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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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...

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Pak it Up
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Custom Wing Commander Controller Stuns
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Kickstarter Progress Update
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Everything Looks Worse in Black and White
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RSI Museum Looks Back at Wing Commander III
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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
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Arrows Inbound
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Kickstarter Adds PDF Extra
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GOG Summer Sale Launches
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Kickstarter Adds Volume One
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George Oldziey Interview Restored
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