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.

This Thud Is Slightly Sleeker
2014-09-29 -- ScoobyDoo has mocked up a new Thunderbolt VII variant based on the concept art for Wing Commander 3. The Heart of the Tiger's famous development wall featured a host of Confed ships that generally appeared more squat with certain rounded features similar to the ships of WC2. Scooby's design builds on that idea and adds some forward stabilizers/pylons as well as his nifty transparent radome assembly.

Full Afterburners, Go, Go, Go!
2014-09-28 -- Klavs has helped amp up the VK Day festivities with a glorious new Excalibur render. He's taken the famous FLEE image and recreated it from a new perspective. His version has a few additional details that are really nice - you can clearly see the WC3 style flight suit in the cockpit, and a "300" is prominent on the fighter's nose.

Local Newspaper Highlights Wing Commander's Musical History
2014-09-27 -- The Austin Chronicle has printed a preview of tomorrow's Austin Civic Orchestra concert featuring Wing Commander. The article notes that the music was originally created locally by George Oldziey at Origin, and this year's successful Kickstarter campaign gets a nod too. It also points to this really fun writeup from 1995 that talks about WC3's soundtrack and the burgeoning field of video game music.

Chris Roberts' Crowdfunding Success Officially Recognized
2014-09-26 -- Roberts Space Industries has chalked up another achievement. They've been included in the 2015 Guinness Book as the most crowd funded project in history. They earned the spot with $40 million, but the latest tally is actually $54 million with no end in sight!

Wing Commander in Concert This Weekend!
2014-09-25 -- Here's a reminder that George Oldziey's Wing Commander suite will be performed this weekend by the Austin Civic Orchestra. The show will be Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM at the Anderson High School Performing Arts Center. Austinites are really lucky to be so close to this!

Happy VK Day!
2014-09-24 -- On September 24, 2669, Colonel Christopher Blair launched his successful Temblor Bomb strike on Kilrah. Its resulting blast wave took out the Emperor and Prince Thrakhath's enormous invasion fleet massing in orbit. The crown prince himself was also bested in combat just prior to Blair's descent to the planet's surface.

Fans Continue to Push 3D Printing Envelope
2014-09-23 -- The Arrow kit build we showed off last week isn't the only new 3D printing project in the works. poopnoodle got these miniature Hellcats printed from Sculpteo based on Klavs' designs. Although the color models are really popular, artistic fans get a kick out of the blank canvas versions.

Playstation TV to Support Wing Commander IV
2014-09-22 -- There'll soon be a new way to play Wing Commander in your living room! Sony has announced that nearly 700 games will be available for the Playstation TV device when it launches in North America on October 14, 2014. The $99 set top box will be similar to the Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV.

GameStar Wades Into Piranha Controversy
2014-09-21 -- Whistler tipped us off about another new development related to Piranha Games. GameStar.de was able to get a response from EA Germany that disputes PGI's recent claim to have the license to make a Wing Commander game.

Gorgeous Image Caps Big Week For Space Exploration
2014-09-21 -- In case other headlines got in the way, it's been a fun week for people looking up. To start with, here's a gorgeous shot of the SpaceX Dragon launch this morning. It's the craft's fourth unmanned supply mission to the International Space Station, and it comes on the heels of some exciting milestones for commercial spaceflight.

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