Just Play the Classics!

In 1994, Electronic Arts hit on a sales trick that has since become commonplace: re-release your recent back catalog as budget 'classic' titles using simple packaging and digitized manuals to lower printing costs. The original cost of producing these games could be further amortized, ultimately helping further support the ever-growing game development budgets needed for new titles to stand up. You could call it GOG's great, great grandson!

Initially priced between $7.99 and $14.99 each, the first wave of 'Electronic Arts presents CD-ROM Classics' contained a host of mid-1990s Origin titles alongside other EA favorites such as Chuck Yeager's Air Combat. The idea was a hit, and these and other Origin classics would go on to be re-released in several series over the years, with some Wing Commander games still being available at retail today! A simple collector's guide to these releases follows.

Black Series: Also known as the original or black series, these classics came in a one-piece cardboard package similar to Origin's add-on disks. Each box included a printed install guide booklet and a CD-ROM containing the game and digital copies of the original manuals. The black series were released in several waves over multiple years. Wing Commander games represented are Wing Commander II Deluxe, Privateer, Academy and Armada. Other Origin games in the black line included Strike Commander, Shadowcaster, System Shock, Ultima Underworld I & II and the Complete Ultima VII. The Wing Commander Academy release is among the harder classics to find.

Gold Series: In 1996, Electronic Arts began issuing the CD-ROM Classics in gold bordered boxes. These versions came in more traditional two-piece boxes made of a heavier cardboard. In some cases, these versions of the games were updated with scripts to assist in running older titles using Windows 95. Wing Commander II Deluxe, Wing Commander Privateer and Wing Commander III were released in this series. Other Origin titles included the Crusader: No Regret, CyberMage, Bioforge, Complete Ultima VII, Ultima Underworld I & II and Ultima VIII: Pagan. Completists take note: the gold series version of Privateer's cover promoted a $10 rebate for the newly-released Privateer 2: The Darkening in some printings!

Gold II Series: The second gold series of EA classics began in 1997 and ran for several years. These releases included slightly larger two-piece boxes distinguished from the earlier gold series by having only a single band at the bottom of the game box art rather than a full border. The only Wing Commander games released in this series were Privateer and Wing Commander III. Other Origin titles included the Ultima Collection, Ultima VIII: Pagan, Crusader: No Remorse and Jane's AH-64 Longbow. Other release continued into the 21st century in a similar box design dropping the 'CD-ROM' from the label; no Origin games were reissued this way.

Silver Series: The Silver Series of EA classics launched in 1997 and is, improbably, the one you are most likely to discover in stores today. These minimalist releases included only a single, silver-bordered jewel case, designed for sale in the walls of budget video game options at places like Office Depot. Three Wing Commander games appear in this format: Wing Commander II Deluxe, Academy and Armada. Keep an eye out!

Orange Series: Meanwhile, in Europe Electronic released two equivalent lines of CD-ROM classics. The first was the orange' series, a which were released in individual jewel cases. These were traditional 'English/French/German' releases with all three languages represented on the back of the box. Three Wing Commander games were included: Wing Commander II Deluxe, Armada and Privateer. Other Origin games represented include System Shock, Crusader: No Remorse, Strike Commander, Ultima Underworld I & II and the Complete Ultima VII. Depending on the country, a different install guide was included (making a total of nine total versions for anyone interested in catching them all.)

Blue Series: While the later, multi-disc Wing Commander games were generally not released as classics in the United States, they were re-released in Europe. 'Blue' packaging includes a smaller generic two-part box with a slip cover for the relevant game. Like the orange jewel cases, these are English/French/German boxes with region-specific manuals in each country. Most impressively, these versions included printed manuals rather than PDFs! FOUR later Wing Commander titles were included: Wing Commander III, IV, Prophecy and Privateer 2! Other Origin games include System Shock, Bioforge and Ultima VIII: Pagain.

Did we miss any EA classics? Have you collected them all? Let us know on the forums!


Wing Commander CIC - Visit the front page

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


Arrow Kit for Sale!
2017-07-20 -- Alfred Wong's Arrow model is here! The promised plastic model kit that allows you to build your own 1/48 scale Terran Confederation Arrow fighter is now shipping. The unfinished kit costs $165 Canadian plus shipping and measures 9.

Countdown To Party Time!
2017-07-19 -- An important date is fast approaching, and as we're just about a month away, it's time to firm up details for the CIC's 19th Birthday Party! The milestone technically arrives on August 10, but this year we'll be observing the event on Saturday, August 19. Everything gets going at 7:00 pm EDT (4:00 pm PDT and 11:00 pm GMT) in #Wingnut on irc.

Destroyer Updated
2017-07-18 -- Murphy's law! Wing Commander Prophecy Model Upgrade Pack... and it's very handsome indeed!

Greetings, Starfighter
2017-07-17 -- Did you know that Lockheed Martin build a real starfighter to play Wing Commander? Well, kind of. Today we have an interesting oddity in Wing Commander history: the packaging for a Real3D Starfighter AGP graphics card.

Lost Tank Found
2017-07-16 -- What secret lurk in the heart of Wing Commander III's TRE files? Well, this Kilrathi missile tank, for one! The general design of this tank should be familiar to WC veterans… but you haven't seen it with a missile turret before!

Super Wing Commander Trailer Hints at Lost Ship
2017-07-15 -- Yesterday, we reported on footage of an early build of Wing Commander II digitized by the University of Texas. Today, we have a second treasure from a VHS provided by Origin producer Warren Spector: early footage of Super Wing Commander in action! The video clearly shows an early, unfinished build that has a more elaborate 'loading' screen for the VDUs (and is still using some Wing Commander I art as placeholders!

Early Wing Commander II Footage
2017-07-14 -- The University of Texas at Austin's Briscoe Center for American History has digitized several VHS tapes donated by famed Origin producer Warren Spector including a VERY interesting tape previewing Origin's 1991 lineup. The tape, likely created for a trade show or as a preview for distributors, walks through all of Origin's current releases. It includes a lengthy trailer of the already-released Wing Commander I, The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade… and then a VERY exciting preview of Wing Commander II.

Cheat Sheet: WC4 Turrets
2017-07-13 -- This is a followup to our article on Wing Commander III capship turrets. Wing Commander IV did not include a printed manual with detailed ship specifications, so this is not so much a correction as it is an addition! These counts are most interesting where they differ from those in Wing Commander III; in several cases, the same ship model is used with a different turret setup.

Cheat Sheet: WC3 Turrets
2017-07-12 -- It's easy to find 'mistakes' in the ship stats published in Wing Commander manuals. The biggest reason for this is that physical manuals needed to be locked down for print before the final testing and balancing of the games would have been finished. Changes to ship stats to better balance gameplay are common, meaning that a booklet like Victory Streak gives a better look at how the team thought the game would work rather than how it actually does.

Fusion Visits Wing Commander IV
2017-07-11 -- Fusion was a short-lived magazine which ran for seven issues from 1995 to 1996. The publication billed itself as the "magazine of interactive entertainment," which is about as 1990s as a gaming magazine can make itself sound! The November 1995 issue included a wonderful set visit report from the Wing Commander IV film shoot.

Cerberus and Friends
2017-07-10 -- Set desktop backgrounds to stunning! DefianceIndustries has created an extremely cool 'Cerberus Fleet' image using only assets from his Wing Commander Prophecy Model Upgrade Pack.

More French Advertisements
2017-07-09 -- Here are three fascinating Wing Commander advertisements! The first is a 1992 ad produced by Electronic Arts for the European market, which does not have a US equivalent. In 1992, EA was particularly interested in establishing that they were now the sole distributor of Origin games (which had previously been put out by companies like Mindscape and Ubisoft on a case-by-case basis.

WC4 Remaster Reaches the Razor's Edge
2017-07-08 -- Pedro Is working on a pretty exciting project: a fan-made remaster of Wing Commander IV's gameplay! Today, he posted the first test images, showing one of the game's Razor pirate fighters… and you can certainly already see the possibilities! You can learn more about the project (including how you can help!

Arrow Scout
2017-07-07 -- For want of a bubble... Alfred Wong has updated on his upcoming Arrow model kit. The good news is that we're almost there; he's just waiting for the bubble canopies to arrive.

PCPLAY Reviews Wing Commander Prophecy
2017-07-06 -- TheOneZytel was kind enough to share a Wing Commander article from his country! This issue of the Croatian magazine PCPLAY reviews Wing Commander Prophecy positively (giving it a 90%.) And of course, the cover also has Lara Croft!

This is Rank
2017-07-05 -- Ever wonder how much thought goes into something as simple as the rank insignias characters wear? Today, you can examine the original 'pitch' for ranks in Wing Commander III made as the plan for the game's full motion video was being established. Many of these are familiar from the game itself, such as Captain Eisen's solid gold Captain's bar.

Joystick Previews & Guides
2017-07-04 -- Following up our earlier update, here is a great selection of Wing Commander articles from French magazine Joystick, including interviews with developers and actors, game previews and even some impressive game guides!

Ubisoft on the Mindscape
2017-07-03 -- During the process of collecting French Wing Commander reviews from Joystick, we collected several interesting French advertisements! Before the Electronic Arts buoyout, Origin games were published in other territories (such as Europe) by other companies on a case-by-case basis. Wing Commander was published by Mindscape in Europe, with Ubisoft (!

Joystick Handles Wing Commander
2017-07-02 -- Joystick was a major French gaming magazine which started in the late 1980s and lasted through to the 21st century. During the 1990s, Joystick covered Wing Commander extensively, going so far as to have separate multi-page reviews of b-sides like the 3DO and Macintosh ports! Today, we collect eight years of reviews.

Here There Be Dragons
2017-07-01 -- Dragon is best known as the official magazine of Dungeons and Dragons. It was started in the mid-1970s and continues to this day as Dragon+, a digital spinoff. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Dragon also reviewed new computer games.

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