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. Recent updates:


WC Sketches Up Close & Personal
2017-12-13 -- We've got several character sketches today from NinjaLA. Fans may be more familiar with all of his ship drawings, but he also draws quite a few people from the WC universe. The Confed dude has a pretty interesting uniform (I like the gold trim), and the black and white warrior is a very classic Kilrathi.

Happy Birthday Wing Commander Prophecy!
2017-12-12 -- It's been 20 years since Wing Commander Prophecy arrived in stores! Longtime fans may remember some of the original games being released in the early to mid '90s, but Wing Commander Prophecy represented the first game to come out after the initial internet boom. Yes, it was possible to find WC4 information online in late 1995, but a huge influx of fans throughout 1996 and 1997 completely changed the landscape of this internet community.

Hats Off To New FMV Record Holder
2017-12-11 -- Games that feature full motion video have undergone a bit of a renaissance over the past two years with a handful of innovative adventures hitting the market since 2015's Her Story. Two decades of dormancy, however, let Wing Commander reign as king of the genre in a number of ways. Now, one game has passed Wing Commander 4 for quantity of FMV, and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker has the Guiness World Record to prove it!

WC1 Live Viewer Now Displays Medal Points
2017-12-10 -- UnnammedCharacter has released an update to his WC1 Live Viewer program. The previous iteration of the app displayed game state statistics on flying objects throughout the battle space in your Wing Commander 1 game. It's not an editor, but rather, it can be paired with things like the WC Toolbox to help understand what's going on behind the scenes.

Check Out Rebel Galaxy's Delightful Blueprint
2017-12-09 -- The creators of Rebel Galaxy, already well known for their incredible Privateer April Fools commercial earlier this year, have made another awesome Wing Commander tribute. They've created a fighter diagram for the game's Coyote fighter that's a perfect match to the style of WC1's blueprints. Sure looks like Howie is having fun!

Backers' Wing Commander Album Scores Released
2017-12-08 -- Wing Commander fans who pledged for the second Wing Commander album at the $80 level and above now have a treat waiting for them. The PDF digital scores for the seventeen expected orchestral tracks have been released. Contributors can now log in to their Kickstarter Message Inbox for a special note from George Oldziey with a download link and access password.

Homeworld Mod Now Spoofs Missiles
2017-12-07 -- Yet another new feature has been added to the Homeworld Remastered Mod. Electronic Countermeasures are now available to the fighter fleet so that they have a much more robust defense against large missile salvos. Check out this post for exact effectiveness percentages by model.

Hornet Zooms Towards The Action
2017-12-06 -- NinjaLA is back with a nifty sketch that shows off his "gradient mask coloring" technique. There are two images this time so you can see how things begin as a simple pencil sketch... and progress into a very sleek Hornet!

Nephilim Added To Star Trek Armada 2 Mod
2017-12-05 -- The Wing Commander mod for Star Trek Armada 2 has added a major new faction to the game. A full lineup of Nephilim capships and fighters have filled out the ranks and is set to invade the spacelanes. Each individual starship is beautiful, but check out the battle scenes.

Recording Session Set For WC Bar Music!
2017-12-04 -- There's a pretty sizable update on the progress of George Oldziey's second Wing Commander album today. A date has been set now for early February to do the live recording of the WC bar music. It'll be performed in George's personal studio in Austin.

The Voices Of War Speak Many Languages
2017-12-03 -- Christian Klein, the Pixel Engineer, has dug up a really cool version of Wing Commander Armada. This one's made for the Japanese PC-98 computer. There's so much to love on every inch of the box here, but my favorite might be the dark red disks with Japanese text.

We're Number 239!
2017-12-02 -- Polygon has put together a massive a feature on the 500 best games of all time. Wing Commander has made many, many such lists in its time, but this might be the longest - and furthest down - that we've seen it ever rank on. I can imagine it's really hard to qualitatively score a hundred games across many disparate genres, let alone five times that number, so it's kind of interesting to scroll through and see what they ended up with.

Wing Commander Teaches 3D
2017-12-01 -- AD found a nifty Wing Commander feature in Isaac Kerlow's The Art of 3D: Computer Animation and Effects which includes snippets from the Wing Commander Movie. The shots are interesting because they break down certain scenes into the various elements that get composited together to produce the finished frame for the film. The book was published just a couple years after WC was released, so computer animation was still a groundbreaking field.

Homeworld Mod Improves Skipper Missile Execution
2017-11-30 -- The latest updates to the Homeworld Remastered Mod are all about the Skipper Missile. Several iterations have been released that update the Skipper's code to properly cloak and decloak as it cruises through space. There have also been AI tweaks to better guide when the computer deploys the missile as well as bug fixes that address an issue with deploying it against large bases.

New WC Toolbox Release Adds WC2 & Academy Support
2017-11-29 -- UnnamedCharacter is back with an awesome upgrade to his WC Toolbox application. The program allows aspiring modders unprecedented ease of access to play around with and tweak some of the core elements of the original Wing Commander games. Previous versions have allowed for ship editing, revision of the in-game text, new copy protection questions and more!

Avoid The Node
2017-11-28 -- Dark Sentinel still has some of the fearsome capships like the Hydra under construction in his shipyards, but he's let loose a smaller pair of ships this week. This time we get to see the Ray node and its smaller Remora counterparts. When Prophecy was released twenty years ago, this ship was a real oddball.

Cyber Monday Discounts Abound For WC Fans
2017-11-27 -- If you're still searching for the perfect present after Black Friday, Cyber Monday gives you a great opportunity to give the gift of Wing Commander. GOG currently has the Wing Commander series for 75% off, which brings it down to just $11.92 for all DOS/Windows games (you may need to add them to your cart individually).

Fralthi Fights For Furball Frontier
2017-11-26 -- The Kilrathi kick continues for the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack with another brown durasteel capship. This time the Fralthi II joins the fray, which actually stars in the beginning of Prophecy. Our pilots encounter it partially destroyed, which is why we're lucky enough to get the artsy damaged version here.

Extreme Fun Pak Pushed Gamers To The Edge
2017-11-25 -- If you're tied into the Apple ecosystem, then there's a good chance you've encountered a billion ads for discounted iPads and similar products as you navigated the Black Friday holiday salescape this weekend. But if you were to roll back the clock by twenty-one years and put yourselves in the shoes of a Mac customer in 1996, you'd have seen some significantly different products. One of them would have been this official "Apple Quality Bundle" "For Serious Gamers.

Tom Wilson Bouncing Around The Vlogosphere
2017-11-24 -- As we first reported last year, actor Tom Wilson is doing a pretty good job of maintaining his YouTube Vlog channel. He doesn't post nearly as often as some of the big stars out there, but his video posts are pretty funny and provide interesting insight into what he's got going on in life. The first video below provides a glimpse into his art show, then he's got a new song, and finally he takes his fans with him on a trip to Australia.

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