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.

Wing Commander On Sale For Black Friday
2014-11-26 -- Electronic Arts has kicked off its Black Friday promotions via the Origin digital storefront. The Wing Commander franchise is listed at 50% off, which makes each title $2.49.

Recap History of Game Graphics in New Documentary
2014-11-25 -- Ahoy has posted a series of videos that chronicles the Brief History of Graphics. It's a five part playlist that starts with the very earliest computer games and ends with a look into the future. There are also segments on sprite-based art and hardware 3D acceleration.

Frightful Kilrathi Concept Art Surfaces
2014-11-24 -- Concept artist Mariano Diaz has posted some startling Kilrathi additions to his portfolio. Much like Rob McKinnon's work, this dates back a couple years to Chris Roberts' early Wing Commander pitch for what would eventually become Star Citizen. The Kilrathi included here are some of the most terrifying depictions anywhere.

WC Strategy Mod Back On Track
2014-11-23 -- Arraen began work on a tribute to Wing Commander at the beginning of the year. His project is a WC-themed strategy game made in the Unity engine. Things were coming together nicely until March, when he posted this message: "Sorry, guys, due to Russian invasion at my country I put on hold this project.

Star Wars Trailer Rumors Stir WC Memories
2014-11-22 -- There have been conflicting stories this week about the Star Wars Episode VII trailer being paired with the new Hobbit film set to release in December. It's possible that the rumor was unfounded, and there are many ways they could choose to unveil the preview these days - from attachment to a hot movie to a large scale television event to many many internet-based options. Mass digital media was much more limited fifteen years ago, and in March 1999 The Phantom Menace's trailer was revealed to the world before Wing Commander.

Academy DVD Marked Down for the Holidays
2014-11-21 -- A number of people have written in to report that Amazon is now selling the Wing Commander Academy DVD collection for just $7.99. It's not clear if this price reduction is in any way permanent, but with the holiday season fast approaching, this is a great opportunity to pick up some additional copies for gifts.

Wing Commander on German TV Saturday
2014-11-20 -- The Wing Commander Movie will be broadcasting on the German station RTL2 this Saturday, November 22, at 2 PM. We frequently mention all of the streaming sources such as HBO Go, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, XBox Video and iTunes, but occasionally people in certain countries have trouble accessing these. Even if fans don't have a problem going digital, the copies online may not be in their native language, so we especially like to point out opportunities to catch the movie on normal television in non-English speaking countries.

Early Concept Art Hints at SC's WC Origins
2014-11-19 -- Concept artist Rob McKinnon has mocked up images for both major Hollywood studios and video game developers like Cloud Imperium Games. His relationship with Chris Roberts actually goes back several years to some of the earliest fighter pilot and Hornet pictures for what would become Star Citizen. There are also some very interesting mockups in his portfolio for when the game was being pitched as a potential Wing Commander game.

WC Invasion Sees Renewed Interest on YouTube
2014-11-18 -- Timpedia has produced a multipart series of video reviews for the Wing Commander Invasion game. It's a Star Wars Empire at War (Forces of Corruption) mod that hasn't really been in the news for a couple years since the project reached a final stable release, but it's still available online and looking really slick. If you ever wanted to know what a fleet of Bengal class carriers, Confederation dreadnoughts and a Behemoth could unleash on the Kilrathi, this is your opportunity.

GOG Sale Cuts Wing Commander Prices In Half (80% Off Tuesday!)
2014-11-17 -- Good Old Games has a sale for every season these days, and that's a good thing for Wing Commander fans! Our favorite franchise has gone 50% off, which means each package is marked down to $3. All of the DOS and Windows WC games and expansions are included across eight different packages, so the series is available for $24.

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