New Manuals Available

Cyberion has scanned several new manuals for us. Several are the side-documentation files included with Wing Commander 3. The Russian version of the instruction booklet for Wing Commander 4 has also been included. These are decent quality jpegs for the most part, so the file size is a bit bigger than some of the other manuals. You can find our other online documentation here.

Third Time Isn't Always Lucky

Sadly, Privateer 2 actor Clive Owen missed out on the best supporting actor award at last night's Oscars ceremony. Best known to us as Lev Arris, Owen had been nominated for his excellent performance in the movie Closer, which has previously netted him the best supporting actor award at the Golden Globe awards. Earlier this month he won the same award at the Baftas. Still, Owen remains the only lead WC character to be nominated for an Oscar.

PiArmada Gets Intelligent

Just under a month since the previous release, ZOmegaZ has released the latest version of PiArmada, an open source project to recreate Armada. Once again it has had since significant upgrades, most significant of all an AI opponent.
AI: There is now a simple AI algorithm implemented. It builds mines where profitable, builds shipyards when needed, and moves the carrier around to the right places to do so, reloading on resources when necessary. All fighters explore. Shipyards build medium fighters unless your carrier has been seen, in which case they build bombers. All bombers are immediately sent to attack your carrier when spotted. Obviously this could stand some improvement, but it's definitely playable. PiArmada now qualifies as an actual game!

Zoom: Wasn't as hard as I expected. Icons all stay the same size, only their relative positions change. As a side effect, the center gridlines are now highlighted, giving you more of a reference point when scrolling.

Resolution Switching: The options screen now allows you to pick among three resolutions, and to switch between fullscreen and windowed mode. If you play at 1280x1024 zoomed all the way out, you can see the whole sector at once. Kinda nifty.

The full list of changes can be found in the readme.txt file. There are also big changes for the future, with integration with the Vega Strike engine being a key feature. The objective is to bring Armada style battles to PiArmada when fighters clash at a nav point. Not bad for a project which first became known to us less than six weeks ago. You can download the new version from Sourceforge.

Free Ultima Online Trial Begins

FilePlanet is hosting a promotion with Electronic Arts to bring people a free 15 day trial of Ultima Online Gold. Gold is a fancy way of saying Ultima, plus the first five expansion packs (through Age of Shadows). A credit card is requird to simplify billing you after the free trial ends. UO is a good game that might be fun for a two week playthrough however.

LOAF recently suggested a bunch of Wingnuts get together and role play a group of stranded Confederation pilots in the Ultima universe.

Watch the skies! Beware! These huge birds may be those that are called Kilrathi, a mysterious race that only the wisest of sages are privy to. Written about in the ancient tomes, and prophesied of in the most secret of scrolls, the Kilrathi are said to be a race from beyond the skies, from between the stars. Most of the educated scholars who have heard of them, believed them to be fairy stories, conjured to frighten the young ones. But by the virtues, today I believe, and I warrant by the end of today, so shall all of you.

Crucial Classics: Wing Commander

1up/EGM's Crucial Classics series has focused on Wing Commander this week. The WC series tied for fourth place among reader submissions for the top fifty gaming classics of all time. Today's article does a good job summarizing general flight sim history and explains the significance of Wing Commander in that genre throughout the 1990s. It gives games like Starlancer and Freespace their proper place in the overall system and discusses a few of the unfortunate characteristics of the genre's relative decline in popularity.
That's where Origin's breakthroughs in presentation came in. What made advancing through Wing Commander worthwhile was the feeling of being there, achieved through a strong fictional background, plenty of visual detail, and a multitude of transitional cinemas to maintain the feeling of immersion. The game world had a distinct personality, and so did each of the characters, in their dialogue and their piloting style -- nearly everyone who played the game remembers flying next to the suicidal Maniac. ...

In their time, the Wing Commander games were supremely compelling flight combat sims, breakthroughs in presentation and the use of cutting-edge technology. Plenty of gamers bought a 386 and a Sound Blaster to play them, and even more gamers wished they had the money to do the same. The series also represented some of the brighter lights of the oft-derided "interactive movie" phenomenon.

The full article can be found here. It makes a pretty good read.

Try Out Some Files

This has been a busy month for general traffic, but February is short and no major mods were released, so we've got some bandwidth to spare over the next couple days. Here's a few recent files you might have missed.

Quick Preview Of Standoff Episode 2

Eder noticed that Standoff hasn't released any new screenshots for a while, so he sent us this work in progress shot from the final cutscene of episode 2. The scene shows Bradshaw overlooking the Firekka's repair deck. Although this is still subject to change, word is that the Standoff team hope to have the next episode completed in approximately a month.

Red Point Mod Cockpits Released

Things have been a little quiet for Red Point(ango) since we first mentioned it last year, but a few early screenshots have been released. This project will be a Secret Ops mod similar to Standoff or Unknown Enemy. Below we have the Wraith and the Vampire cockpits. These add a bit more personality than the struts used in some Wing Commander games.

You can find a few more angles of these designs at Crius.net here.

Get Involved With WC RPGs

Following up on what we began last week, today we have a message brought to you by Wing Commander: The Edge of Chaos. We're trying to to improve the visibility of the numerous Wing Commander role playing games that have been in business online for many years. Jason Lussier had this to say.
Going strong since 1997, Wing Commander: The Edge of Chaos is an interactive role-playing game focusing on the character and story development of pilot life post-Wing Commander IV. Beginning during the final bloody days of the Terran-Kilrathi War, The Edge of Chaos has continued into the year 2676. The Edge of Chaos deals with life after the Terran-Kilrathi War and new threats in the frontier regions of space. Based on our own IRC server, the WCRPG is one of the oldest and most active role-playing games in the Wing Commander community. With weekly sessions, high quality story posts on our forums, and dozens of members, both new and old, The Edge of Chaos is here to stay. Those interested can easily join by going to the forums at http://www.wcrpg.com.
You can visit the wcrpg.com forums directly to sign up and meet other members.

WC4 Gameplay Videos Captured

AD has made some progress in his project to create an adaptation of Wing Commander 4 using its cutscenes and gameplay. When we last reported on his progress, the video sequences were coming along, but there were issues pertaining to the in-flight portions. These have been resolved thanks to some help from Crius.net, and a sample battle is now available. You can check out the 30 meg gameplay divx here.

Concept Dralthi Makes It In To Background

Since reposting the concept art for Wing Commander Online as drawn by Feng Zhu, Lorddarthvik has taken a liking to what might have been WCO's Dralthi. He has modelled and textured the ship based on the concept drawing and sent us a couple of backgrounds.
I've made a BG image with the concept Dralthis by Feng Zhu. Everything was modelled/textured in 3dsmax by me. The image was inspired by an earlier bg image titled "Return to base."

Playing Around With Space Simulators

Overmortal has been playing around with the X-Plane Space Combat game we mentioned a couple weeks back. He's made a couple general ships for fun and was wondering if others wanted to add in a couple Wing Commander style features and play around. You can find more on that here.

In related news, Jumper suggests people check out the free Orbiter Sim. It's supposed to be a bit more polished and fully featured with detail and objective goals. It's fairly pretty to look at and seems quite impressive for a free program.

Check Out WC2's Imperial Guards

Today's updates are brought to you courtesy of the year 1991. A little while back we put up a copy of the Wing Commander 2 demo, but at the time, running it may have been difficult for some people. It's not a playable demo, and if it weren't based off the WC2 cinematic engine, it would just be called a trailer. The sequence is an extended version of the Wing Commander 2 intro. Dralthi (not Drakhri!) are seen escorting Thrakhath's Bloodfang. Then you actually see the imperial guards that the Emperor dismisses before Thrakhath speaks. Additional commentary including the prince's new title as "Slave Lord of Terra" is also included, and the voices are unrefined. The sequence is runnable in DOSBox now, but the voices may be a little choppy if you use an emulator. A few screenshots have been selected below. This was one of those amazing things that PC owners showed off to their friends and family back in the early nineties. You can grab the 2 meg demo here.

A few key backgrounds were also changed. The shots on the left are from the demo. The right side is the actual WC2 intro. It's interesting that they made the decision to remove the guards and create a darker and more private mood in the final version.



A Look At Origin In 1991

While doing some of his research, LOAF stumbled across a text file detailing someone's trip to Origin in October 1991 to meet Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts. The file apparently originates from a BBS, which alongside Usenet and magazines were the main methods of distributing information in the pre-Web era. It offers a fascinating insight in to what went on at Origin in the early days.
I mentioned the recent success of WING COMMANDER, and Richard nodded vigorously. "It's a fantastic game, Chris [Roberts, the designer] has done an incredible job. However, I admit to some ambivalent feelings. Till now, the success of Origin depended to a large degree on my work with ULTIMA. Now that isn't true, which of course is an adjustment for my ego." He laughed a bit at this, and seemed obviously pleased with the new situation. He also gave credit to Chris for inspiring some of the new interface ideas used in ULTIMA VI through Chris's game, TIMES OF LORE.
We've always known that Origin was a pioneer of new technology, this article also suggests that Wing Commander may have been the first game to break the 640K (conventional memory) barrier. The article also mentions that Secret Missions 1 was originally not going to be available through retail outlets. It's an interesting read for Wing Commander, Ultima and Origin fans alike. We've also mirrored the file here. There are some other interesting mentions within.

Behind The Scenes Of WCIV

Carlos Mendonça found something really neat that we don't recall seeing before - seven behind the scenes videos from the set of Wing Commander IV! They were found in the January 1996 copy of Multimedia World Live! and are a mixture of interviews, behind the scenes action, and even a blooper video. Here they are in their original form of 320x240 12 frames/sec Cinepak video and 8 bit sound.
blair2.avi - Interview with Mark Hamill.
maniac1.avi - Interview with Tom Wilson 1.
maniac2.avi - Interview with Tom Wilson 2.
wing1.avi - Behind the scenes, interviews with Chris Roberts, Mark Hamill, Malcolm Macdowell, Tom Wilson, Jason Bernard.
wing3.avi - Wing Commander IV trailer.
wing4.avi - Briefing blooper.
wing5.avi - Those damn doors again.
Apparently Chris Roberts would like to eventually direct a feature film. Fancy that.

Nexus Starts Shipping In US

If you were interested in the game Nexus: The Jupiter Incident which we covered last October, you might be interested to know that the game starts shipping in the US tomorrow. It should appeal msot to fans of the strategy game Homeworld. If you're wondering about the European release, that was three months ago.

AD Tries To Create WCIV: The Movie

AD has started on a project to convert WCIV to a movie by taking the scenes from the DVD version of the game and cutting them together with gameplay scenes.
My goal is to produce a unique WC4 experience. I know I have a lot of friends who would never sit down to watch the game much less play it. However they may like to see a movie... So I've been editing the clips into a logical path (omitting alternate choices etc.) As well, although not including gameplay all clips in any given path add up to around 2h50min, my goal is to also include necessary info from gameplay and yet keep the running time to around 2h 30min...

I have almost finished cutting together all the video I haven't dropped either for time or pacing... I may still drop more scenes in the future. Currently I just have the end sequence (the 3 or 4 part battle with the Vesuvius) that I need to work out. I've been trying to minimize the number of gameplay scenes, partly because of the effort needed, but also so that it's not too repetitive.

You can download a three minute sample of the kind of thing AD is trying to achieve here (55MB), or a lower resolution video here (21MB, a different scene). AD would also appreciate some help and feedback on the project in this thread.

Prophecy Preview From The Past

ZFGokuSSJ1 was playing with the Wayback Machine, when he found this old article from PC Gamer about Prophecy when it was first shown at E3 in 1997.
According to the new Wing Commander development team, who were showing Prophecy to selected members of the press in a private booth mocked up to look like a 27th Century locker room, the emphasis on the new game is on gameplay, gameplay, gameplay - to that effect, the cinematic side of things - which Roberts was accused of concentrating on at the expense of play mechanics in the last two instalments - have been considerably trimmed down, and the missions themselves are being much more carefully designed.
There is also mention of the game's multiplayer support, and how that was being handled by a completely separate team. Unfortunately, as we all know the multiplayer was later cancelled.

Postal Problems

Unfortunately we've had some email problems over the last day, which weren't helped when some undelivered mail fell into a black hole. If you sent mail to any @wcnews.com address on either Saturday or today, please resend it. Thanks very much.

Cyberion's Latest Model And Wallpaper

We've got a double feature today. Cyberion's latest Wing Commander Wallpaper has been released, and the model it highlights is here to go along with it. It's the tank that appears in the ground missions and cutscenes of Wing Commander 4. This gorgeous battle is scaled to 1280x960 and comes in around 850 k.

The shuttle is a nice touch. The lightwave source for this one is also available for you to play around with if you're into modding or modeling. Total size is under half a megabyte and can be found here.

Fan Comments Wanted For WC Article

Crusader noticed that 1up's Crucial Classic Club will be doing a feature on Wing Commander next week. 1up is the relatively new web presence of Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Your next selection was Wing Commander. if you're a fan of the game or the series, drop 50-ish words here or in the private message receptacle of our friend The Reverend Dr. David F. Smith by Tuesday Feb. 22. Thanks!
You'll need to register to send him a message here. I'm sure lots of you can think of interesting anecdotes to share. Feel free to also hit the Discuss link below and copy your responses to this news post, in case yours isn't included with the article next week.

What's Up With WC RPGs?

We report about a lot of fan projects, mods, miscellaneous fiction and so on, but one area of community activities that often goes unmentioned are Wing Commander role playing games. These were quite popular five years ago, and active RPGs continue today, but their recruiting drives seem to have slowed. This is the first in what we hope to be a series of updates highlighting a few of the active RPGs. Mad Cow is here to talk a bit about Battle for Enigma.
Wing Commander: Battle for Enigma is a free-form RPG based on character development and telling stories. We don’t roll dice or use any other kind of system aside from the honor system. Our game has been active since December of 2001, and we meet every Sunday at 9pm EST. In between meetings, role-playing continues on our message boards (which have logged a little over 6,000 In-Character posts since ’01). We are one of the most active, if not the most active, Wing Commander RPG around and we take a lot of pride in that. People can join either by posting in the open chat section of the message board, using the form on our website, or PMing me directly.
A lot of people enjoyed these games back in the day, and hopefully they can become a bit more popular again. If you are involved with a similar undertaking, feel free to contact us to help get the word out.

CorpNews Talks To Origin's MMO Creators

Everyone loves Richard Garriott interviews. In this one, the Corporation asked the founder of Origin about various massively multiplayer trends in 2004. This is his current area of expertise with the production of Tabula Rasa.
Corpnews: What emerging trend do you see as most affecting future MMOG designs?
Richard: Physics. MMOs try and create realistic worlds to explore and interact with. Thus, physics is a natural next step in crafting a real place. Plus, physics chips are now on the horizon, so we will be able to compute complex scenes quickly!
That, of course, applies more to fantasy games. Realistic physics can sometimes detract from sci fi games, but unfortunately the science fiction mmo is a much smaller genre.

Origin and SOE's Raph Koster was also part of the interview.

Corpnews: What emerging trend do you see as most affecting future MMOG designs?
Raph: Well, I very much think that the "play single-player games alongside multiple people" trend is going to continue. Bluntly, I don't like it--I don't like it from a gameplay point of view because I as a player like the feeling of being in a world; I don't like it from a business point of view because I don't think people stick very well to that sort of game, or don't feel it merits a subscription fee.
You can find the full interview here.

That's A Lot Of Cats

Starman from the WC Saga team posted this wallpaper featuring a nice collection of Kilrathi ships seemingly about to bombard a planet. It's based on a screenshot taken in-game, which is quite surprising given that there's more lighting than usual.
This one is again only done by a single screenshot-capture in the Freespace-engine using our mod-stuff. I only created the mission where I placed the ships and backgrounds for this shot. Also I did this one in 1280x1024x32, with 2xAA. Theoretically the game is playable in this, but it is currently unsupported, becauce the HUD-Stuff is misplaced in that resolution.

European Chance To Meet Paladin

Raptor reports that John Rhys Davies will be attending the Collectormania convention this year. The convention takes place in Milton Keynes, England on April 29th through to May 1st, and is a great opportunity to get your copies of Wing Commander III and IV signed by your favorite Scottish Senator.
A bit of WC related news that will be of interest to Wingnuts in the UK, and possibly elsewhere in Europe, considering how easy travel is within the EU. John Rhys Davies will be at Collectormania 7 (Friday April 29 to Sunday May 1) in Milton Keynes. There will also be guest stars from Doctor Who, Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy and Angel. I've never been to Collectormania before, but it looks interesting.

You can find out more at the Collectormania site.

Be Your Favorite Admiral

McGruff has managed to find what has to be among the creepiest looking things I've seen on eBay in a while - a cast of Malcolm McDowell's face. The cast was taken from a life mask so is of course life size. I guess it's perfect if you want to go around pretending to be Admiral Tolwyn after using some really bad fake tan. Looking at the pictures it seems fairly appropriate that the mask is made by a company called "The Haunted Studios." If you want to buy your own Tolwyn, or just find out more about the casting process, you can find the auction here.

Trying To Run WC In OS/2 Warp

Man, that McDowell cast is creepy. Anyhow, akula65 has discovered some interesting settings for Wing Commander buried in the OS/2 Warp operating system. More than just a compatibility mode for running old games, there are preset configurations included for specific titles.
I recently re-installed IBM's OS/2 Warp Version 3 on an old machine with a 486 motherboard, and I found out that this version of OS/2 Warp has some interesting support for the DOS versions of early Wing Commander games. OS/2 Warp Version 3 has a built-in DOS/Win3.1 application settings database what is installed as part of the OS. If an application is installed which is listed in the database, then the OS automatically uses the settings listed under that game for execution in a DOS session. Here is the excerpt from the settings database file C:\OS2\INSTALL\DATABASE.TXT for the Wing Commander games:

Wing Commander II Special Operations 1 Origin
 NAME                     SO1.EXE
 TITLE                    Wing Commander 2
 TYPE                     DOS
 ASSOC_FILE               WC2.CFG
 DEF_DIR                  \WING2
 SESSION_MODE             FULLSCREEN
 DOS_BACKGROUND_EXECUTION OFF
 DOS_HIGH                 ON
 IDLE_SECONDS             60
 IDLE_SENSITIVITY         100
 HW_ROM_TO_RAM            ON
 HW_TIMER                 OFF
 INT_DURING_IO            OFF
 VIDEO_RETRACE_EMULATION  ON
 FOLDER                   GAMES
Similar profiles exist for Wing Commander 1 through Academy. If you use OS/2 and need some help running older Wing Commander games, you might want to look into this. I suppose this would fall into the "Other" category in our current Poll.

Check Out The Pretty Green Rapier

Lynx has given the Rapier I from the Wing Commander Movie an flashy new paint job that should be more familiar to fans of Wing Commander 1. Eder then scaled the design down a little bit to see what it might have looked like had it been featured in the original game. It looks pretty neat both ways.

The original model was a Standoff prototype that looked like this.

Space Sim First Look: Starport Galactic Empires

Starport bills itself as a free "winnable massively-multiplayer game" that takes place in space on a 2D plane. That might immediately bring Subspace to mind, and the presentation does actually appear very similar on the surface. There's a lot more to Starport than simple combat however. Ships can be upgraded and your individual pilot-player-character is customized from the beginning. There is a big universe to explore and developing colonies is important to improving your position in the games. It ends up being your job to beef up colony defense and protect your resources against raiding players. The game is almost more of a strategic simulator than a space combat sim. Game sessions last just two weeks, and a winner is announced at the end of each game.

Sound pretty neat for a free game? The developers make their money from in-game purchases. Various upgrades cost real life cash to obtain, and of course, everything is reset every two weeks. It's an interesting substitution for a monthly subscription fee. Since barriers to entry seem relatively low, this one might be a neat game for a group of Wing Commander fans to try out together. More pictures and descriptions of the game can be found here.

Saga Updates More Models

As the fan projects age, it's inevitable that they'll fine tune certain aspects as they near release. Below is the updated WC Saga representation of a black hole in space. Just kidding. If you squint you can actually see an updated Frigate and Destroyer with final glowpoints and glowmaps. New details and objects have been added to the capital ships as well.

Feedback can be given at Crius.

Happy Valentine's Day

It's the time of the year when we pull out the Love Arrow. I don't recall it being so small when we first used it. Happy Valentine's Day!

Last Minute Notices

Don't forget that tonight's the night that Tom Wilson will be making an appearance in Los Angeles. You can find more information on that here.

Today is also the last day to get the $50 ticket rate for Dragon*Con. You can order a pass via Paypal here. If you have questions about the convention, email us or stop by Crius.net.

Standoff's Crossbow Gets Redesigned

Apparently Eder wasn't content with Standoff's original Crossbow model, which is now over three years old. So the ship has undergone a bit of a redesign, and here are the results.
Our old Crossbow sucked, so I went and made a new one which I believe is pretty damn accurate. Thanks to LOAF and BradMick for the reference material. You might notice that its textures look cleaner than the average Standoff fighter's... that was intentional, since in our storyline Crossbows are hot rods just out of the prototype testing stage.

It's a pretty great looking ship. There are some more comparison shots and some discussion about the ship's construction in this thread.

Old And New

Last month we asked you what setting you would prefer for a new fan project. While each option received a fair share of the vote, most people would like something that takes place in the WC1-WC2 era or something that explores what happens after Secret Ops. Our new poll asks how you get DOS games like Privateer to run these days.

Computer Chronicles Wing Commander Clips Found

BrynS has been doing some digging and has found a whole bunch of really old and cool video segments.
I was using the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archive a couple of weeks back and noticed that amongst the Archive's various sections there is one dedicated to Computer Chronicles, which I'm sure that some or perhaps many of you will remember was a television programme (broadcast from 1983 to 2002) covering general purpose computing -- it's sister show was called Net Cafe'. I believe it was quite widely syndicated in the US and in many other countries.

So far, I've managed to locate three segments containing references (I think the episodes concerned were uploaded at various points during the past 10 months or so), namely an interview with George Sanger AKA The Fat Man, a gameplay overview of WC3 with Mark Day and a brief gameplay overview of WC2. I would think it fairly probable that additional Wing Commander related material may surface as the back library of Computer Chronicles episodes is uploaded to the archive, given the period covered by the show, i.e. 1983-2002. So, IMO it would be worth checking up on this portion of the Archive every few months!

You'll need Xvid or Divx to view the movies. High and low res clips of each are available. They're identical except for the size. The asf files below require a fairly recent Windows Media Player or compatible.


Computer Chronicles on Wing Commander 2 (7.8 MB) - 320x240
Computer Chronicles on Wing Commander 2 (31.3 MB) - 640x480


Computer Chronicles on Wing Commander 3 (13 MB) - 320x240
Computer Chronicles on Wing Commander 3 (58.6 MB) - 640x480


Computer Chronicles on George Sanger (7.8 MB) - 320x240
Computer Chronicles on George Sanger (31.3 MB) - 640x480

I also noticed these Wing Commander game previews while searching through the Archive for other Wing Commander related materials. They are in the Videogame Previews section -- a collection of more than 2,200 custom-created videos from the period 1993-2004. The two major sources of content for this collection were the Video Pipeline website, which provided previews to retailers and distributers for promotional purposes and Kikizo.com, a UK-based games website that has been archiving games-related footage for a while.

Clive Owen Wins Second Big Award

Following on from last month's big win at the Golden Globe awards for best supporting actor, Privateer 2 actor Clive Owen (Lev Arris) won the best supporting actor award in tonight's Bafta awards ceremony. As well as bringing him those two big awards, Owen's performance in the movie Closer could yet bring him a third award at next month's Oscars where he has once again been nominated for best supporting actor.

The Reckoning Searches For Help

The Reckoning team leader Bob McDob is looking for new members following the departure of Warzog, who was previously the lead programmer and lead designer. If you have so experience of modding Freelancer or think you can contribute in some way, you should contact Bob.
If you think you can contribute to the mod, or have worked on it in the past, drop me a line at bobmcdob@gmail.com, or at the team mail of reckoning@solsector.net (they both go to the same place), or catch me on AIM (my screen name's mrmcdob). I've also set up a LiveJournal community here. This is not intended to replace either of our message boards, but rather act as a more organized form of the feedback threads where most of the action has occured in the past. It's still being set up, and is intended primarily as an interim stage until we get a website proper.
The Reckoning is among the few special mods that actually have a decently playable game, so you may find this more attractive than joining a mod that is just starting out.

Space Sim First Look: Remnants of the Stars

Corner Suite Studios is working on a new space sim called Remnants of the Stars. It's a free roaming game tied together with an unfolding story. The simulated universe will be a big place, and the engine should eventualy support up to a hundred ships in the same area. Versions for Windows, Mac and Linux are expected. The first few screenshots for the game have just been released.

Ion Storm Studio Closed

Another famous Austin game developer was shut down this week. Originally Ion Storm was the John Romero studio that created Daikatana, but it later went on to great fame with Warren Spector's Deus Ex and Thief: Deadly Shadows games. However, Spector left the company several months ago, a short time after much of his development team for Thief was let go. With that in mind, the final closure of the studio is not completely surprising. GameSpot has some additional insight on the matter. NCSoft, Sony Online Entertainment and other organizations still maintain strong Austin presences however, and it'll be interesting to see how all the veteran programmers and designers will once again re-gel in the region to create something new.

Fly Between Bases The Easy Way

Forums poster Crazy Abbot has produced a neat little tool which takes the data files from Privateer and lets you view and move around the various bases in the game. It has a few minor issues such as animations running too fast and music not being played, but hopefully in time they'll be resolved. Maybe in time the project will evolve in to a full Privateer remake. You can download the program here, or check the original thread for more details and a Linux version.

No Glue Required

The Wallpapers section has been updated with eleven works that were in the news in recent weeks. They include desktop images created by Maj. Striker, Cyberion, Tim Peel, SabreAce and ChrisReid. For those keeping track, here is the list of new additions: Feel free to send your own creations to news@wcnews.com. Multiple resolutions are welcome, but please keep the total attachment size per e-mail under two megabytes.

Striker Loves The Raptor

Major Striker has polished up his Raptor Heavy Fighter and made a package so everyone can use it. It's 18,000 polygons, but does not have associated textures. Feel free to use it in your projects. Major Striker would appreciate the credits. You can grab the 750 k zip here.

My absolute favorite ship from all of the WC series was without doubt the Raptor from WC1. That bad boy ate Jalthi and Gratha as a main course with Salthi and Dralthi as dessert. Anyway, once again, I went back, revisited it and remodelled it. It sticks very close to the diagrams, obviously there are some cosmetic details that I added as my own artistic flair to the design. (Yes, you get to see the cowling thing again). Once I built it I realized I didn't have a good environment so I quickly threw together a partial hangar.

New Forstchen Civil War Book Coming

Amazon now has a listing for Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory (not to be confused with Never Sound Retreat of the Lost Regiment series. In June it will make the third book in a Civil War collection William Forstchen is co-authoring with Newt Gingrich. Last year he was supposed to be touring to promote the second book in the series, but little news on that surfaced. Hopefully he'll make some appearances this year for the new title, and some of you will be there to have him (or Newt Gingrich) autograph Wing Commander novels.

PC Games Article Translated Into English

CF Koch has translated the German Wing Commander article that Tolwyn sent in last week. It has two parts. Half the space is spent talking about where Chris Roberts has been lately, and the other portion notes how Wing Commander 3 and Half Life 2 are tied for their best reviewed games of all time. You can find the full article here.
Those who had to catch their breath concerning the rating of Half-Life 2 (reviewed in issue 12/04) should have a look back to the review of Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger. Here the rating of 96% gaming-fun was reached for the first time. The amazingly good space-action-simulator had everything on four full CDs that a game in that time could have had: first-class SVGA-graphics, glass-clear sound, more than 50 missions, an easy to learn handling and last but not least, plenty of long video-sequences.

Tom Wilson Appearing Next Week in LA

BttF.com is reporting that Tom Wilson will be performing standup comedy on Monday, February 14 at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California. He will be half of a special presentation with Debi Gutierrez. If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to attend this special Valentine's Day comedy show, you can make reservations at (310) 372-1193.

Wing Commander Online Concept Art Back Up

A few years back we did an update about some concept art for Wing Commander Online. Limitations kept us from hosting the very cool images locally at the time, and eventually the original host took them down. Eder has helped us restore the images, and he even found a couple that we missed originally. You can now find them all here. These were created back in August of 1998 (a good month for WC fans). For a little more history on Wing Commander games that were in the works back then, check out our Privateer Online article.

At one point Eder tried modeling some of these conceptual designs. It's pretty interesting to see how they might have turned out.

Happy Birthday To The Sims

Electronic Arts announced this morning that The Sims will turn five years old this week. I remember people talking about this with some anticipation back in the late '90s, and it's already been half a decade since release. I'm not sure anyone thought it would be as popular as it has been however. The base Sims package has sold more than 16 million units, with its seven expansion packs adding an additional 38 million sales. The Sims 2 is on track to hit 5 million copies sold soon. Its first expansion pack is due in three weeks.

HoTT Continues The Cartoon Theme

Following on from Heart of the Tiger's insane photoshops from last month, HoTT has continued the picture depicting Sosa as Belldandy from Ah, My Goddess. Sadly we haven't been able to identify all of the costumes this time around, but Chris thinks that Dekker's costume is from Final Fantasy, and Panther's outfit from the second picture appears to belong to Asuka from Evangelion. If you can fill in some of the blanks, just click the Discuss link below this update.

X-Plane Space Combat 1.4 For Free

akula65 tipped us off about Space Combat, a free space flight simulator by Austin Meyer of X-Plane fame. X-Plane is renowned for its realism in the flight sim area, and its creators have created Space Combat for free to test out some basic physics principles in space. The program is available here for Windows, Mac and Linux and clocks in at just a few megs.

Could the X-Wing really manuever like that? Need the Imperial Star Destroyers really be so LUMBERING? What would it be like to fly a Star Fury? How should a vessel of a given mass, size, and thruster power REALLY handle? Enter Space Combat, a space simulator where all of the laws of physics are accurately applied to your vehichle.
It doesn't seem that there's any actual combat to be had, but if you liked Microsoft Space Simulator, then this should be fairly entertaining for a while. Since there isn't much objective work to do, in the words of this old Space Simulator review, after a while you'll need to just "go play Wing Commander." Space Combat is pretty neat for a free experience, and I'd like to try out the new X-Plane at some point as well.

German Magazine Celebrates WC3's, Roberts' Achievements

Tolwyn sent us this article from the January edition of german magazine PC Games. There are two columns of interest to WC fans. The first notes that Wing Commander III was the first game reviewed by the magazine to receive a score of 96%, a score only recently matched by Half Life 2. The second column details what Chris Roberts has been up to since leaving Origin. The WC movie of course gets covered, and the magazine comments that Freddie Prinze Jr. may be responsible for the movie not being as successful as it should have been. Of course since the magazine is German, the article is also in German which makes reading it somewhat difficult. Unless you know German.

Holding The Line Chapter 199

Just over a week ago on January 28, HTL celebrated its 6th anniversary. In the absense of a slice of birthday cake, Raptor has sent us a new chapter instead.
Hey all, Raptor here

HTL continues with Part Thirteen of my Into The Inferno series, which follows Battlegroup Valkyrie during the final clash in the Nifelheim system. As you've seen in past chapters written by myself and Dan "Death" Poore, the corvettes and fighters from Taskforce Abbey had taken out the escorts of a Nephilim carrier group. In the battle however, Abbey's flagship escort carrier had been severely damaged. This chapter picks up from there. Please send any and all comments to me at theraj@es.co.nz.

The story is at: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/...

Also, HTL marked its sixth anniversary on the 28th of January. This anniversary was definitely bitter-sweet, as it will be the last in our history as an active storyline. We're targetting a finish date in the second to third quarter of this year, and there are some huge battle chapters coming up which will wrap the storyline up. As always, I would to thank the writers who have put so much effort into the story. I would also like to thank the people, within the Aces Club and without, who have E-mailed in comments and encouargement. It's feedback like that which keeps writers on track through the ups and downs of a long camaign.

Best, Raptor

Goodbye, John Vernon

Actor John Vernon, best remembered for his role as the evil Dean Wormer in "Animal House," passed away on Tuesday. He was 72 years old. Wing Commander fans, however, knew him best for his role in Privateer 2: The Darkening. Vernon played Errendi "Fark" Farquharson, the assistant to Xavier Shondi. Fark spurs one of the game's cinematic missions, contacting the player to report that Shondi is under attack by the Kindred. Afterwards, he joins Arris and Shondi for a well deserved beaker of Cobalt Blue at the Surgeon's Blunder Bar.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vernon. Our sympathies go out to his friends and family. We will certainly remember him as one of the high caliber stars who made Privateer 2's cinematics an amazing success. The Washington Post has published an article on his career, available online here.

Sony Online Entertainment Creates Seattle Branch

Tainen noticed that TeamXBox and GameSpot are reporting that a number of former Origin employees will be helping to establish a Seattle branch of Sony Online Entertainment. We know that a whole bunch of Wing Commander veterans worked for SOE-Austin, so it's probably that some got a promotion in this transition. The team most recently worked on the space combat expansion to Star Wars Galaxies.

Thanks For Visiting

You guys are amazing! Last month Wing Commander fans made over 67,000 visits to the main CIC site. While some were debating what type of year 2005 would be, we experienced our second busiest month of all time. Only during the Secret Ops launch in September 1998 did we get more guests to the site. Your involvement is the biggest indicator we have to show software developer there is interest in the future, so keep playing space sims.

Another Peek At The WC3 Production

TopGun found an old copy of the old Sci Fi Universe magazine. In November 1994 they did a preview of the upcoming Wing Commander III production. There's a few mistakes relating to the date and characters, but it's a pretty interesting look behind the scenes of the production.

But with Wing Commander III, 26-year-old Chris Roberts, director and creator of the previous Wing Commander games, wanted to define interactivity in a new way, by creating an interactive movie that employs all the conentions of film to tell a story, and also allows the viewer/player to become part of the action by interacting at key points in the plot, thus advancing and changing the course of events throughout.
Yeah, that whole paragraph is one sentence.

Enterprise Cancelled!

Yesterday UPN announced some very unfortunate news for fans of Enterprise.
UPN and Paramount Network Television have jointly announced that this will be the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise on UPN. [Production will continue until the end of this season, which will finish shooting in March.] The series finale will air on Friday, May 13, 2005.
TrekWeb has some additional comments from Rick Berman.
"I've always believed that you can take too many trips to the well. I'm not saying that Paramount has taken too many trips to the well, but they've probably taken enough for the time being. Since 'Next Generation' began, we have produced 624 hours. It's been 18 years with 'Next Generation,' 'Deep Space Nine,' 'Voyager' and 'Enterprise,' and seven of them we had two shows on simultaneously." Berman says the writing staff on ENTERPRISE planned for this eventuality and conceived this season's finale as a final capper for the series.
As many have said, we've been watching new episodes of Star Trek for so long that it may have been taken for granted. There's quite a bit of discussion on the matter over at Crius.net. Although I haven't watched much Enterprise myself, it was always pretty comforting to know that it was on. Most of the rest of the staff is pretty disappointed at this turn of events. Alternatives and ideas for what to do next are being considered at SaveEnterprise.com.

Last year we noted that ratings for Enterprise probably doomed the live action Wing Commander television show that was in preproduction a few years back.

Battlestar Raiders Compared to Dralthi

Two long-time CIC visitors, Darkstar/TCNPhil and pygmypiranha, found an interesting Wing Commander mention at the official blog site for the new Battlestar Galactica series. Ron Moore of Star Trek and BSG fame recently held a Q&A session.
I was on the sci fi channel's Battlestar Gallactica's Ron Moore's Blog page and about halfway through the article, the interviewer asks the creator/reviver of the series about the Cylon fighters that look exactly like Dralthis and was there an Wing Commander influence... which I had obviously picked up the similarity while watching the show. Apparently they have some ex-Wing Commander production team members on their set (maybe they subconsciously copped the design?).
You can find the full interview under Ron Moore's January 30 entry here.

Yeah, that's fairly Dralthi looking. Takes equally from the Wing Commander 3 and movie designs I'd say.

German Wing Commander Site Back Online

After suffering from further technical issues since returning from a year of downtime just before Christmas, German site WingCenter is once again back online. Since the site's updates are now entirely in German, it's hard for most of us to understand what they're talking about, but it appears that predictions that the site will start covering other space sims have proven to be true. Since returning, the site has started covering Nexus and the X2 expansion and will perhaps expand to other WC clones soon. Don't forget the Babelfish if you're going to stop by.

Watch The Speech in #Wingnut

Whenever something of note is held at the same time across all time zones, it's fun to watch it in real time in #Wingnut. Although I got called into work, there should be a bunch of people watching the State of the Union address around 9:00 pm Eastern US time tonight. Have fun.

New PiArmada Version Released

ZOmegaZ's project to recreate Armada which made a sudden appearance last month seems to have made huge improvements since the original release. A new version 0.6 is now available from Sourceforge, and includes features such as vastly improved graphics, and the sector map now lists system names making navigation a whole lot easier.
Separate fighter screen eliminated: It really was pointless to have a screen just for telling what fighters were in the system, when the carrier screen did that anyway. Now it's just a carrier screen with a few buttons missing.

Sector level facility buttons added: There are now icons on the sector screen identifying what faciltiies are in a system and allowing access to their detail screens.

Most graphics replaced: Thanks to PeteyG doing some collecting for us, nearly all the graphics in the game have now been updated with things that actually look decent! We also now have ship portraits on the shipyard screen. Still looking for replacements for the last few temporary graphics.

Kilrathi-specifics: The Kilrathi now fly and build their own ships.

There is a readme.txt file included in the download package with more details. This definitely looks like a project to keep an eye on.

Convention Prices About To Rise

You only have two weeks left to register for DragonCon 2005 for the low, low price of $50 before the prices go up to $60. The price gradually increases as the year progresses until it reaches to full $85, so if you book now you're getting a good deal. In case you've forgotten, DragonCon takes place in Atlanta, Georgia on September 2-5, and is where our annual convention takes place. In previous years we've met Tom Wilson (Maniac), John Rhys Davies (Paladin), Aaron Allston (Claw Marks author) and other WC celebrities. Playing Prophecy Advance (multiplayer!), the CCG, and watching the movie and WCA cartoon are among our many group activities. Today is also the first day that you can book our hotel of choice, the Marriott Marquis, for the event. If you have any questions, we have a forum just for the event.

Tom Wilson Encore Tonight

If you're planning to go see Tom Wilson at tonight's Back to the Future encore presentation, tonight is the night. Sadly if you haven't booked a ticket yet you're probably too late but you still may be able to grab an autograph. Bonus points if you ask him something Wing Commander related during the Q&A session.

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