'Drak'thli' Finis

Howard Day has completed work on his 'Drak'thli' model that was inspired by one of Feng Zhu's Wing Commander concept art pieces. Since the last time we looked at the model Howard has completed the cockpit interior and tweaked the shaders to give a more subtle reflectivity and in his words look more "metallic and very sinister". Grab the 3DS Max model for yourself here (7 meg zip).

Making the Games: Multi-Commander Features

Today we present the first of several documents dealing with "Multi-Commander", which was either an anscestor or a spinoff of the Shadow Force concept. The team apparently generated some detailed concept notes as well as some fascinating Visio charts showing the three systems which would appear in the game. Today, though, it's just the basics - how the thing would have worked.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Multi-Commander Features
Download (31 kb)

Date: Unknown
Project: Multi-Commander
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

For Cold December Nights

For the many new visitors to the site this year, Queeg's movie projects are a must-have. They run for a combined five hours and weigh in at nearly three gigabytes. Grab the XviD codec or VLC player if you can't view the files. We recommend a download manager like GetRight to help these large files along. The Prophecy DVD upgrade and Academy animated TV series are also still up for grabs if you don't already have them.
Queeg has put together a third and final cut of his Heart of the Tiger movie project. He has combined highlights from the story and gameplay into an intense two hour film. Fans who downloaded previous versions might not need to grab this one, but there are a few significant changes (detailed below). You can download the movie here.

Barely three months after releasing his third and final version of his WC3 movie and two months after announcing the project, Queeg has released the first complete version of his WC4 movie project. The project aims to create a full movie experience by tying together high quality FMV scenes taken from WCIV DVD, along with in-game spaceflight scenes. You can download the 2.1 gigabyte, three hour long movie from our local HTTP mirror. The spaceflight scenes also feature new nebula graphics in the background. Don't forget to post your thoughts on the movie here.

Making the Games: Shadow Force Art Assets

This list of art assets needed for Shadow Force is interesting for a number of reasons, not the last of which because it shows that the project would have used updated versions of classic ships in exactly the same way as Wing Commander Arena eventually did. It certainly would have been great to see Paktahns and Bloodfangs updated by Origin, though!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Shadow Force Art List
Download (42 kb)

Date: Unknown
Project: Wing Commander Shadow Force
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 9

Edit: It appears that this is actually the Art Asset document for 'Multi-Commander' which is a separate project from Shadow Force. We'll have more detail on this project in the next update.

Flight Commander 1.6 Released

eddieb announces the release of Flight Commander 1.6. Feature requests and bug reports can be filed here. You can discuss this release on the Flight Commander Forums.
New features for players:
  • A gorgeous new nebula and starfield background (thanks Standoff)
  • A new damage model. If you get shot up, your ship's performance starts to degrade. You lose missiles, you slow down, you can't afterburn. Your trusty repair system helps get you back on your feet.
  • Sparks trail behind damaged engines
  • An enhanced HUD
  • Enhanced missile lock sounds
  • Improved missile lock behavior and missile target selection
  • Improved automatic target selection for the player
  • A new high scores list in the simulator
  • A new training mission in the simulator
  • A new Nav Point cross: you can now visit nav points in any order
  • White rectangles around targets that are talking on the comm system
  • Ability to pause the game
  • Better captions during communications.

New features for mission designers:

  • A new mission, with a graphical Nav Map editor.
  • 7 new scripting functions
  • Give the player a choice of Nav points to visit
  • Set percentages on each mission objective.
  • Decide points awarded for the high scores in the simulator.
  • More flags for missiles: viewcone, attack enemies only (for IFFs), acquire a new target on missile launch.

Making the Games: Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 4

This is the final of three 'chapters' of separate Shadow Force Design documents. This one describes improvements the team wants to make to the Secret Ops concept - in particular, to the 'mission movie' feature (telling the story in-engine). It also features a good rundown of the proposed Shadow Force plot... and some insight as to plans for the Nephilim (or, "Junior").

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 4
Download (86 kb)

Date: Unknown
Project: Wing Commander Shadow Force
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 12

Call For Nominees

The annual CIC year-end contests are approaching fast, so now is the time for everyone to submit their nominations. Voting will begin soon for Wing Commander Fan Project & Web Site of the Year. Choices should be based primarily on how much each contender has contributed to the Wing Commander community in 2008. Previous winners are listed below. This year has been full of fan activity, so there's plenty to recognize this time around. Check back in December for information on how to vote for the top sites and projects of 2008!

  Fan Projects of the Year Runners Up
2007 Standoff & WC Saga Ascii Sector
2006 WC4 Homeworld 2 Mod Das Erwachen
2005 Standoff Privateer Gemini Gold
2004 Standoff WC Saga
2003 Standoff & WC Saga Holding the Line & Vega Strike
2002 Unknown Enemy Kilrathi Empire & WC Saga BS
2001 Unknown Enemy Holding the Line & Vega Strike
  Web Sites of the Year Runners Up
2007 HCl's Wing Commander Editing Site Pericles' Paper Inside
2006 HCl's Wing Commander Editing Site Wedge's Wing Commander
2005 WC Saga Fleet Tactics
2004 Fleet Tactics Wedge's Wing Commander
2003 Wing Commander in Russia WC3D & Wedge's Wing Commander
2002 Wing Commander in Russia BlackLance HQ & WingCenter
2001 Wing Commander in Russia Acenet Central
2000 Acenet Central Wing Commander in Russia
1999 Wing Commander in Russia Acenet Central & HCl's WC Editing Site

Making the Games: Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 3

This is the second of three 'chapters' of separate Shadow Force Design documents. This document describes how the game 'looks' to a player and how a lot of the in-game mechanics work. This one is particularly fascinating because it tells us that the game actually had a lot in common with Wing Commander Arena - including the types of multiplayer modes and the existence of powerups. That said, the 'align with capship' concept described here is an absolutely unique gameplay element.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 3
Download (46 kb)

Date: Unknown
Project: Wing Commander Shadow Force
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 12

Confed Coordinates with Kilrathi Cultists

Wing Commander fans are battling their way through T'lan Meth right now. Due to the variety of missions and branches available, our pilots will spend two weeks in this system. The first five missions up through 'Cult of Sivar Rescue' are on the docket. Dave took some new pictures and posted these notes from H'hrass.
H’hrass 2: Dekker comes on the internal transmission line of the relay station and says there are more fighters inbound. Dekker tells me that we can’t communicate with the Midway or send a warning transmission to Confed. I’ll have to keep the bugs busy while the Marines do their work.

I launch in Maverick’s Tigershark since mine took a minor beating. More Morays and a Skate cluster to deal with. The Midway comes back on the communication channel, and they tell me that Panthers have been launched to assist me. I attack the Morays first, and my Tigershark takes a direct frontal hit from a missile. I get that Moray with my guns, and a second soon follows. An enemy fighter launches a missile, but I safely decoy it away. I go after a Manta, and a second one gets on my rear and chews up the shields and rear armor.

Maniac and his wing of Panthers come in to give me a hand. This arrival is enough to distract my pursuer and let me take down a Manta. Maniac’s wing also immediately destroys a Manta. I bump into a new enemy fighter identified as a Devil Ray and pursue a second Manta. A torpedo is launched and hits the antenna array of the station. I decoy away a missile coming my way, and do in another Manta. My fighter took some more damage, and I see independent Skate sections. I get two with Javelin heatseeker missiles, but that Devil Ray gets two successful hits on my fighter with its guns. My Tigershark can’t take much more of this punishment, and now it seems like multiple fighters are attacking the Devil Ray. I take out its rear armor with a missile, and then pound on its rear with my guns. That enemy ship is destroyed, although the dying pilot says that its mother will avenge it. Maniac kills the last fighter, and asks where my wingman is. The Marines tell Maniac about Blair’s abduction, but give the good news that the transmitter is online. Time to alert the rest of Confed about the new alien menace. I ask the Midway for landing clearance, and they say that the loss of Blair is a tragic day for Confed.

Making the Games: Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 2

This is the first of three 'chapters' of separate Shadow Force Design documents. It seems to have been written to explain the game to people above the development team - exactly how it would be played, why it would be fun... and, in this particular case, what kind of online interaction would be formed around it. The "Gas Giants" faux-dialogue is kind of corny, but - well, it's a nice dream, Vaquero.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Shadow Force Design Document - Chapter 2
Download (42 kb)

Date: Unknown
Project: Wing Commander Shadow Force
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 15

Talon With Which to Catch its Prey

There's good news and bad news out of the Wing Commander Standoff mod team. In a recent news update they've officially announced that the final episode of the mod will not be out in 2008... but it is close (bonus good news: they will be updating their site more frequently in the coming weeks)! Here's the status report:
On the progress page, you can see that the cutscene/briefing voiceovers have turned blue, and "additional videos" has turned green. "Additional graphics" remain green, but they're very, very close to blue - they should be greenish blue, really. I've just finished the very last of the cockpits - every flyable ship now has a cockpit. So, if you've ever wanted to see the inside of a Talon, head on over to the screenshots page. Also, a few more ships have appeared on the progress page, and immediately went blue - these are the very, very final additions to Standoff, though. These new ships include the Salthi, Dralthi and Bloodfang. These ships aren't really slated to appear in the campaign, but the Dralthi and Salthi at least will show up in sim missions. And of course, like any other ship, you'll be able to admire them in the in-game ship database (...and the website's ships page too, when I have a spare moment to update it).

Missions are making progress too - Pierre has recently been concentrating on scoreboard integration in the remaining six missions, while Quarto and Pedro are currently working on the winning path missions. Altogether, there are still four missions that have not yet been started, but next week that number should drop down to three.

Making the Game: Rogue-Shadow Document

As promised, our visit through Captain Johnny's development CDs continues with a set of fascinating documents, all of which relate to the abandoned Wing Commander: Shadow Force concept developed at Origin in 1998-99. The first is the "Rogue Ops Design Document" (internal references have all been changed to 'Shadow Force'), which provides a fairly specific overview of the concept. Fan developers could even take these mission concepts to heart when building their own games!

It also includes the same character sketches seen earlier in the month. Thanks to research on the part of Sean Murphy, we now know that these were done by Origin artist Dave Plunkett (designer of, among other things, the Plunkett-class Heavy Artillery Cruiser in Wing Commander Secret Ops).

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material! The series is winding down, though, so if you're a former Wing Commander developer with a story to tell or a document to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Rogue Ops Design Document
Download (5.4 MB)

Date: Unknown
Project: Wing Commander Shadow Force
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 67

A Pad Wth Wings

Jeremy noticed KilrathiKiller's retro wallpaper in the news a few days back and wanted to share his own impressive Wing Commander inspired creation. He has taken a number of Wing Commander 1 scenes as well as other art elements like the box art and blueprints and has made a really well done image that he had printed onto a mousepad! Jeremy sent along a fairly large JPG of it that you may be able to use to make your own mousepad. Download the 7MB file here (right-click and save-as).

Making the Games: Secret Ops Artwork

Thus ends our series of Wing Commander Prophecy and Secret Ops ships - with a couple of odds and ends from Secret Ops. That's two rough renderings of the Plunkett-class heavy artillery cruiser and an early in-game shot of the Thunderbolt VII. What's next? No more sexy images for a bit... but we'll have some exciting documents!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Tabula Rasa Ends...

Following the recent announcement that Richard Garriot - one time Origin founder and recent space traveler - would be leaving the company, NCSoft has announced it will be shutting down Tabula Rasa at the end of February. This is what they had to say in their press release on the Tabula Rasa website:

Last November we launched what we hoped would be a ground breaking sci-fi MMO. In many ways, we think we've achieved that goal. Tabula Rasa has some unique features that make it fun and very different from every other MMO out there. Unfortunately, the fact is that the game hasn't performed as expected. The development team has worked hard to improve the game since launch, but the game never achieved the player population we hoped for.

Tabula Rasa will end live service on February 28, 2009. Even so, the team intends to go out with a bang. Tabula Rasa servers will be free to play beginning January 10th, 2009. The team promises to have "some really fun things in Tabula Rasa" for the finale and promise that sticking with the game to the end will be worth your while.

That said, our sympathies are with the Tabula Rasa team that will soon be jobless and that invariably includes a number of ex-Originites. To those, We wish all the best wherever their careers take them next.

Making the Games: Twilight Purchase Artwork

Here's an even stranger treat - a 'FMV quality' version of the oft-forgotten civilian cruise liner model. This ship never really shined in the game - for whatever reason you just never get a good idea of what it looks like. Here, though, it's absolutely magnificent - opulant and elegant as described in the fiction.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

KilrathiKiller Wings Wallpaper

Kilrathikiller has noticed a need for more Wing Commander 1 era wallpapers in high definition resolutions for your computer desktop backgrounds. He's gone and created a neat looking image that incorporates various characters and scenes from the game along with a smoothed out version of the original logo. Kilrathikiller has also sent along a version that is just the logo itself if there's anyone out there that would like something a little more simple in the background. Both images are provided in a 4:3 ratio (fullscreen) version for those of you who haven't made the step towards widescreen computer monitors yet. Download them all below.

Making the Games: Murphy Artwork

It turns out Captain Johnny's ship collection extends beyond Wing Commander Prophecy - and into Wing Commander Secret Ops! Today we offer a surprising number of Murphy-class destroyer images - cool-as-heck wireframes and early in-game shots among them.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Frank Talk About XNA

Here at wcnews.com we're always interested in finding out what former Wing Commander veterans have been up to since their time at Origin. Game Informer recently posted an article about the inner workings of Microsoft's XNA studio. You might have heard of XNA as the system by which - along with the new X-Box dashboard update - allows users to create and upload their own games over X-Box Live for other users to play.

Anyway, they flew to Microsoft in Washington state and visited Frank Savage who is a development manager for the XNA toolset. You can read about their visit and experience trying to create a simple game with the XNA studio here.

Here's a previous clip (43 meg wmv) of Frank talking about his work at Origin that you might be interested in. It's part of a much longer video of him speaking about the same Microsoft job and centers on his work with the XNA project. You can stream or download the entire video here.

Wing Commander fans have already been hard at work putting XNA through it's paces. NinjaLA even has one creation available already on the community games marketplace here. It will be interesting to see what kind of fan content will be created for the service in the future.

Making the Games: Wing Commander Prophecy Logos & Backgrounds

I bet you didn't know you needed an incredibly huge 'PROPHECY' logo image. Well, you do - this collection of assorted artwork includes a few neat odds and ends (the strange Kilrathi logo from the WCP Official Guide, the Prophecy team photo) but is largely dominated by logos. These logos were used for all the promotional material - CD labels, boxes, posters, advertisements and so forth. Bootlegging your own Wing Commander Prophecy water never seemed so easy.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

From Concept to Cutting Edge

Howard Day has taken another amazing Feng Zhu concept fighter and turned it into a model masterpiece. This time it's a very menacing Kilrathi fighter that he's dubbed the 'Drak'thli'. The jagged lines on this ship are very familiar yet strikingly fresh at the same time. It's just a breathtaking design that Howard's now managing to bring to life. The first two shots are original concept art, and the following six show the design in its preliminary model form.

Making the Games: Midway Artwork

We saved the best for last: the TCS Midway, designed by Sean Murphy for Wing Commander Prophecy, in a variety of different views and renderings. Honest-to-God blueprints, wireframes, FMV renderings, early engine shots... it's all here. Enjoy!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Shrike Two, You're Out!

The always-generous Sean Murphy was kind enough to send us some more Wing Commander Prophecy artwork! He saw Captain Johnny's Shrike update and dug up one more unique rendering of the bomber (below - in more ways than one)! He also explained the ship's... device... which can now be seen in more detail than ever before:
... the original design of the Shrike had two features that were eventually dropped: one, the cockpit area was supposed to detach and function as kind of either a mini-fighter or at least a lifeboat; and two, the large pod underneath was supposed to be a radar jammer - so the Shrike would be able to make torpedo runs with less danger of being targeted by capships. Sadly (and without letting me know so that I could redesign the thing!) the function of the jammer was tossed out, and the large pod underneath became just a torpedo tube.

Making the Games: Assorted Prophecy Ship Artwork

... and the rest (with one exception!) of Wing Commander Prophecy's ship designs appear today: the Seahawk AWACs, multiple types of shuttles... and, oddity of oddities, a super-detailed rendering of the Dula VII starbase.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Save the Station

The crew of the Midway is working hard to clear the bugs out of H'hrass this week. The next two weeks will revolve around the alternate mission branching in T'lan Meth. Lorien filed the following mission report, and Dave's uploaded dozens of new pictures.
G'Wriss 3: I find Zero in quiet contemplation of his drink. I don't think he's going to be able to fly well if he broods for too long so I go to break him out of it. He asks me what it was like having the Iceman as a father. I give him the honest truth, he died when I was very young and I never got to know the man. I just have his shadow haunting everything I do in the cockpit. Zero thinks that I'm better off that way. His father was alive, but didn't have time to spend with Zero, instead spending it studying the Kilrathi to help out our war effort. When he did have time, there wasn't much he could talk about. I ask him about the Kn'Thrak that everyone's been talking about. He replies that his memories are a little vague and include a Terran biblical text for some reason. He also remembers being so scared he had to sleep with the lights on. At least his memories give us a good name for the enemy, the Nephilem. I leave the conversation feeling that we've grown a little closer.

Even with it's destroyer escort destroyed the enemy cruiser is still bearing down on us at top speed. Hawk will be flying fighter cover while my wing escorts the Shrikes in an attack to take the cruiser out. The briefing ends with the somber not that we may be up against a force that took out an entire Kilrathi fleet. It doesn't seem to have affected Dallas too much, he's happier than I've ever seen him as we promise to back each other up. Given the proximity of the enemy to the Midway, I'm piloting a Wasp in this mission. Seeing more of those cruiser vessels, I'm glad to have it's heavier guns and missiles. I start off the attack by breaking up a bomber cluster before they can get too close to the midway and move on to attacking enemy fighters until the bombers start reporting trouble with turret fire.

I then break off the engagement and clear out the shield emitters protecting the cruiser's vital components and get to work on it's turrets, using the Cruisers own hull as a shield against it's guns. First to go are the missile turrets, obviously, followed by a ring of turrets near the engine. I'm halway through the turrets on the arms when I hear Dallas scream over the radio. Damn, I should have kept a closer eye on him. Filled with rage, I quickly finish off the rest of the turrets and the remaining enemy fighters, leaving me to sit and stew as the bombers finish off the de-fanged cruiser. The last bombers launched by the cruiser receive a very hostile reaction when they appear, both of the clusters and one of the little component ships receiving the full power of a swarmer missile, demolishing them. Anderson congratulates us on a job well done before I head in to land.

Making the Games: Copernicus and Friends Artwork

There's always been something unusually detailed about the ships which appear in Wing Commander Prophecy's intro -- like they were meant for some greater purpose and then tragically never used again. Today we have two versions of the same pod rendering and an early yellow textured version of the Copernicus-class TCS Devereaux.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Blaster Hones His Script Skills

It's really great to see all the hard work being done by fans to make 3D models and and other kinds of Wing Commander inspired projects. But it's an even greater treat when a fan puts their talents to work creating something physical beyond the confines of their PC! Crius.net user Blaster did just that with his latest creations. I'll let him explain:
I wanted to do a WC project that was completely different than anything I'd seen before. Well, I once took a class in calligraphy, to fill an art requirement, and I can't remember seeing any projects involving that so I decided it was different enough. I'm definitely out of practice but my art teacher said you don't have to be very good at calligraphy for most people to think you are a genius so hopefully someone will like it.

The first image is an excerpt from the Kilrathi oath of service taken from Voices of War. In the second, Blaster has attempted to recreate the Kilrathi font seen in the Wing Commander movie.

Making the Games: Hercules LC Artwork

Check out one early version of the Hercules LC -- with treads, like a tank! Actually, it makes a lot of sense... but it still looks like a dustbuster.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Gemini Gold Wants To Paper Your Walls

John Cordell has released his snazzy Privateer Gemini Gold splash image as a set of high resolution wallpapers. The scene is a very sharp and tasteful recreation of an original piece of Privateer artwork. The BMP included with Origin FX is shown side-by-side below for comparison - even the star patterns and gas cloud in the background are similar!
Today many PC video games feature some kind of wallpaper to pin onto your desktop. Privateer never had an official wallpaper but there was nice box cover artwork! We use that for our website's head as well as for the CD covers we provide for download. The original source was only available in 640x480, so we took the same models, threw them together and created a high-definition widescreen variant of the scene! It is available as a wallpaper package for various resolutions.

Making the Games: Pelican Artwork

Today we feature two alternate takes on the same basic C-9 Pelican artwork. Frankly, I'm surprised that more textured versions of ships like this even exist - what was the artwork ever used for? There aren't any Pelican cutscenes.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Endeavor Embarks on an Important Mission

We've had a great run of beautiful Wing Commander ships in the news this week, but here's a real beauty! The Space Shuttle Endeavor successfully launched this weekend with 32,000 pounds of valuable hardware that will allow the International Space Station to support double its current crew size. Endeavor should dock with the ISS on Sunday and begin preparing for the first of four space walks. STS-126 is scheduled to last 15 days. During this period, the ISS will also celebrate its tenth birthday. The station's first module was launched on November 20.

Making the Games: Piranha Artwork

Last but not least, here's the Piranha! In fact, it was supposed to be first. Read the following text as if it came before the last few news updates...
Today marks the first in a week of Confederation fighter updates. Johnny's collection included a huge number of high resolution renderings and other images of the game's fighters, so we're featuring one class a day (leading up to an update with over twenty new images of the Vampire!). First up is, naturally, the nimble Piranha:

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

But Wait, There's More!

Chris Douglas, an artist who worked on every Wing Commander game from Secret Missions 2 to Prophecy, saw the renderings provided by Captain Johnny and kindly forwarded us even more beautiful ship renderings! Check out the Dragon (missing from the previous set) and two new images of the Piranha, showing previously invisible details (like the purple 'Diamondback' markings on the latter ship). Now, who has that Wing Commander IV Dralthi beauty shot?

Making the Games: Tigershark Artwork

The Tigershark never really got a fair shake -- the game made it clear that it was a clunky ship to suffer through early on until Space Superiority fighters became available... but it still has an excellent look to it that isn't quite like anything else in Wing Commander Prophecy. That 'whole body' cockpit makes it feel a lot more like a science fiction fighter than some of the others (which are more inspired by modern warplanes).

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Green Goblin Accents Add a Nice Touch

Howard Day has already sharpened up his Goblin bomber and released fancy new renders. These show a vibrant green engine flare inspired by Wing Commander Armada. There is also one possible landing concept shot with forward landing gear and a retracted lower section visible.

Here are the latest updates... basic, very basic textures, more details, and engine flares. Went for the the greenish flares shown on the cover to Armada. I see this as an extremely long range fighter/bomber. Very far-ranging, very durable.

Making the Games: Shrike Artwork

For some reason, images of the bombers are few and far between - but we can still offer three beautiful renderings of the well-endowed Shrike bomber!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Sidewinder Timing Patch Released

After browsing the Tech Support Forum, akula65 noticed that quite a few people reported issues getting Microsoft Sidewinder joysticks to work with Wing Commander games on systems from the early 2000s. He's developed a timing patch that corrects a flaw with how this joystick operates in Windows 95, 98 & Me. Download it here (256 k zip). The file includes a detailed readme with instructions and information. Players who are running a Windows 9x operating system and trying to get a Wing Commander game (or any game!) running with a Sidewinder should let akula know how the patch works. Hopefully this helps fans out there who are building Wing Commander computers out of older hard/software.
For years, many Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro joystick owners have been unable to use their controllers in Win9x systems because the Microsoft driver (SW3DPRO.VXD) does not function properly on systems with FSB speeds of 100 MHz or higher. Microsoft has never provided an effective solution for the problem, and support for all Win9x OSes was terminated years ago. As someone who owns several SideWinder 3D Pro sticks and who still plays games on Win98 SE, I got fed up with not being able to use the sticks to their full potential, so I decided to do something about it.

I have put together a package of SW3DPRO.VXD replacement drivers in which the timing values have been adjusted to permit the drivers to function on a variety of Win9x systems with substantially higher performance than the original Microsoft driver. I have successfully used the drivers to get the SW 3D Pro to work on machines up to a Pentium III 933 MHz CPU with a 133 MHz FSB (the fastest Win9x system available to me), and the drivers will hopefully support much faster systems as well. Note that the drivers will only work on Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME. Newer versions of Windows are not supported (sorry).

File info on the ZIP archive (sw3dp10.zip) is as follows: 260320 bytes
md5: 60d5b0496fdf8ee332da0353355d817f
sha1: 0b75dcf6c0066d01fdc0bfab5cb90960c4a90730

Feedback is appreciated, particularly for systems faster than those tested by the author.

Making the Games: Devastator Artwork

As noted yesterday, Johnny's collection included very few images of Wing Commander Prophecy's torpedo bombers. Today we present two renderings of the Devastator, which has always been an underdog favorite of mine -- I wish we had a better feel for the sheer number of tiny laser turrets dotting the thing while playing the game itself! Note that we're not entirely out of luck when it comes to Devastator art, either: Sean Murphy was good enough to scan some of his original sketches some time ago.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Breaking News: Richard Garriott Leaves NCSoft

Origin founder, Ultima creator and space hero Richard Garriott has resigned from NCSoft, the Korean company he joined in 2001 after his non-compete agreement with Origin/EA expired. NCSoft has experienced financial troubles recently and is in the process of restructuring their US development teams -- but few fans, at least, expected to see their highest profile figure depart.

While with NCSoft, Garriott lead the design of his 'dream project', Tabula Rasa. Development suffered from several false starts but ultimately resulted in a game which many players report is both unique and excellent. Garriott also oversaw the acquisition of other projects, including the succesful City of Heroes and the sadly aborted Blackstar Chronicles.

There is no word yet as to what this means for the Austin development group, which employs many Origin veterans (including David Swofford, one of this site's earliest and kindest supporters). Garriott posted the following open letter to Tabula Rasa fans here:

Fellow Soldiers of the AFS,

I am happy to finally be able to write the players and community of Tabula Rasa. We've been on quite a journey together. First in creating a game unlike any other on the MMO market, then growing a loyal community and finally launching the game and its players into space with Operation Immortality. It has been quite an unforgettable journey, one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I am very grateful to you loyal players for sticking around through what I think we can all honestly say was a rough launch. I thank the development team for pushing hard to get polish, updates and new content out every month since launch...a feat that I think is unusual in MMO development. They have a lot to be proud of.

Many of you probably wonder what my plans are, now that I have achieved the lifelong dream of going to space. Well, that unforgettable experience has sparked some new interests that I would like to devote my time and resources to. As such, I am leaving NCsoft to pursue those interests.

This news is difficult for me to deliver. I am honored to have worked with the team I've had and I'm grateful to the community who makes this game so unique and fun.

Thank you and farewell.

Richard "General British" Garriott

Making the Games: Panther Artwork

The Panther is everyone's favorite everyman starfighter - the thrust-nozzling isn't as apparent as it is with the Vampire and the design is a sleak evolution of the types seen in earlier games. Here it is in an original sketch and a series of high resolution renderings:

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

What's-a Manta You?

Reports from the frontier are streaming in. Here's DaveO's mission update from the G'wriss System. Check out the rest over at Crius.net.
Dallas hopes that our Shrike bombers can handle the destroyers since they look very big. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I target a Manta since it’s the biggest threat to fighters and bombers. I nail the Manta, and Dallas says that the turrets on the destroyers are trashing his ship. I pursue another Manta, and make a minor bump to a friendly Confed fighter. Dallas ejects from his fighter, so it sounds like the destroyer got the best of him. While still working on whittling down the Manta, and Confed pilot is killed in action. I finish off the Manta, and notice that the only ships within easy range are Squids.

I notice a torpedo from one of our bombers hit the engines on one of the destroyers. It’s not going anywhere, and I have the Squid in my gun sights. It becomes sushi, and I go after another Squid. That ship launches a missile, but all it does is take down my shields. I blast the Squid into tiny tidbits, and notice that when they spread their wings to attack it makes a huge target profile. This is a perfect opportunity to use some Dragonflies. I’m blasting at a third Squid, and the bombers have disabled the engines on the other destroyer. I’m going after yet another Squid, and miss my target with a Dragonfly.

Stiletto then says that she also has to eject, and I’m thinking that these destroyers must have a lot of turret firepower. A torpedo hits the bridge of a destroyer, and that capital ship is scratched. I dispatch another Squid, and the bombers smack down the other destroyer. I come at a direct pass on a Squid, and it takes down my shields and forward armor with a missile hit. I get on its tail and start shredding it with guns. I also get a hit in with a Dragonfly, and that Squid is soon shredded.

There is still one Squid left, and it presents a perfect profile to use a Dragonfly. My guns finish that fighter off, and this zone is clear. I head back to the Midway, and they tell us that we still have the cruiser to deal with for our next mission but we do have an upper hand since we have just one enemy capital ship to deal with instead of three. Rachel congratulates me on making some right moves, and says that it looks like I have the right stuff.

Making the Games: Vampire Artwork

That... is a lot of Vampires! This collection has it all: the original sketch, rendering after high-resolution rendering showing off the FMV model, Claw Marks 'line art'... even advertising material. There's no mystery here, though - after all, the fighter was used in a lot of advertising and on the cover of the box itself!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Here There Be Goblins

Howard Day (of Pioneer fame) has taken a moment to create something cool! I'll let him explain exactly what it is:

I honestly couldn't help myself. The concept art by Feng was just too good...

Anyhow, it's not done yet, obviously - the whole back end hasn't got any details yet, and the underside of what I'm calling the "weapon pod" is also lacking in any great detail. No textures.

I did take some liberties with the "bussard collectors" as it seemed like they were a staple of all the fighters in the Prophecy stable and it felt odd to leave them out of a fighter from a similar era. As this is a WCP era fighter, the missiles are launched from tubes. You can see all 6 tubes - four on the wings are for conventional missiles, while the two large ones in the pod are for torpedoes. Top Wing guns are Lasers, and the two Pod guns are Tachyon Cannons.

Howard has tentatively named the fighter the Goblin. Here's Feng's original artwork as a reminder and comparison:

Making the Games: Nephilim Bomber Sketches

These sketches are Orign's work on designing the Nephilim bomber force. The most interesting thing is that the Skate Clusters (here labeled "Tri-Rays") have significantly different layouts depending on their purpose - theyy're labeled bomber, laser, torpedo and light respectively.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Making the Games: Nephilim Fighter Artwork

The first sketch presented here is Syd Mead's drawing of what became the Moray-class fighter - it's followed by Origin's take. The last two images are a magazine advertisement for Prophecy, available here without text. The best of the group, though, is the high resolution Devil Ray - absolutely stunning!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Prophecy Upgrade Packs Still Available

The CIC is still running through a bunch of extra bandwidth this month, and one of the best ways to help us do this is to download the Prophecy DVD upgrade. With a few large files and some easy instructions, it's possible to upgrade your CD version of Prophecy to play high quality movies. The three packs linked below provide all the videos, and HCl's enhancement pack makes them work with the game. Specific instructions are available here. Even if you don't plan on upgrading, the video files can each be viewed separately with a program like VLC player.

Making the Games: Nephilim Support Ship Artwork

This set of sketches was done by Origin to represent the 'other' Nephilim ships - turrets, communications stations, wormhole towers and the like. The final image, a high resolution shot of the wormhole (sans gate) was created as part of the Wing Commander Prophecy Gold box art.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Family Friendly Kilrathi Art Now Available

The ever helpful Heart of the Tiger is always looking out for his fellow Wingnut. Monday's Making the Games Sketch was decidely not work safe, so he went ahead and cleaned it up a little. Now visitors checking in from the office can view this historic piece of Wing Commander art. They should check out his version on the right.

Making the Games: Nephilim Capital Ship Artwork

The bugs grow them big - today we see the Nephilim's ships of the line. The first image is Syd Mead's original 'alien capital ship' sketch - the rest are sketches and renderings done by the team at Origin. Note the file names as well, which frequently refer to the original monikers given these ships. For instance, the Barracuda is the "Skate", the Hydra is the "Marlin", the Kraken is the "Narwhal" and the Tiamat is the "Tsunami". Be careful with that last image (rendered for a magazine advertisement), too - it's a huge file!

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Imagine Walking Around This 'Claw

Ralgath sent in some pictures from a a fan project he started a while back. The project hasn't been active in a while, but he wanted to share some of the sharp artwork that he made. The game would have been a Sierra-style AGI Studio adventure. Although work has stalled for now, it sure looks neat!

Making the Games: Missing Missiles

Two days ago you saw a beautiful collection of Wing Commander Prophecy's Confederation missiles... but what about the missiles that didn't make it into the game? They're here, too! Check out similar images of the "anti bomber missile", the famous null-g bomblet and the leech:

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Community Replay Kicks Off Prophecy

After nine busy months, the Community Replay event has reached Wing Commander Prophecy. The game will start slow due to the possible mission branching early in WCP. Up this week are the introductory missions in the H'rekkah System. DaveO has already posted video walkthroughs here. While he works on his Prophecy writeups, here's another look back at the end of WC4.
The Saint Helens is pressing its pursuit of the Vesuvius near Saturn. Pliers stops me and asks if he should get the Flash-Pak ready so that we can use it on the Vesuvius. Pliers tells me that specs from Captain Eisen recommend us to use the Flash-Pak on the insides of the Vesuvius. I know that it’s now or never to stop Tolwyn from reaching Earth and tell Pliers to load the Flash-Pak on my ship. I get up to the CIC, and Admiral Tolwyn comes on the communication line to gloat. He congratulates me on being tenacious, but says that the Saint Helens has taken too much damage to continue its pursuit. Tolwyn then says that he’s invincible, and that I can do nothing to prevent his address to the Great Assembly as a newly promoted Space Marshal.

Unknown to me, Admiral Tolwyn tells Seether to take care of me personally. Tolwyn thinks that I’ve always been a thorn in his side, and that I could have achieved greatness if I had not turned my back on Confed. Seether prepares himself for this upcoming struggle for survival.

Captain Eisen comes on the communication line and confirms what Admiral Tolwyn was saying. Stopping the Vesuvius will be up to us, and I have a big bang present waiting to be delivered with the Flash-Pak.

Blade, Excell, Tex and I head to our encounter with the Vesuvius. I accidentally order Tex back to base immediately, and he turns around. Excell wastes no time in taking down an enemy Hellcat, and Blade and I make a combined fighter kill. I fry a Hellcat at very close range with the Dragon’s guns, and then Excell and I down another Hellcat together. I decide to cloak since it seems like the Vesuvius could send an endless stream of fighters. I head straight for the hangar bay while Blade blasts a Hellcat out of space. The Flash-Pak gets locked on the Vesuvius, and Excell takes down yet another Hellcat. Blade makes his mark against another enemy fighter, and I uncloak in the middle of the Vesuvius’ hangar bay. I let loose with the Flash-Pak and it fries the Vesuvius. Lt. Sosa tells me that a ship was detected leaving from the Vesuvius before its explosion. Sosa tells me that the way is clear for me to land, but I want to help out against any stray Hellcats. Blade gets one of the remaining fighters, and Excell is taking a bit of a beating in her Dragon. She manages to kill a Hellcat, and I help in destroying the last fighter. Looks like Admiral Tolwyn will be able to keep his promise to address the Great Assembly on Earth.

Making the Games: Manta Artwork

The first fighter the collection is the Nephilim Manta, arguably Wing Commander Prophecy's emblematic alien ship (similar to the Dralthi in the Kilrathi games). Here we see Syd Mead's original Manta sketch, two high resolution renderings and a set of rendered Claw Marks style 'line art' for the craft.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Wolves of the Sea, of Space

It's the only animal other than man to kill for revenge! JasonRocZ is back to modelling for his Collateral Damage mod project and has taken on the Nephilim fleet this time. First up is the nimble Orca-class destroyer! He says:
I haven't posted anything in about a month, but I wanted everyone to know that the project is going as planned.

I've finally gotten into the Nephilim ships. I do not believe that I will be really changing any capship models themselves just because purely it's a pain to do, but maybe just the textures to a little higher res and also a little more colorful. I was also thinking of making some type of larger cannons on the Nephilim ships, but then again I might just put more turrets (Masers) on some of the Nephilim ships. I'm not really going to post up any in the Vision Engine until I get my other computer back soon.

But anyways I've included some 3d model shots and changed the textures a little bit. Let me know what you think. I can't stress that enough. Without the thoughts from the community, what kind of project would this be? I plan on creating a few Nephilim ships (Fighters/Bombers/etc...) after I get going on updating all the textures on the capships. Similar to the Puffer type ship... something new.

Making the Games: Kilrathi Sketches

That's right, it's another day of risque sketches here at the CIC. Today we have two sketches of Kilrathi "priestesses", the second of which should not be loaded at work. Furthermore, the first character doesn't seem to be a priestess at all...

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Second Quarter Results Released

Electronic Arts has announced its second quarter results for the 2009 fiscal year. Despite a significant rise in net revenue to $894 million, the company ended the quarter September 30 with a $310 million loss. In conjunction with this, there will be a 6% reduction in staffing, which translates to approximately 500 people across the company. On a positive note, Madden 2009 sold nearly 5 million copies, Spore hit 2 million and EA Mythic's new Warhammer Online has nearly a million active subscribers. More recently, Dead Space & Red Alert 3 have begun shipping. Among the interesting notes in the guts of the release - PC sales rose to $88 million to compare with $47 million for mobile phone games. If current growth rates could be sustained, wireless phone revenue could surpass the PC side in about two years. Two of the last three Wing Commander game releases were for portable systems, and a cellular WC would be neato.
“Considering the slow down at retail we’ve seen in October, we are cautious in the short term,” said John Riccitiello, Chief Executive Officer. “Longer term, we are very bullish on the game sector overall and on EA in particular. The industry is growing double-digits on the strength of three new game consoles and increases in the number of homes with broadband internet connections. EA is well positioned to benefit from these technology drivers due to the strength of our creative studios and our broad collection of game properties--from The Sims, to Spore and Madden NFL, to Warhammer Online.”

Making the Games: Shadow Force Sketches

More Shadow Force material right out of the gate - these seven sketches represent six of the game's mercenary characters. From left to right: Furie, Hardware, Priest, Prime, Turk and Silver (the last two). If you happen to be at work this weekend then you shouldn't click on that final sketch -- it's rated 'M'. Everyone else would be advised to view it as quickly as possible, though.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

Wing Commander Developers in Tiberium Drama!

Nothing turns 'gaming journalism' into a tabloid circus like a major product cancellation... and the recent demise of Tiberium is no exception. Gamasutra recently ran an article on the axing which turned into a forum for (theoretical) EA insiders to reveal dirty behind-the-screens details.

Anonymous Developer #1:

A Designer who had originally built only 1 mission on Halo was promoted by then manager John Batter, who had a hard on for Hollywoodesque big talent. John poured milliions into James Bond over Medal of Honor. This mean that less experienced personal got bigger salaries than the MOH teams. The designer "Dan Orzlak" experience on 1 mission in Halo was quickly used to calm DANJAQ's butterflies. He was promoted to Design Director. Although very personable, he only understood Halo's systems superficially. Why? Beause he was never a system's designer. Boom, fast forward to the next project.

The Producer pretty boy from marketing (insert his name) and Dan came up with a game called "vertical" that never saw the light of day. Neil young then moved them to Tiberium. While Neil squashed the old guard and created his own kingdom, FEAR fell upon all those working on Tiberuim. In other words no one wanted to make a design decision.

5 years later, Dan and team had changed the weapons 5 times. Hired a myriad of clown hack jr designers, all who wanted to be the "AI designer!" Dan was let go, and in came Tim Coolidge, who left after 2 weeks.

Anonymous Developer #2:
While many of the above statements are true, one statement needs corrected. An opinion shared across the team except by a select few, is that the "jr." designers, some with 10 years or more experience in the industry, were far more knowledgeable and proven than their lead Orzulak, or his student of the fine art of smoke screening, Andre Garcia. This was not only supported but reaffirmed by other level designers brought on loan from the Medal of Honor team, also with far more experience than their leads. Since you talk of MobyGames'ing a resume, you'll find Andre Garcia, a QA tester for nearly a decade, quickly went from nothing, to a design lead position, thanks to his friend Dan Orzulak.

However, despite the narrow focus of the above poster, the demise of this project, and others, was in the hands of a higher pay grade than is likely visible to the above poster. Previous games such as MoH:A survived even less competent design leaders, such as the aformentioned Jon Paquette, a creative director with even less design experience than Orzulak. No, this would not ordinarily be enough to sink a ship at the well funded studio...

The real story of Tiberium's fate was a project being led by these incompetent leaders, as is par for the course at EALA, but was recognized as an opportunity for a new team of management to make a powerplay for their own development team. At first they made the right moves to win over the crowd, eliminating Orzulak, "pretty boy EP," and their "no action is the best action" technical director, along with demoting the similar philosophy senior development director in one fell swoop. The team rejoiced, and invested their full faith into the newcomers...

Anonymous Developer #3:
The real problem started with them placing Chris Plummer in charge. The dude had no idea how to make a video game and had mostly marketing experience - no actual game dev experience other then a few nightmare projects at EALA. He didn't listen to any of the more experienced staff and changed his mind every few months, causing the team to churn and burn things over and over. The project ended up costing as much as a Hollywood movie and wasting years of people's time. You simply cannot succeed when the guy at the head of the project has no idea what he's making, and no idea how to really do it. I'm amazed they let him churn and burn for 4 years on it. Sad... there were some great ideas in the game and some great people on the team.
Why does this matter to us? Well, at least three of the "inexperienced" people being blamed for the failure here are Origin veterans with credits that stretch back to the original Privateer! Neil Young was President of Origin for Wing Commander Prophecy and Secret Ops; he also produced the Wing Commander movie and was directly responsible for establishing this website. Chris Plummer got his start playtesting Wing Commander III and then moved to marketing for Wing Commander Prophecy and Secret Ops. Newsgroup veterans may remember his posts to alt.games.wing-commander during that time. He's also the famed "Tangy" who appears in several WCSO screenshots. More importantly, Dan Orzulak was a member of nearly every Wing Commander development team at Origin from the original Privateer forward -- even running the QA team on Heart of the Tiger! With that history in mind, can these claims really be taken at face value?

Making the Games: Missile Artwork

Over the next two weeks we will be featuring production artwork from Wing Commander Prophecy - never-before-seen sketches and renderings of many of the game's ships and weapons. This first set is a beauty - very high resolution renderings of all of the game's Confederation missiles. Look at the stunning amount of detail - down to legible numbers - on some of these... none of which could ever be seen in the game. From left to right: anti-radiation missile, dumbfire, rocket, friend or foe, heat seeker, heavy torpedo, image recognition, light torpedo, mine, tracker and empty tracker.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!

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