I bet you thought you'd heard the last of Unknown Enemy, the grandfather of all modern Wing Commander fan projects. Well, you thought wrong: the team has been hard at work at a high resolution patch which will take advantage of modern advances in Wing Commander Prophecy improving science. The update isn't quite ready yet, but they were kind enough to send us this preview:
Way back in 2002, we released Unknown Enemy, the first major mod for Wing Commander: Secret Ops. Looking back on it now, it seems in many ways primitive and naive - certainly, it's hard to compare with what we achieved in Standoff. But this was how it all started, and that's what makes UE fascinating to look at. Sadly, compatibility issues make UE a difficult thing to look at. In Standoff, these issues never popped up, because the final Standoff release incorporated an OpenGL patch that added a new rendering mode to the Vision engine - and this still works today.
So, we'd been talking on-and-off about patching UE since the day Standoff was released. Finally, the CIC's 14th birthday kicked us into action: unfortunately, far too late. There was no way we could get the patch done in time for August 10th. Instead, what we offer now to the community is a glimpse of what we're working on, and a release date announcement: October 30th 2012, UE's tenth anniversary.
The idea behind this 10th Anniversary Edition is to make the game fully playable on modern systems, without unnecessary improvements. We don't want to pull a George Lucas. We know we could improve UE a lot, but what would be the point?
So, here's what we'll do:
- Incorporate the OpenGL mode first seen Standoff. We will not be increasing texture sizes, replacing models with more detailed stuff, or adding hand-made specular maps. That would be going too far.
- Drop support for software, Direct3D and Glide rendering modes. Come on - if you have a machine from ten years ago, you can just use the original release of UE. For everyone else, only OpenGL is needed, because the other modes hardly work for anyone, any more!
- Incorporate the internal fiction viewer used by Standoff. This is a big change, and sadly it does involve Lucasesque improvements - we really can't sensibly integrate the fiction into the game without shortening it significantly and rewriting parts of it. But we have to drop the external viewer (again, compatibility issues), and UE just has waaay too much text to put directly into the game. But hey - to compensate for the changes, the original fiction will be available outside of the game, through the launcher.
- Polish the missions. No balance changes. No new events. No new missions. But we do know there's a few small bugs in there, and we're gonna squash 'em.
- Add behind the scenes stuff! Did you know that we had two new ship models ready to go for UE2? One of them could be seen in a wallpaper we produced for the CIC's 5th birthday. Now, if we were ever to return to the Border Worlds, we'd obviously need to create all the models from scratch, at a much higher standard. But still, if we already have these two models ready to go, why not at least add them into the object viewer?
- Add more behind the scenes stuff! When UE started out in 1999, Hadrian produced this cool-looking CIC room. When UE restarted in 2000... for some reason, we decided it needs to change (I honestly don't know why!), so we asked Hadrian to produce a new one. He did, and it was just as great as the first one he produced - but isn't it a pity that the original was never seen anywhere? It costs us nothing to add it into the game, so that's what we'll do.
In the weeks to come, we will post (ir)regular progress updates at the UE forum here at the CIC. Do you know of any issues in UE that absolutely must be fixed for this final release? Drop by the forum and let us know!