BREAKING NEWS: OXM Reviews Arena!

The first reviews are in! The August issue of Official Xbox Magazine has reviewed the finished version of Wing Commander Arena... and they are impressed! In fact, its 8.5 score has been surpassed only once by an Xbox Live Arcade marketplace title - a port of the arcade classic Street Fighter 2. What's more, Arena ties with Forza Motorsport 2 as the highest ranked title of the month - and Forza is a major release which is one of the biggest Xbox 360 titles of the quarter! Here's the word:
Wing Commander Arena
Where space is anything but a vacuum

Platform: XBOX LIVE ARCADE
Publisher: ELECTRONIC ARTS
Developer: GAIA INDUSTRIES
ESRB: EVERYONE
Live/Multiplayer: 16 on Xbox Live
Selling Points: 16-player space combat
Cost: 800 Microsoft Points ($10)

Twitch space combat is hardly a tough sell, but so far on 360, it's largely been an offline pursuit for lone wolves anxious to put a gamertag in leaderboard lights. Any evil villain will tell you that human quarry makes for a more satisfying hunt, and Wing Commander Arena's heavy multiplayer focus proves as much.

That's not to say there's no single-player -- there is. As a rank amateur just learning the ropes or a top gun grabbing some solo-player down-time, you might defend space stations in a moderately amusing Asteroids clone, battle weak A.I. bots in timed melee, protect your mothership from waves of invaders, or just experiment in the Proving Grounds learning area. It pays to practice: though the simple fly-and-fire controls let anyone jump right in, the special maneuvers tied to the right thumbstick take time to perfect. Each war is waged on a 2D plane (ie., you move forward but not up/down), but you can barrel-roll away from missiles and throw off pursuers usings loops and quick U-turns, depending on which of the 18 unlockable ships you're piloting.

Once you're ready to go public, you'll discover Arena's beating heart: a frenetic 16-player cosmic Thunderdome of tense duels, frantic free-for-alls, and satisfying joint strikes. Work as a team or shoot anything that moves in boneyard canyons or space-station corridors; capture satellites that double as healing stations and ammo suppliers; or shred the gun batteries and bridge of the opposition's capital ship. Space is the lobby, so keep guns blasting while you wait for teams to fill out, or for your turn in the mano-a-mano bearpit. Since each well-balanced ship is outfitted with different tools -- cloaking devices, mines, tractor beams, turrets, energy weapons, and missiles -- swiftly assembled squads of complementary cruisers can wreak absolute cooperative havoc with gleeful abandon.

Wing Commander Arena isn't terribly inventive, but it so adeptly milks resonant genre basics that you won't care. Between equipment variety, handling differences, respawning pick-ups, and the cunning nooks and crannies of each map, the emergent strategic possibilities deliver surprising depth. All for a mere $10 on Live Arcade -- exactly the kind of change from the usual retro pace that we love to root for.

-- Cameron Lewis

THE VERDICT
ON XBOX LIVE ARCADE
+ Frantic 16-player mayhem... for 10 bucks on Live Arcade!
+ Simple but strategically rich.
- Light on personality and "Wing Commander-ness."
? C'mon...not even one shot of the goofy alien race of Kilrathi felines?

8.5

LOST IN SPACE
Little has been heard from the series since 1997's Wing Commander: Prophecy and 1999's abysmal big-screen crossover. Arena is a blast, but it's hardly the space opera fans might've hoped for. Could we see a Command & Conquer-style rebirth, complete with Mark Hamill cutscenes? Let's just say eternal vigilance is the price of fandom, and keep our fingers crossed.

THE SOURCE: Origin Systems gave the world Wing Commander, Ultima, and System Shock. It was gobbled up by Electronic Arts in 1992, and killed off completely in 2004.

{CAPTION} Capital ships consist of three levels. Destroy all the defenses on one level, and the whole ship drops down to the next.
{CAPTION} Jumpgates can teleport you from one end of the map to the other.

The article also includes four new screenshots, scanned below! A scan of the entire article is available here (2.4 mb). The fact that a print magazine has reviewed the game means that the release is just around the corner...

Holding The Line Chapter 219

Raptor is back with another new episode in the long-running Holding The Line project. Chapter 219 is accessible below. HTL began shortly after Prophecy and Secret Ops were released, and the adventure borrows heavily from that era for its setting. It'll be interesting to see how they and other fan fiction groups begin to incorporate elements introduced by Arena into their stories.
Hey All, Raptor here

After our last chapter looking at a possible future for the Kilrathi, we're returning to the battle against the Nephilim in the present. In this chapter, we're following the Confed and Border Worlds reserve forces fighting the Alien forces pushing in from the Loki jump point. WTH 6 is a long story, and will interweave with the third Check And Mate chapter (which follows the fight against the Nephilim pushing from Ymir) as the HTL battle heads to a climax, As I said on the Aces board recently, the end is most verily nigh. ;-) This particular story is written by James Andrew "JAG" Greenhow. Please send any and all comments to him at , not to me.

Best, Raptor

http://www.holdingtheline.net/800/8ch217.html

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Site Updated

Electronic Arts' official Wing Commander Arena website has been updated with some cool new material that's sure to impress! First up is a third 'Did You Know?' ship fact, this time presenting the Dralthi IX Striker:
Two hundred years of development and ten major revisions of the spaceframe have led to this: The Dralthi IX. The Striker design is an evolution of the spit-and-glue Dralthi IV models flown by Bloodhunters at the start of the Nephilim conflict. The result is a fighter which has repeatedly proven itself in action both against and alongside the Confederation's Hurricane II and the Border World's Predator-class front line military fighters.
How cool is that? Well, it gets better - EA's Community Manager has also posted a stunning new rendering. "Under Attack" shows a giant space battle involving ships of all sorts - Broadswords, Rapiers, Dralthi, Darkets, Arrows... even a Perry-style base!
The EA Arcade site's previous ship facts for the Darket Raptor and the Rapier II Blade have been archived in our Arena section.

Free the Expo '07

Kotaku is reporting that Electronic Arts will be revealing "never before seen games" at this years Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The generally cynical Kotaku readership assumes this means EA will unveil something along the lines of Madden 08... but the company behind recent games like Command and Conquer 3 and Wing Commander Arena and upcoming games like Spore could well surprise us. It may be too early for EA to commit resources to a full scale Wing Commander sequel -- but who knows, their executives must be at least as impressed with Arena as we are! This year's show begins July 11th... which is, coincidentally, the next possible window we should be watching for an Arena launch.

Jumpgate Expands Its Universe

Jumpgate developer Steve "Istvan" Hartmeyer was kind enough to pass along a press release about NetDevil's latest expansion of their MMP space combat franchise - a major retooling of the universe called Jumpgate Evolution. He adds: "The Wing Commander series (especially WC:Privateer), as well as other single-player space combat and/or trading game series such as Elite, Freespace, and X-Wing provided very substantial inspiration to the original Jumpgate." That much seems clear from the screenshots alone... and many Wing Commander fans have found Jumpgate a fun alternative over the years, given the lack of an actual Privateer Online. You can find out more (and sign up for the Evolution Beta) at their official site.
NETDEVIL ADDS NEXT CHAPTER TO ORIGINAL IP WITH JUMPGATE EVOLUTION

Leading MMO developer revitalizes franchise with exciting new game play, advanced AI engine, and complete graphics overhaul

LOUISVILLE, CO – June 25, 2007 – NetDevil, an independent game company and leading developer of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), today announced Jumpgate Evolution as the latest iteration of the company’s original IP. Jumpgate Evolution is a substantial update to the previous Jumpgate™ MMO released in 2001, which was the world’s first massively multiplayer space combat game. Staying true to its early vision, NetDevil has improved upon the original in every way, with a complete graphics update, and the integration of advanced AI features to ensure unpredictable and compelling situations. The enhanced game play makes the game accessible to the widest possible range of users, while catering to the games’ existing and loyal fan base.

“Jumpgate Evolution offers fun, intuitive game play that is thoroughly engrossing, while the new AI encourages players to immerse themselves in various roles available in the universe,” said Scott Brown, President of NetDevil. “The game has undergone a complete graphics overhaul and has been vastly expanded to offer more weapons, and greater focus on PvE targets, making roles more refined in the process. Advanced social aspects of the MMO are available as well, including player-owned stations, complete with controllable economy, updated player statistics and rankings, and the ability for players to create squads with customizable web pages for each. The overall experience is a vital improvement in terms of playability, accessibility, as well as the overall look and feel. We think it’s a great example of just how far you can transform an existing IP.”

Jumpgate Evolution features:

  • New rendering engine scaling from fixed function to pixel shaders for maximum market reach.
  • Engaging and responsive AI, creating the feeling of a living, changing universe.
  • Several new missions across multiple types including: combat, patrols, mining, and delivery.
  • A real supply and demand economy – responsive to player trading activity.
  • Engaging PvP system with factional peace and war rating, significantly affecting game dynamics.
  • New user interface to make the game more engaging and accessible.
Hermann Peterscheck, lead producer on Jumpgate Evolution, added: “We saw a unique opportunity to expand the existing IP and integrate vast technical and game play improvements to breathe new life into the game. AI controlled cargo haulers can now respond to station supply requests and pirates can actively plunder these ships while being hunted by computer controlled defenders. All these interactions create a series of unpredictable episodes so that players stay completely engaged, immersed, and entertained.”

It's Official: Wing Commander IV GameTap

The release has already been announced at GameTap's reliable forums... but now there's no doubt - Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom is coming to the download service. Today's GameTap software update added a Wing Commander IV entry to the client's Coming Soon page, featuring a short description, some artwork and a screenshot. No date has been announced, but one theory is that they're planning to roll the game out in time for some cross-promotion with Wing Commander Arena.
Now that the war with the Kilrathi has ended, Christopher Blair is enjoying a little well-deserved R&R. At least, he is until he's called out of the Reserves thanks to a mysterious new group of fighters terrorizing the galaxy. Now, the hero of the Kilrathi war must return to the cockpit and unravel this deadly new mystery. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Some have already noted that the ESRB tag shows a 'T for Teen' rating instead of Wing Commander IV's 'M for Mature' symbol. This is apparently a simple error: we have it on good authority that GameTap will be offering the unaltered PC CD-ROM release. The service does not emulate Playstation games, the only version of WCIV with a T rating.

Auction Reminder: Diamondback Sticker

There's less than twenty four hours left to put in a bid on Wing Commander artist Sean Murphy's latest Wing Commander auction. It's for a vintage Wing Commander Prophecy "Diamondback Squadron" sticker, as produced for the game's FMV shoot. These stickers were placed on various helmets to show what squadron a particular filmed head belonged to. It may also give you access to more difficult slopes at various ski resorts (not a guarantee). Put your money down here.

GameTap Extols More Virtues

But wait, there's more: hot on the heels of the Wing Commander IV announcement, GameTap has made Ultima VI: The False Prophet available! Like recently-added Wing Commander, Ultima VI was released in 1990 -- perhaps this means GameTap can now move on to the next generation of Origin games, including titles like Wing Commander 2, Ultima VII and Privateer. Your first month of the service costs only 99 cents... which, according to the Ultima VI/Wing Commander CD-ROM artwork below, means that you save $138.98. You can't beat that! Plus, GameTap even says Ultima VI owes something to Chris Roberts! From the game's 'Bonus Features' tab:
Ultima VI's radically different icon based game engine inspired by fellow Origin System's designer Chris Roberts' game, Times of Lore (1988). Chris Roberts went on to create another smash-hit series for Origin -- Wing Commander.

Nuts to Castles - No Arena on 6/27

Bad news for June Arena-seekers (ie, everyone): XBLArcade is reporting that this week's XBLA title is Carcassonne, a title developed from a European board game that involves castles. It sounds like fun... but I'd rather see Rapiers and Broadswords than rapiers and broadswords. When will we see Wing Commander Arena? There's no official word - but if they were hoping for June, it can't be too far away.

From The Archives: Andrew Keith Interview Materials

We recently restored a long-lost 1997 interview with Wing Commander novelist Andrew Keith. That same night Mr. Keith provided fans present with three documents - a sample chapter from False Colors, a short biography and a list of his other novels. Luckily, Dundradal managed to save the documents in question all these years, allowing us to once again make them available online:
Biography: This self-effacing autobiography is a good introduction to both Mr. Keith's life and personality.

Bibliography: Mr. Keith published military and science fiction under several different names. If you're interested in tracking down more of his work, this list will let you know exactly what to scour the used bookstores for.

Sample Chapter: This early version of False Colors' prologue was released to fans almost two years before the book was published. It's a fascinating study in exactly what does and does not change during the editing process... make special note of the dates listed in the headers!

Sadly, Mr. Keith passed away in 1999. We hope he will continue to be remembered for having been a good friend to Wing Commander fans online.

BREAKING NEWS: More Arena Manual Pics Posted!

GameSetWatch has received their copy of Arena's Star Soldier manual, and they've posted five incredible scans! While the pictures that surfaced yesterday showed off some of Arena's gameplay aspects, this new batch reveals a tremendous amount of new fictional material. The cover of the magazine leads the way, and it's followed by a hilarious advertisement for Maniac's autobiography. Another ad for the Arrow V Eclipse mentions the ship's Douglas Aerospace roots. The Classifieds page alone is enough to make a Wingnut's brain explode. There are dozens and dozens of obscure references and brand new facts to be learned here. Ten classic fighters get fighter designations, and a they're even consistent with Origin's old internal development notes on the subject. The brand new Kraven Laser provides a tantalizing link to weapons later seen in the Tri-System, and there's even a call for volunteers to help clear the hulk of a wrecked Behemoth-class ship in the Gemini Sector. Everyone from Retros to Pilgrims to Firekkan Unionists has taken out an ad. Last but not least, there's a wanted poster searching for the whearabouts of an ominious looking (and early concept build) Grayson Burrows - last seen flying a 2670 model Centurion with distinctive shark teeth and green cannon! Check out GSW's full article here.

I though I'd go in another direction and feature some of the odder pages in the 60-page mag, which was obviously compiled by someone with a hardcore love for Wing Commander lore - way beyond my limited knowledge. Seriously.

While initial buzz on Wing Commander Arena was mixed, partly thanks to it being a reimagining of the series as a 2D multiplayer shooter - when a lot of fans were burning for something in 3D, of course - it's really great to see documents like this going above and beyond in making the world real. Let's hope the game matches the attention to detail shown here!

New Arena Audio Interview Posted

GamerTagRadio has posted Episode #105 of their weekly podcast, which includes a phone interview with Arena's excutive producer, Sean Penney. They cover a wide range of topics over their fifteen minutes on the game. The interviewers are very familiar with Gaia Industries, and they comment on the Wing Commander concept art that they saw during the recent Street Trace NYC event. Sean talks about how Electronic Arts ended up choosing that particular developer to work with, and he goes into quite a bit of detail on Arena's maps, modes, achievements, social interaction, Wing Commander lore and more. GTR's original podcast post is available here. The Wing Commander bit starts about 20 minutes in, or you can listen to it here (12.2 meg MP3). A big thanks to AD for processing the clip and helping us find news like this!
Exclusive Podcast Interview - Wing Commander Arena
We had the chance to interview Sean Penney from EA about their new Xbox Live Arcade game "Wing Commander Arena". Get to hear why this game is different then other XBL Arcade titles and are you ready for a 16 player deathmatch online?

Updated: Interview Transcript

If you're just waking up to the new GamerTagRadio Arena interview podcast, then you should listen right away... but just in case you're unable to do so, here's a complete transcript of their fifteen minute session with Wing Commander Arena Producer Sean Penney:
Host 1: And also we, we also have a interview with EA about their new Xbox Live Arcade that's coming out, hopefully, I think next month maybe or in August sometime. Wing Commander, that our friends up in Gaia Industries developed this game. I can't wait, I think this game is going to be pretty good. You know, sixteen players online, that's the first for an Xbox Live Arcade game.

Host 2: That's huge, dude, that's definately a good sign of things to come.

Host 1: Yeah, yeah, so that's gonna be cool and I can't wait, man. Definately, I'm into those, those types of games, and so right now let's play this interview with Wing Commander over there at EA. They're gonna give us a couple... information about the game and stuff that's coming out pretty soon. Allright, so right here we have Sean from EA. What location... are you in San Francisco? Canada?

Sean: No, I'm Electronic Arts Canada.

Host 1: Canada, okay, cool, cool.

Sean: Yeah.

Host 1: Allright man, I know, I know you guys have been working on this title, Wing Commander, the Xbox Live Arcade for a while now, and I'm very excited for this game cause it has a lot of cool features in there that other XBL games doesn't have. So give us a brief history about this game.

Sean: About, about Wing Commander Arena?

Host 1: Yeah, Wing Commander, yeah.

Sean: Well, you know, I guess about a year ago we were looking at the, the Xbox Live Arcade platform and, you know, we're all, we're all pretty excited by it. It's sort of a brand new way to make games and it's a, it's a, it's a new way to distribute games. Love the instant access part of it, really a pretty innovative approach. And you know, as a company we see that as a new opportunity, a new place to go, and you know that always excites, excites you and the developer. So we, you know we were thinking about what would be good, what kind of game we want to bring there. And you look at the games that are currently there and there are a lot of ports of older games and some newer games coming out, and and we looked at the quality of the games. And really you know, you could count the number of games on one hand that we thought were really top quality games kinds of games. You know, so a lot of the other games had nostalgia factors and they were great games in their day, but we wanted to do something brand new. And, and we all loved the Wing Commander IP, and everyone's always... you know, you look at IPs like that and these are games that you played as a kid and then you look at the arcade platform and you think to yourself, well, let's do a space shooter. You know, let's, let's bring back Wing Commander and, you know, and make a version of Wing Commander that would fit this new unique platform. And that's, and that's you know, essentially how it came about.

Host 1: Yeah, my, my friends, Gaia Industries, were the ones that developed this game, and I've been to their studio up in, in New York City and I got to see, like, pictures, like they have like on the wall pictures of, from drawings drawings, the artwork of the game like the ships and the characters. And I want to know why you guys, what made you guys step up to Gaia Industries to develop this game?

Sean: Well, the computer game is, we're a pretty incestuous lot, right, and everybody knows everybody. So just like you know somebody at Gaia, we know somebody at Gaia. And it was really, you know, that's really what it came down to is we were, we were searching around for some developers, and you know young developers, fresh developers are always great for something like this because, you know, they're really hungry and you know they wanted to do a really good job. And somebody was in the studio, a line producer peer of mine actually knew the guy that, or knows the guy that that runs the company. They went to school together, or maybe they were childhood buddies, it might have even even, might even go that far, far back, but I know they worked together for sure. So, he recommended Gaia, and we had a few other offers on the table, and we went with Gaia.

Host 1: Yeah basically, how does this differ from, like, you know the, like the previous Wing Commander games that we've seen?

Sean: Oh, it's significantly different. I mean, you know the previous Wing Commander games were, they were on a different platform and they were a different style of game, you know, very much story driven, very much from a first person, you know, point of view, it's, it's you as some unnamed pilot going, you know, going on a, you know the first first one you were a pilot on an aircraft carrier. Or, an aircraft carrier, spacecraft carrier. And you know all the FMVs and the massive cutscenes and, I guess how it really differs is this is a multiplayer game. This game isn't about just you and your spacecraft, it's about you and potentially fifteen other people having a common experience together. So that's really brand new for the franchise. There've been versions of Wing Commander where they've tried to get the multiplayer going, a lot of fan projects have put all that kind of stuff together, so it was obvious to us that people wanted this type of game, and with the platform we were in a unique position to offer it.

Host 1: Like you were saying, this game offers sixteen players to play online on Xbox Live Arcade. And like, is it a file... is, is it... how big is this file anyway is it for the game? Is it more than fifty megs?

Sean: Fifty megs.

Host 1: Wow.

Sean: Fifty, it's under fifty megs, it'll fit on a card.

Host 1: Wow. I'm impressed man. I mean...

Sean: Yeah, it looks pretty good for fifty megs, doesn't it?

Host 1: Yeah, yeah. But what, what kind of modes we can play online with sixteen, with other sixteen players?

Sean: Well, so there's, there's team based game and there's free-for-all games. Most of it, so we sort of divided up between environments and, and game modes. And some of the environments you can play multiple game modes and some of the environments are specific to specific game modes. So, for example, we've got a capital ship versus capital ship game and in ths environment you've got each side has their own capital ship and these capital ships move towards each other firing massive neutron guns, and your job is to defend your own capital ship or to take out the opposing capital ship or both. You know, you can switch different, depending on the type of ship that you've chosen to go in with will really dictate the type of role that you'll play. If you choose a bomber you're going to go in and try to hit hard targets on, on the opposing craft, if you choose a light fighter maybe you're going to be defending the bombers, and if you choose a medium fighter, you know, maybe you're going to be in the defensive role or you could go on an offensive role or you could, you know, there's a variety of things you can do, and actually because there's an actual unlock progression in the game, depending on where you are in the unlock progression will sort of, you know, dictate what you do. So there's a variety of bombers, a variety of medium fighters and a variety of light fighters and they all have different capabilities. But if you're only half way through the progression you're going to have a couple of each type, but you may not have, you know, the specific bomber that, you know, you might want to use because you want to go in and hit ships with tractor beams and blow up the bombers that are coming in after your hard targets. So maybe you might choose a medium fighter and go in and blow up other, other light fighters and stuff like that. So there's a lot of strategy involved in that specific type of game and it's specific to that environment. And then we've got other environments like we've got this massive space station that you can fly around inside and you can do team based games in there or you can do sixteen player free-for-alls. It sort of, you know, depends on, on what you feel like doing in that particular case. We've also got a specific environment for one on one duels, so you go in and pick a ship, your opponent goes in and picks a ship and you can do like a best out of five or a best out of twenty five or however you want to go, and every time you respawn you can choose a different ship.

Host 1: Can you create like your own team and invite your friends and go to like rank, ranked games, like, with all your friends?

Sean: So, I mean, Xbox Live Arcade actually offers the functionality where you could, you know you can set up your own leaderboard online to allow you to do that. You can create your own groups and, and do all that jazz, so we sort of leave that in the hands of the player. Xbox Live Arcade has a lot of functionality that allows you to make your own friends lists and invite private, you know, people to, you know, into your game. So a lot of the functionality was there, we didn't really have to go too deep into that area. It's mostly about going online and having a social experience.

Host 1: So what, what about the single player game? What you can tell us about that?

Sean: Well, single player is... there's four separate modes in single player. One of them is just a straight up training mode. There's no leaderboards or time limits or frag counts or anything, it's just a massive wide open environment filled with AI driven ships, of all types of ships, and they'll scale up, so the more frags you get as you're playing the more difficult the AI becomes. This is just a great place to, as you unlock ships, to play around with them and discover their abilities and, you know, play with tactics and practice your fighting. Then there's three other modes that all have leaderboards that are actually Xbox Live leaderboards. So even though you're playing a single player experience your scores go on an online leaderboard. So in a way it's sort of online as well, you can compete against other people online for, for top dog in a particular mode. One of the modes is called Gauntlet and in Gauntlet what you're doing is you're, you're defending a Midway class carrier against waves of opponents that come in. Wave after, each wave will be more difficult, either more ships or more difficult styles of ships, or more difficult AIs, it scales. Another mode is called Melee. This one's a free for all, basically, against AI ships. So they're fighting each other and you're just another ship in that group. And this is a timed game mode, too, there's a certain amount of time to get your frag count up and that's what goes up on the leaderboard. The fourth and final mode is, we call it Meteor Storm, and you're in a smaller environment and there's space stations that you have to defend against meteors and against bandits that come in to attack the space stations. So you get wave after wave of meteors coming in so you get more and more meteors and more and more spaceships coming in, and that's all about waves, which level you manage to get to. Yeah, actually, it's a lot of fun that one, I really enjoy it, you can waste a lot of hours just playing Meteor Storm.

Host 1: So that, so that means I'm definately going to be checking out the leaderboards to see how my friends are doing, so I can compete with them. See how the highest score and stuff, so that's pretty cool.

Sean: Yeah, for sure. And we've got achievements attached, you know, to a lot of the different modes as well, so you know people can compete in different areas for high scores but also for different achievements. There's a lot of, there's a lot of stuff to explore within the game. You know, the, the, the ship progression, you can unlock ships in all the different modes, and achievements are awarded in all the different modes, and of course high scores go to online leaderboards in all the different modes. There's a lot of depth to the game, there's a lot of different stuff you can do.

Host 1: Yeah, in terms of like achievements, how are they spread out? Like how many different achievements are we doing to see and is it going to be something real easy or are there going to be those ones that you really have to sit down and play for a couple hours and maybe not even get them then.

Sean: Well, you know for us, the achievements... I've seen some pretty bad achievements, you know, listed on some different games, and I've seen some really good ones. So, you know, we took a look at the different types of achievements that were out there and we wanted to make sure that, you know, we offered a good cross-section for the different types of, the different types of gamers out there. So we've got some pretty simple ones. You know, we've got stuff like, that there's one called Dogfight, and it's, you're, you go in online and you win your first one-on-one engagement and you'll get the dogfight award. Right, and that's a small one, that's worth ten points. But then we've got, you know, probably the most difficult one we've got is called Paladin, and this of course is named after one of the famous characters in the game, and this is getting one thousand kills.

Host 1: Is that online?

Sean: Yeah, go online and get one thousand kills. That's worth thirty points. And, and that's going to be a lot of fun for people to do as well, I think. Basically you just, you play the game and you go online and these things, they'll just come. Some of them you might have to be specific about. There's, there's jump gates in the game. We've got one called Navigator and you have to jump through every jump gate in the game to get this, to get this, to get this achievement, you know. We've got one called Ace which is, which is about getting five frags in a single game without being shot down down, so five frags in a row.

Host 1: Oh, I can, I can see myself doing that one.

Sean: Heh heh heh.

Host 1: So, so what, how many ships are we going to see in this game, and can we customize them?

Sean: No, so what we've got is we tried to simplify this as much as possible, so of course it's Kilrathi and Terran ships and there's nine ships on each side and they're based off of six hulls. So each side has a light hull, a medium hull and a bomber hull and there's three variations of each ship attached to each hull. That equals eighteen ships in total. So three light fighters, three medium fighters and three bombers for the humans and the same for the Kilrathi, but they're all different and they match up in very interesting ways. Some of the ships have cloaks, others have tractor beams. Some, you know, a lot of the ships have flares or sonar pings for discovering cloaked ships. Some of the ships can drop mines. There's torpedoes, you know there's all sorts of stuff that the, that the different ships can do. Some of the ships have a lot more armor than other ships and they're not as fast and as maneuverable as the later ships, but they can carry more weapons and take more damage. This is one of the areas where we deviated somewhat from the classic Wing Commander for the reason that in the original Wing Commanders it was a first person point of view, and you pretty much, you were looking out from a cockpit view, but in this game you've got ships all over the place and you sort of want to know what you're up against. And the upgrade path in a typical Wing Commander game was that you would improve your armor type, but it wouldn't really change the look of your ship, you would just, you would just become stronger. We've set this in the frontier where technology has been logged back, knocked back after the encounter with the Nephilim and so some of this technology is no longer available. So what people have been doing is they've been adding armor. The durasteel, just piling more durasteel on the same hull types. So in the three types of light fighter, for example, you can have three armor types. So, and type three is the most heavily armored version of the, of the light fighter available and it carries more armaments. But it's not quite as fast and it's not quite as maneuverable as the lightest type. But it can take more damage. You know, it's more of a straight up pounder. It's the same for the medium fighters, you know. The heaviest medium fighter is actually very similar to the heavy class of fighter that you'd get in a classic Wing Commander.

Host 1: So you guys haven't released the price of this game yet.

Sean: Oh, yes we have. It's up for, it's up for 800 points.

Host 1: And when is the release date so far?

Sean: We're really... we're hoping really soon. Really, really soon. We're, you know, there's, there's a period where, in which Microsoft gets the game and they can take up to thirty days to release it. So it's hard to predict an actual date.

Host 1: So I mean I know you guys have an Xbox Live Arcade EA section on your website. When are we going to finally going to hear, like, of new games coming from you guys.

Sean: Well, that's sort of inside information. I can tell you that, you know, there's an appetite for Arcade games in the studio and we do want to make more. How's that?

Host 1: Allright, cool, cool. Hopefully at E3 we might find out a few, right?

Sean: Yeah, that's true.

Host 1: Allright, cool man, thanks a lot man.

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Manual Sighted!

Kotaku has posted the first pictures from what seems to be Wing Commander Arena's manual! They were sent a 60-page, full color 'in universe' magazine called Star Soldier to promote the game. It sounds like it's right out of Claw Marks:
The January 2701 issue of Star Soldier is 60 pages of ads, articles and details about the game and the universe in which it exists. It's pretty neat. The thing does a really good job of blending fictional pieces (like bios of the top 12 mercenary pilots and ads from Joan's Fighting Spacecraft) with hard facts (like the game's play controls, fighting maneuver tips and a list of Achievements.)
I certainly hope everyone gets to see the whole thing soon! You can find the original article here. They've scanned several pages of gameplay relevant material -- we'll have to wait for a hardcore fan to see more continuity material. Even so, watch out for the Scimitar diagrams and a shout out to a deserving Wing Commander editor...

Who Mods the Modders?

Mustanger does! The creator of clay and wooden ships has set his sights to the electronic frontier by creating a pair of new missions for the Wing Commander Saga FreeSpace 2 mod! The missions are called Capture Destroyer (72 kb) and Transport Raid (131 kb)... and their content should be self-explanatory. They seem to be getting high marks at the forums, so try them out today!

Download the .fs2 files and then put them in the /data/missions subdirectory of your Wing Commander Saga Prologue folder. If you haven't picked up the Saga Prologue yet, it's available here.

Excalibur Tech Sheet Mock-up Complete

Flanker has created another stylish model and ship diagram. This time it's a fighter: the F-103 Excalibur. Top/bottom and front/back views are presented along the bottom, and a sharp angled perspective is aligned with the ship stats on top. You can see how the ship evolved over the last week in the two images below or check out Flanker's previous designs here.

I like how it worked out with many small details and readable texts. Was at first planning to draw a condor or eagle on it, but I like the trojan helmet I found as well.

Don't know about warpaints, though most WC fighters appear to be green or like this one with checker markings and grey color scheme. Would be neat to see it in digital or foliage camoflage, but that is not very space like. Maybe something for a spec ops mission.

All Aboard The Starship Tiger Claw

AD was poking around the Fox UK website and ran across the product page for the Wing Commander movie on DVD. The Region 2 DVD was released much later in the United Kingdom than elsewhere in Europe, and they've posted a plot synopsis that we might not have picked up on before. It's slightly different than the brief write-up you'll find elsewhere online. Note the reference to 2004's Troy.
Wing Commander
In the mid-27th century the Kilrathi, an evil Alien race, are headed for Earth on a mission of destruction. The starship Tiger Claw and its elite crew are the only ones who can save Earth and all humanity.

Freddie Prinze Jr (Scooby Doo) is First Lieutenant Christopher Blair, the fearless pilot of the Tiger Claw, who with his wing commander Lieutenant Commander Devereaux (Saffron Burrows, Troy) is prepared to fight to the end to stop the Kilrathi destroyng everything they know and love.

Wing Commander is based on the popular computer game of the same name and is directed by Chris Roberts, the game's creator.

Prophecy Multiplayer Scoreboard Implemented

HCl has released the first big update to his Prophecy Enhancement Pack since it added the ability to integrate DVD movies last fall. The program began as a high resolution upgrade and later went on to add multiplayer combat to the game. Today's release now adds scoreboard support! Kills, deaths, ejections, decoys, flight hours, gun accuracy and more are tracked for each round you fly against fellow Wingnuts. Pilot stats are attached to your unique Crius.net account and appear on the new online Prophecy Multiplayer Scoreboard. Now's a great time to take advantage of this and practice for Wing Commander Arena.
Download the Wing Commander Prophecy Enhancement Pack here (1.5 MB). Unzip it to your Prophecy directory, but note that it will overwrite your Prophecy.exe unless you back it up first. The pack incorporates the video skip fix, high resolution upgrade, DVD VOB player and multiplayer patch all together. Install.exe configures the high res patch, and Multiplayer.exe launches the online component. One person runs the game as the server, and everyone else connects to his IP address in client mode. Input a team number and enter your Crius.net username/password when prompted. Be sure port 5555 is forwarding through your router/firewall, and stop by #Wingnut to meet up with other players. Have fun!

Auction: Diamonds on the Backs of Her Shoes

Veteran Wing Commander artist Sean Murphy, designer of the TCS Midway and others, has come across another interesting memento... and he's put it up on the auction block for Wing Commander fans. It's a Diamondback Squadron sticker, as made for the Wing Commander Prophecy film shoot! Sean says: "During the film shoot of Wing Commander: Prophecy, stickers were made of the various squadron insignia; these were stuck on the generic helmets the actors wore to individualize them, show what squadron they were in. It's about 3 and a half inches long by 2 and a half wide; it's nice and stiff, and has never been peeled off the backing." Wing Commander game props of any sort are very rare... so grab it while you can! Plus, lets face it: Sean's a great guy who's always looking out for us -- he deserves your money as much as you deserve a Wing Commander sticker! You can bid here.

Standoff Team Talks Voiceover Progress

The pace of Standoff news has picked up a bit lately, and Eder has posted yet another update to the project's website. Progress with missions and cutscenes continues to advance, and voiceovers are sounding particularly good. Audio Editor Tempest is processing all the new sound files, and he's got good news for anyone who might still want to try to get a few recordings included with the game:
Things are going great on the voice-overs front. We have our primary characters rolling in their lines (And I'm not just talking about episode 4, but all of their lines - episode 5 included. The great news is, when we round out the voice-overs for the Ep 4 release, we'll have the hurdle jumped for episode 5, too.

I've also been working on getting all of our smaller roles for the upcoming episodes sorted out. Progress has been good, and the response from previous and new voice-over contacts very encouraging. But! I may have a couple of roles left over, so if you've always wanted to hear your own voice in Standoff, this may just be your chance.

If you're interested, drop me a line at rileyrockATgmail.com and I'll sort you out for a sample. Remember, we have limited roles. However, things are always turning up in the world of voice-overs, so even if you're not selected for something, I'll have you on file next time Quarto decides to announce at me "Lookee! More ships! Make them sound like people!"

Important Message To All Pilots

With Wing Commander Arena's release looking imminent, we thought it would be a good idea to plug our exciting new 'Squadron' feature again. Now you and your friends can form your own elite combat units in preparation for Arena's exciting 16-player battles! The squadron feature isn't just for Arena players - you're welcome to use this feature to form your own RPG or Prophecy multiplayer squadrons. Here's how it works:
  1. Requirements
    Register for a CIC Forums account if you don't already have one. You will also need an Xbox Live account. More information about Xbox Live can be found here. In the profile tab of your Forums control panel, you can enter your Xbox Live Gamertag and a brief pilot biography. You can also choose which faction you belong to.
  2. Forming a Squadron
    Post a message to this thread with your squadron name and motto. You may share command with other members. As squadron leader, you will have to accept or deny any join requests from other members. We can't do this for you. To manage your squadron members, go to the group memberships tab of your Forums control panel. Review the join requests for your squadron. Check the appropriate actions and click the authorization button.

  3. Joining a Squadron
    Go to the group memberships tab of your Forums control panel. Select the squadron you wish to join and click the submit button. On the following page, you may state a reason for wanting to join. Finally, click the send button. You will become a member of the squadron after a squadron leader has reviewed and accepted your request.
The CIC Forums, #Wingnut and the GamerTags List might be good places to start recruiting!

BREAKING NEWS: More Wing Commander on GameTap

This is, by a wide margin, the least likely thing that has ever happened: the GameTap service is planning to add Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom to their extensive inventory of classic games available for legal download and play! I posted to their forum asking about the status of the previously announced Privateer release... there's no word on that yet, but their moderator provided some exciting news:
I did just get confirmation that Wing Commander IV will be coming soon to Gametap, so hopefully that will be some consolation to the Privateer limbo.
GameTap recently brought Wing Commander I to their service, allowing modern gamers to play it alongside nearly a thousand other retail titles for a low monthly fee. The addition of Wing Commander IV, a surprisingly large game even by today's standards, will be quite a coup. Are you ready to go back to the Border Worlds? I sure am!

Purple Privateer Pictures Posted

Here's another look at a new interface in Privateer Ascii Sector. The commodity exchange and sector economy took less time to create than Chris Knudsen anticipated, so a few pictures are already available. Each item available for purchase has a local price and a general market price that can be used to help determine the best buys. Costs associated with the goods in your ship's hold are also tracked to calculate potential profit if sold at the current location. A few neat graphs even track values such as these over time. The last screenshot below is from a later build and has been slightly reworked to features a few streamlined improvements.

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Achievement Graphics Revealed

Xbox 360 Achievements has posted the Achievement graphics for Wing Commander Arena! You can find them here. For those unfamiliar with the Xbox 360, achievements are electronic 'badges' won for completing various feats in a game - similar to the medals in the original Wing Commander. The Arena achievements themselves had already been published, but the badge graphics themselves are all new. They're fantastic, full of old school Wing Commander references... check out the medals and the familiar Kilrathi symbols! This is also another strong suggestion that Arena's release is imminent - with some exceptions, achievement graphics generally appear mere days before a game is launched.
Hot Dog (20)
Complete each Ring Game difficulty level
Commando (10)
Earned ULF Commando Tattoo (15 frags in a Melee match)
Dogfight (10)
Shot down first pilot in a Xbox LIVE match
Ace (20)
Defeat 5 ships in a Ranked Xbox LIVE match without respawning
Untouchable (20)
Reach wave 10 in Gauntlet without ever taking damage to your hull
TCS Tiger's Claw (10)
Compete a 16 player Capital Ship game
Hibernation (20)
Reach a streak of 5 in a Bearpit game
Gunfighter (20)
Win a Ranked Duel with each ship type
Navigator (10)
Travel through every gold jump gate in the game
Retro (10)
Reach wave 20 in Meteor Storm
Paladin (30)
Shoot down 1000 pilots on Xbox LIVE
Deathstroke (20)
Finish in first place in any Ranked Free For All match

Final Gemini Gold 1.02 Complete

The final version of Privateer Gemini Gold version 1.02 has been released. This iteration comes after several successful test versions put out over the last few weeks. Windows, Lunix and Mac versions are available here (278 megs). The game's manual has also been refreshed for the new version. Here's John Cordell with some more details.

Wingnuts, it's done!

After more than a year of hard work, we are very proud to announce today the next major release of Privateer Gemini Gold.

While earlier versions were still using low resolution base interiors, we are bringing to you now Privateer for the first time ever in an SVGA resolution with 32 bit color depth. Other important improvents are the recreation of almost all original base computer interfaces and an overall better game balance.

We hope you will enjoy our latest release without having too much trouble becoming once again the number one privateer in Gemini.

I want to thank all people who contributed to the project, most notably the CIC community, Howie (Pioneer), Tolwyn (Saga), Bigmag (STN), Hellcat (VS) and of course the whole team behind Gemini Gold who spend their free time, on this visionary goal, to bring an old classic gaming title back to a new life.

Thanks!

EA Regroups Under Four Labels

Electronics Arts has announced that it is restructuring into four primary business units. EA Sports, EA Games, EA Casual Entertainment and The Sims will be the main brands that games are published within. EA Sports and EA Games have existed for the last several years, but they seem to have absorbed EA Sports BIG. EA Casual Entertainment and The Sims appear to have originated as the semiautonomous Pogo and Maxis groups. In addition to online board/puzzle games and cell phone titles, Casual Entertainment will include brands like Harry Potter, and the Maxis game Spore will wind up being released under the EA Games name. EA Sports & The Sims are fairly straightforward, and most others - including titles like Command & Conquer, Battlefield or Wing Commander - should come with an EA Games logo.

EA has also announced that its executive vice president of international studios, David Gardner, was recently made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth. Mr. Gardener was involved in increasing the company's European revenue to more than $1 billion and building its UK staffing levels up to more than a thousand people.

And This Week's XBLA Title Is...

... "Band Of Bugs", a turn-based strategy game which is already winning rave reviews for its map editing feature. Why is this important? Because this announcement fills the next-to-last June Xbox Live Arcade release slot, leaving only June 27th available. As of last month, Wing Commander Arena was being prepped for a June release. From an early May interview with producer Sean Penney:
AMNTV: So when are we expecting the game to be on Xbox Live?

Sean: Well, we should see it real soon. Some time in June, late June.

Does this mean we'll be seeing Arena on June 27th? Not necessarily - EA has been very quiet in recent weeks... and final XBLA release dates are set by Microsoft rather than individual game developers. Still, it would be a good day to watch your Xbox Marketplace blade...

The Rotary Neutron Club

Here's an unexpected find discovered during an evening of digging throuugh Photobucket - someone's scratch built plastic model of a CF-117 Rapier! This is the Rapier fighter seen in the Wing Commander movie, which is separate from the F-44 Rapier II seen in Wing Commander I, II and Arena. Who made this ship, which looks eerily similar to the X-Toys prototype? Their username seems to be Serenity2007 and they've built a similar cool models of several other famous sci-fi ships... including BattleStar Galactica. Whoever you are, wherever you are - awesome job on the Rapier!

Mellow Out With A Kilrathi Scout

NinjaLA sent along this neat preview of a new scene he's been working on. It's still a work in progress, but it's pretty nifty as-is already. On the left is his first cut at the image, and a more refined update is on the right. The color and style add a lot to the piece, and the artsy Kilrathi looks really sharp. I like seeing how things like this develop too. NinjaLA imagines that the warrior pictured there is some sort of advance recon unit scouting out an attack on a Confed communications base. It's already pretty pleasant to look at, so I'm anxious to see how it shapes up when all is complete.

Check out more of NinjaLA's art at ackthpppt.com.

Flight Commander Gameflow Editing Guide Posted

As a prelude to the upcoming release of Flight Commander 1.5, eddieb has come up with a gameflow editing guide. All its features are current as of the impending new version, and aspiring modders can check it out now. The guide teaches people how to set up rooms with things like background music, hotspots, text and movies. It all looks a little complex to me, but I'm always very happy to see how people take advantage of all the neat new things that eddie builds into his engine. I've been told it's actually easy to get into with a little bit of time and effort, so don't hesitate to check it out.

Calling All Ascii Hunters

Chris Knudsen has been working on the mechanics of the Mercenaries' Guild system for Ascii Sector, and that interface is now complete. Users log in by clicking on the keypad and are presented with a list of missions. The variety and complexity of the missions increase as the player's rating goes up. Each mission has an expiration time, and until that point it will appear in the guild computer terminal on any planet or base. Work on the commodity exchange and supply/demand system will be next, and this will then tie into the Merchants' Guild database.

Das Erwachen Team Holds Street Party

Deacan has posted a few pictures from his test reading party for the new volume of Das Erwachen. It sounds like the event was a big success and people had a lot of fun. They were primarily reading selected sections from Books I & II, but mock-ups of III, IV and their card game are also visible in the shots below. Fan get-togethers are really neat. Hopefully we'll get to see people throwing Arena LAN parties down the line!

Well, the reading session is over. Most of the people stayed longer than we expected - and those people where not (!) scifi fans at all...

Vega Project Jumps Platforms

SirJorj has upgraded his Vega Project to the big(ger) screen. Previously available for the Nintendo DS, his tech demo now runs on Windows and the XBox 360 with an XNA Creators Club membership. XNA Game Studio Express and an XBox 360 controller is also required. All of the original WC1 fighters have now been added in with their proper guns. So far the ships just fly around and shoot, so jorj insists that people don't go out and buy the XNA gear just to run this demo. It should be kind of neat for people who are already set up, and looks good for slightly whetting your Arena appetite. If you do get a chance to load this up, let everyone know what you think at Crius.net.

Running this requires installing a decent amount of software, so proceed at your own risk! I have successfully ran this on my Dell laptop and XBOX360 console. The XNA Game Studio Express software (free) might require Visual C# 2005 Express (also free) or greater. Running this on the XBOX360 requires a XNA Creators Club membership, which is not free.

The downloadable ZIP files each contain a .ccgame file that was generated by XNA Game Studio Express. Since my Windows system has all the development stuff installed, I really don't know what all is required to run this. To run this in Windows, you need a wired XBOX360 controller. These have a standard USB port and install easily if you tell Windows Update to find the driver. On the XBOX360 console, wired or wireless controllers work.

Standoff Voice Work Back On Track

Quarto reports that Standoff's has resolved their recent problem with voicovers. The team is back in communication with their key voice actors and well on their way to getting all the spoken lines that they need. They are now busy editing in more than two hundred new clips for Episode 4 & 5. And if you missed the news last week, Standoff is now working with Marten Davies, the original voice of Admiral Tolwyn, to record a few special lines for the game!

Rapier in Sepia

A lot of people have been curious about Super Wing Commander's Rapier II lately, since its appearance in Wing Commander Arena is descended from this design. Bob has mocked up a launch render for the fighter to give people another look at it. The scene is posed to mirror the perspective of Klavs' Flight Ops wallpaper. Although Bob put the image together really quickly, some of the original model's detailed alternative texture set is visible. Many of the ship's distinctive lines carry on to today's version too. The Tiger's Claw's hexagonal launch tube is also present in the background. Looks neat!
I made it as a counterpoint to Klavs's Flight Ops picture to show they share the same basic lineage. The SWC manual is what gave me the idea - the shot of the Rapier in it are in a similar angle and position. I had to switch the textures around. The interesting thing is that the Rapier has a bunch of alternate textures, which is part of what it's wearing in that shot.

Everything's Bigger In Taxes

Develop has posted an article about a new law offering a tax credit to Texas-based game developers. Although the latest Wing Commander is being developed in New York and Vancouver, this is presumably good news for a host of Wing Commander alumni who now run studios like Critical Mass and Spacetime. And hey, Origin founder Richard Garriott likes it:
While the scheme has garnered acclaim from both NCsoft's Richard Garriott, who is based in Austin, Texas, and the head of the Texas Film Commission, there are some limitations to the subsidies.

The state says it will not fund 'obscene' games with 'inappropriate content' or titles that 'portray Texas or Texans in a negative fashion'.

Ooh, tough break, Cybermage 2.

Stick It To Me

LeHah has sent along the first picture of the upcoming Xbox 360 Flightstick/Throttle Combo. This setup will be included with a special edition of Ace Combat 6, which is currently set for a November release. It will retail for $149.99 and can be pre-ordered in brick-and-mortar stores now. Picking up one may very well enhance the Wing Commander Arena experience... though, hopefully, Arena will have been out for a while before these show up:

We Were Young... So Ambitious

Today we offer you a brief look back at the community's long history - with a collection of four IRC logs from 1996-1997. These are Q&A sessions with Richard Steinberg, who was Origin's PR man in the mid-1990s. Richard was a great guy who was always happy to answer questions from Wing Commander fans or take the extra time to moderate Origin's Official Wing Commander Chat Zone (a spiritual precursor of our own forums and the reason they bear the name 'Zone' to this day). He left Origin in 1997, and most of the information included is now trivial... but it seemed like a reasonable tribute to a good man. You can read them all here.
<Tackion> I think privateer 3 is going to continue priv 1
<ORIGIN_PR> Tackion: That's not necessarily true
<ORIGIN_PR> What happened is a Privateer 2 was started a ways back by Chris.
<ORIGIN_PR> It was still in development. Chris has of course left. In the mean time
<ORIGIN_PR> Erin had been developing a game
I often wonder what happened to many of these IRC nicks - they were good people, and many were close friends once upon a time. It's hard to believe this was over a decade ago - everyone is grown up now. Here's hoping we'll run into some old friends playing Arena.

Ajax and Jill Went Up A Hill

Flanker has created a cool pair of capital ship models... and he's made a pair of awesome 'blueprint' style images to show them off! These ships, designed in 3DSMax, are familiar to most as the TCS Victory's escorts in Wing Commander III - the Tallahassee-class cruiser and the as-of-yet unnamed destroyer (here named Sheffield). These particular renditions have a cool style to them that's hard to pin down:

If Wishes Were Hornets

The elder statesman of video gaming news sites, GameSpy, has posted "Top 10 PC Games We'd Like to See Remastered", an article about... the top ten PC games they'd like to see remastered. The original Wing Commander takes the number seven slot. When they're right, they're right:
When I was in Junior High I helped the Confederation fight off the cat-like Kilrathi in the Vega campaign. I was stationed aboard the Tiger's Claw along with a memorable entourage of fellow flyboys. Till this day I still remember the wild antics of Manic, the cool calmness of Iceman, and the fatherly advice given to me by Paladin. I remember the first time I flew the bulky Scimitar and blowing away dozens of pancake-shaped Kilrathi Dralthi's with my Rapier. To say I have fond memories of the original Wing Commander from Origin Systems would be an understatement. I'd love to return to the Tiger's Claw and take down a few more of those rotten furballs. Better yet, I'd like to have my buddies join me and fly my wing... or against me.
You can read the entire article, which includes classics like Sierra/Dynamix's Aces series, here. Special thanks to Hurleybird and Dundradal for submitting this story.

Classic Review Praises Privateer

Mike Mann was going through some old things and came up with a neat classic review from the September 1994 issue of "CD-ROM Entertainment." It's a lengthy article that covers the enhanced CD-ROM edition of Wing Commander Privateer and Righteous Fire. The author is very impressed, and he spends a considerable amount of time describing the setting and backstory to the game. The gameplay mechanics, diverse locations and variety of factions also get special mention. Mike included some higher quality PDF scans with this one. Check them out below.
PDF PDF PDF PDF

Included on the CD is the Speech Pack add-on that would cost an additional $24.95. Adding it to the $79.95 MSRP for the disk-based game, plus the extra $29.95 for the Righteous Fire, and the CD version becomes a great value, all of which only takes up about one to two MB on your hard drive.

Privateer is so attractive not only for the space combat simulation, but because you can build your own Privateer business and explore an enormous universe. The CD version is a plus since you'll want to have the game readily available for a LONG time without having to sacrifice the hard drive space.

DragonCon 2007 Less Than Three Months Away

The DragonCon website has been updated with a bunch of new information. More than two dozen new guests have been listed as attendees, and the Fan Tables page now lists the CIC's presence. We'll be manning a table in the Marriott lobby to help increase Wing Commander awareness. Stop by if you'll be in Atlanta this Labor Day weekend!

Hornet in the Night

SabreAce has put together a neat wallpaper featuring Howard Day's dashing Hornet model. "Fearless" features the light fighter dodging rocks with a bright star at its back. Since the perspective has rendered the scene quite dark, Marc chipped in for a brightened version of the scene as well. You can help provide feedback at Crius.net.

In a system with a blue-giant sun, a Hornet plunges fearlessly into an asteroid field, lasers blazing, intent on eliminating the Kilrathi within. I can but hope it's not too dark for the rest of you - the joys of monitors never having the same level of brightness. Full credit to Howard for the Hornet. Maybe I should try something with his Dralthi next, perhaps make a Kilrathi version of this.

External Ordnance Experiment

Wanderer was trying some things with the WC Saga mod and managed to mock up a new effect. By adjusting some of the internal data files, he was able to get missile weapons to mount externally on various ships. The effect is kind of neat. You can see more on this exercise at the CIC Forums.

New Gemini Gold Upgrade Released

A new version of Gemini Gold was released this weekend. It's been more than a year and a half since the last major release, and a variety of improvements have been included. The graphical resolution has been doubled and many interfaces have been redone to look more like the originals. Planetary textures, explosion animations and a handful of splash screens have been upgraded too. The random mission descriptions are also more diverse now, missile/torpedo mechanics were improved and the AI has been tweaked. The GG team is working with the Saga group to distribute a test release (276 megs) for the time being. If no major bugs are found, they hope to finalize this in about a week or so. Savegame files will be compatible between today's version and anything released in the near future. You can help John Cordell gauge feedback with a poll at Crius.net.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Privateer Gemini Gold team has finished its second major release!

Hard To Pick Just One

Today's new poll asks which upcoming multiplayer mode in Wing Commander Arena has you the most excited. It'll be interesting to see how these results compare with the numbers after the game has been released. Each mode has a unique map, and two levels (Boneyard & Space Station) allow both free-for-all and team play. Check out this interview with Arena's executive producer, Sean Penney, for details on each details on each mode included in the game.

Eurogamer: That might keep the players busy for quite a while. How does it look online? What variants can we expect?

Sean Penney: The multiplayer mode offers free-for-all for 16 players, team engagements with two crews with eight members each and duels between two individual pilots. The team portions take place between the Kilrathi and the Confederation.

"Capital Ship" is the meeting of the Titans. The goal is to destroy the opposing battlecruiser and to protect your own at the same time. The capital ships consist in each case of three sections. One must destroy them successively, particularly their cannons, radar systems, generators, rockets and the bridge. If the player blows up all the goals on a level, the battlecruiser sinks one level deeper and offers new objects for pulverizing. The bridge comes at the end. Without a control center the ship breaks apart and you win.

With "Satellites" it plays as a variant of Capture the Flag on an interlocked map. You must dock with a satellite in order to conquer it for your team. If you leave it unguarded, it can be taken by the opposite side. You must mix ships, tactics as well as team play in order to be successful here.

"Boneyard" offers a beautiful environment with shipwrecks, astonishing crystal formations, dangerous terrain and a single planetoid where you can find hidden treasures. It can be played in both free-for-all and in team modes.

"Space Station" again puts the player - as the name implies - into an enormous space station. There you can lure enemies into dead ends, attack them from the corners or fly to open space. All the ships in an area can be damaged by destroying fuel tanks. The space station can also be played in either variant, free for all or team.

In "Bearpit" 16 players participate in duels. It involves a special map with an arena in the center. All participants first enter a queue. This surrounds a duel pit, which supplies the necessary points for the rank list. If you win a fight, you remain in the arena. The loser must re-enter the queue, while the next pilot may start his challenge. The beauty to it is that the queue covers the entire area outside the stage. There you can fly fun duels, complete mini-games and resupply yourself. If you want, there is even the possibility to dock with the arena and take a few shots at the two fighters.

"Duel" is a head to head fight between two players for the best three out of five possible battles. Whoever wins the first three victories also wins the match - like in tennis. Combat takes place in a smoking crater in which one finds hiding places and other surprises like pickups too.

Our last poll asked which ship you were most eager to fly. The Rapier II won by a good margin, and the Arrow, Broadsword and Dralthi IX each took around a sixth of the vote. I'm sure once more people get in the cockpit, the Darket and Paktahn will have their share of diehard fans too.

Scramble All Squadrons!

With Wing Commander Arena hopefully just weeks away, we'd like to take the wraps off a neat feature to help fans build their own squadrons for the game. This is possible with the new Squadrons Section. Aspiring wing commanders with a Crius.net and XBox Live account can easily create their own squad and then manage memberships, mottos, bios and more with the built-in Crius.net groups interface. In the future we hope to conduct tournaments and add features as it becomes possible, but feel free to get started right away!
    Requirements
  1. Register for a CIC Forums account if you don't already have one. You will also need an Xbox Live account. More information about Xbox Live can be found here. In the profile tab of your Forums control panel, you can enter your Xbox Live Gamertag and a brief pilot biography. You can also choose which faction you belong to.
    Forming a Squadron
  2. Post a message to this thread with your squadron name and motto. You may share command with other members. As squadron leader, you will have to accept or deny any join requests from other members. We can't do this for you. To manage your squadron members, go to the group memberships tab of your Forums control panel. Review the join requests for your squadron. Check the appropriate actions and click the authorization button.

    Joining a Squadron
  3. Go to the group memberships tab of your Forums control panel. Select the squadron you wish to join and click the submit button. On the following page, you may state a reason for wanting to join. Finally, click the send button. You will become a member of the squadron after a squadron leader has reviewed and accepted your request.
The CIC Forums, #Wingnut and the GamerTags List might be good places to start recruiting!

Space Force Space Sim Ships Out

A handful of Wingnuts have pointed out that a promising new title was released last week. Space Force: Rogue Universe shipped to North America on June 5. Previously known as SF2, the game takes you through an open-ended universe as you upgrade your ship and tackle the main plot. Somewhat like Privateer 2, this one actually has quite a bit of free form and side plot gameplay beyond the typical build-up to the main storyline. The graphics are quite nice, though some reviews (many of which compare the game to Wing Commander) have cited its difficulty and steep learning curve as a potential obstacle to success. Both keyboard/mouse and joystick modes are included, though a joystick is recommended. A demo and trailer are available, and the European launch should begin in two weeks. You can learn more at Space Force's official website.

What types of gameplay experiences does Space Force - Rogue Universe offer?

Players will have the opportunity to engage in trading, exploration, fighting, crafting, quest solving, and diplomacy decision-making in addition to ship development and other player activities. The player may choose to view the environment through camera mode in 1st or 3rd person. Player can choose between 10 professions and 14 spacecrafts. Earn money and experience points and advance to higher levels. Since AI has a crucial role in SpaceForce2, it will create a thrilling playing experience throughout the game.

Das Erwachen Book II Nearly Finished

The second book in Deacan's Privateer 2 fan fiction series is nearly complete, and he's posted the cover art for Das Erwachen Books III & IV as well. Test copies of Book II have been printed and his group will be conducting a test reading session this week for fun. A Tri-System-based newspaper is also in the works, and a preview is available in German here. The cover colors are pretty nice. You can find more information on the first volume here.

TwitchGuru Talks Space Sims

Jibbo caught an article at TwitchGuru on the status of space combat games. It starts with some history of the genre and credits Wing Commander for really getting things started. It also cites poor sales of competing titles and a shift in the market for the subdued space sim presence over the last decade. Later on in the piece, the author talks about how active mod teams have been in keeping things going lately. Despite a completely unsubstantiated dig at WC Arena, the article's associated image gallery helps share a handful of screenshots for the game with the site's readers.
Games like Elite led the charge in the '80s, but it was Chris Roberts' Wing Commander, released in 1990, that successfully mixed a space flight model with a compelling narrative, placing players in the role of an officer of the Confederation stationed on the TCS Tiger's Claw. The story was nothing revolutionary in and of itself, but the mix of combat and newsreel-style cinematics kept the story interesting, and the player always informed about the stakes of the bigger picture.
The site also has a second article about promising games that were never published. This one begins with some backstory behind different attempts at an Ultima Online sequel, and it also briefly mentions Privateer Online.

Four More Ships

ASCII artist extraordinaire Chris Knudsen has posted four more ship loadout pairs from his Privateer Ascii Sector project. First is the long-awaited Centurion... the other three are (in order) the Ulysses (a larger merchant ship), the Pegasus and the Nexus. As always, very impressive! This should be it for ship layouts, but who knows what we'll see next?

We're Number Seven! Sort Of!

Dr. Forstchen is going places - the former Wing Commander author has hit the prestigious New York Times bestseller list with his latest novel, Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th:
7. Pearl Harbor, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen. (Thomas Dunne, $25.95.) The buildup to the historic attack, with an alternative ending.
You can find the whole list here. Forstchen and Gingrich's book is nestled directly between J.R.R. Tolkein and Chuck Palahniuk. Who knew?

New Standoff Release Edges Closer

Although the team has been fairly quiet in recent months, Eder has posted a new progress report on the long-awaited Standoff Episode 4. The biggest news relates to voiceovers. The team has announced an exciting new addition to the cast. Marten Davies, the original voice of Admiral Tolwyn in WC2, has agreed to contribute a few lines to the game!
Just a small update this time, to let you know that we are indeed still making progress. It's only been two weeks since the last update, but there's actually been quite a bit of progress. That's the good news - the bad news, I suppose, is that most of the progress has been on Episode... Five :-P.

Let's start with Episode 4, though. The missions continue to move towards completion at a slow but steady pace. There isn't anything major to report here, but progress is being made.

In the meantime, we continue to add voiceovers into the game. In the case of Episode 4, we currently have almost half of the voiceovers implemented in the game, and a number of others are expected to arrive soon. Voiceovers are also the area in which Episode 5 has moved a big step forward, too - we appear to now have a third, possibly more, of the voiceovers for this episode. It's worth noting that we expect all the Episode 5 voiceovers to be done at the same time as Episode 4 - these days, when we send our actors their lines, we send all their lines through to the end of the game. That's the way we should really have done it right from the start, and it would have saved us a huge, huge portion of problems (fan project leaders, take note!)... but the truth is, it wasn't until just a few months ago that all the remaining Episode 5 scripts were finished, so we couldn't send them out earlier :-P.

In terms of voiceovers, there is also one other minor, but extremely neat bit of progress. We thought about keeping this one secret, but ultimately decided that it might go unnoticed in the game itself - and in addition, by mentioning it on the website, we are able to give public thanks to Marten Davies.

That's right - Marten Davies, the man who used to be the VP of Sales at Origin, and then the Chairman at Digital Anvil, has been kind enough to record a voiceover line as Tolwyn for Standoff! In case some of you are confused as to why we'd seek out him in particular to do this - Marten Davies also played Tolwyn in the WC2 intro. So, Admiral Tolwyn in Standoff is literally the original WC2 Tolwyn :-).

It's really an amazing thing how great and supportive former Origin staff are (and have always been) to the WC community - thanks, guys!

However, apart from progress, we also need to mention a serious problem we're having - also with voiceovers, in fact. For the past two months, we've been unable to get in touch with Andi Kravljaca, the man who plays Commodore Reismann in Standoff. Quarto's emails have bounced with some weird error, and Tempest - although his emails appear to be getting through, have not yielded a response. This is an especially critical problem, because... well, Reismann is the guy you hear in almost every briefing in Standoff, so you can imagine how many lines he has, and how much we'll need to change in the game if it turns out that we can no longer get lines for him :-(. Ironically, the last thing we heard from Andi was that he'd finished recording his lines, and would send them soon... anyway, Andi, if you're reading this, please get in touch with us! We really, really need you!

EA Releases C&C Gear

EA has brought back tie-in merchandising in a big way with a complete lineup of gear for Command & Conquer 3. Almost 20 items are available in the new C&C Store. There are a variety of creative shirts, hats, mugs and so on. The Wing Commander series has a long history of neat stuff like this being made available at game launches. Wing Commander 1 originally came with an offer for a collectible cap, and Wing Commander 3/4 even had a limited edition set of holographic art made for it. Hopefully we'll get another batch of neat Wing Commander gear someday.

Arena Gets European Rating

Europe based game rating board PEGI, or Pan European Game Information, have recently given Arena their rating treatment. The good news is that in almost every European country, Arena has been rated as suitable for ages 3 and up meaning that just about everyone can enjoy the game. The exception is Portugal where gamers must wait until they are 4 years old before they can play. While the ESRB agrees with the rating having previously rated the game "E for Everyone", the German USK disagreed, instead restricting the game "for those below the age of 12."

Huge Discount For UK EA Replay

Starman spotted that UK based DVD/Music/Game site uWish is offering everyone's favorite PSP based EA game collection for a fraction of its £34.99 RRP. They are selling EA Replay for only £9.96 including delivery, half of the price that Amazon is currently selling it for. If you're in the UK, own a PSP and have been holding out on EA Replay, head here and put WC and Secret Missions on your PSP.

New Flight Commander In Work

eddieb reports that the new 1.5 edition of Flight Commander is coming along well. A notable new feature in this version will be player-controllable turrets. Various aspects of the engine have been upgraded to make this work properly, and a screenshot of the new turret targeting HUD is below. Controls for this view still need to be implemented, but that's about it. Eddie expects that after this and additional movie customization options are incorporated, the new version should be ready for release.

UO Kingdom Reborn Open Beta Begins

QuailPilot noticed that EA and FilePlanet have begun offering open beta for Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn. This new release is a major graphical overhaul for the original UO client, and they've packaged together a few comparison shots to prove it. The beta test is open to everyone, but a (free) FilePlanet account is necessary. You can try it out for yourself here.

Arena is Worth Playing

Worth Playing has posted a new preview of Wing Commander Arena... and it is brief but glowing! Check out these quotes, or head over to read the whole article...
Visually, Wing Commander Arena is almost an unbelievably beautiful game to be an Xbox Live Arcade release. The 3D graphics are exquisitely detailed and have a crisp, bright quality to them that seems almost like cel-shading...

Still, weaving your ship between waves of fire from an enemy carrier while countering with your own attacks was impressively thrilling, as were dogfights with other players' ships. There appeared to be no voice acting or story segments, in deference to the game's purely multiplayer nature, but the Wing Commander feel was definitely there...

Clearly, the hope behind this project is a renaissance for the Wing Commander franchise despite the nearly 10 years it's been left to sit fallow. Arena's gameplay is solid, so there's no reason to doubt that it may be the game to bring back Wing Commander.

Another especially mysterious quote: "Gaia Industries hints at a fourth online mode, but what that mode might be is unrevealed at this time. " Who knows what this could be?

EA Picks Feature Fan

There's a new community-oriented update at the official EA XBox Live Arcade website. As its top poster, LOAF has been selected as the Featured Member of the official Wing Commander Arena Forums. A neat little profile has appeared on the site in conjunction with this. We encourage everyone to visit the Arena message boards and get involved as much as possible. As the game gets closer to release, information from fellow fans will be an invaluable source of tips and tricks to get an edge against your opponents!

Best of the Next

BrynS spotted a brief Wing Commander Arena mention - an article at FiringSquad titled Top 10 Xbox Live Arcade Games. After running down the list they look to the bright future, which includes our favorite universe:
In the meantime, Microsoft and other third party publishers are already planning to release a ton of games for the service, from space shooters like Wing Commander Arena and Battlestar Galactica to classic ports like Disks of Tron to original titles like Castle Crashers, Undertow and Happy Tree Friends. It doesn't look likely that Microsoft will give up its lead in the console downloadable game race anytime soon.
You can read the whole thing here - #1 is 'Geometry Wars'.

Prowler Ballad

Wing Commander/Origin artist Sean Murphy was kind enough to send me hard copies of the Prowler artwork he scanned for an article several weeks ago... and there was even a previously unposted sketch! The image below seems to be the layout for a base of some sort - it looks similar to the sort of maps done for the original Privateer. You can find the original Prowler article Sean wrote for us here, along with many other character and mech designs!

The Great Experiment

Minefieldxii7 at the EA Arcade Official Forums has set up a Wing Commander Arena profile at Great Games Experiment - and he's doing a good job of keeping it updated. GCE is an news/information propagation service for video games, similar to our own Arena subsite. They also have profiles for the classic titles, and fan project pages are welcome. You can find the Arena section here. It includes an "Anticipation Rating" where you can vote to say how excited you are for an upcoming release... let's give our arcade game some fives!

Rapier Goes Gray

The Wing Commander Saga mod for FreeSpace 2 team has posted two screenshots of their new F-44 Rapier II medium fighter model as designed by Klavs. I personally prefer the dark greens of the original game or the bright yellows of Arena's Vanguard... but gray suits Saga's mood. Here it is:

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