Oof, Right in the Listicle

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.

Serving as a prequel to Wing Commander, Wing Commander Academy followed a group of recruits as they attended the titular Academy and learned the ins and outs of space combat. The series featured a stacked voice cast, featuring the likes of Mark Hamill, Malcom McDowell and Ron Perlman, and even managed to crossover with the Street Fighter cartoon and Mortal Kombat cartoon during its brief run. Despite these impressive credentials, Wing Commander Academy had its plug pulled after a single season.

Of course, one obvious correction: the Wing Commander franchise was the best-selling PC game series of all time for several years. But it's nice to see Academy mentioned! Fellow 'Action Extreme Team' member (and reluctant crossover) Mortal Kombat shows up at #1.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

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.

Before the advent of CD-ROM technology, the single most expensive aspect of manufacturing a computer game was the number of 3.5" or 5.25" diskettes that needed to be included. By 1990, the development of multimedia elements like VGA graphics, recorded speech and even video were pushing ahead of storage and compression. In only one year, the average AAA game doubled in size... and along with it, the production costs to duplicate and pack so many disks increased significantly.

Origin, never a company to shy away from technological innovation, found itself at a crossroads: creative forces were desperate to improve games with features like speech... but the numbers did not add up. Creative's Sound Blaster was not yet the industry standard and costs were already rising astronomically: the original Wing Commander shipped on three high density disks... Wing Commander II, launched less than a year later, required seven. Adding two or three more disks of digitized speech that much of the player base just did not make sense. And everyone involved could see a future where a game could make use of hundreds of such disks.

How strong were Origin's convictions? CEO Robert Garriott famously penned a letter directly to customers, included with Wing Commander II, urging the early adoption of CD-ROMs. Origin would eventually switch to developing CD-only titles... but that switch would not be possible until 1995. Until that time, the company developed a unique way to add more multimedia content to games without incurring additional manufacturing costs: speech accessory packs which would add several disks worth of spoken material to existing games!

Origin would go on to develop five SAPs, starting with Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi in 1991. The success of this first release, which helped define the Soundblaster card as the industry standard through today, led to packs for Strike Commander (1993), Wing Commander Privateer (1993), Ultima VIII: Pagan (1994) and finally Pacific Strike (1994.) Contrary to popular belief, the packs do not add 'full speech' to the games: the limited number of diskettes meant that speech could only be included during flight and in a select few cutscenes. (Another rumor to squash: there was no speech pack for hte original Wing Commander.)

One fun note about Privateer's pack: the box art specifically shows the game WITHOUT the pack installed! The in-flight subtitles pictured on every screenshot are not available when you have the pack installed... so, while they're necessary to 'picture' what you're hearing, they're explicitly not what you're buying. (There's also some false advertising, especially in the alternate European version: none of the bartenders or fixers have speech added with the pack... this would not happen until the 1994 CD-ROM version of the game.)

Pass the K'ha'haf

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? Well, now you have! Das Electronic Arts Buch by Wilfred Lindo is a circa 1995 German hint book intended to cover multiple games from Electronic Arts (including Origin and Bullfrog.) The book is said to include a special section on the making of Wing Commander and manages to cover Wing Commanders 1, 2, 3 and Privateer! We're tracking down a copy to scan, but for now you can read more about the volume at Kultboy.

No End Run in 2017

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. Here's to hoping it won't be far into 2018! Fortunately, you can find the rest of the Been catalog at the links below!

    End Run
  • Baen Ebook
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Apple iBooks
  • B&N Nook
  • Kobo

Cute Little Mini Ship EXPOSED

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. These components change the look of the ship and can be shot off during combat. For some reason, the Kilrathi transports don't ever actually have pods attached in-game... but the Confederation transports you escort do (pictured.) And when you examine the individual cargo tanks and pods you will find included: a tiny, smaller ship! So here's your exhaustive look at the model. Is it a shuttle or lander? A 27th century 'family car'? Some kind of environment pod? Who knows!? (Interestingly, the Wing Commander IV transports don't have pods... making for several missions where you seem to be escorting shipments of nothing.)

In France, No One Can Hear You Scream

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. Both European versions have the same small error: claiming the game is set in 2670 instead of 2669.

All About My Triangles

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. It's a design you know... but it's NOT a ship that appears in the game! (Triangle transports do appear in 'Kilrathi fleet' cutscenes, but they are generally rendered too small to identify at 640x480.)

What happened? For reasons unknown, the Wing Commander III team opted to cut the triangle transport from gameplay and instead use the 'tanker' model that had been created for a specific Behemoth-refueling mission as the generic Kilrathi transport. These 'skeleton' transports became familiar targets...

The triangle transport then immediately started appearing elsewhere. The 3DO port of Wing Commander III restores these noble wedges to their proper place as the game's main Kilrathi transport and the Wing Commander CCG even includes a card of them!

One of the first screenshots released for Wing Commander IV again showed the triangle transport, prompting much discussion as to the role of the Kilrathi in the game. We now know the footage is Melek's 'evidence,' proof that Admiral Tolwyn has been attacking innocent shipping lanes. (Interestingly, transport again does not appear in the game itself... only in the cutscene!)

The triangle transport is still hidden in Wing Commander III PC's files. Here he is in all his glory:

There's even a 'destroyed' version included in the game; unlike other 'lost' ships, the triangle transport must have been fairly close to finished. (Though there's no apparent location for turrets.)

Finally, Star*Soldier managed to name the triangle transport "Dukara," following the 'D' style name for transports introduced with the Dorkir and Dorkathi in Wing Commander I and II (respectively.) Note that the VDU image used in the magazine is NOT the image included in Wing Commander III 3DO.

Look What You Squid!

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!

Well we inch ever closer to MUP 0.35a. Tonight's update includes @Dark Sentinel 's most excellent Squid model, and the new F-103D. Both have been converted and are ready for action. So no promises but we should have the next version within 2 weeks. So get ready wingnuts!

Also, a huge thank you to @gr1mre4per for fixing my janky collision meshes on the Cerberus as well as doing the Barracuda and Orca. My collision mesh skills are sometimes suspect. The MUP takes a village. :) Collison meshes and the like rarely get noticed (unless they're totally borked) so if you're enjoying those new capships, thank a reaper!

Wing Commander Sticks With Us

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... so instead of manufacturing a single, massive allotment of the games to sell, the production process ran continuously for months after the game's released. One favorite of Origin's marketing strategy was adding different stickers to the packages as time went on... stickers that don't necessarily make any sense! Eagle-eyed collectors have spotted these three, in order of rarity. Most of these were based around cancelling out the perceived fear that you were buying a Shareware game... hence strange references to it being the 'uncut' version (there's no cut version!) Do you have any others in your collection?

RIP Jerry Pournelle

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. Mr. Pournelle was equally respected in the tech world, where his early advocacy for personal computing took the form of a famed BYTE column, Chaos Manor, that ran in some form or another until his death.

Wing Commander fans will remember Mr. Pournelle as one of our own, a true fan of the series and an advocate for our favorite universe. In fact, it was through his computing column that I first discovered the series, his passion for the series causing my father to take note and suggest it to me. When Baen started developing Wing Commander books, Jerry Pournelle was an early choice for the third slot in the package. The initial plan was to have him outline a story for Ellen Guon (which would have involved the destruction of the Tiger's Claw.) Alas, contract issues blocked the project and the book assignment went to William Forstchen's Fleet Action instead. Some years later, he expressed an interest in telling more stories in the Privateer setting, which unfortunately also did not materialize.

You can access years of correspondence and columns through his A View from Chaos Manor website.

Test Your Audio Trivia Knowledge In New WC Contest!

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! Wingnuts who missed out the crowdfunding campaign have a chance to win an album this way, and if you already have one coming, then you can get a copy of George's existing jazz album!
I just finished an orchestration of a cut scene. I thought perhaps it might be fun to have a contest to see if anyone out there can identify which game it’s from and the precise scene/scenario. The first FIVE people to guess correctly will receive either an autographed GATO 6 CD (my Latin jazz band) OR the Volume 2 CD (autographed, but they’ll have to wait for that one). The GATO 6 CD I can send out right away.

Here is the link. The video was generated by my notation software. Let me know what you think. They can send their guesses to my george@oldzieymusic.com address.

Thanks,

George

Edit: And we have our winners!

Flat Universe Multiplayer Alpha Now Multiplatform

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!
The wait is over guys :). Please, uninstall any version of FlatUniverse you might have and download again you platform specific installer from the already known url: http://www.maslasbros.com/flatuniverse/register

The version of the installer is totally new, updated and debugged. It is mandatory to download it again. We gonna be online for some times until midnight for today.

We are very sorry for the exhausting delays and the postpones but we do want FlatUniverse to be a quality fan project. ;) We are very excited for this development journey and we are eager to see you inside our reticle!

the MaslasBros

Taking The Wraps Off The PPG

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. What kind of commentary or cool trivia might the creator add? As it turns out, the video is completely silent except for the crinkling cellophane of the packaging and sound of turning paper. It's also cocked at a 90 degree angle. So is this just one of those weird goofy clickbait things produced by a content farm? Actually, no again. The guy has only a dozen videos, and they're all done in a similar style. Privateer was the last one he made, and we're glad he did. You do get a digital copy included with the game on GOG, but this is the real thing.

Wing Commander Album Well Under Way

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. An audio sample of the new music is also included below. If you have any favorite tracks you hope might be able to make it in, hit the discuss link and comment!
Greetings all! I just wanted to update you on the headway I've made in terms of creating the orchestrations for the eventual orchestral recording. So far I have 13 "cues" finished and ready to send off for formatting. They total about 22 minutes of music so far (my goal is a full 30 minutes of orchestral music).

So far, I've done 2 cut scenes from WC3 (Destruction of Kilrah and the Kilrathi surrender), 2 cut scenes from WC4 (Landing on Telemon to discover the biogenic weapon and Blair escaping from the scene when he discovers Tolwyn's betrayal), as well as more mission and combat music from WC3,4 and Prophecy. If you have any favorites let me know! I've already incorporated some suggestions.

As soon as the scores are formatted and PDFs are created I can send them out as rewards. The bar music recording will probably take place mid November or early December. I'll give an exact date soon. The CD and digital downloads of the bar music and MIDI mockups will most likely be sent out around Christmas or New Years.

Thank you all again so VERY much for your wonderful support! I'll once again make sure that you all will have a great product!

Musically yours,

George

Ships Added & Bugs Squashed For Next MUP Release

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. It sounds like the new release is going to be a big one!
The team is hard at work on the next release. It's going to include some new models as always and some additional tweaks:

1.) New Models:

  • Plunkett Artillery Cruiser
  • Orca Destroyer
  • Barracuda Corvette
  • Squid Interceptor
  • Vaktoth Heavy Fighter
  • Excalibur (2.0) Heavy Fighter

2.) Fixes:
Cerberus Missile turret hardpoint fixed

3.) Other Improvements:
New VDU target images for all fighter craft

Based on our asset tracker the project is about 55% complete right now. There are a few other things we would like to explore for the project but those are currently in the "nice to have" bucket as opposed to the critical path. Items include things like new debris for destroyed fighters, new missile meshes, and new weapon VDU icons, Simulator missions with flyable Excalibur & Thunderbolt.

I know what you're thinking: "Gee Defiance why ANOTHER Excalibur?" The answer simply is - I don't like the existing one. Of all of what I call the generation 1 MUP models (Piranha, Panther, Excalibur) the Excal is the one that shows it's (I have to keep things within 1,200 triangle chunks) limits the most. The Piranha is fine, and really the only fix I could do there is model a higher poly engine and jump drive core for it - but that's of limited value. The Panther looks good though it is a candidate for a new mesh at some point, I won't hold up new assets for it. But I figured the hero ship of WC3 and a major antagonist in WC4, not to mention the Guest Fighter of the Week for WCPSO deserved a little better treatment - and I was going to have to do another one anyway for the WC4 remake so I might as well kill two birds with one stone. If you want to follow along outside of the forums the team is active on the discord site in the modding channel, feel free to leave us bugs/suggestions either on this thread or on the channel.

Bugs Squished so far:

1.) Tigershark missile hard points render rockets unusable:
Fix: Necessitated a revamp of the Tigershark model. re-centered mesh, extended belly fuselage, shortened missile pods. While I had the hood up, I added the Mass drivers to the underbelly and repositioned the hard points accordingly. The rockets now fire down the centerline. For cosmetics, I tweaked the texture as well to make it look more spec-ops gray (actually gunmetal blue) and less blue metallic.

2.) Crazy spinning asteroid bug:
Long a thorn in the side, I spent some time really studying the original asteroid meshes. The small rocks were fine but the large, huge, and giant rocks needed some work. I re-centered the meshes, adjusted the collision sphere, added collision trees (instead of relying on the collision sphere like the originals), and fixed the RADI issues and removed FAR chunks. The rocks now spin at a reasonable rate (at either 32 or 64 FPS).

Stuff in progress:
Collison meshing continues on all next release cap ships.
Optimization of Cerberus collision mesh
Texturing of V2 Excalibur

I tried the Vaktoth out in the mission sim - for a "worn out ship" it's fairly nasty - in SO it has two pulse particle cannon (Standard in WCP) two Ion and a single tachyon gun. It makes minced meat out of mantas. In WCP it's a little under powered, with the standard particle cannon, but it can still hold its own against slower Nephilim ships. Too bad it's just a cameo...;)

New Vaktoth Ready For Post-War Battle

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. It looks like they're ready to tackle with both humans bugs once the ship is imported to the Vision Engine!
The cats get a brand new Vaktoth to play with. Now no Confed apes will dare attack...

New Homeworld Screenshots Come Hell Or High Water

While trying to find some high ground to stay dry on, L.I.F. has managed to also post pictures of the Homeworld Remastered Mod's newest capship. He's incorporated a common take on the Gettysburg class cruiser to fill out the Confed fleet. Check it out below!
Got to move my *** after moving to Houston right for the Hurricane. In any case, here's the Gettysburg. Thanks to the Hostile Frontier mod for this model and the Crossbow. Armed with nine laser turrets and three triple AMG turrets, it should kick some pretty heavy ass for the Confederation.

Confed's Contrasting Cartoon Carriers

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. This is a two-for-one feature as Ninja's also put together Klavs' Wake class escort carrier, which is also a very nice sight!

Flat Universe Multiplayer Alpha Goes Live!

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. And if you are looking for a copilot, hit up the CIC Forums!
We are pleased to announce that the FlatUniverse multiplayer alpha server is up and running. Gentlemen start your engines! This early access version includes:
  • Room based online multiplayer game
  • Improvements suggested during the closed alpha period:
  • HUD improvements for better situation awareness
  • Better balancing for the heavies (esp. the Broadsword) plus their turrets now get damaged
  • Black-out and tunnel vision effects due to high g maneuvers (which gets worse if your acceleration absorbers are damaged)
  • Highly improved explosions (the old ones where boring)
  • A couple new soundtrack pieces by Cory Fujimori
  • Updated graphics effects (better anti-aliasing, bloom etc.). The poster image is not a mock-up. It was render through the game engine!
  • Several bug fixes and improvements
  • And most importantly: A brand new launcher/patching system that will allow us to make incremental updates to the game without the need to download/reinstall the whole thing.
Edit: There are still some lingering issues with the Mac and Linux versions, which the Maslas Brothers will continue to debug this week.

This Is How We Do It...

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. Designated pilot take the keys to my ship. Hit up the bar to get faded. Shotglass says, "Maverick, yo we made it!" It feels so good in the barracks tonight. The summertime Krants and the guys in the TrainSim. All the Kilrathi forgot about the drive-by. You gotta get your groove on, before you go get paid. So tip up your cup and throw your hands up, and let me hear the party say, "Go watch the Wing Commander review at Friday Night Arcade."

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