#Wingnut Q&A with series creator Chris Roberts

See the full log from August 10, 2012 here.


Chris_Roberts> So are there any burning WC questions that anyone has beign dying to ask?
Chris_Roberts> I think Ben & co have probably covered everything but you never know!


AD> When is the special edition of the Wing Commander movie comming out?
Wedge009> Hmm, I might have missed some updates, but the quote at the top: 'I definitely want to do another Wing Commander...' has there been any progress on that front?
Chris_Roberts> One day I would like to do a full cut with digital Kilrathi, Merlin and the full Pilgrim subplot
music_guru> i'm guessing it depends on fox
Chris_Roberts> I get the US & UK rights back in 2015
Chris_Roberts> Yes - Fox just got distribution rights for English speakign territories for 17 years


LOAF> Do you remember who did the ship models on the original Wing Commander? I've heard it was contracted out somewhere.
Chris_Roberts> WC1? I dont remember exactly who anymore (its 23 years ago!) but it was a 3D modeler on the Amiga


AD> So I know that you wanted Robin Williams to play Merlin... I always pictured Merlin as kind of being a dry straight faced type of humor... What was your vision of the character?
Chris_Roberts> AD - I wanted Robin Williams because he liked and played Wing Commander and I thought he could handle Merlin's dry humor (he doesn't always have to be whacky Mork)
Chris_Roberts> Funny thing is that I ended up working with him on The Big White


PopsiclePete> Can we ask about a future game ? Within the next decade ?
Pedro> If and when you were to return to the Wing Commander franchise do you think you would you be more inclined towards a continuation or a reboot?
Chris_Roberts> Pedro - If I did another Wing Commander I would definately do a reboot - Batman Begins or Sta Trek style. For me Wing Commander is really about the Kilrathi Confederation conflict
PopsiclePete> So we'd experience the first steps of Blue Hair into the war again ?
Chris_Roberts> With today's tech and what Ive learned from making movies I could take the immersion ad story to a whole new level


LOAF> Can you tell us what "Silverheart" was going to be?
Chris_Roberts> Loaf - Silverheart is cool _ I still have (and own) that IP and want to make it one day. Michael Moorcock (of Stormbringer fame) created the world and wrote the script.
AD> Didn't the silverheart novel eventually come out after the game fell through?
Chris_Roberts> A novelization did. I think teh critique of it was that it seemed to be written for a game's format (which it was!)
bob> Mr. Roberts - Who do you think is doing the most interesting things in the gaming industry as of late?
Chris_Roberts> We were in production on Silverheart at OSI before I left but we could never get the tech to work. We needed a livign breathing city - something Assasin's Creed does so well nowadays


music_guru> so, mr. roberts, have you been doing anything in hollywood of late? certainly you've had some great things happen in the family front :P
Chris_Roberts> music_guru - Not films at the moment. I'm workign on something that I will sahre with you guys very shortly! I think you'll be happy


Zeether> Chris, did you hear about Wing Commander Saga? What's your take on it?
Chris_Roberts> Zeether - I havent had a chance to play WC Saga as I'm been busy on my secret project but I love that people had so much passion for the universe that they spent 10 years crafting an updated version for the fans
ChrisReid> yeah, there's actually a number of complete Wing Commander fan games
Vinman> yeah, certainly looking forward to hearing news about your future plans, Mr. Roberts :)
ChrisReid> several that were in development for 5+ years


PopsiclePete> Mr. Roberts, if you'd have a chance to make a new WC game, would you make it PC or console-only ?
Chris_Roberts> PC!
Flashfire> yes!!!
Pedro> *hug*
NinjaLA> you, sir, are my hero.
Mike> YEAH!!!
Wedge009> Hooray!
PopsiclePete> yaaaaay !
Chris_Roberts> And mayeb a console, but PC first and foremost
Flashfire> PC also supports the modding universe so much better...
Chris_Roberts> PC is open 10x more powerful than current consoles and is always evolving
WtFPhragon> PC FTW
Wedge009> That's the difficulty, isn't it? More flexibility, but so many more configurations to test.
Chris_Roberts> It's also the platfrom that most of the greatest games / franchises were born on (including some of the biggest console franchsies today)


Pedro> Do you see the decrease in popularity of Joysticks as an obstacle in producing a modern space combat game?
Chris_Roberts> Pedro - not really. A gamepad has two analog joysticks on it, which makes it great for WC style action. BUt If I was making a space game I would also support the bad ass HOTAS setups you can buy as well!
LOAF> That would be great to see! I have a HOTAS setup on my DOS machine for the old games, would love an excuse to buy one for a new game.


bob> Kind of sideways, but what are your thoughts on the Mechwarrior Online project?
Chris_Roberts> I've been whatching the MechWarrior Online stuff. I'm curious, although I have to say Hawken looks better to my eye (closer to the style I like anyway)


bob> Would you ever go Steel Battalion?
Chris_Roberts> bob - you mean laggy kinect only? Not for all the money MS coudl throw at me
LOAF> Maybe do it Guitar Hero style -- bundle Wing Commander with a flight stick controller.
AD> Would you ever consider doing the quasi kinect style controls from Mass Effect 3 where you can order your wingmen around with voice commands?
LOAF> I remember being VERY drunk trying to play Wing Commander Arena with the Rock Band guitar... LeHah was there. It didn't go well.
Chris_Roberts> But if its decent NUI then I would want to use some of it. Like voice recoginition for voice commands like "ship status". And there's a new device that's meant to be super accurate in tracking your finger motion - doing a combination of some minority report HUD stuff with a normal gamepad / joystick would be super cool.
Pedro> I'd not heard about that. On a sidenote I did have the opportunity to implement Freelancer style controls with a a Wii remote, it worked really quite nicely. Were you not a fan of the mouse only controls of Freelancer?
Chris_Roberts> Pedro - The final mouse controls we're the ones that were in the game when I was leading it. I had a concept for the mouse controls that I thought would work - and maybe it woudl have - but the final implemnation wasn't soemthing that I was in love with
AD> I could see kinect style stuff also being useful for head tracking to control somthing like strike commander's virtual cockpit
Chris_Roberts> AD - Yes I've actually looked at that and while the PC kinect skeleton trackign is laggy and just plain bad, the head tracking is quite good. The Occulus would be even better though!


music_guru> Mr. Roberts, you stay in touch with any of your old origin colleagues or actors that you worked with?
Chris_Roberts> music_guru - Yes. Whenever I'm back in Austin visiting my parents - and I also keep in touch with Richard, Fred & Dallas @ Portalarium


PopsiclePete> Question to Mr Roberts: why was it decided to remove the cockpits in WC4 ? What it because of time constraints or a deliberate decision ? Many fans missed the realism of the "real" cockpit.
Chris_Roberts> PopsiclePete - I hate that the cockpits were removed. Its my big regret.
Flashfire> Chris_Roberts: I remember that in WC1 or WC2 my love or distaste for a ship or how cramped it felt (eg epee) really was defined by the cockpit artwork and layout of the gauges
AD> Was work done on cockpits for WC4? Or was it scrapped early on?
Chris_Roberts> It was a schedule thing and that part of the team felt they were uneccesary.
Flashfire> did you have a favorite cockpit from the series?
bob> Cockpits give the ship character
Flashfire> I did like the thematic red/green/blue colors from WC4--but it wasn't the same as the all out art in the other games
bob> I mean, the Rapier was an amazing ship but the fact that I couldn't see crap out of it made me hate it
TK_Sax> I liked the no cockpit
bob> Same with the Orion
Chris_Roberts> Cockpits help create the immersion for me - and I think I'm hearing you all agree.
NinjaLA> yeah.. the cockpits and gun loadouts were really what set ships apart in the games
Flashfire> I loved the Rapier's cockpit
Zeether> yeah the cockpits were cool in WC1 when I played it
AD> There were some other features planned for WC4 that never seemed to be fully implemented
Vinman> yeah, they provide so much of each ship's character
music_guru> the cockpits were neat
Chris_Roberts> The fantasy I always wanted was to be a bad ass top gun star fighter and having the cockpit around me, seeing my legs and hand on a joystick put me in that world. With no cockpit you feel disconnected


ChrisReid> hey Chris, do you know anything about the Super Nintendo version of WC2?
ChrisReid> it's one of the last few really big lost WC games
ChrisReid> was redone with color VDUs and some neat differences
Zeether> are there ROMs floating around of it?
LOAF> Nope, no ROMs
Chris_Roberts> LOAF - No... I dont think it was during my OSI time, maybe after I left?
LOAF> It was developed by a team at Origin, Billy Cain was in charge... this was 1995
LOAF> Chris was probably shooting WC4 at the time.


Mike> Chris Roberts: When you Made WC3, did you know there was going to be a WC4?
Chris_Roberts> Mike - No, I saw WC3 as the end. Then EA came and begged as it was a console change over (Sega had gone away, kind of like what is happening now) and WC3 was the buggest selling game EA had.
Chris_Roberts> So I put Silverheart on hold and worked on WC4
Chris_Roberts> It was tough because originally EA wanted WC4 in NINE months!
Chris_Roberts> Its why so much was spent on the FMV & Story and the game wasnt pushed so much
Chris_Roberts> Its easy to add value / quality in the filmed side, but without 18 -24 months on the game side it was impossible to do much in terms of pushing the tech or gameplay


PopsiclePete> Mr Roberts, earlier Flashfire asked a question I too qould like to hear you about, if possible: what was your intention about Hobbes ? Why the treason ? Personality overlay or he simply decided he could not betray his kind though the destruction of his homeworld ?
Chris_Roberts> PP & FlashFire - Hobbes didnt know he was a plant so his feelings / intentions were honorable at the time


LOAF> eddie! Congratulations!!!!
eddieb> Thanks
TheyCallMeGrim> Congrats, Eddie!
NinjaLA> I was glued to my TV during the landing
music_guru> hey eddie! grats on the lander!
Flashfire> Rover ftw
NinjaLA> thank you NASA channel
music_guru> we've got two celebs in the house now!
LOAF> (Chris - eddie here is with the team that did the sofftware for the Mars mission... he also programmed his own fan made WC game engine for the community!)
eddieb> haha, I'm not as famous as mohawk guy,
Chris_Roberts> Congrats Eddie!
TheyCallMeGrim> Hah!
Flashfire> yay eddie
bob> Yes, well done
Meson> thank you eddieb. That was a fun night. Too bad most of the networks only shows 1 or 2 minutes of the landing.
Mike> Seriously? Nice work Eddie! Congrats!
NomadTerror> eddie: several of us were hoping to see you behind one of the flight software or fault tolerance workstations
NinjaLA> mohawk guy doesn't get to meet Chris_Roberts rightn now.
eddieb> Thanks. If that's the real chris roberts, wow it's an honor.
Chris_Roberts> I'm guessing the mars landing was probably a bit more difficult? :-)


PopsiclePete> Mr Roberts: so even if the "overlay explanation" scene wasn't in the PC version of the game, it's what better describe why he turned is coat back to the Empire ?
Chris_Roberts> PP - When we were writing WC2 we hadn't plotted out WC3, so the deep plant (Manchurian Candidate style) was a device that the WC3 writers and I came up with later


AD> The WC movie is heavily influenced by WW2 films... Tora Tora Tora, Dambusters, and others Was that also how you saw Wing Commander 1 when you first designed it?
Chris_Roberts> AD - WC was directly based on WW2, or more specifcally the war in the pacific. THe US Navy was teh COnfed, The Imeprial Japenese Forces teh Kilrathi, planets were islands and space the paciifc.


eddieb> Chris: I'm wondering if you have any memories about how the wing commander AI was programmed. Nested state machines? Any recommended papers to read? It's one of the programming tasks I find intriguing.
Chris_Roberts> eddieb - its been so long - I actually coded the original wingman AI system and my brother built the data / scripts. If I recall it was a pretty basic state machine


LOAF> How is your brother anyway? I see his name on those Lego games!
Chris_Roberts> He's great - he is also a proud father - he has a two and a half year old son!
Chris_Roberts> He runs the Travelers Tales Fusion studio which builds half the TT games (the open world lego game that everyone is talking about is his)
music_guru> awesome! those lego games have been a huge success!
LOAF> We just need LEGO Privateer...
bob> That would be great
PopsiclePete> Lego Wing COmmander !
Chris_Roberts> the TT Fusion studio is basically the core EA Manchester team that built Privateer 2 and then later went onto to become Warthog and build Starlancer.
LOAF> All of you gaming greats are having kids at the same time!
LOAF> Richard Garriott, too.
Chris_Roberts> Loaf - I know, LOL - we're all late starters!
Mike> Yes. The Roberts brothers are a great success at what they do...but what abour our needs!
Mike> We need more WC!
Chris_Roberts> Mike - I love WC, but EA owns it, so its not eay for me to do another one on my own terms


eddieb> Chris, what games have your eye nowdays?
Chris_Roberts> eddieb - This past year I've been busy, but the games that I liked were Uncharted 2 (stil havent unwrapped 3), Demon Souls, Battlefield BC2, Starcraft


LOAF> (Actually - did you see Strike Commander as being the same world as Wing Commander? Or are they unrelated?)
Chris_Roberts> LOAF - different worlds


Vinman> I hate to ask again, but I always wondered, considering the difficult development of Strike Commander, what was your opinion of the end result? Was there anything you really wanted in there that ended up being cut?
Chris_Roberts> NO _ I actually rate Strike as one of my best games - it does everything I wanted it to do and had ground breaking tech - proper gouraud shading and texture mapping beofre anyone else.. Id included.
Chris_Roberts> The only problem was you needed a 486/66 for it to run well
Chris_Roberts> But if you look at what we did you will see a lot of that in every current day sim (virtual cockpit was one of the innovations)


music_guru> Mr. Roberts, out of the Wing Commader games that you spend time on, which one did you enjoy working on the most?
Chris_Roberts> WC1 & WC3 for different reasons. WC1 was magical and everythign just came together. You may not believe it but the missions were exactly the ones that Jeff George designed on paper - we didnt need to do any balancing at all!
Chris_Roberts> WC3 was great because we pushed the story and characters - it really did feel like you were in a movie
Chris_Roberts> And it was fun learning filmmaking on the job
AD> Who was the FMV producer/director you had working with you on WC3? I never remember
Chris_Roberts> Mark Day was the FMV producer (I was the director)


music_guru> i think the Kurasawa mission is as close to Kobayashi Maru as it comes :P
Chris_Roberts> The Kurasawa mission is a dead skill in games nowadays. In the old days you had to EARN progression. I guess that's why I liked Demon's Souls!
ChrisReid> I think there were some good strategies for Kurasawa 2.. it's not so much a lost cause as everyone makes it out to be. be sure to break your wingman loose, and go after the far Gratha that are already hitting the Ralari hard


music_guru> Mr Roberts, I know your brother Erin had worked on privateer. Did you talk with him often about the game while it was developed? Did any of your feedback go into the game or was it mostly him and his team?
Chris_Roberts> music_guru - are you talkign about the first or the second? The first was my concept and I produced it, so I had a lot of creative input. On the second that was all Erin and the guys in Manchester. Originally it wasnt even going to be Privateer (which is why the universe seems so different) but EA likes a brand.


ChrisReid> hey ChrisRoberts, if you're still there... do you still see live actor video as viable for games? or is it all animated cinematics now?
Chris_Roberts> CR - I dont know - I certainly wouldn't do FMV now - I would go Avatar style...


Mike> When you cast Mark Hamill as Blair, did you think there might be some backlash because he was Luke Skywalker?
Chris_Roberts> Mike - I didnt think so - I just thought he would be cool because the blair we wanted had been through a lot and used to be a young buck full of ideals once. I felt his Star Wars background played into it. And it was amazingly cool to work with Luke SkyWalker!


Flashfire> thank you Mr Roberts: been waiting a long time to say thank you for making my childhood so fun with all the WC games
Flashfire> and making me want to learn programming...it's why I got into the field
LOAF> Yes as weird as it sounds we are all here because of you.
eddieb> Yay, a fellow programmer !
bob> Hehe, to think WC had "FROM THE CREATOR OF BAD BLOOD" printed on it
Mike> And i've met some incredible people in my life because of you and the WC universe
LOAF> Aside from just WC, I've made my best friends and traveled all over the country because of Wing Commander. It's been a great adventure!
Chris_Roberts> You're welocome. I make games because I love them and I'm usually driven to make a game that I see in my head and want to play but doesnt exist. Its awesome that so many people liked the ones I made.
Flashfire> that's the best reason! ;-)


NinjaLA> Mr. Roberts, were you to make a new wing commander.. would you be tempted to use familiar faces (mark hamill, tom wilson, etc..) as voices or recast new and fresh?
Mike> Admiral Blair. and the ever so screwed Major Todd Marshall lol
bob> Yeah, Ginger Lynn Allen has been on the boards
LOAF> Haha yes Ginger showed up randomly the other day
bob> Says she'd love to work again, Prophecy was missing something without you
Mike> By the way Tom Wilson...couldn't have made a better pick for Maniac
Flashfire> so perfect for maniac...
eddieb> It must be crazy backwards world, but I saw Clockwork Orange and said, hey it's the admiral. Kinda backwards time order.
Mike> and the same for McDowell and Tolwyns character
Chris_Roberts> All the actors were great to work with and they all had great, crazy stories. We had a lot of fun on WC3 and 4 and if I ever did another WC I would try to get them back to do the voices and mocap for the digital charcaters.


Chris_Roberts> I have to say, what really makes me smile is to hear everyone talk about the characters as if they were real people that you had a connection to.
Wedge009> But they are, Chris.
Mike> All thanks to brilliant writing and your mind
Chris_Roberts> Its easier today to acheive that, but WC1 did that 22 years ago when it used to be high scores and how many levels you cleared
AD> One of the most memorable moments in the whole series is when Halcyon tells you that you can shoot Maniac
eddieb> Hey, I'm as close as you can get to Wallowitz on the big bang theory :). Sometimes characters are creepily accurate :)
music_guru> indeed... tangible characters
ChrisReid> yeah... there's been so many tens of thousands of usenet posts and message board posts about people's feelings on all the characters, ships, events.. Wing Commander's a way of life
bob> Does that ever amaze you?
Chris_Roberts> It was a crazy idea back in 1989 when I started work on the game...


eddieb> I wonder what the relationship was with with X-wing/Tie Fighter crowd. If they ever met the WC dev team.
bob> How *do* you feel about the connection with WC and X-Wing/Larry Holland?
Chris_Roberts> I was freindly with the Lucas guys (and Larry). In fact what Larry did on Battlehawks 1942 gave me inspiration for how I did the sprite 3D engine (previously I was going to do it with simple 3D wireframes / polygons like Space Rogue but I think that wouldnt have been nearly as immersive)
music_guru> interesting about the sprite tech!


LOAF> Haha NO ONE remembers Space Rogue, even us. :)
music_guru> i remember space rougue!
LOAF> Space Rogue was an Origin space trading game from 198...8?
LOAF> 1989
LOAF> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Space_rogue_cover.jpg
LOAF> Seriously, though, check out the box art. Extremely handsome man.
Chris_Roberts> Originally Wing Started out as a top down action game (not so much RTS). The sprite rotation tech that I developed for rotating the top down views of the ships was used for rotating the appropriate 3D sprite view in WC1/WC2
Mike> Wow...that cover is obviously 1980s haha
Chris_Roberts> I hated the cheesy photo covers!
LOAF> They're so silly! Moebius was another one I think.
Mike> HAHA what are you talking about they are awesome! (now)
Chris_Roberts> If you notice TImes of Lore and Bad Blood didnt have them


bob> Yeah, years ago you said that Wing Commander was a game you saw primarily as a single-player game
Chris_Roberts> I love multiplayer
Chris_Roberts> The tech wasnt there in the old days. It is now. But it has to be approriate multiplayer
Chris_Roberts> I hate tacked on MP modes
Chris_Roberts> Like in Uncharted 2 & 3 - great games, but I dont play them for MP
NinjaLA> I'd love to see some co-op objective based missions
Chris_Roberts> NinjaLA - For me teh co-op aspect is some of the most interesting. The co-op part of MP in Battlefield is one of its strongest pulls - its why I prefer BF MP to COD MP
NinjaLA> couldn't agree more.
Chris_Roberts> Also I liked how Demon Souls tacked MP and persistence in a single player game
LOAF> I guess we all need to check out Demon Souls
Chris_Roberts> DS is the game I have both loved and hated the most in equal measure of anything I've played in almost 20 years! Its not normal for me to put 300+ hours into a game


eddieb> Only sad thing is... we have good networks now, but most PCs don't have joysticks :(
Chris_Roberts> I think most people have a game controller though - and they do have analog joysticks


NinjaLA> in the last 10 years the only games I've put 300+ hours into were the mass effects. unless you include wing commanders/privateers and several other mid 90s games I still play regularly
Chris_Roberts> I like ME1 & 2... Havent played 3 yet (as I said I've been busy this year)
Chris_Roberts> Yeah it was story and setting for me. Gameplay was standard 3rd person cover - nothing that interesting and with today's game design approach the gameplay seems to be busy work - there was never one time I was worried abotu dying as I would just re-spawn a second or so ealrier and start again until I won.


LOAF> Oh I know what to ask you about! Your cameos! We know you were in the movie and in WC4...
LOAF> Were you in WC3 somewhere?
Chris_Roberts> Funeral seqeunce
Chris_Roberts> I only do a cameo in something I direct - I'm not in any of the movies I produced (I'm not in the Punisher)
Chris_Roberts> Yeah, although in a game I guess you'll have to look for my mo-cap!


eddieb> So maybe I missed it, Chris_Roberts, could you tell the gang whatyour next projects (film/games/etc) might be
Chris_Roberts> eddieb - I've got soemthign I'm going to announce soon - and in about three weeks I'll give you guys an early heads up
Chris_Roberts> And with that, with my apologies I need to bow out for the night!


bob> G'night
music_guru> good night thanks!
NinjaLA> you have been more than generous!
LOAF> Thank you so much for coming!
eddieb> Amazing and and honor to meet you, thanks for the visit
Wedge009> Thanks, Chris.
Mike> Thanks for EVERYTHING
Vinman> good night, thank you so much for coming by!
wcnut> thankyou!
Mike> Good night
Pedro> thank you so much for coming!
powellXCIX> Night Mr. Roberts, thank you for everything!
NinjaLA> don't be a stranger if it's too much to ask :D
wcnut> good night!
punkazzINC> good night!!!
music_guru> best to your family
^Death_> Goodnight, Mr. Roberts. Thank you for coming and for your work.
Chris_Roberts> Night guys!

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