Goodbye, Pete Shelus

There’s a star system named after me in the Wing Commander universe. It’s the result of an overworked designer at Origin needing to fill a giant map with hundreds of names quickly, but it may still be the single thing in my life that I’m most proud of. But where there were hundreds of systems to fill in, there were only a handful of encompassing quadrants. They reserved the names for real legends: there’s a Roberts Quadrant, of course, and then each of the executive producers got one… Mark Day, Rod Nakamoto, David Downing, Adam Foshko.


And then a select few Maverick team members had the honor. Ghorah Khar, the treasonous Kilrathi planet from Wing Commander II, is located in the Isaac Quadrant, named after the genius behind the RealSpace engine. The Ladyman Quadrant, named after Origin’s master of manuals, encompasses the Terran Confederation’s leeward expansion. Half the battles of the original Vega Campaign took place in the Douglas Quadrant, after the man who redefined the look of the series’ ships in Wing Commander III. And my star, the Lesnick System? I’m proud to say it’s located squarely in the middle of the Shelus Quadrant.


Pete Shelus started his career at Origin working on Tactical Operations, the Strike Commander mission disk and quickly proved his mettle. His credits on Wing Commander III are confirmation of the whizbang engineer he’d quickly proved himself to be: “Polygonal Collisions,” and “Math & Algorithms Consultant.” He went on to help out with Wing Commander IV and to serve as lead programmer on the 3DO port of Wing Commander III, still to my mind the single greatest after-the-fact PC-to-console conversion ever developed. He worked on the plan for Chris Roberts’ aborted version of Privateer 2 and when Chris to form Digital Anvil he became the Maverick Team’s lead programmer on the so-technically-ambitious Wing Commander Prophecy. After all that, he went on to keep creating worlds with Warren Spector’s teams at Ion Storm and Junction Point.


But that’s all on MobyGames. I’ll tell you right here that Pete was someone special. One of my happiest memories was visiting Origin back in 1998, shortly after the Secret Ops release. Pete was one of a handful of Maverick Team members present that day, and he treated a scraggly teenage fanboy who was almost too nervous to speak like he was just as important as any journalist or executive producer. That meant so much to me at the time, and I try and carry it with me to everything I do today. By all accounts, that was the universal reaction to him. Check out his February, 1996 ‘Employee of the Month’ submission from Origin’s internal newsletter:

Three months!


We stayed in touch, over the years, and he was always kind enough to answer some esoteric Wing Commander technical question or clear up some other bit of trivia from the old days. Long after anyone’s involvement with the franchise was a distant memory, he was still so gracious as to make it seem like you were making his day by writing to him to ask about this-or-that.


Several years back, after another one of these all-too-common tragedies, I put out a call for memories of the great 3D artist Paul Steed. Pete was among the first to reply with memories of his friend, and I sent him a note with my condolences and catching up. He wrote me back the following, which today brings me to tears:

Thank you and thanks to your team for keeping Wing Commander alive. I still remember the day I met Chris Roberts at some promotional event at some computer game store where he told me I should apply for a job at Origin. I did, and he hired me. How lucky can a guy be? Who gets to work on their favorite computer game franchise? Almost nobody. But I did.

I'm forever grateful for my good fortune, the friends I made on the way (like Paul Steed), and people like you who support the game that started my career. Thank you.

Pete, you were a great engineer and a better man. I’m glad to know that you appreciated those days at Origin, that you valued the experience that made so many of us happy and that you had pride in the incredible things you did and made. It’s always cold comfort, but the games and the stories your expertise made possible will live on past any of us. And you will be missed.


If you have a memory to share or would like to include your condolences on WCNews, please e-mail news@wcnews.com.


Wing Commander CIC - Visit the front page

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


Taste That Synthi Meat
2017-11-16 -- The Wing Commander series has had quite a few large and elaborate print advertisements over the years, but even by the franchise's often lofty standards, this one's a whopper. This ad is spread across six full pages and follows a "five senses" theme with a late '90s vibe. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch are all emphasized along with a smattering of FMV screenshots, gameplay scenes and a handful of commodities.

A Localization Interrogation
2017-11-15 -- Most Wingnuts are familiar with all of the cool contents of a basic Wing Commander Prophecy box... but this one's a little different. Can you spot everything that makes this setup unique?

Upgraded Corvette Ready For Vision Engine
2017-11-14 -- Version 0.32B of the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack was just released, but work continues at a rapid pace. The Kilrathi are the next focus, and they're led by the fearsome Corvette.

Catch Up On Strike Commander's History
2017-11-13 -- The DOS Game Club is a really cool place dedicated to gaming highlights of the '80s and '90s. Their community selects a game each month, and then they jointly play it together and discuss in their regular podcast. A recently selection was Origin's Strike Commander, and our own Bandit (LOAF) was able to participate in their episode on it.

Wing Commander Composer David Arnold Interviewed
2017-11-12 -- Modern Vinyl has posted an interesting interview with David Arnold, the composer behind the Wing Commander Movie's famous Overture theme. Much of the article focuses on the recent vinyl release of his work on Hot Fuzz, but it also notes his wide ranging involvement with films from James Bond to Stargate. Check out the full article here.

Homeworld Mod Removes Bugs & Fixes AI
2017-11-11 -- There's another new update to the Homeworld Remastered mod, Flag Commander. L.I.

OldiesGames Does Vengeance Of The Kilrathi
2017-11-10 -- We've been following the OldiesGamesTV series of Wing Commander reviews for a number of years, and now they've completed their three-part profile of Wing Commander 2. The videos are in French, but even if you can't speak the language, seeing all of the minor differences in the game are really cool if you originally played in another language. And where you understand their words or not, it's clear that they're big Wing Commander fans that we're happy to support!

Wing Commander Album Track List Complete!
2017-11-09 -- George Oldziey is back with another update on the progress of the second Wing Commander album. He's been quiet for a little bit, but there has been tons of progress on the orchestration front. The basic track list is complete and PDF scores will even be sent out soon.

Secret Ops Is All About Squashing Bugs!
2017-11-08 -- Fans have been running the new Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack through its paces hard since the latest version was released last week. As intended, the test managed to tease out a few bugs, and the team quickly responded. DefianceIndustries and PopsiclePete have already managed to put out a new version that resolves the issues identified so far.

Three Cheers For WC2 Manuals
2017-11-07 -- Wing Commander games can come in all shapes and sizes, and today we have a look at the different colored manuals of Wing Commander 2. WC2 was one of the most ubiquitous titles of the early '90s thanks to several factors: the popularity of WC1 was key, but it also was a major showcase for in-game speech and eventually mass-produced for inclusion in a large number of different OEM and budget CD-ROM releases. The red manual below was quite common and the black lesser so.

Shapely New Wing Commander 3D Prints Available
2017-11-06 -- Carter3D is a cool Shapeways outfit with a whole bunch of neat ships. There are quite a few Star Wars designs, but there are also about a dozen detailed Wing Commander models available to 3D print. Carter seems to be a Prophecy fan, but there are also a handful of ships from WC3&4 mixed in as well.

Wing Commander 3 Play-Through Remade At Nightmare Difficulty!
2017-11-05 -- It's been more than ten years since the legendary Queeg released his consolidated Wing Commander 3 movie. The original film set download records at the CIC and garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Now he's back with a brand new take on The Heart of the Tiger - this time he's completed the entire game on Nightmare difficulty!

GalCiv 3 Mod Continues To Expand
2017-11-04 -- Hellakazoo has posted some additional screenshots of his Galactic Civilizations 3 WC mod that highlight some of his latest additions, such as the Tarsus and Clarkson jammer. There's also a neat screenshot of one of the game's menus that feature the character portraits. Some of the recent CIC Forums discussion has been about what to add next.

Wing Commander Scores Lucky #7
2017-11-03 -- Here's a throwback to a twenty-one year old issue of Computer Gaming World. Back in November 1996, when we all were just getting into the Wingnut scene online, CGW posted a comprehensive "best 150" games feature. Wing Commander came in as the 7th best title of all time, just behind other famous contemporaries like Sid Meier's Civilization, Ultima IV, Doom & Sim City.

New Prophecy, Secret Ops Update Adds Ships & More!
2017-11-02 -- The newest version of the Prophecy and Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack has been released! It includes a whole pile of exciting ships that have been gracing the news over the last few months. There are additional bug fixes as well as some new features to smooth in-game graphical loading.

Kilrathi Invade #GamingHaikus
2017-11-01 -- We may have missed International Haiku Poetry Day by quite a bit, but idspispopz is there to make sure we're still covered with this simple yet elegant Wing Commander poem. Feel free to hit the comment link and add your own!

Arena Concept Art Inspires New Models
2017-10-31 -- After recently refining his slick Excalibur model, DefianceIndustries took a crack at turning it into the futuristic variant proposed in the Wing Commander Arena concept art. Its main vertical stabilizers have been moved inwards over the engine housings, and extended downswept winglets have also been added. The redesign really makes you think what new missions it might be called upon that would warrant these tweaks.

Waterloo Once Again
2017-10-30 -- Here's a new look at Klavs' groovy Waterloo class cruiser. Some of the most obvious detail is the addition of new windows and lighting, but there are also hull improvements throughout that give the ship a much more realistic facade. Additional gun emplacements are also present throughout that both fill in some of the blank spaces and give the ship some teeth.

GalCiv 3 Mod Adds Tons Of WC Ships
2017-10-29 -- Hellakazoo has been working on a neat ship expansion to Galactic Civilizations 3. He's already added dozens of fighters and larger capships, and he's nowhere near stopping. WC1/2 are where he began, but work is moving into the later games with plans to even include designs from Privateer, Armada and the Movie.

Super Wing Commander Cameo In '90s Computer Documentary
2017-10-28 -- "Synthetic Pleasures" is a stylish documentary from 1995 on the nature of VR, robotics, AI and the future. It also has an inexplicable cameo from the Super Wing Commander suit-up and launch sequence. They clearly just liked the visual look, and the game isn't really related in context at all.

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