Wing Commander Influencing Starcraft 2 Design

Shacknews has published an interview with Starcraft 2's lead designer, Dustin Browder, on the subject of story integration in the upcoming real-time strategy title. The game will feature AI NPC characters that are leveraged for plot elements while being used as a gameplay component. They'll even be sitting in the bar and hanging around the ship as the main character walks the halls between mission. This style of optional storytelling was heavily influenced by classic Wing Commanders. Check out the full interview here. Thanks to NCC1701.
Dustin Browder: And our theme in this one, it's like, look, everyone has a different tolerance for story. Some people want more, some people want less. We don't want to force it down their throat, but we don't want it not in there. So we create an environment where it's much more of an optional experience. If you're really interested in these characters--and we kind of hope that at some point everyone is interested in at least some of them--then you can sort of customize your story experience and get as much of it as you want.

Shack: It sort of reminds me of flight sim games.

Dustin Browder: It's very Wing Commander.

Shack: Yeah, Wing Commander, any of those games.

Dustin Browder: Tie Fighter, yeah. Wing Commander is one of our obvious favorite games. We all played it back in the day and loved it, and it's something that definitely spoke to us. I know we're going back years now to pull some of these things out, but we kind of feel like hey, what if it works? Other folks sort of feel like there's sort of an evolution, you can't go back. We're like, hey, if it works, we can go anywhere.

Making the Game: Mission System and Command Interpreter

This technical document explains Wing Commander Prophecy's "Mission System", which is apparently used to track all of the games objects and their states. They probably could have come up with a less confusing name...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Mission System and Command Interpreter
Download (14 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

Electronic Arts Restructures Role Playing Organization

There's been considerable change in Electronic Arts' role-playing arenas over the last week. EA's Mythic Entertainment is being rolled into a new RPG/MMO division that will be directed by EA's BioWare general manager, Ray Muzyka. Mythic general manager Mark Jacobs will be leaving the company. GameSpot has more info on the shake-up.

Mythic is the current location of Origin's archive materials and acts as the custodian of Ultima Online. They launched Warhammer Online last fall, which currently has about 300,000 subscribers. Server capacity in much of the world has been reduced this year, but Warhammer debuted in Taiwan on June 25.

Making the Game: Menu System

Here's a big technical document explaining the team's hopes and plans for Wing Commander Prophecy's menu system. The wishlist is great: "EYE CANDY ! SPECIAL EFFECTS !" Sure, why not?

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Menu System
Download (28 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 4

Standoff Mission Programming is Done

The guys working on Standoff continue to make progress on the game's fifth and final chapter. Quarto has finished programming all the missions, so testers are now able to play through the entire episode and examine it for bugs. Here's Eder with the details.
Soon, Earth itself shall be in our grasp!

"So, are you done yet?" - I asked Quarto about two hours ago.

"Not yet, I'm still launching missiles at Earth" - was the reply. Uh... did we just give away too much information? ;-)

Seriously - we're done. As I write this, Quarto's still running the mission time and again, checking if all the events fire off and such, but the mission is finished. Standoff's final mission has been completed. Now, at last, our testers will be able to go through the entire episode on both paths. And they'll undoubtedly report dozens more bugs all over the place - I'm sure Quarto can't wait.

I'm sorry, I just have to say that again. This bears repetition :-). Standoff's very final, absolutely final mission has been completed. Just check out our progress page :-).

Meanwhile, yes, I am still working away on the graphics improvements. Honestly, I'll probably still be finishing them up a week before release, there's quite a lot still to be done. Sorry about the lack of screenshots, but right now, every screen would contain a mix of improved and unimproved stuff, and that would spoil the effect. We won't keep you waiting until everything is 100% done, though - I'm going over the ships one by one, so when we get to the point where we can put together a few combat screens with no unimproved stuff on screen, you'll get to see it too.

So how about the rest of the team? Well, having finished another year at university, Michael is working hard on getting the last music pieces done. And finally, the cutscene voiceovers continue flowing in. Only two characters still need to deliver anything for the cutscenes - you know who you are, so hurry up :-P.

If you haven't played through the first four episodes yet, now would be a good time to get started. You need the 112 meg Secret Ops starter pack and the 270 meg Standoff Episodes 1-4 bundle to play. Once you reach Episode 2, your training simulator scores can be tracked by our online scoreboard. Detailed instructions are available here. The installation of Standoff does not interfere with Secret Ops.

Making the Game: Hugh's Tasks for March 1997

We've already seen Hugh David's task list for June, 1997 -- now here's March.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Hugh's Tasks for March 1997
Download (25 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

WCPedia Summer Schedule

Dundradal intends to have all the Wing Commander 1 missions plugged into the WCPedia in time for the CIC birthday. Most of this should already be covered, but let him know here if you notice anything missing.
Update to my status....well my plans for the 2nd week of June obviously went out the window, as have devoting time in the following weeks. However, during July I won't have as much outside work to do and should be able to finish up those mission entries.

My goal is to have WC1 missions done by the CIC bday and get a bit into SM1. I don't believe there is too much left of WC1 to cover, but if someone would like to go through and see if anything is missing and put it on a to-do list that would be great.

While the effort has so far been focused on a few specific areas, everyone is welcome to sign up and work on whatever they feel like. Article templates have been set up for common entry types like character biographies, ship classes and star systems. Example articles (linked from the front page) demonstrate how you can use the templates for adding information in the standardized WCPedia style. General rules and guidelines can be found here.

To prevent automated spam abuse, new CIC Wiki accounts need to be individually approved. When registering, be sure to put a line or two into the 'biography' box to prove you're not a robot. If you're in a hurry to have your account approved, you can contact us or Dundradal on IRC, via e-mail or on the Forums.

Making the Game: Localization of Game Text

Another element of game development we forget about is the international factor; Wing Commander sold as well in Europe (especially in France and Germany) as it did in the United States -- and rolling out translated versions was a lot easier when the team thought ahead to plan for how they would work.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Localization of Game Text
Download (54 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 16

WB Picks Up Movie Rights to Forstchen Novel

Wing Commander author Dr. William Forstchen's latest work, which we last mentioned back in August of 2008, has been garnering a lot of critical attention since its release. One Second After is a modern apocalyptic novel that deals with the after effects of an EMP wave that knocks out the world's technology over night.

The novel has been rising the charts and is now a New York Times "Best Seller." The novel has also been optioned by Warner Brothers for a potential motion picture project. Check out the One Second After website for video interviews with Dr. Forstchen and Newt Gingrich on the realities of the threat of EMP attacks on the United States (or any other country for that matter). You can order the novel from Amazon.

Overnight, the world's trains, planes, cars, trucks, phones, computers, power plants and electrical equipment come to a sudden screeching stop. Nor will they ever start up again. The world is in chaos, and everyone wants to know why. Some evangelicals believe the Rapture is at hand. Other fundamentalists see the Cloven Hoof of Satan in the catastrophe. UFO cultists preach the coming of intergalactic aliens. Secularists envisage a host of earthly enemies - Chinese communists, Islamic fanatics, eco-terrorists, and energy industry magnates. New Agers prophesize the dreaded Mayan apocalypse. Is it aliens from space or is it the apocalypse? Human violence or the wrath of an angry god?

Whatever the cause, the modern age has come to an end. Looting, food riots, and global insurrection are the order of the day, and the New Dark Ages are suddenly upon us.

Can this global anarchy be stopped? Can the End Time be reversed?

A small mountain village in the American South is humankind’s last best hope.

Making the Game: Wing Commander 3 PSX Post Mortem

Since Wing Commander Prophecy was originally to be developed for the Playstation, it makes sense that the team would be looking at what went wrong with WC3 PSX. Some interesting comments here, especially about centering for the TV. Note that the issue about the discs scratching likely refers to the original 'big box' version of the game which included plastic sleeves instead of a jewel case.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Wing Commander 3 PSX Post Mortem
Download (15 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Standoff Rerecording Intro

There's more good news in the retroactive Standoff business. In addition to graphical updates and new cutscenes, the game's introduction is now being rerecorded. As certain team members work major parts of the game needed for completion, others have been freed up to go back and tweak quite a few things. In the five years since the release of Standoff Episode 1, the team's modding abilities have grown by leaps and bounds. Even veteran players will want to go back through and replay the earlier chapters. Episode 5 is just ten weeks away!

Making the Game: PSX Hardware Performance

Early on in Wing Commander Prophecy's development, the need to keep pace with the Sony Playstation version of the game (later cancelled) was a limiting factor; the hardware wasn't as powerful (or as easy to develop for) as the PC. Here is one of the team's early studies of what was possible from a PSX hardware standpoint.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

PSX Hardware Performance
Download (18 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

Explore the Evolution of Gaming Graphics

TechRadar has run an article on the evolution of video game graphics. They cover a lot of history and go into some of the tricks and trends used at different points in time. Various screenshots show how certain games have and have not aged well over the years. There is also some good conversation on the usage of three dimensions (in both 2D and 3D-accelerated environments). Wing Commander's role gets an honorable mention. Check out the whole article here.

The main reason for this was that sprites offered more detail than the polygons of the time could handle. Much like the early days, it was fine to have simple iconic shapes for spaceships and the like, which is why X-Wing's instantly recognisable ship silhouettes worked so well. However, early games didn't even have texture mapping (instead relying on simple colours and shading based on the position of the area's light source) and 3D characters were awkward-looking, low-polygon affairs.

With sprites, if you could draw it, the computer could handle it. When making Doom, id actually modelled several of its more complicated characters in clay then photographed them from multiple angles to maintain consistency.

The first Wing Commander games used a clever trick to fake space, simply moving and scaling sprites in front of the camera to add depth. It fell down when approaching capital vessels, but made for instantly recognisable ships and graphical assets that sat comfortably alongside the character portraits used in menus and cut-scenes.

Making the Game: Hugh's Tasks

Here's another look at a Wing Commander Prophecy programmer's day job: this checklist shows exactly what Hugh David was to accomplish in June, 1997 -- everything from writing code to start ships moving to working out the coolest way to display a jump effect in-engine.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Hugh's Tasks
Download (32 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 8

Frank Savage at the PDC

This one is a cool video of Frank Savage's presentation to the 2008 Professional Developer's Conference on the abilities of the XNA Creator's Kit. He's wearing a totally badass TCS Victory (WC3 dev team) t-shirt and mentions Wing Commander at the outset.

At about 11 minutes in he mentions being a big Wing Commander fan and then goes on to demonstrate a space game he's been working on with the XNA toolset. It's probably similar to the one he did a tutorial of at the Korea game conference for which the source code was recently released.

Grab the whole video here! (324 meg wmv)

Making the Game: What's Bad for Gameflow?

This is an interesting document. One thing Wing Commander IV's development lacked was good communication between the group shooting the film segments and the group in Austin tasked with tying everything together in to a game. As a result, a lot of little things were missed that couldn't be fixed later -- sets weren't built/lit with gameflow menus in mind, moving "postage stamps" of the actors weren't shot, etc. For Wing Commander Prophecy, this list was created to avoid those issues happening a second time.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

What's Bad for Gameflow?
Download (10 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

The Fat Man Tears Some New Ones

The audio magazine Mix (Mix Online) has conducted an interview with famous Wing Commander musician George "The Fat Man" Sanger. It's a cool article that starts with some Wing Commander history and then delves into Sanger's personal background. There is also some good discussion on how involved he feels game musicians should have with the game design. Check out the full interview here.

It wasn't too long ago that videogames represented an interest of less than 10 percent of the nation's population. That meant if you sold 1 million copies of a game, you were wildly successful. A handful of developers created games that were this financially successful, one of which was Wing Commander, released in 1990. Not only did the game sell well more than 1 million copies, but it also represented the first time a game programmer (Chris Roberts, who was also the game's designer) went on to direct a feature film. One of Wing Commander's most notable aspects was its soundtrack: A groundbreaking leap was taken in cinematic presentation, and the soundtrack followed suit with a John Williams/Alan Silvestri-inspired score that made players' jaws drop, especially on high-end sound modules such as the Roland MT-32.

...

People would say, “What does surf music have to do with black T-shirts and pixels? This isn't game music!” [Laughs] So, good. I always took my eclectic tastes for granted and assumed there were a lot of other people who wanted to make exciting and extreme stylistic combinations. Maybe I was gifted, maybe I was cursed. When I do it, it confuses the hell out of people. I just make any noise, any style, and try to make it impactful to the heart rather than in a specific style for its own sake.

Making the Game: Gameflow Conversation Tracking

'Gameflow', at least in Wing Commander development, refers to the 'aboard ship' portions of the game -- where you travel around, click on movies, interact with menus and so forth. This document explains how the game handles those shipboard images -- how it knows what to display at what time (ie, Maniac in the background inviting the player for a cutscene versus an empty room).

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Gameflow Conversation Tracking
Download (31 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

Standoff Incorporates Improvements

The folks working on Standoff continue to make advances to the game's engine that were just a dream when the first episode was released. Not only will Episode 5 be an explosive and exciting conclusion to the popular Secret Ops mod, but it will also revitalize the earlier chapters as well. Here's Eder with a few more details.
Gearing up...

It's been a fairly quiet week. With Quarto away last weekend and then busy most of the week, there's literally no mission progress to speak of. He's promising, though, to put in a major effort this coming weekend. Sure would be nice if he could finally get that last mission finished. You know, the one he was supposed to finish two months ago (...or something like that).

But, just because Quarto's being lazy doesn't mean the rest of the team has been standing still. I've been continuing on the graphics improvement work, and makign good progress. Though, you know, with all the additional possibilities that Alex has provided us over the recent months, and the things he says he could do if we wanted, I get the feeling that by the time our release rolls around, we'll still have half a dozen unused ideas for graphics improvements. That's really pretty damned great. It may well be that the Vision engine is still good for another few years... of course, if there is someone out there willing to use it (hey, we've given a decade of our lives to WC modding already! :-P ).

Making the Game: End Tasks

This list, divided by programmer assigned to the job, shows what tasks remain to be finished for Wing Commander Prophecy. Hugh David is supposed to finish the cloaking effect before the game can go into beta -- guess that didn't work out...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

End Tasks
Download (25 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 4

Freddie Prinze Jr.: "24's New Ass-Kicking Bad Boy?"

Everyone's third favorite Christopher Blair will be appearing next year in a high profile role next to Kiefer Sutherland in Fox's 24 television show. Several Wing Commander actors have appeared in various cameos, but this new position will be a regular starring role. E! Online is pretty excited about it.
Sources said Prinze is joining the cast of the Fox series "24" as a regular, playing Davis Cole, a recently returned Marine who runs CTU Field Ops and wants to follow in the footsteps of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).

Prinze is one of several new cast members on the real-time drama, whose upcoming eighth season started production Wednesday. Anil Kapoor ("Slumdog Millionaire") plays a Middle East leader, Chris Diamantopoulos is the president's new chief of staff, and John Boyd is cast as a CTU systems analyst. All three are regulars, while Jennifer Westfeldt has come aboard in the recurring role of a journalist.

Making the Game: Comms

This conceptual document explains how Wing Commander Prophecy handles different types of in-flight comms. Check out the eight-step checklist required for a player-called communication message to play. Things that seem easy can be very complex...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Comms
Download (35 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 4

Raph Koster On Games As Art

GigNews has posted an article by former Privateer Online designer Raph Koster about "Video Games and Online Worlds as Art." We've posted several interviews and articles by Koster over the years, and they're pretty consistently innovative and thoughtful on the game industry. In this piece he substiantiates his position by detailing how games have the ability to convey significant experiences, emotion and entertainment at the same time. The secondary goal of his article is to enhance the quality of games by helping more developers to understand the scope and possibilities of their work. He mentions several Origin games and veteran Origin developers while trying to make his point. Check out the full article here.
To my mind, all arts are based around communicating something. They use a particular medium to communicate within the constraints of that medium, and often what is communicated is, in fact, thoughts about the medium itself (in other words, a formalist approach to arts--much modern art falls in this category). The medium shapes the nature of the message, of course, but the message can be representational, impressionistic, narrative, emotional, intellectual, or whatever else. Some art forms are solo, and some are collaborative (and they can all be made collaborative to an extent, I believe). And some media are actually the result of the collaboration of specialists in many different media, working together to present a work that is incomplete without the use of multiple media within it. Film is one such medium. And video games is another.

...

In all of the above, I've barely touched on one other, even more controversial, aspect of regarding games as art, and that is the responsibility of the artist. At a recent E3 convention, someone in the press asked Warren Spector what he thought of the trend of dumbing down games to make them accessible to a wider market. Now, Warren's a pretty opinionated and blunt guy (he's also a pretty good guitar player) and his answer was, "I don't want to make games for stupid people." At that same time, Richard Garriott was demonstrating Ultima IX: Ascension, a game clearly intended in part to make the narrative RPG experience more accessible and immersive. Either way, each of them was living up to the artistic responsibility to themselves: the responsibility to pursue their vision (and, lucky them, they are at points in their careers where they are free to do so!).

Making the Game: Cockpit

This document explains how the game must be told to render its "in engine" cockpits; unlike previous games, which had large image files placed over the space-scape, Wing Commander Prophecy had three-dimensional 'struts' rendered in real time to give the illusion of a moving fighter cockpit. I still wish we'd seen a Wing Commander game with a Strike Commander-style "virtual cockpit", though...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Cockpit
Download (14 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Kilrathi Female Render Improved

Michelle D has returned to rendering a Kilrathi female. The latest samples are a big improvement over the first releases, and even the model's uniform is looking better. The red flight suit material is based off the designs in Super Wing Commander or the Wing Commander Movie. After it's complete, the creation could be used in a brief CGI scene or story that is being fleshed out. Check out more (creepy) shots over at Crius.net.

Making the Game: Wing Commander 4 Post Mortem

One of my favorite documents of all time; this Wing Commander 4 post mortem interviews a number of familiar developers to get their reaction to the game. It's interesting how few of them have actually played the game -- I guess after working so hard you want to do anything but. The strangest thing? The one guy who wants profit-sharing... not likely.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Wing Commander 4 Post Mortem
Download (53 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 36

Paladin in Sci-Fi Universe

Felagund recently found an article scan online about Wing Commander 3 and 4 actor John Rhys-Davies and his various TV sci-fi roles. The article comes by way of the Sliders fan site Earth 62 and the now defunct 'Sci-Fi Universe Magazine'. John's Wing Commander role not only gets a mention but a nifty picture too. Check out the full article here.

Making the Game: XMIFF

I'm not even going to pretend to understand what XMIFF is, but here's the readme. What's new? "XMIFF contains much of the same functionality of the original MIFF program, but with a few extra features thrown in to add flexibility to the MIFF language. In general, syntax changes were made to make MIFF more like the C programming language. This document assumes that you are familiar with the old MIFF program and its syntax. "

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

XMIFF
Download (23 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 6

A Belated Thanks

This story is one that originally fell behind the desk last year. NinjaLA drew this picture to commemorate the completion of our Mythic Archiving Project. It's a super nice representation of a Scimitar. Additional distribution of the Origin archive data is currently on hold, but check out the photo gallery from the event here if you missed it earlier.

Making the Game: Alpha Schedule

Here's the July through November, 1997 schedule for Wing Commander Prophecy's programmers. How long did asommers have for asteroid fields? Three days!

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Alpha Schedule
Download (31 kb)

Date: September 30, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 6

Kilrathi Invasion Fleet Gets Home Base

The Invasion mod continues to sweep through Star Wars: Empire at War. The Kilrathi starbase has been added to the game and is pictured below. Quite a bit of technical tweaking remains, but core elements like ships and gameplay design are coming together well.

It's been a while with any kind of update, but at long last the mod is at a good point in production. There is still much to do the Kilrathi basic side is in game. All the units still use the same weapons as the stock game but function well. As shown in this image the Kilrathi Starbase is working fine and does look a little strange as it's using the same texture set as the capital ships. This is intentional and is very unlikely to be changed. The Kilrathi also have 6 fighter classes as their basic setup.

Making the Game: AI

Have you ever noticed that reviewers, professional and otherwise, are always critical of a game's "AI"? It's become a catch-all complaint and is usually worded as if to say: why didn't you just plug a human brain into the thing? That isn't how it works -- as this short document indicates, building an "AI" is actually an exercise in developing proper reactive processes.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

AI
Download (14 kb)

Date: April 23, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Standoff Ready Room Refurbished

In the five years since the prologue chapter was released, a number of graphical enhancements have put Standoff's visuals far ahead of what was originally possible in Prophecy's Vision engine. The screenshot archive on the project website illustrates how far the team has managed to push the classic game engine. As the release date for Standoff's fifth and final chapter draws closer, the team is also going back and bringing the graphics of the first chapters up to standard. This week, Eder is giving us a taste of the new and improved ready room on the Lionheart. The original design and the new version are shown here side by side.

Eder also reports a lot of progress in other areas:
Incoming voiceovers

That sure is a heck of a lot of bugs we saw squished this past week. More importantly, just days after completing the scripts for the new cutscenes, we've already received most of the voiceovers. That's one thing we've learned over the years - modders, take note! Get *all* the writing done *first*. Don't even think about looking for actors until you've written every single line. There's always this urge to assign roles as soon as you can, just to see some progress. Resist that urge. Send an actor all his lines all at once, and he'll get back to you after a few days with everything you wanted. But if you send him a few lines, write some more, contact him half a year later with another few scenes... well, he might have time, or he might not. He might not even be around any more. We've been lucky enough not to have this problem with these extra scenes, but over the years we could have avoided a lot of trouble had we stuck to that rule. Of course, that might have also made episodic releases more difficult...

The graphical upgrades are continuing too. Most of our efforts have been devoted to spaceflight, but some other things have also been getting improved. In particular, we've completely redone the ready room screen on the Lionheart - the old one never really looked too great . You can check out the new one on the screenshots page.

If you haven't already, now would be a good time to play through the first four episodes. You need the 112 meg Secret Ops starter pack and the 270 meg Standoff Episodes 1-4 bundle to play. Once you reach Episode 2, your training simulator scores can be tracked by our online scoreboard. Detailed instructions are available here. The installation of Standoff does not interfere with Secret Ops.

Making the Game: Technical Support

And with that we leave design and delve back into the game's back end, the guts that keep it running. This document lists what 'technical support' the team needs for the project -- what software should be installed, how it should be configured and so forth. It may seem dry at first, but it's actually absolutely fascinating learning things like what version of DirectX each machine needed to have and why each team member was to have a monochrome monitor (for bug reports?).

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Technical Support
Download (26 kb)

Date: August 5, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Ascii Sector to Feature Storyline

Chris Knudsen is planning to add a storyline to Privateer: Ascii Sector. The project has a forum where you can comment on this and other plans for future development. You can also submit bug reports there.
I've managed to maintain save game compatibility since the first release two years ago, so that shouldn't become a problem. As to adding a storyline; yes, that's definitely something I have planned. It will kinda be split into two parts. The first part will have you flying around in your own ship, doing various missions and getting involved in some shady business. This will result in an event that will cut off the sector from the rest of the universe and cast it into a massive war between the various factions. At this point, you'll be able to buy your own base (if you have enough credits) and start building your own fleet to attempt to take over the entire sector and restore peace. There will be some strategy and RTS elements, as you control your fleet(s) in battle on board your flagship. You can read more about my future plans in the "Development Discussion and Suggestions" forum of my board.

Making the Game: Wish List for Prophecy

Rmember that Wilford line about all system's being equal from Wing Commander IV before you complain about today's update. This is a 'design wish list' for Wing Commander Prophecy... unfortunately, it's only a four item list. Still, it's right on the money: we all wanted to see the TCS Eisen...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Wish List for Prophecy
Download (19 kb)

Date: March 25, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

Space Sim First Look: Heresy War

Heresy War is a new space combat sim by Dream Builder Studios. If it were even possible, it's seemed lately like the pace of new space sims popping up has slowed even further, so seeing another pretty one here is nice. The settings look diverse and beautiful from what can be seen so far. It's hard to get a read on the somewhat cliche background story, but hopefully the overall package will turn out well. There is an official forum to provide more direct feedback. "Also, the game is one of the last 8 finalists of www.2beegames.com competition and it needs all the votes it can get from space sim fans. Advancing in that competition will only accelerate the development and will help publish this game."
Heresy War is a combat space simulator currently under development at Dream Builder Studios. It is set in a future where the humanity has reborn from the ashes after a catastrophic world war. The game puts the player in the cockpit of the most technologically advanced fighters in the human military fleet (The Core) as he witnesses the start of a civil war.

Making the Game: Weapons

I think this is the coolest document we've showcased thus far: it's the original descriptions of all the game's guns (ie, how they work and their backgrounds) which includes MS Paint drawings of what all their 'bullets' should look like! Very, very interesting.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Weapons
Download (98 kb)

Date: October 20, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 21

Two Months To Party Time

Where does the time go? If you've been watching your calendars like we have, you know that we're now less than two months away from the CIC's 11th Birthday! Be sure to set aside Monday, August 10 for the annual online birthday party in #Wingnut. The fun begins at 7:00 pm Eastern US time (4:00 pm Pacific and 11:00 pm GMT). That time kicks off a 60 minute countdown to our actual anniversary moment.

The long-awaited conclusion to Wing Commander Standoff will also be released that night, and I expect some exciting games of Prophecy multiplayer, Armada online or Wing Commander Arena to get going with this critical mass of Wing Commander fans present in one place. First time visitors can drop by #Wingnut easily via our web interface. See you there!

Making the Game: Simulator

Here's another 'big' document -- or, at the very least, it's chock full of charts. We've seen a lot of detail on specific simulator missions that didn't pan out... now here's their wrapper! This document is the interface proposal for the simulator menus which... ended up being significantly different in the finished game. I love the inclusion of the warbook right there, though (I always wondered why the Midway had a little ships guide touchscreen on the rec room wall).

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Simulator
Download (168 kb)

Date: March 25, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 7

Catch Up On Your Moldy Oldies

Here's an unusual 'top ten' (actually 21) list. Crispy Gamer has posted an article celebrating Gaming's 21 Greatest Old People. I've never heard of some of these guys, but our very own Admiral Tolwyn made the list at number nine. Check out the full list here.
Notes: Tolwyn was originally merely a cartoon of an old guy. But in the later, full-motion-video iterations of the game, decorated thespian Malcolm McDowell stepped into the role to lend gravitas to lines like, "Mankind was at his zenith when fighting the Kilrathi."

Making the Game: Weapon Stats Confed

You must have known this was coming: proposed weapons specifications for Wing Commander Prophecy's Confed ships. There are a number of interesting things here which didn't make it into the final game, including an EMP anti-turret gun for fighters and a "Vertical Launch Cell" missile for capital ships. The latter sounds like something straight from the pages of early-1990s Aces Club fan fiction...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Weapon Stats Confed
Download (33 kb)

Date: July 14, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Saga on Missile Detail

The Wing Commander Saga team has released another set of screenshots. This time, the team is showcasing their incredibly detailed Confederation missile designs. Check out their website for even more examples.

Shareware Book Has Wing Commander Notes

This one comes from the website of Steve Coallier, a senior Electronic Arts development director that worked on Wing Commander at Origin back in the mid '90s. He's posted a shareware book called MAKING FUN: How to Score a Career in the Video Game Industry. It's a lengthy piece that begins with history of the game industry and the background of game development. It continues on with quite a bit of detail on things like technical aspects, characters and genre considerations. All that is just the first half however, and the second part of the book details how an interested person might get into the gaming industry. There's a couple Wing Commander anecdotes mentioned throughout as well. Since this is a shareware book, if you like it, Steve is accepting donations at the Paypal link on his front page. You can find it all here.
A Post-Note About Ports

Porting is the process of taking a game that works on one platform and making it work on another platform. My first programming job in the industry was porting: taking Sierra Online’s games that worked on the IBM PC and making them work on the Commodore Amiga. I did it again in 1994 and 1995 when I co-led a small team of engineers and artists who took the PC version of Origin’s Wing Commander III: The Heart of the Tiger and made it work on the then-brand-new Sony Playstation.

On the surface porting sounds fairly easy. In fact, it was dismaying how even executives who had at one time been engineers themselves seemed to think it was no more difficult than copying the assets to the new target platform and pressing a button. I suspect they were just being impatient! But no, porting is actually very challenging work. Essentially, you are trying to get a very different set of hardware to produce as close a result as possible to the original…like trying to make a buzzard and a canary to chirp the same tune. The graphics chipset is usually not the same, so you must rewrite the graphics code. Same for the audio hardware, and the way the target platform for the port reads from its storage media (if it even has storage media), and how the controllers are laid out and read from.

There are two general approaches to porting: parallel and serial. In the parallel approach all platforms are built at the same time. This is the ideal approach from a marketing standpoint because it lets the company concentrate its marketing efforts on one release date, which tends to have the strongest effect on sales. It’s tough to do technologically and logistically however, because it is difficult to keep the different platforms in synch and it always seems like one or more platforms are neglected. The smart money makes sure that the platform with the most hardware units sold is not the neglected one.

The serial approach, which we basically used for Wing Commander III, was to wait until one platform was finished and then make it work on the next platform. Actually the PC was not quite finished, but it was done and shipped months before the Playstation version shipped. This means anyone working on the secondary platform or platforms is not trying to hit a moving target. If there are enough platforms, or if the individual versions must for some reason be different (like some of them must run on much less capable or more capable hardware), then it is possible to combine both approaches. You can develop a subset of the target platforms together, and save 37 one or more for later. This approach is common when one version is to run on a handheld platform and therefore must be scaled down in scope or even completely re-designed.

Unnamed Space Sim Looking Shady

|BoH_Havoc|'s multiplayer space sim is coming along nicely. He's released a batch of beautiful screenshots with improved shaders implemented. Engine effects and lighting have also been improved. Havoc reports that the internet code seems to be working well, which is very important in this multiplayer-centric game. Wingmen AI is up next on the list of things to do. Check out more screenshots and help provide feedback over at Crius.net.

Making the Game: Weapon Stats Alien

Here's another favorite: the data used for simulating the alien guns in Wing Commander Prophecy. Note the 'internal' names for the Nephilim weapons stats -- "Tongue of Death" and "Disco Ball" are a heck of a lot more memorable than seven varieties of Masers...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Weapon Stats Alien
Download (21 kb)

Date: July 14, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 1

Standoff Wraps Cutscene Scenarios

With under ten weeks to go until Standoff's fifth and final episode is released, the team continues to make progress across the board. Each week, a new status report is posted on their website. Here is Eder with the latest word:
More bugfixing

Quite a solid chunk of bugfixing done this week. And Quarto's actually sitting and fixing more bugs as we speak, so we're clearly not done yet ;-). He's also inched a little forward with his last mission, but honestly, I don't think he spent more than half an hour on it this week :-P. Meanwhile, I'm still going with the ship overhaul operation, and Pierre's working on some improvements to the online simulator scoreboard, together with the CIC's Kris Vanhecke.

Other than that, we're done writing the new cutscenes, and Tempest is already sending them out to people. Hopefully, we'll get a quick response from the actors involved.

If you haven't played through the first four episodes yet, now would be a good time to get started. You need the 112 meg Secret Ops starter pack and the 270 meg Standoff Episodes 1-4 bundle to play. Once you reach Episode 2, your training simulator scores can be tracked by our online scoreboard. Detailed instructions are available here. The installation of Standoff does not interfere with Secret Ops.

Making the Game: War Room

This large document is what the Wing Commander Prophecy team used to organize 'gameflow'; specifically, which video plays where, which interactive 'gump' shows up where and so forth across the game's process. Really interesting stuff for someone with a few hours on their hands.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

War Room
Download (159 kb)

Date: September 15, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 58

Standoff Fan Guide Needs Volunteers

Dundradal has a rough edit of a Standoff Game Guide that covers the first four episodes. Besides additional graphics and general editing, it still needs a lot of fact-checking before it can be released to the public. One option is for a few volunteers to play through the game, while checking the guide for validity. If this is something you feel like contributing to, head to the Forums and let Dundradal know.
Thinking about this, it might be nice to do two things at once. I could start another replay, this time of Standoff (granted we left off on SO, but considering the release for Ep5, I think the other OSI games can wait just a bit). I could upload the relevant episode's guide section so that players could compare it to what's in the game and then update me if they find differences.

Is anyone up for a little gameplay/fact-checking?

Making the Game: Squadrons

Squadrons is one of my favorite background documents; this includes a list of all the game's pilots, their ranks, their squadrons, information on each squadron's role and a chart of Terran Confederation ranks. The latter is taken straight from Victory Streak (despite the 'version 1.1' notation) -- Major and Lieutenant General are still swapped.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Squadrons
Download (26 kb)

Date: September 15, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 7

Another Call for Space Trading Combat Comeback

There were a number of classic game remakes announced at E3 this week, but space sims were noticeably lacking. PSP World seems to agree, and they've written an article about space traders and other games that need to be made. They particularly zero in on single player games too. These updates can get a little repetative, but the message is clear and important to spread around!
Apparently there was a story to Wing Commander: Privateer, but we forgot what it was because we were too busy trading with Pirates and running contraband to New Detroit. The concept of these games is simple, but incredibly compelling: The player is given a ship with guns on the front and storage bays in the back. Sent out into the vastness of space, the player interacts with alien races both friendly and not, while trading commodities between systems to improve their ship and equipment. Outside of MMOs like Earth and Beyond, there really haven't been any good single-player entries in the genre since pre-2000, and yet the definitive example has certainly yet to be made. Here's an example where current-gen hardware could really be put to work. Imagine if Mass Effect gave players total freedom to travel between planets, trade with them, and pilot their own fighter, in addition to the detailed RPG elements. Sure, the final product would probably need to ship on 4 separate disks, but it would be worth it.

Making the Game: Special Effects

Special Effects is another brainstorming 'wishlist' type document, explaining exactly what the team will need to develop in order to wow players in the final game. A lot of these are very simple today (particularly various lighting effects) but were groundbreaking at the time. One interesting note: "11. Chaff will be a bright orange light, much like the Academy cartoon." Interesting, if unusual, reference!

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Special Effects
Download (18 kb)

Date: March 25, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 4

FreeDO WC Compatibility Fixed In Russia

Darkmage reports that there's a new version of FreeDO with improved emulation support for Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3 on the 3DO. There are some problems with the colors and it's being developed primarily in Russian, but game performance is significantly better. Head over to Crius.net for links and to discuss further improvements.

Making the Game: Spaceflight

This very detailed document lays out the Wing Commander Prophecy design team's hopes and dreams for the game's cockpits. It's interesting, as always, to see the amount of thought that went into this aspect of the game... but there are plenty of other fascinating aspects here. One is the importance of the 'WildWeasel' loadouts at this point in the game's design phase; I know they made it through to the finished game... but in such a fashion as you rarely even notice them.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Spaceflight
Download (2,433 kb)

Date: June 9, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 15

Gratha Gets Decals

Michelle D has posted several new pictures of her revamped Gratha model. These shots are larger and posed more seductively than the last batch. The structure of this new version tries to stay close to the original game design. Help provide feedback over at Crius.net.
So far just the ambient occlusion, some engine detail, and three Kilrathi characters. I changed the mesh some too. Trying out a bump map for some surface detail. I used the Super Wing Commander box art for the 3DO as a design and color reference. The grating on the back looks a bit out of place, probably because I tried to add something that didn't reflect the box art.

Making the Game: Sound Effects

Today's Making the Game document is an organized list of desired sound effects for the game. No big revelations here... but it's always interesting to see the sheer amount of thought that needs to go into planning something that ultimately feels natural to the player. If you were asked to come up with sound effects for an entire game which doesn't exist yet, would you be able to think of things like a SWACS sonar ping?

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Sound Effects
Download (18 kb)

Date: March 25, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 2

Ascii Sector Smokes Bugs

Chris Knudsen has released a new version of Privateer Ascii Sector. Version 0.5.3.3 is a bug fix release that takes care of a few show-stopping problems. Chris has the details below. Download the game here.
  • Fixed bug with "rescue ejected pilot" fixer mission.
  • Fixed bug with the saving of smoke information.
  • Fixed bug with using the mouse scroll wheel in the commodity exchange when showing the price graphs.
  • Fixed bug with turrets that could potentially crash the game.

Making the Game: Simulator5

This is the last Wing Commander Prophecy simulator mission for this series; it plans out (and details) an attack against a transport convoy... which is followed by an option to join in a Kilrathi clan rivalry! This would have made for a cool training flight...

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Simulator5
Download (29 kb)

Date: May 20, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 11

Standoff Makes Headway

The Standoff team continues to make progress on Episode 5's voice overs. They're also going back and adding more talking head scenes to Episode 1. Eder has more details:
Making scenes

Once again, not much progress on missions this week. Quite a bit of other progress, though. First up, Quarto's been busy writing new cutscenes. New cutscenes? Yep, new cutscenes - for Episode 1 :-). One of the things that has bothered us quite a bit is how Episode 1 stands apart from the rest of the game. The first talking heads scenes appeared right at the end of the episode, because... well, because that was when we figured out how to do them. The subsequent episodes have been full of talking heads, but the first episode remained empty. Now, still having some time to spare before the final release, we've decided to add a few scenes to the first episode. It's going to be quite an improvement, I think.

In other news, Tempest has delivered another chunk of voiceovers. Just 44 lines left to go... well, and another 20-30 new lines for the new scenes ;-). As for me, I'm just about done retouching the Kilrathi fighters, and starting on the human ships. Definitely a lot still left to do, but just wait till you see the end result :-).

Making the Game: Simulator4

Today's simulator mission includes the 'nuts and bolts' scripting... but it's a pretty simple mission. Simulator 4 trains you to fly a bomber (or in a bomber role, anyway) in an attack against two Kilrathi corvettes.

These updates are thanks to John "Captain Johnny" Guentzel, who provided several CD image archives of material used by the Wing Commander Prophecy development team!

Simulator4
Download (28 kb)

Date: May 20, 1997
Project: Wing Commander Prophecy
Donated By: John Guentzel
Pages: 6

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