The Story Behind the Crossbow 'Bomber' (October 25, 2019)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Wing Commander Academy displays a little spinning ship on the selection screen. But take a look at the Crossbow bomber! Well, it's... er... it’s green.

The actual bomber sprites in Special Operations 1 are blue and white which is also how it looks if you fly it in Academy. The game uses different sprites for the spinning ship in the menu! But where did the change come from?

Turns out the mesh was originally built for Wing Commander II to be a human corvette also called the Crossbow. It was cut to save space and the Special Operations team retextured it to look smaller. Here are the specs from a work-in-progress Wing Commander II doc:

Turns out the SO1 artists didn’t back up the new textures though... so when the Academy team went to render the turnaround a year later they had the corvette instead! Here’s what the source model looks like, you can see it’s intended to be much larger than a bomber:

Original update published on October 25, 2019
Y'know, Origin missed a trick in SO1 here.

They should have still called it a corvette.

Everybody hates the Crossbow because it's supposed to be cutting edge new tech, but really it's a warmed over Broadsword that doesn't do anything special. But if they'd kept it closer to corvette size, given it corvette like turning specs and speed, and included the flak cannons, it'd be fun to fly for novelty alone. It'd be like a pregnant centaurian mud pig, but it would be something different. Not sure we could land one on the Concordia, though.
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Sure not in Corvette size landing anywhere. How big as Corvette? Kamekh Size? 130m? Or another Venture at 80m? But it would sure a lot of fun flying a Capital ship in Wing Commander 2. Slower and less agile as the Broadsword but with also several turrets with more Firepower - Flak. Run into a Wing of Sartha and have fun ;)
Wow! That's actually a really neat-looking ship design in its original corvette form. It's funny what a paintjob can do, though, because I certainly never had the feeling, looking at the Crossbow in SO1, that this ship was originally designed for a different scale.

From a gameplay perspective, it's definitely good that they cut the corvette and recycled it as a bomber. The Crossbow in its bomber form may well have been a "warmed over Broadsword", but at the same time, it was just enough of an improvement over the Broadsword that it felt like a good change. As a corvette, it wouldn't have been playable - instead, it would be just another variation of a freighter for the player to protect.

From the perspective of the richness of the universe, though, it's a real pity the corvette didn't make it. Confed has real bad luck with corvettes, it seems - the Venture was basically saved only by being in the WC1 game manual, the Crossbow turned into a bomber, and after that, no more corvettes appeared at all (well, I think the TCS Brack in WCP was a corvette, but we never actually see it). All the other corvettes we see are only one-line mentions in books.
It is funny that the Venture has basically the same story: finished in the original set of models for the base game but cut for space only to be brought back filling out the first mission disk.

Another clue to the Crossbow's origin that's left in Special Operations 1: the VDU image, which is covered in little turrets rather than the usual set of fighter guns.