealt with the "Gettysburg", Blair accompanies Taggart's ship, the Bonnie Heather (oh, those damn Scots...) to the Kilrathi system Ghorah Khar where the local Kotyars have already been engaged in an uprising against the Imperium and actively cooperating with the Confederation. As Taggart explains, the insurrection has recently expanded and seized yet another three Kilrathi planets, therefore it is extremely important to defend the main hotbed of resistance, Ghorah Khar, to which is headed a huge attack group of the Imperial army. The role of Blair in this situation amounts to the escort of transport vessels supplied by the rebels with weapons and supplies and also the destruction of several huge hostile Kilrathi cruisers.

A basic innovation of the add-on in the plan of gameplay is the new Crossbow bomber in which Blair must fly approximately one third of the 16 missions of the add-on and which, as was stated in the game, became the new stage of development of the Broadswords. I don't know what it has to do with development, but they didn't put any afterburner engines on this fool, therefore the question of development was debatable. Of course, five nose cannons instead of three - that's a good thing (but not that good - they took away the side gun turrets), and the cruising speed of the tin cans increased, but what sort of ship doesn't have afterburners in a game where a great deal is built upon the use of afterburners? It isn't a ship, but a coffin with nozzles. Missions demonstrate this very graphically where it is necessary to fight with speedy fighters who easily wind up on your tail.

1992. Wing Commander 2: Secret Operations 2

By comparison with the first, the second Wing Commander 2 add-on was not rich in interesting events. The plot returned us to the principal bad guy of Wing Commander 2, Jazz Colson who was sentenced to death by firing squad, but for some reason it was decided to do this on Earth and therefore he was sent there on a prison ship. The ship was seized by the Mandarins, a faction of Kilrathi human-myrmidons. They freed Colson who immediately becomes the head of the movement and begins to threaten to drag the entire Confederation by its ears, and Blair especially.

In parallel with the sorting out which Blair begins with the Mandarins, tests of a new experimental fighter, the Morningstar, take place on the "Concordia." Guess who is the leader of the "Wild Eagles," the test pilot unit? That's right, Todd "Maniac" Marshall, a completely unhinged creature, heaven knows where he got lost after the events of the first "Wing."

According to its characteristics, the Morningstar is not even related to fighters, but to heavy attack craft. Powerful shields and armor, three Particle Cannons, rockets, torpedoes plus one nuclear warhead are a typical example of overkill, thanks to which the add-on passed far more easily than its predecessor.

As a whole, Special Operations 2 was more weakly received: the missions were less interesting on account of their monotony, the plot line, another exploitation of the personal vengeance idea, seemed far-fetched, and the Morningstar turned the passage of the last third of the add-on almost into a cake walk.

It was quite wild to watch the attempts of second-rate heroes blame Blair for the fact that he in vain did not shoot down "Jazz" at the end of Wing Commander 2. If someone in a real army tried to blame an acting colonel of impropriety in his actions, I shudder to think what would happen to the imbecile, but here Blair only grinds his teeth and enters the fray. But for lack of something of the sort on the market, the add-on sold like hot cakes, passed in a single breath and firmly occupied

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its place in the line of products with the Wing Commander label. Concluding the credits of the add-on, the promising phrase "wait for the third Wing Commander" gave special joy to the fans of the series. But to wait for the continuation required three whole years...

1992. Freedom Flight

In 1992 the thing for which fans had waited since the moment of the release of the first part finally happened - the first novel concerning the Wing Commander universe appeared. It was written by a certain Mercedes Lackey in co-authorship with Ellen Guon, who had a hand in the creation of all the "Wings," including the add-on Secret Missions 2 where she acted as a scenario writer. The action in the book took place during the time of the events in the aforementioned add-on. The basic part of the book is set forth by Ian Saint-John, a Tiger's Claw pilot well known by the nickname "Hunter." A dashing Australian, never parting with an unchanging cigar neither in the game nor in the book, he proves to be a daredevil even more twisted than "Maniac," constantly contriving to walk into adventures up to this very cigar.

The book is also interesting due to the fact that the Kilrathi society is described in a more or less detailed fashion for the first time: one of the principal characters of the story is Ralgha nar Hhallas, a representative of a group of dissidents trying to end the war with the humans and finding severe opposition within the Kilra Imperium. Being the captain of a cruiser, Ralgha receives a direct order to establish communications with the Terran forces and enlist their support for an uprising being prepared in the Ghorah Khar System. Going against all principles of society and the Kilrathi laws of morality, Ralgha carries out the order and surrenders to the Terrans as a prisoner together with his own ship. The irony lies in the fact that the same laws demand of Ralgha the surrender into captivity to a concrete army. This "army" turns out to be "Hunter" Saint-John, the first to land on the surrendered cruiser. As a sign of his intentions, Ralgha also hands over to Saint-John all of his rights to his very devoted vassal, the young Kilrathi, Kirhu, who finds himself in complete mental collapse due to the incomprehensible actions of his suzerain.

Freedom Flight supposes another conclusion to the defense of Firekka, departing somewhat from the standard ending of the add-on: not wishing a new alliance between the Firekka and the Terrans, the retreating Kilrathi seize and take with them several highly-placed Firekka prisoners (more accurately, female prisoners for a matriarchy flourishes on the planet). The reckless "Hunter" decides to help his Firekkan acquaintance K'Kai in the liberation of her kinfolk: he seizes the Bonnie Heather, a speedy ship which has just entered into "Paladin's" secret service. The group of five ("Hunter," K'Kai, "Paladin" plus his assistant and Kirha who is tagging along after his new master) contrive to get unnoticed into the opponent's orbital base and to free the prisoners.

The book was written with lively language, however, not getting caught up in the idiotic "bah-bah" and "piu-piu," it contains a certain portion of humor in the description of the intercourse and understanding of different races and it was accepted by fans with enthusiasm.

1993. Wing Commander Academy

While Roberts and his team sweated over a new game from the Wing Commander universe, Origin, wishing to use the resources of Wing Commander 2 to the end, decides to release a small transition project which would not demand a great financial expenditure. Such was Wing Commander Academy, a simulator without a plot, created by one of the company's internal development teams.

In essence, Wing Commander Academy is simply an editor which allows the player to personally formulate a mission, choosing the quantity and type of Kilrathi spacecraft for each of the flight waypoints. All of the ships in the game, be they fighters or capital ships, were taken straight from Wing Commander 2. The only

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type of game offered in Wing Commander Academy which was foreseen beforehand was the Gauntlet, successive battles with gradually increasing numbers of hostile fighters. It made no sense apart from the possibility to test how hard-boiled you are. And for this, the game was recognized as a complete step backward even by ardent fans of the series. However, some maniacs, finally settling on Wing Commander at the moment that Wing Commander Academy was released, employed the game in a somewhat "non-traditional," but original manner: during their evening gatherings when they played the next role-playing module in the game universe which was conducted according to homemade rules, Wing Commander Academy afforded the gamemaster indispensable assistance in the need to fly through some mission which was critical for the plot of the module.

1993 Wing Commander: Privateer

In truth, 1993 was a year of contrasts for Wing Commander. If Academy had proved to be a failure, for the majority of gamers in the beginning of the Nineties still were not schooled to buy good deals, intending to clip coupons on the well-known titles, then the out-of-the-blue Privateer proved to be so successful, that many space combat sim fans considered it the very best game of the series up to this point and, in general, the standard of the genre.

No one hid the secret of the game's success for there was no special secret: Roberts' team neatly projected the conception of the unforgettable "Elite" onto the Wing Commander universe, and the result proved to be simply stunning. The player became a freebird: a pilot, a trader, a mercenary, a little of everything, and he furrowed the space of the Gemini Sector which bordered that of the Kilrathi, getting involved in different adventures and earning a life for himself and a little for the upgrades of his spacecraft.

The basic "innovatory" idea of the game was indeed the complete freedom of movement and choice of action. In "Privateer," it was possible to move from system to system, stopping in to space bases and landing on different planets to fill up with a broad spectrum of goods and shuttle to one's contentment. It was possible to enter into trade guilds and mercenary guilds in order to complete missions created by chance. Apart from that, the game had an interesting plot revolving around a secret artifact of the long-destroyed Steltek race. The plot line was, alas, linear, but it allowed one to go and work for a time for smugglers, the Confederation, and even for the sector's huge corporations. What was especially nice was the fact that the plot assignments were not foisted upon you, they could be fulfilled in order, but it was possible to break off at any moment and just "fly," accumulating money and upgrades if the offered assignment proved to be excessively difficult.

Although "Privateer" is accepted to be a side outgrowth of Wing Commander, in its spirit, it was very close to the original: as before, bars on different planets were the center of the plot vicissitudes where the player received new assignments in personal conversations with employers, frequently exchanging witticisms. Bartenders were always sharing old wives' tales and rumors with the player, thanks to which it was possible to find out how matters stood in the Gemini Sector and in the Confederation as a whole: for example, that the Kilrathi had destroyed the Confederation Sixth Fleet at the battle in the Midgard System (the name was familiar to players already from Wing Commander 2); or that, on certain planets located close to the front lines, starvation had begun, and the Confederation had officially turned to all colonies with a request to focus production on foodstuffs. The game world was actually alive, it enveloped with events, gradually "immersing" the player into itself, making him, together with all of his personal problems and adventures, a part of the general game universe. And it was great.

Graphically, Privateer looked acceptable, although there was no more talk of industry leadership - as before, the game employed "pseudo-3D," an incremental improvement from the time of the first Wing Commander: it was pretty, but pixelated and stretched. And this, if you study it, was a year after the appearance of X-Wing which made use of honest-to-goodness three-dimensional objects which looked simply magnificent against the backdrop of space. However, some lag in

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the technological plan was compensated for by magnificent work by the designers who had created excellent models for sci-fi fighters and merchant ships and also beautiful planetary landscapes.

"Privateer" also had shortcomings, although they were rather more like small quibbles. Many "greenhorns," who had not played the previous parts of Wing Commander and still did not recognize that the ships in the game demanded basic upgrades and who were bursting with a large quantity of money, considered "Privateer" too complex. And indeed, it is worth mentioning that, before the beginning of the basic line of quests, it was very desirable to buy the Centurion beauty and outfit it to the max. Another complaint concerned the small quantity of ships available for purchase: they were only four in number, and this is in addition to the fact that in the whole game there were more than ten different types of spacecraft.

In spite of these shortcomings, Privateer instantaneously became an enduring classic of the genre. This once again confirms the fact that Freelancer, which was released at the beginning of 2003, in places "rips off" from "Privateer" point for point - this is especially obvious in the comparison of the plots of the two games.

1993. Privateer: Righteous Fire

Like "Privateer" itself, the add-on for the game appeared with almost complete silence from the Origin advertising department. Most likely, in this case such a policy was justified: those who had played through the game and settled on it were already aware of it, and those who had not yet played it had to start from scratch and get "Privateer" itself and only then install the add-on on top it.

As one might expect, in Righteous Fire the adventures of the principal hero (although in the game his name is not mentioned a single time, it is officially considered to be Grayson Burrows) continued. The new plot line described the disappearance of a Steltek cannon which the principal hero received close to the end of the original game. The player again met with old acquaintances in the add-on - the librarian Masterson, Admiral Tarrel, Captain Gooding and others, and completed various missions and, in the end, crushes a sect of religious fanatics, The Church of Man, who are planning to destroy the entire sector with the aid of mass-produced copies of the stolen Steltek cannon.

The add-on incorporated minimal changes in gameplay, including several new upgrades for ships. One can consider the basic innovation of the game to be the departure from the completely linear quest tree to the side of small variations from three plot lines advancing in parallel, nevertheless, it is true that they rejoin after a certain amount of time.

Apart from the add-on for "Privateer," 1993 is famous for the release of the Deluxe Versions of Wing Commander and Wing Commander 2 which were released on CD along with the associated add-ons for the games.

1994. End Run and Fleet Action

Two new novels based on the Wing Commander theme were released into the world during 1994. The first of these was End Run which was written by the pair Christopher Stasheff (well-known for his fantasy serial "The Warlock in Spite of Himself") and William R. Forstchen, being a "chronicle" series, it encompassed another five pieces of fiction.

End Run is broken into two parts: a prolog written by Stasheff and the principal part of the book executed by Forstchen. The plot tells about how a commando unit from the carrier "Tarawa" which had been written off beforehand and given an unseen funeral was sent along with two escort ships to the Kilrathi homeworld, Kilra, with just one goal: to raise a ruckus in the opponent's rear, to draw upon itself a part of the hostile armada, thus giving the Confederation a chance to deal with the remaining group of hostile ships. The operation was planned from the start to be a suicide mission, for no thought was given to a plan of return from

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the heart of the Imperium. The narrative is conducted from the point of view of the pilot Jason Bondarevsky, whose callsign is "Bear," and who was mentioned for the first time in Special Operations 1. Jason, being a wing commander and an active pilot on board the "Tarawa," takes part in the raid, helps to destroy a shipyard containing several ships of the line, at a critical moment he takes on command of the carrier, accepts battle with the Kilrathi who have taken the bait and almost miraculously manages to withdraw his damaged ship from the system and return home with the victory.

Although the character of the personages in the book are registered very convincingly and interestingly, it is obvious that the authors are only distantly acquainted with the technical basis. Beginning with small errors of ship statistics (in the book it is said that the Kilrathi light Sartha is more maneuverable than the Ferrets, although the matter stands quite to the contrary), endless stupidity in the description of the battle in space ("he turned sharply upwards" or "he left in the peak" - one feels like adding "with a climb"; no, in space there is no concept of up and down, and that's it!) and concluding finally with the unreal moment when the damaged "Tarawa" jumps into the atmosphere of a gas giant. Even the Kilrathi, so interestingly described in previous novels, here are turned into some sort of malicious dimwits who only want to kill a few more humans.

In my view, End Run was tangibly weaker than Freedom Flight: this fiction proved to be too much of a game, trying in this to look like serious and intelligent sci-fi.

The second fiction piece of Forstchen, which was issued a little later, proved to be much better. Fleet Action is a direct continuation of End Run, carrying the reader to 2668 when both the Confederation and the Imperium proved to be pretty lifeless. In this situation, the Emperor has resorted to cunning and has asked the Imperium for time to build a new fleet of 12 supercarriers, each of which has the equivalent strength of three Terran carriers. Having grown tired of the thirty-year war, humanity immediately seizes the chance to conclude a peace, in spite of the fact that Kilrathi prisoners openly acknowledged the illusory nature of the agreement which is achieved and laughed at the trusting little humans. Even Tolwyn did not trust the peace, and he obtained the moth-balled "Tarawa" in a private order, and gathered old acquaintances for its crew: "Bear" Bondarevsky, "Paladin" Taggart, "Hunter" Saint-John and others - and he headed secretly to the Imperium to clear up rumors of a fleet which was being built. The "Tarawa" fulfilled its mission. Yes, the fleet did exist, and more than that, it was already headed for the Confederation border. The war erupts with new strength, but it is practically impossible to stop the Kilrathi onslaught: even having only 6 of the planned 12 monster carriers, the Kilrathi burn a path right to the Solar System, where also takes place an epic struggle with the not-so-clever title "The Battle for Earth." Thanks to the genius of Tolwyn who commands the defense, they managed to seize the carriers by means of landing ships, having made use of a screen of a huge number of private ships of all sorts, collected from around the system and placed in the field of battle as a distraction. Earth holds out, although at the cost of the loss of almost the entire battle-ready fleet, several colonies and the huge earth cities which were destroyed by nuclear strikes.

One of the important elements of both fiction pieces is the exposure of the character of Admiral Tolwyn who in all of the games of the series is a very arrogant scoundrel, but here appears as an officer working for the state and its soldiers, a real man of honor.

Fleet Action strongly influenced the further developments in the Wing Commander game universe. In particular, this book became in some measure the basis for the development of the plot in Wing Commander 4. Apart from this, it describes very well the condition in which the Confederation found itself at the beginning of the events of Wing Commander 3, released in the same year, 1994.

1994. Wing Commander: Armada

Before beginning the conversation about Wing Commander 3, it is worth mentioning another game released not long before its appearance. The subject is an interesting experiment - a hybrid of Wing Commander and strategy.

"Armada," being created by the same collective which had worked on Wing Commander Academy a couple of years previously, combined within itself the features of its failed predecessor with new and very entertaining features. The basic regime of the game offered the player the opportunity to become the captain of a carrier (in the Confederation and also in the Imperium) and to fight with a hostile carrier on a strategic map of the sector, deciding in a field regime where to move one's fighters, what systems to hold under control and which to leave. The economic part was very primitive: in captured systems it was possible to build a mine, a shipyard and a stronghold, and also different fighters and transports. All of this was created from the resources from a single pool amassed with the help of mines on the planet and conveyed to the carrier (the only capital ship from each side) by transports.

When fighters of the different sides proved to be in a single system, a battle screen was loaded, the player hopped into one of his ships taking part in the clash, and he took part in the sorting out of things, shooting down hostile tubs in the style of Wing Commander. So the principal object of the game was to destroy the hostile carrier as the key hostile figure in the sector.

Apart from such non-standard gameplay, "Armada" was good for two reasons: graphics and multiplayer. Having finally rejected the aging pseudo-3D, the game rolled in the possibility of a new completely three-dimensional engine which was consequently employed in Wing Commander 3. Of course, the screen resolution was still only 320 x 200, but then they were real three-dimensional fighters flying around in space,

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and all of their polygons were attractively textured. The Wing Commander series again proved to be technologically more advanced than its principal competitor - the space combat sims of the Star Wars universe, the last of which, Tie Fighter, as before was without textures on the polygons.

But the main joy for the fans was the possibility to play head-to-head, using either split-screen or a cable or a modem. Now all questions about who was more hard-boiled than whom could be decided not in a comparison of their flight hours in Wing Commander and Kilrathi kills, but in honest duels or in team fights of up to six players.

Unfortunately, only the multiplayer capability allowed "Armada" to not be consigned to the dump, for the game had one big flaw which turned the single player mode into a horrific bore. I am talking about the absolute lack of A.I. which was schooled in only one tactic in any attack and only one departure to the side when receiving damage of any significance. As a result, all battles with hostile fighters came to "drop speed to zero, fire, wait, observe the enemy moving to the side and turn for a new attack after which fire again." Any hostile ship was destroyed by such an artless (I would say moronic) means, killing without a trace any interest in battle with the computer in the second hour of acquaintance with the game. Add to this the absence of a normal campaign plot and you will understand why a game with such interesting cherished dreams proved to be so uncalled for.

However, in 1994 no one grieved particularly on account of this, since by this time work was completed on the continuation of the main line of the series. Wing Commander 3 had gone on sale.

1994. Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

No matter how Origin humored its growing army of fans, whatever "offshoots" from the main plot line they released, the people stubbornly waited for Wing Commander 3. And the continuation of THE space combat sim was released, again demonstrating that Chris Roberts and his team were not gobbling up their Big Macs for nothing - it is possible to compare the transition from Wing Commander 2 to Wing Commander 3 with the transition from DooM to Quake.

The first thing that strikes you is the four CDs on which the game is placed, at the same time the game's previous part was huddled together on 7 diskettes. Such an insanely huge quantity of space (according to 1994 standards) was filled with full motion video - video with the participation of several far from unknown actors of Hollywood in the capacity of the game's principal heroes. Malcolm McDowell in the role of Tolwyn, John Rhys-Davies in the role of "Paladin," Tom Wilson in the role of "Maniac" and (oh, God, it really was him!) Luke Skywalker for all times and peoples, Mark Hamill in the role of Blair - this company, appearing in the very beginning of the game, completely knocked the feeling of reality out of the proceedings. "Oh, then this is not a game, its a film!" - yelled the ticked off fan of the series, and he was right: Wing Commander 3 can be considered practically the first experiment in an interactive movie in the game industry, where the plot was subject to the actions of the player, changing and showing new video scenes depending on choices made by the player in a conversation or in the quality of the fulfillment of flight assignments which were presented to him.

The game's plot opens in 2669, several months after the defeat of the Confederation described in Fleet Action. The "Concordia" on which Blair served earlier was destroyed during the attempts to cover the evacuation of the colony from Vespus. Blair himself at that moment was undergoing medical treatment, so one might say that he was lucky. Our principal hero heads for the urgently recommissioned ancient carrier Victory, one of a few remaining battle-ready Terran ships.

A strict military workday routine begins: Blair carries out missions, fights with Kilrathi fighters, periodically chats with his buddies (among which proves to be his old acquaintances "Maniac" and Ralgha nar Hallas). The plot immediately tells about two secret Confederation projects with the help of which Earth plans to conclude the drawn out and almost-lost war. The first project is a pet project of Tolwyn's, the super-dreadnought "Behemoth", which in essence, is simply a huge cannon capable of destroying

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planets. Alas, they don't manage to use it as planned: Prince Thrakhath sends a communication to the "Victory" activating a hidden program in Ralgha who until this moment, not even suspecting that the last 15 years, fighting for the Confederation, he is a double agent living with a replaced consciousness. Having remembered his real self, Lord Ralgha recognizes the weak side of the defense of the Behemoth which helps the Kilrathi successfully complete an attack and blow up the dreadnought.

It is true, Ralgha himself does not escape vengeance - Blair blows up his fighter in a one-on-one duel. In spite of sharply diminishing chances to win the war, the Confederation proved to have one last ace up its sleeve - a tectonic bomb, destroying the stability of a planet's core, which leads to its complete explosion. A most complex operation to deliver the bomb to Kilra is, surprise, surprise, entrusted to Blair who flies off on his assignment with just three partners. Kilra is blown up, practically the entire top of the Kilrathi society, beginning with the emperor, is completely destroyed (including even, you won't believe it, the superman-like Prince Thrakhath'a, who has gotten out of every scrape since Wing Commander 2). Remaining alive, Counselor Melek officially recognizes the defeat of his race in the war and on behalf of all Kilrathi surrenders personally to the "Heart of the Tiger," Blair, thus completing in Wing Commander 3 the entire era of the war with the cat race.

The structure of the game was somewhat changed, retaining the basic traits of the series - the bar as a place of intercourse, waypoints in missions, the division of accessible ships into fighters and bombers. There were also innovations, where would we be without them. First of all, Blair was given great freedom of movement inside the carrier: it was possible to roam about three decks, wandering to the bar, to the bridge, to the landing bay in search of personnel accessible for discussion. Secondly, the possibility arose to flirt with two members of the female sex. Chris Roberts apparently decided that the l'amour which grew between Blair and Jane Devereaux in the second part and threatened to mutate into marriage reflects badly on the romantic halo of the principal hero, therefore in the beginning of Wing Commander 3, "Angel" perishes as a prisoner of the Kilrathi, selflessly giving "Maverick" Blair the opportunity to score with a girlfriend without a twinge of conscience. There are even two endings in the game in which Blair flies off on a vacation to Earth together with his chosen lady.

Third, in so far as Blair has become the full-fledged wing commander on board the Victory, he can now choose on which ship to fly a mission, what weapons to equip it with and what wingman to choose for himself. Well, and fourth, apart from the possibility to fight in space, in Wing Commander 3 there are ground missions - as frightening as a mortal sin and with a non-textured surface and absurd limitations on movement, but they were there all right, varying the gameplay.

Space battles became more high-speed and dynamic. For example, I will never forget the moment when Blair had to beat the young pilot Flash in the simulator in the duel on the Arrow - the fastest and most maneuverable Confederation fighter. There is no discussion about a series of hits from the cannon of this squirrely little ship. The only means to win was either to wear down the opponent, constantly pursuing until he had no fuel for his afterburners, or to firmly sit on his tail and release rockets at almost point blank range so that he would not manage to get out of the trap and evade. Of course, the Kilrathi fighters were not as good as the Arrow, but it also became more difficult to fight with them.

But then in the struggle with capital ships, cannons and ordinary rockets again became effective, so that to choose low-speed sluggish bombers armed with torpedoes became necessary only in rare situations when the assignment was to immediately destroy several capital ships at once. However, and here was the cleverness: for example, it was now possible to take out hostile carriers, flying straight into the hanger and shooting from the inside.

Being very demanding on the hardware (the game supported SVGA screens at 640x480 resolution!), Wing Commander 3 was recognized as the best reason to make a machine upgrade in 1994 and firmly went into the same rank with the first parts of the legendary series of space combat sims as a gold classic.

1996. Wing Commander Academy TV Series

Following after the next fiction piece from William Forstchen, devoted to the

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events of Wing Commander 3, and also the card table game related to the Wing Commander universe released in 1995, Origin conducted an information attack on the very youngest ranks of the series' fans. The most terrible weapon came into play which can only be applied against an unestablished young consciousness: animated cartoons. The weekly cartoon serial Wing Commander Academy was released onto television screens, numbering 13 episodes from the first (and only) season. There were some changes for the plot of the cartoon film version of Wing Commander: Blair proved to be on the Tiger's Claw (which was commanded by Jeffrey Tolwyn) as a cadet, in addition to which he came on the ship together with his classmate and very best friend "Maniac" Marshall. Together with other cadets, the animated Blair and Marshall fought the Kilrathi, listened to the exhortations of Tolwyn, landed on planets and chronically did not execute orders of the authorities, for which they were only rebuked, forbidden to fly for a short period.

In spite of the fact that the character voices were depicted by the same actors who played in Wing Commander 3 (Hamill, Wilson, and McDowell), the weak graphical rendering, reminiscent of cheap cartoon series of the 1980s, plus the sufficiently primitive children's plots of the episodes did not allow the series to be taken seriously. However, you have a chance to judge for yourself - it is contained on the DVD disk.

1996. Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

If Wing Commander 3 became the "gold" of the series, then Wing Commander 4 can boldly be christened the "platinum." Remember this figure, ladies and gentlemen: 12 million dollars. Indeed, in so much was poured out the production of a new space game blockbuster, comparable with the grandeur of Ancient Rome in which began to appear the first signs of its future collapse.

Having completely exhausted the theme of external enemies, the plot of Wing Commander 4 turns to internal enemies. In 2673 a conflict between the Union of Border Worlds and the Confederation flares up: both sides accuse the other of attacks on trade vessels and colonies and of preparing for war. Tolwyn, achieving by this time the rank of head of the Strategic Readiness Agency (a special state organ for the defense of the Confederation), summons Blair who has not managed to live five years in retirement in order for him to participate in a military-diplomatic expedition to the border worlds as the best known and respected of all the heroes of the wars with the Kilrathi. During the expedition, Blair fights with pirates, and following after his friends Captain Eisen, "Maniac," and "Vagabond," he goes over to the side of the Union of Border Worlds and finds out that the tension in the region is specially created by the secret Black Lance group in which genetically improved soldiers of the future have been developed. The leader of the project proves to be none other than Tolwyn, who is quite touched in the head on the question of the security of humanity from external enemies and who decides to cause a clash between the UBW and the Confederation in order to bring his supersoldiers out of the shadows and to place them on guard for the Fatherland. In the finale of Wing Commander 4, Blair's carrier, the "Intrepid," is pitted against the supercarrier "Vesuvius" which is under the command of Tolwyn. They manage to destroy the "Vesuvius," Blair addresses the Confederation Assembly, reveals Tolwyn's plans and manages to avert war. Everyone, apart from Tolwyn, rejoices. The latter, unable to bear the shame, hangs himself.

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The game continued and developed the tradition of full-motion video begun in Wing Commander 3. This time the video clips looked quite smart, for instead of creating backdrops on the computer, thanks to a larger budget, now real scenery was created for two carriers on which Blair served in the course of the plot development. The quality of the video was also improved as well as the direction which also added pleasure to their viewing.

In comparison with Wing Commander 3, gameplay changed technically only slightly, but this became a reason for a perceptible increase in the complexity of battle in space: the player's ship now became, how should I say... more fragile. A successful burst of fire from a hostile ship was quite capable of exploding the player's fighter, and the fact that the opponent became far more skilled (i.e. frequently) in the use of rockets even further reduced the chances of surviving in close battle until a more powerful ship fell into the hands of the player. Wingmen also now ceased to be shy, rendering greater aid in the passage of assignments, at times shooting down no fewer ships than the player. However, they were also destroyed more frequently because the overload of a mission was a much more customary affair: sometimes the whole tactic of a passage was built on the fact that in order to fulfill the established assignment, the opponent's fighters were decoyed by your own mates. Quite a bit of euphoria from genuinely interesting missions in the game was ruined by the presence of a greater quantity of standard "fly-along-the-points-and-kill-everything" patrol missions.

Wing Commander 4 was met by the gaming world with less joy than its predecessor. No, the fans of course squealed with delight, but the simple players on the sidelines were frightened away by the greater complexity plus the very obtrusive ads from Origin passing off as the super-duper-game of the millennium a good but somewhat arcade-like space combat sim crossed with a not-too-bad (but no better than that) sci-fi film. The Price of Freedom became in truth the price of freedom for Chris Roberts. After the completion of work on Wing Commander 4, he left Origin and founded his own company under the name of Digital Anvil.

1996. Privateer 2: The Darkening

After the departure of Chris, his brother, Erin Roberts, took it upon himself to lead Origin's new project. He had already taken part in the creation of several "Wings" before this, but not in the leading roles. This time he was the fully empowered producer of the project. And so, what came of this...

In actual fact, Privateer 2 is not considered a part of the Wing Commander game universe. Everything is quite simple: this game does not actually have anything in common with it, it was developed as a separate product with its own design and game world. But for some strange reason, Origin just had to play up the name of the great space soap opera in the target of the ads, and had already almost finished off the game by changing the name which consequently elicited considerable irritation on the part of Wing Commander fans. Proceeding from the aforementioned, we won't dwell on this game especially, only mentioning some of its aspects.

The principal shortcoming of Privateer 2 was the absolutely unbalanced gameplay. The player could roam about the sector, landing on different planets, but in fact, it was absolutely unnecessary. Practically all of the upgrades and ships in the game could be obtained on the starting planet. To accumulate the money necessary for their purchase, one could repeatedly do the same thing, to rush about with a shuttle between two planets separated by a distance of three jumps and make about 20,000 credits for a single trip. In spite of an abundance of accessible ships, enemies were shot down equally easily in both the average ship and in a red-hot superfreighter - the enemy succeeded exclusively by means of numbers and not by skill. A first-class piece, consisting of the hire of a cargo ship for the completion of trade runs (the player's ship could not carry goods itself), turned into a natural cheat when you took an armored giant with you on a difficult mission, destroying opponents with two hits. But the chance generation of ships at each jump point between planets was what really got on my nerves. You jump and at the exit point chance-generated pirates are already waiting for you, and the structure

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of the game was such that while you destroy them, it is impossible to fly further. While you deal with them, they get chance-generated reinforcements. And then again he jumps. And yet again. Once, some pirate buried me 70% through these "new arrivals" - I specifically managed to glance at the kill counter for the flight before this. There were about twenty jump points on the path from planet to planet. And at each point the danger existed yet again "to get held up." Flights turned into a vicious variety of masochism.

In a word, Privateer 2 looked defective, ruining several good ideas under a heap of bad ones. For which one of the very worst games of the basic line of the series was also recognized, and as before, all fans of Wing Commander diligently avoided this product, justly not considering it a part of their favorite universe.

1997. Wing Commander Prophecy

"Predictions", as Wing Commander 5 was also called unofficially , was created by a fairly renewed team in which there was no person by the name of Roberts. Meanwhile, it was still too early to speak of the decline of the series. On the contrary, at Origin they had already tried to take stock of all the inadequacies which players had expressed on account of Wing Commander 4 (the basic claim was that the direct game process often failed due to the unending stream of video inserts). As a result, Wing Commander Prophecy returned to its roots in terms of style - the basic emphasis in the game was on gameplay, leaving the plot unpretentiously simple and understandable, and the quantity of video was cut by more than a factor of two (Wing Commander Prophecy occupied three modest disks as opposed to the monster Wing Commander 4 which was accommodated on six CDs).

In Prophecy, instead of the twice-retired and aging Blair, the principal hero became Lance Casey, a young pilot who was the son of Iceman - one of the characters in the first Wing Commander. The action of the game took place in 2681 when Casey is posted to the new carrier Midway straight from the Academy. Among the young pilots on board the ship are discovered familiar faces of the previous games in the series: "Maniac," "Hawk," the commando commander Decker, the technician Rachel Coriolis and Blair himself, who has attained the rank of commander. The "Midway" stumbles across a new threat to humanity - the beetle-like race called the Nephilim, a multitudinous and decidedly hostile bunch. Actually, the game is named "Prophecy" because according to the plot, the appearance of this race was foretold in the Kilrathi bible, The Book of Sivar, as an unavoidable vengeance which must come and destroy their civilization. But insofar as this assignment was almost completely carried out by the Terrans, then now they have to have an understanding of this "vengeance." After successfully conducting a campaign against the avant guard of the armada of the alien interlopers, the pilots of the "Midway" manage to plug up an almost-completed space portal through which the principal invasion should have begun. It is true, Blair perishes in this, having decided at last to fly a little and play the hero.

A new graphics engine was used in Wing Commander Prophecy which supported the 3D-accelerators which existed at the time of the game's release. Even now, the picture rendered in Wing Commander Prophecy looks pretty good (especially if you apply the special fan patch from our disk which allows an increase in the screen resolution of game), and at the time these were outstanding graphics, in addition to which it was contrived not to slow down in software mode even on mid- and low-end machines: on my Pentium 166 with 16 MB the operation of the game hardly slows down, although in terms of quality, it looks head and shoulders above the sometimes pokey Wing Commander 4.

The physics model improved on a par with the graphics, calculating (not in all events, it is true) mass and velocity of the ship and graphically demonstrating it in sharp turns on afterburners and the inclusion of an inertial mode of flight.

The battle in space became more fluid, adding an aesthetic and polished quality to the dogfight which was lacking in Wing Commander 4. Alas, as before, the opponents succeeded exclusively by numbers, and no small ones. Or rather it wasn't so: The enemies in missions were NIGHTMARISHLY MANY. Justifying their beetle-like nature, the otherworlders attacked by the dozens, capturing all of the surrounding space. The four- to five-fold numerical superiority of the opponent was a common affair. The first seconds of battle were typically devoted to the release of several rockets in order to quickly reduce the numerical preponderance to a more or less acceptable level and to finish off the remaining beetles, chasing after them and shooting with cannons.

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Finally, it is worth mentioning that Wing Commander Prophecy is practically the first game in the series in which you can sense the scale and might of capital ships. Flying past the "Midway" or a Nephilim cruiser, you are actually flying along the body of ship which goes on and on and on. In the game there were several special missions in which it was necessary to clear hostile capital ships of a mass of gun turrets on which they were established.

1998. Wing Commander: Secret Operations

Without even realizing it, the Wing Commander series of games was on its last lap. The last full-fledged game product in it was Wing Commander: Secret Ops - a separate game created wholly and entirely with the Prophecy engine and using all of the models and special effects on hand as "donors."

The most interesting thing in this stand-alone, underrated hyper-add-on was its means of distribution. The nucleus of the game, consisting of all the graphics, models and the initial episode of the plot were accessible for free download through the Internet (this distribution is also contained on our disk). But all of the following episodes, issued at intervals of a couple of weeks, had to be purchased, turning Special Operations into a natural soap opera. The new sales method did not catch gamers' fancy - far from everyone could allow themselves to download the episode files of several dozen megabytes each of which had to be paid for separately. The plot line, which was advanced only in the form of a pilot's diary which it was possible to read on the site and the text briefings prior to missions seemed too scanty and uninteresting to fans of the series who had been raised on the multidisk full-motion video. After the appearance of the Black Vampire fighters, the gameplay lost the balance of forces which had been regulated with such difficulty, and even a still greater quantity of hostile fighters in missions did not return to the game its lost charm. And with the end of the release of the episodes came the end to the entire Wing Commander game series. However, it still had a swan song...

1999. Wing Commander: The Movie

Already in 1998, the main news on the lips of fans of the series, in low spirits after Secret Ops, was the report that Chris Roberts in conjunction with Electronic Arts intended to make a film about Wing Commander. The headlines of articles devoted to the making of the film were peppered with phrases of the type "Starship Troopers meets Top Gun" and described how Roberts was spending the 50 million dollars devoted to the picture. Already this figure alone should put one on one's guard: it is not in the style of Hollywood to make a quality blockbuster for less than one hundred million greenbacks. But nobody wanted to believe the bad prognosis: in various interviews, Roberts described how he loved the themes of the Second World War and "Star Wars," how with the help of his own studio, Digital Anvil, he was creating quality special effects that would allow more money to be allocated to other expenses so that the film would be received as a genuine gift by all Wing Commander connoisseurs. Ah, the dreams, the dreams...

The film's fundamental trouble was the attempt to cram a maximum amount of information into a minimal amount of space, losing in the process the colorfulness and elegance of the account: The Kilrathi-coordination-Earth-Blair-The Tiger Claw-need-to save-our-we are penetrating-to-the jump-point-babble-babble-a-a-a-a-of our-they are firing-Blair-jump-Kilrathi-r-r-r-babble-babble-hurrah-a-a-a, we won! And in the course of all this, Blair suddenly proves to be a half-blood of some sort of Pilgrim race and with one hand calculates jump coordinates through a quasar. In a subsequent interview, Roberts justified himself saying that there wasn't enough money, that everything had to be cut, reduced, and the like, but all this was, so to speak, "cheap bribes" - the film did not get any better as a result of this.

On the positive side of the film, it is worth mentioning that the special effects were indeed quite high quality, and the staff of actors was considered to reflect the internationality of the future: the majority of roles in the film were given to British and

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French actors (speaking of which, the film itself was shot in Switzerland). The only failure in the casting which inflicted irreparable damage to the film was the invitation to Freddie Prinz, Jr., the star of "cinema for girls," for the role of Blair: this thick-lipped, featureless spawn looked absolutely miserable in the place of the principal hero, and even the excellently played "Maniac" by Matthew Lillard and also the charismatic "Paladin" Taggart played by Tcheky Karyo could not correct this sad sight.

Consequently, the film was an utter failure. The critics didn't spare the poison, utterly crushing the film. More than that, even the most zealous fans of the series could not take it to the end: alongside the clumsy direction work, the film committed sacrilege. Roberts interpreted the universe he had created and the events taking place within it, introducing previously unknown items - the Pilgrims in no way meshed with the Wing Commander background and plot. But fans gritted their teeth and resigned themselves, for such proved to be the will of the creator of their favorite game universe.

1998-2000. The Commander of an Online Wing Probably one of the most often asked questions about the present and future of Wing Commander is the bewilderment concerning online play. And indeed: why after so much success with Ultima Online at Origin did they not undertake to create a full-scale MMORPG for such a popular game universe, after all, everything literally cried out about the profitability of such a project (fans of the series cried out particularly)? At Origin there was a huge concept base describing the game world from top to bottom, and the development team had great experience in creating both space combat sims and online games, and what's more to the point, had a name at the mere mention of which crowds of players were ready to prostrate themselves.

In fact, such a game was in development, although it did not survive in any comprehensible version. The matter was of the following form: close to the end of 1998 when work on Secret Ops was complete, the development team headed by Neil Young pondered what to do next. The choice, strictly speaking, was between two projects: the long-contemplated Privateer 3 (which even managed to accumulate some concept art) and a game with the working title Wing Commander: Strike Team - a new part of the series intended from the start as a multiplayer and cooperative continuation. In the end, it was decided to work not simply on the single player with advanced dispositions for multiplayer, but also MMO - a large, purely online project receiving the simple name Wing Commander Online.

Work on Wing Commander Online was conducted right up to March 1999 when the Wing Commander film was released to the world. It is impossible to simply maintain that the lack of success of the film itself led to the following purge at Origin, as a result of which the entire division working on Wing Commander was sacked, and Neil Young was reassigned to other duties, but the fact remains - in March 1999 the project was terminated and the staff laid off.

The story doesn't finish here. After several months, Origin again rehired almost everyone who had worked on the Wing Commander Online project for participation in a new project of the company - Privateer Online. Rumors circulated that the game might become completely ground-based, that there would be no flights, and the style would be maintained in the spirit of Ultima Online, i.e. something along the lines of the recently released Star Wars Galaxies where the fight for space was so far located only in the project.

Alas, Privateer Online outlived Wing Commander Online only a little: in the beginning of 2000 Electronic Arts again re-examines the policy of the company and decides immediately to renounce several works in progress in favor of Ultima Online 2.0 and (!) Earth & Beyond - a project competing at the same time with Privateer Online. The workers were again laid off or reassigned to other divisions, and they waved good-bye to the online "Privateer" and it closed together with the remaining part of Origin. And so, ladies and gentlemen, Electronic Arts can rightly be considered the murderer of any last chance of the appearance of an online Wing Commander.

There are great suspicions that the reason for the choice of who lived and who did not was in fact the failure of the film which finally undermined the faith of the publisher in the viability of the series which had long ago lost its conceptual founder. As far as Privateer Online is concerned, the following is well known about the game: the engine for Ultima 9: Ascension was taken as the basis for the ground movement; the time period for the game was chosen approximately during the events having a place in Wing Commander: Prophecy, and the ships (yes, space combat simulation was still being planned) had a model structure graphically reflecting its own model upgrades which the player had purchased and installed.

2003. Epilogue

Such was the conclusion of the Wing Commander series. Only horns and hoofs remained of Origin; Chris Roberts, having created at Digital Anvil the Wing Commander-like Starlancer and the RTS Conquest: Frontier Wars, left the company and managed to work up to the present time at the multimedia company Point of No Return after which he went to Ascendant Pictures. At the present moment, he is working as a producer, situated in the process of making the Hollywood blockbuster Punisher which was created on the basis of the comics by the same name. It would seem that time itself has closed the story, having placed on Wing Commander a big fat cross.

But...

There are a couple of things which won't let me do this:

a) Electronic Arts recently announced the development of a new Ultima series which Origin created in its own time;

b) quite recently, the same Electronic Arts released a remake of Wing Commander Prophecy for Gameboy Advance.

What does this say? It says simply that at Electronic Arts, such a famous label is not abandoned. So who knows - perhaps after a couple of years the next "Wing" will be stirred up. I would like to believe it. Oh, how I would like to believe it.

Picture Captions

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Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: The legendary logo in all its beauty

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: The bar on the Tiger's Claw. "Paladin" and "Angel" are sitting at the table

Column 3, Caption on Picture 4: The killboard is really almost a blackboard. And the winner is...

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: At a briefing. The captain is preparing to send Blair on an assignment

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: "Angel" with a big plan. A beauty...

Columns 1 and 2, By the Way...: There is an interesting story connected with the name "Kilrathi." Chris Roberts could not think of a name for the race of enemies in the game for a long time, after all, it simultaneously had to be memorable, unique, and speak for itself. After long torture, Roberts was going through all of the words which should elicit the necessary association in the player's mind. As a result of a multitude of different combinations, he singled out the two words "kill" and "wrath," combined them and added the ending "i" to make it more alien-like. Thus were born the famous Kilrathi.

It's funny that in the territory of Russia this name immediately acquired several alternative versions. What didn't we call those poor cats: Kilrakhi, Kilrafi, Kilrati, and even Kilrachi. In principle, from a phonetic point of view the closest of all to the actual name was "Kilrafi," as the sound "th" is closest to the "f". But, in accordance with the traditions of translation at the time of the Soviet Union, it was customary in similar circumstances to translate such compositions simply as "t", therefore we decided not to depart from the canon and to write "Kilrati".

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: The joyful "Spirit" reports the shootdown of a Kilrathi. Well done, Tanaka!

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: Blair reports personally at a debriefing after a mission.

Column 2, Caption on Picture 3: A diagram of the campaign in sections

Column 3, Caption on Picture Set 1: Depending on the quality of the fulfillment of a mission by the player, the video segment differed, showing the general situation on the front.

Column 3, Caption on Picture Set 2: Awards in the game were delivered on the accumulation by the player of a fixed quantity of hidden points charged for the shooting down of a Kilrathi ship.

(Page 122)

Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: The Dralthi has but a second to live...

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: And that's all!

Column 1, Caption on Picture Set 1 (bottom of column): Only in the first part can the mates of the principal hero perish - in all the remaining parts, they ejected "in silence" with the exception of the instances prescribed in the plot

Columns 2 and 3 (top of the page), By the Way...: There is a story connected with the surname of Wing Commander's principal hero. If his first name is understandable (it is sufficient to remember who the primary developer of the game was), then his surname was born interestingly. For some reason, the original Origin artists decided that a blue color best suited the principal hero for his hair (this is in addition to the fact that the game was in 256-color VGA, and all the other heroes had quite seemly coloration of hair cover), and in the process of development they called the still-unnamed character simply "blue hair." The name took root so well, that it was decided to leave it, abbreviating it only to "Blair."

Columns 2 and 3 (bottom of the page), By the Way...: This is how the contents of the Wing Commander box looked. Four drawings of the fighters, three diskettes, a Readme on separate pieces of paper and a manual styled after a monthly brochure for pilots of the Tiger's Claw under the name of "Claw Marks." By the way, its scanned variants can now be found easily on the Internet.

(Page 123)

Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: The wicked Kilrathi burned Goddard. A heart-rending sight...

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: A favorite tactic of battle with the Ralari: get behind him in the... uh-uh-uh... tail and bang away!

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: This is what he was, the super-dreadnought Sivar

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: There was a very original save menu in Wing Commander - the cots in the pilots' barracks.

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: A rare event in the first Wing Commander, permitting one to see the Kilrathi outside of their ships. The scene "The Kilrathi emperor kills a guilty captain through the hands of his charges."

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: The Terrans conclude a treaty with the Firekkans.

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: The eternal fatalist Etienne "Doomsday" from the tattooed tribe of the Maori and "Jazz" Colson - already in Secret Missions 2, I didn't like him. There was something about him, he wasn't ours...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: Alarm! Alarm! - the ship's klaxon usually roared

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Practically a unique event: to return from a mission without a single scratch

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: Oh, how much sweat and profanity was required for me in my time to get to this final victory scene...

Columns 1 (bottom of the page), By the Way...: Insofar as the Kilrathi race was cat-like, the developers decided that their language would also resemble the snarls and rumblings issued by earthly cats. The word "Kilrathi" itself was taken as a basis - the basic sounds of Kilrathi became "k", "h", "r" and "t". Just listen to these splendid names: Rha'hri, Ralghra nar Hhallas, Prince Thrakhath...
Or here, for example, are several quotes from Kilrathi:
"Ek'rah skabak erg Thrak'Kilrah maks Rag'nith!" - "In the name of the glory of Kilra, the Emperor, and the Imperium!"
"H'as aiy'hra n'hakh ri'kahri krikajj, nai korekh sha'yi," - "Behind my enemies back, I have prepared the ground for his destruction" (supposedly, a proverb)
"Kir'kha n'ikh rakh k'har, Sharhi nar Hhallas," - "I, Sharhi nar Hhallas, vow to avenge my honor."

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: The first difference encountered in the game - colorized Kilrathi, finding familiar traits

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: The briefings didn't change much. Except "Angel" now leads them.

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: A Ferret taking off. The conceptual precursor to the Arrow

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: Here's the graffiti with which to daub those Kilrathi ships...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: Some video clips took place right during the flights

Column 3, Caption on Picture 4: An Epee. Oh, how many hours did I fly in this fighter?...

(Page 125)

Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Ralgha. An Ussurian tiger in the service of Her Majesty

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: Oh God, "Angel," what have they done with you!

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: The deck of the "Concordia" was executed in the style of the "crazy 70's." How much and what were the artists at Origin smoking?

Column 1, Caption on Picture 4: "Jazz" Colson. Ooo, a snake in the grass!

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: Jeffrey Tolwyn. In the second "Wing," he wasn't a complete scumbag - he even praised Blair sometimes

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: Blair. No, he was drawn better in the first part

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: Am I upside down or is it the "Concordia"? What difference does it make: the landing is automated anyway

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: In Wing Commander 2, "Angel" acquired her own office

Column 3, Caption on Picture 4: One had to escort Kilrathi transports in the add-on

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Surrounded by mutineers. Of course, as soon as the fat hit the fire, they not only let you out of the cell, they also offer you a new bomber, the bootlickers...

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: The Crossbow from the left, and "Paladin's" Bonnie Heather from the right

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: The technician, "Sparks." This girl slips in as a character in several fiction pieces about the game

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: A field court-martial for Colson

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: The Concordia, a view from the front

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: Yes, already. Now "Maniac" completely matches his nickname

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: The cockpit of the "Morningstar" looks very much like some sort of F-16

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: One had to sneak into the Mandarin base on the Bonnie Heather. "Paladin" in a Hawaiian shirt on the background of the red cabin is even more surrealistic than the deck of the "Concordia."

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Asteroid fields were a bear in the first and second Wing Commanders. The only thing that was worse were the mine fields

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: In the Broadsword it was necessary to climb in via the ladder. Nevertheless, it was a heavy bomber!

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: The "pilotess" Mynx tried to make a pass at Blair in Special Operations 2. I think Blair wouldn't drink so much...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: The masterpiece quality of the project could be felt even in the introductory trailer. "Pwidishch-Pwidishch" fired the Confederation ship; "babams!" - the Kilrathi fighter echoed to him...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: Such was the mission creation screen. Nightmarish asceticism is yet another trait of Wing Commander Academy

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: In Wing Commander Academy there was only one, or more accurately, two innovations: each side added one fighter apiece. In the screenshot you can see the view from one of these "innovations" by the name of Wraith.

Column 3, Caption on Picture 4: The High Score table. As depressing as Eeyore.

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: A map of the sector had to be purchased in pieces

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: The plot B.S. in Privateer began with this stone fragment

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: With the purchase of new devices, they were immediately reflected on the model of the ship standing in the hangar.

Column 2, Caption on Picture 3: You go to the left - you buy a "Centurion", you go to the right - you stumble across a "Galaxy." Choose, o buyer, for your initial ship, the "Tarsus," is a piece of trash...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: Four tachyon cannons in the game easily destroyed far more fantastic ships than the cardboard Talons

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: One of the signs of "Privateer": if there are no employers in the bar, it means you landed on the wrong planet!

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: The bored girl in the office of the mercenary guilds spends all of her time on a manicure...

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: It is possible to trade whatever you like in "Privateer": from water to slaves

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: And here is the principal hero, having lost a little to the Pioneers, who stole scrap, he picked the noble cannon off of an alien fighter.

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: The Earth, the Earth! This is the first! The first what? The first "Privateer"!

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: One had to butt heads with the Kilrathi in Privateer as well

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: This meat dumpling now gives a radio talk. I never liked religious fanatics

Column 2, Caption on Picture 3: The temple of The Church of Man: before and after my pilgrimage

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Thus was Jason Bondarevsky in Wing Commander 2

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: The battle in split-screen. Pay attention to the alarm for the Arrow's energy shield on the right: from the first, for a long time I could not admire this special effect enough

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: Flying over a nest of the Confederates

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: Still not Wing Commander 3, but not quite Wing Commander 2 either

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: The first time an Arrow lit up in Wing Commander Armada

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: The construction screen. Well, what fighter shall we sculpt?

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: Finally, a cockpit you can turn off in the game. Hip hip hooray!

Column 2, By the Way...: Just before the release of Wing Commander 3 it was decided to release the game not on 74-minute CDs as had originally been planned, but rather on 64-minute CDs as market analysis showed that many gamers still had not acquired CD-ROM drives capable of reading disks of the new type. In conjunction with this, several scenes were cut out of the PC version. The majority of these had no special significance, but there was one that was key to the plot - a video-letter of Ralgha's explaining his actions which Blair could look at primordially in its own little cabinet - which also "mysteriously" vanished. You can find it among the other Wing Commander files on our disk.

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Column 1, By the Way...: The fact that the role of Blair in Wing Commander 3 and in all of the following games was fulfilled by Mark Hamill was not only the fulfillment of a dream for Chris Roberts, who was raised on Star Wars and created Wing Commander with an eye to that space epic, but also proved to be a very powerful advertising move in the struggle with the principal rival of Wing Commander 3, Tie Fighter. The transition of the main hero of Star Wars to the Roberts universe was symbolic, as if demonstrating which game was better.

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: Blair versus the Kilrathi. I will say right away: friendship wins

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: A Broadsword in ambush. It doesn't resemble the original, but its mere presence brings joy

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: Tolwyn moralizes.

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: In places the serial reminds one of the Hanna-Barbera efforts to recreate anime with American colorization

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: From the huge plans of the Kilrathi you begin to be strongly nostalgic for Wing Commander 2 and its magnificently rendered Kotyars...

Column 1, Caption on Picture 3: Now Blair presses the button on the stick, and the Happy Ending of the next series commences...

Column 1, Caption on Picture 4: The Tiger's Claw in an animated interpretation

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Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: Ships in the store

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: For some reason, all of the cannons in the game fired only long bursts with weak impetus

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: The main hero of Privateer 2 was played by Clive Owen - a lifetime, lesser actor

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: The planets in the game were reminiscent of balls of dirt hanging in the middle of space

Column 3, Caption on Picture 3: Why do we have these goods here? Grain - 6 credits, fertilizer - 6 credits, pure water - 9 credits. A marvelous economic system...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 4: Christopher Walken unexpectedly appeared among the completely unknown actors in the second "Privateer"

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Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: Several orbiting stations looked quite all right from the inside

Columns 2 and 3, By the Way...: In the same year with Wing Commander 4 and Privateer 2 two more products under the same label were released: These were a new fiction piece by the irrepressible Forstchen and a new reissue of earlier games in the series which included the first two "Wings" and all of their additions plus the third part. All of the games were updated for normal installation under Windows and they had several modifications such as music of improved quality in the first parts of the game and also the possibility to switch off the cockpit which was blocking out two thirds of space on the screen. "The Kilrathi Saga" was a product in the "must find & buy" or "kill & steal" category, and if you are an aficionado of this game or want to be, get a copy. No kidding.

(Page 136)

Column 1, By the Way...: After Wing Commander: Prophecy, on the border of 1997 and 1998, another two Forstchen fiction works were released. This time, its true, the "book-with-a-motif" was avoided. The first work, Action Stations illustrated the period at the beginning of the war of the humans and the Kilrathi in the 2630s which had not been touched by the games or by any authors, when the father of Prince Thrakath'a led his fleet against the Terrans for the first time. On the other hand, Forstchen's second book described the situation between the races immediately after the destruction of Kilrathi by Blair and the end of the war: one of the former Kilrathi admirals decided to avenge the defeat of his kind and led a dreadnought against the young border republic of Landsreich. Jason Bondarevsky again became the principal hero of the book, recalled from retirement by Tolwyn; he reanimated the damaged Kilrathi cruiser "Karga" and triumphed over the newly-appeared avenger from the race of cats.

Column 1, Caption on Picture 1: In the movie, the Tiger's Claw turns into this small sausage. In fact, the little ship began to look a little better

Column 1, Caption on Picture 2: What do you think: how many years until space combat sims attain such graphics quality?

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: A Kilrathi strangles Roberts who had made a lousy film. That's the way to hold him!

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: Chris Roberts couldn't resist the temptation and in the film played a cameo role as the pilot who saves Blair, who is suffocating in his own fighter

Column 2, Caption on Picture 3: "Maniac" shows off before the technicians after a dizzying landing. A common affair

Column 3, Caption on Picture 1: And this is Blair? Don't laugh at my slippers!...

Column 3, Caption on Picture 2: ...and here is the good "Paladin", the devil take it

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Column 1, By the Way...: After the film, Origin tried to release a trilogy of fiction works, rewriting the Wing Commander universe in accordance with the Pilgrims who now appeared in it. But of the planned books, only two were released: Wing Commander (the events in the film were described in it) and Pilgrim Stars. The conclusion of the trilogy - Pilgrim Truth - was finished, but the publisher refused to publish it, fearing failure. Very smart on his part.

Column 2, Caption on Picture 1: If you look in the lower left corner of the drawing you can see a small waving insect. This fighter was the height of several grown people. Such were the capital ships planned for the game...

Column 2, Caption on Picture 2: As you see, it was planned to make the "trademark style" of the Kilrathi ships even more memorable.

Column 3, By the Way...: By the way, about 15 people worked on the Star Wars Galaxies project who had worked on the Wing Commander series. In the photo: J. Allen Brack - co-producer of Star Wars Galaxies with a placard "I yelled at Chris Roberts and did not get fired!"

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