WC Sketches Infused With Technology

There's three diverse new Wing Commander sketches by talented artist NinjaLA. The first two are drawings that were painted in on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. A Scimitar is under fire up front, and although its fuselage and wings are blended a bit more than we typically see, the acceleration absorber pods are unmistakable. The second image is a fighter returning from battle... maybe the same craft? The Ralari is an entirely digital drawing still in its early stages, but there's already tons of detail and an action scene emerging. And is that a tiny Dralthi for scale?
Not totally done yet but progress shot of a Wing Commander post card sized painting. Back from a successful mission.. but the deck officer looks less than amused.

Get Academy's Claw in 3D

The Academy animated series features a familiar but distinct design for the Bengal strike carrier that's always been one of my favorites. Community member unfortunatecrow kept staring at freeze frames of the Tiger's Claw until he could piece together a 3D representation. The resulting model is some 5.8 centimeters or 2.3 inches long, and it's now available through 3D printing service Shapeways. If you missed our previous coverage, there is even more cool stuff on Shapeways to check out: the Dream Foundry, the Terran Fleet Supply and Chronocidal's Excalibur kit!
This is my rendition of the TCS Tiger's Claw from the Wing Commander Academy cartoon series. Due to a lack of good images, I had to improvise and take liberties with the design of the ship; particularly with the hangar bay and underside of the ship in general. For the hangar bay, I used a design that fits thematically with other Confed carriers in the lore.

Kilrathi Mod Reconnects With Fans

It's been a while since we last heard about Aginor's Kilrathi-perspective WC mod, but he's provided a status update to let everyone know the project's still in the works. In its early days there was considerable feedback gathered on how to manage the Kilrathi look and feel. Then over the years missions and features were implemented, so the primary outstanding tasks relate to the finalizing the story, adding some art and completing some voiceovers. That's actually a lot further along than some fan games get, so head over to the CIC Forums if you'd like to provide some encouragement or help Aginor finish!
I have most of the story finished now, and proofread. I will try to write the rest soon. It is all there in my head, but it is sometimes hard for me to concentrate and really write a whole chapter. The missions are mostly complete, with a few dialogues missing, and perhaps some testing and balancing. Concerning models, scripts and so on my mod is feature complete. I am missing some pieces of art, the minimum being a Kilrathi player portrait (or even just a WC3 style helmet to put there). The rest is optional. I wanted to do a cool main hall like Saga has, but I suck at 3D art, and both of the guys that wanted to help me aren't anwering my emails anymore.

So while my mod is pretty far in development it lacks the final touches. I couldn't motivate anybody to help me out with it (except capi who did the proofreading). It is hard to create such a thing without somebody who kicks you in the butt sometimes, giving you a nudge forward. So yeah, that's my status. :)

Oldies Games Upgrades Its WC4 Profile

OldiesGamesTV has remade their French language profile of Wing Commander 4. The previous edition was based on the CD release, so they've remixed the English DVD edition with French voiceovers and other sound. This is really cool for Francophones who'd like to see the higher quality movies! Most of our visitors might not understand what's being spoken, but we try to provide something for Wingnuts around the world. And it's neat to see someone enjoying the game, no matter what language you speak! Part 1 is below:
Here is the reissue of Oldies Games TV # 13 # 13 ... OGTV have as subject 4 Wing commander on CD-ROM PC but this game is out in the US version dvd so only in English. But for your enjoyment I remade the show with videos from the DVD version, and the sound of the CD release, a new way to enjoy Wing Commander 4.

WCDX Updated With Secret Missions Support

Stinger has released a new 1.1 beta of WCDX that now plays The Secret Missions. There was a funky cursor bug that delayed release (pictured below), but it's now been resolved. All of the effort spent so far should also help lay the groundwork towards support of SM2: Crusade sooner rather than later. WCDX patches the Kilrathi Saga edition of WC1 with improved D3D programmer that enhances compatibility, improves color display and fixes resolution issues. Grab the SM1 update here! If you're a KS owner, you can also download the Secret Missions here.
Secret Missions 1 support is finally here!

Somewhere in the process I managed to introduce a bug that prevented the game from cleaning up the cursor, so it was just leaving cursor trails all over the place. It's the sort of bug that would have been very easy to fix if I were working from the game's source, but with access only to disassembled code, I had to dig pretty deep to figure out what was going on. In the process, I managed to figure out the game's resource and image formats (yes, I know HCl already did that) and write my own extractors. This should help with figuring out the planets issue, but before I get to that I want to at least get SM2 up and running. With more knowledge at my disposal, that shouldn't take anywhere near as long as SM1 took, so look for it in the next couple of weeks.

I'm classifying this release as a beta only because I haven't spent much time actually playing it; I am not at this time aware of any remaining issues. If you find any, please let me know.

Now go get that dreadnought!

Denis Loubet Recalls Fond Origin Memories

Senior WC1/2 artist Denis Loubet has been busy lately connecting with Wing Commander fans. Wingnuts have been peppering Mr. Loubet with dozens of questions about his time crafting gorgeous art for the first few games. The discussion has spurred the recollection of many fun facts and interesting info from behind the scenes. All of the modern crowdfunding success that others have enjoyed has also led Denis to create a way for fans to engage with him directly for cool new art. You can commission an authentic WC artist to create your own pieces via his Patreon or Draw My Character pages. And if all you'd like to do is say hello or ask about the good old days at Origin, drop by the CIC Forums and join in!
I'm Denis Loubet, and I did most of the art for the original Wing Commander. Glen Johnson did the character faces, and I did the cockpits, backgrounds, and scramble animations. Also the explosions and debris. Plus I assembled and touched up the cover, which as everyone guessed, was not a simple screenshot.

Currently I'm trying to work directly for my fans through Patreon and Drawmycharacter. Right now my audience consists mostly of Ultima fans, but I'm curious as to how much the Wing Commander community likes my work on the early games as opposed to the Hollywood productions of WCIII and IV. Most of my drawings are fantasy based, because most of my fans are Ultima fans. But if I get some Wing Commander patrons, I can do more science fiction based art!

I'm here to answer any questions you might have about the early days of Wing Commander from the artists perspective, and would love to hear your critiques both positive and negative of the work I did for it.

Awesome! Lots to catch up on here! I didn't expect things to be so lively! :D

Let's see... Danr, The cockpits were fun to do. They were done in DeluxePaint with a lot of dithered gradients. Everything on the screen had to exist within 256 colors. I can't remember if I did them on a PC or an Apple IIgs. I suspect it was a PC. I did not know my name was used as a gunnery officer! I have learned something new today! :) Since all the readable text in the cockpits was actually functional, I think that you're right. I actually thought you could record your mission, is that not so? Maybe it only works in the PC version? :confused: And yes, the asteroids were hand drawn.

Quaker2k8, This is great news! All I have to do is wait until 2615 and my Patreon should be ROCKIN'! I'll be Rich! ;) I'll settle for those thousand oldschool fans!

Capi3101, actually the ship designs were done by someone else. I'm not actually sure who! The Images of the ships just sort of appeared from the 3rd party that Chris had hired to do the rendering. Knowing Chris, I'm sure he had a heavy hand in the design. And I can certainly do covers and character illustrations, so break out that Kickstarter, man! ;)

LeHah, strangely I don't remember that much direction coming down from on high, which is unusual for Mr. Roberts. ;) I think the art team just clicked from the start, and was putting out what he liked. I remember making sure the cockpits of the fighters were tight, and the cockpits of the bigger ships more roomy. Chris must have told me what he wanted the Kilrathi to look like, but I don't remember that talk. I know he insisted on tumbling debris, and wanted that Battlestar Galactica style fighter launch sequence. We also had to pack a lot of stuff in the rec room, and I know we had discussions about the doors and layout of the locker room.

To answer a previous question: Looking at the characters in WC 1 and 2, I think we were going mostly for familiar stereotypes found in WWII movies, rather than specific actors. But looking at some of the portraits in WC2, the girl with the black hair has to be consciously modeled after Bettie Page! And I think paladin is Sean Connery. I'm sure Clint Eastwood was in there too. :rolleyes:

I didn't do any of the human portraits, but I did do the Kilrathi cutscenes, hence my avatar pic. They were fun to do.

Sorry my memory isn't better on all these issues, but I did SO much at Origin over the 10 years I worked there, and it was so long ago! :eek: But I'll do my best! :D

And thanks again all for making me blush!

--Denis

Think Fast! But Also Maneuverable...

There's a new poll that puts the Confederation's fastest fighters on deck. Rather than just simply picking the fastest ship, we've asked a question that inquires which craft has the best mix of speed and maneuverability. All of the fighters listed are quick, but they have trade-offs as well. The Wasp's booster is a huge advantage for interception, but what if the objectives also call for navigating an asteroid field? Other ships are sleek and many hold a special place in the memories of many pilots. If you needed the ability to get out and go, which would you take?
The old question was our annual New Years poll. Most fans are optimistic about the year to come, but some are unconvinced. We don't know exactly what the future holds, but check out last year's highlights to get an idea of all the exciting potential!

Overthinking It Overthinks The WC3 Finale

Overthinking It is a website dedicated to the contrived art of overanalyzing something on the internet. This month they've turned their sights on Wing Commander 3 and the moral implications of destroying Kilrah. The site actually goes after quite a range of modern pop culture, so the first part of the WC3 article attempts to lure in the casual reader based on the merits of the game. Some of the context is described and the obvious comparison to World War 2 is made. Reasons for not undertaking the Temblor assault are where the piece cracks a bit. The fact that the losing endgame results in Kilrathi paws crushing skulls on Earth while the winning ending ends in a peace treaty makes the "what if" scenarios kind of weak. But since you're on the internet, there's a chance this might be right up your alley! Check out the full article here.
I know what you’re thinking: “Here goes Lee again about that space combat simulator from the 90’s that he was obsessed with as a kid and is playing again as an adult. I’ve never played any Wing Commander and I never will. Skipping this article.”

WAIT. Keep reading. What if I were to tell you that one of the entries in the series was less a video game and more a movie starring Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, and Tom Wilson…with a climax that involves the genocidal destruction of an alien race’s homeworld?

This is Wing Commander III, and this act of genocide is something that I’ve wanted to have a serious adult conversation about for a long time. So even if you know nothing about Wing Commander, strap into the cockpit and come along with me for this ride. I’ve been through a long war. We have a lot to talk about.

Target Ticket Going Under; Wing Commander Available Via CinemaNow

Web streaming service Target Ticket will be closing down next month, but other virtual avenues to buy a digital copy of the Wing Commander Movie still abound. The good news is that purchases will be transferred to the Best Buy-affiliated CinemaNow, which we hadn't previously listed as carrying WC. HBO Go, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Flixter, XBox Video, iTunes and even Netflix (now in several European countries!) remain as other options.

Newspaper Provides Insight to Golden Age of Wing Commander

Joe Garrity from the Origin Museum has run across a really cool print article from an August 1998 edition of the Austin American Statesman. It's a story on the revolutionary episodic release of Wing Commander Secret Ops. They explain how new parts of the game can be downloaded each week and that they'll be supplemented with additional storyline on the web. The infamous CIH virus infection also comes up. Some of the article's charm also has to do with how they treat the internet as such a novelty. Gamespot.com is specifically described as a "gaming news Web site." Of course, the biggest issue at first had to do with how long the starter pack was. They talk about the wait associated with a 63 megabyte download, but all the serious Wingnuts waited all night for the full 114 meg starter to finish. There's also a mention about Chris Roberts' upcoming Wing Commander Movie. These were exciting times!

Startling Discovery Adds New WC3 Facts to the Universe

LOAF has discovered an exciting feature in Wing Commander 3. Pressing ALT+S in the game's fighter loadout screen displays a handful of bonus stats and info. All of the details of today's findings were extracted from the game's .tre files almost ten years ago, but they were regarded as an oddity left over in the code. The fact that they were available in the game raises some tantalizing questions concerning the timeline! Ship type designations and numerical designations are neat enough, but the "service dates" and "architects" are where things get really interesting. WC3's Warbirds Poster gives us "manufacturers" like Douglas Aerospace and McCall Industries. A whole new complimentary set of builders and designers are now revealed as well. The intriguing dates are likely to drive the most debate. They range from May 11, 2660 to March 17, 2676! Numerous sources corroborate a 2669 setting for WC3 and 2673 for WC4. Furthermore, most of the fighters are seen in action in 2654 during Wing Commander Academy. So what could a service date be? Why are some in the future? Could there have been a plan to set the game in the later 2670s at one point? What other explanation could there be? It's not every day new material is added to the canon, so we're anxious to hear your theories!

ARROW
TYPE: Light Fleet Defense Fighter
ARMOR FRONT/BACK: 40mm
ARMOR LEFT/RIGHT: 30mm
SHIELD STRENGTH/REGEN: 200/20 joules
TOP SPEED/AFTERBURNER: 520/1400 KPS
SERVICE DATE: May 11, 2660
ARCHITECT: Kelly Chance Todd, Ph.D.

HELLCAT V
TYPE: Medium Interceptor
ARMOR FRONT/BACK: 50mm
ARMOR LEFT/RIGHT: 40mm
SHIELD STRENGTH: 220/22 joules
TOP SPEED/AFTERBURNER: 420/1200 KPS
SERVICE DATE: September 12, 2669
ARCHITECT: Garner Industries

THUNDERBOLT VII
TYPE: Heavy Fighter
ARMOR FRONT/BACK: 60mm
ARMOR LEFT/RIGHT: 50mm
SHIELD STRENGTH: 250/25 joules
TOP SPEED/AFTERBURNER: 380/1000 KPS
SERVICE DATE: December 25, 2665
ARCHITECT: Headrick, Haddock, and Roberts Co.

LONGBOW
TYPE: Torpedo Bomber
ARMOR FRONT/BACK: 150mm
ARMOR LEFT/RIGHT: 150mm
SHIELD STRENGTH: 500/100 joules
TOP SPEED/AFTERBURNER: 320/700 KPS
SERVICE DATE: July 24, 2673
ARCHITECT: Christa Kiefer, M.S.D.

EXCALIBUR
TYPE: EXPERIMENTAL PROTOTYPE
ARMOR FRONT/BACK: 55mm
ARMOR LEFT/RIGHT: 55mm
SHIELD STRENGTH: 250/25 joules
TOP SPEED/AFTERBURNER: 500/1300 KPS
SERVICE DATE: March 17, 2676
ARCHITECT: Seraphim Shipyards

Kilrathi Renderings to Assist WC Art Creation

Terran pilots aren't the only figures up on deck. NinjaLA has started using mockup Kilrathi test sculptures to assist with future drawings. Reference objects are a great way to hone the skill. His art has come a long way over the last decade that he's been posting Kilrathi sketches online, but this should mean even cooler scenes in the future.

RSI Museum Returns With More Origin Memories

Roberts Space Industries has relauched their RSI Museum feature with a look at Ultima Underworld 1&2. Richard Garriott and Dallas Snell bring their rich histories from the early days at Origin Systems. Underworld designer Paul Neurath also adds more of his recollections and talks further on the Ascension Kickstarter in the works. The very first Museum segment celebrated the 20th anniversary of Strike Commander more than eighteen months ago, so it's great to see the show has returned! There's also a slick intro featuring a Wing Commander cockpit and quick glimpse at Shotglass' bar. Who can name the fighter pictured AND which game is being played at the start of the clip below? Bonus: what sound effect music is playing?

Returning Wingnut Resequences WC Theme

Rich Nagel recently jumped back in the cockpit and was inspired to record a new remix of Team Fat's famous Wing Commander 1 intro music. He's used the Edirol "Orchestral" VST and Cakewalk Professional to put the track together, and the results sound really good! You can listen directly below via the embedded Facebook post - no FB login should be necessary, but some browsers may display a link to the post rather than the instant player. As a reminder, Fatman's original album of WC music can be purchased at Vibedeck for $9.98.
I've recently been playing the original Wing Commander after prolly decades of absence from the game. Ahhhh... all of the good retro memories of playing WC1 on my old 286 12MHz PC :)


Thanks to akula65 for the tip!

James Hannigan Talks Game Music

Classic FM, a UK radio station focusing entirely on classical music, did an extensive interview with videogame composer James Hannigan. His name may not sound familiar, but the titles he's worked on certainly will. Notable work includes Red Alert 3, RuneScape, Digital Anvil's Freelancer, Fifa 96, Theme Park, Beasts and Bumpkins, Space Hulk, and several tie-in games for major motion pictures. Hannigan spent several years as Electronic Arts' in-house composer, and during that time contributed to the music for Privateer 2. In the third part, the topic drifts to the role of music in videogame cinematics, and the Wing Commander series gets a nod:

Some older games even feature live action in them, such as those in the Wing Commander and Command and Conquer series, and I've been lucky enough to work on a few - including the likes of Privateer: The Darkening, with Christopher Walken and John Hurt among its cast.

Graphics, sound and music delivery have advanced considerably in the last decade or two, and where once cutscenes often looked and sounded like separate productions they are now more likely to share the look, sound and feel of the rest of the game.

Indeed, they are often so seamlessly interwoven with gameplay that the line between taking an active role in a game and exposition has become increasingly blurred, affecting approaches taken to music in the process.

Walk Down EMSory Lane

There've been several fun stories in the news lately about the technical hurdles than the very first Wing Commander games faced. In 1990, it wasn't enough just to have the hardware necessary to play cutting edge games. Players also had to be adept at customizing their system's setup files in order to specifically arrange memory and drivers to support demanding titles. Revo-emag has posted an article on "Wing Commander and the art of config.sys." It's a fond recollection of the technical tweaks that young computer gamers had to learn in order to function. It wasn't so long ago that the CIC would post config.sys tips in the news to help Wingnuts get new hardware running. Modern solutions like DOSBox are already a dozen years old, but they still seem relatively new to those of us who worked with actual DOS!
The thing is, this isn’t a “do once and relax” ordeal, as you’d have to tinker with these files anytime you get more memory or have to load a new driver. Some games used XMS, some used EMS.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do this stuff anymore, but I dunno… I still feel like it was an important learning experience for a young gamer, like a geeky rite of passage or something. It definitely made me feel more pleased with myself once I finally got my games to work!

New Concordia Cruises By

Klavs has put together a slick animation that shows off his new Concordia model in motion. A few people commented last month that the ship didn't necessarily convey the right sense of scale, so Klavs has adjusted the windows to appear more proportionate. There is also a large Broadsword bomber taking off from the port runway, which further gives viewers a feeling for how big the dreadnought is. The ship is far from complete, so stay tuned for future updates!
Thanks for the comments guys, and the votes! Always an honor to contribute to this great community. Still adding markings, weathering, battle damage, weapons... tons more detail to come!

Upgrade Your GOG WC Prophecy With DVD Video

Yesterday's win for the Prophecy Fan Movie project is a great reminder that options exist to sit back on your couch and relive the Wing Commander series without lifting a finger. But for those not content to just watch the action, there are ways to optimize your playing experience! The WC4 on GOG is special because it contains all of the high quality movies that were enhanced for a limited DVD release. Since Prophecy was never officially published on DVD, GOG could not similarly update the version they sell. But fans have come to the rescue and you can upgrade the game by yourself! Here's a quick summary from Popsicle Pete on how to get the best looking game:
  • Install GOG Prophecy
  • Download HCl's WCP Enhancement Package, and unzip the files straight into the WCP folder. Make sure you DON'T overwrite Prophecy.exe or WCPHR.DLL
  • Install Pedro's OpenGL Package
  • Right-click on Prophecy.exe, select "Properties", "Compatibility" tab, and remove the "Win98" compatibility flag. Make sure you also click on the "All users settings" button at the bottom and remove it there too.
  • Download the DVD movies, and unzip them into a folder called "Movie" in the WCP folder.

Note that the high res movies should only work in OpenGL mode. This has also been primarily tested with Windows 7, so there could be slight differences with other operating systems. Visit the CIC Forums if you have something else to add or if you find an issue that needs to be addressed.

If you'd just like to play around with the Prophecy movies by themselves, grab them at the links below!

Announcing 2014 Winners!

Hundreds of votes have been cast, and we finally have the winners of the annual CIC contests! It's hard to cast just one vote in each category when every project or site has made a major contribution to the community over the past year, but we appreciate this opportunity to recognize a few of the endeavors that had some of the largest impact. Here's who came out on top:


The winner for 2014 Fan Project of the Year is Wing Commander Flat Universe. They made a big splash when first announced in 2013, but progress accelerated last year with regular status updates, art previews and playable test releases. Their responses to initial player feedback has also helped earn a dedicated following.



Sometimes votes are close and there are more than just a single winner or runner up who've made a significant impact, and in cases like this we'll give out two awards.

The first runner up for 2014 Fan Project of the Year is Klavs' Model Archive. Fans have enjoyed seeing Klavs' models in exquisite renders, make surprise appearances in other fan projects and even physically interact with them as 3D prints. In 2014, other aspiring modders got a big boost when Klavs' digital fleet was posted for download to jump start the creation of even more projects.



The second runner up for 2014 Fan Project of the Year is the Prophecy Fan Movie! Although Beckmen kept a relatively low profile leading up to its release, the project was clearly very time consuming and was in the works for quite a while. The final product allows fans to recap and experience the game again in a compact format that doesn't require any PC tweaking or relearning controls. But it's captivating enough that some pilots end up digging out their joysticks again after watching!



The winner for 2014 Website of the Year is Daedalus Station! We don't always allow multiple nominees from a single person or group into the contest, but the Maslas Brothers have earned their top honors in both categories this time around. The Flat Universe game is its own distinct experience, and its website has distinguished itself as another premiere entity with a flashy WC-style interface, useful information and its own in-universe magazine. Either one could stand out on their own, but fans have come to appreciate both for what they've done over the past year!



Finally, the runner up for 2014 Website of the Year is capi's Wing Commander RPG Wiki. Its wealth of encyclopedia-style information, frequent status updates as well as the RPG game itself have been a winning combination on the web. capi's creativity is nowhere near being tapped out, so we look forward to even more ahead!



While we congratulate the latest winners, we also appreciate the contributions of all of the other nominees and dedicated Wingnuts everywhere. We're always surprised and impressed by the different things that wind up in the news each year. Let's make 2015 great together!

Experience WC1 Voiceovers in Sega CD Video

World of Longplays has posted a five hour playthrough of Wing Commander for the Sega CD (known as the Mega CD in Japan and Europe). Quite a few people played WC on the Super NES, but the Sega port was far less popular due to the specialized Genesis add-on hardware it required. However, this version of the game has the unique distinction of being the only non-SWC WC1 variant with full speech. Fans have posted samples of what this sounded like before, but this is the most extensive way to experience the audio without owning the game yourself. It also highlights the slightly toned down visuals and new soundtrack. Part 1 of the video is available below and Part 2 is online here.
HCl already has a Sega CD voice extractor in the archive. We're still waiting for someone to figure out how to patch speech into the DOS version! If you can't wait for that and decide the hunt down the originals, don't forget the memory cart!

Underworld Ascendant Bringing Back Classic Franchise

Another famous Origin series is getting a new spiritual successor thanks to Kickstarter. Underworld Ascension was first announced last summer, and the team has spent about half a year doing initial planning on the game to ensure a successful crowdfunding campaign. The team behind the new game is led by designer Paul Neurath and others who were involved in the original. They're more than half way to a $600,000 funding goal in less than a week, so prospects look good.
The original Ultima Underworld was released in 1992. Players and critics were blown away by this innovative take on a fantasy RPG. It was the first game to have a texture mapped first-person 3D world, pioneering the category of immersive games. Beyond its cutting-edge visuals, it heralded an era of sandbox, dynamic play, giving players the tools to craft their own stories. Far more than simple dungeon crawls, Ultima Underworld and the 1993 sequel Ultima Underworld II, were fully-realized worlds.

Far more than a dungeon crawl, Underworld Ascendant is a next-generation sequel to the legendary fantasy RPG's Ultima Underworld & Ultima Underworld 2. It not only modernizes the series' visuals and user interface to take full advantage of the today's powerful PC's, it innovates in bold new ways.

Ben "Bandit (LOAF)" Lesnick and James Pugh have conducted this awesome interview with Neurath, Starr Long and Richard Garriott about the project and their time at Origin.
We also only recently discovered this fun Kilrathi-themed easter egg in the Stygian Abyss.

Streaming Wing Commander Expanded to Several European Countries

Sweden, Denmark and Norway have become the latest countries to get the Wing Commander Movie on Netflix in a big service expansion February 4. Although there are quite a few ways to digitally purchase WC these days, it's great to see it show up for "free" on the popular streaming service - especially in countries that might not have easy access to regionalized versions. We've seen traffic spikes in years past as the film was broadcast on TV, and this is a pretty similar digital equivalent. If you just found your way to the CIC after seeing the movie and Googling 'Wing Commander', welcome!
Earth's only hope against the evil Kilrathi Empire are two young fighter pilots who must stop the enemy and warn Earth of an imminent attack.

Last Chance to Vote

This is the last call for votes in our annual contests. Read about the nominees here and stay tuned for the winners soon!

Enhance Your General MIDI With Timbres Soundfont

If you're into classic gaming, you'll know that MIDI music sounds rather underwhelming, unless you have some fancy, expensive hardware decoder like the Roland Sound Canvas. Over time, people have developed their own software synthesizers (soundfonts) that sound much more life-like than the default MIDI device on Windows. Getting this to work with your favorite game used to be tricky, but VirtualMIDISynth conveniently solves this by creating a virtual MIDI device for games to use. Just point the program to a soundfont and select the virtual MIDI device as your preferred output, and any game that supports General MIDI will instantly sound awesome. One such soundfont that has gained some notoriety is Don Allen's Timbres of Heaven. Forums member wcnut reports that Timbres has a new release out (v3.0) and that it's well worth checking out. If you need convincing, the video below compares regular Sound Blaster MIDI with an emulated Roland MT-32 board. Even more samples can be found here.

Flat Universe Weapon Usage Explained

Maslas is back with more information about the recently released 0.65 update to Wing Commander Flat Universe. There have been some questions about missile usages, so that's been explained. It's really interesting and closely mirrors the weapon loadout options available to players in WC3&4. The team is also discussing some changes to guns and other features in a future update. Head over to Daedalus Station to try out the game's latest test release now.
Missiles are fully operational. The missile types are exactly the same as in every WC game (DF, HS, IR, FF, Mines, Torpedoes) and with almost the same characteristics. It might be possible that you didn't notice that in this version of the game there is an option for weapon selection on the same terminal display that you select your ship. Some hardpoints have certain missile restrictions. For example the Hornet has 3 hardpoints with capacity of 1 missile each. The center hardpoint can take either a HS or a DF whereas the other two only take DFs. Different hardpoint restrictions exist on both the Scim and the Raptor.

In order to complete a successful missile launch your ship's fore (nose) must be within a 45 degree angle from your target and the target must be locked (default key L). This is the basic logic for almost all the missiles except the FF which doesn't need locking nor certain aiming from your side. Finally, be warned that HSes are useless against targets without engines. In other words: HS vs Turret = no boooom. I know what you might be thinking, "HSes are useless right now." And the answer is, "Yes, they are!"

We are still tweaking the gun ranges. We are also considering reducing their ranges a little so they should fit into the window of a 16:9 ratio screen. However, be reminded that we encourage you to use the camera zoom and follow capabilities. They work fast without interrupting the player from the gameplay.

There will be a mission editor but it is scheduled for a very later versions of the project. As our motto says, "Coming sooner or later."

Glimpse the Wing Commander Universe through a Sketch Pad

NinjaLA has posted another pack of Wing Commander sketches. The first picture shows off a fearsome Gothi after an attack run on a Tarsus. A pair of Dralthi also circle the melee, but it's kind of nice to see them take a back seat once in a while. The second image is a more blueprint-style take on the Hornet, Raptor and a familiar Kilrathi medium fighter. Despite what I just said, that's a very shapely Dralthi. There's also several head sketches for the original Tiger's Claw bunch. They'd look even better in a new WC comic!

Thousands of Lines Extracted for WC4 Audio Mega Pack

Last month's audio pack with all of Plier's WC4 witticisms was a big hit, so AD has rolled up (nearly) the whole enchilada this time. He's assembled a much larger zip with some 6,000 various clips. It's mostly comm chatter, but there is some music in there as well. They're also mostly unlabeled due to the quantity of files here, but anyone who needs pilot voiceovers for a fan project is in luck. It's also really fun to randomly sift through and listen since there's so many obscure lines that most people have never heard before. Grab it here (125 meg zip).
This is the majority of the audio from the PC version. I'll start with what's missing: The majority of the sound effects and ship flyby sounds are missing. I thought I had included the inflight music, but it looks like there's only half of it. But the majority of the comm audio should be in this pack.

I didn't try and categorize all the nearly 6,000 files. I left it separated by disk. I did do a quick runthrough of the first disk, so all the named files in the root directory of the zip should be duplicates of disk one. I've made a preliminary attempt at naming them. So what you will find in the disk folders are a bunch of sequential wav files... It's not as much of a mess as it would first seem. You can pretty much ignore the last four digits of the 12 digit file-names. The first eight are the ones that count. The files are named after the extracted IFF files that they came from (@HCl's awesome but ancient treman doesn't preserve the original internal IFF naming unfortunately). So the program I batch converted these in preserved the IFF file number and appended a four digit sequential numbering on the entire batch.

Why this is important? Basically if the first 8 numbers match they are from the same batch... Usually the game will group one wingman's replies into one IFF so a batch of 20 files with the same first 8 numbers will probably be someone like Maniac's replies to comm commands.

Now about duplication: Yes... There's a lot here. But it wasn't practical (at least short term) to get rid of them all. Quite a few of the comm audio replies are repeated between disks (but not all) and in a few cases are repeated even within the same disk. (one trick is to put them all in the same folder and sort by time length and file size. Pretty much all duplicates will be side by side but it will be time consuming to get rid of the extras)

There are two versions of wingmen replies based on their morale. In some cases there's quite a few enemy taunts, but the game seems to pick from only half a dozen really common ones for whatever reason depending on who you're flying against. There's a handful of taunts that are supposed to be for pirates if I'm not mistaken, but you only really have 3 missions where you fly against pirates.

There's also full comms for all the non-FMV wingmen you can fly with on both the Lexington *and* the Intrepid. I can't say I normally picked them to fly with. What's more, any of the early Lexington pilots all have friendly and enemy comm dialogue. There's quite a few different versions of the dialogue for friendly ships you need to escort, but I don't remember actually seeing much variation in game (though some of the lines, like damage reports, rely on you actually asking for the damage report).

For sure though, I've never heard at least half of these comms before (or just never paid close enough attention?). I was a bit amazed at the sheer variety of audio clips in the game. It's kind of funny that you often end up hearing the same half a dozen replies anyway.

I also find a number of the "second wing" comm lines interesting since it's fairly obvious the team had planned on a much more robust and fleshed out system for the secondary objectives that you would have had to step in and help complete from time to time, but it doesn't seem like the system got fully fleshed out in the final game. For me these clips are the most interesting as most of the pilots have options for being on the second wing.

Strategy Mod's Tactical Display Finished

Arraen reports that the user interface is complete for the Starship Tactics strategy game. The latest revision removes some of the rounded edges and other modern space game flair in exchange for a more classical look that draws on games such as Wing Commander 3 and Privateer 2. Then it's all tied together by a strong shade of Confederation blue. You can compare how the menus have evolved over the past year in the shots below - the first image is newest - and provide feedback at the CIC Forums.

Wing Commander Explosions Digitally Dissected

Last week danr put together a nifty video that showed off the differences a pilot would see playing the original Wing Commander games with and without expanded memory enabled. By all accounts, EMS definitely kicks the graphics and effects up a notch. But Owyn_Merrilin asked, "Is it weird that I actually like that explosion better than the ones you see on a system with enough EMS? They kind of remind me of the explosions in WC2, but smaller." And Dondragmer came to the rescue with a thorough technical explanation describing exactly why someone might have such a preference:
No, it's not weird, and it may be because you're noting a limitation in the regular WC1 explosion. The WC1 explosion (on the left or top) only has 6 cels. The game stretches this by displaying each cel for multiple frames - 1, 2, 3, 3, 4 and 6 frames respectively, for a total of 19. The cels are scaled up between frames to make some movement happen. This is clever programming to overcome limited memory and art resources, but still feels a little odd to watch.

In comparison, the low-memory flak burst (on the right or bottom) has 10 cels, each displayed for 1 frame. It may be smaller and shorter, but it is smoother.

Let's watch them in slow motion, the way our 286-using ancestors did.

For completeness, let's look at WC2.

The WC2 fighter explosion (below left or top) has 17 cels, and the WC2 capital ship explosion (below right or bottom) has 12 (ending with the whole screen flashing yellow, then white, then fading back.)

I extracted the WC2 sequences with the Wing Commander Bitmap Navigator. While WC1 and WC2 store their explosions in GAMEDAT\OBJECTS.VGA, the programmatic enhancements to each (the scaling in WC1 and the fading in WC2) mean you probably can't just use editing tools to swap explosion sequences between the two games.

With all that said, I still have a soft spot for the 6-cel WC1 explosion and its scaling tricks. However, there's no question that every other explosion used in WC1 and WC2 animates more smoothly.

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