Ad Ben: Sound Runner

Multimedia! The year was 1992 and the buzzword was inescapable. The meteoric rise in home microcomputer power (alongside the massive success of multimedia games like Wing Commander) created an audience hungry for high resolution graphics, ultra-complex game controllers... and though we take it for granted today, realistic sound, music and speech.


As a result, countless hardware manufacturers took to the market to face off, each hoping that their particular product would be crowned industry standard. The results of this battle are felt today: graphics and video standards decided in the marketing realm of the early 1990s remain the de facto standards today, with the ultimate victory in the sound arena going to Creative Labs' Sound Blaster. We remember the victors, but we quickly forget the countless also-rans who once fought for their piece of the multimedia pie.


In modern game development, hardware partnerships are a high-value necessity. Companies like Microsoft, Sony, Intel and others frequently invest millions of dollars supporting game projects that will buoy their platforms. What's the best way to make sure your processor, VR headset or console 'The One'? Make sure it's the one that best or exclusively plays the games the audience wants.


In the early 1990s, the stakes were a little smaller: million dollar budgets were unimaginable, and hardware and software companies instead typically settled for either a quid pro quo 'you advertise us and we'll advertise you' deal or an arrangement to purchase discount copies of older games for bundled releases. In this irregular series, we will examine advertising from a range of hardware partners that featured WING COMMANDER in some way. Some of these, like Intel's Pentium, will be familiar... others will be long forgotten evolutionary dead ends.


To wit: today's advertisements come to us courtesy of Computer Gaming World, via the fantastic Computer Gaming World Museum. The first (blue) advertisement appeared in the February and March issues, while the later yellow version ran from April through August. The SOUND RUNNER from PC Turbo Corp was an 8-bit Ad Lib compatible sound card. (The later ad is a modification of the original's template with color changes; swapping between them will keep the Wing Commander II box in exactly the same place!)


While the ad copy makes it sound like the second coming, the reality is that it's a budget copy of the then-popular Ad Lib sound card. Creating an Ad Lib compatible sound card in 1992 was cheap and easy as such things went, and they were attractive for budget-conscious PC owners. The $89 price tag was the real selling point, compared to $200 for a brand name Ad Lib or $300+ for a Sound Blaster (or much more for a Roland card.) The Sound Runner is by no means alone in this attack of the clones: the July CGW alone includes similar advertisements for the similarly-forgotten "Sound Master II," "Thunder Board," "Sound Galaxy NX," "Sound Commander fx" and "Sound Galaxy." (At least one of which we will revisit!)


Ironically, the Wing Commander game presented here is the one that drove the stake through the heart of all the Ad Lib compatibles. Vengeance of the Kilrathi's support for full speech via the Sound Blaster's digital audio (PCM) helped define Creative Labs' product line as the winner in the sound wars... while simultaneously driving the Ad Lib to an early grave. Very little information on the SOUND RUNNER survives today; Google finds only these advertisements, and a deep dive through Usenet archives suggests that no one was even talking about it in 1992.


Did you own a SOUND RUNNER? Did you use it to play Wing Commander II or Ultima VI? If so, we'd love to hear from you!

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

BREAKING: Art Kickstarter a Success!
2017-03-28 -- There's great news tonight for fans of fine art: Mike Winterbauer's Kickstarter has met its funding goal! That's thanks in no small part to Wing Commander fans like you. There are still twenty days left to pledge, if you're interested in a copy of the book we encourage you to check it out!

Computer Gaming World Previews Wing Commander
2017-03-27 -- We recently posted a collection of Computer Gaming World reviews of Wing Commander games and today we're following that with a collection of major PREVIEWS. These three stories, featuring Wing Commander III, IV and Prophecy, would have been arranged during each game's development by Origin Systems' PR team. These are especially interesting because they usually involve pre-release versions of the games, interviews directly with the developers and sometimes paint a different picture than the completed game!

Designing the Confederation Fleet
2017-03-26 -- Need some more Wing Commander movie production artwork in your life? Here are four rarely seen 1998 concepts that were used to create the final Terran Confederation ship designs for the film! Pictured are the TCS Tiger Claw, the TCS Concordia, the Diligent and the emergency probe Admiral Wilson dispatches from Pegasus at the start of the movie.

Privateer 2 Script Available!
2017-03-25 -- Looks like we aren't ready to leave the Tri-System just yet. Today we are proud to present something we've been trying to track down for twenty years: the shooting script to Privateer 2: The Darkening! This should be a great resource for anyone frustrated by the game's lack of subtitles...

Mysterious Privateer 2 Videos Discovered
2017-03-24 -- Here's a little mystery: we've discovered a YouTube account called DigitalVaultThe which contains nothing but three Privateer 2 videos: a trailer and two cutscenes. Here's the kicker: all three videos are much higher quality than previously available Privateer 2 footage! The most likely explanation is that the videos were put up by someone connected to the game's development...

Happy Holy Day of Acclivity!
2017-03-23 -- Would you like a reason to celebrate? March 23 is the Holy Day of the Acclivity, the most important day in the Pilgrim religion! We thought we’d celebrate with a little background on the origin of Pilgrim (or McDanielist) theology.

Richard Garriott Wrote a Book
2017-03-22 -- Lord British has written a book! Origin founder Richard Garriott's Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark was released in January and tells, firsthand, his incredible life story. The book covers Garriott's entire life and many adventures (including, of course, his space travel) but does find time to talk about the early days of Origin and the development of Ultima Online.

Variants on a Theme
2017-03-21 -- In honor of Mike Winterbauer's Kickstarter we thought we would take a look back through the history of 'that look.' What look? The classic Wing Commander cover art!

Laser Gun for Hire
2017-03-20 -- Yesterday, we reported that Wing Commander SNES cover artist Mike Winterbauer has re-launched his Kickstarter project to create a printed art book of his work. The project is going great, already nearing the 50% funding mark in less than 24 hours... and today we can reveal that it turns out Mr.

BREAKING NEWS: Game Cover Kickstarter Re-Launches
2017-03-19 -- How do you save the Ralari? You just keep trying! In exactly that spirit, SNES Wing Commander cover artist Mike Winterbauer has re-launched his Kickstarter project.

Pre-Christory
2017-03-18 -- Ever wonder what came before Wing Commander? Chris Roberts sold his first game at age 13, and had released seven games before Wing Commander in 1990! I recently took some time at my day job to run through some of the basiscs of that early history on our weekly livecast...

False Alarm: Book 7 Pre-Orders
2017-03-17 -- The ebook release of Wing Commander: False Colors is less than three weeks away and the first pre-order options have just launched! Amazon and Apple are now listing the book, with Barnes and Noble and Kobo still in a holding pattern. We will update the chart below when the other options come online...

Leading Different Boxes
2017-03-16 -- Hey, that's not how I remember it! Did you know that four Wing Commander games had significantly different box covers in Europe? While the original boxes were designed by Origin, Electronic Arts had regional marketing departments which would then adapt and change designs when they believed it would better suit a different audience.

Happy First Contact Day!... Maybe
2017-03-15 -- It's March 15th and as everyone knows that means it is the pre-anniversary of the 2629 destruction of the TCS Iason, mankind's official first contact with the Kilrathi! Or was that March 16th? Or was it April 15th?

The Fight for Books Continues
2017-03-14 -- We have some additional news to share about two projects: the Mike Winterbauer art book and the ebook releases of the Wing Commander series! (There is, perhaps, some irony in the fact that we are fighting for physical releases of an ebook AND ebook releases of a physical book!) Mr.

Computer Gaming World Reviews Wing Commander
2017-03-13 -- Computer Gaming World was, in the United States, the 'journal of record' for PC gaming throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The magazine, which was shuttered in 2006, closely covered Wing Commander. Today, we've collected all 12 of the reviews, starting with the original game in 1990 and ending with Wing Commander Prophecy Gold in 1999.

Mission 5 is Alive!
2017-03-12 -- It sounds (pun intended) like Wing Commander composed George Oldziey is making great progress on a second album. On Wednesday, he announced that he was starting to orchestrate another piece from Wing Commander IV:Just starting orchestrating another mission piece from #WingCommander 4! It's a mysterioso work!

Spinning!
2017-03-11 -- Pixelengineer has hit on a cool new trick sure to appeal to retrogamers and wingnuts alike: rendering 3D versions of the game boxes we so fondly remember! He has been posting 3D spinning boxes each day to his Twitter account representing classic games like Secrets of the Luftwaffe, TIE Fighter... and, of course, Wing Commander!

Game Cover Art Book Fails to Fund
2017-03-10 -- Some bad news to report today: Michael Winterbauer's Kickstarter failed to fund, meaning that a printed copy. The project ended just over $2k short, meaning that there's clearly a lot of interest in the project. Mr.

Compute! Reviews Wing Commander
2017-03-09 -- As promised on Monday, here are scans of Compute! magazine's three reviews of Wing Commander games. The original Wing Commander was reviewed in the February 1991 issue.

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