Goodbye, Rob Cobb Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Ron Cobb, one of the all-time great movie concept artists, has passed away at age 83 (obituary). Mr. Cobb was responsible for designing the looks and props of a wide swath of familiar genre films from the 1970s through today including all time classics like Alien, Star Wars and Back to the Future. Known for his lived-in, utilitarian design work, Cobbs' art continues to influence all varieties of artists today.

Concept art for the Rapier, Broadsword and Concordia.

Mr. Cobb's most direct contribution to the Wing Commander universe was as a very early artist on the 1999 Wing Commander film. Director Chris Roberts asked Cobb to develop a series of concepts based on the spacecraft needed for the script but ultimately chose to go a different direction. Producer Todd Moyer was particularly unhappy with Cobbs' work and pushed for a more budget-friendly option for the ships.

Concept art for the Diligent, Com-Con and Snakeir.

It was Mr. Cobb's immense influence that had the most impact on Wing Commander. Take, for example, the orange, plush chair he designed for ALIEN's Nostromo which found its way into our universe as the ejection seat for the fighters in the original Wing Commander.

And of course, what is Wing Commander's Raptor heavy fighter but another take on Rob Cobb's Gunstar fighter designed for THE LAST STARFIGHTER. Ron's incredible imagination inspired countless details, from high tech spaceships to little humanizing touches like the bucket collecting water from a leaky pipe in the barracks.

Mr. Cobb was also inadvertently responsible for one final addition to the Wing Commander universe: Starlog Group's heavy coverage of the Wing Commander movie which included three cover stories and a bespoke 'making of' magazine. That's a lot of focus on Wing Commander for a year when genre films included The Matrix and The Phantom Menace. It turns out the editor responsible had accepted the Wing Commander coverage because they thought it would give them an opportunity to interview Ron Cobb, who was in fact no longer with the production.

Starlog Visits the Wing Commander Movie, Starlog #260, Starlog #262 and Sci-Fi Teen.

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Ancient Camcorder Footage Sets Stage for WC Purchase Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Here's a weird nostalgia trip! This is a video recording of an old computer store circa 1991, and Wing Commander makes a handful of cameos throughout. We post a lot of retro stuff like this, but rarely do we get so much of the peripheral environment. Everything from the neon clothes at 0:22 to the shirt and tie of the salesman at 0:51 screams early '90s. The clerk is standing in front of the game at 2:36 and familiar music permeates throughout, especially in the last minute. It's one thing for players born more recently to boot up their GOG copies and experience the pixelated goodness, but there was also a magic associated with checking out these haunts to learn about what was new. Keep in mind that this was years and years before anyone downloaded a trailer or found a release date on the internet! Thanks to Michael Klamerus for the find!
Last night while doing research for my game I came across video of a computer store employee demoing Space Quest 4 and Wing Commander to customers in 1991. Enjoy?
For retro computing enthusiasts! This was a small "mom and pop" computer and electronics store in the mall in 1991 called 21st Century Electronics. It was in University Mall in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and started in 1990 as a general electronics store, with a focus on satellite television systems, but evolved into a dedicated computer technology store. I worked there from 1991 to 1993, and I'm visible in the mirror with the VHS-C camcorder near the end. The store eventually moved, became 21st Century Computers, and lasted until the 2010's. This video is probably June 8, 1991, based on the baseball game on the TV (Montreal at Atlanta), and that it was on a VHS tape with other 1991 events.

Any help identifying the games and systems in the video is appreciated. One notable system spec sheet @ 03:21: 386/25MHz system, 64K cache, 4MB RAM on board, 40 MB hard drive, tower case, 200 watt power supply, 1.2 MB floppy drive, 1.44 MB floppy drive, VGA monitor, ARC 101 keyboard, 2 serial / 1 parallel ports, Microsoft Windows (3.0), DOS... $2429.00!!! LOL!

One Week to Party Time! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

It's hard to believe, but we're now just one short week away from the combined CIC Birthday Party and 30th Anniversary of Wing Commander! Join us next Saturday for an evening filled with fun, friends and plenty of Wing Commander trivia. We'll be observing the 22nd birthday of our time here at wcnews.com as well as commemorating the big 3-0 of WC itself. The main gathering area will be #Wingnut on Discord with the formal countdown starting at 7:00 pm EDT (4:00 pm PDT and 11:00 pm GMT). The channel is always open, so you're more than welcome to come early. The party is always a blast - see you next weekend!

WC Games to Xbox Game Pass, Origin Storefront Phasing Out Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

We're got more EA news for Wing Commander fans. Last month we reported that the Origin Access service was being rebranded as EA Play. At the time, the Origin name was to be retained as the virtual storefront for EA games. That has since changed, and the company has announced that it will be renamed the EA Desktop App going forward. For the time being, Origin still stands, but the EA Desktop App is now in beta testing and will eventually become the primary portal. As you can imagine, this has kicked off a round of "EA Kills Origin" headlines that gives us mild flashbacks to 2004. Ever-optimistic fans have wondered aloud if this could be a move intended to free up the name for a reboot of Origin Systems, but this is obviously unlikely. However, on a much more positive note, Microsoft and EA have jointly confirmed that subscribers to the popular Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service will soon be getting free access to the basic level of EA Play. This means that a vast new segment of gamers will suddenly find WC1 through WC4 and Privateer in their libraries. They'll get a lot of other games too so they won't all jump on Wing Commander at once, but we're very excited for the potential influx of new pilots!
We are teaming up with Electronic Arts to provide Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PC members with an EA Play membership at no additional cost starting this holiday. This means Ultimate members can enjoy EA Play on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and Windows 10 PCs, and Xbox Game Pass for PC members get EA Play on Windows 10.

Formerly known as EA Access and Origin Access, EA Play will bring the best of EA to Game Pass, including:

  • More than 60 of EA’s biggest and best console and PC games like FIFA 20, Titanfall 2 and Need for Speed Heat, as well as titles from some of EA’s most popular franchises like Battlefield, Mass Effect, Skate, and The Sims.
  • Exclusive in-game challenges and rewards, special member-only content, discounts on EA digital purchases for DLC, games, and more.
  • Access to trials of games for up to 10 hours from best-loved franchises and top titles like Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21.
  • Not only will EA Play titles be available on console and PC, this holiday, some of the best EA Play games will also be available for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members to play on Android devices via the cloud at no additional charge.

Take an Accelerated Trip Through 3D Card History Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

ETPC spotted a fun Digital Foundry video on the history of 3D acceleration. It details the transition from software rending in the early '90s to the emergence of the dedicated 3D card and how it transformed PC gaming. Wing Commanders 2 and 3 get called out as examples of the prime time in market when CPUs did the heavy lifting. Things rapidly changed with the introduction of the 3dfx/Glide cards and their adoption by Quake. Wing Commander fans were at the forefront of this evolution thanks to Wing Commander Prophecy. WC4 and Privateer 2 produced impressive visuals in 1996, but by late 1997 Prophecy was able to add even higher quality transparency, lighting, smoke and other effects. WCP and Secret Ops ran in "software mode" for people without 3D cards, and they received a partial effects set if you had another Direct 3D compatible board, but the real treat was when you had a proper 3dfx Voodoo. Fans have since managed to emulate 3dfx with glide wrappers and even eclipse this old tech with the amazing OpenGl upgrade, but it was fun being on the cutting edge of technology for this when it was all new. The video below is a little long winded, but it does do a good job of capturing the complexity of all the emerging standards and how they affected your graphical results. Not all of us were lucky enough to have a 3dfx card at first, so it's also fun hearing familiar names like the ATI Rage, nVidia Riva and Matrox Millennium here:
John Linneman returns to the mid-90s and the arrival of the 3D accelerator boards that would revolutionise gaming as we know it. These days, we buy a new GPU, we play and play and it works, but things were very, very different back in the day...

Graphical Novel Project Dips Below Decks Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

EmuMusicFan has a new treat for fans following his graphical novel project. He showed off a really neat WC4 scene a few weeks ago, and now he's built on that by creating a new interlude that would have occurred during the game, but off-camera. This episode goes through a conversation that between Melek's crew and the Intrepid personnel. It's a hypothetical setup where they help Pliers better understand how cloaking technology works, which is a neat premise!
An excerpt from a semi-original plot. It is an excerpt from a semi-original plot. It's about what happened when Melek's mechanics aboarded the Intrepid to teach advanced cloaking technique to Pliers.

The approximate context: At Blair's request, Melek assigned a Kilrathi mechanic of common-born descent to board the Intrepid with his Varni assistant to teach Pliers advanced stealth techniques. Sosa joined the team as data support, and Catscratch volunteered to join for fear of Sosa being injured by the cat. Over lunch, they talked about Colonel Blair related topics...

Sorry I'm not a native English speaker. If there are any bugs in this scenario, please alert me to fix them. If you have any good ideas, feel free to let me know. Please note that this original scenario is only a small part of Chapter 2. If you would like to read the entire chapter, click here.

WC1 Voiceover Project Reaches Brimstone & Chengdu Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Earlier this year we reported on an exciting project to incorporate full speech into the PC version of Wing Commander. The game only got such a treatment on the Sega CD edition originally. While extracting the audio for that port has been technically possible for some time, finding a way to get it to correctly link and play in the appropriate places in other versions of the game has been an enormous hurdle. Wingnuts have made tremendous strides in modifying the original engine lately though, and we're now seeing the fruits of that labor. That's not to say any part of this is easy: Destro has had particular challenges categorizing the thousands of separate audio clips into the right order (not to mention coronavirus issues we are all facing!), so the work has been slow going, but he's got a great update to share below. There's even a new teaser of everything in action!
Since the last update I mentioned I was missing some audio files. I began the Gimle System and I found even more audio missing.. I cried inside but became determined, so I brewed several pots of coffee (and maybe a beer or two) and just put all 5000+ audio files in a playlist and just sat there for several hours listening. Eventually I did find all the missing audio. They were stuck in the middle out of order for one reason or another and through my scanning I must have just missed them. I rejoiced and filled in all the missing sections... Then all audio broke and nothing would play. I checked and triple checked my code, the scripting, the audio files for corruption anything to explain the issue, I even changed IDE's and compilers which took some time but nothing. I took a short break from it and came back and started deleting random lines and I found out that the placement of some audio files in my scripting cause a complete break in the system. I have no answer for what caused it but my guess is a memory leak somewhere in my code. I have some thoughts on where the issue might be but for now though, It's fixed, and long story short I'm back on track.

During this "broken" time I didn't want to distance myself from the project too much so I created a new menu system. It's still a bit glitchy but it's more inline with what my vision was and how I wanted it to work. Again all the textures are still place holders, even the music and sound effects, but just wanted to add a bit of flare to the splash screen. It's been a wild ride but I now have all the audio files I need and am moving forward. It will be a slower move forward for the next few weeks as I work on all my other projects but now there are less hurtles to overcome. Below is a progress report of sorts.

  • Funeral - COMPLETE
  • Medal - COMPLETE
  • Office - COMPLETE
  • InFlight Coms (WingMan) - IN PROGRESS
  • InFlight Coms (Taunts)
  • Enyo - COMPLETE
  • McAuliffe - COMPLETE
  • Gateway - COMPLETE
  • Gimle - COMPLETE
  • Brimstone - IN PROGRESS
  • Cheng Du - IN PROGRESS
  • Dakota
  • Port Hedland
  • Kurasawa
  • Rostov
  • Hubble's Star
  • Venice
  • Hell's Kitchen
I'm handling Wingman coms as they appear in the game and the Taunts I have to actually edit and export each line because the bitrate is super low to fit it all on a SegaCD disc. So the taunts will be the last thing I tackle. I also started making a little trailer for the project. I whipped it together in about an hour but might as well share it with you all. I'm going to continue hammering away at it on my free time but until then enjoy the teaser and stay safe everyone.

WC Toolbox Adds Console Support Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The WC Toolbox is branching out to even further reaches of the Wing Commander universe. UnnamedCharacter's latest update adds the first features to help crack open console ports. WC3 is first up: on the 3DO, prospective hackers can extract .bun(dles) and .str(eam) data files. For WC3 on the Playstion, it's now possible to extract .lib(rary) and .tai (voice) files. Regular PC WC3 also gets .pak and .iff support as well. I wouldn't know the first thing to do with these exports, but the WC modding community is very excited to be able to get their hands on even more in-game assets from The Heart of the Tiger! You can grab the latest tool kit here or learn about how the new functionality work at the CIC Forums.
I was not planning on making a release just yet, but I have noticed some interest in the container formats for console versions of WC games. Since I have working code to handle some of these files, I figured I would make it available even though I am in the middle of restructuring the toolbox and not yet done.

I have been making changes to improve large file handling, include support for the console versions of the games, and reduce the number of executables. I have also refactored some of the code and updated to .NET Framework version 4.6. See the first post for the download. Improving large file handling was becoming more important. In earlier games, all the files are small by today's standards and I would simply load the file content into memory and then process it. But in later games, the file sizes have considerably increased and I now only load the necessary parts. As an example of the difference, in the previous version of the toolbox, the WC3 intro movie extraction would peek at around 220 MB of memory usage, now it's down to about 10 MB.

This release introduces support for console versions of the games. At the moment, it is mostly limited to container files, but hopefully support will grow. Before the toolbox can process these files, they need to be extracted from the disc images; there are various tools you can find online that do this.

I have also removed game specific console applications and consolidated all functionality into a single application. As a result, the command line interface has slightly changed and now all commands are of the form: "Game : Platform : Command" (without quotes or spaces), for example:

WCToolsCmd WC3:PC:ExtractTree CD1MOVIE.TRE -HashMappingFile:CD1MOVIE.TRE.txt​

You can consult the README file for a complete listing of all the games, platforms, and file types supported; or invoke a Help command:

WCToolsCmd WC3:PC:Help​

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