Happy Birthday Wing Commander Arena!

Today we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of Wing Commander Arena's release! We're used to a steady stream of 25th birthdays ticking by as the classics from the early '90s each reach a quarter century, but this one's a little different. The baby of the family has reached double digits, and while it really just seems like yesterday that we were eagerly awaiting its release, a lot of time has passed! If you weren't following us back in 2007, then this recap will help provide a glimpse into what it was like back then, and if you've been with us all along, then read on for a trip down memory lane!


Our story begins in the mid '90s when the CIC Staff cut their teeth on exciting news updates about the pending releases of Wing Commander Kilrathi Saga, Privateer 2, Prophecy, Secret Ops, the Movie, several novels and more. Things changed quite a bit in the early 2000s with the consolidation and eventual closure of Origin, and the community reinvented itself by intensely focusing on two priorities: archiving material related to the creation of Wing Commander games and an explosion of creative fan projects. Things got a nice boost with the release of Prophecy for the Game Boy Advance in 2003, but there was an even bigger surge in excitement for the all-new Arena in 2007.

Nearly ten years had passed since Prophecy/Secret Ops, and it's not lost on us that another ten years have now gone by without another follow-up. The fact that a grand total of nineteen years have gone by with just one new WC game (!!) makes us appreciate it even more today. How and why did this thing come to exist? The stars aligned and we got lucky. There have been at least half a dozen credible attempts to 'bring back' Wing Commander since the fall of Origin, and Arena is the one that succeeded. It came at a vastly different time than the PC games of the 1990s. The franchise already had a long and beautiful history of console ports, but the preferred platforms and genres were evolving rapidly through the 2000s, and the XBox 360 made the most sense in 2006. That's where the growth in the market was at the time, and the nascent market for digital downloads was just about to take off. Of course, Secret Ops was one of the world's first digitally distributed games, but that game was at least half a dozen years ahead of its time. Electronic Arts commissioned several titles to test the waters, including Boom Boom Rocket which arrived first. EA chose producer Sean Penney to lead the product out of Vancouver BC, and Gaia Industries in New York was tapped to do the art and programming. We're eternally grateful for both the man in charge and the small team tasked with bringing his vision to life. They both demonstrated considerable passion for the Wing Commander brand and a strong desire to "get it right" with a shoestring budget and the technological constraints of the format. They crammed in a wide variety of single player modes, competitive multiplayer and even a cool cooperative capship battle within a 50 megabit limit. Just a few short years later, lesser DLC games would balloon to multiple gigabytes in size, so it's amazing how much they jammed into this tiny package. There were also half a dozen iconic fighters that each sported three variants, and they dug especially deep to pull the Rapier from Super Wing Commander. Further, ships like the Longbow bomber and Pelican transport made cameos in the background. Man, what a night the release was! We all went to bed on the night of July 24, 2007 with plans to wake up at midnight and play until morning. But since these were the early days of digital releases, the exact time of release wasn't as predictable. A flurry of messages went out when it was discovered that the game was available a few hours early, and Wingnuts from the around the globe scrambled to get online. These were the days before Xbox Live Parties made grouping up with friends easy, so everyone was organized via message boards and IRC chat to link up, form squadrons and blast away. It was a classic case of being easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Ace pilots started to climb the ranks. Fans dug around to understand how to unlock each of the 18 flyable craft. Groups of 16 banded together to unlock the cap ship battle achievement, and people played the ring game to show off their acrobatic skills. The top-down 2D perspective put off some people, but fans that gave it a try were rewarded with a surprisingly deep space combat sim for an ostensibly simple arcade shooter. Agile players could rock cool 3D evasive maneuvers, and careful energy management was required to keep all systems operating when you needed them. Each ship had different strengths and weaknesses and required different piloting styles to master. LOAF even placed 3rd in an official tournament with other professional gamers in order to win an XBox 360 that we were able to give out to a fan. And we haven't even touched on Star*Soldier yet! We were fortunate enough to help build a huge manual in the spirit of Tiger's Claw or Victory Streak with tons of supplemental fiction that filled in many of the loose ends left open after Secret Ops. This subject alone is worthy of dozens of posts, so check those out for all the details and download the actual manual here (still hosted on EA servers ten years later!). There were plans initially to include a single player component. Had the game been a bigger hit, the work done on the campaign would have been refined and released as an expansion or sequel. Sadly, that did not happen, but we were gifted with a considerable amount of Gaia concept art that shows off the unreleased Centurion and Gothri fighters, Kilrathi and Firekkan pilots and more. And while we never got more than the initial release, Arena is still available to purchase online and play on the XBox 360. Fortunately, Microsoft has demonstrated a greater commitment to its back catalog of games in recent years, and support is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Although it's a long shot, someday it's possible the game could even become compatible with the XBox One, which would give it some nice enhancements such as future compatibility with the One X, improved party support, built in screenshot and recording ability and more. So get some practice rounds in now - we'll see you in the cockpit!

Wing Commander Arena is a fast-paced space combat game where players can team up to attack other teams of ships. The game introduces the classic franchise to an arcade-style experience that allows up to 16 players online in battle at once. Players can propel their customized ship through space, fire torpedoes and unleash deadly gravity bombs as they try to climb the leader board. Online players will compete for Frag count, high score and dueling stats.

"We're really excited to deliver unparalleled multi-player arcade action," said Chip Lange, EA Vice President. "The design for Wing Commander will appeal to both long-time fans of the franchise and immediately engage anyone who wants the melee style action of an arcade shooter."

Wing Commander Arena will feature four styles of play: single player, multi-team, multi-player free for all and multi-player duel. Within the game there are eight game maps that include team maps, free for all maps and dueling maps, so Wing Commander Arena offers a gameplay experience for every Arcade gamer, whether they want a quick ten minutes of action or a longer more immersive game.

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


Homeworld Mod Testing Fighter Visibility Updates
2018-01-16 -- L.I.F.

Vega Super Star Back In Action
2018-01-15 -- DefianceIndustries is back from a well deserved holiday break with a slick new wallpaper image. It features a cool new Rapier model first teased last October. This is the variant featured in Super Wing Commander and Arena, so it's a bit more flat and round than DOS or GOG players might be familiar with.

Rapier Research Leads To New Sighting
2018-01-14 -- Lilja saw our post a while back about one of the Lightning fighters that became a Wing Commander Movie Rapier at Pinewood Studios and decided to do some digging of his own. Finding where they've all ended up over the years has been an interesting endeavor, and through some clever investigation, he managed to track down some new information on the afterlife of these exotics birds. Immediately after the film's debut in 1999, fans spotted one Rapier at a Planet Hollywood in Ohio, and then a couple showed up for auction/rental/sale in the early 2000s.

Lego Darket Built Out Of Digital Bricks
2018-01-13 -- Lego Digital Designers Club has posted a neat virtual Darket made with Lego brand activity bricks. The color could probably go a bit more brown, but otherwise it's a pretty good design. All of the crazy Star Wars Legos out there sure make me wish we got these for real!

Annual Awards Voting In Full Swing
2018-01-12 -- Our annual community voting is now in progress, and Wingnuts like you are helping choose the Wing Commander Fan Project of the Year for 2017! Here are the nominees one more time. It's hard to choose because there's so many great projects going on, but vote below and help pick the winner!

Star Wars Excitement Spills Over Into Wing Commander
2018-01-11 -- Mark Hamill's return to the Star Wars series and starring role in The Last Jedi has also sparked a wave of interest in his work between epic film projects. The gaming press has largely already done this thanks to Mr. Hamill's role in Star Citizen, but now it's spreading to a more mainstream audience.

Catch Up On Everything Wing Commander Amiga
2018-01-10 -- Shot97 has put together an absolutely massive review of Wing Commander for Amiga systems. He covers every inch from top to bottom. Shot goes over what the game meant to him and then proceeds to cover the backstory, the impact of the characters, the depth of the manual, the significance of the Kilrathi, and that's just getting started.

Casper Van Dien On Wing Commander 4, Starship Troopers & Much More
2018-01-09 -- GeekScape has posted a podcast episode with Starship Troopers star Casper Van Dien. The actor is well known for his sci-fi acting, but he's also a director with a diverse variety of projects under his belt. He also had a brief cameo in Wing Commander 4, which is mentioned in the show.

Privateer Model Exploration Continues
2018-01-08 -- A lot of people have done some pretty nifty things with the Privateer 3D model archive over the years, but it can still be a slightly daunting task to dig into if you're an artistic novice. This is where fans come into play, and Wingnuts have continued to help their fellow Wingnuts learn how to navigate these waters. bai recently got some assistance unpacking some of the texture files and finding out how to convert and read them.

WC1&2 Audio Sound Comparison Presented In Easy Playlist Form
2018-01-07 -- pcuser1541 has put together a number of videos that showcase the wide variety of audio setups supported by the original Wing Commander games. SoundBlaster was the most common card of the day, but the Roland MT-32 was highly sought after early on and new variants continued to be released through numerous ports over nearly half a dozen years. There are examples from the Microsoft GS, FM Towns, Amiga, Macintosh, Super Nintendo and Sega CD.

GPD Win Is Latest Handheld To Showcase Wing Commander Emulation
2018-01-06 -- Alien Gray has posted a nifty video of the GPD Win playing the 3DO version of Super Wing Commander. This device actually runs Windows 10, but it's using the Project Phoenix emulator to get the game running. This is just the latest in a fascinating string of modern handheld devices that have managed to get various WC games running.

IMDB Takes Video Games To The Movies
2018-01-05 -- The Internet Movie Database has posted a photo gallery collage to highlight the history of video games crossing over to movies. There are 96 examples highlighted (a significant fraction of which are Resident Evil films), which is surprising in itself. Even more so, Wing Commander is chronologically listed in the first fifteen movies, so the genre has really exploded in recent years.

Childhood Adventures Explored On YouTube
2018-01-04 -- Claude Blair has put together an interesting video that reviews a large pile of Wing Commander documentation. After some initial introduction, he spends more than a half hour lovingly detailing the material on every page of Claw Marks. Obviously most of you are quite familiar with what's in the WC1 manual, but it's always fun to hear the perspective of someone who's so excited about it.

Happy New Year From George Oldziey
2018-01-03 -- George Oldziey is back with a New Year's message and Wing Commander album status update. He's anxiously preparing for the Wing Commander bar music recording happening next month as well as planning out the next steps for the orchestral portions of the album. He's also dug up a vintage interview that was published in the January 1999 edition of Film Score Monthly.

Kick Off 2018 With Some Slick Sketches
2018-01-02 -- Arne from Android Arts is currently putting together some awesome Wing Commander sketches. He started with an Exeter and has drawn a contemporary flotilla around it. There's also a gun mockup and fighter concept art, plus a really cute 'Dralthi Commander' diskette.

Happy New Year!
2018-01-01 -- The confetti is starting to settle, and those of us who had time off for the holidays are getting ready to go back to work now. We're all inspired by the last two days' worth of 2017 recaps. When it's all summed up like that, it's really astounding, and these are just the condensed highlights.

A Look Back At 2017
2017-12-31 -- The year 2017 is on the way out as I write this, so it's time to review what a wonderful year it's been. We got a taste of the action in yesterday's Fan Project of the Year roundup. There were lots projects that released some great things for the community over the past twelve months, including many playable adventures and multiplayer games.

Annual Community Vote Begins!
2017-12-30 -- It's almost 2018, so that means it's time for our annual contest tradition! One tweak this year is that we're combining the Fan Project and Web Site of the Year categories into one. While there were some great Wing Commander updates on the web, we didn't get enough nominations to make that standalone grouping competitive.

TomVlog34 Travels East To West & Beyond
2017-12-29 -- Tom Wilson has posted a couple new chapters in his ongoing YouTube vlog series. The first clip starts out with some insight into his daily life. He briefly conducts an interview for a documentary on his time acting in Freaks & Geeks, and he touches on a subject that would be familiar to fans of his Wing Commander work: while he loved his time working on the series, he's nowhere as well versed in the subject material as the actual fans.

El Simulador de Combat Espacial en 3-D: "¡Lo que ves es lo que juegas!"
2017-12-28 -- Christian Klein, the Pixel Engineer, has added another rare version of Wing Commander 1 to his collection. This one has been localized for Spain by DROsoft. It has some pretty cool black and white play manuals as well as an unusual slip cover for the box.

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