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.

WC Sketches Infused With Technology
2015-02-28 -- There's three diverse new Wing Commander sketches by talented artist NinjaLA. The first two are drawings that were painted in on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. A Scimitar is under fire up front, and although its fuselage and wings are blended a bit more than we typically see, the acceleration absorber pods are unmistakable.

Get Academy's Claw in 3D
2015-02-27 -- The Academy animated series features a familiar but distinct design for the Bengal strike carrier that's always been one of my favorites. Community member unfortunatecrow kept staring at freeze frames of the Tiger's Claw until he could piece together a 3D representation. The resulting model is some 5.

Kilrathi Mod Reconnects With Fans
2015-02-26 -- It's been a while since we last heard about Aginor's Kilrathi-perspective WC mod, but he's provided a status update to let everyone know the project's still in the works. In its early days there was considerable feedback gathered on how to manage the Kilrathi look and feel. Then over the years missions and features were implemented, so the primary outstanding tasks relate to the finalizing the story, adding some art and completing some voiceovers.

Oldies Games Upgrades Its WC4 Profile
2015-02-25 -- OldiesGamesTV has remade their French language profile of Wing Commander 4. The previous edition was based on the CD release, so they've remixed the English DVD edition with French voiceovers and other sound. This is really cool for Francophones who'd like to see the higher quality movies!

WCDX Updated With Secret Missions Support
2015-02-24 -- Stinger has released a new 1.1 beta of WCDX that now plays The Secret Missions. There was a funky cursor bug that delayed release (pictured below), but it's now been resolved.

Denis Loubet Recalls Fond Origin Memories
2015-02-23 -- Senior WC1/2 artist Denis Loubet has been busy lately connecting with Wing Commander fans. Wingnuts have been peppering Mr. Loubet with dozens of questions about his time crafting gorgeous art for the first few games.

Think Fast! But Also Maneuverable...
2015-02-22 -- There's a new poll that puts the Confederation's fastest fighters on deck. Rather than just simply picking the fastest ship, we've asked a question that inquires which craft has the best mix of speed and maneuverability. All of the fighters listed are quick, but they have trade-offs as well.

Overthinking It Overthinks The WC3 Finale
2015-02-21 -- Overthinking It is a website dedicated to the contrived art of overanalyzing something on the internet. This month they've turned their sights on Wing Commander 3 and the moral implications of destroying Kilrah. The site actually goes after quite a range of modern pop culture, so the first part of the WC3 article attempts to lure in the casual reader based on the merits of the game.

Target Ticket Going Under; Wing Commander Available Via CinemaNow
2015-02-20 -- Web streaming service Target Ticket will be closing down next month, but other virtual avenues to buy a digital copy of the Wing Commander Movie still abound. The good news is that purchases will be transferred to the Best Buy-affiliated CinemaNow, which we hadn't previously listed as carrying WC. HBO Go, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Flixter, XBox Video, iTunes and even Netflix (now in several European countries!

Newspaper Provides Insight to Golden Age of Wing Commander
2015-02-19 -- Joe Garrity from the Origin Museum has run across a really cool print article from an August 1998 edition of the Austin American Statesman. It's a story on the revolutionary episodic release of Wing Commander Secret Ops. They explain how new parts of the game can be downloaded each week and that they'll be supplemented with additional storyline on the web.

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