Ten Years of Wing Commander IV

It was exactly one decade ago today that the interactive movie reached its high water mark: on February 12th, 1996 Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom was released.

Wing Commander IV will go down in history for its famous film shoot. With an estimated budget of $12 million, Wing Commander IV was at the time the most expensive video game ever made. Like its predecessor, Heart of the Tiger, Wing Commander 4 featured a cast of professional actors -- including Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Wilson and John Rhys Davies. For the first time, though, the movies were shot on actual sets in Los Angeles using 35mm film. Series creator and director Chris Roberts' had finally brought to life the project he had dreamt of for years: a blockbuster Hollywood movie where you were the star.

The Austin-based Maverick Team deserves equal praise for Wing Commander IV's success. In terms of gameplay it was Heart of the Tiger writ large. Wing Commander III's visually stunning but technologically cumbersome flight engine was streamlined beyond all expectations: for the first time in the series' history a new Wing Commander didn't necessitate a major hardware upgrade. At the same time, the team introduced a host of new features that have now become standard in such games: dual wings, projectile and charging guns, in-flight interactive choices, a FMV map, infiltration and capture missions and more.

Equally important were the moments of quiet brilliance. Wing Commander 4's artists visited the USS Lexington museum and applied what they learned about the look and feel of real life naval aviation to the game. For the first time individual capital ships had their own specific artwork - the TCS Lexington was distinct from the Princeton, the BWS Intrepid from the Tango. The game introduced a working background to the Wing Commander universe, featuring missions set against a complex panorama of communications arrays, weapons factories, shipyards, spacelabs starbases, turret mines and the like. Ground missions featured a detailed surface, eschewing the lumpy yellow blobs of the previous game. These little touches made gameplay more immersive than ever before - and have continued to reward a fandom interested in Wing Commander continuity to this day.

Those who waited for Wing Commander IV will forever remember January, 1996 as the longest month of their lives. The game was originally scheduled for release December 8th, 1995... fans awoke that day to find the disappointing news at Origin's early website: Wing Commander IV was delayed until February. Then, it hit. Wing Commander IV inaugurated one of the greatest years of Wing Commander fandom. Bookended by the release of two major titles, WC4 and Privateer 2, 1996 was an amazing year that helped create the community we know today. The WC:CCG was in full swing, the Academy series was on television, Baen kept novels in print and in development. In the news reports of a theatrical movie began to trickle in -- at the message board fans debated Tolwyn's ideology while lusting over the new Bearcat and Lance fighters. It was truly the best of times.

Ten years later Wing Commander fans continue to fervently hope and honestly believe that there will be another 1996 and another Wing Commander IV.

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Update published on . View all news from that day.

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

"I'm Poppin' The Pod! Make Sure I Get Picked Up..."
2014-10-19 -- Today's new poll asks about your philosophy on ejection. Are you a pilot that always goes down with their ship? Or is Control+E a legitimate strategy for tough situations?

Ace Ferrara Launches on Android
2014-10-19 -- Philipp Seifried reports that his Wing Commander-inspired space sim Ace Ferrara and The Dino Menace is now available on Android. It was released for iOS devices earlier this summer. The price has been temporarily marked down from approximately $4 to about $2 on both platoforms to celebrate the release.

Workhorse Fighters Rebuilt Closer To Original Specs
2014-10-18 -- ScoobyDoo is well known for tweaking familiar Wing Commander designs to come up with interesting concept models, but some situations ask for fewer liberties to be taken. He's answered that call and put together these shots of his Scimitar and prototype Thunderbolt with a bit more familiar profiles. The designs still contain his trademark flair such as hefty hull plating, refueling markers, stylized engine inlets and a nifty transparent radome on the TBolt.

Amiga Retro Games Reviews Classic WC Port
2014-10-17 -- Mind Wipe has posted a video overview of the Amiga version of WC1. The Super Nintendo and Amiga both got ports in 1992, so many players who didn't have access to high end PCs in the early '90s fondly remember these as their first interaction with the franchise - and often 3D space sims in general. Since this was a less common way to play, however, we like to take opportunities like these to share alternate WC experiences.

Rapier Render Revisits Powerful Prototype
2014-10-16 -- Klavs has posted the latest iteration of one os his most popular fighters, the Rapier II. Many of his takes on the craft draw from Super Wing Commander or WC2 elements, but this version gets its cue from the original Wing Commander and famous Dean McCall render. This gives the design some nice hard angles on the leading edges, engine inlets and stabilizers.

Fantastic Foundry Figures Featured For Fun
2014-10-15 -- Mwikan of The Redoubt has painted some pretty nifty Kilrathi fighters and is preparing them for battle at this year's Millennium Con. The gathering is dedicated to tabletop miniature gaming, and these ships look like they'll fit right in! He'll be using the 5150 Fighter Commander game as a backdrop for the action.

Trip Report: Citizen Con 2014
2014-10-14 -- The CIC Staff is all back home after nearly a week in Southern California. While KrisV, AD & Dundradal held the fort online, LOAF, Frosty, ace and I kept busy in Los Angeles. We got a chance to check out the latest on Star Citizen at Citizen Con 2014 last Friday.

Starship Comparison Errata
2014-10-13 -- We've reported more than once on Dirk Loechel's awesome starship comparison graphic, which includes designs from dozens of games, books, movies and tv shows. The collage has been updated several times to include additional ships or make minor corrections, but LOAF has spotted a few remaining issues. These nuggets of information might even come in handy at the next CIC birthday trivia, so read on...

Chris Roberts to Discuss WC History at PAX Australia
2014-10-12 -- Important heads-up for fans near Melbourne. The Australian edition of the Penny Arcade Expo includes a panel discussion with Chris Roberts. The session is at 3:30pm on Friday, October 31.

Prophecy Fan Movie Released
2014-10-11 -- Forums member Beckmen has wrapped production on his cinematic cut of Wing Commander: Prophecy. Recorded gameplay footage and movie clips from the DVD version combine into a feature-length movie presentation that runs over two hours. Beckmen notes that splitting the movie in half has caused some minor sync issues with part 2.

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