Secret Ops (Barely) Remembered

The April 2007 issue of Exclaim is running an article called "Next Episode" on the recent spate of 'episodic' game releases (Sam & Max, Half Life 2, et. al.). In an odd reverse, the article remembers to credit Secret Ops... but associates it with an odd conclusion:
Pioneering episodic games Wing Commander: Secret Ops (1998) and Majestic (2001) were both cancelled before completion; the former was too large a download in the pre-broadband era, while the latter simply failed to attract enough players.
So, before anyone asks -- no, Secret Ops wasn't "cancelled"... all seven episodes were released as planned, and no others were ever considered.

Let's Play Tag

One of the new features we rolled out for Arena is Xbox Live Gamertag support for the CIC Forums. The new Arena board displays your GamerCard next to your post. Elsewhere on the forums you can view someone's card by clicking the small Xbox icon.

Here's how you link a Gamertag to your Forums account:

1. Go to your profile.
2. Scroll down to "Additional Information".
3. Enter your GamerTag.
4. Save changes.


Check out the automatically updated Gamertag directory to find out what other games Wingnuts like to play. Remember that you can register a free, Silver Live account even if you don't yet own an Xbox 360. You will need one to view the profiles.

Complete Your Holovid Collection

While our Holovids section continues to grow, it's quite easy to overlook some of the original content. In addition to old favorite WC Academy episodes, we also have a complete set of DVD quality videos from the unreleased Prophecy DVD. If fan created content appeals to you, there is Queeg's full-length WC3 movie and a huge collection of music videos including nine WC3 based music videos. There are videos to appeal to all kinds of WC fans so take a look!

Wing 4 Movie Technical Details

Queeg has released a third test clip from his Price of Freedom movie project. This one is more of a technical test than the other two, but it's good to see the project is in active development. The clip shows the Dolby Digital sequence and the opening credits. There is also a brief shot of the doomed medical transport.

I think the video compression is all sorted now. I have made a 1 minute and 30 second clip of the intro into an AVI. The AVI uses the compression I plan to use for the final movie, which has an estimated file size of 1.3gigs (I know a bit big, but it is a movie and quality takes space).

The video details are as follows:
Video - Xvid Two Pass (Average bit rate 1200kb/sec)
Audio - AC3 dolby digital 5.1 channel

Please tell me what you think and if you experience problems viewing it. Any kind of criticism welcome. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Download the new clip here (15 megs) and tell Queeg what you think in this Forums thread. Try the VLC movie player if you can't get the file to work.

Run and Hydra

There's more Pioneer material from Howard Day. First up are five screenshots of the Hydra -- one of the fan game's flyable ships, not a radical redesign of the Nephilim cruiser. He has also released 'fly around' .MOV files of the new Hydra (41 mb) and classic Tarsus (23 mb) ships.

Jacket Reminder

There's just over one day left to bid on Sean Murphy's Wing Commander IV/Prophecy team jacket! This is an amazing item that needs to go to a loving home... but be warned, you'll need deep pockets -- the auction has already passed the $350 mark! It's still cheap at that price, though, especially in light of everything Sean Murphy has done for us in the last few years! The auction is here.

Next Up: Xbox 360 Drakhai

Microsoft announced today the impending release of the Xbox 360 Elite, an 'even more premium' version of their Xbox 360 console. The Elite (and its accessories) come in black rather than white plastic, and add HDMI-output, a larger 120-gigabyte hard drive and a month of Xbox Live Gold. It will arrive in stores April 29th and retail for $479.99. Current Xbox owners can purchase the larger hard drive alone for $179.99. That's space for a lot of copies of Wing Commander Arena...

Arena's Future Space Station

Here's one to watch for: a quick WHOIS lookup reveals that Electronic Arts has registered wingcommanderarena.com. Hopefully this means that there will eventually be a special Wing Commander Arena website available... every little bit of continuity helps! Here's the entry:
Domain Name: WINGCOMMANDERARENA.COM
Name Server: SEDNS.EA.COM
Name Server: SWDNS.EA.COM
Updated Date: 30-oct-2006
Creation Date: 30-oct-2006
Expiration Date: 30-oct-2008
EA also owns wingcommander.com, but the domain is still registered to the now-defunct Origin Austin studio.

Veldor? I Just Met Her!

Deacon has posted another image from his Privateer 2 'resurfacing' project... this time it's a CIS MCOS Veldor-class carrier. These ships only appeared as mission specific targets -- so if you've been spending all your time flying around the Tri-System without accepting assignments, you're missing some impressive hardware. The original version is on the left, the new one on the right.

Nexus Mod Preview Released

Exarch is back to resume work on his Nexus mod again, and he's uploaded a preliminary test release for people to try out. This tech demo includes a couple of fighters and capships for both the Confederation and Kilrathi. Only a very basic AI has been implemented and fighter mechanics still have a handful of bugs, but the preview should give people an early idea of what to expect when more elements are completed. Nexus owners should download this pack (56 megs) and unzip the contents to the Mods folder of the Nexus directory on their computers. Select WC Apocalypse from the modifications menu in the game to play.

Just fair warning, the AI in skirmish missions is as dumb as a brick. I'm working on trying to modify it to acting more appropriately, but I haven't had experience with the scripting language. Thus, for this release, don't expect much in the way of a challenge, unless you're playing against another human. This is just to show the ships in action, more or less, and give you a sense of what is to come.

Command & Conquer 3 Ships

The PC version of Command & Conquer 3 should begin hitting stores on Tuesday. This classic franchise recently went back to its roots with the rerelease of many classic titles in the series. The new game's lavish use of live actors in high quality video cutscenes has given many Wingnuts hope that future Wing Commander titles will also feature big Hollywood productions. Whether or not more FMV really does lie in the future, EA's continued investment in its big hits of the mid 1990s is a good sign all around. A demo is available, and initial reviews seem very positive. An XBox 360 release is also expected in early May.

Fast and fluid gameplay, a breakthrough single player campaign, the ability to transform online battles into a spectator sport, next-generation graphics, and an epic story with full-motion video sequences featuring top Hollywood talent, mark the return of the critically-acclaimed Command & Conquer(TM) series.

...Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars(TM): Kane Edition is a definitive collectible for any Command & Conquer or Real-time Strategy fan and will feature an enormous amount of exclusive content including a bonus DVD with a behind the scenes documentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a series of gameplay strategy videos, and more.

Paper Fleet Broadens

Péricles has completed another fantastic paper model. The A-17 Broadsword bomber is now ready to build. Two versions have been released, so fans can choose from either WC2 or Privateer style paint schemes. A special blank template is also available, so talented texture artists can take a shot at creating their own colorations. The main zips below include original Pepakura .pdo files plus 1/100 and 1/200 scale PDFs for alternate printing. Péricles is now looking for good low poly models of the Dralthi VII or Dorkathi for his next designs. Check out his personal site for pictures from some of his other projects.

WC4 DVD Tool Has Merit

Gulikoza has found a neat tool to help people play the DVD version of Wing Commander 4 on modern systems. His basic Dxmci patch is critical to getting the game running without the hardware decoder board it originally shipped with, but users of some programs like PowerDVD occasionally run into conflicts. The merit patch allows players to prioritize filters and play without uninstalling other software. You can learn all about getting WC4 DVD to work at Gulikoza's website.
Now if you install mpeg2dec and assign it a high merit, it should always be loaded instead of WinDVD/PowerDVD filters. You can leave PowerDVD installed (it will still function, since it loads filter directly, not by merit).

Pod People On Arena

Podcasting is an art which passed me by, so this is an older story which we missed: IGN's Sci-Fi Brain podcast spent some time discussing the Wing Commander Arena announcement in a show last month. The parties involved seem cautiously optimistic, and they offer some good theoreticals about what the game could mean to the future of the Wing Commander franchise. You can download the podcast here, or through the Hobbies category in iTune's podcast section. Chat about Arena begins around the 55m30s mark... but the overall production seems well done, with some nicely flowing chat about all sorts of sci-fi related mass media news. Thanks to Clint Worthington, writer and podcast participant, for letting us know about it!

Saga Cuts Down Wait Times

The WC Saga team has come up with a solution for fans that were put off by the Prologue's plodding autopilot sequences. Their new engine tweak allows pilots to skip to subsequent nav points after a brief flyby. Two original Wing Commander 3 missions were remade to test this feature. You can try these out by unzipping this pack into the Prologue directory and selecting "Autopilot Tech Demo" from the game's campaign select screen. A short movie (2 meg xvid) has been released to demonstrate this effect.

BREAKING NEWS: Official Forums Open For Business!

Electronic Arts has launched their official Wing Commander Arena forums! It's little remembered history that our own forums were first created because Origin Systems shut down their "Official Wing Commander Chat Zone" in 1996. It's a small thing for most people, but EA once again running an official WC forum is an important symbol for me.

We have become a close knit group of friends over the years... now let's go and interact with the rest of the world once again! I believe longtime WingNuts should make a special effort to be courteous and helpful to this new group of people who will surely become the next generation of Wing Commander fans.

You can find the new Wing Commander: Arena forums here!

Happy Holy Day of Acclivity!

It's a Wing Commander holiday! March 23rd is the day celebrated by Pilgrims as the anniversary of Ivar Chu McDaniel's ascension to a higher form of being. The Protur, head of the McDanielist church, will spend the next seven days praying and fasting in isolation. The Holy Day of Acclivity was introduced in the novel Wing Commander: Pilgrim Stars by Peter Telep.

Full Motion Video Jacket

He's given us ships and he's given us models... and now veteran Wing Commander artist Sean Murhy has something cool to sell! He's put a beautiful Wing Commander IV team jacket up on eBay. This awesome outfit has Black Lance, Unified Space Command and Black Widow patches from the WCIV and WCP film shoots... along with the developement team patches for both of those games (pictured below). You can find the auction here. Bid early and bid often - few people are as good friends to the Wing Commander community as Sean Murphy!

Some SMurphy Sketches Surface

He only has one jacket to go around, but Sean Murphy's website is full of neat stuff that everyone can share. Here are some beautiful concept art sketches that date back to his Prophecy days. It's great to be able to see how designs like this evolved from this point to later revisions. The early idea for the Devastator is a very close match to the final design, but the lighter bomber evolved quite a bit. Sean released the actual Shrike model last year (get it here), and the Stingray has been available since last week!

Hurry Up and Straith

Deacon has posted a new 3D screenshot of his 'Straith makeover'. The 3D model was designed by Ser Kears, and is part of Deacon's Privateer 2-based Das Erwachen series of projects. I'm certainly impressed by this project... if there's one area of the Wing Commander continuity that needs to be expanded, it's the enormous amount of backstory created by The Darkening!

East Meets West

Our own Cpl_Hades has aquired his UK release of EA Replay! Before heading off to the Enyo System he took some high resolution photos comparing the American and European boxes... I can't help but wonder whose job it is to slightly reposition the Replay bubbles. How does it play? Identically, apparently... and despite all the extra development time, the minor VDU glitch in The Secret Missions is still there. Too bad!
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Ascii Sector Comes To Life

Chris Knudsen has made progress with Privateer Ascii Sector, and he's released a new video to show everything off in motion. The 6 meg wmv file reveals the game's new artificial intelligence with an intense dogfight between the player, a bounty hunter and a Kilrathi. What looks like a blob of yellow and red asterisks is actually a triumphant explosion. It might be hard to make sense of the symbols in the screenshots, but the neat ship icons take on a life of their own in the new clip. The third screenshot shows the player evading a Kamekh while piloting a large merchant ship. Chris describes this scene in further detail below.

The ship I'm flying is a Pegasus -- one of the 'capital' ships available to the player for a steep price. I'm running away from a Kamekh while firing the rear turret at it (equipped with two mass drivers and a particle cannon). As you can see, the lower left MFD displays the rear turret's status (all guns are green and thus not damaged), just as it would show the front guns and missile launchers when in the cockpit. The colored '+' around each ship shows which way the ship is pointing. As I'm currently using the turret, the forward pointing '+' is dark grey, while the '+' that indicates where the turret is pointing is the usual green. You switch between the cockpit and turrets with the F1-F4 keys. F1 is the cockpit, F2 the rear turret, F3 starboard turret, and F4 port turret.

Another thing I don't think I've mentioned yet is the colors of the ships, both on the main screen and on the scanner. These colors depend on the kind of scanner you've got installed. Just as in Privateer, there are three series of scanners: B&S, Hunter AW and Iris. Each series differs in how ships are displayed. The B&S scanners display all ships in a light grey color (both on the main screen and the scanner), Hunter AW shows friendly ships as blue and hostiles as red, and Iris uses colors to indicate which faction the ship belongs to: Kilrathi are yellow, merchants grey, pirates red, and so on... As you can see, I've currently got an Iris scanner installed on my Pegasus.

Blast Into EA's Past

Gamasutra has put together a thorough article on the history of Electronic Arts. It begins with the events surrounding the company's 1982 founding and covers many major milestones that contributed to its growth over the last 25 years. Page 4 gets into the acquisitions of studios such as Maxis, Origin and Westwood that bolstered the EA lineup in the mid nineties. Wing Commander is mentioned there and also cited as a major 3DO title when the company's original founder partnered with EA to launch the system. It's kind of neat to read about how some of EA's current hit franchises came to be. You can find the full article here.
Electronic Arts purchased its first outside development studio, Distinctive Software, in 1991. Based near Vancouver, British Columbia, Distinctive had previously worked on the Hardball and Test Drive series’ for EA’s competitor Accolade. After joining EA, they set to work on several of EA’s sports franchises and created the long-running Need for Speed series. Distinctive was later renamed EA Canada and is now one of the largest studios in Electronic Arts’ organization.

In 1992, Richard Garriott’s Origin Systems joined the fold. The Austin-based studio would go on to develop new volumes in Garriott’s Ultima and Chris Roberts’ Wing Commander series as well as the groundbreaking Ultima Online. Other important games from Origin included Crusader, Privateer, and Warren Spector’s System Shock. AH-64D Longbow, the first installment in the Jane’s Combat Simulations series, was also developed at Origin.

Despite its successes, Origin had difficulty integrating with EA and in 1999, after the release of Ultima IX, Garriott left the company. Later, several of Origin’s high-profile projects were canceled and the company was dissolved in 2004.

Our Own Tooner

NinjaLA has begun work in earnest on a very impressive project: a Wing Commander comic! The art is very impressive -- it looks as though it were straight out of the original Claw Marks manual. So far he's published seven full pages -- and more are expected soon.

Over the Radar

Howard Day has posted a set of renders showing off the radar options in his upcoming Wing Commander Pioneer project. He gives the order as: Sentry S, Sentry SJ, Sentry Aura, IRIS MK.1, IRIS MK.2, IRIS MK.3, Tripwire Bronze, Tripwire Silver and Tripwire Gold. At least one of those brands should be familiar to veteran Privateers...

Cheaper EA Replay Found In UK

Yesterday we noted that Wing Commander fans in the UK were being charged extra for EA Replay, but Starman has found them some relief. Woolworths is offerring the game for £16.99 (plus £1.50 shipping), which is more than half off the retail price! We're not yet sure if the price extends to retail stores, but this is a great find. Woolworths also has a preview of the back cover. The general layout is fairly similar to other versions. The changes mainly seem to be UK-specific symbols at the bottom.

Never Drink and Autoduel

Soma has a strange story for us -- apparently thieves recently broke into a cabin owned by Origin founder Richard Garriott to steal $5,000 worth of alcohol. What's more, the clever criminals left a digital camera full of pictures of themselves. Read all about it here.

They're offering a reward, in spite of the fact the man behind Ultima VIII must understand that sometimes you need to stray from the path of the Virtues. Also, the next time you're wondering where those purple horses in Tabula Rasa came from, just remember that Richard Garriott owns a series of uninhabited cabins containing thousands and thousands of dollars of alcohol...

EA Replay Released In Europe!

Wing Commander has finally arrived on the Sony PSP in Europe with the release of EA Replay. It's been four months since the North American launch, and stores in France (EUR 28,70), Germany (EUR 19,95) and the United Kingdom (£29.98) all list it in stock. Note that the price seems to vary considerably depending on the region. British Wingnuts are being charged two to three times the rate of their German or American ($19.82) counterparts. Fortunately, PSP game software is compatible with systems designed for different countries, so importers have been in luck. Collectors will still need to get multiple versions however, since the box layouts are different on either side of the Atlantic. The Wing Commander bubble appears on the top in America and on the left in Europe (there are several different rating system symbols as well). We'll let you know if there are any other differences that pop up.

Play-Asia is also listing a South Korean version of EA Replay! They indicate a January 18, 2007 release date, but the product doesn't appear to be in stock. More information to come.

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Today is CIC staff member Chris "ChrisReid" Reid's 25th birthday -- so happy birthday from the rest of the team! I'm sure you all recognize Chris' name from his many news updates or his forum postings... but he's also the person who keeps the site organized and running behind the screens! The rest of us would never have the ability to keep track of things like merchandise production or convention booking.... we'd be lost without him. More than that, he's an all around good guy. Drop Chris a line here.

A Centurion's Armor

One of the coolest (and rarest!) types of Wing Commander memorabelia is dev team shirts. Origin used to hand out special shirts to everyone who worked on a particular game... so only a few examples of each ever existed. They often feature interesting new art, and can even sometimes add a little bit of information to the Wing Commander canon (like this one, which created a squadron designation).

Here's one that really takes the cake, though -- the dev team shirt for the original Privateer, featuring a very cool blueprint of the Centurion heavy fighter! This artwork doesn't appear anywhere else... which is a real shame, because it's very cool. There are high resolution images linked below -- anyone want to take a shot at figuring out the specifications?

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That Stings!

Here's another cool present from veteran Wing Commander artist Sean Murphy: Max and 3DS conversions of the original FMV-quality Nephilim Stingray model! Sean says that people wanting to render the ship will need to make up a couple new textures, because some of the original Alias materials didn't have Max equivalents -- in particular, the glowing cannon tips. It seems pretty darned neat regardless, though... so fan artists should get to work making some big Stingray battle scenes! Grab it here (11.5 megs).

Pioneer Gets New Graphics

While the WC Pioneer project has been relatively quiet in public, Howard Day has been working on some new visuals behind the scenes. The project's Hunchback fighter has been given a bit of an overhaul and now looks a lot better than it did 18 months ago. The engine upgrades have also been redesigned to fit it with the new art style. Built-up dirt and corrosion on the cockpit windows are another new new visual touch that's been added.
I've been working on getting the Hunchback up to the new graphical spec - the old one was just too rough and... blech for it to pass muster amongst it's newer brethren. I've also been working on the the engine upgrades - the external modules they will attach to the engine hardpoint on your ship. This is another area where I just didn't like the quality of art I'd made previously, and even if I did... it simply doesn't fit in with the new stuff.

I've also put together a rather minor in-cockpit effect. It's a kind of scum - dirt and just residue, I guess, that builds up on the outside of your cockpit windows as you fly about. It collects slowly, and only gets removed when you do a full/complete repair. I guess they throw the window wash in for free. There are also scortch marks planned using the same basic system. Ideally, these would only show up once you've flown through an explosion at close range.

New Bridge Commander Preview In Work

BES has posted a progress report on the next test release of his Bridge Commander mod. Basic models are 10% done, scripts are about 80% complete and ship component modeling is almost finished. Individual components need custom scripts to tell the game engine what function they perform. Here's the Manta design that BES has also been working on. The later shots show the progress that has been made since the first draft.

The hardest part of the modeling thing is getting pictures of the original ship mesh into a 3D inverted box with the left side at the back face, front on the left face, back on the right face, top on the bottom face and bottom on the top face in order to properly make the model. The pictures must all be the same size to line up in the box correctly..

A lot of these ships dont have very good pics, so doing them by eye and ending up getting hard-to-fix errors. Some of my models have errors that I've been working for a week to fix.

Wing IV Movie Project Takes Off

The man who brought us the Heart of the Tiger movie project is now aiming to give Wing Commander IV the same treatment. Like his Wing Commander III project, recorded gameplay footage and selected movies from the game will deliver the story. Only this time, he has DVD quality video to work with! Queeg has put together three samples for us to check out.

Morning all, now that my first project 'Heart Of The Tiger' is finished I'm eager to begin a new one, and what better than its popular sequel 'The Price Of Freedom'. I realise there are already plenty versions of Wing Commander IV already being / have been made, but in that case, what is the harm in one more?

As you probably already know, WC4 has significantly better video quality than WC3. Since it has been released on DVD, you can't get much better without going High Def. Now my software allows me to edit the VOBs directly from the discs (ripped to my hard drive) so there should be no quality loss. Also the software allows me to make use of all 5.1 audio channels from the VOBs so the end result should be a true movie experience.

Give the VLC movie player a try if you can't view the files. This project is still in the early stages, so now is a good time to let Queeg know what you think of these samples. Join the discussion on the Forums!

Holding The Line Chapter 216

Raptor has sent along your monthly fix of WC's longest running fan fiction series along with an introduction to this latest chapter.
Hey all, Raptor here.

In the past few hours, the Yorktown's pilots had crippled one of the two Nephilim super carriers they were fighting. The Nephilim are far from finished however, and the Yorktown crew, in conjunction with the Border Worlders from Battlegroup Valkyrie, have to find a way to destroy the two super carriers and their escorts without suffering devastating losses in the process. This chapter is jointly written by myself and Joe "Wraith" Guida. Please send any and all comments to me or to Joe at captpowell1@yahoo.com

http://www.holdingtheline.net/800/8ch215_3.html

Best, Raptor

Ascii Sector Covers All The Bases

Here's a look at some of the environments in work for Chris Knudsen's Privateer Ascii Sector. Five primary systems have been detailed for an upcoming demo. Each location looks different, and even stations carved into asteroids have their own unique shape. Although most asteroids look red in the shot below, the final color will be more brown. Work will continue on turrets and artificial intelligence next. You can help provide feedback at Crius.net.

Saga Draws Up Cover Sleeve

The WC Saga team has mocked up a DVD case insert for their Prologue in case anyone burned it to a CD. It features several screenshots, some background text and system requirements. A high quality printable version is available here.

One Dorkathi Leads To Another

Hot on the heels of Marc's Dorkathi release, there's a new udate from Ironduke. He's released a "Kilrathi Escort Pack" for his Wing Commander war game, Tactical Operations. The download includes markers for 3 Dorkathi, 1 Kamekh, 2 Sartha and 2 Drakhri. Grab it here.

At the risk of editorializing, this is one impressive project -- a working paper game that also manages to retain the style and flavor of the early games.

No Gravity? No Problem.

Game Infowire has posted new screenshots for a new space sim which they compare to Wing Commander. It's called "No Gravity", and is coming soon for the PSP. It would be fun to have a game other than EA Replay for my PSP... and, at the very least, the fighter in these pictures looks like a cross between a Ferret and an Epee!
No Gravity is a space shooter in 3D ' a la Wing Commander'. The player is controlling a space ship view from the first person. In each mission, the player need to accomplish some objectives, like shoot and destroys enemy ships or base, escorting some ships, clearing mine field, etc...
You can even download a demo at the official site!

New DOSBox Version Released

A new version of DOSBox has been released, and it includes a handful of neat improvements for Wing Commander fans. Like the last few releases of the program, version 0.70 plays all DOS Wing Commander games very well. Several speed optimizations were made and joystick support should be improved. Additional scalers were added so that players could use a larger window if fullscreen mode gave them problems before. The program also now attempts to guess speed requirements by default. One of the most common questions about DOSBox has been how to adjust the cycle values to play each game smoothly. This is all performed automatically now. It's not perfect, but it should be a big benefit to new users. For example, our WC3 testing showed a little more skipping during FMV playback versus improved smoothness while in flight. Users are still free to go in and manually tweak these factors if they would like more control. You can download the new DOSBox here. Our step-by-step walkthroughs in the Tech Support section have also been updated to reflect changes in 0.70.

Wing Commander Star Is A Hero

With so many big sci-fi names guest-starring in NBC show Heroes (including Star Trek's Sulu, George Takei, and ninth Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston), it was only a matter of time before someone with Wing Commander history showed up. That time came this week as our very own Admiral Tolwyn, Malcolm McDowell made his first appearance as the show's Mr. Linderman. IMDB's section for Heroes describes it best.
Its main plotline surrounds the stories of 8 people who discover abilities they've never had before. Some of them immediately embrace them, others fear societal judgement and keep them a secret. Some of them discover a prophecy that will result in a possible cataclysm, others will use their powers to change their lives and the lives of others.
McDowell's character Mr. Linderman is the owner of the Linderman Group, and runs a hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He also appears to have mafia connections. It's quite likely that McDowell's character will appear in future episodes but as the show is currently on hiatus until April 23, so we have a little wait before we find out. McDowell can be seen below enjoying a spot of cooking in his hotel's restaurant kitchen. Thanks to Rick Salemi for pointing this out.

New Ship Dealer Preceding Gemini Gold Release

John Cordell has provided another peek at the upcoming graphical improvements in work for Gemini Gold. The ship dealer has been cleaned up and resized for the project's next release. Careful attention was paid to recreate the exact shape of the metal panels and stains on the floor. You'll even find the shadows in the correct places. John expects a test version featuring these and more upgraded environments in the next few weeks.

EA Replay Price Drops At Fry's; Euro Release Expected Next Week

Fry's Electronics has reduced the price of EA Replay to $15 from $20. The adjustment appears to be the new fixed price rather than the result of any sale, and it's not listed on the company's website. If you missed out on Wing Commander for the PSP and are lucky enough to have a Fry's near you, now's the time to stock up. The cheapest internet price we can find is at J&R's Electronics. It's $18 plus $3 shipping there, so you might just be better off with Amazon's $20 and some form of free shipping if you're ordering online.

EA Replay also looks like it's finally set for release in Europe next week. The EA Press Site and various online retailers indicate a March 15-16 ship date in the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Connect With Dallas

Someone has a new music video for us after a long hiatus. This time AD went to work on the high quality Prophecy DVD movies. I'll let him describe his latest creation:
Using the footage from the DVD quality video packs for Prophecy, I decided to explore the fears and anxiety associated with war. Framing the music video with Dallas' reactions, I've attempted to express visually his thoughts by cutting scenes of action and violence between. The video starts with the audio from Dallas' own funeral and is followed up with the song Dead, performed by My Chemical Romance. I feel the song suitably meets the needs of the visuals and its fast pace mimics the adrenaline associated with the anxiety faced by Dallas while lyricly punctuating the irony of his worry about death when inevitably that is his fate in the game. While admittedly the harder nature of the song may not be everyone's taste, I hope you will all enjoy the effort.

Download the file here (37 megs). You can find more music videos in the Holovids section.

Spector of the Gun

Goku reports that there's a nice long interview with Wing Commander veteran Warren Spector at Gamasutra. The talk focuses on his new development house, Junction Point, which employs several Origin veterans and is apparently working on some type of science fiction game. Here's what he says about his transition:
Origin has been gone for a long time. I left Ion Storm before EIDOS shut down that studio, but once it did shut down, Ion Storm's dispersement seeded the growth in the Austin development community. I got about 10 people from Ion Storm who I really wanted to work with. Midway Austin picked up a bunch of people. There was a studio called BreakAway, that recently broke up, that had a lot of Ion Storm people. Ion Storm's development seeded new development. It was sad to see it go since I built it, with the help of a lot of other people, but I picked up some people I really wanted to work with again.
Read the whole thing here.

Resin Ships Enter New Era

Kiyara has completed three more impressive resin models based on Wing Commander ships. Today's trio are all large capital ships from later in the WC series. The detailed Midway, Vesuvius and Hades class models are roughly fifteen centimeters in length. Like Kiyara's other designs, these were built by feeding a 3D model into a specialized casting machine. Note that his website has moved here. Check it out to see more pictures of these ships and even vessels inspired by Starlancer. You can also help provide feedback at Crius.

CIC Forums Reach Milestone

Our Forums (formerly Chat Zone) have recently reached 300,000 posts. We're on track to hit the next major milestone, 20,000 threads, within days and 5,000 members soon after that. The Y2K bug ate our 1998 & 1999 forums, so these statistics count from 2000 on. As a result of the recent announcement of Wing Commander Arena, things have rarely been busier and there has never been a better time to jump in and discuss the future of the series. We also host forums for numerous fan projects, a tech support area where experienced fans can assist with running games on newer systems, and even an off-topic zone for everything else that may appeal to Wingnuts. Just click here and join our ever-growing community of fans!

Cardboard Claw Constructed

81B1EDFCF has been working on a neat project for the last several weeks. He's spent many hours rebuilding the TCS Tiger's Claw with sturdy cardboard. Nacelles were recently completed, and the next addition will be weapons turrets. It's already an impressive undertaking with a fairly accurate shape. The edges will eventually be evened up some more with masking tape before the entire ship is painted. You can help provide feedback at Crius.net

Call to Call to Glory

Chicken has announced an interesting new fan project. It's a Wing Commander RPG based on classic Final Fantasy-style games (which were themselves based on Origin's Ultima series). The name of the project is Wing Commander: Call to Glory. Here's the official word, plus the game's title screen!:
Call to Glory is a Wing Commander RPG being built in the tradition of old games like Final Fantasy III (VI for the Japanese), Chrono Trigger, and the Dragonquest series on the antique Super Nintendo.

It currently is being developed using the open-source RPG Toolkit.

The player assumes the roll of a Confed Marine in a Secret Ops mission gone wrong during the bloody Kilrathi offensive of WC3. As Confed is forced to pull back, the TCS Valhalla is pinned between a panic stricken colony and an invading Kilrathi force hell bent wiping you and the Valhalla out of the system for the glory of Sivar.

It'll be ready the day furballs die.

What's Up With... Standoff?

There's no "official" news about the Wing Commander: Standoff mod... but Quarto was recently good enough to update the forums with some interesting details about Episode 4:
On the winning path, you have 3 Sabre missions, and 2 Rapier missions. Apart from those, you also have 2 missions where you choose between Crossbow, Sabre and Rapier, and 1 mission where you choose between Sabre and Rapier. Of course, that includes all the alternate missions (in particular, the two Crossbow/Sabre/Rapier missions are alterates of each other, so you'll only get to play one of them) - alltogether, without playing alternate missions, you'll fly 6 times on the winning path, with 4-5 opportunities to fly a Sabre, 3-4 opportunities to fly a Rapier, and 1 opportunity to fly a Crossbow.

On the losing path, things get a bit more confusing because there's more alternate missions. There are 5 Rapier missions and 4 Sabre missions. There's also 1 mission where you choose between Crossbow, Sabre and Rapier, and 1 where you choose just between Sabre and Rapier. All told, sticking to one path, you'll fly 5 or 6 times, with around 4-5 opportunties to fly a Rapier, 3-4 opportunties to fly the Sabre, and 1 opportunity to fly the Crossbow.

So, I think pretty much everyone should be happy with the choices provided. Unless of course you happen to like the Crossbow... or the Stiletto . All I can say is that they don't get many Crossbows on the Firekka, so they're used sparingly... and you haven't quite seen the last of the Stiletto, either. Definitely no more Gladius missions, though - on very rare occasions, you might see your wingmen flying a Gladius if there isn't enough Sabres to go around... but if that happens, you can expect to be grounded soon, since Commodore Reismann doesn't much like wing commanders who lose all their ships.

If you're one of our new readers following the Wing Commander Arena announcement, then you should be sure and give Standoff a try -- it's a loving tribute to the original series built on the Wing Commander Secret Ops engine!

LOAF Can See Your Face

Eager to show your Wing Commander spirit through a populer Web 2.0 portal? Then you're in luck... because Zor Prime has started a Wing Commander Facebook group! Finally, Wing Commander takes its rightful place next to such exciting Facebook communities as "I Love Twix" and "Airbus Blows". Never the less, it's a neat way to see what other Wing Commander fans are like on a more personal level... so give it a look here.

An Early Glimpse At Kilrathi Vengeance

Aaron Thomas hasn't had much time to release updates on his WC4 Homeworld 2 mod recently, but work still continues. He has been busy struggling with artificial intelligence lately - specifically teaching it to recognize a third faction in the game. To keep his fans happy, Aaron has published a batch of screenshots from a side project he's been playing with. The images below show off a variety of Kilrathi craft based on Wing Commander 3 designs. Note the special ace paint schemes mixed in with regular fighters. Focus still remains on the WC4 mod however, and no more work is being done on a WC3 era spinoff until the original project is complete. The ships sure look neat though! You can see more pictures and provide feedback at Crius.net. Homeworld 2 owners can download a preview of the WC4 mod here.

The Best Just Got Bigger

Microsoft has announced two changes to the Xbox 360 relevant to those looking forward to Wing Commander Arena. The first is the announcement of a 512 mb memory card, which would allow core system owners to play Arena without buying a more expensive 20 gb hard drive. The second, more important, change is that the 50 megabyte limit for Live Arcade games has been upped: developers may now release games that are up to 150 megabytes in size. This is exciting news, because it means that Electronic Arts won't need to cut any corners to fit Arena onto XBLA. For more information on both announcements, check out Microsoft's press release. It actually goes so far as to mention Arena:
"As we prepare to launch our first Xbox LIVE Arcade game, 'Boom Boom Rocket,' we're able to see how dynamic and creative this platform is," said Chip Lange, vice president of Online Commerce for Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). "Having 'Wing Commander Arena' on Xbox LIVE Arcade allows us to take full advantage of the online play and bring to life a 16-player online arcade experience that delivers unparalleled arcade action."

New Paper Pair Take Form

Péricles has finished two new impressive paper models. The Confederation Vampire and Kilrathi Jrathek are now complete. Both are built to 1/200 scale with intricate details intact. Wingnuts can build their own ships with the files attached below. Easily printable PDFs are included, but Péricles also recommends using the free Pepakura Viewer to view the .pdo models for reference. Work doesn't end here - two variants of the Broadsword may be ready to launch as early as next week!

Wing Commander Still Influential Today

FiringSquad has posted an article about some of the most notable games of the last two decades. The author chose to narrow his focus to games that had the most influential impact on their genre and the gaming industry as a whole. Wing Commander is cited as more impact than earlier sims such as Elite for giving the player a purpose to exist. This was also combined with technological breakthroughs that all subsequent space sims were held to match. Command & Conquer also gets a similar comparison to Dune 2 and Quake to Doom. You can check out the full article here.
Origin gave us something special in Wing Commander, a space shoot'em up with a story. Branching missions, where the outcome of one mission influences what happens in the next helped to create a sense of purpose, and that there was a real meaning to your actions. Classic titles such as Freespace 2, Freelancer and the more recent Darkstar One have followed in the footsteps of Wing Commander by combining space combat with an evolving plotline.

The influence of this game was also felt in the hardware industry, with it commonly being used as a display title to show off the power of modern PCs such as the 386, utilising a whopping 8bit (256 colour!) palette. At the time of release, 1990, the Commodore Amiga had established itself as the home computer of choice for gaming, but Wing Commander was one of a new wave of titles which helped to drive the emerging PC gaming market forward.

Make New Friends, But Keep The Old

Sean Murphy has one more treat for us -- a render of the original TCS Midway model in the same position as the new version from Wing Commander Arena! Now you can really compare the two -- good luck deciding on a wallpaper! Prophecy's Midway never fails to impress, especially coming after the rectangular Confederation carriers in Wing Commander III and IV... she's a rare design that's both elegant and imposing.

Hard To Pick Just One

Old our poll was getting a little old, so Delance suggested a new one. This time we ask which new feature in Wing Commander Arena has you the most excited. The game will the be the very first on XBox Live Arcade to allow sixteen players to battle it out together online, and Wing Commander fans will be doing so in classic ships like the Arrow, Rapier, Broadsword, Darket, Dralthi and Paktahn. Hands-on previews and advance impressions so far have been very positive about all the different modes, and the massive capship versus capship battle has generated considerable buzz. Everything about Arena has been coated in extensive and well-researched Wing Commander lore, and fans will even be able to win medals and awards as achievements. No price has been announced, but the typical Live Arcade game ranges from $5 to $15. There's a lot to be excited about, but you can only pick one thing today!
The last poll asked which Wing Commander simulator was the best. The TCS Midway's egg-shaped pod took the top spot with almost a third of the vote. The Tiger's Claw's TrainSim came in second. I'm surprised more people didn't vote for the TrainSim, but that's how it goes.

Prowler Outage

Veteran Wing Commander artist Sean Murphy has some memories to share with us... about a game not many people have heard of. In 1995-6 Origin developed Prowler, a 3D mech game for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and later Sony Playstation consoles. It wasn't a Wing Commander game, but it was certainly for the same audience -- sci fi combat in a distant future. Unfortunately, Prowler didn't make it -- it lasted all the way to E3, where it was shown next to another lost game, Wing Commander III Saturn. Sean was nice enough to scan a boatload of original sketches and to write up an article explaining his involvement in the project. You can read the whole thing here -- it sounds like it was a pretty cool concept! Here's a sample:
After Super Wing Commander shipped, the team had some down time. We weren't sure what we were going to be working on next, so Glen Johnson and I started fleshing out an idea we'd been tossing around for a mech game. We wanted to see a Gundam-style game, with fast and agile robots leaping about the countryside, as opposed to the heavy, plodding Mechwarrior-style games we'd seen.

To CD or Not To CD

Following yesterday's EATrax announcement, LeHah decided to check with The Fatman about his long-rumored Wing Commander album. The good news is that it's still in the works! Here's the report from the man himself:

Thanks for the reminder!

If I'm not mistaken, our plan changed slightly in light of the fact that Dave's been quite busy with police work.

Our plan, I think, is at present, to go back to the idea of releasing the album as it sounded on the game--all MT-32 (with a little boost from Sound Canvas in MT-32 mode). The twist is that we'd release it both as a CD and as files on AmieStreet.

I'll double-check with Linda and see if that's what we landed on.

In the meantime, please do feel free to enjoy our other stuff here:

http://amiestreet.com/thefatmanandteamfat

Invite the guys to try it out and let me know if you think that would be a suitable outlet through which your group would enjoy getting their music.

Music To Kill, Race and Football To

Electronic Arts today launched EATrax, a major partnership with iTunes to provide a large volume of music from EA games "past and present". The "past" doesn't quite encompass Wing Commander - yet -... but with Wing Commander Arena in the works, it's something we might see in the future! The amount of work implied in the press release is impressive:
The best in videogame music is now global, mobile and portable. Electronic Arts Inc., (NASDAQ: ERTS) announced that starting today the chart-busting music from its best-selling games will be available for purchase from the iTunes Store via ea.com. Game players and music lovers worldwide can visit www.ea.com/eatrax/ and jump directly to an iMix of the music from their favorite EA(TM) game on iTunes. From Madden NFL to Burnout(TM) to Need for Speed(TM), every song that can be heard in the game can now be purchased on iTunes including exclusive mixes, non-album cuts and previously unavailable international tracks.

EA will continue to add songs, scores, themes, beats and ringtones from EA game franchises past and present including NBA LIVE, FIFA Soccer, Command & Conquer(TM), Medal of Honor(TM), NASCAR(R), SSX(TM), Battlefield and more.

Parlez-Vous Français?

Maxi de Sokar has sent us a review of Wing Commander II from the French magazine PC Review. The game featured in a four page spread in the November 1991 issue of the magazine, and managed to reach a score of 7 out of 10. The article appears to also mention alternatives to WC2 including the original WC, Elite, Stellar 7, and for some reason Heart of China. They also seem confused about which currency to use, citing a price of £39.99 for the game, plus 149,90 francs for the speech pack.

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