Making the Games: Confederation Fighter (October 15, 2008)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
This is the second set of Feng Zhu "concept" ships, commissioned for an unspecified Wing Commander title following the release of Secret Ops. These Confederation fighters are unlike any seen in other games, although they may have been derived from the 'rotating parts' concept seen in Wing Commander Prophecy's Panther and Vampire. Their apparent modularity suggests that they may have been for Wing Commander Online - although we will see some other Feng Zhu artwork which clearly belongs to Shadow Force in the coming days.

Thanks to Captain Johnny for both archiving and providing this material!



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Original update published on October 15, 2008
 
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Taser8

Captain
I remember working with Feng on these, and feeling incredibly frustrated: he's So Dam Good! He's got more incredible drawing talent in one little finger on his off hand than I have in my whole body, but we just couldn't get on the same page as far as design philosophy: to most of us old-timers, Wing Commander design had always operated on this sort of based-on-real-world idea; ships that looked like logical evolutions of contemporary military craft (whether they be airplanes, helicopters, tanks, or even hovercraft) while the stuff he was drawing was really semi-abstract. I don't know if it was just poor communication or just basic disagreement about the direction the design should have taken, but we never did come to an agreement about ship design and what this stuff was supposed to look like.
 

Jason_Ryock

Vice Admiral
I really would have liked to have seen some of these in game. They look pretty awesome. Maybe the WCCD mod can utilize some of these designs...
 

Capn Johnny

Cap'n Johnny
I have to agree with Sean.. while I *love* Feng's art, a lot of it never felt right to me.. some did.. I freaking love the Kat Cruiser.. but *SOME* of his Confed Cruiser and Fighter designs just felt too Anime to me.. and I like Anime..
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Was Feng someone you guys contracted specifically for this concept art (like Syd Mead), or was he someone who happened to work for Origin who later made it big as a concept guy?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I'll add that I agree about the Confederation fighters... and any of the 'tall' capital ships, which feel out of place in Wing Commander. The Border Worlds ships (coming soon) also have an odd aesthetic about them - kind of an elaborate style that ignores the fact that they're just a recent offshoot of Confed.

At the same time, though, I don't like the 'modular' ships that were developed for Priv Online (the second one, I think). It's a neat idea and a good bullet point in terms of customization... but it crushes the (I think necessary) style of the thing.

... and, who knows, maybe having anime ships would have been a good business choice for Wing Commander in 1999. :)
 

MannPower

Commodore
I remember finding these years ago on Feng Zhu's site. He began in films, but joined Origin specifically to work on Wing Commander before going to GT Interactive.

And I agree with those who feel the ships were too 'anime'. I always enjoyed WC's decidedly 'western' art direction, even if the first two games had some hints of 80's style anime ships.
 

Mekt-Hakkikt

Mpanty's bane
Hmm, I may get yelled at for typing this but I think the fighter designs are not that different than those in WCP: both have a very "modern" feel to me.
 

Jason_Ryock

Vice Admiral
Hmm, I may get yelled at for typing this but I think the fighter designs are not that different than those in WCP: both have a very "modern" feel to me.

I agree, they seem alot like those 'the future' concept art designs you always seen in the old popular science and popular mechanics that picture the 'cars' and 'ships' of the future.

And I can also see the relationship to the WCP ships, especially in 04 - which reminds of something of a cross between a Vampire and a Liberty Defender from Freelancer!
 

MannPower

Commodore
It boils down to preference in this case. I personally wasn't excited about the art direction in WCP; it took a Star Trek 'super-clean' approach which felt less utilitarian. I like gritty and greasy. StarLancer had that.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that the Prophecy ships *were* all fresh fighters than it does with their actual design.

The designs themselves weren't very... Star Trekky, to use the technical term. They're more like 1960s warplanes -- big attack jets.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The Prophecy designs. It's hard to say about the ones above - they certainly do look more... Star Trekky... but I imagine a lot of their final soul would have come from the 3D artist who built the actual ships.

Take the Vampire -- it's thrust-vectoring dealies are a high concept gameplay thing that I bet sound a little bit outrageous on paper... but the actual fighter looks like it's ready to Napalm a jungle.
 

Jason_Ryock

Vice Admiral
Take the Vampire -- it's thrust-vectoring dealies are a high concept gameplay thing that I bet sound a little bit outrageous on paper... but the actual fighter looks like it's ready to Napalm a jungle.

I love the vectored thrust thing, I'm really glad that they put it in game. It really comes across in the way the fighter handles, too. Sometimes I find it almost a bit too maneuverable for my tastes. I get what you're saying though, I'm sure the programmers balked when they got told about that. I know I would have.

And the Napalm thing...yeah. Napalm definatly comes to mind when I see the Vampire. That makes me wonder what it would have been like if they had a napalm bomb in WCSO so I could light the side of a Nephi Carrier on Fire...mmmm, wet dreams.
 

MannPower

Commodore
'Star Trekky' in that everything is very smooth and clean and shiny, like the interior of the Midway. I understand the rationale behind it - building something outside of wartime gives you time to be aesthetic about it - but I preferred the previous games' atmospheres.
 

NinjaLA

Alex Von T.
I was impressed with the confederate fighter sketches in that they are very stylish and sleek, but they didn't really fit too well with some of the pre-established shapes of the wing commander universe.

They are all excellent in their own way, but I think they might have had a hard time fitting in alongside scimitars and longbows

there is another point I would like to make though.... and that is that I absolutely *adore* getting to see the creative processes behind these wonderful projects. Its unbelievably neat to an aspiring artist like me!
 
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