Freespace 2 is free on GoG right now.

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
With regards to Origin and what happened in 1996, I think the long and unsatisfying answer is that Wing Commander was caught in the midst of an era of significant and rapid change... an era that, ironically, it helped usher in in the first place.

For Electronic Arts, the mid-1990s were the end of the Trip Hawkins era. Hawkins had founded the company in 1982 and he had personally steered it through the Origin acquisition in 1991. He stepped down as CEO around that time to launch 3DO but he remained Chairman through late 1994... and until that point it was his company run the way he wanted. That might seem very small in the scheme of things, but it's really one of the most difficult, make-or-break transitions that can happen to a company. Think of Apple without Steve Jobs or Disney without... well, Walt Disney. It's a realignment of vision, procedures, processes, goals and so on on an enormous scale. And one small part of that was how Origin-as-a-studio was viewed... it very quickly went from being the jewel in the crown of the outgoing administration to being what was considered an expensive and pampered outlier to their replacements.

I always lose patience with the argument that Electronic Arts destroyed Origin because the truth is that in 1991 they *saved* Origin and for several years they treated the company very, very well. Hawkins had promised that Origin's internal culture wouldn't be disrupted and on the macro scale that promise was kept fairly well. For the first half of the 90s, Origin was allowed to maintain a whole lot of creative and financial control (including exceptional project completion bonuses.) Electronic Arts pumped the company with cash for expensive real estate and all kinds of dream projects (from live action in the Wing Commanders to motion capture in Bioforge) and they largely let them run the show down to running their own, separate marketing department. That was all an incredible expense on paper but the powers in control at Hawkins' EA believed that was what was letting Origin shine supporting top creatives (which is really an extension of the philosophy upon which EA was founded, literally supporting electronic artists.) But when you're the favorite son you also have a target on your back... and the regime making EA their own in the mid-90s didn't share Hawkins' appreciation for the company and what they were doing with so much money. (And let's be clear, a LOT of that money went nowhere; for every Wing Commander III there was a Cybermage or two.)

Meanwhile, Origin was in transition too. The top talent at the company wanted more money and more freedom and it wasn't going to happen... and so they started to move on. Chris Roberts did not want to make endless Wing Commander games and ended up leaving to form Digital Anvil... bringing with him, eventually, much of the loyal top talent he'd assembled. From Electronic Arts' perspective, the company was losing a lot of what they were spending a lot of money trying to keep... and the natural question is, if the company doesn't have the talent we want then why are we budgeting so much and paying such high bonuses for new people? (I also think we personalize Chris' departure a little too much... think about it from the point of view of someone dealing only with dollars and cents and with no personal connection to Wing Commander as an IP: the guy making ALL YOUR MONEY is gone. Steven Spielberg quits Dreamworks... do you pay the next, unproven guy the same money he'd been making?) So of course Electronic Arts in transition began to take more and more control over Origin Systems in transition... and it did so with completely fresh eyes, people looking for what will make money now instead of what made money then.

As mentioned earlier in this thread, Ultima Online was one of those things that really put the company into a spin. Chris is gone and here's this new experimental project that is raking in cash hand over fist. If you're running things from Redwood Shores what do you do? Everyone, everyone, everyone in the world knew that these massively multiplayer games would be the future but no one knew exactly how they would shake out. Do you do Ultima ONline 2? Do you do a bunch of different MMOs? Of course we know today the answer was that you focus on one game-as-service and continue to improve it and make it appealing... but no one understood that then and so EA put their budget for Origin to trying to figure out what came after Ultima Online instead of extending the Wing Commander franchise. (Worth noting, NO ONE believed in Ultima Online when it was in development... a lot of big figures immediately stood up to take credit but it was absolutely a fluke.)

Meanwhile, the consumer was in transition too. Before 1990, PC gaming was a hobbyists market... you weren't selling millions of units to mainstream audiences, you were selling a limited number to the small slice of people with a PC at home who were also interested in things like D&D or war games. Wing Commander was a big part of the push that changed that and made games appealing for everyone... and totally changed the dynamics for budgeting and making games in the process. We talk about games-as-films a lot but what that really means in 1995 is that the industry had to start learning to plan projects the same way studios plan tentpoles... they couldn't be crazy octopuses thrown at the wall anymore, they had to be crowd pleasing and expensive productions or you were out a LOT of money. Wing Commander unfortunately both introduced that idea and became something of a victim of it... because the perception at the top became that in order for Wing Commander games to keep being successful they needed to keep increasing their budgets. In the game industry, unlike film at the time, sequels sold because they were seen as objectively better... so "we spent $14 million on Wing Commander 4!" was a good angle for selling the project because the market would respond oh great, it must be five times as good as Wing Commander 3! Well, you can't spend $50 million on Wing Commander 5 (then, heh) so what do you do?

There's also a huge technical transition that goes along with that. You know what knife pretty cleanly divides Wing Commander and today? Windows 95. The move to Windows 95 is part of the last transition I mentioned but it's often forgotten the degree to which it standardized the gaming platform on the creative side. In 1990, making a hit game meant taking the machine that does spreadsheets for businesses and figuring out crazy technical challenges and odd risks to make it do something insane and shocking to people. In 1996, making a hit game meant you know exactly what a multimedia PC is, who owns it, what it's capable of and what the audience is expecting. For good or bad, that has something of a chilling effect on the creation process... (and part of that that especially matters to us is the loss of the joystick and flight stick. By 1995, the joystick was entirely dead and the flight stick was by no means standard... and you know that budgeting your game in the first place, so why spend your millions on something that will appeal to less than the built in audience?)
 

Flashpoint

Rear Admiral
Yep. Since my previous post, I read up a little more about FS2, and it seems like it was basically a product Interplay didn't want. They had funded it, obviously, and they were the publisher, but they didn't seem to believe the game would sell well enough to justify any marketing money. They only really started putting any kind of effort into marketing after FS2 won a couple of awards - and by then it was obviously too late.

I also agree that FS was really, really great. I loved it - its gameplay was very enjoyable, and while I never really tried to compare WCP and FS, I can definitely see why some people would argue it was a better game than WCP in terms of gameplay. And yes, FrED. I never got around to building any campaigns, but I loved just the fact that FrED was included, and I had all kinds of plans that ultimately dissipated because the WC community (and later, WC modding) absorbed too much of my time. The catch, and the reason why I guess I didn't stick with it, was the corollary to the "no strong franchise" problem I mentioned before - FS just didn't suck you in story-wise. It had no characters. The Shivans were cooler, gameplay-wise, than WCP's Nephilim. I do remember, at the time, a lot of conversations where WC fans said that the Shivans were what the Nephilim should have been. But that's gameplay - meanwhile, in terms of story and presentation, they just weren't interesting at all, because they didn't do anything WCP hadn't already done. It was a paradoxical situation, which I think goes a long way to explain the success of FS1, and the failure of FS2 - FS1, probably unintentionally, hit all the same marks that WCP did, and at least as far as gameplay goes, it hit them better. "Anything you can do, I can do better" - that was basically FS1. But it just doesn't bode well when people look at the best features your game has, and say: "oh, man, I wish they'd take this feature into that other game." People were impressed by FS1 as a collection of parts and ideas that could be applied elsewhere - but few people genuinely became fans of Freespace as a universe, a place they'd want to revisit.
Oh man FrED was totally brilliant. I made a campaign (unfinished) where you could actually switch sides (or not) at a couple of early points and had plans for more of these decisions to make the campaign really interesting from a replayable standpoint. The stuff you could do in there with the expression trees (I think they were referred to as sexps, which made a teenager chortle) was amazing.

As for comparing them, I do that more now, kind of as an abstract. WC was always my stand out gaming love. I played it on the Amiga and I tell you the agony of having no Secret Missions, walking into Game and seeing the WC2 box, walking into PC World and seeing the WC3 rolling intro, was pure agony. So when I realised I was enjoying FS far more it was a strange, almost out of body experience. Like I'd suddenly realised something a bit odd and slightly scary. I didn't think too much of it back then, but nowadays I find it interesting (from a personal perspective) to try and pick apart why.

I'm totally with you on the WC universe being better, though the final mission in FS2 is one of my best ever moments in gaming. Fighting a hopeless battle getting refugees to safety (losing MANY) and feeling the hopelessness of it. Going from determined pilot to rash pilot taking risks because this is life and death and as the moments pass and you see (and hear) more refugee ships go, your 'life' becomes less and less important. The utter chaos your are flying through as capital ships trade beam weapon fire all around you in the space that you are fighting in...
Hearing the call to evaccuate before it is too late. Ignoring it. Hearing the last - final warning and continuing to fight. Then turning and burning to the jump point - watching the distance tick down. Then an actual cold feeling coming over me when I realise that I'm not going to make it. I can almost touch the jump point. Almost.

And then the game eschews the 'you must replay this' and tells the epilogue, citing the pilots that stayed behind and allowed thousands more to escape...

Chills man, such chills.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
And then the game eschews the 'you must replay this' and tells the epilogue, citing the pilots that stayed behind and allowed thousands more to escape...
Freespace 2 at its best… and at its most awful :). I can imagine the feeling of it (I can only imagine, though, as I never got around to playing FS2), but that endgame video (which I did watch)… man, what an awful thing that was. "We pay our respects to the great, heroic pilot... Alpha One." Ugh. The sheer awfulness of it. I can just imagine the agony the writers experienced when it suddenly hit them that the game's central conceit - you are you - is utterly incompatible with the game's story, and that this utter incompatibility becomes precisely the most glaring at the big ultimate climax.
 

Panther1.0

Master Chief Petty Officer
very true !

what did you think of Saga's ending ? Although some of the late missions were close to impossible to finish, I could not even dream of a medium to hard difficulty setting.

I liked that they did at the end, showed what happened to all the game characters and that flyby scene, all and all I think it was fantastic for a fan inspired/created game thanks to a great engine - FS2 !, could have been a brilliant official game release in my honest opinion.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
what did you think of Saga's ending ? Although some of the late missions were close to impossible to finish, I could not even dream of a medium to hard difficulty setting.
Well… I never actually finished Saga. I played it on and off from 2012 to 2013, and then ended up breaking off. I certainly intended to continue playing, but didn't. The thing that stopped me was first, a really unenjoyable mission that I kept failing, with the consequence that I kept putting off returning to the game for another attempt. And second, the above issue coincided with me starting preparations to head out to Australia for my PhD, and consequently transitioning from a desktop to a new laptop. I kept my saves, but I don't believe I ever installed Saga on the laptop - or on the desktop PC I'm using five years later.

I don't know how I would have felt about Saga's ending, but, I'm sorry to say, I suspect I would not have been impressed. My experiences with Saga are actually quite well documented, because after a couple of situations where I found myself hating the game with a passion, I actually started an anger management thread where I'd post my ongoing Saga misadventures to blow off steam after playing the game. The thread's still there. If only I could figure out how to fit Saga into my current schedule, maybe one day I'd finally go back to playing and commenting on the rest of the game… :p
 

Panther1.0

Master Chief Petty Officer
I remember when I played it back in 2012/13 there was a mission where a cap missile destroyed I think the battleaxe or so, it skips in and out, i could not destroy the missile, kept failing, i gave up, I was thinking back then it was a glitch or the level wrongly build, I only played it again this past few weeks because I wanted to compare via freespace open, was interested on the changes etc, I got passed that level it seemed easier or it was corrected. But then I struggled even more on some of the last levels with that battle group to protect and escort, Hyperion sector and then also again struggled my !!##& off with Temblor bomb missions.
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
I am currently replaying the WC games and so far. WC1 was easy, WC2 was f... hard. WC3 seams easy again after I got it running smoothly (currently playing). Originaly I intendet to play the mods last but maybe I should insert Saga after WC3 to see if its realy that difficult.
When I played it through I was pretty used to play the game so most likely it wasn't to hard back then.
As for the Cap missile mission....could it be one with a skipper missile? You know the one that cloaks and decloaks again and again? Yah that one is annoying.

Beside that I noticed with a lot of the older games, not WC only, that we are today so used to haveing quicksaves and stuff all over the place that haveing one big mission with no saves is freaking hard and frusttrating because games today are easier and seam generaly designed to be less frustrating/hard.
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
The missile is supposed to blink in an out. That is the correct way the mission should be. Could be that with the code used is now broken and thats why the missile was visible all the time. We had a reason to stop using the new code as with every update something broke the missions or other parts of the game.

That said its a hard mission and learning where the attacks are comming from helps a lot. Its a bit of a dated design as you wouldn't see something like that today as its forces people to learn what happens when in the mission. From playing the old games I must say there are similar missions in the old games too. Think of it as the "Dark souls" of spaceflight ^_^
 
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