The Nexus Big Thing

First Kilrah, then Sirius1... now they're invading Nexus! Exarch has modeled a Nephilim Barracuda-class corvette for the game... and it went over so well that he's working on a multiplayer total conversion! Look closely, it's the original model from Wing Commander Prophecy... with some spiffy new textures -- it really looks like it's straight out of an FMV sequence! You can also see a Terran Confederation TB-81 Shrike class Torpedo Bomber that's undergoing the same process! Spectacular.

1 - also, K'sk'taq, Hhallas and Valgard.

Playtesters Guided to Privateer: The Reckoning

Wonder what's going on with Privateer: The Reckoning? Well, Bob McDob was kind enough to send us a status report! The word is good: a lot of progress has been made turning Freelancer into Privateer... and now they need playtesters! Do you love Freelancer? Will they have to pry your dead carcass off of the mouse? Then I 'Reckon you should give them a hand!
After a long hiatus due to hardware problems, and a slight diversion to the WCFL project, the Privateer: The Reckoning mod for Freelancer is back on. Most of the work has been completed, with code tightened up and new features added. All that's left now is the work of playtesting the thing till the bugs are dead, dead, dead. That's where you come in. We need beta testers to inform us exactly where the problems are in the mod, since one person with a day job programming the mod in his spare time can't possibly find them all. If you've played Reckoning before, you'll find new ships (the Bearcat, Panther and Hades) and weapons (Stormfire and Dragonfly). If you haven't, give it a try!

If you're interested, contact warzog@netmdc.com. With work shifting to the Epsilon Sector. mod, this will very likely be the among the final versions of Reckoning set in Gemini. Now may be your last chance to be part of the greatest Wing Commander Privateer Total Conversion for Freelancer ever!

For The Glory Of Sivar

...and twelve other episodes too! February is a short month, so Kris tells me that we need to use up some spare bandwidth. The lack of votes for the Achilles in this week's poll makes me think some people might need a Wing Commander Academy refresher. We've picked up a few hundred new friends since the last time we mentioned the series, so this is also a great opportunity for them to dig in. Smaller versions of each episode are available for users who are still on dialup. Don't forget that the episodes originally aired out of chronological order. Check out our viewing guide to choose the best way to view them.

Space Sim First Look: Chronicles of Tarra: Spectres of the Stars

"Qetzlcoatl" Bulavsky tipped us off about another Russian space combat sim being published by Akella. Chronicles of Tarra: Spectres of the Stars is currently in development by Quazar Studios with an estimated 2007 release date. Although information on the game is currently only available in Russian, the game seems to center around an allied flagship that becomes stranded in enemy territory while searching for traces of an ancient race. As an elite pilot aboard the ship, you must work with wingmen who provide useful assistance and helpful advice on how to defeat your opponents and return home. Between missions you have the ability to customize your ship with over 150 different components.
Friendly pilots are not heartless extras, but independent personalities, each of whom possesses their own approach to life and battle. Only by assuming the role of command and managing your wingmates will you reach your full potential.

When I Was Seventeen...

We've had several inquiries about the pictures attached to yesterday's Pliers update. These were screen grabs taken way back in 1997 from Origin's Wing Commander IV Playstation website! Origin developed beautiful multimedia websites for Wing Commander IV PSX and Privateer 2... unfortunately, they're probably lost to the ages today -- but a few elements survive. These images are from a Java-based ship and weapons database. You can find the other screenshots (which I've been carrying from computer to computer over the years) in this update! The Wing Commander IV PSX website is also the source of Eisen's famous secret letter. This note established when Wing Commander IV occured and is an elegant precursor to the amazing Secret Ops fiction.

New Poll Destroys Them All

Our new poll asks which destroyer in the Confederation fleet was your personal favorite. Is it the ancient Confed Valiant class? Or maybe it's the Paradigm, one of the Confederation's most advanced destroyers. These workhorses held the line against thousands of opposing warships during the various wars, and many proud Confed destroyers were sacrificed over the years to protect valuable carriers and colonies.

Last time we tried to find out which game fans thought were most technically impressive when they were released. Wing Commander 3 took the cake with a strong lead. Each and every Wing Commander game pioneered exciting new technologies and features, so we know it was a difficult choice. Armada came in last, but its incredible multiplayer modes were way ahead of their time.

Pliers Swears By It

BWS Intrepid veterans may recall that the carrier's eccentric mechanic sometimes comments on their weapon loadouts and ship selections. Unfortunately, when you go to look up the history of the Stormfire, it's not in the Wing Commander IV script!

To fix that omission, I've gone through the game in order to make Pliers talk. There's lots of interesting information, quite a bit of foul language... and plenty of great trivia as to exactly what he's done to the carrier's arsenal. The next time someone asks you why the tractor beams in Wing Commander IV are so great, you can say with certainty: they've got double the axial frequency and some added inertial retractors!

Introductions-
Intro: Bring me back a ship as clean as you did last time and I'll show you what old Pliers can do.
Intro: Good luck, kid. Eisen handed out a tough one today.
Intro: Don't screw this one up, kid. Looks like a cake walk.

Ships-
Avenger: Avengers are good for rescues. They've got staying power. Kind of slow, though. Banshees are the quick guys.
Vindicator: The Vindicator won't get you through long battles with that light armor, but it's the only one you can use for atmospheric missions.
Banshee: Banshees are great all around fighters. You can't go wrong unless you're trying to take out a cap ship.
Lance: The Dragons are amazing. Just think about those infinite afterburners. The speed comes directly out of your powerplant, though, so just keep an eye on your energy readouts.

Guns-
Tachyon: The Tachyon cannon is one of my favorites. It packs a real wallop, rarely fails and it's one sleek design.
Leech: If you wanna disable a ship, use Leech Cannons. The Confed's like the missiles, and sure we've got some of them... but they're a little rougher on the merchandise, if you know what I mean. If you get in close, go with the cannons.
Mass Driver: The mass driver is a great gun for scaring the crap out of your enemies. It has a gut-wrenching sound and leaves a lot of visual damage.
Laser: Laser cannons don't do much damage, but they sure fire fast.
Ion Cannon: The Ion Cannon was the first weapon I ever worked on, and it hasn't changed much since. They're rugged and cheap to build, so we got a lot of 'em.
Photon Cannon: No idea why so many people like the Photon Cannon. I always thought the heat to divergence ratio was lame.
Plasma Cannon: The Plasma Cannon definately wreaks major havoc on your enemy, but don't get caught leaning on the trigger. It'll drain you dry in no time. It'll suck you dry faster than a... okay, you get the point.
Fission Cannon: These Black Lance ship got some crazy type of ass kicking Fission Cannon. Just hold down the trigger to charge and release to let 'em rip. Only problem is waiting for your wings to lock so the vicious kickback doesn't tear 'em off.
Stormfire: I was able to pull a Stormfire off a junk pirate fighter we just hauled in. Boy, old technology but damn effective. Fires a shitload of small, low density projectiles at extremely high velocity. Just paint your target and let her rip. If the range wasn't so damn short they'd still be around today. Try it out and see how you like it.
Scatter Gun: I was tinkering with one of our Ion Cannons and came up with this Scatter Cannon. Okay, so the name sucks. It shoots five bolts instead of one, for just a 17% bigger hit on your energy. The prototype's going on your next ship. See what you think.
Tractor Beam: I've pushed the limits of those old Confed tractor beams you probably learned on at the Academy. I doubled the axial frequency, added inertial retractors and pretty much tweaked the hell out of 'em. You'll be impressed your next salvage op.

Missiles-
Dumb Fire: Dumb Fires. Pack a big punch, but only good for slow moving space pigs and cap ships.
Heat-Seeker: Euh, Heat Seekers, whatever. Best you can do on this Border Worlds budget, I guess.
Friend or Foe: The Pilum FF basically kicks ass. You fire it and let it do its job, no questions asked.
Image Recognition: Image Recs? Euh. Confed has shit loads of these. The locking gizmo takes its time, but it tracks real good.
Mine: If you've got mines on your ship, I reccomend using them. I've seen more than one bogie bite it because he didn't watch out for these creepers. They track, you know?
Starburst #1: We scored some prototype ordinanance which I'm anxious to see field tested. One of them is code-named Starburst and it appears to be some kind of charged-particle burst bomb with an engine attached. When you launch it, keep the trigger down until you want it to blow. Then hopefully the safety will keep it from going off in your face.
Starburst #2: Starbursts. Good for hitting big and something a long way off... but I think it'll need some old Pliers magic before it'll be more useful.
Coneburst: Boy does that Starburst bomb suck. Guess that's why it was still in testing. Well, I've been tinkering with it, made it more useful. Instead of bursting all over the place it all blows forward in a cone shape. Like some big shotgun. Someone's gonna shit.
Torpedo: You want to kill a cap-ship? Use torpedoes. 'Nuff said.
Mace: We got some ass kicking loot from that weapons depot. Try out the Mace missile sometime. This sucker's got a proto-nuclear warhead on it that'll take out more than its fair share. Just launch and hold the trigger till the safety clicks off. Then release to explode. Boom!
Flashpak #1: Give 'em hell, kid. Can't wait to hear about that flashpak.
Flaskpak #2: The Flashpak is guided, it's mean and we only got one. I don't know any more and I don't think I'd want to. This thing scares me.

Outer Space Called, It Wants Its Car Back

Here's a weird one: an article at Automobile.com that claims a new concept car is "... inspired by Star Wars, Star Trek and Wing Commander." Apparently the Nissan Terranaut is a sort of science car that includes "... a special 360-degree swivel chair that faces a wrap-around desk with integrated keyboard and controls, plus a huge screen that rotates about the desk. This portion of the car ... displays all sorts of environmental and geological information..." Well, it's no Centurion...

Ultima VII Bares Its Fangs

On Sunday we explained an elaborate set of in-jokes between Wing Commander and System Shock. Today we'll look at what is probably the most famous Wing Commander "crossover" -- the Bloodfang-class Superfighter which appears in Ultima VII: The Black Gate. It's not hidden - in fact, one of the game's famed side quests is based around the ship. If you have Ultima VII then you can find the fighter in the northeast corner of a wheat field due east of Britain. It's sitting out, readily visible:

If you click on the fighter, the game plays the Kilrathi Theme MIDI! You can download the Ultima VII version of the music here. Note that the SNES port of Ultima VII does not include the Bloodfang. Developers wanted to include the ship but were stymied by the SNES' memory limitations. When you talk to a nearby farmer, Mack, you learn the story of how he encountered the Kilrathi and the unusual series of events that followed. Here's a transcript:

You see a farmer with wild eyes widened in excitement.
"Avatar! Thou hast returned!" exclaims Mack.
Name: "I am Mack."
Job: "I am a farmer, though most folks just call me a lunatic."
Farmer: "On my farm I raise chickens and grow vegetables. If thou dost need work, talk to me!"
Lunatic: "Thou dost also think so, eh? But I tell thee what I say is true! There are creatures visiting us from another place in the stars! I have seen them!"
Creatures: "They are big mean ugly liontigers! Or is that tigerlions? They are ferocious and they want to eat us!"
Another Place: "All I can say is that there are certainly no such creatures in this world! Nor is their ship like any that has ever been seen anywhere in Britannia."
Seen Them: "With mine own eyes I have seen a star creature and the inexplicable conveyance which enabled it to travel to Britannia! I swear to thee! I am completely sane! I have proof!"
Proof (#1): "Go and look behind my farm in the middle of the field. Take a look for thyself and thou shalt see my proof."
Proof (#2): "I told thee I was not a looney! Didst thou see the proof?"
No: "Thou must go and look at what is in my field! Then come back here, for I must talk about this with someone who knows that I am not a looney!"
Yes: "Did I not tell thee that I am no loonie? Still, my story of how I did come across this thing is beyond belief."
Story (#1): "I like to stay up late. Sometimes I see bright lights flash across the sky. No one else ever pays them any mind. But one night I see this bright light come crashing down and it lands in my field."
Bright Lights: "I always watch for moving bright lights in the night sky. That is part of why people in the town say I am a loonie. But is what I do so different from what they do in the orrery?"
Lands: "After the explosion and crash I ran out to my field. There I saw the strange machine that thou hast seen, only it was glowing hot. I was terrified. But then the top of the machine started to open."
Machine: "It resembled a bird, but it was not a bird!"
Open: "I could not move from the spot as I saw the strange ship open. From out of the top came the vicious tigerlion. There was a savage hunger in its eyes."
Hunger: "In other words, it looked like it might eat me!"
Tigerlion: "It came at me like a predator comes after prey. It was so fast that I could not even move. I thought I was going to be killed for certain. It reached me in a second. It looked into mine eyes, and then it died."
Died: "What it and I had failed to notice was that I was holding mine hoe. It had once been accidentally enchanted by a passing mage, and it works wondrously in the fields. I use it for everything! The tigerlion had run itself through upon it. As it died, the thing spoke."
Spoke: "It said two words. "Kill Wrathy." I do not know who this Wrathy person is, or why the tigerlion wanted me to kill him. But I do know I sure get worried now whenever I see moving lights in the night sky."
Hoe: "I am sure thou dost know about the plague of looniness that has come to afflict all of the mages in the world. It was several years ago that I brought my broken hoe to a mage called Mumb. Fixing things was all he was good for anymore. There was also some fighter who wanted Mumb to enchant his sword, turning it into "The Sword of Death". It appears poor Mumb got confused and that fighter came back and killed him because the man wound up with a sword that was only good for cutting weeds. I could never figure out exactly what happened. It appears that old Mumb made mine hoe into the Hoe of Destruction! Unfortunately, the hoe is lost."
Lost: "Well, 'tis not really lost. It is locked up in my shed. It is the key to the shed that is lost! I think I might have accidentally used it as a fishhook when I was fishing on the banks of Lock Lake. So now I cannot get into my shed. One would think I -am- a looney!"
Kill Wrathy: "I am quite certain that was it, or something like that. Anyway the tigerlion itself proved to be quite delicious."
Story (#2): "I have been looking every night for another sign of those things but I have not seen any since that last time I told thee about it."
Thrak'hra: The Other White Meat!

Those Not of the Blood

... must have their blood spilled. Or, so translates the Kilrathi: Va ka garga ka naru ha garga. Though it may not have fared well against the Hoe of Destruction, the Bloodfang was decidedly Kilrah's finest. The Bloodfang-class Superfighter first appeared in the non-playable Wing Commander II Demo (available here). Prince Thrakhath flies a Bloodfang - rendered in WC1-style graphics - to deliver news to the Emperor.

The fighter appeared again in Wing Commander II, again in the hands of the Prince. You encounter the ship only once, in a one on one dogfight against Thrakhath at the end of the game -- either in K'Tithrak Mang D or Gwynedd (2) D. The Wing Commander II version is identical to that which appears in Ultima VII.

The Bloodfang appears a third time in Wing Commander III, significantly redesigned with the modern 'non-symmetrical' approach to Kilrathi fighters. This time around you see them twice: when Thrakhath taunts you with Angel's execution at Torgo 3 and then again in the game's penultimate dogfight at Kilrah 3.

The fighter received its name in Wing Commander 3, as well. While Wing Commander 2 refers to the fighter as Bloodfang internally, the name was not entered into the continuity until it appeared in WC3. It was not spoken in dialogue until the release of WC3 3DO, which restored a missing 'news brief' segment about the fighter (available here). The Bloodfang also appears as a rare WC:CCG card, representing Blood Most Noble Squadron (motto: "The Emperor's Chosen"). You can see a complete set of specifications for both Bloodfang variants here.

Party Like It's The First Age of Darkness

Shooter reports at the Chat Zone that Electronic Arts has joined the GameTap online service which, as a result, will soon offer Ultima I through VI as part of its subscription-based classic gaming service. The original article is here.

Gametap allows legal access to hundreds of classic games for a low monthly fee. Those interested in testing the service can apply for a free trial period. Ultima VI was the last Ultima game released before the original Wing Commander... it isn't hard to see a future where Wing Commander games (or, at the very least, the magnificent Ultima VII) are made available!

While excellent news for those left hoping for a legitimate way to play some of the greatest games ever developed, this is presumably also a crushing blow to those who have long decided they're allowed to steal these titles as "abandonware" on the questionable logic that no one is profiting off of them. I hate to say we told you so...

Rockin' Johnny's Old School Top Ten Again

Do you remember what you were doing eight years ago today? If you were part of the online Wing Commander community back then, you were probably laughing at Captain Johnny and Sean Murphy's "Ten Signs that you're addicted to Wing Commander Prophecy." It was posted to alt.games.wing-commander and reprinted at the Wing Commander Home Sector on February 23, 1998. Those were darn good times.
1. You keep hitting the 'C' key to talk to people.
2. When using your dustbuster, you pretend its a Marine LC.
3. You 'autoslide' when walking.
4. Whenever you see a roach, you start looking for his wingman.
5. You make 'afterburner' noises when passing cars on the freeway.
6. When pulling into a parking garage, you wait for the 'AUTO' light to appear on your dashboard.
7. You use the power mirrors in your car like turrets.
8. You get upset when you can't get a torpedo lock on the truck in front of you.
9. You think Mark Hamill is a darn fine actor.
10. You end every conversation with "Break and attack!"

New Wing Commander FL Sets Stage For Next Phase

Warzog has released version 2.7 of Wing Commander FL for fans who want to play Freelancer with WC ships. Most of the ships' hardpoints and loadouts have been reworked to more closely resemble their actual stats. Unfortunately the Dragon didn't make the cut due to bugs with targeting and textures. This entire project is actually a stepping stone to future projects. Work is already under way on the Epsilon Sector mod, which will build upon today's update heavily.
I've run through the missions with most of the ships. The lightest one was the Arrow, and that was a real bear! The 4th mission tears up the lighter ships really fast, so save, save, save! All of the gates out of New York are open after mission 2, so Privateering is easier, as is finding that favorite ship. Besides the Drayman (small transport), Hades (the Osiris) and the Panther (a new Bounty-Hunter ship), a new version of the Bearcat (the Order's ship) has been added.

Similar to Privateer: The Reckoning, the WCFL-Epsilon mod will take place in the Epsilon Sector and will be a Privateer-like mod. Epsilon was chosen because of the ratio of Confed-Border Worlds-Kilrathi systems, which I'm hoping will give a new challenge to the mod. The ships are all ready, and most of the bases are too. I've got a few DLL's to update and the "Border Worlds" to create before I dive into making the entire sector. Asteroids will be all over the place. A few mine fields and lots of remote outposts are in the plans. I've already added the Reaper and Steltek guns, and I'm looking into adding some other weapon systems as well.

BTW, I've received several requests from people who'd like to start servers for the WCFL mods. My answer is always "The More, the Merrier!"

Marc is working on recreating Caernarvon for the Epsilon mod, and has modelled the Tarawa's transport ancestor. Both of these are pictured below. Meanwhile you can play WCFL by first installing FL Mod Manager and then downloading and running the WCFL 2.7 pack.

Privateer 2 Fan Novel Gets English Translation

Due to a lot of requests from forum members, work on translating Deacan's Privateer 2 fan novel from German in to English has begun. Rather than relying on Babelfish, Deacan has recruited a friend to do the work, and a sample of the first chapter is now available here. A section of the sample has been reproduced below.
The Awakening

Hermes.
For most of the people living in the Tri System this was just a meaningless, dirty planet which was lucky enough to be at least geographically close to the metropolises Crius and Hades. This piece of wasteland had been left years ago by industry and craftsmen; now only mercenaries, pirates, and other rather nasty subjects settled on the planet now. Dirt and waste covered nearly every street, the continuing decay of society was a smelly companion. Days here started and ended with death, either by violence or by one of the countless diseases which were present here. Altogether, this was a place that a sensible human being should avoid.

All of this probably went through the stranger’s head, too, who as exchanged the cockpit of his ship with the asphalt of the runway mere moments ago. The air under the ship was still blazing from the heat of the engines when a man from the maintenance crew walked over to him...

Variations on a Theme

Looking for more ways to have action with your WC:CCG cards? By now you've probably collected all the best cards... but is hitting your opponent with Thunderbolts as quickly as possible still fun? The series' creator, Don Perrin, posted a series of interesting 'theme decks' to the Usenet shortly after the game was released in August, 1995. If you're looking for a new gameplay experience -- and after eleven years, you should be -- give them a try!
Hi! Sure I can go over some of the theme decks bashing each other here at Mag Force 7.

The Rachel and her Toys Deck: Rachel Coriolis (or Nickodameus on the fur side) provides one medal point to a flight with a weapon card. Every fighter that launches has a weapon. Pilots are optional. I send lots of torpedo carrying TBolts out and try to go after the carrier directly.

Four Arrows for your Carrier Deck: This one uses lots and lots of torpedo mounts, torpedos, a bizillion maneuvers and, of course, Arrows. You fly out there with a mit full of maneuvers and knock down heavier fighters (you have a far better maneuver rating than their slower stuff) and then swarm the carrier for two hits. This one's worked twice out of four games, so I may have to beef up my battle damage cards. They have the psychological effect that players seem to need to take the fighter home to fix it. While they're home, I'm doing torp runs on the carrier!

Basic Plodding Doom Deck: I use this one when I play Jeff Grubb and I'm playing Kilrathi. I play lots of Vaktoths and Strak'has, lots of attack weapon systems, and very few maneuvers. I try to use as many medal producers as possible. Out they go, and just shoot everything in sight.

Moneybags Deck: This is the deck that Jeff uses against me when he plays Terran (and I must admit, it works better than my basic plodding doom deck). He uses a few heavy fighters, lots of mediums, Transports and Admiral Tolwyn. He may spend two in a turn, but he just went up four. He uses lots of expensive luck cards to pound me into salt.

Space Control Deck: Either side can do this one (although I haven't tried it yet). Lots of little fighters and lots of Nav Point Modifiers (the ships). You go out, grab space, and hold it against big odds. You can go either for your opponent's points or his carrier with this one. Like I say, I haven't tried this (hey, something to do tonight).

I hope that this helps. Let me know any ideas you guys have come up with.

Wing Commander Test Ships Simulated In Kuiper

Antman is still plugging away at his Kuiper Project and has decided to see how a few Wing Commander ships look rendered with the Torque engine. He's recreated several designs from WC3D. They came across fairly dark, but you can see the results for yourself below.

I am currently working on a flight engine based on Torque called the Kuiper Engine. It is fairly modern, it is a shader-compatible engine that uses D3D9, et cetera. The game I am writing is not a WC game itself, but I decided to look at how some WC models would look inside it.

Gemini Gold: Second Overhaul Coming

The Gemini Gold team is working on another set of updates that will bring the game closer to the original Privateer. John Cordell has this announcement for us:
We are currently working on the next upgrade for the game and have already included some really nice stuff. Major goals are to bring back all the original base computer interfaces, polish the base interiors and get rid of various balancing issues.

Since this is a lot of work you still have to wait quite some time before it is done. Besides, the game's graphic engine gets a major overhaul which causes a delay. While time passes by I will show you some neat stuff out of the current development version...

If you have any suggestion, question or just want to help then head over and establish a Link to New Detroid's Communication Network.

Pictured left to right: a title screen, a Perry Naval base hangar and a Quine, a digital assistant used by many privateers.

Concordia Battle Group Flies On To Your Background

Marc Pageau has sent us this new wallpaper which is optimized for a 1280x1024 desktop, though obviously it'll scale to any size. The scene shows a pair of Sabres and a pair of Broadswords with the Concordia, a Waterloo cruiser and a pair of Gilgamesh destroyers providing the background. Unfortunately Marc hasn't provided any details about the source of his models or the design process, but it looks good regardless.

You Got System Shock in my Wing Commander!

Origin games have always been famous for their in-jokes -- from the Bloodfang in Ultima VII to the WEC (Crusader) references in the Secret Ops fiction, there's a rich tapestry of unofficial crossovers. Today we're looking at an especially unusual relationship... in Wing Commander, System Shock is a game (turned movie), and in System Shock Wing Commander is a game you can actually play! Wing Commander III's Victory Streak manual included a 'HoloVid review' about a new movie based on System Shock's story (with the proper character names):
Hail SHODAN radiates with cyberpunk action and the good looks of Clint Mason. After streetwise hacker James Finn (Mason) accepts the challenge to punch deck into Citadel research station, he unkowingly removes the logic systems behind the station's artificial intelligence. Finn finds himself trapped in a steel jungle with nothing but his hands and a few electro-magnetic grenades. The furious pace of this epic game-based HoloVid will send you reeling through the aisles ... the ending will astonish you (2.24 hours) ***
Wing Commander 3 for the 3DO went one step further and actually included a screenshot from System Shock alongside the 'review'!:

You Got Wing Commander in my System Shock!

The original disk version of System Shock included a number of mini-games you could collect during the game's cyberspace mode and then play whenever you had a quiet moment. These were small, simple games that loaded in the player's left VDU - versions of things like Pong and Tic-Tac-Toe. For the subsequent CD version of System Shock the designers went all out and included a major homage to Wing Commander: Wing 0, a tiny Wing Commander shooter.

Wing 0 features a 13-mission campaign complete with traditional Wing Commander plot elements: wingmen, speech, traitors, nav points, talking heads, familiar fighters, autopilot flybys, lasers, dogfights and so on... all done in a 148x139 corner screen!

Thanks to a saved game kindly provided by Shadowcat of the Through The Looking Glass forums, I was able to jump right into Wing 0 to break it down into its component parts. The result is a brand new article, available here, that treats it like we would any new game -- it provides mision layouts, endgames, wingman comms, controls and ships!

I've also put the saved game I used to access Wing 0 directly online here (500k) -- if you have the PC-CD version of System Shock, give it a try (and if you don't have the game, go buy it!).

Wing 0 was developed for System Shock CD by Sean Barrett. His biography says the following about the game:

"...for the CD game I outdid myself with a relatively complete Wing Commander minigame, Wing 0--written just before Wing 3 was released, it's both an homage and a parody, featuring, for example, one pacifistic wingman who refuses to fight (and strangely never gets attacked either, because he's actually a traitor!!!), a mission where you get something like 8 wingmen, and a final 'aww, what the heck, let's send you out by yourself to defeat their entire armada' mission."

Pioneer Progress Made On Important Details

The WC Pioneer team has spent most of this month working on a variety of critical internal pieces for their upcoming game. Joel VanEenwyk has made progress on the mission editor and asset manager, while Howard Day has created weapon models and effects. The light show below highlights the blasts you'll see from the laser, mass driver, meson gun, neutron gun, photon blaster, particle cannon and plasma gun. Missiles have come together nicely, and a tentative explosion effect has been designed. Click the image for a .mov of it in action. The last image is a nebula test that's helping to diversify the space backgrounds.

New Standoff Scoreboard Stats Available

The latest addition to the Standoff Scoreboard is a detailed set of usage statistics. You can now see exactly how popular certain missions and ships are. Over three thousand individual scores have been submitted in the Kilrathi and Confed Gauntlets so far! If a fighter is being underutilized, that might also be your cue to capitalize on the lack of competition for a higher score. Grab the Episode 3 Starter Pack or upgrade patch and start racking up scores today. There's some fierce competition going on, and you'll all definitely need the practice for the exciting space combat coming soon.

Stealthy Strakha Finally Decloaks

Lars was sifting through some old files and came across a Strakha model he created a while back. The ship has been retextured, and the sharp looking result is below. There isn't an elaborate story behind this one yet, but the design might see some use in the future. Until Lars' next wallpaper, it's just a neat looking Kilrathi stealth fighter.

I found my old Strakha model and just put some paint on it. Nothing special and not very high on poly, but it looks good enough for now.

Shoot For A Complete Set

We're about to conclude another round of Wing Commander Customizable Card Game trading, so if there's gaps in your collection, now is a good time to drop us an email. Starting a new set can be difficult these days, but we can usually help players come closer to a complete deck. Don't forget to check out Jetlag's CCG Site for an almost complete database of high res card images.
There were 90 commons, 100 uncommons, 100 rares and 22 nav points in the main set of 312 cards. An additional 2 promo cards also exist. In each booster pack you'd get 8 commons, 4 uncommons, 2 rares and a nav point. We have card lists and more resources in the CCG Section.

Privateer 2 Fan Novel Printed In Germany

Deacan is a huge fan of Privateer 2, and he's written an entire novel-length story to prove it! It's probably the first Wing Commander fan fiction that's been professionally printed and bound, and the results are fantastic. Das Erwachen's cover art is especially beautiful. It features an Icarus in hot pursuit of a Heretec near a watery planet. Deacan produced eight copies at a local print shop and has posted the first chapter to the CIC Forums to give everyone a sample. The story was written in German, so unfortunately not everyone will be able to read it. You can try the Babelfish to translate, but results there are hit and miss.
I wrote a book some times ago. The story is still in German only, but I hope (!) that a few people here still speak this language and have fun with it. Enjoy!


„Das Erwachen”

Hermes. Für die meisten Bewohner des Tri-Systems war dies nur ein unbedeutender, dreckiger Planet, der das Glück hatte, zumindest von der Lage her nahe an den Metropolen Crius und Hades zu liegen. Dieses öde Stück Land war schon vor Jahren von Industrie und Handwerk verlassen worden, jetzt waren es Söldner, Piraten und andere eher unschöne Subjekte, die den Planeten besiedelten. Schmutz und Unrat bedeckten fast jede Strasse, man roch überall den ständigen Verfall der Gesellschaft. Der Tag begann und endete hier mit Tod, entweder durch Gewalt oder durch eine der zahlreichen Seuchen, die hier präsent waren. Alles in allem war dies ein Ort, den der vernünftige Mensch meiden sollte. Und all dies ging vermutlich auch jenem Fremden durch den Kopf, der erst vor wenigen Augenblicken das Cockpit seiner Maschine mit dem festen Asphalt der Landebahn getauscht hatte. Die Luft unter der Maschine flimmerte noch von der Hitze der Triebwerke, als ein Mann von der Wartungscrew auf ihn zu ging. „Sie haben da ja einen netten Vogel. Irgendwas dran zu machen?” Er deutete mit dem Kopf in Richtung Hangar. „Nein, danke.” Der Fremde deutete auf das kleine Anzeigegerät in den Händen des Mechanikers, offenbar war seine Zeit knapp bemessen und er wollte kein längeres Gespräch anfangen.. „Oh, ja doch.” Per Fingerabdruck bestätigte der Unbekannte seine Landung, dann ging er wortlos in Richtung der Dockschleusen, begleitet von den Blicken des Mechanikers. „Typen gibt's.” Mit diesen Worten wandte sich dieser wieder dem Alltagsgeschäft zu, er steuerte den nächsten Piloten an.

Raph Koster Talks MMOs

Gamespot has a new interview with Raph Koster, one Sony Online Entertainment's top massively multiplayer executives. Prior to his SOE job, Mr. Koster was at the helm of Origin's Privateer Online attempt. He has a lot to say about the mmo genre and how it will take shape in the future. Some of the insights provided here might suggest where POL could have gone. There is also some commentary on his time working with the original Ultima Online.
GS: The king category for MMOs right now is role-playing games. What's going to have to happen for a real-time strategy/first-person shooter MMO to come along?

RK: I think one of the key things that we definitely learned is once you start thinking of the MMO as a platform or a place, you can put in a lot of different kinds of games in them, rather than thinking of them as having to be an RPG. At the same time, I would say that we also learned that one of the big things about having a virtual place was having a sense of your virtual self and the way in which they advance and progress. With PlanetSide, you have Battle Rank. Even though we were careful to make sure it didn't take over the game, it's also very important as a marker of how well you're doing and how you relate to other people.

GS: What do you think the life span of an MMO is? Can EverQuest go on forever? Can the communities stay the same? Can I be playing with someone when I was 20 and still be playing with them when I'm 80?

RK: Well, 20 to 80… I think the historical evidence is that the games will last, right? The question is, "But with how many players?" So, there are games still running from 20 years ago that still manage to maintain this loyal core of users. Now, whether or not they can then afford to upgrade it to the latest shaders is a whole other question, right? But the persistence and the attachment of a community to the game--that doesn't seem to end.

That's something we can all confirm right here. You can find the complete interview here.

AD's Wing Commander 4 Project Still On Track

There hasn't been much news on the Wing Commander 4 Project lately, but progress is steadily being made. AD's goal is to create a seamless movie by integrating WC4 DVD's video clips and gameplay missions. Properly editing the in-game scenes to remain interesting, coherent and continue to advance the story is the tricky part. Today's 43 meg video demonstrates this process during a mission in the Peleus System jamming field. There is also a neat 30 meg clip that follows the the interception of the Border Worlds convoy in the Masa System.

This divx is an example of one of the later mission sequences. I've attempted to make more creative and liberal use of the different cameras. With the addition of a new hard drive, work on the project has picked up considerable pace. Let me know what you think... even if it is just a little nagging detail.

Wing Commander Incorporated Into Silent Death

Hammerhead recently pointed out that someone has created a Wing Commander rule set for the Silent Death board game. Rather than shoehorn Wing Commander ships into the existing game structure, Erik Dewey rewrote certain elements to facilitate the Wing Commander ships and technology. Weapon ranges had to be increased relative to what might be expected, but he has otherwise tried to faithfully carry the Wing Commander spirit into this medium.
I have been a big fan of the Wing Commander series since it began, although I usually play them well after they were released as that's when I have a machine powerful enough. After playing Wing Commander III and IV again, I decided to create the ships in those games in Silent Death. Here then is the result.
I'm not familiar with the original board game, but the Wing Commander touches sound pretty cool.

Happy Valentine's Day

Good. Now, some of these newbees rattle on about 'what if this happens', 'what if that happens'. This is the Love Arrow, I tell them: make good use of it.

Happy V-Day, WingNuts -- not to be confused with VK Day, when you're more likely to get lucky in the first place. Hey, look, the Love Arrow beats now!

Get Your Kicks at D*C 2k6

... and what better way to fill up the lonely void in your trip than making plans to hang out with Wing Commander fans at Dragon*Con 2006 this Labor Day weekend?

You have just one more day to lock in tickets at the cheaper price -- they go from $50 to $60 on Thursday (2/16). This year the convention is expanding to a third hotel, making more space for the gaming room, the art gallery and the dealers room.

The CIC gang will also be using this year as an opportunity to Wing Commander it up at the all new Georgia Aquarium -- just like that 'squadron trip' Hunter wanted to take in Freedom Flight. It's the largest aquarium in the world and it features two whale sharks! Amazing. Be there for all the Nephilim warship jokes we're sure to make.

So, make your travel plans, get those tickets fast and let us know you'll be there!

ChrisReid: LOAF!

LOAF: All you biatches who be all up on my Wing Commander II timeline picked tha wrong day ta mess wit da L-man, yo. Word to yo proper placement of End Run at least one year previous to Fleet Action to allow for various references to Melek's exile and Bondarevsky's time spent at the Academy.

LOAF: Since we loved it so much, we decided to Marriott.

ChrisReid: Some panels we tried to attend after dinner were filled to capacity, so we played video games in the lobby instead. Don't we look cool? Some dork came up and made fun of us for Pictochatting, but he didn't even have a DS.

LOAF: I'm coming for you, Red!

Lego Longbow Ready For Combat

Vermin has improved his popular Longbow model made entirely out of Legos. The first change is apparent in the structure. All four wings have been redesigned to more appropriately balance with the proportions of the fuselage. Forward guns and the rear turret were also completed. Step by step instructions are in the works, and a basic sample of their design is pictured below. Vermin hopes to post the final model to the Lego site so people can purchase the necessary pieces and build their own soon.

Use Wing Commander Ships In Tabletop VBAM

Jay wanted to let everyone know about two Wing Commander packs available for the Victory By Any Means pen & paper role playing system. It looks kind of complicated to me, but people familiar with the game can use these ready-made Excel sheets to play their own Wing Commander themed variants. The general mod pack is available here. The second pack is a larger file with much more detailed spreadsheets for fighter combat. Last year CmdrPanda made some impressive miniatures to use with the Starmada relative of VBAM as well.
Starmada is a simple (but not simplistic) board game of starship combat, in which players square off in a general attempt to blast each other's fleets into just so much space junk.

While the universe of the Imperial Starmada and its major adversaries is fully detailed in the rulebook, Starmada is much more than just another game, tied down to its own background. Instead, Starmada can be played in just about any science fiction setting you can imagine. There are dozens of optional rules, exotic special equipment items, and menacing weapons that can be used or discarded at your discretion, to create the type of game you want to play!

-----

I came across some WC material for the second war era. Players have been using it in the VBAM game system, and I thought I would pass it along to the community. Tyrel Lohr is the author of the material. I don't know if it is perfect, but it is fun.

Ten Years of Wing Commander IV

It was exactly one decade ago today that the interactive movie reached its high water mark: on February 12th, 1996 Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom was released.

Wing Commander IV will go down in history for its famous film shoot. With an estimated budget of $12 million, Wing Commander IV was at the time the most expensive video game ever made. Like its predecessor, Heart of the Tiger, Wing Commander 4 featured a cast of professional actors -- including Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Wilson and John Rhys Davies. For the first time, though, the movies were shot on actual sets in Los Angeles using 35mm film. Series creator and director Chris Roberts' had finally brought to life the project he had dreamt of for years: a blockbuster Hollywood movie where you were the star.

The Austin-based Maverick Team deserves equal praise for Wing Commander IV's success. In terms of gameplay it was Heart of the Tiger writ large. Wing Commander III's visually stunning but technologically cumbersome flight engine was streamlined beyond all expectations: for the first time in the series' history a new Wing Commander didn't necessitate a major hardware upgrade. At the same time, the team introduced a host of new features that have now become standard in such games: dual wings, projectile and charging guns, in-flight interactive choices, a FMV map, infiltration and capture missions and more.

Equally important were the moments of quiet brilliance. Wing Commander 4's artists visited the USS Lexington museum and applied what they learned about the look and feel of real life naval aviation to the game. For the first time individual capital ships had their own specific artwork - the TCS Lexington was distinct from the Princeton, the BWS Intrepid from the Tango. The game introduced a working background to the Wing Commander universe, featuring missions set against a complex panorama of communications arrays, weapons factories, shipyards, spacelabs starbases, turret mines and the like. Ground missions featured a detailed surface, eschewing the lumpy yellow blobs of the previous game. These little touches made gameplay more immersive than ever before - and have continued to reward a fandom interested in Wing Commander continuity to this day.

Those who waited for Wing Commander IV will forever remember January, 1996 as the longest month of their lives. The game was originally scheduled for release December 8th, 1995... fans awoke that day to find the disappointing news at Origin's early website: Wing Commander IV was delayed until February. Then, it hit. Wing Commander IV inaugurated one of the greatest years of Wing Commander fandom. Bookended by the release of two major titles, WC4 and Privateer 2, 1996 was an amazing year that helped create the community we know today. The WC:CCG was in full swing, the Academy series was on television, Baen kept novels in print and in development. In the news reports of a theatrical movie began to trickle in -- at the message board fans debated Tolwyn's ideology while lusting over the new Bearcat and Lance fighters. It was truly the best of times.

Ten years later Wing Commander fans continue to fervently hope and honestly believe that there will be another 1996 and another Wing Commander IV.

Impressive, Aren't They?

In our new poll, we ask which Wing Commander games were the most technologically impressive at the time they were released. The original game featured incredible detail, dynamic music and branching campaigns. The second title expanded on all this and introduced amazing speech, which caused sound card sales to surge. Everyone remembers Wing Commander 3 for boosting CD-ROM sales with its liberal use of live actor FMV, and WC4 expanded on this with incredible production values, live sets and recording on real film. Prophecy pioneered 3D acceleration technology, and Privateer is well known for its open ended nature and tremendous freedom of choice. Armada pushed the multiplayer envelope many years before the market was ready, and dazzled dial-up modem users with the ability to play friends in different locations and across local networks.

Wing Commander has always made use of the very latest technology at the time of release, but vote now to support the game which you think produced the most impressive results at the time.

Our previous poll asked which WC role you would prefer to have. It should come as no surprise that nearly half of you would like to be a Wing Commander. Second and third places went to Captain and Admiral, so it seems more people would prefer to command a single ship rather than an entire fleet. Spy was the least popular option, even though they get to play with gadgets such a the D 3S 5.

I Suppose They Will Jetlag.Us All

Jetlag has brought back his fantastic CCG resource back to life. You can find a nearly complete set of Wing Commander Customizable Card Game scans online at ccg.jetlag.us (the single missing card is "Tail Shot Off"). What's more, the scans are now available in high quality, high resolution versions! Check it out today - the CCG is one of the most overlooked Wing Commander games... but it's also one of the most in-depth additions to the Wing Commander universe. Check out today's second update for details on just how well this game ties together the whole of Wing Commander.

It's In the Cards

While it was released in the wake of Wing Commander III, the CCG isn't all 'Heart of the Tiger' references! Here's some exciting points you can use to dazzle your friends at dinner parties:

  • "Maniac Solution" (Terran Maneuver) comes from the Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy Guide -- it's the chapter heading on page 119 and refers to Lt. Col. LaFong's plan to use Maniac to fly special solo missions.
  • "Mr. Kat" (Terran Luck) comes from Voices of War, the Wing Commander: Armada manual. Mr. Kat was a stuffed cat doll the young son of a TCS Lexington pilot sent him for good luck.
  • Three of the four Wing Commander I squadrons appear in the CCG! "Killer Bee Squadron" flies Hellcat Vs instead of Hornets, "Blue Devil Squadron" flies Arrow Vs instead of Scimitars... and "Black Lion Squadron" and is an elite unit flying Hellcat Vs instead of Rapiers or Rapier IIs (their motto, "Pride of the Vegan Sector", refers to the events of Wing Commander I). Star Slayer Squadron, the Raptor unit, does not appear.
  • The names of the Kilrathi capital ships are steeped in Wing Commander lore. "Destroyer Bordrav" is named after the Bordrav Feeding Colony from Voices of War, "Dreadnaught Vengeance of Vukar Tag" is named after the Imperial planet attacked in End Run and Cruiser Shalk'Kuz Mang continues a naming tradition from Wing Commander II (K'Tithrak Mang).
  • The "TCS Agincourt" (Terran Modifier) is named after the Waterloo-class Cruiser that assists the Concordia in Wing Commander II.
  • The Kilrathi "Transport" modifier may look out of place to you... it's the model used in the 3DO port of Wing Commander III. It later appears in a Wing Commander IV cutscene and was also present in the very first WC3 screenshots ever released by Origin.
  • The "Red Rangers" squadron is from Voices of War -- they're the squadron which issues a TrainSim challenge to the crew of the TCS Lexington. Here they fly Hellcat Vs.
  • "Too Much Vak'qu" (Terran Luck) is a reference to the Kilrathi alcohol introduced in Fleet Action. The Terran equivalent, "Too Much Fire Liquor" comes from Freedom Flight.
  • "Blooms of the Birha Tree" and "Crimson Birha Squadron" are references to Freedom Flight, which created the red-leaved Kilrathi tree native to Ghorah Khar.
  • The four Terran pilot awards cards are the same medals awarded to pilots in Wing Commander I. They are: "Bronze Star", "Silver Star", "Gold Star" and "Pewter Planet". There is no Golden Sun card.
  • The four Excalibur squadrons are patterned after the Arthurian callsigns used by Blair's Gold Squadron for the final attack on Kilrah in the Heart of the Tiger novelization - particularly "Lancelot Squadron", to the book's Lacelot Flight.
  • "Imperial Security" (Kilrathi Luck) comes from Freedom Flight. The organization functions as both the Empire's internal security and intelligence departments.
  • The CCG is one of the few Wing Commander spinoffs to remember that the Kilrathi deity Sivar is female, as introduced by Fleet Action! Many Kilrathi squadron cards make reference to 'the goddess'.
  • "Zu'kara" (Terran Luck) was first introduced in Fleet Action. It is the Kilrathi ritual suicide.
  • Six of the eight noble clans appear in the CCG. The clans were first introduced in Secret Missions 2: Crusade and their structure was established in Super Wing Commander and Fleet Action. The two which do not appear in the CCG are the nar Sutaghi and the nar Qarg. In addition to the six noble clans, the CCG uses the famous Hhallas name in creating "Kukubno nar Hhallas".

Are you familiar with another fun CCG reference? Let us know!

Command Staff Moves Into Unified Bengal Design

Lars' fancy hybrid Bengal now has a detailed command center. A variety of bridge and corridor windows have been added, and various sensor and communications gear is visible. There's also a colorful rendering by Marc below. It helped shape Lars' design and contrasts with the untextured Bengal's current metallic gray. The design is really shaping up. Hopefully the model ends up seeing some use in exciting projects or wallpapers down the line.

I've done some little things to the bridge part again. Added windows and armor to the side and added some details to these little wings. Still I am not very happy about the antennas. I will have to remove or replace them.

Heads Up!

It's no secret that the characters in Origin's "talking head" games were frequently based on real people. Here's a story about Sean Murphy as Zach "Jazz" Colson in Super Wing Commander (a questionable honor at best -- luckily he's also Space Quest's Roger Wilco). Now here's a second Wing Commander cameo... it's series creator Chris Roberts as RAF Lieutenant Edmond Skikes in Wings of Glory. Wings of Glory was Origin's penultimate RealSpace engine game, using technology that was also featured in Wing Commanders Armada, Heart of the Tiger and The Price of Freedom.

You're The Man Now Cat

Never one to leave well enough alone, Bob McDob set out to improve on Wing Commander YTMNDs of the past. This is what kids do for fun nowadays I suppose. You can visit his creation here. It's a combination of a WC2 midi and a neat artistic rendering of Prince Thrakhath.

<ZFGokuSSJ1> Is anything supposed to happen?
<bob> Music plays and you look at Thrakkath
You can look at more Wing Commander images while background music plays here and here.

German Kilrathi Role Playing Ground Relaunches With New Features

Last month we highlighted major role playing games that currently exist in the Wing Commander community. Most of them have been around for a while, and there was one classic RPG we missed. The Kilrathi Empire group has been successfully conducting business for about five years and was actually a Fan Project of the Year runner up in 2002. Although regular operation was paused recently, the game has now been relaunched and should be better than ever. WCKE exists completely in German, so their available player base is somewhat limited. Germany has always had a tremendous Wing Commander following however, so there should still be quite a few fans ready to play. You can find more information at kilrathi-net.de.

The prior system has been thoroughly improved so that it now features free choice of clans with distinct abilities and characteristics. The cultural information, especially in the forums, has been broadened repeatedly to create a more sophisticated background for the Kilrathi. The missions - fighter-based combat as well as spectacular ground missions - are being carried out via IRC - also following a new and more plausible set of rules. Our role-playing forums have been remodeled extensively, giving each character a much better chance to develop their own background stories as well as to present their personal experiences. This is also the new main focus: not just fighting, but living your character. The main enemy is still the Terrans, who have recently developed greatly. But the Kilrathi have not been idle either. It might also be possible that the face of our enemy will change sometime soon.

The game is still exclusively played in German language. The aforementioned refers to the game following the original Kilrathi Empire's storyline only. There is another game currently in the (re)works, to be resumed in the future. It is the one reported in the news in 2004 and also features many well inspired changes to the set of rules from the original, with new sub-clans, their own forums and a completely new and different story.

Time To Start DragonCon 2006 Planning

The new year is under way, and it's already been more than five months since our last meeting at DragonCon. New readers since last fall should check out our 2005 DC Gallery to get an idea of what happens each summer when the CIC staff gets together at one of the world's largest science fiction conventions. It's time to start planning for 2006's event, and the first order of business is to think about ordering convention passes. This year's get-together takes place from September 1-4 in Atlanta, Georgia. Tickets for the four days of convention programming are $50 until February 15. They steadily increase throughout the year and are $85 at the door. A few guests, such as Star Trek actress Denise Crosby and author Peter David, have already been announced. If you have any questions about dropping by and hanging out with some of the world's biggest Wing Commander fans for the weekend, the Crius.net DragonCon Forum is a good place to start.

Richard Garriot: The Best Is Yet To Come

GameSpot has caught up with Origin founder Richard Garriot to discus his recent AIAS Hall of Fame award. He also answered questions about his role in gaming history and how Tabula Rasa will be different from previous massively multiplayer experiences. A lot of the interview also has to do with the industry was shaped by the Ultima franchise and innovative steps that were taken back at Origin. You can find the complete interview here.
GS: Of your achievements to date, which are you the most proud of?

RG: Hmm. I have three games that I'm really the most proud of. They're Ultima IV, Ultima VII, and Ultima Online. I think what you'll see--especially in the first two examples-- that I'm most proud of, is trying to imbue in the computer games not just game mechanics, but also a sense of literary storytelling. To try to create settings and characters and reasons to be there and things to do while you're there that go beyond "fight the next monster, collect the next level of treasure, cash it in and then level up.

Lego Of My Longbow

A newcomer to the WC Lego scene, Vermin, has been tinkering with the MLCAD program. A nifty looking Longbow was the result! He hopes to get instructions up soon, which is just as well since the design looks pretty complicated. There are also a few details yet to be added, such as the front guns and a turret. That's a great looking Lego landing gear too. I wonder if it retracts.

C&C First Decade Ships To Stores

Electronic Arts announced this morning that they have shipped Command & Conquer: The First Decade. This new pack represents one of EA's most complete series anthlogies ever. Beginning with 1995's original C&C title, the set includes twelve titles released during the franchise's first ten years. As the FMV concept proved to be mainly a fad, both Wing Commander and Command & Conquer were two of the few that were able to pull it off with a lot of success. Although the development team behind Generals & Zero Hour has been working on the Lord of the Rings based RTS games lately, First Decade's title implies there is more yet to come.

For $39.99, buyers also get a bonus DVD with concept art, developer interviews and contributions from the world's biggest C&C fans. EA has also set up a Screenshot Hall of Fame to record players' biggest moments. For fans of both Wing Commander and Command & Conquer, picking up this special set might tell EA how interested gamers are in their classic game catalog from the 1990s.

Watch The Best Of Both Worlds' Endings

Plywood Fiend's latest music video might be his best yet. The background music is improved with REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It" setting the pace. A wide variety of situations from Wing Commander 3 are synchronized with the lyrics pretty well. Listen quickly to match each scene to the words of the song. Some transitions happen very fast! You can grab the 27 meg wmv clip here.
I'm slightly more confident that people will like the music this time.

German Strategy Game Features Familiar Fighter

TheFraix recently recommended Smugglers 3 as a space trading game that Wing Commander fans might be interested it. We don't really cover very many 4X style strategy games, but one thing caught people's eyes. The game's Stormcrow fighter bears a striking resemblance to Privateer 2's Heretic. There are a ton of different Wing Commander ships in existence, so some games are bound to have overlapping designs, but you can judge for yourself here. The only differences I see are two little fins added to the back.

WCA Art 21: Volcano Island

Four years ago LOAF managed to acquire twenty backgrounds from the WCA animated series, which we posted here for your enjoyment. There are still a lot of backgrounds out there somewhere, and fortunately Chris came across one on ebay. According to the seller it was shipped off to Korea for artists to do their thing before being returned to the US. The background shows a scene of water with the sun just appearing over the horizon, and an island with a volcano in the distance. The first image below is the background art, and the other two are screencaptures from the cartoon showing the background in its final form. There is a higher res version of the scan here. Don't forget to check out the previous backgrounds.

Staruss Plays With Virtual Lego

Since posting build plans for a Lego Dralthi last week, Staruss has been playing around with a program called MLCAD. The program is a kind of virual Lego environment allowing you to plan how to construct your various designs. By using it, Staruss has been able to reconstruct his Dralthi and is now working on a Lego Dragon. Unfortunately his camera is currently broken so there aren't any photos of the actual model just yet.

New WCSO High Res Patch Fixes Sound Distortion

HCl has released a minor tweak to the high resolution patch for Secret Ops. Players that encountered skipping and stuttering in the in-flight communications dialogue can use this new version to listen smoothly. If you already have the high res patch for SO installed and running properly, simply unzip and overwrite this file to your Secret Ops folder. Otherwise grab the whole 8 meg pack here. This is just a precursor to a major upgrade patch currently in the works. The next iteration should fix the hud in Glide mode, allow higher resolutions and even support widescreen monitors!

The bug is actually on the sound streamer routines, the video just tries to keep up with the audio when the bug is triggered. This happens far more often during FMV play though, which is why I never ported this fix to WCSO.

However, I have the code handy, so I included the fix and recompiled the main DLL for the WCSO highres patch. Unzip it into the WCSO directory after installing the highres patch and the problem should be gone.

Standoff Episode 3 Improvement Patch Released!

The highly anticipated upgrade to Standoff Episode 3 is now available! Although the team behind this popular fan project is hesitant to release interim updates between episodes, they have isolated a number of major things they were able to fix and expand on in the last month. In addition to these improvements, the Tarsus has been replaced by the Arrow in the Standoff Simulator. The new ship looks great and should be very popular. You can begin flying and racking up new scores with the Arrow now! Current Episode 3 players can grab the one meg patch here. Brand new users can begin with the 194 meg starter pack, and people with just Episode 1&2 can grab their 76 meg version here. The exterior shots below show off the Arrow in the Vision Engine. The interior pictures feature the improved Ferret cockpit.

  • Fixed a bug that made certain missions crash when too few wingmen were available
  • Fixed a bug that prevented the player from returning to the flight deck after going back to the recroom
  • Fixed a bug that prevented the player from using autopilot to land, even when the AUTO light was on
  • Fixed a bug that occasionally made valid simulator scores be discarded
  • Added a permanent score display in the scoreboard-enabled simulator missions
  • Made military transports act as corvettes (corvettes use different radar colors and collision detection)
  • Made the mines trigger on proximity instead of on collision
  • Fixed the mine 3D model so that it no longer has engine flares
  • Added a new cockpit mesh for the Ferret
  • Replaced the Tarsus with the Arrow in the simulator (this Arrow is based on the Armada version).

    We've also taken a few measures to try to eliminate a crash that might happen at the start of a new wave in the gauntlets, as well as the infamous "mis-matched VDU" bug. However, we can't be sure we've managed to completely fix either of those bugs since they both were much more frequent on some systems than on others. We *hope* they've been fixed, but if you have any indication to the contrary, please contact us.

Geek Empire Gets The Wing Commander Message

Smooth over at Geek Empire has published a neat retrospective on the life-changing impacts of the Wing Commander universe. The series is symbolic of the types of games that went beyond being just fun to play. Wing Commander captivated the imagination of millions of science fiction fans and has been a source of great enthusiasm for fifteen years now. None of this is new to the regular readers of our site, but it's always an important message that we like to see get around to a new audience. You can find the complete article here. If you're wondering what more can be done to help spread the word, share your Wing Commander excitement with a friend.
When I look back at all the games of the Wing Commander series, I always smile inside. I think that gamers coming up today should be able to have this same experience as I had: That they can play a game that inspires them.

EA Announces Third Quarter Financial Data

Detailed information on Electronic Arts' fiscal third quarter (October-December) was released this morning. Almost a dozen titles sold more than a million units during the quarter. Need for Speed Most Wanted lead the pack at seven million copies sold in its first six weeks on shelves. GameSpot reports that EA produced five of the top ten best selling console and hand held titles in 2005, but there seem to be some discrepancies, since their list doesn't reflect these copies of Need for Speed.

The financial numbers reflect a few major declines compared to the previous year. A lot of this is related to extensive resarch and development for the current console cycle transition. Net revenue for this time frame came in at almost $1.3 billion, down $150 million from last year. Net income dropped from $375 million to $259 million. The cost of future technology development exceeded $200 million for this period as well. In related news, EA laid off several hundred employees yesterday. This amounted to a 5% reduction in its workforce to streamline global operations.

Final fiscal year totals are expected by May. The next year should be big for the company with quite a few major projects coming to fruition. Some of its major next-generation titles delayed beyond Christmas, such as Burnout Revenge and The Godfather, will finally be released in March, and the company is expected to have a full lineup of titles for the Playstation 3 launch later in the year. EA currently has one third of the XBox 360 market in the US and one quarter of the European market. You can find the full financial report here.

Up To Our Knees in Ships

The Ships of the Wing Commander Universe document has been updated with an amazing find: nine new ship names, all discovered by AD during a careful study of the Wing Commander movie's surround sound audio tracks. The new ships are the TCS Ally, TCS Avalon, TCS Barracuda, TCS Bradley, TCS Darwin, TCS Jean Louis, TCS Langston, TCS Miranda and TCS Vega.

This version also corects a long-standing error which listed the TCS Altair as the TCS Apache. TCS Chinook and TCS Altair were the names of the two asteroid depots that Col. Blair and company refuel at in the Kilrah System at the end of Wing Commander III -- their names are revealed in the 3DO port of the game.

You can download the list in DOC format here.

And By A Scout To Say We End

Last week we reported that it was your absolute last chance to fly the Tarsus-class Merchant Scout in Wing Commander: Standoff's simulator. Well, now Quarto says we actually mean it:
Well, this patch has taken a little longer than we anticipated (mainly because we're trying to also kill the gauntlet-crashing bug once and for all - and it takes a lot of testing to kill a bug that only appears rarely at random times), but we think we may be almost there now, hopefully we'll release it during the next few days, and before the end of the coming weekend at the latest.

So... you know, if there's any last takers for the Tarsus (though it doesn't seem to be an especially popular ship... can't imagine why), this is really the last call.

...I hope.

The Tarsus was the mainstay of the Terran Confederation Exploratory Services during the initial exploration of the Gemini Sector in 2639. Manufacture of Tarii ceased in 2658 and by the mid-2660s they had left official service entirely. By 2668, the time of Standoff, the ugly little ships remained popular, however hopelessly outclassed, on the second hand market. The Tarsus was introduced in 1993's Wing Commander: Privateer, where the player character begins the game by inheriting a a Tarsus that his grandfather, Mac, had purchased from an ES officer. So: this is your last chance to get behind the wheel... er, IBM PS/2 Keyboard of the Tarsus -- and it's your last chance to get your name on Standoff's Tarsus scoreboard. Go get those bastards... very slowly!

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