Origin's Legacy Lives On Through Vast Industry Influence Update ID

TechRaptor has published an article on the history of Origin Systems. It's a rather in-depth piece that focuses on many of the notable developers who joined the company in the early days and then went on to influence the industry for more than three decades. Wing Commander is acknowledged as the powerhouse alongside Ultima, but there is also due credit given to how ground breaking Ultima Underworld was and how it then also went on to directly feed games like Doom and System Shock. It's a good refresher for fans who might just be familiar with how Wing Commander came to be. The tone does shift quite a bit at the end when they talk about an "aggressive takeover" by Electronic Arts that led to the company stealing its innovations. We've been outspoken when it comes to EA's series of mistakes that resulted in the cancelation of numerous promising WC games in the early 2000s, but that's only half of the story. Origin was a standalone company for less than a decade when they began struggling with the costs of scaling up to large multi-disk games. EA resolved that crisis and funded everything after WC1&2, so it doesn't seem quite fair to just cast them as the villain without considering that context. Check out the full article for yourself here.
With the Ultima games becoming progressively bigger and more complex, Origin also began to pivot to other genres and niches. It was at this time that Chris Roberts joined the company and directed the RPGs Times of Lore and Bad Blood, which became mere footnotes to the 1990 release that defined the company’s identity as much as Ultima… Wing Commander. There were space combat simulation games before Wing Commander, but it raised the bar for the whole industry in terms of production value and realistic simulation.

Wing Commander was a great commercial success, and the demand for expansions and sequels didn’t diminish for most of the 1990s. Origin Systems was fully established as a powerhouse of both RPGs, simulation games, and first-person 3D technology.

Twenty-five Year Old Richard Garriott Video Interview Discovered Update ID

Here's another video article from the Interactive Entertainment digital magazine hybrid. This one goes all the way back to the first issue's included CD-ROM where they interview Origin founder and Ultima creator Richard Garriott. They cover a lot of ground and discuss what projects Origin was currently working on, what was in the cards for upcoming Wing Commander projects and why Origin made so many sequels. The first Interactive Entertainment was published February 1994 although the content appears to have been recorded probably somewhere in the middle of 1993. The ISOs for these issues can be found on archive.org.

This was billed as an "interactive interview" which meant that to watch the interview you first had to choose the question you were interested in from a list and then the answers would play in video format. For this reason, putting this into video format necessitated that the questions be placed in order and title cards added.

Questions answered in this video:

  1. How do Origin's and EA's' product lines mesh ?
  2. What's this Pacific Strike I keep hearing about ?
  3. How is Pacific Strike improved over Strike Commander ?
  4. Anything new planned for the Strike Commander engine ?
  5. Will there be any new Wing Commander products ?
  6. I've played Wing 1 and 2. Why should I buy Wing 3 ?
  7. How will Wing 3 be better ?
  8. How would you describe the first Ultima trilogy ?
  9. How would you describe the second Ultima trilogy ?
  10. How would you describe the third Ultima trilogy ?
  11. The “dark side of the Force” ? How so ?
  12. What does the Guardian do in Ultima 8 ?
  13. How will the third trilogy end ?
  14. How did "Lord British" get credit for writing your games ?
  15. Are your products created in-house or by outside developers ?
  16. Do you plan to develop all your new products in-house ?
  17. Why do you prefer to keep product development in-house?
  18. So, no plans to use outside developers?
  19. Which product lines are you supporting ?
  20. What new technologies are you exploring ?
  21. What do you mean by “Interactive Movie” ?
  22. What are you developing in the Interactive Movie line ?
  23. Why do you do so many sequels ?
  24. Will you continue to do sequels ?
  25. How has the merger affected your standing in the industry ?
  26. So who do you see as your major competition ?
  27. What do you think actually sells a game ?
  28. What prompted you to found Origin ?
  29. Didn't you have a sickening amount of money to start Origin with ?
  30. So what was it like back in the early days ?
  31. What's the scoop on your logo ?
  32. Weren't most of your early games written for the Apple II ?
  33. Why did you stick with the Apple for so long ?
  34. What prompted you to move away from the Apple ?
  35. What platforms will you support in the future ?
  36. How does Origin carve a niche for itself on a given platform ?
  37. Where do you get the ideas for your games ?
  38. Do you enjoy running a computer game company ?
  39. How is producing a game similar to producing a movie ?
  40. What's the really exciting part of being in the game industry ?
  41. What's the dangerous part of making games for a living ?

Catch Up On The Movie's Cast Update ID

The website Arcade Sushi has put together a "Where are they now?" feature on the cast of Wing Commander. This is probably something we should have thought of first, but they beat us to it. Unfortunately the piece starts with some trite commentary on the talentless cast - before immediately proceeding to detail the acting prowess and storied careers of people like David Warner, Saffron Burrows and David Suchet. So the text is a bit disingenuous, but it's still fun to see how everyone's aged in twenty years! Check out the article here.

Flat Universe Downtime Over - Play On! Update ID

Prospective players who were trying to register for Wing Commander Flat Universe recently may have encountered an error while trying to set up their email/callsign. The Maslas Brothers dug into the issue and believe they have it fixed now. The team is working on some exciting multiplayer plans for the near future, so now's a good time to dig in and hone your top-down Wing Commander shooting skills. Try it out here.

P2 Ad Highlights Stylish British Prose Update ID

Here's a pretty slick Privateer 2 ad from the UK that LOAF recently ran across. Overall, advertisements for The Darkening are some of the most unique and clever out of the whole series. The left page is headlined by a more traditional "Trips worth taking" tagline, but the right side is a bit more tantalizing with extended text and pre-release screenshots. Check it out below!
Turn on, Tune in and Bug out.

Welcome to the Tri-System, where your life is only as precious as your cargo, and your future only as bright as your piloting skills. In search of your lost identity, you'll have to bargain like Shylock, explore like Sherlock, and fight like a Warlock if you're ever to escape the threat of the mysterious Kindred.

It's a trip not to be missed.

Playstation & 3DO Square Off In New Video Comparison Update ID

3dokid has put together a neat comparison that shows both the Playstation and 3DO versions of Wing Commander 3 playing side-by-side. PC players who might not be as familiar with the console variants might be surprised at the differences. The PSX game was a relatively faithful recreation of the DOS version. Ground missions were cut, but the larger discs allowed the inclusion of some awesome cutscenes that didn't make it in the computer release. On the 3DO, the engine was redone so it might not look quite as flashy as the original, but all of the missions were updated for a newer action-oriented experience. The weapons were tweaked with the Vampire missile replacing the Leech, and new UI/story elements were also added.
As a bonus, they also put together a "Top Five 3DO Games" feature a while back and Wing Commander 3 made the cut! There's additional footage of the game being placed with the full cockpit in place, which is still gorgeous. Jump to the 3:50 mark if it doesn't autoplay at the WC3 sequence.

End Run eBook Rollout Begins Update ID

As promised earlier in the month, the first half of Wing Commander End Run is now available for owners of the July 2018 Monthly Baen Bundle! This first release includes the entirety of the novella Milk Run by Christopher Stasheff and the first three chapters of End Run by William Forstchen. You can start reading here. The full eBook is also now available for pre-order via Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Nobles' respective eBook stores; we'll update once it's added to Kobo. The full novel releases July 3, 2018.

High Tech 1995 Preview Covers Wing Commander 4 Update ID

Here's another cool CD-based review from the Interactive Entertainment magazine. We shared Episode 19 with a Privateer 2 preview last week, and here's Episode 20 on Wing Commander 4. Like the previous clip, their 'articles' came on disc in audio format acompanied by a slideshow (and advertising). In these early days when few people were yet online, this was a tremendously cool way to see footage of the new game and hear about what it had to offer.

These previews also included a text article that differs a little from the audio/visual preview.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

. . . a guy named Chris Roberts, a game and movie fan, thought to combine his hobbies into a new sort of interactive entertainment experience. Fortunately, he worked for Origin at the time. The culmination of this wish was Wing Commander, which went on to become one of the most successful and highly-recognized PC game products in the history of the industry - and the first of a fruitful series for Origin.

Skip forward a few years, to the third game in the series. Incorporating digitized video of live actors (some of them QUITE well-known already in the film industry), computer-generated sets rendered on Silicon Graphics machines, and a state-of-the art space flight game engine, Wing Commander III set yet another benchmark for the gaming industry.

So what do you do for an encore?

In Roberts' own words, "Polish." You take the tools you've developed and spend more time exercising your craftsmanship than you were permitted while you were inventing the wheel. From a technological standpoint, this means honing the tools you've already built. On the gameplay side, Wing IV should play faster and cleaner than Wing III, with bigger explosions, more detailed texture-mapping, and cleaner background music, thanks to the game's use of digital streaming audio. On the cinematic side Origin's code-wizards have cooked up a new compression scheme which allows for more cinematic techniques, like moving camera and zooming, as well as reproducing more colors and detail, permitting players to better appreciate the actors' performances.

From a storytelling standpoint, the developers were able to invest more time and energy in creating an experience that really gives you the feel of watching a movie. The game uses real sets ("practical," as they say "in the biz") to give the actors a better frame of reference, thereby enhancing the realistic atmosphere. It was shot on film, giving it a much more "movie-like" look and feel (Wing III was shot on Betacam, which doesn't reproduce quite as nicely, but is an order of magnitude cheaper).

Wing IV's script is bigger and more complicated than Wing III's (500 and a bit pages to Wing III's 400), and involves a more mature and emotionally-involving storyline. This time around, you're forced to make some serious ethical choices, which will drastically affect the course of the game.

Once again, you play Col. Christopher Blair. The Terran-Kilrathi war is over, however, and you've settled down on a quiet backwater to live out the rest of your days as a humble farmer. It's not destined to be, though. None other than your old pal Maniac appears on your doorstep one day to inform you that you're being pressed back into active duty. It seems a coalition of Border Worlds, demanding rights the Confederation was not ready to grant, is threatening civil war. Ships on both sides have been attacked. Things are getting hairy. Trouble is, Blair's not certain who's in the right. And then, there's the possibility of a hidden third party being involved . . .

Mark Hamill reprises the role of Col. Christopher Blair. Also returning are Malcolm McDowell as Admiral Tolwyn, Jason Bernard as Captain Eisen, John Rhys-Davies as Paladin, and Tom Wilson as the irrepressible Maniac. Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom should be available around the time you are viewing this episode of IE.


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