BREAKING NEWS: Is a New Wing Commander Already In the Works?

Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts shocked fans everywhere three weeks ago during an interview with G4. In a quote now etched in Wing Commander message board signatures everywhere, he announced of Wing Commander that "I feel re-energized, and I think I can come back... and push forward parts of the industry in terms of narrative and cinematic storytelling." The million dollar question was immediately: was he just talking about his hopes for the future... or is a new Wing Commander game already secretly in development?

The question sounds like the stuff of conspiracy thriller novels... but some strong evidence now suggests it may actually be true. Longtime contributor Banjo points us to a an April, 2011 article in the Detroit News about potential tax breaks for film and game projects in Michigan. It quotes a Chris Roberts of "Bl!nk Media International" as having expansive plans for game development in the state (or Quebec, should funding fall through.)

Chris Roberts, a principal in Bl!nk Media International Ltd., wants to make a video game that would take years to build and require full-time workers. But Michigan could lose out to Quebec if Bl!nk's application for $12.3 million in tax credits isn't approved soon, Roberts said. Bl!nk plans to hire 112 residents and spend $31.1 million here. "There'd be multiple games," Roberts said. "We'd be creating long-term employment in Michigan."
Is this our Chris Roberts? It's not an uncommon name--Wing Commander III even had two Chris Roberts' on its development team! A check of LinkedIn, however, confirms that Origin Systems' star developer now lists himself as "Chief Creative Officer of Bl!nk Media International." So: what is Bl!nk and is this project a Wing Commander game? It seemed like a dead end... until we were given this (unfortunately poor quality) scan of an infograph included in the print version of the Detroit News article:

Look at the the third line. Listed only as "Video Game" is a project exactly matching the numbers quoted about Chris (112 hires, 31.1 million dollars). Then, in the last column, under "scheduled project actors": Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Wilson, John Rhys-Davies.

Remember that no announcement has been made. However convincing may seem, it is all circumstantial evidence. It's possible Detroit News decided the list of actors themselves, based on Chris' history. Keep in mind also that the article is five months old and that it is discussing plans rather than anything that had yet been financed. But at the same time, that means it predates the G4 interview. IF Chris Roberts was planning a game with the Wing Commander III and IV cast in April and then telling G4 he hoped to revisit the franchise soon in August... at the very least, the direction seems like good news.

BREAKING NEWS: More Wing Commander Academy Details

TVShowsonDVD has more details about the Wing Commander Academy DVD release that we announced last week! They report that the set will be distributed in the United States by First Look Studios/Millennium, LLC with a $24.98 suggested retail price. There's also a new description and '3D' cover image:
A spirited and elite corps of novice fighter pilots attends the Wing Commander Academy in the year 2655. Often thrust into battle against the mighty and ruthless Kilrathi race, the crew must master daring manoeuvres and veer through constant danger to save the world. Sedate and honorable Maverick, devil-may-care and impulsive Maniac, and serious-minded, cautious and competent Archer make up a quarter of the cadet wing at the academy under their brilliant, if argumentative, captain, Commodore Tolwyn.

The set should be available for preorder at US retailers next week; eager buyers (and Canadians) can go ahead and place their order with Amazon Canada.

BREAKING NEWS: GOG Releases Ultima IV, V, VI Package!

More Ultima! GOG has released a package of the Ultima series' middle trilogy--Ultima IV, V and VI for just $5.99! You can purchase a copy here. This is exciting news for Origin fans everywhere. Although Ultima IV was already free, it's still included in this package! All three of these games predate Wing Commander, so there are no great references... or are there? Check back today, as we run a number of updates connecting Ultima V and VI to the Wing Commander saga! (And, as always, be sure to check Ultima Aeira for serious celebratory Ultima updates!)

Chris Roberts In and Around Ultima V

Ultima V is actually Chris Roberts' first credit at Origin Systems! His role in the project was largely support, but he was listed as one of the game's designer in the finished release. Following Origin tradition, players can actually find and interact Chris in the game itself! He appears as a farmer named Christopher (aka "Dibbs") in West Brittany. Here is his full conversation tree--which culminates in his explaining that he's working on something called Times of Lore... the first game he released at Origin!
Christopher
You see: a dashing young farmer.
Christopher: G'day, {name}!
Player: job
Christoper: I fiddle in the fields to keep me fed.
Player: dibb
Christoper: I see thou hast been speakin' with Phillip.
Player: phil
Christoper: He's me mate!
Player: mate
Christoper: Friend.
Player: fidd or fiel
Christoper: I pride myself in a job well done, even if one does not enjoy it.
Player: enjo or job or done
Christoper: What I really enjoy is writing works of fantasy.
Player: writ or fant
Christoper: I'm currently working on an epic called 'Times of Lore!'
Player: time or lore
Christoper: I hope to have it published soon.
Player: soon or publ
Christoper: Through Origin, of course. Wilt thou buy it?
Player: (any)
Christoper: Then I'll be of little help to you in the future!
Player: y
Christoper: Good! Enchanted, I'm sure, to have met such an enlightened soul. What a nice chap thou art.
Player: bye
Christoper: Ta, mate.

Changing the Face of Ultima

Christopher--and Times of Lore--would get the last laugh. When Richard Garriott redesigned the Ultima interface for Ultima VI, he based the streamlined user interface on the one used in Chris Roberts' recent hit! Shay Addams' The Official Book of Ultima records: "But the most sweeping change would appear in the interface. Influenced by the icon-based interface of Chris Roberts' Times of Lore, Garriott streamlined Ultima's 26 commands into ten icons, one of which was new. In previous games you would "ignite" a torch, "jimmy" a lock, and so on; the new "use" commands could be used for several such actions, reducing the necessary number of commands for the player to master and simplyfing the design work." (pp.83-84) You can see the change below--a great early example of Chris Roberts' cinematic sensibilities changing the face of gaming.

Sutek and Seggallion

It turns out a pair of Ultima V/VI characters are also TCS Tiger's Claw fighter pilots! If you boot up Wing Commander I's arcade TrainSim, you'll see a list of other players and their high scores. Two names that may appear are "Sutek" and "Seggallion"--who are both NPCs in Ultima V and VI! Sutek is a mage in Ultima V who loses his mind in Ultima VI. In Ultima V, Seggallion is a retired pirate... and in Ultima VI he is a knight from another world trapped in Brittannia who can accompany you in the game (going even further back, he originates as the main character in Origin's Knights of Legend). For good measure, a star in Wing Commander I's Vega Sector map is also named Seggallion! He gets around. You can learn more about both characters (including information on their appearances in other Ultima games not yet available via GOG) at the Codex of Ultima Wisdom.

A Match Made in Heaven

This isn't the first time Ultima VI and Wing Commander have lived together! As early as 1991, Origin had the idea to bundle the two titles together in a single value-priced release in the hopes of cross-pollinating between fans of both franchises. An Ultima VI/Wing Commander package was even one of the first CD-ROMs put out by Origin, and it went on to be re-released multiple times through Software Toolworks. These releases were especially cool in that they came in a full box and included all the manuals and artifacts.

Aren't You the Guy from Ultima?

Wing Commander IBM PC Credits Chris Roberts wasn't the only Wing Commander veteran to work on the second Ultima trilogy. In fact, we've run the numbers and nearly two thirds of the Wing Commander I team actually worked on Ultima IV, V or V! Here's the full list:
Chris Roberts - Ultima VI
Warren Spector - Ultima V
Steve Beeman - Ultima VI
Paul Isaac - Ultima V
Herman Miller - Ultima V, Ultima VI
Steve Muchow - Ultima V
John Miles - Ultima V, Ultima VI
Keith Berdak - Ultima VI
Daniel Bourbonnais - Ultima VI
Glen Johnson - Ultima V, Ultima VI
Denis Loubet - Ultima IV, Ultima V, Ultima VI
John Watson - Ultima VI
Steve Cantrell - Ultima VI
Marc Shaefgen - Ultima VI
Greg Paul Malone II - Ultima VI
Mike Romero - Ultima VI
Jeff Shelton - Ultima VI
Mike Harrison - Ultima VI
Cheryl Neeld - Ultima VI

Wing Commander CIC - Visit the front page

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

Happy Thanksgiving!
2014-11-27 -- Happy Thanksgiving to the Wingnuts stopping in today from the US! To all others, this is a perfect opportunity to remind everyone about the awesome Pilgrim-themed treat hiding in our archives. The first and second books in the Wing Commander Movie's novel trilogy were released in 1999, but the third was never officially published.

Wing Commander On Sale For Black Friday
2014-11-26 -- Electronic Arts has kicked off its Black Friday promotions via the Origin digital storefront. The Wing Commander franchise is listed at 50% off, which makes each title $2.49.

Recap History of Game Graphics in New Documentary
2014-11-25 -- Ahoy has posted a series of videos that chronicles the Brief History of Graphics. It's a five part playlist that starts with the very earliest computer games and ends with a look into the future. There are also segments on sprite-based art and hardware 3D acceleration.

Frightful Kilrathi Concept Art Surfaces
2014-11-24 -- Concept artist Mariano Diaz has posted some startling Kilrathi additions to his portfolio. Much like Rob McKinnon's work, this dates back a couple years to Chris Roberts' early Wing Commander pitch for what would eventually become Star Citizen. The Kilrathi included here are some of the most terrifying depictions anywhere.

WC Strategy Mod Back On Track
2014-11-23 -- Arraen began work on a tribute to Wing Commander at the beginning of the year. His project is a WC-themed strategy game made in the Unity engine. Things were coming together nicely until March, when he posted this message: "Sorry, guys, due to Russian invasion at my country I put on hold this project.

Star Wars Trailer Rumors Stir WC Memories
2014-11-22 -- There have been conflicting stories this week about the Star Wars Episode VII trailer being paired with the new Hobbit film set to release in December. It's possible that the rumor was unfounded, and there are many ways they could choose to unveil the preview these days - from attachment to a hot movie to a large scale television event to many many internet-based options. Mass digital media was much more limited fifteen years ago, and in March 1999 The Phantom Menace's trailer was revealed to the world before Wing Commander.

Academy DVD Marked Down for the Holidays
2014-11-21 -- A number of people have written in to report that Amazon is now selling the Wing Commander Academy DVD collection for just $7.99. It's not clear if this price reduction is in any way permanent, but with the holiday season fast approaching, this is a great opportunity to pick up some additional copies for gifts.

Wing Commander on German TV Saturday
2014-11-20 -- The Wing Commander Movie will be broadcasting on the German station RTL2 this Saturday, November 22, at 2 PM. We frequently mention all of the streaming sources such as HBO Go, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, XBox Video and iTunes, but occasionally people in certain countries have trouble accessing these. Even if fans don't have a problem going digital, the copies online may not be in their native language, so we especially like to point out opportunities to catch the movie on normal television in non-English speaking countries.

Early Concept Art Hints at SC's WC Origins
2014-11-19 -- Concept artist Rob McKinnon has mocked up images for both major Hollywood studios and video game developers like Cloud Imperium Games. His relationship with Chris Roberts actually goes back several years to some of the earliest fighter pilot and Hornet pictures for what would become Star Citizen. There are also some very interesting mockups in his portfolio for when the game was being pitched as a potential Wing Commander game.

WC Invasion Sees Renewed Interest on YouTube
2014-11-18 -- Timpedia has produced a multipart series of video reviews for the Wing Commander Invasion game. It's a Star Wars Empire at War (Forces of Corruption) mod that hasn't really been in the news for a couple years since the project reached a final stable release, but it's still available online and looking really slick. If you ever wanted to know what a fleet of Bengal class carriers, Confederation dreadnoughts and a Behemoth could unleash on the Kilrathi, this is your opportunity.

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