Transverse Saga Continues To Unfold; Game Evolved From WC Online Pitch (September 11, 2014)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
The launch of Piranha's Transverse space sim has been interesting, to say the least! There had been rumors for some months that the developer's next game would be a licensed Wing Commander title, so their countdown was being closely watched by some Wingnuts. When the game was revealed as a brand new property, it appeared that the speculation had been unfounded. However, PGI's creative director Bryan Ekman had this to say:

We do indeed currently hold the license of Wing Commander. We first contacted EA about the WC brand in the spring of 2012, long before the initial announcement of products like Star Citizen. We approached EA because we had a deep love for the space combat genre and Wing Commander was right there alongside MechWarrior as our most beloved franchises we grew up with. In short at the time we thought we were going to be the ones taking that big initial risk to try and bring space shooters back.

Over the course of the next 18 months a significant amount changed a?? Star Citizen was announced, and by Late 2013 we found ourselves in possession of an exclusive license to Wing Commander and assembling a small team to craft a new experience. We spent six months developing, designing, and working on a marketing video with help from outsourcing partners. As we approached our reveal date, there was a moment of pause when we started to reflect on the brand, and design concepts. We reached a pivotal moment when some of our best design ideas were being pushed to the side as they just didna??t fit within the constraints of a WC game.

We looked carefully at what our WCO product was, looked at other competing products, and decided that we needed to move away from the Wing Commander universe. It was a tough choice, as we have a deep love and respect for the brand.

It became clear that our very best and original game idea was contained within all of the concepts that were pushed aside for our WC product. The concept for Transverse was born from a single thought, and inspired by all those unused ideas. In the end we realized we should be making our best idea and in doing so we found a corner of the spacesim genre that would make us stand out. In doing so we would also be providing Star Citizen with the respect it deserves and what it represents to their customers.
Their game's art assets also match the story. Their reveal trailer includes Dralthi-style enemies and concept art with familiar commodities like Dart DF and "Javeline" HS missiles.








A few pieces to the puzzle are still missing. On the face of it, it would appear both admirable and shocking that the company has such faith in their concept that they would be willing to forego Wing Commander branding that had already been negotiated. It's a somewhat ironic situation coming just weeks after the exact opposite happened (a Hollywood proposal based around Wing Commander that lacked any rights to the name).

It's also not clear exactly how this 'Wing Commander license' might apply - the spectrum ranges from some sort of ownership of the brand to time-limited ability to create free to play MMOs on the PC. We can just confirm at this time that they've had some dealings with EA. For comparison, Destination Software licensed the ability to create Wing Commander games solely for the Game Boy Advance in the early 2000s, which actually resulted in an impressive Prophecy adaptation. It's also clear that EA still has a connection to the series, as they are currently giving away WC3 On The House. Additionally, Chris Roberts regains the film distribution rights to Wing Commander soon.

There's been quite a backlash towards Transverse from backers of MechWarrior Online. While the CIC would keep an open mind and judge any new Wing Commander game on its own merits, it at least is nice to have avoided some of the acrimony that's currently raging. Perhaps if PGI could redeem itself in front of its fans by faithfully executing on Transverse, a future Wing Commander game they make would get a much better reception from all quarters.

No matter where the next Wing Commander product comes from, we'll be here to report the news!

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Original update published on September 11, 2014
 
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Thrakkath

Rear Admiral
I just wish they would do something different whether its WC branded or not. Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous are already filling the MMO Space-Sim market so they are too late to the party for that.

If this was more single-player focused, with online co-op and traditional non-gimballed weapons it would be very appealing to me. As it stands it looks like a poor SC clone without NPC's, I cannot imagine how they thought anyone could possibly want that.
 

sgupta

1st Lieutenant
Thrakkath, I couldn't agree more. I don't know what's with companies ditching single player these days. One of the reasons I'm so psyched for Star Citizen is a real single player campaign, finally! If Transverse went a single player (even ONLY a single player) route, it'd definitely be more appealing to me. Zero NPC multiplayer only is honestly probably the least appealing model possible to my tastes.
 

HotJob

Commodore
Piranha. was given a Wing Commander license. By EA. By Sivar, I wish Chris was trolling me.
It is hopeful to see them recognize that their ideas did not fit Wing Commander. It means they have an idea about what makes a good Wing Commander game. I worry, however, about how EA would try to fit microtransactions (Wing Commander already has a long history of DLC before you could even download it- Secret Missions, anyone?) into the game. How much more is IFF worth over IR?
 

Red Baron

Rear Admiral
I really don't know what to think of this developer and how much of its reputation comes down to typical internet bashing, but if it's true that they saw and acknowledged that the game they had in mind wouldn't live up to the Wing Commander franchise, their judgement can't be TOTALLY off.
I'm really glad Wing Commander hasn't gotten the Syndicate/Dungeon Keeper treatment yet, in fact i'd sleep better knowing there'd never be another Wing Commander game again.
Because let's face it, whoever does it would make a reboot, and this franchise has grown so much beyond the boundaries of its games and lives so much from its designs and the excellent novels, you can't just brush all that aside with a handwave.
I can't resent a game designer for wanting to leave his own mark, but Piranha saw that their design concept was too different and left it be (if that's true), and at least for that they have my respect.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
Thrakkath, I couldn't agree more. I don't know what's with companies ditching single player these days. One of the reasons I'm so psyched for Star Citizen is a real single player campaign, finally! If Transverse went a single player (even ONLY a single player) route, it'd definitely be more appealing to me. Zero NPC multiplayer only is honestly probably the least appealing model possible to my tastes.
I think you have to consider the human element to make any sense of it. At a very high level, the market produces what consumers demand, but at a low level, people make what they feel like making. Coming up with a good well-designed single player game with an engaging storyline is hard. It takes time, money and tremendous skill. Alternately, if you make a multiplayer-only game, it's easier because you mainly just worry about the sandbox you're building. You put the environment together, and the players fill it instead. These games can be good - the original Ultima Online hit on something special - but they can also be very technical and bland.

It's the same reasoning behind why you see reality TV shows dominate television. To bring it back more on topic, it's similar to why we see so many WC fan project game pitches or preliminary art assets rather than detailed production schedules with achievable goals (not to mention completed mods). It takes rare passion and dedication to break through and create that comprehensive complete package. Not everyone who does a thing is necessarily well suited to do that thing, so you have to appreciate the unlikely circumstances when everything aligns and someone makes a really good product.
 

Mace

Vice Admiral
You can go on missions in a MMORPG, or even join a campaign. Red dead redemption is a perfect example. And you can just add campaigns in that world. I think the main issue would be: "Here this is my universe, these are my rules. Now go out and play because I just want to make money off of it!", that is the impression Piranha Games gives me.

You can build/add campaigns into a game, as SC promises. If I just want to shoot somebody I'll go and play battlefield.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
You can go on missions in a MMORPG, or even join a campaign. Red dead redemption is a perfect example. And you can just add campaigns in that world. I think the main issue would be: "Here this is my universe, these are my rules. Now go out and play because I just want to make money off of it!", that is the impression Piranha Games gives me. You can build/add campaigns into a game, as SC promises. If I just want to shoot somebody I'll go and play battlefield.
That's kind of besides the point... of course you CAN add an engaging campaign to anything - but it's "you' in the general. I don't think most developers actually have what it takes. (By the way, the last Battlefield game actually had one of the better single player story campaigns in shooters in a while) I disagree that it's simply money-grubbing - it goes beyond that. It takes a Chris Roberts esque secret sauce to bring everything together.
 
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sgupta

1st Lieutenant
@ChrisReid, I totally agree with you - making a good single-player campaign (with or without co-op) takes a LOT of talent. The fact that Piranha never even tried with MWO says a lot. (The original MW2 had a full single player campaign, with AI mechs, convoys to escort, dropships to attack, and even flying enemies...very similar to Wing Commander games but without the cinematic flair). MWO started out being pitched as MW5, which would have been single player, but that got scrapped for an online-only game, and there aren't even drones to test your skills against.

I really have a feeling they don't have any way of making good AI or something. But even aside from that, having no NPC's has so many problems I don't know where to begin. Without very strict rules, griefers would have a field day. What if people feel like fighting instead of trading or bartending or information brokering - how does any of that happen, especially on a slow days or during slow hours? I'm not saying an MMO only without NPC's CAN'T work at all, but it's very difficult unless the world is VERY well-crafted and has a LOT of players so the less appealing roles are still filled. (Even Ultima had NPC's, didn't it?).

One of the more exciting descriptions I've heard Chris give for Star Citizen is that their goal is, even if you were the only one to log onto the servers, that universe will feel alive with NPC's filling it out so you really can't even tell nobody else is on that day. (But obviously, if people are, depending on your preferences you can do more PvP based stuff if that's your preference).

I don't expect every game to be a Chris Roberts game or be able to do all the things he's planning to do, but I just don't see how Piranha can make this work. It's kind of alarming how even though this is the big funding push, we still have hardly any details at all...
 

Ijuin

Admiral
Some functions (e.g in-game vending of items and repairs or the "auction house" whereby players sell items to each other) can be automated without requiring a player or NPC to "man" them--think of the "booth system" in Privateer 2. Still, it would be pretty desolate without any scripted characters to tell a story. Worldbuilding requires a good dose of "how did we get to where we are now".
 

sgupta

1st Lieutenant
So a few interesting developments today.

According to Gamestar (you'll want to translate from German to English), EA claims PGI does not hold the license for Wing Commander:

http://www.gamestar.de/spiele/transverse/news/ea_piranha_games_hat_keine_wing_commander_lizenz,51696,3078453.html

But PGI's still doubling down. Bryan Ekman posted the following on the Transverse Forums:

"The details of any contract are of course private, so you won't see us plastering up pictures anytime soon. ;-)

Maybe Gamestar should contact EA Partners and talk to a rep in either the UK or Redwood Shores divisions. EA being what it is, a global corporation with many different groups, all working independently, it does not surprise me that some random rep responded as they did."
 

Red Baron

Rear Admiral
The way i see it, both parties at least agree that there were negotiations. Maybe EA wanted to know the overall concept as proof that they're serious (that would explain the concept art), then PGI realized their concept wouldn't fit the franchise and further negotiation was cancelled. Depending on how far negotiations were before that, i could imagine PGI coming to the conclusion they *would* have licence (for one game) if they had decided to push the issue.

Just some random thoughts on my part, but that would explain the statements of both parties.
 

Toast

Space Marshal
Merp. It's all legalspeak with an incomplete record of the facts, so there's plenty of room left for both sides to be murky about it without being substantively dishonest. I figure that many of us around here, being fans of WC and keeping discerning tabs on what the state of the IP's been over the years, can probably appreciate the difference between the receipt of a license to make a game based on the property, and owning the property itself. After all, licenses, among other things:

- can be exclusive or nonexclusive
- can have limited durations and restrictions on scope
- can be conditioned on the maintenance of continuing representations
- can be terminated under various eventualities, including breach or standards of quality
- can expire under specific conditions, including the passage of time or mutually defined rescission

I've seen nothing that definitively guarantees PGI can't be holding a license of some sort at the moment. I've also seen nothing that says that EA wouldn't be able to revoke it immediately or in the future if the previous were true. Unless we are able to actually see the terms of said license, we wouldn't know what the present state of affairs regarding it would be. We can make educated guesses based on past history or industry practice, but whether and how much truth there is to what either and both sides say can depend a lot on the particulars of the license grant, which I, at least, don't know.

Without more details, the ghost of what might have been Wing Commander Online could walk right up to me and say, "What I told you was true. From a certain point of view." And I wouldn't know whether it was PGI talking to me or EA talking to me.
 

Red Baron

Rear Admiral
What's funny is that Gamestar sells this under the headline "EA accuses PGI of giving false testimony" when apparently all that happened was that they (Gamestar) asked some dude at EA if PGI owns the Wing Commander property/licence and the dude in question said "nah, don't think so". Doesn't sound like EA is "accusing" anybody, they provided an answer to a question (which was more than such a cheap tabloid can ask for) and otherwise don't seem to care very much.
To be honest i wouldn't feel much obligated to provide any evidence to these vultures either if i was PGI.

Again i don't know what to think of PGI and their business conduct, but bad news coverage is detestable in its own right.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
And it's quite possible that the "EA dude" did not consult the legal department before making that statement.
 

sgupta

1st Lieutenant
Yup... I guess the question is now, will the WC license resurface? Or will they try for private funding as Trasnverse?
 
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