Happy Birthday Wing Commander Arena!

Today we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of Wing Commander Arena's release! We're used to a steady stream of 25th birthdays ticking by as the classics from the early '90s each reach a quarter century, but this one's a little different. The baby of the family has reached double digits, and while it really just seems like yesterday that we were eagerly awaiting its release, a lot of time has passed! If you weren't following us back in 2007, then this recap will help provide a glimpse into what it was like back then, and if you've been with us all along, then read on for a trip down memory lane!


Our story begins in the mid '90s when the CIC Staff cut their teeth on exciting news updates about the pending releases of Wing Commander Kilrathi Saga, Privateer 2, Prophecy, Secret Ops, the Movie, several novels and more. Things changed quite a bit in the early 2000s with the consolidation and eventual closure of Origin, and the community reinvented itself by intensely focusing on two priorities: archiving material related to the creation of Wing Commander games and an explosion of creative fan projects. Things got a nice boost with the release of Prophecy for the Game Boy Advance in 2003, but there was an even bigger surge in excitement for the all-new Arena in 2007.

Nearly ten years had passed since Prophecy/Secret Ops, and it's not lost on us that another ten years have now gone by without another follow-up. The fact that a grand total of nineteen years have gone by with just one new WC game (!!) makes us appreciate it even more today. How and why did this thing come to exist? The stars aligned and we got lucky. There have been at least half a dozen credible attempts to 'bring back' Wing Commander since the fall of Origin, and Arena is the one that succeeded. It came at a vastly different time than the PC games of the 1990s. The franchise already had a long and beautiful history of console ports, but the preferred platforms and genres were evolving rapidly through the 2000s, and the XBox 360 made the most sense in 2006. That's where the growth in the market was at the time, and the nascent market for digital downloads was just about to take off. Of course, Secret Ops was one of the world's first digitally distributed games, but that game was at least half a dozen years ahead of its time. Electronic Arts commissioned several titles to test the waters, including Boom Boom Rocket which arrived first. EA chose producer Sean Penney to lead the product out of Vancouver BC, and Gaia Industries in New York was tapped to do the art and programming. We're eternally grateful for both the man in charge and the small team tasked with bringing his vision to life. They both demonstrated considerable passion for the Wing Commander brand and a strong desire to "get it right" with a shoestring budget and the technological constraints of the format. They crammed in a wide variety of single player modes, competitive multiplayer and even a cool cooperative capship battle within a 50 megabit limit. Just a few short years later, lesser DLC games would balloon to multiple gigabytes in size, so it's amazing how much they jammed into this tiny package. There were also half a dozen iconic fighters that each sported three variants, and they dug especially deep to pull the Rapier from Super Wing Commander. Further, ships like the Longbow bomber and Pelican transport made cameos in the background. Man, what a night the release was! We all went to bed on the night of July 24, 2007 with plans to wake up at midnight and play until morning. But since these were the early days of digital releases, the exact time of release wasn't as predictable. A flurry of messages went out when it was discovered that the game was available a few hours early, and Wingnuts from the around the globe scrambled to get online. These were the days before Xbox Live Parties made grouping up with friends easy, so everyone was organized via message boards and IRC chat to link up, form squadrons and blast away. It was a classic case of being easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Ace pilots started to climb the ranks. Fans dug around to understand how to unlock each of the 18 flyable craft. Groups of 16 banded together to unlock the cap ship battle achievement, and people played the ring game to show off their acrobatic skills. The top-down 2D perspective put off some people, but fans that gave it a try were rewarded with a surprisingly deep space combat sim for an ostensibly simple arcade shooter. Agile players could rock cool 3D evasive maneuvers, and careful energy management was required to keep all systems operating when you needed them. Each ship had different strengths and weaknesses and required different piloting styles to master. LOAF even placed 3rd in an official tournament with other professional gamers in order to win an XBox 360 that we were able to give out to a fan. And we haven't even touched on Star*Soldier yet! We were fortunate enough to help build a huge manual in the spirit of Tiger's Claw or Victory Streak with tons of supplemental fiction that filled in many of the loose ends left open after Secret Ops. This subject alone is worthy of dozens of posts, so check those out for all the details and download the actual manual here (still hosted on EA servers ten years later!). There were plans initially to include a single player component. Had the game been a bigger hit, the work done on the campaign would have been refined and released as an expansion or sequel. Sadly, that did not happen, but we were gifted with a considerable amount of Gaia concept art that shows off the unreleased Centurion and Gothri fighters, Kilrathi and Firekkan pilots and more. And while we never got more than the initial release, Arena is still available to purchase online and play on the XBox 360. Fortunately, Microsoft has demonstrated a greater commitment to its back catalog of games in recent years, and support is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Although it's a long shot, someday it's possible the game could even become compatible with the XBox One, which would give it some nice enhancements such as future compatibility with the One X, improved party support, built in screenshot and recording ability and more. So get some practice rounds in now - we'll see you in the cockpit!

Wing Commander Arena is a fast-paced space combat game where players can team up to attack other teams of ships. The game introduces the classic franchise to an arcade-style experience that allows up to 16 players online in battle at once. Players can propel their customized ship through space, fire torpedoes and unleash deadly gravity bombs as they try to climb the leader board. Online players will compete for Frag count, high score and dueling stats.

"We're really excited to deliver unparalleled multi-player arcade action," said Chip Lange, EA Vice President. "The design for Wing Commander will appeal to both long-time fans of the franchise and immediately engage anyone who wants the melee style action of an arcade shooter."

Wing Commander Arena will feature four styles of play: single player, multi-team, multi-player free for all and multi-player duel. Within the game there are eight game maps that include team maps, free for all maps and dueling maps, so Wing Commander Arena offers a gameplay experience for every Arcade gamer, whether they want a quick ten minutes of action or a longer more immersive game.

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


WC Sketches Up Close & Personal
2017-12-13 -- We've got several character sketches today from NinjaLA. Fans may be more familiar with all of his ship drawings, but he also draws quite a few people from the WC universe. The Confed dude has a pretty interesting uniform (I like the gold trim), and the black and white warrior is a very classic Kilrathi.

Happy Birthday Wing Commander Prophecy!
2017-12-12 -- It's been 20 years since Wing Commander Prophecy arrived in stores! Longtime fans may remember some of the original games being released in the early to mid '90s, but Wing Commander Prophecy represented the first game to come out after the initial internet boom. Yes, it was possible to find WC4 information online in late 1995, but a huge influx of fans throughout 1996 and 1997 completely changed the landscape of this internet community.

Hats Off To New FMV Record Holder
2017-12-11 -- Games that feature full motion video have undergone a bit of a renaissance over the past two years with a handful of innovative adventures hitting the market since 2015's Her Story. Two decades of dormancy, however, let Wing Commander reign as king of the genre in a number of ways. Now, one game has passed Wing Commander 4 for quantity of FMV, and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker has the Guiness World Record to prove it!

WC1 Live Viewer Now Displays Medal Points
2017-12-10 -- UnnammedCharacter has released an update to his WC1 Live Viewer program. The previous iteration of the app displayed game state statistics on flying objects throughout the battle space in your Wing Commander 1 game. It's not an editor, but rather, it can be paired with things like the WC Toolbox to help understand what's going on behind the scenes.

Check Out Rebel Galaxy's Delightful Blueprint
2017-12-09 -- The creators of Rebel Galaxy, already well known for their incredible Privateer April Fools commercial earlier this year, have made another awesome Wing Commander tribute. They've created a fighter diagram for the game's Coyote fighter that's a perfect match to the style of WC1's blueprints. Sure looks like Howie is having fun!

Backers' Wing Commander Album Scores Released
2017-12-08 -- Wing Commander fans who pledged for the second Wing Commander album at the $80 level and above now have a treat waiting for them. The PDF digital scores for the seventeen expected orchestral tracks have been released. Contributors can now log in to their Kickstarter Message Inbox for a special note from George Oldziey with a download link and access password.

Homeworld Mod Now Spoofs Missiles
2017-12-07 -- Yet another new feature has been added to the Homeworld Remastered Mod. Electronic Countermeasures are now available to the fighter fleet so that they have a much more robust defense against large missile salvos. Check out this post for exact effectiveness percentages by model.

Hornet Zooms Towards The Action
2017-12-06 -- NinjaLA is back with a nifty sketch that shows off his "gradient mask coloring" technique. There are two images this time so you can see how things begin as a simple pencil sketch... and progress into a very sleek Hornet!

Nephilim Added To Star Trek Armada 2 Mod
2017-12-05 -- The Wing Commander mod for Star Trek Armada 2 has added a major new faction to the game. A full lineup of Nephilim capships and fighters have filled out the ranks and is set to invade the spacelanes. Each individual starship is beautiful, but check out the battle scenes.

Recording Session Set For WC Bar Music!
2017-12-04 -- There's a pretty sizable update on the progress of George Oldziey's second Wing Commander album today. A date has been set now for early February to do the live recording of the WC bar music. It'll be performed in George's personal studio in Austin.

The Voices Of War Speak Many Languages
2017-12-03 -- Christian Klein, the Pixel Engineer, has dug up a really cool version of Wing Commander Armada. This one's made for the Japanese PC-98 computer. There's so much to love on every inch of the box here, but my favorite might be the dark red disks with Japanese text.

We're Number 239!
2017-12-02 -- Polygon has put together a massive a feature on the 500 best games of all time. Wing Commander has made many, many such lists in its time, but this might be the longest - and furthest down - that we've seen it ever rank on. I can imagine it's really hard to qualitatively score a hundred games across many disparate genres, let alone five times that number, so it's kind of interesting to scroll through and see what they ended up with.

Wing Commander Teaches 3D
2017-12-01 -- AD found a nifty Wing Commander feature in Isaac Kerlow's The Art of 3D: Computer Animation and Effects which includes snippets from the Wing Commander Movie. The shots are interesting because they break down certain scenes into the various elements that get composited together to produce the finished frame for the film. The book was published just a couple years after WC was released, so computer animation was still a groundbreaking field.

Homeworld Mod Improves Skipper Missile Execution
2017-11-30 -- The latest updates to the Homeworld Remastered Mod are all about the Skipper Missile. Several iterations have been released that update the Skipper's code to properly cloak and decloak as it cruises through space. There have also been AI tweaks to better guide when the computer deploys the missile as well as bug fixes that address an issue with deploying it against large bases.

New WC Toolbox Release Adds WC2 & Academy Support
2017-11-29 -- UnnamedCharacter is back with an awesome upgrade to his WC Toolbox application. The program allows aspiring modders unprecedented ease of access to play around with and tweak some of the core elements of the original Wing Commander games. Previous versions have allowed for ship editing, revision of the in-game text, new copy protection questions and more!

Avoid The Node
2017-11-28 -- Dark Sentinel still has some of the fearsome capships like the Hydra under construction in his shipyards, but he's let loose a smaller pair of ships this week. This time we get to see the Ray node and its smaller Remora counterparts. When Prophecy was released twenty years ago, this ship was a real oddball.

Cyber Monday Discounts Abound For WC Fans
2017-11-27 -- If you're still searching for the perfect present after Black Friday, Cyber Monday gives you a great opportunity to give the gift of Wing Commander. GOG currently has the Wing Commander series for 75% off, which brings it down to just $11.92 for all DOS/Windows games (you may need to add them to your cart individually).

Fralthi Fights For Furball Frontier
2017-11-26 -- The Kilrathi kick continues for the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack with another brown durasteel capship. This time the Fralthi II joins the fray, which actually stars in the beginning of Prophecy. Our pilots encounter it partially destroyed, which is why we're lucky enough to get the artsy damaged version here.

Extreme Fun Pak Pushed Gamers To The Edge
2017-11-25 -- If you're tied into the Apple ecosystem, then there's a good chance you've encountered a billion ads for discounted iPads and similar products as you navigated the Black Friday holiday salescape this weekend. But if you were to roll back the clock by twenty-one years and put yourselves in the shoes of a Mac customer in 1996, you'd have seen some significantly different products. One of them would have been this official "Apple Quality Bundle" "For Serious Gamers.

Tom Wilson Bouncing Around The Vlogosphere
2017-11-24 -- As we first reported last year, actor Tom Wilson is doing a pretty good job of maintaining his YouTube Vlog channel. He doesn't post nearly as often as some of the big stars out there, but his video posts are pretty funny and provide interesting insight into what he's got going on in life. The first video below provides a glimpse into his art show, then he's got a new song, and finally he takes his fans with him on a trip to Australia.

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