Original Wing Commander Artist Here.

NinjaLA

Alex Von T.
I can't believe this thread appears to be slowing down and I hadn't even noticed it yet. as a fellow artist, I salute you! it probably won't come as a surprise to anyone here that I am a huge
wing

commander


fan


It's pretty safe to say you've been one of my biggest influences for most of my adult life, whether I realized it or not :D

Thank you very much for stopping by!
 

LeHah

212 Squadron - "The Old Man's Eyes And Ears"
@Denis Loubet - Sometimes programmers and SFX people throw in little nonsense for fun. I remember one of the asteroids in Empire Strikes Back is actually a potato.

Anything you remember that you snuck in for a laugh?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I've heard something about a parrot in the Wing Commander 2 cockpit... any recollection of that story?
 

Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Whistler: Yes, KoalaPad!:eek: After working on a Commodore 64 at Origin, I wanted to buy one just so I could kick it around the building. That's not a euphemism. I wanted to jump up and down on one until it was nothing but fragments.:mad:
I don't think I played anything from Epyx, I just recognized the name.:p
Yeah, I like my versions despite them being basically tiger furries.:rolleyes: The versions that followed needed some sort of cool markings or something cause they were kind of bland. When I did them, I was thinking Lions and Tigers and Klingons. I didn't expect the ruler to sound so much like Emperor Palpatine though.:oops: The problem with later versions was that they lumbered around instead of being the whipcord-agile predators I imagined. The limitations of the physical medium just weren't up to the task of making a creature with cat-like motions.:(
I think the cybernetic eye was a Chris Roberts dictate. I liked keeping the emperor's face side view until he turned his head for the reveal of the cyber-eye. I liked the Klingon's mixture of savagery and technology and used it here. Oddly, I felt that the Kilrathi would like cleaner surroundings than Klingons apparently do.:p

Afrim Kosovrasti: No problem man! This reply was delayed by the fact that I pretty much am incommunicado over the weekends. :cool:
A WC1 Remake would be pretty awesome! Let me know when that happens! :)
War Stories were a big thing about the Wing Commander saga. Describing how you escaped death by the skin of your teeth was always entertaining!:eek:

NinjaLA: Nice work! I think you captured the fighters pretty well!:D Just in case you weren't aware of it, having fans is pretty surreal! It's up there with seeing your work on store shelves. But then, I'm a fan of other artists like Frank Frazetta and Mike Mignola!:cool:
This is a great thread, and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon.:)

LeHah: Didn't really sneak much in because I was so busy doing the graphics that there was little time for tomfoolery!:cool: Modeling the debris after half-crumpled index cards is really not the same as hidden Easter Eggs, I know.:rolleyes: I suppose the programmers and designers had fun with the names and allusions they could make, but the art was all right there in front of everyone's eyes, and any weirdness would be instantly obvious. I did have fun adding the masking tape lables and extra readouts to the Kilrathi ship cockpit.:)

Bandit LOAF: A parrot does not ring a bell!:eek:

You guys know that Wing Commander owes it's creation to Battlehawks 1942, right?:confused:
 
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Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
I do not believe that code was lifted from BattleHawks, but it was definitely reverse engineered.:cool: Chris wanted a game that had that WWII sense of desperation. He wanted to do the whole dive-bombing thing in space. I suspect he would have been happy if the only way to kill a capital ship was torpedoes, and I don't know what convinced him otherwise.:confused: But I was there for discussions where Chris talked about Battlehawks as a model for the game design, but you have to admit that Chris took the thing to a whole new level!!:)
 

capi3101

Rear Admiral
Denis, I sent you an e-mail message on Friday - just making sure it didn't get caught in a spam trap.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
We've heard some of the stories (and assertions such as the ones that show up on the game's Wikipedia page claiming CR reverse engineered it). Here's one old post I dug up referencing the game https://www.wcnews.com/chatzone/threads/arjaks-combat-log.25706/page-2#post-370764
As best I can tell, there was a disgruntled Lucasarts veteran spreading a story that Chris literally stole the source code to Battlehawks; he seems to pop up here and there, and became pretty forceful during the start of the Star Citizen campaign. His "proof" is that there's a ship in Wing Commander that only turns left, just like one of the aircraft in Battlehawks... but actually looking at the Wing Commander code, it's clearly something that was added on purpose (and, in fact, each of the Kilrathi ships have a different 'handicap.' You just hear about that one because it's mentioned early in the dialogue...) The actual story is much more likely that he really liked Battlehawks in much the same way he really liked Das Boot. :) (Interestingly, there is a copy of Battlehawks floating around the office today... still sealed.)

The parrot story was that an artist working on Wing Commander II was frustrated because CR (who was more focused on Strike Commander at the time) would never sign off on anything without a list of tiny change requests. So for his next piece, he submitted it with a parrot in the corner so that Chris sent it back 'lose the parrot and it's good.' I've always assumed it was an apocryphal story, or an exaggeration... but I can testify that that IS how getting approval on anything from Chris works. :)
 
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Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
capi3101: Yes!:) I got that, and I am currently examining it. I will get back to you! :D

Bandit LOAF: Wow! I played the hell out of Battlehawks, and I'm certain no code was stolen. You are correct that each ship had some unique quirk, which I thought was brilliant!

Ah! I understand my confusion now! The way I heard it, it was a DUCK!:D

By the way, over the next 2 weeks I'll be soliciting ideas for an art project from my patrons. If you've ever wanted to try to get me to do a specific piece of art, now's your chance to voice it, but you have to be a patron to do it. Check it out at:
www.patreon.com/denisloubet

--Denis
 
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Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Ah! I understand my confusion now! The way I heard it, it was a DUCK!:D
The same story appears about Interplay and the making of Battle Chess. See this page, "5. A Duck". Is it reasonable to assume that this story is plausible in most game development companies?

There are a few cockpit oddities in the WC1 file titled "PILOTANM.VGA". Here's what this file contains, in order:
  1. The cockpit death animation (not including the white background for the final frame, which must be added programmatically).
  2. The cockpit eject animation
  3. Two green roof graphics (more on these later)
  4. The spinning ejected pilot
  5. The hand on the joystick in all positions
  6. The orange sleeve for the hand on the joystick (this moves around to match the hand position while saving memory)
  7. Two hands with blue sleeves (more on these later)
So, some questions:
1. Denis, is it you who traumatised our childhoods with this?
WC1 Die Hornet 2x.gif



2. These are the roof graphics:
WC1 Eject roof from PILOTANM.png
WC1 Mystery roof from PILOTANM.png


The first one seems to be an early version of the roof seen when you eject from a Hornet. The final ejection graphics are stored in the respective cockpit files, PCSHIP.V00 to PCSHIP.V03. (PCSHIP.V04, the Dralthi, would presumably have one if you could eject from it. While the inability to eject from the Dralthi was given a storyline justification, was there first a technical limitation that prevented this?)

Here's the Hornet roof from PCSHIP.V00, showing some additional detailing compared with the picture above.
WC1 Eject roof Hornet.png


Something I'd never realised until I video-captured an ejection sequence is that these roof pictures get stitched on top of the regular front cockpit view.
WC1 Eject Hornet backward 2x.gif

WC1 Eject Hornet forward 2x.gif


Even after all the hours I've spent in those cockpits, they look very different with the roof graphic stitched on.
WC1 Tall cockpit Hornet.png
WC1 Tall cockpit Scimitar.png
WC1 Tall cockpit Rapier.png
WC1 Tall cockpit Raptor.png


Anyway, since one of the roof graphics was an early version of the Hornet front, how does the other one look attached to the Hornet back?
WC1 Tall cockpit Hornet rear with roof from PILOTANM.png


It doesn't all match (you can clearly see the join between the two pictures), but where there are features in the roof graphic, they line up with the Hornet rear. Anyway, the question from this long-winded digression: was there ever a plan to have the rear-facing ejection sequence scroll upwards?

3. Here's the really juicy part of PILOTANM.VGA: the hand with the blue sleeve. I think there have been previous discussion threads about the two pictures below, but I can't find them now. What were they for? Were they ever intended for public consumption? My best guess is that the landing sequence was once intended to end with a view from the cockpit where a mechanic walks up and gestures, based on how badly you dented up your ride.
WC1 Cockpit blue sleeve 1 2x.png
WC1 Cockpit blue sleeve 2 2x.png


For comparison, here's Blair's hand in its orange sleeve.
WC1 Cockpit hand 2x.png
 

SabreAce

Rear Admiral
Having just spotted that Fralthi in the background of the death animation, I can honestly say that I never realized that the space background was actually based around what was happening in-mission - I always thought it was just a generic background, since it would just be seen for a half a second (and the focus would obviously be on the Kentucky Fried Blair).

Add another tick to that insane detail list.
 

Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Dondragmer: The Duck story gets around. I can't be sure it was Origin that done it.:confused:

Is the cockpit death from the PC version? It kinda looks like mine, and I know I edited it, but things like the face don't look like something I would do.:confused: Maybe it makes sense if I was rotoscoping over video, because by the time it gets yellow and orange, it starts looking like my style. I suspect that's what happened. I just wish we could have included the cockpit in the brightening of the figure.:eek:

The roof graphics were done at the end which means I had to imitate the work I had done weeks, if not months, before.:eek: Color and dither settings can be forgotten in that time, so matching was not perfect.:( And it looks like some just rudely clipped some panelling lines!:mad: I wonder if we did any programmatic left-right flipping since the roof panelling is pretty symmetrical. Hmmm...:confused:

I don't know if there was a programmatic reason for not ejecting from the Dralthi. Could it be that it's unthinkable that a Kilrathi would eject, and so there's no eject system? (Was that the storyline justification?):rolleyes:

The additional hornet roof may simply be a different stage of graphics development for that roof. That's sure what it looks like. I must have handed them an unfinished version to test, and later handed them the finished version, and they kept both in code.:eek:

Yup, they had to take that roof bit and paste it on top of the ejecting pilot every frame.:confused: Did you notice the glass visor coming down just before ejection?:cool: (His chest has too many wrinkles.):(

Ah yes, that helmet interior is me predicting the look of Iron Man's viewpoint!:rolleyes:

Wow, some of those roofs stitch on lots better than others! :confused:

I notice that the dim "greyed out" versions of the readouts not only looked cool, it gave the programmers a pixel-perfect indication of where to put the readout graphics. :D

Was the ejection sequence made to scroll upwards? Damn, I don't remember! Maybe I can ask... I take it it doesn't scroll in the game.:cool:

Interesting! I did not draw the hands in the blue sleeves, although I looks like the sleeve itself was a simple re-coloring of my brown one.:confused: I suspect you're right about the mechanic, and I'm not surprised they either couldn't make it work, or had no time to install that feature.:eek:

-danr-: I had fun making that last frame look totally overexposed. And the furrowed brow as he turns away is priceless.:)

SabreAce: Yeah, they kept the simulation going in some of the strangest places. Out the side windows, out the back, etc.:confused:

Is it wrong to be inordinantly proud of my alien cockpit?:D

--Denis
 
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-danr-

Vice Admiral
You know what I loved about that Dralthi cockpit? It actually looked alien. That's not easy to do. Aside from the items bolted in by the Terran techs (the speedometer, flight stick, etc) most of the ship looked very mysterious and hardly human at all, this is actually quite difficult to achieve. The weird colours, the mysterious pipes, I certainly didn't feel at home at all. Great work.

...and I just adore that Terran-made dial with the speed KPS readout, obviously bolted in at the last minute with a few wires hacking it into the ship's computer. Human resourcefulness at work!



I like to think that the two main VDUs have been hacked by the techs and reprogrammed with the normal Terran interface, but the other, smaller dials (the ones with presumably small Kilrathi text on them) weren't necessary and left as-is.
 
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Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Mekt-Hakkikt: You guys should know the flight parameters better than me!:D I know that at least one of the ships was a lumbering behemoth that turned slowly and had a hard time zeroing in on jinking enemies, but could fire a Wall of Destruction when you pulled the trigger!:eek: And the fast and agile ships would lock on easy, but only take weak potshots at the Kilrathi. We just juggled strengths and weaknesses to keep the ships balanced with respect to each other.:cool:

-danr-: Did you notice the masking-tape labels for Weapons, Lock, Fuel, and Auto, stuck to the dash?:confused: And I just flat-out invented the weird-ass red Kilrathi text. I imagined it as evolving from claw scratchings on clay tablets in the distant Kilrathi past.:cool: A circular motif and organic-looking access panels helped sell the sense of "Other". That was fun!:) I think you've correctly interpreted the intent of the art I created! :D
 
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Aginor

Vice Admiral
I just loved the level of detail in that game. Your cockpits are brilliant examples for that, especially the Dralthi's.
And so are details like the automatic visor on ejection.
 

Mekt-Hakkikt

Mpanty's bane
Mekt-Hakkikt: You guys should know the flight parameters better than me!:D I know that at least one of the ships was a lumbering behemoth that turned slowly and had a hard time zeroing in on jinking enemies, but could fire a Wall of Destruction when you pulled the trigger!:eek: And the fast and agile ships would lock on easy, but only take weak potshots at the Kilrathi. We just juggled strengths and weaknesses to keep the ships balanced with respect to each other.:cool:
Ah ok. Of course, each ship has a weakness in its capabilities but I thought from your poast that there were more handicaps as the "Only turning left" for the Salthi or the "Always goes up or down" for the Dralthi (in addition to their "normal" weaknesses due to their ship class (fast but not heavily armed and paper thin protection etc).

But I have to say: I always thought that WC1 had great balance when it came to the Kilrathi ships compared to the Terran ships. Starting with WC2 the Kilrathi ships became pieces of flying crap when compared to their Terran counterparts something that only got worse in later WC games and that always bothered me. The Kilrathi now only had superior numbers whereas in WC1 they superior numbers and capable fighters.
 
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Denis Loubet

Space Marshal
Aginor: Thanks man! :) It's the little things I could put in the art that made it fun!:D

Mekt-Hakkikt: Yeah, there weren't that many really weird weaknesses. It came down to mostly game balance issues. Plus it gets hard to justify things like "continuously does clock-wise barrel rolls". ;)

I wasn't aware of the effectiveness degradation of Kilrathi fighter craft. I played the hell out of Wing Commander, I played some WC2, and stopped playing at WC3. I suspect I was a little bummed out at being effectively shut out of Wing Commander III just as the series went all high-profile Hollywood. :( I did get to go to the wrap party, however, and meet many of the big name actors. :)

For any of you who like Ultima, here's my version of the cover to Ultima II that never was. I consulted Richard on the elements and composition for this. One of my lucky $25 patrons got this picture done with pen on Bristol board!

Enjoy!



--Denis
 
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Stinger

Vice Admiral
I like it!

Ultima II was a very strange entry in the series. I thought Minax's backstory was potentially very interesting, but sadly we don't get much of it. The fact that it's set on Earth instead of Sosaria definitely sets it apart from the other games, and I like how the different time periods incorporate small variations in the world map.
 
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