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.

Pirate Fighter Ready To Slice Through Undefended Convoys
2016-06-29 -- DefianceIndustries has upped the pirates' game with a new light attack fighter, the Razor from WC4. It'll eventually find a home as a subset of the Black Lance faction in the Homeworld Remastered Mod. Since players never get to fly the craft themselves, not too many pilots consider the Razor among their favorite ships, but they're actually comparable to Arrows in many ways.

Help A Wingnut, Get Cool Art
2016-06-28 -- Longtime community member NinjaLA recently had a scare that sent him to the emergency room. The good news is that he's recovering now and all is well - except for the medical bills he racked up through the ordeal. He's not asking for charity, but he is willing to take on your art commissions to help offset the costs.

WC RPG Polishing Up Kilrathi Encounters
2016-06-27 -- We continue to admire capi's weekly WC RPG progress updates and how dedicated he remains to the project. Elegy of Sivar's "encounters" have been coming together this month with two of six planned events now complete. These sound like they'll be pretty dynamic scenarios within the context of the game.

Park Your Supercruiser Here
2016-06-26 -- callitri is well known for his gorgeous Concordia Supercruiser, but now he's branching out a little. While he's got aspirations to build out more of the WC Movie's fleet, the next project he's leaning towards is the Pegasus outpost from the film's opening sequence. The design is still in the early stages, but he's got a bank of stalls and utility connections in pace.

FMV Roller Coaster Runs Its Course
2016-06-25 -- Emotional Multimedia Ride has posted its fifth - and possibly final - installment in their retrospective on the Wing Commander series. Both Prophecy and Secret Ops are grouped together in a review of the Gold package that GOG has for sale. While there are certainly some high points, they find the overall reduced number of cutscenes, lack of video choices and less seasoned cast to be somewhat less compelling than Wing Commander 4, which ranked as one of their favorite games of all time.

Flat Universe Pilots Help Hold The Line
2016-06-24 -- This week's Wing Commander Flat Universe preview isn't very flat at all! It shows a wing of Hornets rushing in to assist a Confed destroyer under siege by several larger Kilrathi combatants. On the positive side, it appears that the Fralthra in the lead has taken quite a few hits.

Pandora Handheld Plays WC Saga
2016-06-23 -- Oceankhayne likes to take his Wing Commander on the go, and so he's a fan of items like the Nvidia Shield Portable combined with DOSBox for Android. He's recently upgraded to a Pandora, where he's managed to even get WC Saga running. It also plays the standard Wing Commander games through about WC4 quite well, and you can find a video of Wing Commander 3 in action on the device here.

WC Saga Deutsch Up To Version 1.07
2016-06-22 -- Luke continues to refine the German edition of Wing Commander Saga, and his latest updates further enhance the experience. Version 1.07 includes improvements to the fiction viewer, overall improved compatibility and mod-ability through new LUA script options.

New Patch Removes Asteroid Damage From WC1&2
2016-06-21 -- Sheppard still loves to play the Wing Commander games, except one thing drives him crazy: asteroids. He didn't want to just cheat his way through the space combat, so he's been determined to figure out a compromise solution. With the advice of a few fellow Wingnuts and some old editing tools, Sheppard managed to isolate the games' space rocks and neutralize the damage they do by slashing their collision radius.

Cerberus Looking Good From Above
2016-06-20 -- Here's the latest on a very nearly complete TCS Cerberus by DefianceIndustries. The upper superstructure is all textured in now, so the ship is about ready to rock in the Secret Ops Model Upgrade Pack. Defiance saved the best for last, so just weapons and a few minor structures remain.

New Raspberry Pi 3 Meets The DOS Wing Commander Challenge
2016-06-19 -- CrazySpence is back with great news on the Raspberry Pi 3. A couple years back he had good luck getting WC1&2 to run on one of the first models, but things started fizzling out around Privateer. The new system-on-a-chip is significantly more powerful with its 1.

Announcing The CIC's 18th Birthday Party!
2016-06-18 -- The middle of the year is fast approaching, and that means one thing here: it's almost time for the CIC Birthday! We now hold the event on a Saturday near to the actual anniversary, and this year we've selected August 13. Most old timers know the drill, and they'll tell you that the party is a blast!

Fleet Action Fan Project Launches New Website
2016-06-17 -- For the past two and a half years, Arrean has been working on his Wing Commander themed strategy/tactics game Spaceships Universe which puts players in control of Terran and Kilrathi fleet operations. We check in on his progress periodically, with new screenshots or videos of his Unity based tribute to Wing Commander. Now that a playable alpha test is in the works, Arraen has set up a dedicated website for his project where he can consolidate background information and teaser media.

Freedom Flight Ebook Three-Fourths Released!
2016-06-16 -- As the official July 5 electronic release date of Baen's Wing Commander Freedom Flight quickly approaches, another quarter of the book has been published. Baen has a history of parsing out partial early drafts of their new sci-fi novels ahead of an official launch, and this happens to extend to rereleases of their back catalog such as this. The first half of the novel came out April 15, and now buyers can see the first three quarters.

Flat Universe Gears Up For The Future
2016-06-15 -- There hasn't been too much information on the future of Wing Commander Flat Universe since their big interview a couple months back, but that's about to change. kyrgiannis has posted the first in a regular series of status updates that will lead up to their next major release. The image below shows off a stress test of the engine.

Prophecy & Secret Ops Models Extracted For Easy Modding
2016-06-14 -- gr1mre4per has put together a useful package for aspiring modders and artists to more easily dabble in Vision Engine assets. He's extracted the Prophecy and Secret Ops ship and object files so that fans can jump directly to manipulating everything in their favorite Object Viewer. It should be a pretty complete rundown of what's in there, including some recent curiosities like the unused "Callisto Cruiser.

Massive WC Discount Returns To GOG
2016-06-13 -- Good Old Games is running their annual summer sale, and Wing Commander's incredible 80% price cut is back! This means all PC Wing Commander games, including expansions and bonus material, are just $9.52.

August 1999 Preview Teases Wing Commander On Pay Per View
2016-06-12 -- VHSGoodiesWA has opened a fascinating time capsule into the summer after the Wing Commander Movie premiered in theaters. Long before streaming video was a thing on the internet, cable companies offered Pay Per View programming for people interested in a convenient home option. "On demand" meant something different than it does today though, and people would pay to unlock their desired movie at given scheduled broadcast times.

WC3 Test Footage Gives Early Glimpse At Heart Of The Tiger
2016-06-11 -- LOAF recently happened upon some old VHS tapes with test footage of Wing Commander 3. These appear to be placement shots to explore the feasibility of the futuristic sets, camera angles and costumes. Since this predates actual filming, Eisen is portrayed by a Joe Garrity-lookalike stand in, and the other crew member is "Dallas.

FMV Rollercoaster Reaches Its Peak
2016-06-10 -- Emotional Multimedia Ride has published a fourth article in their series on Wing Commander. Wing Commander 4 is arguably the pinnacle of "emotional multimedia" storytelling in the franchise, and this writeup acknowledges it as such. They enjoy the real sets and deeper choices as well as the more elaborate mission structure.

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