A (Not So) Hostile Introduction to Mission Building

Wing Commander Hostile Frontier has posted a new Dev Diary on the subject of level design. The article highlights the steps that result in a new mission. Overall, the concept is simple, but the technical details require a sharp designer. Kevin Caccamo is also looking for people who might be interested in making more missions for the game. Check out the WCHF Dev Diaries here.

Well, we are making good progress on some of the missions, but there is still much more work to do. Designing good-quality missions from the ground up is a long, involved process. The first step involves writing the mission script, which outlines what happens in the mission, what characters and ships appear, dialogue sequences, briefings and debriefings, objectives, etc. The mission script is NOT the one-and-only basis for the actual mission, although the mission events that the script outlines remain largely unchanged in the finished version of the mission.

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And at the end, it is indeed amazing to see how far the mission has come since it was started. I still have a few videos showing early versions of the WCHF missions, and after watching them through, I'm proud of my accomplishments so far, and I'm still improving my missions to perfection. Also, don't forget that we're still looking for people to help make the missions. If you're interested in joining the team, please contact me on the WCHF forum on HLP or by e-mail.

WC3 Intro a Game Star

German gaming website GameStar has run an article about the best video game intros of the '90s. Among the list are games like Strike Commander, Command and Conquer, and, of course, Wing Commander 3, with Privateer 2 getting an honorable mention. Here's the Google Translation:
Actually you could put every intro from a Wing Commander game on this list - especially the intro to Privateer 2 with Clive Owen in the lead role. But we have opted for Wing Commander 3, since it was revolutionary when it came out it 1994. Real actors in front of rendered backgrounds! And then even Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker, the actor in the role of Christopher Blair. Malcolm McDowell as Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, Jason Bernard as Captain William Eisen and Tom Wilson as nuisance Todd Marshall. Only the Kilrathi costumes were not well received by many players.

That's an odd comment about the Kilrathi costumes. Wing Commander 3's Kilrathi have won all polls where we've asked for fans' favorite.

Origin Discounts Classic Series

Electronic Arts' Origin game download store and social media platform is currently hosting its biggest sale to date. Several dozen hit titles are on sale for about $5. The service has started to add some back catalog games, including entries in the Sims, Command & Conquer, Medal of Honor and Battlefield franchises. Check out the full list of discounted games here, and act quick! The sale only lasts through July 31.

Saga Targets Content Milestone

Tolwyn reports that the WC Saga team can now envision the point where they will stop adding new content to the Freespace mod. A new beta will be released this weekend, and the focus will turn to balancing and bug fixing. Separately from the gameplay mechanics, they are also working on editing dialogue lines. The full update is available here. Here's a couple new pictures:

We are just a few weeks away from being content complete. During the next few days we will be working on missing assets as we get ready to lock down. Right now our big focus is on balance tweaks, bug fixing and the little details that make the game feel more "real".

Fleet Assembled for Last Line of Defense

There's a couple new images that show off the latest with Last Line of Defense. The first is an updated graphic highlighting the vertical launch system featured in the mod. It's a pretty good battle action shot as well. Deathsnake has also arranged all of the game's ships side-by-side in a massive comparison shot. Both the Behemoth and Hvar'kann have been shrunk down for framerate purposes. It's pretty cool to see everything spread out like this!

Here is the last ship with the VLS missile launcher. The Caernavon frigate is outgunned by the Ralarrad destroyer and even by the Kamrani corvette. I put here only one turret inside. It fire 2 VLS. With this firepower it is more powerful then the Kamrani and when the Ralarrad is not close enough, the Caernavon's VLS destroys the destroyer.

The Savannah, Talahassee and the Gettysburg have enough firepower with their AMG guns, but the frigate was outgunned for its class. I am building on another hull of a Talahassee to create a missile-only cruiser. The idea is from the Wing Commander Online project. It is not in the mod, because it's too overpowered, but it's a idea how Confeds forces can be gunned in the future beyond Prophecy.

EA Promotes "Origin" as Austin Studio Expands

Electronic Arts has been laying out its latest strategy in a recent series of calls and announcements. Joystiq quoted the company's CEO in regards to the current three-point plan:
For fiscal 2012 and beyond, the three pillars of EA's business growth are IP: "building roughly twelve franchises into year-round businesses across a range of platforms, packaged goods, and digital," Platform, "building a solid ecosystem for leveraging our content and services, focusing on our own platform, Origin, while supporting our retail partners," and, finally, Talent: "investing in our creative and engineering talent to drive and maintain our IP across multiple platforms from console to social and PC to mobile."
The company is also significantly boosting its Austin presence in the coming years. BioWare Austin's office will be growing by approximately 30 people in the next year, and this could eventually grow to 300 people working on a variety of EA projects.
EA Sports COO Daryl Holt told Joystiq "I think we'll probably start this first year somewhere around 30-35, just to get the team up and moving, just so they can start building features and working on HD platform development." He said the team could grow "exponentially, however we want," into new IP and "live services." EA has yet to decide which franchises to put the new Austin team onto.

Two Weeks To Go!

We're now just two weeks away from the CIC's 13th Birthday! We hope to see you in #Wingnut on August 10 to celebrate. Newcomers can use the easy Java app and plan to stop by at 7:00 PM Eastern US (a Wednesday night, 4:00 pm Pacific and 11:00 pm GMT). As usual, there will be big reveals, trivia games and prizes for the duration of the event. Hopefully you're getting excited!

We've even already started writing the front page text, because...

Taking the Party IRL

...we'll be in Texas for the birthday this year! Team CIC is packing up in a week or so to head down and celebrate in person on August 10, for the first time. All the details aren't set yet, but if you happen to be in the local Austin area, hit the Discuss link and let us know. Our virtual fans shouldn't worry, the crew will be online from wherever we are due to the marvels of modern technology. We can't wait!

Hangar Hits Major Milestone

The latest pictures of Malcolm Renolds's Tiger's Claw model show off a fighter-filled and enclosed flight deck now (check out the Ferrets!). Some of the making-of images also reveal the interior support brackets that beef up the area. With the runway now covered, the middle fuselage and some forward supporting structure are coming together nicely. The aft fuselage and "wings" come together next, which will make the ship really recognizable!

In this series of pictures you can see how I inserted a ton of supporting structures to keep the model together as the build continues. Everything was getting a little lopsided, so I started forcing it back into place with these cardboard struts. It's not perfect, but it'll be barely noticeable when I'm done.

I completed assembly of the hangar, got the back wall on and reinforced the side walls. I need to find a way to light that hangar bay so that some of the interior is still visible! I put the Confederation insignia on the bottom of the ship, I think it looks rather good. Also, I covered and started completing the area over top of the hangar bay. Finally got that roof on!

I've been doing a lot of detail work, and I added the little wing/turret things on the front, I haven't done the barrels yet. I've also covered up a whole bunch of white lines that were showing on the model. I've still got a nasty crease on the underbelly to take care of.

Thanks for your continuing interest and feedback! :)

Happy Birthday Wing Commander Arena!

Has it already been four years? On July 25, 2007, Wing Commander Arena was released on XBox Live Arcade. Since the game was capped under a 50 megabyte limit, the wait to download the game was substantially less than the Secret Ops release in 1998, but the sense of anticipation was the same. The lucky people who stayed up all night for the game to be posted were treated to giddy squadrons of Wingnuts trying to learn all about the game's different modes, busily working to unlock new ships and staking out an early spot on the leaderboards. Coordinated capship assaults were an early favorite, and eager pilots quickly learned how to survive dogfights on the frontier. And who could forget the battle of the century? LOAF fought it out against fifteen other gaming fan sites in a virtual tournament sponsored by EA. He won a free XBox 360 to give away and established Wing Commander fans' legendary skill in the cockpit. Wing Commander Arena is available via the XBox Live Marketplace for 800 MS Points ($10)!

Wing Commander Arena is a fast-paced space combat game where players can team up to attack other teams of ships. The game introduces the classic franchise to an arcade-style experience that allows up to 16 players online in battle at once. Players can propel their customized ship through space, fire torpedoes and unleash deadly gravity bombs as they try to climb the leader board. Online players will compete for Frag count, high score and dueling stats.

Star*Soldier Brings It All Together

The amazing game manual for Wing Commander Arena is a trove of information on the current state of the WC universe. From the perspective of the frontier in the year 2701, it tells the story of the Nephilim War and much more. The book is a free download and absolutely everyone should have it. Grab it right here (7.7 meg PDF)! Our Star*Soldier Gloss feature also has commentary from the writers and designers for all 60+ pages. The Art of Wing Commander Arena provides a further glimpse at the game with dozens of cool concept art images.

The ENEMY can appear ANY TIME and ANYWHERE!

Learn these planes and watch the skies!

Novel Art Defies Convention

AD noticed that Wing Commander Fleet Action and Action Stations cover artist Paul Alexander's works will be on display at the 69th World Science Fiction Convention Renovation. While not actually attending the convention himself, Paul's art will be on display in the Artist Showcase. The event is being held in Reno, Nevada and runs August 17 to 21. Check out his profile page at the con website here. The Fleet Action art (minus text!) is used on the page, so it seems likely to be an item slated for display. Check out that nifty Action Stations "color study" as well. If anyone can make it to the show, let us know!
Best known for his high-tech illustrations - "one of the top 'gadget' artists currently working in the American paperback market" according to Vincent diFate, 1997), Paul is still 'old school' when it comes to painting - no computers for him!

Although Paul became as proficient at illustrating people as he did machines, it's his machines that fans seem to remember best. Paul always works in gouache on illustration board, using handbrush and airbrush. Paul was featured in DiFate's Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art (1997). Paul's work was also selected for Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art Volumes #1-4. While still doing SF art into the 1990s for Baen, most notably David Drake's "Hammer's Slammers" series, and Keith Laumer's "Bolos" series, by the middle of the decade Paul realized that Photoshop has effectively put him back to "square one". He has no use for the "Devil Machine" (aka the computer), and so the commercial part of his art career is behind him, now. He paints for his own enjoyment and occasionally for local church, civic and charitable organizations. He's a member of Mensa, a lover of classical music, a very active Episcopalian, and is a 'rail fan' (and loves painting old trains, too).

It is a Rapier, Wrapped in a Mission, Inside Enigma

The WC2 Remake has a new name: Enigma 2666. The overall setting is similar, and the updated title is a bit more creative. New shots below show off all of the game's Confed fighters and a cockpit view from the Sabre. Capships have also been implemented, and sharp observers will spot a few unexpected vessels among the fleet. These are slated to show up in a "Special Operations 3" expansion later on. Cloaking has been newly added, and finally, there's an updated shot of the game's intro movie. Find out more at the mod's website here.

I want to use now several WC1 ships in the [game] too. So here is an update of models we need:

Bloodfang MK1
Fralthi
Ralari
Targu II
Dralthi MK1/2 - Reason: Remember the old dos intro before WC2 was released? I take some lines from that intro and put it into the new one
K'tithrak Mang
Sol Sector Base
Supply Depot (Confed)
Supply Depot (Kilrathi) - in the works by FekLeyrTarg
and several civilian fighters and bases.

Perhaps someone can help us and send meshes.

Metallic Models Manifest Familiar Favorites

Scooby Doo is back with an assortment of new Wing Commander-inspired models and kitbashes. Some of them are more recognizable than others, including the first ship: a pretty classic Southampton destroyer. The second design is an upsized capship based on Privateer 2's Aurora fighter. It's followed by an unusual hybrid between a Hellcat and Centurion. The large carrier has multiple influences, and it features a really fun dual flight deck. Wing Commander Arena's battlecruiser has some clear influences on the other big warship. Finally, the vectored thrust-lover's dream is a mix between the Hellcat, Vampire and Piranha.

Well you asked for it....

You Killer Bees Have the Next Shift

Zohrath's new Hornet model is now complete! The images below show the progression of the design quite nicely, and the finished ship looks very close to the WC1 blueprints. Check out his Raptor and Rapier here. The Scimitar is up next.

Hello everyone, I've been working on this model for ages, going though many revisions, I think this is model 8. I tried making a very smooth sub-d model several times, but now I've gone back to simply following the original blueprints, even if that gives the model fairly sharp edges. But it does look fast! So, being the first model I've managed to do in several years, I'm looking for critique. Most of the detailing remains to be done, modeling plates etc, but any comments are appreciated!

I made the guns a bit thicker, but doing it more would veer off from my reference too much. It would be fun to put something more howitzer-like there though :)

Atlantis Completes Final Shuttle Mission

The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down this morning after completing her final mission and the final mission of the shuttle program. STS-135 completed one last resupply run to the International Space Station before touching down at the Kennedy Space Center, where it will be permanently displayed after decontamination. A few beautiful photos from the last few days are posted below, and NASA has set up a photo tribute gallery here.

Space shuttle Atlantis touched down on the Shuttle Landing Facility's Runway 15 at 5:57 a.m. EDT on July 21. After 200 orbits around Earth and a journey of 5,284,862 miles, the landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida brought to a close 30 years of space shuttle flights.

"Although we got to take the ride," said Commander Chris Ferguson on behalf of his crew, "we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us."

One Step Closer to Flight Ops

Malcolm Reynolds has a more complete Tiger's Claw to show off. Over the last week, the model has gone from flat paper sheets to an actual three dimensional structure, and everything seems to be coming together well. The forward runway and flight deck are now a solid recognizable chunk. He's now sketching out some of the hull markings and then will work his way back.

Here are a few pic's of my ongoing build of the TCS Tiger's Claw. It may not look like much has been done since I last posted but I've built in a lot of support structures and started to really assemble the model. I've had to do some cheating to make everything fit, but hopefully it will all start to come together.

There's also an early rendition of the Tiger's Claw Registration number, but I'll clean it up a lot before I apply it to the model. What do you think of the placement and color of the Reg #? Too big or too small? Bad location?

It's Absolutely Enormous!

Deathsnake recently set out to see just how big the 22 kilometer Hvar'kann class Kilrathi dreadnought really is. His first image renders the occasional fan theory that the 22,000 meters quoted in Victory Streak was simply a typo. A 2,200 meter version is scaled next to a 1600 meter Vesuvius class carrier in the first image. However, visual evidence in Wing Commander 3 shows a dreadnought dwarfing the TCS Victory during the game's losing end scene. The perspective is at an angle that makes it hard to make an exact comparison, but the 720 meter carrier appears to be only as large as the the tip of the Kilrathi vessel's bow. This concept is rendered in the second picture. Fortunately, there's yet a third source that corroborates the ship's size: the novel False Colors makes numerous references to the Hvar'kann's outrageous size and treats it as a major plot point. The last two images demonstrate what the ship really looks like compared to other carriers in the Wing Commander universe! Amazing!

He stared at the readout for a long time before it hit him. The mass was wrong, completely different from everything in their records on the facilities at Baka Kar. The docking complex was supposed to be large, but these figures were almost twice what they should have been. Banfeld ordered the computer to zoom in on the orbital dock so that he could study it more closely.

It took along time for the computer imaging system to interpret the sensor data well enough to comply with his request, and that wasn't right either. Something anomalous was out there, something that was distorting Highwayman's probes . . .

Banfeld let out an audible gasp as the computer imager finally displayed a picture based on the collected data. Something massive really was over there, docked with the orbital facility. Something that dwarfed the spidery framework of the station. It was the biggest ship Banfeld had ever seen―if it was a ship, and that's what the computer was insisting. It measured nearly twenty-two kilometers in length, bristling with hardpoints and radiating an awesome amount of energy even when it lay quiescent alongside the dock.

The Guild leader had only heard rumors about such ships, but now he was sure he was seeing the reality behind those rumors. A Kilrathi dreadnought, one of the vast and powerful warships Prince Thrakhath had ordered for the final solution to the war with Mankind.

And it was here, with Ragark's fleet.

Cold fear washed over Zachary Banfeld. He had wanted to help Ragark even the odds so that the war on the frontier might be prolonged and the Guild profit from the war. But a Kilrathi dreadnought made all the defenses of the Landreichers useless. Even their new supercarrier would be no match for such a powerful ship of war, whether they fully restored it to fighting trim or not.

When the Kilrathi smashed their way across the border, the question of Guild profits would no longer be a factor in his plans. The question would be one of Guild survival.

Congrats to Dedicated German Wingnuts!

Shotglass.de is celebrating ten years of German Wing Commander community hubs! Patrik's current WC news site came online just recently, but it traces its roots back to the original WingCenter.net, which is currently managed by the Saga team. WingCenter.de has put together a nice retrospective article with screenshots of the original site and a recent history update.

There's also an easy raffle drawing! All you need to do is comment on this news post to enter. Partipants have a chance to win a copy of Sword of the Stars: Complete Collection or the GoG release of Wing Commander Privateer! If you don't read German, just hit up Google Translate!

10 Years of WingCenter - A Review

When you think back over the years, sometimes it's surprising how much time has passed. As I watched the dates go by on the calendar, I realized that it's already been ten years since I founded WingCenter. After a five-year break, ShotGlass.de punctually (though unintentally) arrived just in time to recognize the occasion. This is reason enough to look back and review the journey so far.

Gemini As It Was Meant To Be

Kevin Caccamo cleaned up the rendering of J. King's Gemini Sector map. It looks much better like this! You can download the source svg and play with it yourself here.
I've been admiring the extensive universe map you have available for a little while now, and I've been wondering if source data (coordinates, classes, jump-line doubles) might be available. I recently created an SVG map of the Gemini sector (attached for your reference) for my personal use, printed so that I might better plan cargon runs when on solid ground, and while it is stylistically simple, I find it is both useful and has a certain sense of beauty.

Steltek Carrier Looking Very Sharp

Astro Commander has taken some beautiful close-up pictures of his Steltek carrier model. The image shows this gorgeous ship from multiple angles, and each side reveals more detail. All that fine airbrushing is amazing. Gemini Sector's derelict version has always struck me as sad and lonely, so it's pretty neat to imagine what the ship looked like in its prime.

After about the 5th attempt at photographing this thing, I got a batch that works well enough. I eventually had to photograph it on a light blue background so I could both get dynamic range and a color that is easily removed. The model itself is quite smooth, most of the texture is done by airbrushing through various masks. I think this set of pictures best shows how cool this model looks as you rotate it.

Watch the Prologue Played

FekLeyrTarg has been busy lately. In addition to his various artistic projects, he's playing through the WC Saga Prologue demo, which was released in 2006. If you've been thinking about trying it, but want to see more of the action first, FekLeyr is posting walkthroughs of each mission at the CIC Forums. The first two are available here and here. You can download the actual program here or here.

Patch Tweaking Leads to New KS Solution

Mash's latest Kilrathi Saga patch was recently reworked to play nicely with the DirectDraw Hack graphical upgrade, but if you happen to still have issues, Mincemeat has developed an alternative workaround to get things running smoothly. The instructions require a little bit of hex editing knowledge. Hit the CIC Forums if you have any questions.
Armed with nothing but a hex-editor, I've managed to get the Kilrathi Saga WC3 working with Mash's patch and ddhack... Strangely enough, ddhack by itself won't work on my XP environment, but runs combined with Mash's patch? (I get a black screen if I tried ddhack on its own)

This is what I did...

1. Download Mash's patch and extract to my C:\Program Files\Kilrathi Saga\WC3 directory. Rename his ddraw.dll to mashp.dll
2. Hex edit WC3W.EXE, replace all instances of ddraw.dll with mashp.dll (should be one occurence)
3. Test WC3W to ensure Mash's patch is taking effect.
4. Download ddhack and extract to the Kilrathi Saga WC3 directory.
5. Rename the ddhack ddraw.dll to dhack.dll. Move only that file to C:\Windows\System32 (or whatever Vista/7 equivalent)
4. From what I understand, Mash's patch intercepts the game's DirectDrawCreate call, does its thing, then makes DirectDrawCreate call from the real ddraw.dll. It specifically gets the system path using GetSystemDirectoryA to load the real ddraw.dll...
5. I then hex-edited mashp.dll, replacing all instances of ddraw.dll with dhack.dll (should be two instances)
6. Now, with Mash's patch looking for dhack.dll from the system directory, it somehow successfully loaded ddhack. Note that the ddhack config file needs to stay in the WC3 directory.

Haven't played it for any extended period of time but it seems to work fine. Proceed at your own risk :)

There's a Nuclear Missile in My Ship?!

FekLeyrTarg has made further progress on his supply depot model, and he's started a Mace tactical nuclear missile as well. All the fighters and capships that we see each day are great, but it's also cool to see some potentially lesser appreciated objects come together. Would you know how to accurately depict a Mace? This one's actually pretty close. The last shot is a special render of the Mace that was posted on Origin's Wing Commander 4 website way back in 1995!

I'm also working on a model of the Mace Tactical Nuclear Missile. We also intend to use it in Saga, as well as the Salthi. I'm working on the UV Mapping and the texture. It still needs lots of work.

Zohrath Supplying Star Slayers

Zohrath has been working on a recreation of the original Wing Commander 1 ships that are pretty accurate to the game's blueprints. The designs are built in Z's distinctive style, and he's experimented with a variety of metallic textures. His Rapier and Raptor are fairly well along and pictured below. The Hornet is in development next.

I've been experimenting with materials over several months, mostly failures and abandonments, but I think I'm getting close to ok with the latest tests. This is with the basic hull material, no painted strips yet. Would love some advice.

Launch Systems at the Ready

Here's another update on Deathsnake's Last Line of Defense mod. The first four shots show off what happens when a couple destroyers and a small Confed carrier take on a similar Kilrathi force. Human ships in LLoD sport some nifty vertical-launch missile tubes that make short work of their foes. There are also some high detail shots of the game's cruiser. Deathsnake's first story arc is already written and ready to be integrated with missions.
For Last Line of Defence, the plot for the first 15 missions is done. Here I can use different ships and stations in the missions and the cutscenes. That means you are not always on the TCS Adenauer. In Last Line of Defence I have no rules for what kind of ships are in the sector in 2669. In the cutscenes I can tell the story also with the ingame graphics better than in the WC2 Remake. Here is one example:

You help four of the new corvettes to the jump point and return to the carrier. Then in the cutscene you see a heavy convoy of Kilrathi transports. The corvettes hide in an asteroid field and start firing they capship missiles on the convoy. After the destruction the camera shows the Terran battlegroup and they are talking about the success of the strike.

The end of the Fralthi 2. Confed fires all VLS Batteries!

Trojan IV Naval Yard Gets Busy

Malcolm Reynolds has started an awesome paper model project. These first pictures show off the flight deck runway of his new Tiger's Claw design. It's looking fairly large for a physical model. The source art comes from bits and pieces of Howard Day's gorgeous 3D Bengal. Let Malcolm know what you think at the Forums. We can't wait to see this one come together!

Hey everybody, thought you might be interested in following my construction of a papercraft version of the TCS Tiger's Claw. I'm basing it on Howard Day's amazing Bengal render, in fact, I'm using his meshes to skin the model. Basically, I printed out the one texture map I could find of his Bengal and then I edited, re-sized and refit it so that I could print it out, mount it on thin cardboard and hopefully create some facsimile of a decent model.

EA Makes Big Casual Gaming Purchase

Electronic Arts announced a major acquisition today. They are currently in the process of buying PopCap Games for some $750 million. PopCap is known for many recent hit puzzle and social games, and this combination fits well within the EA Interactive division, which specializes emerging online and mobile games. PopCap issued a tongue-in-cheek open letter to its fans describing what this means next.
As some of you may have heard, we recently announced that PopCap Games is being acquired by Electronic Arts, a small mom-and-pop boutique software publisher. What does this mean for the future? It’s simple:

1. EA is being rebranded to Poptronic Arts
2. Sim Zuma: The SwampLife Edition
3. Peggle: Dead Space – Bjorn’s Breakfast
4. Bejeweled Battlefield Blitz
5. Plants vs. ZombEAz: NFL Lockout Edition

Wow!

Ok, not really.

It means PopCap will join forces with one of the world’s largest game publishers, giving us access to many more resources and a greatly expanded global audience. It doesn’t mean that PopCap is going away or changing what we do or how we do it. On the contrary, PopCap’s creative culture is the main reason EA was interested in us. We’re not changing our focus from creating awesome casual games everyone can enjoy.

And here's EA's official press release:
REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) today announced an agreement to acquire PopCap Games, a leading provider of games for mobile phones, tablets, PCs and social network sites. With blockbuster titles like Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled, and Zuma, and a proven ability to create new hits, PopCap is a leader in the fast growing market for casual digital games.

“We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games” “EA and PopCap are a compelling combination,” said EA CEO John Riccitiello. “PopCap’s great studio talent and powerful IP add to EA’s momentum and accelerate our drive towards a $1 billion digital business. EA’s global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries, and more channels.”

“We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games,” said David Roberts, CEO of PopCap. “By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience.”

“PopCap has a proven financial trajectory with sustained revenue growth and double-digit operating margins,” said EA CFO Eric Brown. “On a non-GAAP basis, this deal is expected to be at least ten-cents accretive in fiscal year 2013.”

PopCap is one of the largest and most respected digital and social gaming companies with more than 150 million games installed and played worldwide on platforms such as Facebook®, RenRen, Google™, iPhone™, iPad™ and Android. In calendar year 2010, approximately 80% of PopCap’s revenue was on high growth digital platforms.

Ancient AOL Chat Provides Glimpse Into the Past

AD found this neat transcript from an AOL chat with Mark Hamill from way back in 1996. Long before the first Twitter Town Hall, AOL chatrooms were the hit place to virtually interact with people. Today people talk about "Web 2.0" features, and this dates back to months after AOL got its first web browser (and this didn't use it, AOL chat is pre-Web 1.0). A moderator took submissions from the audience and posted questions for Hamill to respond to. The very first question asked about his role in Wing Commander, and there are a couple more references to the series later on. His answers come from a very exciting time in Wing Commander history - just after the release of Wing Commander 4 and before the premiere of Wing Commander Academy. Even Prophecy was still on the drawing board. You can find the full log here.

OnlineHost: Mark Hamill may be best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in one of the most popular and successful trilogies of all time: "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." Most recently, Hamill has been heard as the voice of the Joker in both the "Batman" animated television series and the theatrical animated feature "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm."

AOLiveMC14: Welcome back to AOL Mark Hamill!

MarkHamll: Thank you. Glad to be here.

AOLiveMC14: OK lets get right to the questions. Our first one is from BM0768:

Question: Hello Mr. Hamill, I really enjoyed all three movies in the "Star Wars Trilogy," and you were excellent in "Wing Commander" 3 and 4. My question, will you be cast in any future "Star Wars" Movies, or "Wing Commander' games?

MarkHamll: The next trilogy takes place 30 years prior to what you've seen, so I'm too old for the part. There has been discussion of a new Wing Commander, though nothing definite. George talked about me playing a role in the final installment of Star Wars, but I defy anyone to add an imaginary 20 years to their age and not be appalled, but you never know. We'll see what happens.

AOLiveMC14: Pachecod sends this question:

Question: What prompted you to move into the field of cartoons and comic books? Do you have difficulty finding acting jobs because of your role as Luke Skywalker?

MarkHamll: I found far more varied roles, character parts and so forth, on Broadway and off-Broadway. Animated voices seem to be an extension of that kind of character work. Coming up on the USA Network is "Wing Commander Academy" with Malcolm McDowell, Dana Delaney and Tom Wilson. I'm also in Jim Lee's "Gen 13." And listen for a wild voice on Bruce Willis' new cartoon "Bruno The Kid!" I always loved the funny papers, comic books, and animated cartoons, but to tell you the truth, I was trying to get a writing assignment on "Batman: The Animated Series," which led to my audition and my role as the Joker, and I've never looked back. I really love this kind of work. Typecasting means you play the same part over and over, and I think I've successfully avoided that.

AOLiveMC14: LaCoquett asks:

Question: What's the biggest difference between doing action films and CD ROM movies like "Wing Commander?"

MarkHamll: The obvious difference is the multiple story lines in an interactive movie. I liked that because it was such a unique experience, but actually, in terms of physically shooting it, there's not much difference.

AOLiveMC14: TCN Bayle asks:

Question: I have 2 questions. Do you keep up with the "Star Wars" universe? Like do you read all the novels or play the computer games? And are there any plans for Wing Commander V?

MarkHamll: Wing Commander V has been spoken of with no firm offer. With the "Star Wars" universe, it seemed to me all or nothing, so after "Jedi," I just stopped. Luke wasn't mine, anymore. I've heard they've done a terrific job, though.

AOLiveMC14: AFA Alice sends this in:

Question: How did you get involved with CD ROM games and how do you feel about them as an actor?

MarkHamll: Chris Roberts asked to meet me. When he explained the concept, I couldn't wait to get involved. We had so much fun making them, I'm not surprised they're fun to play. As for acting in them, any challenge is a good challenge. Your job as an actor doesn't really change despite the adjustments you have to make for the medium.

It's That Time of Year Again!

It's July 10, and that means it's just one month until the next CIC Birthday! August 10, 2011 will mark the end of our thirteenth year, and we're holding the party of all parties to celebrate! Stop by #Wingnut on the 10th at 7:00 PM Eastern US (a Wednesday night, 4:00 pm Pacific and 11:00 pm GMT) to join the fun. Newcomers can join via the simple Java link. It's a super easy way to get on IRC chat and find us. We'll have some big surprises to show everyone at the event and some exciting announcements about the birthday to make in the coming days. Mark your calendars now and don't miss it!

Complete Your Collection With Wing Commander Academy

I just completed a rewatch of the entire Wing Commander Academy series, and I think you should too! WCA is a must-have for all Wing Commander fans: the series follows the adventures of the TCS Tiger's Claw and crew through a very exciting year in Wing Commander history. Grab all thirteen episodes, plus some special features, below.

NOTE: Wing Commander Academy episodes are no longer available for download. Please support the franchise by buying the complete DVD set through the link above.

Saga Boosts Beta Bits

The WC Saga team has released another beta update, and there's a new batch of Saga-themed pictures to go along with it. The new software update includes tweaked menus, HUD and mouse controls, among other things. You can find more info and images here. There's plenty of explosions and ships racing through space to see this time around.

Our latest beta update is now available to our beta testers. With this release we have introduced a ton of new features including (but not limited to):
  • revamped launcher: revised UI and user friendly navigation
  • performance improvements in various areas
  • HUD enchancements
  • revised mouse control
  • sound system updates

The Frontier Laid Out in Black & White

J. King was studying the universe maps and plotted out a simple projection of his own. He's created a representation of the Gemini Sector for use in plotting cargo runs. J. inquired about expanding this to more sectors, but no source coordinate reference is readily available. You can grab his Gemini SVG here (2 kb svgz).
I've been admiring the extensive universe map you have available for a little while now, and I've been wondering if source data (coordinates, classes, jump-line doubles) might be available. I recently created an SVG map of the Gemini sector (attached for your reference) for my personal use, printed so that I might better plan cargon runs when on solid ground, and while it is stylistically simple, I find it is both useful and has a certain sense of beauty

I began to imagine what a wonder a grand map might look like, how refreshing it would be to control its styling easily and so on. The only trouble is that to re-plot each star would be a rather onerous task---Gemini wasn't so bad with only 69 stars and 82 routes, but it still took some time to get it right, sadly. In the hope that I migth save myself considerable trouble, I thought I might ask.

Atlantis' Last Launch

And she's away! The Space Shuttle Atlantis launched this morning on the final flight of the space shuttle. STS-135 is carrying a new supply module and conducting various scientific experiments. It will orbit Earth for a planned 12 days and then land at Kennedy Space Center to conclude the shuttle program. Check our some gorgeous launch pictures below.

New WC Mod Won't Be The Last

Deathsnake has announced a new Wing Commander mod that uses the Freespace engine. "Last Line of Defense" is a contemporary of Wing Commander 3 that takes place primarily in the Enigma Sector. He'd like to package the game into smaller mini-campaigns that can be built in manageable chunks and more easily completed. The pictures below show a wide variety of scenes including a destroyer with flight deck, a large upsized superbase, the game's player carrier and more. Check out the CIC Forums for more screenshots and information.

Well Last Line of Defence is playing in the WC3 Timeline. But not as the Saga Darkest Dawn in the Vega, LLoD is playing in the Enigma Sector. There's a lot of story what is not continued by Origin. And I want to use some of the stuff whats Origin beginn in WC2.

I've seen here in the CIC a pic from Ela Superbase with the Midway. And it was huge. I transform now the size of my Ela Base by factor 2 or 3. So now it can be called Superbase (see the Wake Class in the Bay?)

Soundfont Chorium Advances Armada Aria

Here's another audio trick for Wing Commander fans to try out. FekleyrTarg has put together several sample videos that show off Wing Commander Armada being played with a special soundfont enabled. It really jazzes up the music! This particular sample was recorded with the Chorium ensemble for SB Live & Audigy cards. Hit the links below to listen.
You can run Soundfonts with DOSBox but it can't record General MIDI and Roland while capturing videos. I set the soundfont in Windows. But you need certain Soundcards in order to use them. I have a Soundblaster Audigy. What do you think? Have fun :)

MT-32 Emulation Comes to DOSBox

wcnut has some interesting news for Wing Commander audiophiles. There's been recent progress on the emulator that seeks to simulate the sound quality of the Roland MT-32, which Wing Commander 1 was specifically designed to take advantage of. Gamers with the original hardware still have the best original WC music possible, but this new enhancement opens the door for quite a few fans to experience this amazing music while playing. Taewoong has built a custom DOSBox build that incorporates the MUNT emulation patch, and wcnut has recorded a video of the first mission to give everyone a sample. Hit the Discuss link below and let everyone know what you think!
Some of you may have been aware of Munt for a long time and thought it has gone stagnant. Not anymore! Turns out it has been being worked on behind the scenes. Thanks to the contributions of a new member, it has made hHuge strides in the past month to the point where it will soon be almost a perfect emulation if it isn't already now. They claim a new stable build is soon.

What this means for WC? A far better alternative to the standard Soundblaster Emulation in dosbox.

I uploaded a sample play-through of the first mission up on Youtube. Those with real devices should compare it.

Wing Commander Thrustmaster Profiles Posted

Dundradal found some useful files over at Nightsolo's website. He's built complete profiles for the Thrustmaster FLCS joystick for each of the main Wing Commander games and Privateer 2. If you've got one of these sticks sitting around and aren't playing because you don't want to map everything, here's your shortcut! Grab each of the profiles here and hit the flight deck. More detailed instructions are available at the site.
For those of you with the old Thrustmaster F-16 FLCS stick and/or WCS Mark II throttle, you know how programing these beasts can be a pain in the ass (not to mention time-consuming). So I have decided to make my files available to you. Enjoy. To use the definition files, unzip them to your 'b50progs' directory.

Happy Fourth!

Happy 4th of July to Wingnuts in the United States today, and to everyone else: happy Monday! Here's your fireworks!

Classic Designs Making a Comeback

FekLeyrTarg has been working on some new Wing Commander models for various projects. The first is a supply depot that could find its way into the WC2 Remake. A Salthi is also coming together and doesn't appear to have a destination use yet. FekLeyr's looking for feedback, so hit the Discuss link and let him know your thoughts.

I've started working on a model of the Supply Depot. Now I need your feedback. Since the manual mentions that the Depot can carry 52 fighters, I wish to place a hangar on it and I need your suggestion where I should place it.

I'm also building a new Salthi model based on the drawings from Joan's Fighting Spacecraft, the Sprites from WC1 and the model from WC Standoff. Before I UVmap and texture it, any suggestions?

Hostile Frontier Mod Gets Aggressive

Kevin Caccamo has posted a big update with information on what's been happening with the Hostile Frontier mod over the last two months. The pictures below show the new advancements off pretty well. He's finally got "nameplates" working correctly so that ship names show up properly on the hulls. Capship damage is looking really good, and fighter thruster effects have also been tweaked. Finally, carrier flight decks are more filled out and capship windows & lights are more visible. You can find out more at the game's website or new info page.

Here are the videos:

I've been working on a simulator mission to help players learn essential combat tactics. Many players couldn't get past mission 2 of the WCSaga Prologue, supposedly because they kept getting hit by enemy missiles. This video mainly shows the scripted ship selection system that will be used in this mission and other new simulator missions: http://wchf.hard-light.net/videos/wchf-tactrain.ogg

I just find it awesome when a Sha'kar transport explodes: http://wchf.hard-light.net/videos/wchf-explosion.ogg

These videos are encoded in OGG Theora, but they're viewable in a web browser like Firefox 4 or Google Chrome. There's no sound in these videos because I wasn't using recording software that supports audio capture.

Congratulations Lord and Lady British!

There's great news from France: Space hero and Origin Systems, Inc. founder Richard Garriott married Laetitia Pichot de Cayeux in a small ceremony in Paris earlier today. We wish them a very happy life together--one that will hopefully involve a trip to the moon and return rule to Britannia.

EA Running Huge Fire(works) Sale

Electronic Arts has launched their Biggest Sale Ever to celebrate the Independence Day holiday in the US. More than 50 iOS games are on sale for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and this time the sale also extends to the XBox Live Marketplace and the new Origin service. Even Kindle games are discounted this weekend! Check out the full list here.
In celebration of America’s birthday weekend, we present the biggest EA sale ever. For the first time, we’re offering huge sales on games across many platforms including Origin, the iPhone, iPad, Xbox Live Marketplace, and more. Now when the summer heat wears you down, you can relax inside and play games to your heart's content.

Find deals on our biggest titles like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED, The Sims 3, FIFA 11, and Dead Space 2. We’ll have 10 Xbox Live games with their prices slashed in half!

You can also get almost 50 games on the App Store for just $0.99 each. That’s just about everything EA has to offer for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad – up to 90% off, like Dead Space and NBA JAM for the iPhone. Amusment park lines aren't half as bad when you can spend the time dismembering necromorphs.

In fact, all of our sales will be between 40% and 90%, with the great majority over 50% off. A sale like this doesn’t come around very often, so enjoy it while it lasts!

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