All About Origin's CD-ROM Editions (January 30, 2019)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Shout out to Origin’s 1993 “CD-ROM Edition” graphic. That’s how you know it’s a CD-ROM Edition!





They went with a much more subtle version from 94 to 95. Wings of Glory is so handsome!





And by 1996 you didn’t need to advertise that a PC game came on a CD. It shows up on the European Wing Commander IV box but not the domestic release.





They also had something called a CD>Hard Drive release. These didn’t have any CD-specific enhancements and instead just installed the disk version without all the swapping.




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Original update published on January 30, 2019
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
True, I would have thought a "Strike" CD with Strike Commander, Pacific Strike, and Wings of Glory would have been a very natural package. However, I suppose Pacific Strike wasn't worth the effort - there was a speech pack produced for it, but I think that only included the in-flight voiceovers, and obviously a CD edition would need to be fully voiced to stand with the other two games. And that would be money down the drain, because Pacific Strike just didn't bring in the sales. Not to mention, Pacific Strike was practically begging for a major bugfixing revision, to make it into the game it should have been - but surely EA/Origin would not be willing to commit the necessary resources for that.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I have heard that the voice overs were finished for Pacific Strike CD but it just wasn't considered worth it to finish and publish.
 

Mace

Vice Admiral
True, I would have thought a "Strike" CD with Strike Commander, Pacific Strike, and Wings of Glory would have been a very natural package. However, I suppose Pacific Strike wasn't worth the effort - there was a speech pack produced for it, but I think that only included the in-flight voiceovers, and obviously a CD edition would need to be fully voiced to stand with the other two games. And that would be money down the drain, because Pacific Strike just didn't bring in the sales. Not to mention, Pacific Strike was practically begging for a major bugfixing revision, to make it into the game it should have been - but surely EA/Origin would not be willing to commit the necessary resources for that.
Ironically, the reviews of the original release in multiple magazines stated that while the game was a great experience, you'd need a very fast machine to run it(486DX2/50 or higher recommended), it would be best to wait a few months because knowing origin would eventually release a talkie version with a mission thrown in..

I however did enjoy pacific strike a lot, finished it, there might have been some bugs in it, but nothing as horrendous to quit playing it at any time.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I have heard that the voice overs were finished for Pacific Strike CD but it just wasn't considered worth it to finish and publish.
Mmm. And lost to the ages, like all the other almost-finished-but-unpublished materials of that era?

It is such an incredible shame that this stuff wasn't archived. I don't blame anyone, because after thirty years, and all these structural changes, it was really quite amazing how much Origin stuff did remain preserved from that era - all those boxes you guys went through at Mythic. But an incredible shame nonetheless. Speech packs... the Lost Vale... such a shame.

Ironically, the reviews of the original release in multiple magazines stated that while the game was a great experience, you'd need a very fast machine to run it(486DX2/50 or higher recommended), it would be best to wait a few months because knowing origin would eventually release a talkie version with a mission thrown in..

I however did enjoy pacific strike a lot, finished it, there might have been some bugs in it, but nothing as horrendous to quit playing it at any time.
Well... yes, now that you mention it, I think Pacific Strike's biggest problem wasn't bugs, but playing speed. That said, the game was a typical Origin spin-off game of the time - that is, wildly exciting, innovative, and... half-baked. I played through it, because it was like Wing Commander in WWII, and... well, also because I couldn't at that time get my hands on WC3, which was what I was really waiting for. But even though this was already about a year or two after the game's release, and the computer I was playing on was more than sufficiently capable, the game felt slow, cumbersome, and unpolished. The virtual cockpit was incredibly, so, so amazingly cool - and practically unusable. The gameplay was almost awesome... but slow and unpleasant. Nonetheless, both Pacific Strike and Wings of Glory deserve a far, far better fate than the oblivion they ended up in. Unlike Strike Commander, they're not even available on GOG, and sadly, that bothers almost no one. These are games that should have been given the Savage Empire and Martian Dreams treatment - that is, given away for free on GOG as a taster to encourage interest in Strike Commander and the WC games.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Pacific Strike's rollout was a dramatic, expensive mess... much more so than we remember.

Origin's development model was built around giving their superstars time and money to do incredible things… while other product groups put out ports and smaller, reliably scheduled projects using the resources created by the expensive ones. Basically, games like Wing Commander Academy, Martian Dreams, Metal Morph and the like kept the lights on and allowed Origin to invest in Wing Commander and Ultima.

As you noted, the idea was that Pacific Strike and Wings of Glory would be the 'Worlds of Ultima' to Strike Commander. Strike Commander had eaten a lot of resources (for the time) and everyone was eager to turn the technology it had created into reliable revenue streams. Origin initially planned to use the technology for Privateer and a 'budget' sequel to Strike called Phoenix Force (think a TV movie made on the cheap with reused sets compared to Chris Roberts' blockbuster theatrical release)… but once Strike actually shipped a major piece of feedback was that although the 3D engine was truly incredible (for 1993) it felt like it was wasted since the jet-based air combat usually involved long range missile duels where you didn't even really see the incredibly detailed models you were exploding.

So they settled instead on doing the 'Worlds of Strike Commander' games as earlier air combat games that could show off the engine with slower paced gun fights. The games would be developed partially in parallel by smaller, in-house teams. Pacific Strike would start first with Wings of Glory starting a few months later as another product group became available. Each one would follow the same product plan: diskette release, mission disk and then enhanced CD-ROM version. Pacific Strike was targeted for Christmas 1993 and Wings of Glory would follow six months later in mid-1994. The important thing to remember from all that is that the margins are much lower for games like this; Pacific Strike and Wings of Glory existed in the first place to deliver reliable revenue that would keep the company in the black… so there was no room for the overages you'd see on a Wing Commander or an Ultima.

The first sign of danger was the fact that Pacific Strike was NOT ready for a Q4 1993 release. That was a big hit to the company which truly needed the year end numbers it would bring in... but they made the decision to push it to March 1994 rather than killing the project. And development didn't go well. By March it was clear it needed another six weeks of fixes… causing a slightly embarrassing issue because the speech pack (which didn't require any new technology be developed) had actually already shipped and was showing up on store shelves. Origin reluctantly pushed Pacific Strike to Q2 1994 but two major delays to what was supposed to be keeping the lights on was bad.

Pacific Strike shipped May 10, 1994 and at that time the expectation was that Wings of Glory would ship the next month. But Pacific Strike was immediately savaged for being buggy and generally rough all around in the press and in the growing online community (flight sim fans were early adopters of the Usenet and Origin's BBS was at full swing at the time.) There was a viciousness to it that the team didn't expect and that really previewed the kind of reaction we see to game problems today. The reaction was SO negative that Origin ended up putting out a pretty interesting statement. Basically, it's a letter of apology from the producer that promises the team is working out a plan to fix the bugs and that they will refund anyone who bought the Speech Pack before the game:

An Open Letter to Pacific Strike Owners from ORIGIN

Each time ORIGIN releases a major, new product, we try to raise the standard in terms of technology, graphics, sound and music-every aspect of the gaming experience. In turn, you have come to expect more and more from ORIGIN with each subsequent release. During the past few weeks, it's become apparent that we've fallen short of some of your expectations with Pacific Strike. When we shipped the game worldwide, we felt it was a strong addition to our product line. In retrospect, we may have jumped the gun. Since ORIGIN has always valued its one-on-one relationship with its customers, we want to make sure that we address the problems up front and offer some solutions.

Pacific Strike was originally scheduled for Christmas of 1993. As that date drew closer and we discovered the game would not be ready in time, we made a conscious decision not to rush it out and to put more polish into it to make it a quality title. Many retail outlets "drop-ship" our games, meaning they have them shipped overnight from our manufacturing center just as soon as they are ready. When a new release date seemed achievable in March, we sent the Speech Accessory Pack ahead to retail stores so it would already be there when the game arrived. What followed was another unforeseen delay that left the Speech Pack stranded alone on the shelves. We have learned from that mistake and won't let it happen again. Still, some of you bought the Speech Pack early and held on, past the point where the retail store would take it back. We don't want you to feel stuck; if you're not happy with the Speech Pack, you can return it to ORIGIN Customer Service. Send the full product, along with proof of purchase dated before May 1, 1994, to:

ORIGIN Customer Service
attn: Pacific Strike Credit Department
12940 Research Blvd.
Austin, TX 78750

Some players have expressed problems with Pacific Strike's frame rate. ORIGIN has always developed games to exploit the full capabilities of high-end computers, but we also understand that anything less than a perfectly fluid frame rate can lead to frustration. Others have registered complaints about sound pauses and joystick jerkiness. To that end, we are working on patches that will be available for downloading through online services where ORIGIN provides product support: CompuServe (GO GAMEAPUB), America Online (KEYWORD: ORIGIN) and GEnie (Scorpia's Roundtable). Patches may also be downloaded from ORIGIN's BBS at (512)331-4446. Customers without modems or access to online services may receive patch disks free of charge by calling ORIGIN Customer Service at (512) 335-0440.

Sometimes, even the best of intentions can backfire. Such was the case with the Japanese plane you can fly in the game. That was added just before the game released; that's why it's never mentioned on the box back, in the advertising or even in the documentation. The development team thought it would be a bonus; however, there was not enough disk space left for the accompanying artwork, so an American wing appears when you pan your view outside the cockpit. Nice idea, but not the kind of compromise players have come to expect from ORIGIN.

We would like to offer our apologies to all of you who are disappointed with Pacific Strike. ORIGIN was built on the loyalty and satisfaction of its customers and we intend to keep it that way. Your patience and understanding is all we ask.

Thanks,
Eric Hyman
Producer, Pacific Strike
If you can believe it, that was published online, on the Usenet, on the BBS and Origin paid to have it printed in gaming magazines. That's how concerned they were with all this. Internally, Wings of Glory was now off the schedule and being heavily reviewed. It would end up getting a true superstar producer to shepard it out for January 1995 as a dedicated CD-ROM release (so, losing more revenue from the loss of the three disk-based SKUs.) The Pacific Strike team dove into developing the promised patch, hoping that recipients of the letter would give them the "patience and understanding" they had asked for. Work on the mission disk and the CD-ROM version (including voice recording) continued.

Five weeks later, however, things weren't better. The team had hoped to put out a patch in a month… but on review, they realized they needed at least six months to make Pacific Strike an Origin quality game. That was too much, it would be throwing a LOT of good money after bad with little payoff. They issued a second letter to players that is… something else, looking back. Basically they outright say the patch can't happen and that they will give full refunds to anyone who returns their copy of Pacific Strike. The mission disk and the CD-ROM were killed, the team reassigned and everyone was eager to completely forget Pacific Strike had ever happened.

July 15, 1994

Dear Pacific Strike Customer:
We appreciate the patience with which you waited to hear about additional patches for your game.

After much debate and research, we found that it would take a minimum of 6 months to make any significant patches for the game. These patches would then need to be tested to see if in fact they would be acceptable to our customers.

Knowing this, we felt it would be better to offer any customers who were not satisfied with the product, a refund or exchange for another game. If you would like a refund for your game, send it to;

ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Attn: Marie Williams
12940 Research Blvd.
Austin, TX 78750

Include a letter explaining why you want to return it. Include a copy of your receipt. We will not be able to refund tax, as that was charged to you by the store and is regulated that way.

If you do not have your receipt, we will be happy to exchange your game for any other ORIGIN game of your choice. Just send it to the above address with a letter explaining why you want to return it, and list the game you want to exchange it for.

The speech pack is included in this offer. However, if you want to exchange the speech pack you can exchange if for another speech pack or an ad-in module of another game.

If you have any questions, you may contact us through CompuServe, Genie, America Online, the ORIGIN BBS (512)331-4446, our Customer Service Fax number 512-331-8559, write to us at the above address, or call 512-335-0440.

Thank-you,

ORIGIN Product Support

The happy(ish) ending is that Wings of Glory then got the time it needed to shine. I understand why EA, Origin and GOG would want to forget Pacific Strike ever happened (though you can see the potential in the bones!) I'm sad that WOG gets lumped in with it… WOG is a polished, rewarding product from one of the true greats (Warren Spector.) Origin would find itself in exactly the same situation in 1998 with a half-baked Jane's A-10 game that was intended to be a quick rework of Longbow 2 that would ship 40,000 units on schedule. The engine required a lot more work than EA understood and the project got to a review where it was clear it would take months of extra work and budget. In that case, the folks at the top felt like they'd learned their lesson: A-10 was quietly killed.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Wow! Now that is an amazing story. While obviously there are many games out there that were a few patches short of completion, and their developers decided not to bother, this is the only case I know of where the developer actually outright said it, apologised, and offered a refund - at least for a physically distributed game. Certainly, it's the only Origin game to get such a treatment.

The ironic bit: I've played the half-baked Pacific Strike through to the end, and enjoyed it. I've tried playing the highly polished Wings of Glory several times, and each time I gave up after a couple of missions, finding the game basically unplayable. This is not because of any technological problems, mind you - mainly a matter of taste.

Both titles, in any case, really do deserve to be accessible. Heck, even the mere fact that they were made by Origin already makes them interesting to people interested in game history.
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
My first exposure to Wing Commander was with the Underworld/WC II cd-rom bundle. I remember having to learn dos from scratch (I had a colecovision I played until my dad put a 386 together for me for Christmas that year). I still remember one of the taunts being something like "Die Bastards!" I was so into the game that I shouted out the line as I was in a pretty tight dogfight and had just taken care of one of the fighters that was keeping my rear shield lighting up. I was only about 10 at the time and hadn't learned that bastard was one of the naughty words only adults were allowed to say. My mother corrected me of my lack of knowledge post-haste. It took a good 3 months before I was finally able to finish Wing Commander... It wasn't suitable for a 10 year old she said. She thought I needed the disc to play it, but I had a hard drive. Dad never did correct her on her assumption. :D
 
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