BREAKING NEWS: EA Launches "Origin"

It turns out the GOG announcement was just the tip of the iceberg--or maybe just a distraction. It has just come out that Electronic Arts will formally launch their own "iTunes" style download service tomorrow. The system is called, wait for it, Origin, and will launch with more than 150 available games. If we don't see a Wing Commander, I'll eat my hat.

The news first broke in the Wall Street Journal:

Electronic Arts Inc. is starting an online service to sell downloadable games directly to consumers, as one of the world's biggest makers of videogames steps up a push to offer more of its wares over the Internet, rather than through discs at stores.

The Redwood City, Calif., software maker plans to unveil the service, called Origin, on Friday.

It will include an application, akin to Apple Inc.'s iTunes, that is designed to let consumers purchase, download and keep track of games for PCs, such as the company's "Battlefield" combat and "Need for Speed" racing games.

EA's service, which will open with more than 150 titles for sale, will also try to attract users with a range of Facebook-like social-networking features that let gamers on a variety of devices broadcast messages to online friends when they defeat online opponents or accomplish other gaming goals.

Origin initially won't sell games designed for consoles like Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, which have online-game stores controlled by their respective makers.

The EA service will have a handful of rivals, the biggest of which is Steam, a PC download service run by Valve Corp., a Bellevue, Wash., company that also makes some hit games, such as the recent "Portal 2." GameStop Corp., the biggest videogame chain, recently acquired a service called Impulse to help create its own game-downloading service for PCs.

In an interview, EA Chief Executive John Ricitiello called Origin one of the "cornerstones" of the company's multiyear effort to shift more of its business toward games that are played and distributed over the Internet. The category includes everything from games for Apple's iPhone and iPad to social games that are played on Facebook Inc.'s social network.

In recent years, EA's financial performance has suffered as growth in the company's core business of selling copies of its games in stores has slowed and its investments on the Internet, including a string of acquisitions, have been slow to pay off.

But investors appear to be growing more confident lately that Mr. Riccitiello's strategy is yielding results. Since the beginning of the year, EA's shares have risen 48%, though they slipped 19 cents to $24.24 in 4 p.m. trading Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

EA further buoyed investor sentiment last month when it reported $833 million in revenue from "digital" sources for the fiscal year ended March 31, equivalent to more than 20% of the company's total revenue, adjusted to exclude an accounting treatment related to online games and other items.

John Taylor, an analyst at Arcadia Investment Corp., said investors increasingly believe that "a lot of the heavy lifting has been done at EA," and that the company is coming out of a "period of playing defense and re-evaluation and is trying to go back out and play offense."

Another much-anticipated online project from EA is "Star Wars: The Old Republic," an online multiplayer game for PCs based on the George Lucas outer-space epic. EA will preview the product at next week's E3 games conference in Los Angeles. The game, the company's biggest development effort in years, is expected to go on sale sometime during the current fiscal year. EA hopes to give its new online store a boost by making Origin the only Internet-based service offering the "Star Wars" game, which will also be available in stores.

Even if consumers don't purchase games through Origin, they will be able to use it to create profile pages that record all of their scores and other progress on EA games and to establish Origin friend lists based on their friend lists on Facebook and other social networks.

The service will allow users to brag to their friends about their gaming accomplishments, a feature of Facebook games like FarmVille that has helped those games spread to other users.

"When I see you achieving and doing great things in your game, I'm more inclined to be more interested in that product because I have social proof that you're having a great time," said David DeMartini, EA's senior vice president of global online.

In coming months, EA plans to use Origin to allow players to spread their game playing across devices in novel ways, said Mr. DeMartini. One hypothetical example might involve an EA shooting game called "Battlefield," in which a player could earn "experience points" by practicing their sharp-shooting skills on a mobile version of the game. Those points could then be used to unlock privileges, like more accurate weapons, within an Xbox 360 version of the game, he said.

Don't Miss an Infoburst!

These are exciting times for Wingnuts everywhere! In addition to reloading, there's another way to stay tuned in to breaking Wing Commander news. The CIC Facebook Page is another resource to keep you linked with the WC community and on top of the latest headlines. Follow us here!

What's in a Name?

We're very excited about Electronic Arts' impending "Origin" announcement (especially if it offers access to classic Wing Commander games)... but we can't let the crazy name go without a friendly ribbing. Without further ado, Combat Information Center Comedy Classics presents THE TOP TEN REASONS ELECTRONIC ARTS NAMED THEIR NEW SERVICE ORIGIN:
10. Somewhat hard of hearing. OSI's slogan was 'Re-Create Words', right?

9. The Bullfrog Social Digital Distribution Service just sounds dumb.

8. Just good business sense to have your new branding initiative also serve as a constant reminder of your most terrible mistake.

7. Saved $20 by not having to buy a new domain name.

6. Thousands of pre-printed OSI travel mugs and Christmas ornaments have just been taking up space since 2003.

5. Actually stands for Online Reactive Interactive Gaming Information Network, had no idea they ever owned a company by the same name.

4. Millions of dollars spent on 'Ultima Worlds Online: Origin' were really to test max tolerance level for stupid places to use the name.

3. Because up yours, Lord British, that's why.

2. Always loved Origin name but was never happy about funding truly innovative, beloved game development.

1. Wanted to honor the grand legacy and tradition behind--haha, no, it's money.


Here are important highlights from today's amazing GOG announcement.
  • You can buy Privateer for $5.99 here.
  • Ultima Underworld 1 & 2 and Dungeon Keeper are also available at the same price.
  • More games from Electronic Arts' back catalog will be available soon, starting with another set of three at the end of June. These games will be Crusader: No remorse, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Magic Carpet.
  • GOG does not have the rights to every Origin game--there are licensing issues preventing the release of System Shock.
  • Privateer is the CD ("talkie") version but does not include Righteous Fire at this time. That may change in the near future.
  • Privateer includes the game's manual and reference card as downloadable PDFs.


Good Old Games has just announced that they have reached a licensing agreement with publisher Electronic Arts that will allow them to begin releasing Origin Systems' catalog of classic games. And the very first game availble--RIGHT NOW!--is Wing Commander Privateer! The first wave of games also includes the two Ultima Underworld titles, the criminally unappreciated primogenitors of the modern FPS/RPG combination game. It is expected that this announcement will mean that the rest of the Wing Commander series will be available for digital distribution, but details are not yet available as to release specifics. We will update with the press release and further information as the situation develops. In the mean time, enjoy some interesting history about connections between Wing Commander and the Underworld games!

Ultima Underworld II: Trilkhai Do Not Co-Exist

From a movie based on System Shock to a reference to the Crusader's WEC in Earth's history, Wing Commander has aways been happy to nod at Origin's other great franchises. The Ultima series, on the other hand, went even further--with several elaborate tributes to Wing Commander... and Ultima Underworld was no exception!

Ultima Underworld II introduces the "Trilkhai" (an anagram for Kilrathi), a race of telepathic cheetahs, to the Ultima world. While visiting Killorn Keep you may discover any number of these creatures wandering the castle. Clicking on any of them asks you to visit the stables for more information. When you do you can meet their leader, Blackie, who explains that his people are now slaves but that they once flew among the stars! This even starts a minor quest where you are asked to find more information about Trilkhai history.

Blackie: ...(Player Name)? I... see... in your mind that you can be trusted. That you are not from this world. That you are an... Avatar.

Avatar: Yes, that is correct.

Blackie: We have need of a... helper. But I see thou dost know nothing of our situation. The humans named us "Trilkhai." They do not know that we able to communicate in this way.

Avatar: Why don't you tell them?

Blackie: They might become afraid of us, and destroy us. It is safer that they think of us as animals.

Avatar: Then why entrust thy secret to me?

Blackie: I see that thou hast virtues that will prevent thee from betraying us. We must risk this, as many of us have need of a human agent in the keep.

Avatar: I will help thee where I can.

Blackie: Human, I am the oldest, and I have heard many stories of our race's past, wild tales of Trilkhai who flew among the stars, and hurled fire at the humans. I would learn if thou hast met any being who has knowledge of this.

Avatar: I have heard of none, but I shall look.

Blackie: If thou couldst learn the truth, it would be of great service to our race!

Towards the end of the game, while exploring the Ethereal Void, you encounter 'Wisp'. Trading information gives you the history of the Trilkhai and conclude's Blackie's quest: "Trilkhai were once a powerful group of anhropomorphic 'felines.' Since their catstrophic 'loss' to a group of humanoids, they have since devolved 'past' the point of 'tool-using'." Guess Tolwyn was wrong! (Or was he? Origin's guide to Ultima Underworld II explains that The Guardian is breeding Trilkhai for an uncertain purpose...)

If you're trying to make sense of the whole situation, you probably can't--it even directly contradicts Ultima VII's Wing Commander reference, which has a Bloodfang with a live 'Kill Wrathy' discovered in a farmer's field a year earlier (having crashed within living memory). The Trilkhai telepathy is also sort of funny, as it's the only trait the Kilrathi hadn't already borrowed from Larry Niven's Kzin!

The WC:CCG's Apeshredder looks like he could be Blackie's distant ancestor... or maybe he just looks like he may have eaten Blackie.

Ultima Underworld: Better Together!

You got The Stygian Abyss in my Vengeance of the Kilrathi! No, you got Vengeance of the Kilrathi in my The Stygian Abyss! No, wait, you're both right!

An apparent sad end to the Sons of Kilrah isn't the first Ultima Underworld/Wing Commander, connection! The advent of the CD-ROM in the early 1990s made re-releasing formerly diskette-based games far more affordable. As a result, Origin developed a number of succesful promotions involving existing titles: offering older games to retailers at a discount, collecting mission disks and speech packs in 'Deluxe Editions'... and pairing seemingly-unrelated games to get players hooked on multiple franchises.

The first of these releases was a CD-ROM containing the original Wing Commander and Ultima VI... and it was later followed by a disc with Wing Commander II and Ultima Underworld! The hope was that the packs would appeal to bargain hunters (as you can see, the fact that this package is a "$159.90 value" is highlighted on the box cover) who may have been familiar with only one of the games. Then Ultima fans would try Wing Commander and get hooked and vice versa! We can only hope that GOG will over the same pack someday.

One of the cool things about these re-releases is that they included all the paper manuals and maps--the idea of just sticking a PDF on the CD was years away!

Memento Mori

In this time of celebration we should take a moment to remember Electronic Arts' tragic first attempt to make Origin's catalog available online. In early 2006, GameTap announced that it had worked out an agreement with Electronic Arts to offer classic Origin games. They produced beautiful mailers announcing that classics such as Privateer and (oddly) Ultima I-XIII would soon be available through the service. And some were, briefly. For roughly nine months, GameTap made a number of Origin games available, including the first six Ultimas and Wing Commander I, II and IV. The games played beautifully in GameTap's special browser and we eagerly awaited each new release. Life was wonderful.

Until it wasn't. GameTap decided that new games would be a better use of their money and restructured their company. In the process they opted not to continue paying EA for the Origin rights. Coincidence or not, GameTap has been a disasterous, money-bleeding failure since that decision. GOG will be different--once you have a game through the service, it's yours forever... but we would all be wise to remember the lesson of GameTap, that good things can go bad fast, and buy those classic games as soon as they're available. View our GameTap memorial online here.

BREAKING NEWS: Ultima Forever Launches

LeHah reports that the Ultima Forever website has gone live! The finished site is very similar to the version leaked two days ago, with the addition of an advertisement for Ultima Online--it sounds like Electronic Arts is finally getting serious about preserving Origin's legacy! Fans can download a free copy of Ultima IV and learn more about Ultima history--it's a 27 meg download and includes copies of the manuals and cloth map.

It's possible, even likely, that we will know more this push in roughly an hour, when GOG announces their new licensing agreement. Here's to hoping we see in the near future. And if they want someone to run it, we're available! Stay tuned to the Combat Information Center for updates as the situation develops.

THIS JUST IN: Wing Commander IV PSN is Back!

Some happy, but less exciting, digital distribution news to start off the morning: Sony's PSN Store is back online... which means that the PSN version of Wing Commander IV is once again available! If you haven't put down the $5.99 to buy this great port then let the month-long service outage be a lesson to you: buy Wing Commander IV for the PS3 and/or PSP now!

Has the GOG of Man Abandoned Us?

No! Good Old Games will be announcing their big licensing deal at 3:00 PM EDT today--keep watching for updates as they become available... and cross your fingers!

Wing Commander CIC - Visit the front page

Official news, fan projects and topics of particular interest to Wing Commander fans. Recent updates:

TCS Wolfhound Gets Tag Teamed
2018-01-18 -- Deathsnake has a new video showing a Confed vs Kilrathi engagement in his Last Line of Defense project. It was announced last year that the endeavor was transitioning from a playable game to a more cinematic adventure using the mod's assets, and this video shows how that has progressed. It's certainly a pretty awesome battle captured here, and we're eager to see more!

Video Tutorial Shows Birth Of A WC Fan Project
2018-01-17 -- Longtime Wing Commander fan centaurianmudpig has posted something a little different. Lots of talented Wingnuts upload videos of the works in progress, but CMP recently livestreamed the entire creative process. He goes through bit-by-bit looking up tutorials, sampling graphics and writing Unity code.

Homeworld Mod Testing Fighter Visibility Updates
2018-01-16 -- L.I.F.

Vega Super Star Back In Action
2018-01-15 -- DefianceIndustries is back from a well deserved holiday break with a slick new wallpaper image. It features a cool new Rapier model first teased last October. This is the variant featured in Super Wing Commander and Arena, so it's a bit more flat and round than DOS or GOG players might be familiar with.

Rapier Research Leads To New Sighting
2018-01-14 -- Lilja saw our post a while back about one of the Lightning fighters that became a Wing Commander Movie Rapier at Pinewood Studios and decided to do some digging of his own. Finding where they've all ended up over the years has been an interesting endeavor, and through some clever investigation, he managed to track down some new information on the afterlife of these exotics birds. Immediately after the film's debut in 1999, fans spotted one Rapier at a Planet Hollywood in Ohio, and then a couple showed up for auction/rental/sale in the early 2000s.

Lego Darket Built Out Of Digital Bricks
2018-01-13 -- Lego Digital Designers Club has posted a neat virtual Darket made with Lego brand activity bricks. The color could probably go a bit more brown, but otherwise it's a pretty good design. All of the crazy Star Wars Legos out there sure make me wish we got these for real!

Annual Awards Voting In Full Swing
2018-01-12 -- Our annual community voting is now in progress, and Wingnuts like you are helping choose the Wing Commander Fan Project of the Year for 2017! Here are the nominees one more time. It's hard to choose because there's so many great projects going on, but vote below and help pick the winner!

Star Wars Excitement Spills Over Into Wing Commander
2018-01-11 -- Mark Hamill's return to the Star Wars series and starring role in The Last Jedi has also sparked a wave of interest in his work between epic film projects. The gaming press has largely already done this thanks to Mr. Hamill's role in Star Citizen, but now it's spreading to a more mainstream audience.

Catch Up On Everything Wing Commander Amiga
2018-01-10 -- Shot97 has put together an absolutely massive review of Wing Commander for Amiga systems. He covers every inch from top to bottom. Shot goes over what the game meant to him and then proceeds to cover the backstory, the impact of the characters, the depth of the manual, the significance of the Kilrathi, and that's just getting started.

Casper Van Dien On Wing Commander 4, Starship Troopers & Much More
2018-01-09 -- GeekScape has posted a podcast episode with Starship Troopers star Casper Van Dien. The actor is well known for his sci-fi acting, but he's also a director with a diverse variety of projects under his belt. He also had a brief cameo in Wing Commander 4, which is mentioned in the show.

Privateer Model Exploration Continues
2018-01-08 -- A lot of people have done some pretty nifty things with the Privateer 3D model archive over the years, but it can still be a slightly daunting task to dig into if you're an artistic novice. This is where fans come into play, and Wingnuts have continued to help their fellow Wingnuts learn how to navigate these waters. bai recently got some assistance unpacking some of the texture files and finding out how to convert and read them.

WC1&2 Audio Sound Comparison Presented In Easy Playlist Form
2018-01-07 -- pcuser1541 has put together a number of videos that showcase the wide variety of audio setups supported by the original Wing Commander games. SoundBlaster was the most common card of the day, but the Roland MT-32 was highly sought after early on and new variants continued to be released through numerous ports over nearly half a dozen years. There are examples from the Microsoft GS, FM Towns, Amiga, Macintosh, Super Nintendo and Sega CD.

GPD Win Is Latest Handheld To Showcase Wing Commander Emulation
2018-01-06 -- Alien Gray has posted a nifty video of the GPD Win playing the 3DO version of Super Wing Commander. This device actually runs Windows 10, but it's using the Project Phoenix emulator to get the game running. This is just the latest in a fascinating string of modern handheld devices that have managed to get various WC games running.

IMDB Takes Video Games To The Movies
2018-01-05 -- The Internet Movie Database has posted a photo gallery collage to highlight the history of video games crossing over to movies. There are 96 examples highlighted (a significant fraction of which are Resident Evil films), which is surprising in itself. Even more so, Wing Commander is chronologically listed in the first fifteen movies, so the genre has really exploded in recent years.

Childhood Adventures Explored On YouTube
2018-01-04 -- Claude Blair has put together an interesting video that reviews a large pile of Wing Commander documentation. After some initial introduction, he spends more than a half hour lovingly detailing the material on every page of Claw Marks. Obviously most of you are quite familiar with what's in the WC1 manual, but it's always fun to hear the perspective of someone who's so excited about it.

Happy New Year From George Oldziey
2018-01-03 -- George Oldziey is back with a New Year's message and Wing Commander album status update. He's anxiously preparing for the Wing Commander bar music recording happening next month as well as planning out the next steps for the orchestral portions of the album. He's also dug up a vintage interview that was published in the January 1999 edition of Film Score Monthly.

Kick Off 2018 With Some Slick Sketches
2018-01-02 -- Arne from Android Arts is currently putting together some awesome Wing Commander sketches. He started with an Exeter and has drawn a contemporary flotilla around it. There's also a gun mockup and fighter concept art, plus a really cute 'Dralthi Commander' diskette.

Happy New Year!
2018-01-01 -- The confetti is starting to settle, and those of us who had time off for the holidays are getting ready to go back to work now. We're all inspired by the last two days' worth of 2017 recaps. When it's all summed up like that, it's really astounding, and these are just the condensed highlights.

A Look Back At 2017
2017-12-31 -- The year 2017 is on the way out as I write this, so it's time to review what a wonderful year it's been. We got a taste of the action in yesterday's Fan Project of the Year roundup. There were lots projects that released some great things for the community over the past twelve months, including many playable adventures and multiplayer games.

Annual Community Vote Begins!
2017-12-30 -- It's almost 2018, so that means it's time for our annual contest tradition! One tweak this year is that we're combining the Fan Project and Web Site of the Year categories into one. While there were some great Wing Commander updates on the web, we didn't get enough nominations to make that standalone grouping competitive.

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