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.

Huge Starship Comparison Upgrades Wing Commander Ships
2014-09-17 -- Death noticed that Dirk Loechel's massive sci-fi size comparison graphic has received a "final" update. Although it's possible that the project will never really be complete, the creator believes he's done his last major update for at least a long while. Compared with the last big revision, a number of the Wing Commander ships have been cleaned up with new art.

New Chris Roberts Bio Covers Decades of Creativity
2014-09-16 -- US Gamer has posted a lengthy profile on Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts. It begins by covering his early years learning to program and then details the growth of his expertise and fame at Origin. There's also a candid conversation about his decade in the movie business, including his thoughts on the development of the Wing Commander Movie.

Kilrathi Islands Location Pinpointed in Britannia
2014-09-15 -- The Ultima Codex has done some further investigation into Ultima Forever's Kilrathi Islands that we shared last month. Using clues from the images, they've located the specific area where this exists on the mega sized world map for the game. They have also provided some interesting back story about what that region was intended for and how there may not have been a way to visit directly.

Alternate 'Heart of the Tiger' Credits Revealed
2014-09-14 -- AD was spending some leisure time perusing the data tre files from Wing Commander 3 when he stumbled upon an interesting easter egg! His hacking revealed a set of alternate spoof credits for the game, and there's more in-jokes in there than you can shake a stick at. One famous example is the callsign of Prem "Wipeout" Krishnan who earned his name after inadvertently deleting Strike Commander's source code in progress!

Let's Play Wing Commander III and Standoff
2014-09-13 -- Some time ago Ilanin finished documenting his playthrough of Wing Commander 3 and Standoff, and the entire, massive thing has now been included in the Let's Play Archive for posterity. Each elaborate entry includes story commentary, screenshots, gameplay footage and background information on ships, characters and events. Check them out here!

EA Checks Up On WC3 Cast
2014-09-12 -- Electronic Arts has published a Where Are They Now? feature on the actors of Wing Commander 3. It doesn't actually give you as much information as simply browsing all of the actors' pages from IMDB would, but it's a little bit amazing that EA's Origin is publishing articles on The Heart of the Tiger in 2014.

Transverse Saga Continues To Unfold; Game Evolved From WC Online Pitch
2014-09-11 -- The launch of Piranha's Transverse space sim has been interesting, to say the least! There had been rumors for some months that the developer's next game would be a licensed Wing Commander title, so their countdown was being closely watched by some Wingnuts. When the game was revealed as a brand new property, it appeared that the speculation had been unfounded.

Kilrathi Invaders Gain Advanced Superiority Fighter
2014-09-10 -- Klavs has another Kilrathi ship up his sleeve, and this one's a fierce fighter! The Hhriss, as it appeared in The Secret Missions 2 alongside the Snakeir, is a very predatory design shaped around agile wings and powerful guns. Klavs has done a great job accenting the design with color and stitching together armor plates to give the ship an especially tough look.

Keep Your Nose Art Clean
2014-09-09 -- LOAF was doing some archeological digging the other day and found some nifty pieces of Wing Commander Movie history. The first is a large nose art decal for Knight's ship. Perhaps as a Broadsword pilot, he never needed his Rapier customized?

Piranha Games Announces Transverse
2014-09-09 -- At 1 pm PDT, Piranha Games launched the site for their new online sci-fi game Transverse. Set in the 24th Century, where humans have moved beyond Sol system into the fringes of space, players work together, or at odds, to advance their lot in the universe. Many of the game's aspects are strikingly similar to Star Citizen, including a crowdfunding campaign with stretch goals to finance the operation.

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