How Goes the War Against the Humans?

Men, we have fought through the war together. I have done the best I could for you."

The battle is over, and I have placed... third - which means I've brought home an Xbox 360 Elite and 11,200 MS Points to give out to the Wing Commander community. We'll be figuring out a way for you folks to earn that prize in the next few days - be forewarned, you'll have to be a real WingNut!

The tournament was amazing, and remains largely a blur to me. I scored very poorly out of the gate - I began by getting myself stuck in the Boneyard's warren of caves... and ultimately managed to score only six kills! Luckily the second round was in the Space Station, where I managed to make up the difference somewhat, putting me into seventh place out of eight who would continue on.

Everything changed in the second elimination round. I flew a Broadsword Behemoth almost exclusively and then placed second (24 kills) and first (25 kills) in the respective rounds. The folks in #WingNut were watching via GamerTagRadio and cheering for me, my brother and my sister stayed up to watch me play, I was getting a constant stream of congratulatory messages via Xbox Live (I'm sorry - I couldn't read them during the fight!) and I was on top of the world.

... but it turned out we had to redo the last match! Someone had been left out. With some grumbling, we reorganized and fought again... and again I came in first with 25 kills! It was just amazing. I progressed to the fourth round, where I again picked the Behemoth... but came in only third. I won't lie, I relied pretty heavily on tractor beams and torpedoes, after finding that more maneuverable fighters didn't work in such a giant melee - but it was a heck of a lot of fun, regardless!

My sincere thanks to Electronic Arts for including the CIC in the contest. The goal was, after all, to gain some good press for Arena... so there was no reason they needed to include our site. They already know that we love the game for its merits and regardless of how the wind changes in the blogosphere.

Finally, congratulations to Super Dunners from xbox360fanboy.com, who won the home theater system! A special thanks to GamerTagRadio, too - Godfree did a fantastic job of covering the event (and Arena in general - if you haven't heard his interview with Sean Penney, check it out!).

And of course thanks to our wonderful community - for cheering me on, for believing in me and for putting up with me for ten years now. After the battle was over, everyone in #WingNut celebrated by playing three more rounds of Arena with me! It seemed only appropriate.

We've Got an ASCII Convoy

Chris Knudsen has been on vacation, so it's been quite a while since we've seen anything from the Privateer: Ascii Sector fan project. No longer, though - here are five screenshots showing off the Merchant's Guild's mission selection computer. Textiles, luxury foods and holograms? Oh my!

Happy Birthday, ace!

Today is Brandon "ace" Strevell's birthday! From my earliest days on the internet, ace's friendship has been a constant - I can remember thousands of nights at Origin's Wing Commander Chat Zone, on IRC and then later in person. He's without question one of the finest men I've ever known. You may not see his name in lights every day, but he's been a CIC staff member since day one - and he's talked me down off more than a few ledges. On behalf of all of us here at the CIC (and surely the Wing Commander community in general), happy birthday!

Title Bout Tonight!

It's LOAF versus the world, tonight on pay-per-view! This evening at 11 PM EST I'll be facing off against fifteen Xbox 360 news sites to try and earn some cool prizes for Wing Commander fans! The tournament will involve multiple free-for-alls and culminate in a Bearpit match between the two luckiest survivors. The event will be broadcast live via GamerTagRadio Vision, which you can access here. Be sure to stop in #WingNut to wish me luck or to catch me for a few rounds of Arena today as I practice!

I can't promise you anything, but I will try - I've been training since the game came out, and I've earned all twelve achievements and learned more than a few neat tricks. I'm sure my opponents are similarly fearsome, though! You can read about the prizes here and the battle setup here. I feel like Blair getting ready to fight Flash...

Which ship should I choose? Speed, well-roundedness or sheer firepower? Feel free to make suggestions!

Download Wing Commander Academy

Thanks to Wing Commander Arena, there are quite a few new people who've filtered in over the last few weeks. WC fans, new and old, who are just getting started at the CIC have a lot of material to get acquainted with. One of these items is Wing Commander Academy. The WCA television show is an exciting part of the franchise that we have available to download in its entirety. All thirteen episodes are available in DivX format. Download the codec here or use something like VLC Player to watch the files. Once you've tried out a few episodes, also check out the interesting background information on the show below.


Explore Exotic Towns

Kurt, who recently discovered a rare Wing Commander 2 FM Towns, was kind enough to snap us a new set of pictures showing what was inside the box! The FM Towns was a type of Japanese computer used in the 1990s, one of the first home systems to offer a CD-ROM. Many classic games were released as enhanced 'talkie' versions for the FM Towns, including various LucasArts adventures and Origin's own Ultima VI. Four Wing Commander ports are known to exist, including Wing Commander, The Secret Missions 1 & 2, Wing Commander 2 and Wing Commander Armada. You can find the original story here.

Behind the Arrow

GameTrailers has posted yet another video of Wing Commander Arena's single player space station melee mode. The 1:36 minute video shows off combat from the game's FreeLancer-style 'behind the ship' angle. It actually shows one of the few uses for this 'coolest looking' camera perspective that I've found so far - navigating the hazed dome area of this level. You can watch it online here.

Be aware that Arena features many different maps and modes - including ones like Capital Ship and Bearpit which are a lot more exciting than the cool space station we've seen over and over in these videos.

  • "Ship Blasting Gameplay" (43.2 mb WMV or 38.7 mb MOV)

A Prize Catch

EA Community Manager James Pond has posted about the upcoming Wing Commander Tournament to the EA Arcade forums. He's done a lot of research and found links to all of the various competitor's coverage of the event. He has also revealed that GamerTagRadio will be streaming the event live, so that everyone can watch the action unfold. Lastly, he included a list of the prizes for the four winners:
1st Place:
- 50" 1080p Plasma HDTV
- Home Theater System
- Xbox 360 Elite
- Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
- Xbox Live Gold Membership
- Wing Commander Arena
- 11,200 Microsoft points

2nd-4th Place:
- Xbox 360 Elite
- Wing Commander Arena
- 11,200 Microsoft points

Pretty darned impressive - you could buy 56 copies of Arena with those points! As always, I will do my best for you.

Bad Reviews

Though we hate to be the bearers of bad news, GameSpot and IGN have posted very negative reviews of Wing Commander Arena. This is all especially puzzling given that both sites each positively reviewed the same build pre-release not once but twice each. (GameSpot, GameSpot, IGN, IGN). GameSpot says:
While the concept of a 16-player arcadelike space shooter is definitely a good one, the various aspects of Wing Commander Arena come together in a very jejune way, leaving behind a husk of a game that doesn't have enough variety or thrills to keep you excited for more than one or two matches. Give the demo a spin if you're innately curious, but you're probably better off not wasting your money on this one.
Some of these comments are especially odd - a lack of variety? I'd wager Arena's eighteen ships, dozen modes and countless weapons against... well, any other game on XBLA. It seems like they're reviewing the game as though it were a full scale DVD release rather than something on the level of Feeding Frenzy and Cloning Clyde. IGN was similarly negative, complaining primarily that the game was too confusing for casual players. While that's possible, they go to some incorrect extremes to make that claim:
The list of missing features one normally expects in competitive multiplayer games goes on. There's no way to tell how many players are participating in a game. You can't set any match options like time limit, number of bots, difficulty of bots, items, weapons… All the things you would normally expect to be able to do in a competitive multiplayer game, you can't. Melee mode is timed but it doesn't tell you for how long (it's 10 minutes -- and you can't change that). When you join a Deathmatch game you aren't told what number of kills you're playing to, so games just go on and on with no end in sight. Games need to set a goal for players to work towards, otherwise you're just aimlessly -- well, playing Wing Commander Arena.
Obviously, I'd like to believe that reviews are bad because of general incompetance... and there's some cold comfort here: nearly all of the 'missing' information IGN claims cripples the game can be found by clicking on the 'start' and 'back' buttons while in flight.

XBOX-360.FR has posted a third review, which is generally positive (and en francais). They found some gameplay elements awkward, but also believe it to be the most ambitious Xbox Live Arcade title ever made for a variety of reasons... and they hope for a sequel!

There are plenty of consoling quotes about why bad reviews don't matter, but in this case they probably do - every person who opts not to buy Arena because of a poorly constructed review means we're another leap further away from Wing Commander 6. We recommend that everyone post their own thoughts, as both IGN and GameSpot allow users to rate titles themselves (and, in fact, both sites' reader ratings are currently significantly higher than the professional rating).

Full reviews: GameSpot, IGN, XBOX-360.FR.

Open Your Internet Hole

There have been reports of difficulties connecting to Arena multiplayer games. The user will see a message that says unable to connect to game before being dropped back to the menu. This happens when the Xbox 360 is behind a router and the necessary ports are not being forwarded. AD found us instructions for identifying and fixing this issue. The whole process should only take a few minutes.

To find out if you're affected, turn on your Xbox 360 and load up the Dashboard. Navigate to the System blade, select Network Settings and test your Xbox Live Connection. Some of the steps can take a few seconds to complete. The results are meant to look like this:

IP Address: Confirmed
DNS: Confirmed
MTU: Confirmed
ICMP: Confirmed
Xbox Live: Connected
NAT: OPEN
The NAT item is especially important. If this says RESTRICTED or MODERATE instead of OPEN, you will need to configure your router and Xbox for online gaming. Tom McCann's website has easy to follow, illustrated instructions for D-Link and Linksys devices and walks you through all the steps on the Xbox. In addition to all that, Frosty had to disable the UPNP option to get everything working right. If you own a different brand router, the process should be very similar. You can also ask other Wingnuts for help on our Forums.

If your NAT is open you should have less trouble connecting to games. However, if another user in the game has a restricted NAT, you may not be able to connect all the same.

UPDATE: Wing Commander Themes Available!

Goodbye, Battlestations Midway pin-up girls, hello Kilrathi fighters -- Microsoft has released two Wing Commander Arena Xbox 360 themes on Live Marketplace! A "Terran Theme" and a "Kilrathi Theme" are now available for 150 MS Points each. They're very pretty - each blade gets a high resolution rendering of a different fighter with a different colored background. It also replaces the standard gray 'utility' background with the Confederation star or the Kiranka claw!

Kilrathi: Paktahn Tusk, Darket Stalker, Dralthi Rhino, Darket Raptor.
Confederation: Broadsword Behemoth, Broadsword Warpig, Arrow Eclipse, Rapier Vanguard.

Arena Review Revue

The Wing Commander Arena reviews continue to roll in! Here's three more, following the two posted yesterday. The best news is from XBL Radio, who was incredibly positive about the game:
If you are looking for a fast paced action game, Wing Commander Arena is for you. Only playing for just a few hours, it feels like Wing Commander Arena has made its way in the top five Xbox Live Arcade Games. Overall, Wing Commander Arena is definitely worth the 800. I would definitely recommend Wing Commander Arena as a purchase for any hardcore gamer.
Vito's Verdict has posted an extensive commentary on the game, discussing the pros and cons of every single mode... they've even took their own screenshots, if you're interested in seeing more mundane aspects of the game such as score screens. Arena earns a 7/10 and was generally accepted:
Wing Commander Arena is meant to be an instant pick-up-and-play experience, and that it does well. There are no cinematics, and the only story you will get is when viewing the Help and Options menu. Select your mode, select your ship, and your immediately playing. When starting out, I first thought much less of the game then what I do now. This was due to the fact that not a lot of people had downloaded it yet, and therefore I couldn’t get into any of the hot multiplayer action that was always talked about in press releases. Today after signing onto Live though, more people had it and I had a much easier time of getting into larger scale battles. The games are smooth as can be, and I have had zero lag in all my time of playing it.
Awkwardly themed Game Almighty rounds out the trio with a less positive review that still sings some of the game's praises. They give Arena a 6.5/10:
In the end, Wing Commander Arena is a fine pick-up-play shooter, but you can't help but think about what could have been. It offers a lot of options for your 800-points and 16-player team battles can be quite enjoyable, but there's just not enough meat on its bones to constitute a satisfying meal. Its the kind of game you'll probably get sick of after a week, but if that's worth 800-points then go for it. At least it's not another pointless retro release.
Full reviews: Vito's Verdict, XBL Radio and Game Almighty.

On the Polaris Roads Again

I'll bet you thought the days of seeing new Wing Commander Arena trailers were over... well, you're dead wrong! GameVideos has posted a three and a half minute video of the game's single player melee mode. You can watch the video online here. My heart leaps up when I behold a Longbow on a platform...

  • "Combat" - (49.1 mb WMV or 64.4 mb MOV)

Arena Meets the Press

The first professional web review of Wing Commander Arena is in... and it is glowing! TeamXbox wins the award for fastest review. We'll see what elder statesmen like Gamespot say in the next few days. In the meantime, we can't help but smile at this summary:
All-in-all, Wing Commander Arena is what an Xbox Live Arcade game should be about- fast-paced pick-up-and-play action with a dash of depth. If you can live with being lost in space, and in only one plane of such a vast expanse, then download Wing Commander Arena post-haste.
Read the whole thing here. Arena was previously reviewed by print magazine OXM, which also gave it high marks.

Update: a second review is in! Ars Technica is also very positive:

As mentioned, there are a good number of different ships from the game's two factions, each of which is fitted with four different weapons and powers. The default control takes a little getting used to—moving in one direction and shooting in another is a little disorienting at first, though ultimately really satisfying—but is simple enough and becomes a blast once you get accustomed to the game's pace. It's all a bit more accessible to the mass market than a more traditional space sim would have been. The only downside? No live action FMVs. Well, that and the general lack of licensed content from the Wing Commander franchise used outside of the manual. I sincerely hope this game doesn't become the next Shadowrun but, judging by early reactions, I'm afraid such will be the case as the purists cry foul over this "dreadful abomination."
You can find all their comments here.

The Best Just Gets Beta

The fan-favorite Standoff mod for Wing Commander Secret Ops is looking for beta testers to help perfect Episode 4! It sounds like fun, but it will be a real tough job... they have some pretty strict requirements:
We need someone who has a sharp eye - you need to find ships that spawn facing the wrong way, misspelled words, comms sent by Pilot A but voiced by Pilot B, etc. You also need to look for holes in our missions. "What happens if I skip this navpoint" or "what if I blow all my torpedoes but fail to take out the capship". You will need to test the game as much as possible (as opposed to reporting a bug and then waiting for it to be fixed or not play anymore until next tuesday because you've already done your job for that week ), and we need you to respond quickly if we need a particular problem ironed out before we move on with a mission, or something like that. And we need to know what it is you're reporting, so you need to be able to communicate decently. No leetspeek.
You can register your application at the forums here. I hope this means their next episode is close!

Wing Commander Arena Released!

It's official, Wing Commander Arena is now available on Xbox Live Marketplace! Pay your 800 points, download the game and get out there - the Confederation or the Empire needs you. We will continue to follow the launch with the daily news and information you've come to expect... but you'll forgive us if we take a few hours off right now to knock down a few new enemy fighters for the first time in nine years.

If you're new to the site, please check out our background section for a history of previous Wing Commander games and an article explaining why they're so important. If you'd like to interact with other Wing Commander fans (and Arena pilots), then feel free to join in the discussion at the Crius.Net forums or #WingNut chat room. We're glad to have you aboard and hope you enjoy playing in our universe!

Summoned to Tourney!

Electronic Arts has arranged a little surprise for everyone - they've organized a sixteen-person Wing Commander Arena tournament for news site webmasters. It will take place Monday, July 30th at 11 PM EST... and I'll be representing WCNews.com! How does it work? Here's the official word:
The Tournie will start with 2 rounds of 16 person free for all up to 25 frags. The 8 editors with the highest frag count at the end of those rounds advance to the next round which will be 1 round up to 25 frags. The 4 editors with the highest frag count at the end of that match go to a 4 man free for all up to 25 frags. The 2 editors with the most frags go to a hosted "bear pit" match to see who can get to 20 frags first. There is going to be a splinter bomber ship in the pit with you and frags against him count as well. The editor who gets to 20 frags first wins the prize!
That's right, a prize... but not for me, for the community! The winner gets an elaborate home theater setup to pass on to their readers, and the three runners up will have Xbox 360 Elite setups to give away! Wouldn't it be something if the Wing Commander community could take home one of those slots as bragging rights?

I'm not going to lie to you - I'm not a gamer. Just take a look at my gamerscore breakdown. Star Trek? The History Channel's Civil War? Feeding Frenzy? Any video gaming skills I have are arcane and useless. I may have an encyclopedic knowledge of Wing Commander continuity, but that's not worth much against fifteen professional video game players.

So, what's the plan? I'm going to spend the next five days training every moment I can, and I want you all to help me. How? Hunt me down and give me everything you've got wherever you can. It's many of your fantasies come true: kill LOAF over and over. My GamerTag is 'Bandit LOAF' - add me and let's practice!

Here's the list of competitors: EA Arcade, Kotaku, Game Informer, Xbox360Fanboy, PlanetXbox360, GamertagRadio, Unscripted360, KonsoleKingz, UncleGamer, Xbox360Achievments, 360Monster, Achieve360Points, Gamer’s Hell, Firing Squad and Bullz-Eye.

Now we make them sorry they were ever born!

UPDATE: New Sean Penney Interview

Starman has found one last piece of news for us before the launch: AceyBongos, the British Major Nelson, has updated his blog with an interview with Wing Commander Arena producer Sean Penney. It's a great overview of what exactly the game is about... and at times it goes into exactly what we need to hear:
How will Wing Commander Arena be true to the Wing Commander series?

Sean Penney: First through the game play. The 18 player ships, drawn from WC favourites, are true in function and form to the originals. Of course, things change in 20 years and out on the frontier it's important your ship have some special upgrades. And some other old favourites will make an appearance as well, and we will introduce you to some new friends. Wing Commander fans have long wanted a multiplayer experience. Arena offers classic Wing Commander combat online with 16 players. For the fans who remember Armada, a dogfight in Arena is like a dogfight in Armada.

Second is our attention to detail. We are very cognizant of the Wing Commander continuity and brought members of the thriving and vocal Wing Commander community into the development process. We bring back classic ships and work in flavour from the original game to the movie. Arena has always been intended as an homage to the Wing Commander franchise and we very much wanted to do it justice.

Third is innovation. Wing Commander has always pushed the envelope. Every WC game set new standards in tech and design and changed the way we play games. Wing Commander Arena is doing the same thing with Live Arcade - from 16 player online game play to the number and depth of our modes to the beauty of our environments Arena is far and away more impressive than anything XBLA has had available before.

Are there any plans for more Wing Commander games?

Sean Penney: Time will tell...

Now that's my kind of ellipses! You can read the whole thing here.

Soldiers, Sailors and Spacemen of the Confederation Expeditionary Force!

"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."

In all seriousness, this is the big night: Wing Commander Arena will be released tomorrow morning on or about 5 AM EST. I do not have to remind you that it has been nine years since Wing Commander: Secret Ops, the last original Wing Commander release. Through all this time you, the fans, have kept the faith. The home fires have burned brightly through this long, cold winter as you have produced amazing fan games, written engrossing fan fiction, created magnificent fan artwork and done the hundreds of other things that have proved your devotion to this great series so many times. Let Wing Commander Arena be your reward - surely the first of many!

Many of you have had your doubts about Arena. This is perfectly reasonable - I have, on occasion, shared them. Powerups instead of upgrades? Frags instead of kills? Arena is not like any other Wing Commander game made before. There is no grand cinematic story, space combat is on a different sort of plane, it was built for a console rather than a PC... we have all turned over these facts in our brains endlessly. However: it is amazingly fun, it pushes the boundries of Xbox Live Arcade, it maintains an utmost respect for Wing Commander's continuity and fans and most of all playing it feels like playing a classic Wing Commander game.

Arena is fun; more fun than I can express. Enjoy it for being new and precious rather than damning it for being strange and different. Sixteen player team matches to destroy massive capital ships? Dogfights amidst massive fields of space debris? Enormous space stations filled with tunnels and hiding places? A giant crater for the personal duels we've all been wishing we could fight? A massive Midway class carrier for us to defend? Who needs FMV, we have a universe to explore! There is ten times as much material here for us to discover than there has been in any other XBLA game, ever.

More games are on the way! Wing Commander Arena is groundbreaking for an XBLA title. Arena will sell and it will prove the franchise's viability to those cautious executives. The suits today are not the same ones who abandoned the series in 1998. Men like former Origin President Neil Young, who was instrumental in personally helping us establish this site a decade ago, are in charge of the company now. EA's Producers - fans themselves - are ready and willing, awaiting the go ahead to return to our universe. As First Decade begat Command and Conquer 3 so will Arena will lead to Wing Commander 7. I will stake my very reputation on it.

You are all the best of fans: you have personally kept Wing Commander alive and saved the series - just like we always promised you would. What's more, you've become my closest friends. There is no greater group of people in the world - and no one could ask for more from you than I have. You have my deepest thanks and my eternal gratitude. We've come a long way, and there's more work to be done... but today is our day. Enjoy Arena; you've earned it.

Now let's hit the flight deck!

Up All Night With #WingNut

We're just hours away from the online release of Wing Commander Arena... and I, for one, am like a kid on Christmas Eve. There's no chance I'll be sleeping tonight, so I've stocked up on caffeinated drinks and am spending the night Wing Commandering it out in #WingNut!

To pass the time we'll be watching (and commenting on) all thirteen episodes of Wing Commander Academy and Chris Roberts' Wing Commander movie. What better way to get in the mood for tomorrow's momentous release? If you're in the same boat, feel free to join in - festivities will start around 10:00 PM EST. You can learn all about connecting to #WingNut here.

Is your ship recognition up to par? Can you tell the difference between these three Dralthi?

UPDATE: GamerScore Scores Screens

GamerScore, the official blog of the Xbox marketing team, has updated their Flickr was a huge number of beautiful new Wing Commander Arena screenshots. Thumb through these - they're incredible! Check out the paint scheme of the enemy Paktahn that's visible when it gets close... less than 36 hours now!

They've also posted high resolution versions of six images released through the EA Arcade site several weeks ago:

... but wait, there's more! They've also posted full resolution versions of all seven images which today premiered at Microsoft's official site. We've updated the earlier news story with these versions, so be sure to scroll down to see them!

BREAKING NEWS: Amazing EA Contest Announced

Electronic Arts has come up with the mother of all contests to promote Wing Commander Arena. They're giving away a prize bundle that includes nearly every Wing Commander game and nearly every system to play them on! From a 1990s-vintage PC to a Panasonic 3DO, it's all there! To enter fans need only sign up for the EA Arcade newsletter! James Pond, the EA Arcade Community Manager, has posted the details here.

UPDATE: Official MS Arena Site Launched

Microsoft has launched their official Wing Commander Arena website. It contains a summary of the game and a collection of screenshots showing off a variety of different modes... including seven images we haven't seen before! Check out that cool red Arrow Guardian! The official site is available here. They have also opened an Xbox.com forum for Arena, available here.

Update: GamerScore has released high definition versions of all seven of these screenshots. We've replaced the previous versions.

UPDATE: Arena Screenshots Released

Events multiply - Electronic Arts has released a stunning new batch of Wing Commander Arena screenshots through their press site. Included are some amazing shots of fighters in their hangars and a great view of the Halsey-class Naval Station at the game's menu:

They've also released full resolution versions of the eleven screenshots relased over the weekend. Check out all the tiny details you might have missed:

UPDATED: Press Release Redux

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has issued their own press release about Wing Commander Arena! They also confirm that a second game XBLA will be released on Wednesday - a port of Super Contra at the 400 MSPoint price level. Hopefully this means that we will see an Arena page at Xbox.com very soon. The new release is more specific about the exact time of Arena's launch:
Take Flight with Wing Commander Arena on Xbox LIVE Arcade this Wednesday!

Electronic Arts brings “Wing Commander Arena” to Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 this Wednesday, July 25 at 9:00 a.m. GMT (2:00 a.m. PDT).

Flash forward to the year 2071: in “Wing Commander Arena,” players form an elite flying squadron to combat the enemy armada of the Kilrathi Empire. Featuring four modes of gameplay, nine maps and the first 16 player multiplayer combat on Xbox LIVE Arcade, “Wing Commander Arena” is the perfect mix of arcade fun and modern multiplayer chaos.

“Wing Commander Arena” on Xbox LIVE Arcade is a completely new iteration in the “Wing Commander” franchise. “Wing Commander Arena” will become available worldwide (with the exception of Japan and Korea) for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone.

Game Features

  • The first Xbox LIVE Arcade title featuring multiplayer gameplay for up to 16 players over Xbox LIVE.
  • Four gameplay modes: Single Player, Multiplayer Team, Free for All, and Duel
  • Players can choose from 18 different ships that can be customized with cloaking devices, mines, energy weapons, missiles and more!
  • Skill-based matchmaking for ranked games.
  • Earn up to 12 Achievements and 200 Gamerscore.

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Press Release

Electronic Arts has confirmed the July 25th date for Wing Commander Arena with a formal press release. As you can see by our counter, the release is now less than 48 hours away! Here's the official word:
EA Launches Into Space Combat With Release of Wing Commander Arena on Xbox LIVE Arcade

Beloved Game Franchise Now Available in Robust 16-Player Online Arcade Game

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced the worldwide1 availability of a new take on its classic Wing Commander™ franchise with Wing Commander Arena for the Xbox LIVE® Arcade2 this Wednesday, July 25. Up to 16 space pilots can take to the stars and blast opposing ships in a number of ways -- single player, multi-team, multiplayer duel and multiplayer free for all.

Wing Commander Arena takes the classic space combat game in a much more action-oriented direction, where dueling teams can pilot up to eight ships, each with their own unique assets. With 16 player play, Wing Commander Arena offers the largest multi-player melee experience to date. Players can propel their ships through space, fire torpedoes and unleash deadly particle cannons as they try to climb the leader board.

“We’ve updated the Wing Commander series and brought it to a new platform, making it an action-packed, pure arcade style game,” said Sean Penney, EA Wing Commander Arena producer. “We’re redefining the Arcade multi-player experience – the adrenaline rush you get in a 16-player fight is an unmatched experience and gives those who remember the Wing Commander franchise a new way to experience it.”

The game offers everything a space combat rookie or a veteran Wing Commander pilot would expect: four types of gameplay, eight maps including team maps, free for all maps and dueling maps, 18 different ships within nine environments and two races with light fighters, medium fighters and bombers. Online players compete for frag count, high score and dueling stats.

Wing Commander Arena is produced and published by EA and cooperatively developed with Gaia Industries. This is the second EA title for Xbox LIVE Arcade with EA’s first title Boom Boom Rocket™ currently available. For more information about EA’s Xbox LIVE Arcade titles visit www.EA.com/Arcade. The Wing Commander Arena game manual can be found at http://images.ea.com/ea/arcade/draft2cRGB.pdf.

1 All Xbox LIVE Arcade markets except Japan.

2 Players must have an Xbox LIVE marketplace account to play Wing Commander Arena.

Video Killed The Interactive Movie Star

Speaking of cool YouTubes, here's one worth archiving - a 1994 interview with Mark Hamill, done by the French Club Dorothée. He talks briefly about working on Wing Commander III and his (lack of) involvement in the new Star Wars films. A translator speaks over Hamill in French, so here's an English transcript:
It's a job that didn't exist even five years ago. The main difference is the fact that the story can branch in different directions, different things can happen, so unlike a conventional script that has one storyline. This one was great fun and I actually looked forward to going to work because it was new, because it was something I hadn't done before.

I'm amazed at the shelf life of this project. It goes on and on and there's new toys and a new generation of kids who watch it on tape. I'm not actually involved in the next one, they go back to the previous generation. I will be in the audience now for the new Star Wars.

Since YouTube can be remarkably unreliable for preservation purposes, we've archived a copy online here (2.1 MB, FLV).

Star*Soldier Gets Real

Here's something cool: Electronic Arts was kind enough to give us fifty actual printed copies of Star*Soldier, the Wing Commander Arena manual to pass along to the community! As you can see in the pictures below, they're beautiful - the same size as the classic Wing Commander manuals but printed in full color on nice glossy paper. We're busy figuring out a fair way to distribute them to deserving fans... in the meantime, you can download the PDF version here (7.7 MB PDF).

We Love a Parade

Sgt_thompson has come across a YouTube from last year's Dragon*Con Parade. At the vanguard are... us! To prove that we really do exist, you can see the CIC crew walk by a camera... followed by some Knights, Klingons on Bikes and Tasha Yar (or: Sela). Dragon*Con 2007 starts at the end of next month, and all the usual suspects will be there - our enthusiasm bolstered a thousand-fold by the release of Wing Commander Arena. Come on down and chat timelines and space fighter maneuvering drives with us! The parade video is available here.

It's the Physics, Stupid

Kotaku has posted a review of the Ageia PhysX physics card. Why is this Wing Commander news? Because the writer likens it to purchasing a sound card to hear Wing Commander Privateer talk:
I still remember the day I ponied up for a sound card. It was for Wing Commander Privateer. Before that game released a speech pack I saw absolutely no reason to spend my money on sound. How absurd, I thought, why would I want to do that. But then the voice pack hit and I was at the store buying both a sound card and the pack.
The idea of a separate 'physics card' in a computer is kind of interesting - and certainly suggests a movement back towards the days of PC Gaming being a hobbyists game rather than a mass market enterprise. We can only hope someday we'll be realistically dodging asteroids generated by similar devices in a future Wing Commander game...

Surprise! Happy Arena-Day!

Xbox 360 Fanboy recently ran a report about the Wing Commander Arena manual release... and ended it with an interesting hint. It sounds like they've got some kind of surprise in store for us:
Also, we want to dangle a metaphorical carrot in front of your face by saying that we have some exciting news surround Wing Commander Arena in the weeks to come. It's a small surprise, but a surprise that is exciting nonetheless. Anyway, that's all we are saying, so stay tuned.
A Wing Commander Arena surprise? Sounds more like a metaphorical Twix than a carrot! This should be a lot of fun - who knows what could show up? We'll have to keep watching their news page!

... and this just in! The very same site has published another update with eleven new Arena screenshots and an informal confirmation from EA that the game is indeed coming on 7/25! Hurray! They're still promising a surprise, too!

We've Got It Mead

Are you stuck on the wrong coast this convention season? Never fear - there's Wing Commander-related a reason to visit the massive San Diego Comic Con! Artist Syd Mead, the man who designed the Nephilim for Wing Commander Prophecy, will be presenting a panel on his career as part of efforts to promote the upcoming new edition of Blade Runner. If this is the same presentation he gave at Dragon*Con several years back then it includes a little talk about WCP and some giant colored slides of the Kraken and Moray. His panel will be this Thursday at 1:30. Here's the description:
Blade Runner and More— Syd Mead will be on hand in person to recall his experiences while working on the motion picture Blade Runner and to introduce his newest DVD release: Visual Futurist: The Art & Life of Syd Mead. The DVD takes the viewer behind the scenes and beyond the images he created for this film as well as Tron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, private 747s, games, yachts, cars, and a seemingly endless list of major design projects around the world. Syd looks forward to entertaining questions and providing his unique perspective on topics of design for the film industry. Room 6B
If anyone's going to Comic-Con, we'd love a report!

CIC Birthday Party Just Around The Corner

The Wing Commander CIC turns nine years old next month, and that means we're just three weeks away from our annual online bash! Since our last big party, we've gotten EA Replay, Wing Commander games on GameTap, more fan project releases and all the exciting stuff surounding Arena, so there's lots to celebrate. With all the other exciting news that's been happening all year, this is actually our first formal announcement, but we've already been working hard to prepare for the event. Check out last year's updates here to get an idea of what to expect.

You're all invited to come and join us on August 10 in our #Wingnut irc chat room. The gathering begins at 7:00 pm Eastern US time (4:00 pm Pacific and 11:00 pm GMT). Beginning at that point, we count down for one hour before updating the website with a bunch of special updates. Since the event falls on a Friday night/Saturday morning this year, we expect a great turnout. The party is one of the best opportunities of the year to meet fellow fans, get involved with fan projects and win plenty of door prizes. The main event only lasts for a few hours, but Wingnuts are sure to be chatting away (and blasting away in Arena, Prophecy and Armada) throughout the night.

First time users are welcome to stop by #Wingnut through our web interface any time. See you at the party!

She Moves On

The folks over at the Wing Commander: Against All Odds fan RPG have asked us to post a notice. In short, they've moved to a new location. Here's the official word:
The forums based RPG Wing Commander: Against All Odds has a new address, the forums can now be found at www.wcaao.net/board. Everything has been moved here, all of the accounts, the old threads and posts, the fleet status tool, and we are continuing from where we were before the change without any interruption.

For those of you unfamiliar with AAO, the RPG focuses around fleet and capital ship based combat during the Kilrathi War. Players take the role of task force commanders within the Confederation Navy and face the kilrathi in a variety of offensive and defensive missions, and may work with other players in joint actions to accomplish especially critical missions. Currently it is 2659 in the RPG and Confederation and Kilrathi forces are engaged in heavy fighting, trying to break the relative stalemate and achieve a breakthrough of some kind.

We are always looking for and accepting new players, feel free to check us out, and if interested sign up. We’d also like to extend an invitation to former players who had to leave the RPG due to real-life commitments to come back if they feel they have the time. If anyone has any questions about the RPG or how to get started, they can send me (ck9791) a message here or at the AAO forums.

If you're interested in joining a fan RPG group, be sure and check out last year's RPG Roundup article.

In the Shadows of Giants

Next Generation has posted their annual article about the top twenty game publishers of the year. It doesn't seem like 2007 is even coming to an end yet, but we can't disagree with their #1 choice - Electronic Arts. What's more, their professional, researched analysis of the company's future plans even brings up Wing Commander:
In addition, this year should see important new properties in the form of Crysis, Army of Two and Rock Band (the game’s peripherals alone should bring in massive revenue), and EA is also releasing Wing Commander Arena, a smaller project that may be a toe in the water to see if that franchise could again become feasible.
We can only hope!

Saga Opens Paktahn-ing Salon

Wing Commander Saga mod for FreeSpace 2 has some cool new ship graphics to show off, revealing their final version of the fearsome Paktahn bomber. They say: "The Kilrathi Paktahn is similar to the Confederation Longbow by virtue of its torpedo attack capabilities. With multiple missile hardpoints and an impressive array of guns, this bomber can engage several fighters at once during a single run. With its six torpedo hardpoints, Paktahns are a Terran capship's worst nightmare. Its heavy armor and auxiliary guns make it dangerous to attacking fighters. Terran intelligence reports that Paktahns most often fly with Dralthi IV or Darket escorts." Sounds great, looks better - see below! Of course, Saga won't be the only place we see Paktahns in the near future... Wing Commander Arena will allow us to fly three different variants of the famous bomber!

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Coming 7/25

Skeptical Gaming is reporting the news we've all been waiting to hear - Wing Commander Arena is coming to XBLA next week! They stress that the official announcement has not yet been made but that "you can bank on this report". They've had a perfect track record with such early reports before and we're betting this is no exception. An official announcement is expected soon.

Every Privateer Manual Has Its Thorn

From Watson's Disease in the original Wing Commander (named after David Watson, a friend of Origin founder Richard Garriott) to a variety of fan appearances in 'classifieds' scan of Wing Commander Arena's Star*Soldier, Wing Commander's designers have a long history of tuckerizing friends and fans. Another prominent example appears in the "Survival Tips" article of the original Privateer's Playguide:
When I recently attended a convention on Oxford, I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a young pilot working at the fighter base. Mark Thornton’s boundless enthusiasm for his job impressed me so much that I decided to interview him for publication here. What I have compiled is condensation of our conversations about his training at the TCSN Academy. Here are the high points of his advice for rookie pilots.
Who was Mark Thornton? Imagine my surprise when he e-mailed us - apparently our spam-blocking software had accidentally banned him from the forums! That sorted out, he was nice enough to explain to me how he wound up in the Privateer manual:
I wrote Origin a letter a long time ago regarding opening my own custom software store, and asked them for any assistance about purchasing software, business licensing, etc... and they sent a HUGE mailer back to me with a bunch of stickers, promotion pages of upcoming games, and a nice letter wishing me good luck. Over the years though they were all thrown away, grrrrrrr. But I do still have all of their games! :) (thank you DosBox! :))

Anyway, Wing Commander Privateer came out soon afterwards and when I saw my name in the Flight Training portion of the manual, I FREAKED! It's great to be a permanent part of Origin's history!

As a little background, I've been in the United States Marine Corps for 21 years, I am a Gunnery Sergeant and work as an Parachute Rigger/Life Support shop head for all Marine Corps aircraft systems, and will retire in February 2008.

How cool - and what a complement, being referenced like that! He also sent in three pictures, so we could see what Mark Thornton looks like. The story gets even better for those familiar with the Wing Commander novels - he actually served aboard the USS Tarawa!

#1 - That's our boat, the USS Tarawa (LHA-1) in Pearl Harbor, on our way to Iraq in July 2005.

#2 - This is the deck of the USS Bowfin in Pearl Harbor. A must visit!

#3 - Here I am in my "spacious" Flight Equipment shop aboard the Tarawa. To my right is my Maintenance Chief in for a visit, and on my left is one of my Flight Equipment guys. My squadron patch is Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163) out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. (I'm now finishing my career at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1)).

Music to Someone's Ears

As part of the EATrax program, the soundtrack to Boom Boom Rocket is now available on iTunes! This may mean good things for us - Boom Boom Rocket was EA's first Xbox Live Arcade title... it will be followed in the very near future by Wing Commander Arena. Although BBR is obviously a music-focused game, Wing Commander titles have always featured extremely good musical scores... and Arena looks to be no exception. We can only hope EA will remember us and make its soundtrack available for sale online. All ten BBR tracks are available for 99 cents each (the full album is $9.99). You can check them out at the iTunes store here.

BREAKING NEWS: Arena Manual Available!

EA James Pond has posted the news you've all been waiting for - the Wing Commander Arena manual, Star*Soldier, has been released as a free PDF download! The manual is a 64-page long full color production that's brimming with Arena information and general Wing Commander continuity - we're going to be digging through this one for quite a while, folks... You can download it from EA here (7.7 mb PDF). In addition to being an amazing production in its own right, this is a great indication of the fact that Arena's release is just around the corner...

Gaea Industries

John Cordell was kind enough to forward us a pencil sketch done by Jacek for the Privateer Gemini Gold remake project. Jacek says: "Few days ago I made Eden concept art. It looks something different to original art. I used some Aztec style." You can compare it to the original below - it looks pretty nice! The location pictured is actually Gaea, the top secret Retro headquarters planet hidden in the mysterious Eden System... somewhere in the Gemini Sector.

Wing Commander 2 FM Found

If you thought Kilrathi Saga was hard to find, you aint seen nothing yet! Kurt has sent us a picture that he describes as "the happy end of a search which went about 10 years into the past of my life." What's he holding? Wing Commander 2 for the FM Towns - one of the hardest to find Wing Commander games ever. WC2 FM Towns was released only in Japan... and even there it seems to exist in more limited numbers than other FM Towns titles like Wing Commander I or Wing Commander Armada. Congratulations on your find - you're very lucky!

Enjoy Interactive Movies

AD has come across an article at GamesRadar titled "Tracking the Sordid History of Interactive Movies". By 'interactive movie', they mean 'film shoot' - forgetting that the former label was originally created to refer to games like Wing Commander II and System Shock. Oddly, Wing Commander (the series that popularized both items) is touched only only briefly:
With or without controversy, interactive movies were doomed from the outset, and big-budget titles like Wing Commander III stuttered under the weight of their own ambition. Robert Paulsen explains: “It wasn’t so much that the genre failed, but that technology failed the genre. The ideas were just too far ahead of the technology. The budgets for these games got bigger but the end result was always the same - CDs couldn’t hold the information needed to give the games good video quality and true interactivity.”
The general conclusion seems to be that FMV is down but not out - a few modern attempts could bring it back. Command & Conquer 3 is proof of that! You can read the entire article here.

Enjoy Intractive Movies

Here's one for England: the Wing Commander movie will air in HD this Friday (July 20th) on SkyMovies HD1. It will be shown twice, at 12:00 and 18:05 local time. Their page for the film is here. They've come to an odd - and unique - conclusion about Wing Commander:
As science-fiction goes, Wing Commander is decidedly un-cool, yet ironically, probably the most realistic depiction of future space travel... with a little rust around the edges.
Realistic?! Let's push them off the flight deck! Nevertheless, when it comes to visuals the movie shines - I wish I could see it in High Definition!

Disney Takes Point

Warren Spector, meet Donald Duck. Disney Interactive Studios has purchased Spector's Austin-based Junction Point Studios. Junction Point was started back in 2005 and has not shipped or announced any games to date. Spector is a famed Origin veteran whose connection to Wing Commander goes all the way back -- he was co-producer of the original game! He's better known for his involvement in the System Shock, Thief and Deus Ex franchises... and he was the heart behind Origin's excellent Wings of Glory. Junction Point's website claims that the company includes a host of Wing Commander veterans including Sam Yeates, Steve Powers, Mike Grajeda, Jeff Grills, Kay Gilmore and John Ford. PALGN has the whole story here.

Space Sim First Look: Tarr Chronicles

Here's one more story from Goliath - he's discovered yet another Privateer-styled space game being developed behind the former Iron Curtain. Tarr Chronicles: Sign of Ghosts is being developed by Akella and will be published in the United States by CDV Software. GameSpot has written a preview:
Like old-fashioned space sims, such as Freespace or TIE Fighter, Tarr Chronicles is all about climbing into a nimble space fighter and dogfighting it amongst the stars. At the same time, the game also promises a considerable amount of customization, along with some cutting-edge graphics.
Looks neat! A trailer is available at the Tarr Chronicles official site.

Dirty Little Secret Missions

Goliath has a cool scan for our collection. It's an article about Wing Commander: The Secret Missiones SNES from the October, 1993 issue of Nintendo Power. This is pretty cool - it's Nintendo Power's typical 'in depth' commentary on the game... and I can't get enough of that Green Salthi cover artwork!

Does this article make you want to chase down the Sivar all over again? Then you're in luck - The Secret Missions SNES is one of the 14 games included in EA Replay for the PSP!

Gaia's Shy-A About-A 'Rena

The folks at Gaia Industries are making the rounds to promote Street Trace NYC! Unscripted 360 conducted an interview with Gaia's Damon Branch and Jeff Cameron last week, and naturally Wing Commander Arena was touched on. We've put together a transcript of the brief mention below. The entire show is available in mp3 format from U360 here - the Gaia interview starts around the 31 minute mark. Note the game being discussed at the beginning of this text is Street Trace and not Arena:
Unscripted 360: So, I would assume that with a game, with a game like this, I mean it, it seems like it's just, it could be a retail game. When Microsoft increased the Xbox Live Arcade limit, did that help you guys at all?

Jeff Cameron: Well, it's still 50 megs, this one. We're, we're still catering to people that don't have hard drives so that they can download it too. So, it, it, yeah, when they raised the limit it didn't actually help us.

Damon Branch: Yeah, it will help us for future versions because the future versions we can put in a lot more levels and, you know, up the textures 'cause when we initially spoke with Microsoft they were like 'so, you know, you want to do this on Xbox Live Arcade or do you want to do it on the 360?', and we were like, well initially we thought of it as a box game, but then they introduced Live Arcade to us and we were, like, we could, like, down the graphics a little bit on the game and just make it as a XBLA game. The graphics wouldn't be as good, but for us it would be really cool to be in that new space. So we kind of came into this space really, most people coming from console game experience, and that's why, that's why kind of Street Trace and Wing Commander tend to look a little more like box games, 'cause the team is from that background and we're just trying to do as much as we can in those fifty megs and then next time around we'll be doing even more in a hundred and fifty.

...

Unscripted 360: Well, that's fantastic, now you just mentioned, and I know you guys are working with EA and their Wing Commander. So, what part of the team, is, is there a separate team doing that? Are you guys kind of like cross-developing between the two?

Jeff Cameron: Yeah, we, we, we cross develop between the two. I mean there is a focused Wing Commander team. Damon mentioned Street Trace, Street Trace was fundamentally finished towards the end of last year so the bulk of that team rolled on to Wing Commander. So you've got a lot of the same people working on both titles. But yes, there was a develop... a dedicated Wing Commander team for development there.

Unscripted 360: Now, how close are we to seeing this Wing Commander, 'cause I've been, I've been pretty interested in seeing that as well.

Jeff Cameron: That's, that's really close. We couldn't tell you a launch date on that, but that's really close.

Damon Branch: Yeah, we're not actually allowed to say anything about that because EA will come down and get us in a big lawsuit.

Unscripted 360: That's okay, we'll just, we'll just edit it out. That's okay.

Damon Branch: No, if we could tell you, we would...

7/18 Bombs Out

TeamXbox is reporting that next week's XBLA titles are... Bomberman Live and Yie Ar Kung Fu. The games are 800 and 400 points, respectively. Yie Ar Kung Fu? Y not Wing Commander. Plus, the Broadsword is my bomber, man. Oh well... 7/25 has a good feel to it! We've pushed back our Wing Commander Arena counter appropriately. Here are some Bomberman screenshots - all's whale that ends whale:

E3 Round-Up, Wing Commander Style

If you've followed gaming news in the past several days there's no doubt that you've been inundated with all sorts of video game news straight from the E3 Expo. No doubt you've been asking yourself - but how does it affect Wing Commander? There was no spectacular Wing Commander announcement (just you wait!), but there are several news stories that affect past and future Wing titles:
  • Microsoft did not announce a price cut for the Xbox 360 console, but Bloomberg is quoting Vice President of MSGS Shane Kim as saying that they "definitely are working on that area." Looks like we'll be paying full price when Wing Commander Arena finally hits the Arcade, though!
  • Sony, meanwhile, dropped the price of the 60GB PlayStation 3 to $499 and announced an 80GB variant for $599. Although there's no new Wing Commander title for the PS3, their dedication to backwards compatibility means that you can still play the PSX ports of Wing Commander 3 and 4 on a modern Playstation.
  • Sony also revealed a spiffy new version of the PlayStation Portable (pictured below). The new PSP offers a host of improvements including a video-out port, an improved battery life and a slimmer, lighted design... all while still maintaining the same size screen! The new PSPs will also store game material on their UMDs, allowing for improved load times. This sounds like just thing for those who enjoy EA Replay's Wing Commander ports. You can pick up a slim PSP in September for $170.

Digital Badge of Courage

The folks over at XBLArcade have written an article on their thoughts about upcoming Xbox Live Arcade achievements... featuring comments on those in Wing Commander Arena! They say:
A nicely varied and level distribution of points here. Paladin (Shoot down 1000 pilots on Xbox LIVE) will take some time but anyone can do it with enough perseverance. I will probably never get an achievement like Untouchable (Reach wave 10 in Gauntlet without ever taking damage to your hull) just because I like to live hard, fast, and reckless. At least in my video games.
Sounds positive - and they know a lot more about this sort of thing than we do! For my money, Untouchable does sound like the most difficult... though Retro ("Reach wave 20 in Meteor Storm") may be equally tough, depending on how hard individual Meteor Storm waves are. You can see all the Arena achievements here.

The Night They Drove Old Digital Anvil Down

BrynS has found an interesting item at FiringSquad. It's a mention of Chris Roberts in an article titled What's Killing Game Development? which suggests that back-room dealings lead to his departure from Digital Anvil in 2000:
With the exception of Will Wright, few of the any old, great designers have done much lately. Sid Meier's name is on a bunch of games, but it's not actually Sid in charge of development or design. Chris Roberts, of Wing Commander fame? Let's just say he had a conflict of interest with the Wing Commander movie and his projects at Digital Anvil, and that Microsoft's sudden, detail-free take-over of Digital Anvil has quite a few details if you scratch beneath the surface.
Roberts left Digital Anvil in December, 2000. The announcement came in the same press release which reported that the studio had been sold to Microsoft. This quickly followed earlier rumors that Roberts had been removed. Microsoft had previously been an equity partner in Digital Anvil and was then rumored to be unhappy with the amount of resources Roberts had spent to finish the Wing Commander movie.

Three Seconds of Arena Footage

As we update, Microsoft's Xbox E3 conference is still going on... but Jetlag has already grabbed the three seconds of Wing Commander Arena footage included in their Live Arcade montage for us! The future looks very bright for XBLA, with upcoming games including everything from chess and checkers to robot fighting games... and, of course, Wing Commander! If you're desperate for a hit of Arena, however brief, check it out!
  • Video - E3 XBLA Montage Clip (2MB AVI)

Edit: AD reports that the footage is just a brief clip from an earlier trailer (available here). I guess it's still cool to see Arena on national TV, though!

Stupid Axe-Box

This week's Xbox Live Arcade titles are... Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe. Both are ports of classic Sega console games and each will set you back 400 MSPoints ($5). The announcement was held off to coincide with Microsoft's evening E3 presentation. Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe should be fun, but I'd rather be earning a Golden Sun for being shot down by Sonic the Accelerator Gun. Right? At the very least, Sonic this isn't the ring game I wanted to play! Eh? Aww. Anyway, as a result we've reset our Arena counter to the next window - 7/18.

The Final Countdown?

Unless you're especially unobservant then you've noticed the impressively specific countdown timer located directly above this update. What does it mean? There is no specific release date for Wing Commander Arena yet... but the launch is imminent. Therefore, we're counting down to the next unannounced Xbox Live Arcade release. Games are posted every Wednesday at 9 AM GMT. If Microsoft announces that the 7/11 game isn't Arena then we'll move the counter forward to 7/18. Let's hope we don't have to do that too many times!

Space Sim Second Look: Project Sylpheed

There's a new space shooter in town - Game Arts recently released Project Sylpheed as a budget title for the Xbox 360, based on their classic Silpheed franchise. A complex demo is currently available from Xbox Live Marketplace - the game features CGI cutscenes, very customizable ships and a lot of action! At a lower price than regular new releases, Project Sylpheed seems like a good way to waste some time until Wing Commander Arena is released. ActiveXbox has posted a review which ends up with a sentiment we can appreciate - it's cool that there's a space game, but we need a new Wing Commander:
The game plays in a similar way to Wing Commander on the PC years ago, except this has more confusing controls, poorer cutscenes and a much worse story... I’m pleased a space shooter has come out finally on the 360, but I would still like to see a full scale Wing Commander come back as that was the perfect one with great story, simple space shooting and nothing overly complicated, it was just right.
Additionally, Goliath reports that GameTrailers has put together a Sylpheed preview... which mentions Wing Commander. They say of the gameplay perspective: "Think Wing Commander and Descent Freespace and you won't be far off." Watch the whole thing here.

Flanker Fields Flashy Fighter

If there's anything that helps me get over a case of the Mondays, it's a fancy new Excalibur picture. Flanker's alternative camouflage paint schemes were a big hit, so he cleaned one up and posed a shot for everyone to see. If you look closely, little paw prints represent each Kilrathi that the ace behind this craft has toasted. That's a nice touch.

Since the alternative paint scheme seems to be liked so much I made this here render.

Melees, Midways or Meteors?

A clear winner has been apparent in our poll for a little while now, so it's time to wrap this one up. The Capital Ship Combat mode won out as the most anticipated multiplayer mode in Arena. With more than two thirds of the vote, it looks like Wingnuts will be lining up soon to take down battlecruiser after battlecruiser with a team of their friends. These results were probably tilted somewhat by the number of times we've seen this particular mode in the various videos and promo shots. Capturing Satellites received the fewest votes, but I think it'll be a big hit once players learn more about each game type. EA released two videos back in May that illustrate how strategic planning and coordinated assaults are the key to winning in this king-of-the-hill variant. On the other hand, the second-to-last Space Station Match choice should also be popular for pilots who want to quickly get to the action and blow up a lot of Kilrathi (or Terrans).

Our next poll should come as no surprise. Arena isn't just about massive online battles. There are several solo adventures to fly when you don't feel like competing against live players. Whether it's protecting a Midway class carrier or a critical satellite relay, you can only choose one mode to play first. Which will it be? The opportunity to hone your skills in the Proving Grounds or engage in a carefree Space Station Melee might also appeal most to some Wingnuts. Here's a recap from Sean Penney:

Sean Penney: The single player aspect of Wing Commander Arena contains four play modes. As in a classic arcade game, it offers infinite levels. The high scores are conveyed via Xbox Live to a rank list. The four different variants are Melee, Meteor Storm, Gauntlet and Proving Grounds.

"Melee" is a free-for-all against a large number of AI ships. They fight each other and the player. The level is a very cool space station map. The engagements have a time limit and at the end the rank list is transferred. Although you play against the AI you are nevertheless in competition with other players.

"Meteor Storm" is a fun small game in which one must defend up to three satellites against emerging, burning meteors and plundering pirates again and again. The play ends as soon as the satellites are destroyed. An online rank list is likewise included.

In "Gauntlet" your own space fighter is stationed on a Midway-class carrier, which has had some interesting change over time. The task is to defend the carrier against attacking enemies who want to destroy it. With each new wave of enemies you can expect a larger number of attackers, better ships or more intelligent pilots. Some really spectacular firefights emerge later in the level. Gauntlet also offers a rank list at the end for comparison with other players.

In "Proving Grounds" the player is taken to an extensive area with a lot of open space with pickups, obstacles and numerous targets to shoot at. In addition, some of them fire back. As the name suggests, this is a training mode. Regard it as a playground in which you can try all the ships, weapons or maneuvers however you want. Proving Grounds contains no time limit, does not count your firing and does not have a rank list.

Happy Birthday Hades!

On behalf of the rest of the CIC Staff, I'd like to wish our own Cpl Hades a happy 25th birthday! Few people have been as dedicated and helpful to Wing Commander community as Hades over the last twelve years. He's even made six long intercontinental trips just to celebrate Wing Commander with fellow fans, and he's all set to make his seventh next month. Few people know it, but Hades is the most skilled all-around gamer on the staff. From Burnout to Boom Boom Rocket, it seems like Hades is always at the very top of my Friends Leaderboard. We wouldn't be able to do all the things we do every day here without him, and I'm definitely eager to line up as his wingman in Arena soon enough.

DragonCon 2007 Fast Approaching

The 2007 DragonCon convention is less than two months away, and this week marks the end of their discount ticket promotion. Attendees who purchase a four-day pass by Friday can do so at the $70 rate. The same tickets will be at $85 in person. The convention has already racked up more than 200 science fiction, fantasy and musical guests, so this year should be a blast. If you're in Atlanta from August 31 to September 3, check us out in the annual parade out at our promo table in the Marriott lobby.

Haven't I Seen Your Face Before?

In the grand tradition of MANTIS and FreeSpace, Sierra Online has unveiled the first copy of Wing Commander Arena! It's an Xbox Live Arcade shooter based on the BattleStar Galactica license that seems to borrow Arena's concept point by point - 3D ships on a 2D plane, a more complex maneuver system, a limited set of single player missions... in fact, the game-as-announced does everything by halves. Battlestar includes eight ships to Arena's eighteen, allows eight players instead of sixteen and features five game modes instead of ten. Even their space backgrounds seem a lot less inspired. Where'd you go, Roger Wilco?

Perhaps this announcement will best express to those unfamiliar with XBLA how cool a concept Arena is - its very announcement is now inspiring a host of imitators the same way that the original Wing Commander lead to games like X-Wing and Star Crusader. Only time will tell if particular example innovates on the concept like the former or if it steals whole cloth like the latter. TeamXbox has posted an article on it here. They've also released some familiar screenshots. Pictured below: a Paktahn bomber heads into the Boneyard (left) and a Dralthi dogfights a Rapier (right).

Unclassified Sketches: Letter To Mrs. Chen

NinjaLA has had another neat idea for a Wing Commander sketch. It closely follows the Confederation Handbook letter from Angel to Bossman's family. The text was done by hand and is not a font. Frame one features the physical document, and the second image shows her recollection of the actual event being described. I like the comic Rapiers quite a bit. You can help provide feedback at Crius.net.

Waterloo Cubed

Kevin Caccamo's cubic panorama viewer thing looked a little complicated to me, but a lot of people jumped all over it. If you got a kick out of it, Marc came up with another neat image to plug into the Kube viewer. It's a perspective from the inside of his fancy Waterloo flight deck.

Just download the KUBE.EXE program, and when it ask for the picture file to load, use this one. It's a more or less slopy montage (I'm still playing around with the angles)... boy, when I think of all the possible uses... this is a very fun program.

Boom Boom Boom Rocket

Good news, rocket-fans - IGN is reporting that Electronic Arts plans to release more musical tracks for Boom Boom Rocket. The exact price and release date for the addon aren't known yet, but the plans are official:
Exactly what styles of music we can expect still remains to be seen, plus Bizarre hasn't announced a release date for the download pack as yet. However, there will five five new tracks and add-on pack is already shaping up nicely. "The audio is written, recorded and in the game, and right now the team are working on camera positioning and firework layout", explained Bizarre's Ben Ward. "It's actually a really in-depth job making the firework patterns all match up and play well, and we have a dedicated person at Bizarre doing exactly that right now."
DLC has traversed a rocky road to acceptance in recent months, with all indications being that the concept is coming into its own. EA's acceptance in this particular case is especially good news for Wing Commander fans... because it means that similar content could well be in the works for their second Xbox Live Arcade title - Wing Commander Arena. The options are endless... new weapons, new maps, new modes or even new fighters could be sold for a reasonable additional cost. Such a release would be especially appropriate since the original Wing Commander's "Secret Missions" disks essentially created the original market for game addons in the 1990s.

Who's the Best?

Edge Magazine has published an article on "The 100 Best Video Games", and Wing Commander... isn't on it. This isn't entirely a surprise - the general list seems very console-centered and the British press has never been especialy fond of Wing Commander... nevertheless, PC World has posted an editorial which includes a 'spur of the moment' Top Ten list. Origin titles take a grand total of three slots, with Wing Commander at #5:
1. System Shock (PC)
2. Ultima VI: The False Prophet (PC)
3. Final Fantasy VII (PS)
4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)
5. Wing Commander (PC)
6. Super Mario 64 (N64)
7. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (PC)
8. Close Combat (PC)
9. Combat Mission (PC)
10. IL-2 Sturmovik (PC)

It's Here: Wing Commander IV GameTap

As promised, the GameTap service has added Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom to their amazing library of classic and modern video games! The game is the original PC CD-ROM version and it requires a hefty one-time 1.5 gigabyte download and a 4.1 gigabyte slice of your hard drive... a shock to those who remember when the game's thirty megabyte demo took days of waiting and a lot of floppy disks. As with the original Wing Commander, the service has done right by the game by offering a bit of 'bonus materials' (pictured below), an online control guide and even scans of the game's manual (PDF) -- even though it's just an excerpt from the novelization!

GameTap is a pay service which allows players access to over 900 games (emulated to run on modern systems where necessary), including the original Wing Commander and the first six Ultima titles. An advertising-supported 'Lite' player also exists allowing players access to a rotation of games for free (as of this time WCIV is not available in this format). Subscriptions are available for as low as $6.95 a month... and a trial membership can be purchased for only 99 cents for the first month! It's a good bet more Wing Commander titles are on the way... the future of legal classic gaming looks bright.

Just Another Word...

In honor of Independence Day (and especially apropos given todays major news), GameDaily has written an article discussing games that involve "the never-ending struggle for freedom". Their ecclectic selection includes Oddworld, Tony Hawk's Underground and, of course, Wing Commander IV:
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom
With the Kilrathi thoroughly defeated in the previous game, earth had no more enemies to fear. What remained was the task of establishing and maintaining a sense of social and economic security. But like a scene from A Few Good Men, some people overstep the line in their quest to ensure freedom, like mass murdering civilian refugees and blaming the act on Border World colonists. Made for a whopping $12 million, a then unheard of budget for a video game, Wing Commander IV features a slew of notable acting talent, including the Jedi himself, Mark Hammill. While most other games focused on the fight for freedom, WC4 illustrates that what humanity does after winning the fight can be just as important.

Look For A Way Out

Kevin Caccamo is working on a Wing Commander themed cubic panorama. Ken Silverman gives this description of a cubic panorama:
Imagine taking a snapshot of everything around you and then projecting the mosaic of images onto the inside faces of a cube. Then put yourself in the center of this cube. You could look around in any direction, and as long as you didn't change your position, you would never know that you were inside a cube. It's like you're in an advanced 3D engine - just without the ability to move.
Kevin on his project: "From the Wing Commander community, we have seen movies, games, mods, images, animations, and missions. This project is the first ever Wing Commander themed Cubic Panorama. That means you will get to look around the image with 360 degrees of freedom! It is going to depict the WC3 era, showing a massive fleet of Kilrathi dreadnoughts on one side and another massive fleet of Confed battleships on another side."

  1. Save the large PNG file to your hard drive.
  2. Download KUBE.EXE from Ken Silverman's website.
  3. Run the program and select the PNG file from step 1 when prompted.
  4. Press the Escape key to exit the program.

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July to our American visitors out there today. Independence Day is a time for fireworks in the US, but anyone with an Xbox can get in on the action with EA's Boom Boom Rocket. Send a few friend requests to fellow Wingnuts and compare your scores on the leaderboards. BBR is a single player game, but all Arcade games have online leaderboards for offline modes. Arena pilots practicing solo will still be able to see how they rank globally.

Just One Word Off...

No news is good news, and this is no exception: XBLArcade reports that the Xbox Live Arcade release for Wednesday, July 4th will be... Missile Command. There wasn't really much chance that a major release like Wing Commander Arena would occur on a major US holiday, but we still held out hope. Those interested can pick up Missile Command, an update of the classic arcade game, for only 400 MSPoints ($5). All that missile commanding looks like fun, but I'd rather be in command of a wing... armed with missiles! For all of our sakes, I hope I don't have to make any more of these jokes -- we'll find out when the July 11th game is announced!

Tabula Rasa Round-Up

I bet you're thinking to yourself: what did Origin founder Richard Garriott spend last month doing? The answer is: he was conducting interview after interview about his new MMPORPG game, Tabula Rasa. Want to know what Lord British thinks about the state of modern gaming? Want to know how Tabula Rasa is going to change the way we think about massively multiplayer games? Then you should check out some of these exciting interviews:
  • PC Gamer - Richard Garriott on Tabula Rasa
  • Hexus - Tabula Rasa producer talks about his fantasy universe
  • The Escapist - Richard Garriott: The Escapist Interview
  • WarCry - Richard Garriott Interview
  • develop - Richard Garriott on the future of MMOs
  • GameZone - One-on-one with NCsoft's Richard Garriott
  • TVG - Tabula Rasa Q&A - Richard Garriott Feature
And the game itself? Boy, what a difference four years and another development team makes! As you can see from the before (left) and after (right) pictures, Tabula Rasa has won back our hearts... well, if not our hearts then certainly parts beyond:

Crius Cadet Creates Camo Craft

Flanker has revved up his Excalibur model one more time for another fancy spec sheet. This one is more focused on some basic history instead of raw stats. What might be most exciting are a pair of very cool camouflage paint jobs in the corner. I'd love to see something like that in a WC game. The fancy Paktahns in WC Arena are a great start. Visit Crius.net to help provide feedback and see more of Flanker's designs.
Several camouflage schemes were tested as can be seen here. In the end the standard Space Forces Scheme was adopted.

Ascii Sector Rocks

Chris Knudsen has finished another round of unique base layouts for Privateer Ascii Sector. These shots remind me of Dig Dug quite a bit, which I suppose is appropriate for stations chiseled out of asteroids. The first one is actually a pirate base, so guild halls and other amenities are absent. Progress also continues on missions for both the Merchants' Guild and public terminal. I wonder how something like a Kilrathi face would look carved out of ascii 'roids.

Fan Trailer Parked

The Wing Commander community has seen a lot of fan made video productions in its time... everything from music videos to live action trailers. Now BrynS has taken that tradition to the next generation by creating his own tribute to Wing Commander Arena! This well edited piece, "Countdown to Launch!", combines footage from the Arena trailers with scenes and music from Wing Commander III.

A lot of the mainstream media sites are commenting on how excellent Arena is, but also warning that 'hardcore fans' won't appreciate it as a Wing Commander game. Here's the rub: they absolutely don't know what hardcore fans are thinking. They don't understand the simple joy of seeing the Kiranka logo again or of watching Rapiers and Dralthi dogfighting in HD. When you see a comment like that it means that Arena doesn't have a twenty million dollar film shoot -- but we know Wing Commander has always been about more than Mark Hamill. This new video, which connects the classic film productions to the new setting, is exactly the kind of message we should be getting out!

Download it here (27 mb xvid .AVI). You can also find a second mirror and direct stream at FileFront.

Fix DVD Movie Playback With Latest Enhancement Pack

AD noticed that there was a little glitch with the Multiplayer Scoreboards addition to the HCl's Prophecy Enhancement Pack. In some cases players have lost the ability to watch the DVD VOBs that last year's version made operational. This can be easily fixed by unzipping this file into your Prophecy directory. Our mirror of the pack has been updated with this fix and should now work properly. Lately people have been having a lot of fun blasting each other with this neat expansion to WCP, so it's definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. In addition to multiplayer and support for DVD movies, this patch also upgrades the game resolution and fixes a handful of bugs.

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