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:


Oof, Right in the Listicle
2017-09-20 -- The Animated Times is running one of those list articles that the kids today love: "15 Video Game Cartoons You Totally Forgot." Wing Commander Academy makes the list, at #15:The Wing Commander franchise made a splash when it debuted in 1990, but it was never a series that burned up the sales charts. This, however, didn’t stop the USA Network from turning the space combat games into a short lived cartoon in 1996.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day
2017-09-19 -- It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! ITLAPD is an internet favorite, with all sorts of goofy nonsense occuring every September 19th. Of course, this is nothing new for Wing Commander fans: we've been talking like pirates since the 1993 release of the Wing Commander Privateer Speech Accessory Pack.

Pass the K'ha'haf
2017-09-18 -- You've seen hint books for games, you've seen hint books for series of games and you've seen hint books that cover collections of games on particular consoles... but have you ever seen a hint book for a COMPANY? Better yet: have you ever seen a hint book with a painting of Prince Thrakhath and a basketball player?

No End Run in 2017
2017-09-17 -- Bad news for eBook fans: Baen has published their schedule through December and End Run is still not on it. The second Wing Commander novel was accidentally left off the original schedule because a physical copy wasn't retained in Baen's archives... the publisher intends to issue it when a hole opens on their schedule, but sadly that will not happen in 2017.

Cute Little Mini Ship EXPOSED
2017-09-16 -- Do you remember Wing Commander III's smallest, cutest spaceship? You have to look carefully! The Confederation and Kilrathi transports in Wing Commander III are designed to have cargo pods attached to their latticework.

In France, No One Can Hear You Scream
2017-09-15 -- Our examination of classic magazine scans continues! This two-page Privateer advertisement appeared in a November, 1993 issue of Generation 4 magazine in France. A similar ad appeared in UK publications, with a somewhat different variant in the United States.

All About My Triangles
2017-09-14 -- The image below is the first screenshot of Wing Commander III's gameplay ever released to the public. An Arrow flies past... a triangular Kilrathi transport.

Look What You Squid!
2017-09-13 -- DefianceIndustries has posted finished screenshots of the next two ships being added to the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack: the Terran Confederation F-103D Excalibur and the Nephilim Squid interceptor. There are just two more ships on the docket for the next patch, so once the Orca and the Plunkett are completed there will be a new playable version. We can't wait!

Wing Commander Sticks With Us
2017-09-12 -- What is there that does not love a crazy, meaningless sticker? Not Origin Systems, that's for sure! In the early 1990s, Origin's manufacturers could barely keep up with demand for new copies of Wing Commander...

RIP Jerry Pournelle
2017-09-11 -- Jerry Pournelle, one of the giants of science fiction literature, passed away on Friday. He was best known for his frequent, genre-defining writing collaborations alongside fellow luminary Larry Niven, including The Mote in God's Eye, Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall. He was an unparalleled creator of worlds in his own right, responsible for series like Janissaries and the CoDominium setting, which has become an expansive shared universe that continues to expand today.

Test Your Audio Trivia Knowledge In New WC Contest!
2017-09-10 -- The fun drive is over, but George Oldziey is still working hard and staying engaged with fans. He's put together another contest to see who can place where another new track originates. If you think you know what game and scene it first appeared in, email the address below!

Flat Universe Multiplayer Alpha Now Multiplatform
2017-09-09 -- The Flat Universe team has been hard at work these past few weeks debugging the multiplayer alpha of their fan game, and they can finally say "FU" to the glitches that have nagged the Mac and Linux editions of the game. Everyone will need to re-download now, but future editions should be patchable with the new auto updater. Give it a try and let the Maslas Brothers know what you think!

Taking The Wraps Off The PPG
2017-09-08 -- Unboxing videos are still all the rage, and a proper video series that details the contents of a wide variety of Wing Commander products would be awesome. That's why we were excited to stumble across a Privateer Playtesters' Guide being unwrapped for the first time. It's a relatively obscure book, and there's some really useful stuff in there for the Gemini Sector traveler.

Wing Commander Album Well Under Way
2017-09-07 -- It's been a productive two weeks for Origin composer George Oldziey since the successful conclusion of his campaign to create a second Wing Commander album. Most of the orchestral portions of the album are already in work, and George details where in the WC games these pieces originate from below. He's also firming up plans for the live jazz recordings with the goal of wrapping up the album around the end of the year.

Ships Added & Bugs Squashed For Next MUP Release
2017-09-06 -- There's been a ton of progress on the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack over the last week or so, and we've gotten behind in the news! Here's a double update worth of great progress to catch up on. There's something for everyone: new Excalibur models and quick incorporation of the Vaktoth fighter we featured yesterday - plus status on the latest bug fixes and feature additions.

New Vaktoth Ready For Post-War Battle
2017-09-05 -- The Kilrathi are perhaps the single thing that Wing Commander is most known for, but somehow it's been several months since we've written a post dedicated to a kat space ship! DefianceIndustries is here to help with his latest take on the heavy Vaktoth. Its sharp-edged design may make accurate rendering relatively easy, but the high quality textures is where the model really shines.

New Homeworld Screenshots Come Hell Or High Water
2017-09-04 -- While trying to find some high ground to stay dry on, L.I.F.

Confed's Contrasting Cartoon Carriers
2017-09-03 -- If you liked Klavs' cool Concordia animation from last week, we've got a new way to check out the model. NinjaLA has put together an artsy render of the ship for fans to enjoy. It's from a forward perspective that gives a great glimpse of the large phase-transit cannon.

Flat Universe Multiplayer Alpha Goes Live!
2017-09-02 -- The highly anticipated open multiplayer test of the Wing Commander Flat Universe is now available. Wingnuts can go in and register and download the fan game for Windows, Mac or Linux. There are lots of nice improvements to the core game itself as well, even if you're not into blasting your friends.

This Is How We Do It...
2017-09-01 -- It's Friday night, and I feel alright. The party is here in #Wingnut. So I reach for my laptop and I turn it up.

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