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!


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


Music from the Wing Commander Universe
2017-05-27 -- George Oldziey’s Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 Kickstarter is off to a great start, raising over 10% of its goal in the first 24 hours! That’s a good sign, meaning it hit one of the key markers KickStarter forecasters use to judge the health of projects. Now it’s our turn to help spread the word and help inform Wing Commander fans about this opportunity.

BREAKING NEWS: Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Kickstarter Launched
2017-05-26 -- Wing Commander composer George Oldziey has launched his anticipated Kickstarter campaign! Mr. Oldziey is seeking $45,000 to orchestrate a second album of his Wing Commander music.

Better Red than Dead
2017-05-25 -- It's Throwback Thursday, and today we're throwing two previously-unseen Wing Commander movie set photos into the archive! The first was recently posted to Instagram by one of the extras who played a Confederation Marine in the Wing Commander movie and the second comes to us courtesy of Etienne Braun, the film's set photographer. Both pictures show the Confederation C-524 Space Armor (and C-512 Combat Helmet) which were used for the 'boarding' sequence late in the film.

Electronic Games Reviews Wing Commander
2017-05-24 -- Electronic Games was an American gaming magazine with a broad focus that included both PC and console titles. It's run coincided with much of Wing Commander's active development, and quite a few interesting Origin subjects were covered. This is not a complete list of Electronic Games reviews as several issues have not been scanned...

Follow the Arrow Model
2017-05-23 -- Sci-fi model kit builder Alfred Wong is making something every Wing Commander fan is going to want: a 1/48 scale Arrow model kit! Mr. Wong designs and produces his own model kits covering a variety of awesome sci-fi ships...

Cube 3: Cubanate
2017-05-22 -- As part of my ongoing quest for industrial music tangentially connected to Wing Commander Prophecy, I happened across an interesting description of a CD from a group called Cubanate: "The group has also tried their hand at writing music for video games, the album track "Airport Bar" will appear on the home vid Wing Commander 5 -- Prophecy." Further research indicated that this was part of the album's 'iMuze' description, which has over the years fed it to thousands of eBay auctions, electronic storefronts and other databases.But what was Cubanate and how was it connected to Wing Commander Prophecy?

Video Games Reviews Wing Commander
2017-05-21 -- Let’s close out the week with two more vintage reviews. These are from the difficult-to-Google VideoGames magazine, which covered console gaming in the 1990s. The November 1993 issue (pictured with cover) gave a positive review to Wing Commander: The Secret Missions for the SNES, while the July 1995 issue praised Wing Commander III for the 3DO.

Lazy Game Reviews Covers Wing Commander
2017-05-20 -- Noted YouTube retrogamer Lazy Game Reviews (LGR) has just tackled our favorite: the original Wing Commander! Lazy Game Reviews produces excellent reviews of classic gaming and tech subjects… and this one is no exception. If you need to explain Wing Commander to someone unfamiliar with the series, this is a great way to start.

Kilrathi Warrior Busts Some Skulls
2017-05-19 -- The April 1994 issue of Electronic Entertainment has a short-but-interesting preview of Wing Commander III! It's fascinating to see an article that isn't especially focused on the addition of live action cutscenes... but this scan is most exciting because it includes two early concept sketches for the game: an Excalibur fighter and an initial, somewhat terrifying sketch of a Kilrathi!

End Run Still Coming
2017-05-18 -- Good news for patient Wing Commander eBook readers: the ebook re-release of Wing Commander: End Run (Book #2) is still in the works. In response to an inquiry, Baen replied via Twitter:It's in process, but I don't have a date as yet. We have to work it into the schedule, but keep checking the bundles!

Hakaga to Scale
2017-05-17 -- NinjaLA is BACK... with a herd of cats! Ninja recently tried his hand at drawing a Kilrathi Hakaga-class carrier in the same style as Claw Marks.

Acronym Party: VG&CE on WC2
2017-05-16 -- Video Games & Computer Entertainment was the first outlet to cover the 'making of' a Wing Commander game, with a cover story on the making of the original game (available here.) Today, we're looking at their articles for the second game in the series, Vengeance of the Kilrathi. The first two pages are from the January 1991 issue which reviewed Wing Commander II.

Armada II Mod Returns
2017-05-15 -- It's not uncommon for mods to disappear... so it's also a nice surprise when they come back! Back in 2012, Janos Miklos worked to convert the Star Trek Armada Wing Commander TC to the newer Star Trek Armada II platform.

PC Format on Wing Commander II
2017-05-14 -- PC Format, a UK-based gaming magazine that would go on to have a close relationship with Origin Systems, published their first issue in 1991. Of interest to us, however, is issue 2: the November, 1991 edition of the magazine was absolutely chock full of Wing Commander II. As you can see, Wing Commander II gets a four page review, a picture on the cover and even a letter in their 'Q&A' section.

Here Come the Books!
2017-05-13 -- Surprise: the printed Classic Game Cover Art books the Wing Commander community helped Mike Winterbauer create through his Kickstarter are already printed! Mr. Winterbauer has received the print run and is beginning to ship them out to supporters now.

GOG Weekend Sale Runs the Series
2017-05-12 -- Still holding out on picking up digital copies of the greatest games ever made? It seems unlikely, as you're visiting the Wing Commander community hub in 2017 AD... but just in case, GOG are having another weekly sale that covers the entire Wing Commander series!

Back to The Awakening
2017-05-11 -- Last month, we reported about the history of one of the 'inspired by' tracks on the Wing Commander Prophecy Original Soundtrack. Specifically, that the song 'The Awakening' by German electronic group Das Ich was an English-language 'Wing Commander' adaptation of one of their earlier songs. At the time, we noted the English version had only ever been available on the Prophecy soundtrack.

Chasing Saturn
2017-05-10 -- The year is 1995 and it is the height of a pitched battle between console manufacturers. These are Thunderdome rules: five systems enter, one system leaves. The stakes are much greater than just the current generation of console hardware; what happens here will set a course for decades of game development.

EGM: Previews & Cheats
2017-05-09 -- Several weeks ago, we posted a collection of Wing Commander reviews from the heydey of Electronic Games Monthly. Today, we're following that with another two selections of Wing Commander articles. The first is an assortment of previews, which cover Wing Commander and The Secret Missions for the SNES and then Wing Commander 3 for the 3DO and Playstation.

Wing Commander Prophecy Demo Updated
2017-05-08 -- PopsiclePete has a slightly crazy update for us today: he has released a new version of the 1997 Wing Commander Prophecy Demo which fixes a small graphical error. The original demo displayed a small line next to each ship VDU... and with this update, that has been fixed!

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