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. Recent updates:


Videogames: On Set with Mark Hamill
2017-06-23 -- We have two more sets of scans from 'Videogames' magazine to close out the week. The first set (October 1995) is the most interesting, a report from the set of Wing Commander IV complete with an interview with Mark Hamill. The second pair of scans (November 1995) explain how to access the debug menu in the 3DO port of Wing Commander III...

Kickstarter Fails to Launch
2017-06-22 -- George Oldziey has updated the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 with some sad news, the campaign is not going to make it. But he also reports that this is NOT the end: he has a plan for first funding the music and then the orchestra separately. Here's the post:The next phase.

Pak it Up
2017-06-21 -- We recently ran an article running through the history of Electronic Arts' "CD-ROM Classics" line of re-releases. This week, I made a cool discovery on eBay: a bundle containing five of the first wave CD-ROM Classics together in a slipcover. Bundling unsold software in this way has a long tradition; in fact, Origin's own "Ultima Value Pak" (1990) is one of the more sought-after Ultima collectibles!

Custom Wing Commander Controller Stuns
2017-06-20 -- djfx has an incredible fan project to share: a custom Wing Commander arcade controller! It's designed to seemlessly play Wing Commander I, II and Privateer... and boy does it look cool!

Kickstarter Progress Update
2017-06-19 -- George Oldziey has posted an update on the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2. The numbers aren't looking good for the current Kickstarter, but it sounds like he's willing to keep fighting! Whatever happens, we'll be there for the ride.

Everything Looks Worse in Black and White
2017-06-18 -- Computist magazine was something of an ‘alternative’ gaming publication in the 1980s. Originally conceived to cover Apple ][ gaming, the magazine had a special focus on how users could remove copy protection from their games. As a result, it was treated as something of a black sheep by contemporaries and the nascent gaming industry.

RSI Museum Looks Back at Wing Commander III
2017-06-17 -- I was honored to get to spend another hour talking about the history of developing Wing Commander games on this week’s RSI Happy Hour. Wing Commander III marked a major shift in the scale of how games are managed and created… setting the stage for games like Star Citizen. Enjoy!

COMBAT ALERT: George Oldziey Live Q&A Tomorrow
2017-06-16 -- Wing Commander composer George Oldziey will be holding a live Q&A tomorrow in support of his Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 Kickstarter. We'll be joining in to help get your questions answered (and some of ours!) Here are the details, straight from the main himself:Greetings everyone!

Wing Commander Prophecy... to the XTREME!
2017-06-15 -- Continuing our theme of including ridiculous images of Tomb Raider, today's magazine article scan comes from a February 1998 issue of Argentina's "XTreme PC." This article features a two-page review of Wing Commander Prophecy, which seems to be very positive (earning a 94% overall rating.) Also included is the back page of the magazine, an advertisement for local retailer 'CD MARKET' that prominently features Wing Commander Prophecy.

Bankruptcy, Space and the Great Games
2017-06-14 -- RadioShack, the lion of the American strip mall, is dead. Once a leading electronics retailer, RadioShack fell on hard times in recent years as buyers shifted in favor of larger superstores and then e-tailers and this year declared bankruptcy. Of special interest to classic computing enthusiasts, they are holding an impressive series of auctions that include vintage items from their long history once stored for their historical office.

Pillowrathi Inbound!
2017-06-13 -- Did you miss out on Mike Winterbauer's Classic Game Covers book Kickstarter but still want a Wing Commander print? We have good news for you! He has posted the artwork to Fine Art America, a CafePress-style print-on-demand service.

Ad Ben: 3Dfx Technology
2017-06-12 -- This is not an excuse to post Lara Croft's butt! Note the F-108 Panther-class space superiority fighter in the upper left-hand corner. For Wing Commander Prophecy, Origin made an agreement with up-and-coming 3D accelerator group 3Dfx to support their platform.

Wing Commander Prophecy: Trumpets Beware!
2017-06-11 -- George Oldziey has updated the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 with a video showing one of the Wing Commander Prophecy tracks from the previous volume being recorded! We're trying to set up a livestream for later in the week, so you can ask Mr Oldziey your questions directly. Watch this space for details!

Re-Orchestrated Mission Music!
2017-06-10 -- Good news: the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 saw some pledging overnight, crossing the $13,000 level! We're still under the gun, but George Oldziey is hopeful and is continuing to work on the music for the recording. Here's his latest update:Even though we're about 1/2 way through the campaign with only about 25% of what we need I'm still hopeful.

Orchestral Recording Project - Why We Fight
2017-06-09 -- Hello everyone! We’ve posted a lot of interesting articles recently about George Oldziey’s Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 Kickstarter. No matter the occasion, it is always a joy to collect the bits and bobs that make up Wing Commander’s history, and doing so in support of this noble project has felt right to me.

Arrows Inbound
2017-06-08 -- We have a good news/bad news update tonight. First, the bad news: the amazing 1:48 Arrow fighter model kit developed by Alfred Wong has run into a small delay. Mr.

Kickstarter Adds PDF Extra
2017-06-07 -- The Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Volume 2 has crossed the $10,000 threshold! It still needs a lot more support to happen... so please keep pledging and sharing the link!

GOG Summer Sale Launches
2017-06-06 -- The GOG Summer Sale is here! From today through June 20th, you can pick up any of their Wing Commander releases for just $1.49 each!

Kickstarter Adds Volume One
2017-06-05 -- Composer George Oldziey has added a requested option to the Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Project Volume 2 Kickstarter campaign: the ability to purchase a copy of the first album as an add-on! For $50, you can add the original, finished CD for Volume One of the project... and at the risk of editorializing, that is a steal.

George Oldziey Interview Restored
2017-06-04 -- The Wing Commander Orchestral Recording Project Volume 2 has crossed $9,000. If it's going to succeed, we're going to need a big push this next week... so please keep sharing the campaign!

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