Original Wing Commander Artist Here.

Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Dondragmer Your "weird questions" are filling in gaps and misapprehensions I've held for years! Thank you guys! :)
Wow! I had no idea the 3DS files were on disk! :eek: That was 3D Studio DOS! I don't think the frames took that long to render, luckily I think I was working on 2 machines so I could do something else while renders were going on. I would guess it was on the order of 5 to 10 minutes per frame. (I pulled that number straight out of my ass, but it feels right. (That sentence sounded better in my head...)) :oops:
I suspect my disbelief at the paucity of background plates is just my memory playing tricks on me. But yeah, we went to creative lengths to get maximum graphics bang for the buck. Multi-plane effects, silhouettes, separate pieces, and animation loops along with scaling, moving, and rotating still frames. We did it all. :cool:
I think the Origin FX logo treatment was a late addition. I think. :confused:
I'm pretty sure all the stuff in that TITLES.VGA file are mine. Yeah, I did the star background as a single image. And the flag raising was rotoscoped from old black and white footage of the actual raising. (Or probably one of the staged raisings done at the time.) I just added space helmets and oxygen tubes to the silhouettes. :D

-danr- I have to agree with you about Dondragmer, the man's a monster when it comes to extracting and presenting information and images! :) I absolutely downloaded the hell out of those scramble gifs! Much obliged!

wcnut Aaugh! EGA graphics! I had almost eliminated all memory of those eye-scorching colors from my memory! ;)

capi3101 It seems weird that there would be no file on disk with the font... unless the font wasn't complete. It's possible that the only part of the cockpit text treated like a font was the numbers, since those are the only characters that had to be individually updated on the readouts. All the other text could just be part of the cockpit graphics. This suggests that I only created new letters as I needed them, and never actually completed a full font treatment of capital letters and lowercase versions, no matter how much my completionist nature would force me to do so. ;) I should probably do that now! There's a nice Patreon-specific project to do! I think there's actually two sizes of font, too. I remember doing a lot of editing on those fonts. I'd change a pixel, and then lean back and study the initial impression to see if it immediately suggested the letter I intended. Then I'd change it again and repeat the process until reading it was easy.

I downloaded those 3D files, and I'll have to see if I can load them into the modern version of 3D Studio Max. That should be interesting... :p

MOAR, moar, moar!
 
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capi3101

Rear Admiral
So, about that Kickstarter I mentioned. Lessay I wanted to hire you on to do the cover art for Elegy; how much would that run? I'm not sure what the difference is between a "loose painting" and a "full painting", but either way I'm assuming that's probably what I'd want for the cover. Mainly trying to gauge what the minimum project goal would be.

I also have a png floating around here somewhere with the characters I utilized for my nav maps with that font face - I'll see if I can find it again and post it to this thread if it's at all helpful to you. "Q" was a fun one...

EDIT: Actually, I'm wondering if I would want a painting after all...I would want something I could scan into a PDF. It'd be cover art, and I don't know which of your options would work best in that regard. Heckuva price difference between "colored ink" and "full painting"...
 
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Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Not to mention there is the EGA graphics on the disks as well as the VGA ones. Although I'm not sure how that was done.
Logical thinking, but the EGA graphics aren't on the floppy disks. They're handled in a way that is right at the intersection of clever and aggravating.

Back up your Wing Commander directory before experimenting with the steps that follow - it will delete files that you can only recover if you still have your floppy disks.

I'm not sure what happens if you request EGA during the initial installation, but if you run INSTALL.EXE on your hard drive and tell it you want EGA, this happens:
WC1 EGA - Install convert to EGA.png


All your .VGA and .V?? files become .EGA and .E?? files. This took 3 minutes in DOSBox at 3,000 cycles, and I'm pretty sure it took at least 5 minutes when I tried this on my 486-33. This step probably depended on hard drive speed as much as CPU speed.

If you run it, realise what a dreadful mistake you've made, and tell it to go back to MCGA, you got this message:
WC1 EGA - Install revert to VGA.png


The GoG version of WC1 ships without INSTALL.EXE, so you can't break it in this way.

How does it look? Woeful, sadly. Most of the faces become brown and gray.
WC1 EGA - Talking head Hunter 2x.png


Those that don't lose their noses.
WC1 EGA - Talking head Spirit 2x.png


The background faces in the briefing are the stuff of nightmares.
WC1 EGA - Talking head Knight 2x.png


The conversion does try to dither colors to increase the options available. If it took the naïve approach of mapping pixels individually, we would get this (not an actual screenshot, generated using modern paint tools):
WC1 EGA - Talking head Hunter 2x no dithering.png


Fancier (and slower) dithering algorithms could have given us this, but that still looks muddy.
WC1 EGA - Talking head Hunter 2x Floyd-Steinberg dithering reduced bleeding.png


Increase the contrast before converting and the brown can become red... in this particular picture.
WC1 EGA - Talking head Hunter 2x High contrast Floyd-Steinberg dithering reduced bleeding.png


But it's the flight that matters, surely? That has its own problems. The dithering is good for the 2D sequences, but it results in scaling artefacts the from the moment you enter the launch tube to the Vega Sector ending:
WC1 EGA - Scimitar launch 2x.gif

WC1 EGA - Vega Sector defeat 2x.gif


Shadows on the spacecraft often appear with the same shade of black as the background, making them harder to see and target. Denis's explosion still looks good, though.
WC1 EGA - Raptor shooting Salthi 2x.gif


Also see the MobyGames screenshot archive for Wing Commander, which covers other platforms as well.

I also had to increase my DOSBox cycles count while running in EGA, making me wonder if the EGA drawing code wasn't optimised as much as its MCGA equivalent. The MCGA code was certainly insanely well optimised.

Could Wing Commander have looked better in EGA? Denis is welcome to tell me that I'm talking nonsense, but I think it could have. We've already discussed the fixed palette at length. That should have also meant that conversion from MCGA to EGA was a matter of looking up the best EGA counterpart (as a two-color dithered pair, not just a single color) for each MCGA pixel. That conversion table could have been manipulated to give high contrast / high saturation choices, avoiding the grays as much as possible. Or, some poor schmuck could have manually converted every picture, tweaking color substitutions - which is probably what the Amiga version required.

Should Wing Commander have looked better in EGA? Probably not. It would have meant weeks of work fine-tuning the conversion, for graphics that still wouldn't be a patch on MCGA. As it was, anyone firing up Wing Commander in EGA and PC speaker hopefully flew one mission and got the message that Origin wanted them to buy a real computer.

Historically, companies like Origin that concentrated on high-end platforms have outlasted companies like Epyx that tried to support everything. If you don't remember Epyx, that's kind of the point.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
capi3101 It seems weird that there would be no file on disk with the font... unless the font wasn't complete. It's possible that the only part of the cockpit text treated like a font was the numbers, since those are the only characters that had to be individually updated on the readouts. All the other text could just be part of the cockpit graphics. This suggests that I only created new letters as I needed them, and never actually completed a full font treatment of capital letters and lowercase versions, no matter how much my completionist nature would force me to do so. ;) I should probably do that now! There's a nice Patreon-specific project to do! I think there's actually two sizes of font, too. I remember doing a lot of editing on those fonts. I'd change a pixel, and then lean back and study the initial impression to see if it immediately suggested the letter I intended. Then I'd change it again and repeat the process until reading it was easy.
The fonts in WC1, WC2 and Academy are stored in files called FONTS.FNT. No one appears to have deciphered this format, although it's probably feasible.
The existing damage reports display arbitrary text with the cockpit font, so it's easy to hex-edit the executable to display an alphabet with them. Here's the WC1 version in its original size.
WC1 Cockpit typeface 1x.png


Here it is magnified 4 times so it's easier to read.
WC1 Cockpit typeface 4x.png


Wondering about the weirdness between "X" and "Y"? After some investigation, I found that the left stroke on the "Y" found its way into the "X" graphic. That is, the "X" symbol is 8 pixels wide, and the "Y" symbol is 3 pixels wide. I don't think the cockpit ever had to display a capital X, so this must have gone undiscovered for some time.

Someone must have discovered and corrected it before WC2 shipped. Here are the upper-case letters it uses.
WC2 Cockpit typeface letters upper 4x.png


The only way to use these in place is copying and pasting, but I have it helps anyone setting out to create a modern font file of it.

You seem to have been quite complete with the characters. There doesn't appear to be an "@" signal, so I hope Blair never needs to sent e-mail from the cockpit.

You know what this scene needs? Huge banks of actinic lights hanging from the ceiling illuminating the scene! With big juicy glows!
Have you seen Howard Day's hangars for Wings of St. Nazaire? Are they glowy enough?
 
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capi3101

Rear Admiral
I wish I'd known about that FONTS.FNT file 18 months ago, and that the contents were readily available for cutting/pasting...here's the character set I wound up developing:



Slightly different - and not as complete.

That orange square thing I used as a spacer between words, painting over it when I had the first character of the next word in place.

EDIT: I wonder if there was a slightly different font developed for Privateer - the capital S is different, and I pulled that one from the word "System", which came directly from the in-game Nav maps.
 
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Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
I wish I'd known about that FONTS.FNT file 18 months ago, and that the contents were readily available for cutting/pasting...
No, the file contents aren't readily available for cutting/pasting, unless someone has figured out the format. Here's what I did to get all the characters:
(1) Create a duplicate of WC.EXE (for Wing Commander 1) or WC2.EXE (for Wing Commander 2). I called mine "WCFONT.EXE".
(2) Open your duplicated file in a hex editor, such as Hexplorer (Windows) or 0xED (Mac OS).
(3) Find some of the text that appears in the cockpit. I used "DAMAGE REPORT" and "NO INTERNAL\n\nDAMAGE".
WC1 EXE before text editing.png

(4) Edit these to show the text you need to see. Do not change the length of text or move the null character (0x00), or you will corrupt the file.
WC1 EXE after text editing.png

(5) Launch your customised file. Since I edited the damage text, I had to press "D" to see the results on the left screen:
WC1 EXE text edited.png


Since there's no simple way to make the text longer, I ran this multiple times to get all characters, then stitched the results together in a single image.

I wonder if there was a slightly different font developed for Privateer - the capital S is different, and I pulled that one from the word "System", which came directly from the in-game Nav maps.
You're correct, the Privateer font is different. The file to edit is PRCD.EXE (at least for the CD-ROM version), and you'll probably have to back it up before editing, since this can't be launched directly. It's also harder to find a long block of text for editing. It would be nice to edit the names of system components in the damage report, but those must be stored in some other file.

Anyway, here are the Privateer characters. Oddly, it contains less symbols than WC1 did.
WCP Cockpit typeface 1x.png


Here they're expanded 400%.
WCP Cockpit typeface 4x.png


So, where are the differences? In the picture below, the WC1/2 font is on the green channel, and Privateer is on the red channel. Yellow pixels mean they're identical. Green pixels are in WC1/2 only. Red pixels are in Privateer only. Two characters (capital Y and Z) are 1 pixel wider in WC1/2. (I hope you're not red-green color-blind, because this would then be the most useless picture you've ever seen.)
WC1and2 compared with WCP Cockpit typeface 4x.png


As far as I could judge, WC1 and 2 are missing just one of the common keyboard characters: the "@" symbol. Hopefully this means that SMTP has finally become obsolete in the 27th century.

EDIT: Here is the Armada font, for completeness. Where characters in the WC1/WC2/Privateer quite small at 5 pixels wide, the Armada characters are at most 3 pixels wide. This makes "M" and "W" look squeezed. The descenders ("g", "j", "p" and "q") go 2 pixels below the baseline instead of 1.
WC Armarda Cockpit typeface 1x.png


WC Armarda Cockpit typeface 4x.png
 
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Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
The ability of Wingnuts to explore WC to such incredible depths never ceases to amaze me! I've always just been a story/history of the war guy but watching all of you delve into the deep, deep, deep depths of the games is truly fascinating! This stuff is way over my head but it's great to learn about.

I think all we're missing to make this thread complete is HCl jumping in! :cool:
 
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Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
capi3101 Most of my art these days is completely digital, so it would slip right into a pdf with no problems. Send me an email, and we'll figure things out! :)

Howard Day Ha! Did you do the picture? I like it! :D I'm totally up for a Kilrathi as protagonist version!

Bandit LOAF Could it be a bizarre version of this background plate?


Dondragmer I think you pretty well nailed it! Never having had an EGA card, I didn't even know there was a procedural conversion to EGA during install! Those are some pretty hideous conversions! The conversion couldn't move pixels around, it could only change their color. Ugh! I've seen these conversion screenshots before, but I thought they were the result of a conversion to some third party platform.
Ohh! Nice screenshot archive! I'll have to plunder that.
Yeah, if we had done the EGA conversion by hand we could have made it look much better, but it would have taken forever. :eek: (I remember Epyx. :rolleyes:)

Oh, so there IS a font file! I did do the entire alphabet in Caps and lower-case. I was having trouble visualizing me leaving it partially done. ;) That just leaves the @ as a further typographical challenge!

:confused: Oh yeah, they be glowy enough! That page is a bit difficult for my system to parse. :eek: Awesome graphics though!

capi3101 I like your Z, it's elegant! :) I didn't do much, if anything, on Privateer. The production teams were starting to get pretty insular by then.

You realize WC was done because Battlehawks 1942! Right?

Ah! A couple of posts snuck in while I was replying!

Dondragmer That's some crazy computer forensics right there! Yeah, looks like someone edited the font for Privateer. Eh, not thrilled with his edits. :rolleyes:

Dundradal I know, right? You guys are amazing! I wish there were similar efforts going on for the graphics I did for older games like Times of Lore and Knights of Legend. I'd love to see high quality screenshots of the art I did for those games. But it would have to be on the platform I did the original graphics on. A Commodore version for Times of Lore, and an Apple IIe or Apple IIgs version for Knights of Legend. :cool:

PC VGA was the home platform for WC1 and 2, and we farmed out any conversions to other platforms to third parties. With the PC having 90% of the gaming market, we could suddenly afford to only write the game once, instead of once for the apple, again for the Commodore, again for the Atari, etc...:eek:
 
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Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Ohh! Nice screenshot archive! I'll have to plunder that.
I'd love to see high quality screenshots of the art I did for those games. But it would have to be on the platform I did the original graphics on. A Commodore version for Times of Lore, and an Apple IIe or Apple IIgs version for Knights of Legend. :cool:
Are you familiar with MobyGames, where that archive came from? It's like IMDB for computer games. As with all user-editable sites it contains some errors and in-jokes, but it's pretty good. Your own developer page is at http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,111/. Most of the games you worked on have at least some screenshots on file.

I think everyone who made decent graphics on the original Apple II/II+/IIe/IIc deserves a medal, preferably made out of the powdered remains of the RAM chips used to store its stupid 7-pixel blocks. I only ever used a IIgs at school, but it was a remarkable machine. It didn't get enough love then, and it certainly doesn't now. You'll find some IIgs screenshots on MobyGames, but nowhere near as many as it deserves, even given the small number of games written for the platform.

:confused: Oh yeah, they be glowy enough! That page is a bit difficult for my system to parse. :eek: Awesome graphics though!
I feel guilty at times for uploading long animated GIFs, and then I remember the mammoth ones the Wings of Saint Nazaire team post. They look outstanding, though.

Yeah, looks like someone edited the font for Privateer. Eh, not thrilled with his edits. :rolleyes:
Your font looks a bit like the large font used by the early Wing Commander games, with gaps in the B, D, P, R and T. Privateer doesn't use the large font anywhere but in the "Wing Commander" logo, so editing the small font to match made some sense. But, they introduced in new gap in the S. Odd.

Check out this recent exchange from Wing Commander programmers!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/453331414689554/

Enjoy!
I'd really like to, but I'm told I need to log into Facebook. Is it so good that I should fabricate a Facebook account in order to read it?
 

Mindcrime

Commodore
Denis! First of all I just wanted to say thanks for you amazing work. Wing Commander on snes was the first space sim I ever played. Between your art design and Chris Roberts vision I was so hooked! Its been 22 years later and I'm still a huge fan and never stopped playing these types of games. Though the graphics were limited back then the art in WC1 still blows my mind. It all felt real and somehow did not look cartoony at all. Now for my question:
There seems to be a pretty drastic change between the cutscene look in WC1 to WC2. WC2 got a little more cartoony. Was it something you were all trying to accomplish or did it just happen on accident? I personally prefer the look in WC1. Thanks in advanced Denis and thanks for stopping by here, it was starting to get quiet around here lol.
 

Mindcrime

Commodore
running.gif


vs

wc2democomparison2.gif


love the scramble scene in WC1!! Between the animation and the music it got me soooo pumped up to frag some cats!
 

Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Dondragmer Yes, I've been to Moby before, but this time I looked closer and saw that they had screenshots categorized by platform!:eek: I actually saw the Apple II graphics I did for Knights of Legend!:) All I can complain about now is that they don't show ALL the art I did for the games! ;) (That would, of course, be insane. But a fellow can dream...):rolleyes:

I had less issues with the Apple II graphics than I did with--gag--the commodore 64.:mad: What boneheaded character-cell based graphics! There I am drawing a line with the KoalaPad, touch the edge of a character cell with the wrong color, and BAM!:eek: That color now infects every character cell with the same balance of colors! Now comes hours of damage control! Ugh!:confused: I do have to agree though, the gs was awesome. It was my favorite graphics platform.

One thing I have to point out. The images shown in the screenshots are pale representations of how the graphics looked in their original television set glory! What I mean is that these were displayed on television sets with bright cathod-ray tubes. A single white pixel would cast your shadow on the far wall! Imagine all the pixels you see in those images glowing brightly, and the glow blending the colors together. When I did a nighttime scene in Knights of Legend, the blue pixels of moonlit vegetation glowed with a silvery light, and the campfire blazed with the fires of hell. The art I did was unconsciously done to be seen on that bright television platform. When the more modern high resolution computer monitors came out, I was horrified! Everything looked dim, drab, and lifeless, and there was no free color blending from the bright, blurry, television pixels.:( Suddenly everything was crisp, dull, hard-edged squares. I would now have to blend by hand! Aaugh!:eek:

Those were mammoth!:eek:

Yeah, the gaps were deliberate. They were emulating a certain futuristic font. Given enough time I could probably find it, but wading through seas of fonts looking for a particular fish is not my idea of fun.:rolleyes:

Dondragmer, Stinger, and AD Aww, Damn. Sorry guys, I didn't know the thread was invisible. :( It's basically Stephen Beeman trying to remember a misspelled struct or variable name that was used a lot. Billy Joe Cain pipes up with the sorry state of code backups. Working without a source-control system! Julian Alden-Salter mentions the Lost Wing Commander! It was the SNES version of Wing Commander II that no one has a backup to. After a lot of crazy variable name stories, the mystery word is finally discovered: COMPONEANTS! ( xy_point Componeant_positions[YOUR_INTERNAL_COMPONEANTS] ) Apparently it was used everywhere, and you had to remember exactly how to misspell it.:p

Afrim Kosovrasti Thanks man! Our playtesters felt it was real too! You want to know the moment in development that we knew we might have a hit on our hands? It was the moment our playtesters started literally falling out of their chairs.:eek: They would be ducking and weaving in their seats during the dogfights, and more than one hit the floor as a Dralthi lunged at their face. I'd be working on the art, and from the other room there'd be a thump and the clatter of a metal chair. As developers, we just looked at each other and mouthed, "Oh. My. God!":eek:

Well, to be fair, the talking heads in WC1 are pretty cartooney! I could have departed from the rotoscope reference images a bit more to make the running figures more like the rest of the game, but I think the realism worked really well there! We tried for realism in WC2, but the color conversions made a hash of the cinematic renders. :( (They SO would have kicked ass!)

--Denis
 
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Whistler

Commodore
OMG, KoalaPad... I can't believe I still remember that device for my C64. Well, actually my sister had the 64 while I worked up for a C128!:cool:

Epyx eh? I still play the old olympic games they made, Summer Games 1 and 2, Winter Games and World Games. I spent hours perfecting skeet shooting. Despite a lot of faults on their business end the games I had were frustrating, entertaining, and worthy of their challenge. To vent my frustrations I would routinely perform maneuvers that would have likely killed or at the very least hobbled a competitor for life. :rolleyes:

I'd like to also personally thank you for your work bringing the Kilrathi to life so much more than the, "mysterious shadows" and purposful distant shots of WC1. I saw the Emperor and Prince in WC2 and thought "These are the true enemies." I wanted revenge for my favorite carrier and I finally get to stick it to the bosses.

Although the props of the later games offered players more physical characters the hand drawn look created a fearsome image in my mind of just how physically powerful they were. I liked the suits and puppetered faces a lot (despite some critics), I really do, but I felt something of their feel just felt lost with the change. These felines are tigers more than simple cats.

Alright, after that wall of nostalgia I finally feel I have at least ONE worthy question: Who came up with the idea of Emperor Joor'rad's left eye being cybernetic? Was it a design decision from Chris Roberts or had it come to you personally? It was one of those awesome touches that reminded me that despite being brutal and savage warriors that their technology was firmly cemented into their culture. That made the Kilrathi seem even more a dangerous foe then I had imagined, even with spaceships and the Sivar gravatic weapon. The lines of scientific progress they had achieved was downright intimidating. I felt, as a human being, felt inferior to a fictional but powerful race, ones that could out muscle us and out think us. All we had was our skill.

EDIT:
501st post! :cool:
 

Mindcrime

Commodore
hahaha, that's an awesome story man! So when's the WC1 remake coming out? ' ;) jk....but a man can dream can't he? also thanks for responding so fast. You da man! I still remember playing WC1 on the SNES with my friend as a kid, we lost all of our weapons, sooooo almost dead, having to afterburn back to the Tigers Claw through an asteroid field and if we took 1 hit we were dead. We were both HOOKED!
 
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