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.

The Wing Commander Art of Alan Gutierrez
2017-02-20 -- Last week, we showed you how the developers behind the 1995 Wing Commander CCG used a single painting to create two different cards. Today, we'd like to share another example by walking you through the incredible art of Alan Gutierrez. Mr.

EA Gives Free Access
2017-02-19 -- Still on the fence about this whole Wing Commander thing? Electronic Arts has announced that they are adding a seven day free trial to their Origin Access service (previously reported here.) Origin Access, the PC equivalent of their Xbox-based EA Access program, gives you the ability to play a host of Electronic Arts games free of charge.

Retro Ad Highlights Tricky Windows Transition
2017-02-18 -- Anatoly Shashkin of DOSNostalgic shared this awesome advertisement for System Commander. Although it shares no relation to the Wing Commander series, it still has a pretty cool name, and this ad includes a shout out to WC4. "Win 95 is cool, but sucks with DOS games!

Digital Wing Commander in HD Discounted to $6.99
2017-02-17 -- Vudu enthusiast Jacob reports that the company has included Wing Commander in their latest monthly HDX sale. Through March 7, digital ownership of the movie will run you just $6.99.

Just Play the Classics!
2017-02-16 -- In 1994, Electronic Arts hit on a sales trick that has since become commonplace: re-release your recent back catalog as budget 'classic' titles using simple packaging and digitized manuals to lower printing costs. The original cost of producing these games could be further amortized, ultimately helping further support the ever-growing game development budgets needed for new titles to stand up. You could call it GOG's great, great grandson!

Welcome to Sol Sector, Julianna!
2017-02-15 -- We have the happiest possible news to report today: congratulations to Chris and Lacey Reid on the birth of their daughter, Julianna Ella Reid! Julianna was born on February 9th, a brand new baby girl. Chris, Lacey and daughter are home and recuperating well.

Love, Terran Confederation Style
2017-02-14 -- We all know Blair and Angel, Maniac and Rosie, Catscratch and Sosa... but the conventional wisdom says that Wing Commander is, by its very nature, not the platform for stories about complex romantic relationships. In honor of Valentine's Day 2017, I would like to respong by remembering two relationships from the Wing Commander canon that are a little more nuanced.

Ad Ben: Sound Commander
2017-02-13 -- Here's a nickel's worth of free marketing advice: if it's 1991 and you are trying to sell a PC game it does not hurt to make sure it has the word 'Commander' in the name. The degree to which Wing Commander was a success means that an incomplete list from those years includes Air Commander, Flight Commander, Tank Commander, Air Force Commander, Robot Commander and many more. And the tie-ins didn't stop there: there were even a host of hardware peripherals that tried to ride Wing Commander's coattails.

Where Everybody Knows Your Clan
2017-02-12 -- Don't drink and fly! The 1995 Wing Commander Customizable Card Game (CCG) includes a pair of 'LUCK!' cards which discuss this exact scenario: the Confederation "TOO MUCH VAK'QU" and the Kilrathi "TOO MUCH FIRE LIQUOR" cards allow the player to return an individual opposing pilot to the Ready Area, effectively disabling them for the turn.

Ghosts in the (Metal) Machine
2017-02-11 -- Could there have been new Wing Commander music in 2015? The answer may surprise you: a strong 'sorta!'Back in 1997, Wing Commander Prophecy's abortive flirtation with a Cobalt 60-supplied industrial music soundtrack resulted in one of the stranger additions to Wing Commander’s musical canon: a "Wing Commander Prophecy Original Soundtrack” that seems to be more industrial variety sampler than anything connected to the Terran Confederation.

Denis Loubet Goes Behind the Screens
2017-02-10 -- The gang from the Big Box PC Game Collectors group have a great new video of interest to Wing Commander fans: an hour-long hangout with Origin artist Denis Loubet! Denis is the man responsible for the original Wing Commander box art (and countless other pieces of early WC art) and hearing him talk about his storied career if fascinating. Wing Commander fans should pay special attention around the 50 minute mark, where talks about creating the first game's explosions and debris in Deluxe Paint and even designing the game's radar screen!

Ad Ben: Sound Runner
2017-02-09 -- 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...

Spoiler Filled Wing Commander Review
2017-02-08 -- The crew of Spoiler Filled have done a conversational podcast review of the Wing Commander feature film. Being unfamiliar with the Wing Commander franchise beyond the film's reputation, the podcast covers their expectations and then contrasts them with their impressions after watching the film. Their overall impression is not necessarily positive, but they do say the reputation is undeserved and give props to the movie's special effects scenes as being quite good for 1999.

New Concordia Model Is The Best One Yet
2017-02-07 -- Today we're happy to share the latest version of Klavs' masterpiece Concordia model. The faraway poses are jaw-dropping on their own, but there's so much detail here that you're going to want to zoom in and take a closer look. A big draw this time out is all of the enhanced texturing that adds additional color and character to the design.

Don't Get Caught By This UBW Patrol
2017-02-06 -- DefianceIndustries is well known for taking classic Wing Commander art and jazzing it up to modern standards. It turns out this also applies to his own creations, and the wallpaper below is the result. He's taken the scene from last year and added 100% more explosions and 200% more laser blasts.

Potential Premiere Project Proves Promising
2017-02-05 -- FekLeyrTarg put together this brief clip to flex his video editing muscles while taking advantage of a variety of WC2 assets. He's looking for feedback at the CIC Forums and hopefully chooses to take on some longer and more elaborate scenes in the future. We definitely encourage people to take on new kinds of creative projects like this and especially with lesser used elements of the series!

Get Your Privateer Fix Here
2017-02-04 -- We've got a new poll today that asks about all the shady and interesting people of Wing Commander Privateer. If you haven't visited Gemini in a while, there might be more than you remember! With so much of the series focused on the military side of the war, seeing such a slice of civilian life is especially cool.

Early Wing Commanders Finally Receive Rating in Australia
2017-02-03 -- Electronic Arts has recently asked Australia's Department of Communications and the Arts to provide a rating for Wing Commander, Wing Commander 2 and Privateer. Evidently, the three oldest games in the franchise (published before Origin was acquired by EA) had never been rated for the Australian market. With several Wing Commander games showing up on Origin Access, a digital delivery/subscription service, it's possible that EA had to quickly get that straightened out.

Homeworld Mod Adds Famous Battlewagon
2017-02-02 -- The newest addition to the Homeworld Remastered Mod is another hard-hitting carrier. L.I.

'Making Of WC3' Brought Into The Future
2017-02-01 -- Jim Leonard has done a bit of digital alchemy and produced an upgraded version of the Making Of documentary included with the Premiere Edition of Wing Commander 3. He's used special filter and conversion techniques to remove a lot of the grainy noise and choppiness associated with the VHS format. So if you haven't seen this in a while, or especially if you've never watched it through at all, this looks like the best way to experience the footage.

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