WC I&II Ultimate Strategy Guide Appreciation Post (July 30, 2023)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Having a grand time tonight flipping through Wing Commander I & II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide. This book is so cool. It’s written as an in-universe memoir with the main character (here named Carl LaFong) at age 73 looking back on his training and military career. There’s a neat meta layer too, he’s writing this memoir because he has just served as the technical advisor for 28th Century ‘holovid’ versions of Wing Commander I and II made by “Tristan Roberts”.

This kind of guide written as a novel wasn’t uncommon at the time. X-Wing and TIE Fighter had great ones, as did a bunch of the Sierra adventure game series.

Whoever owns the rights to these in 2023 should serve them up as ebooks; I bet there’s a mint to be made from retro gamers and general nostalgia fans. Despite being written by an Origin marketing executive the prose is wonderful. It captures the more limitless 1991 version of the IP perfectly. It’s funny and earnest and clever in parts. Effervescent!

I love this stage of the series where there’s so much more Robotech and Battlestar Galactica in the blood stream. Where you could happily get away with “Galactic War” as the name of the conflict. And look at the interior artwork! You can smell the Macintosh SE from a mile away.

It also has an incredibly thorough section about the making of the games. It’s not quite warts-and-all but there are way, way more warts left in than you’d find today!

I’ve got copies in English, German and Italian. I’d love to know if there are more translations!

This book is also super, super formative for later stories even if we snicker at Carl LaFong. The Blair/Maniac rivalry comes from this book… and that’s the basis for the movie, the TV show, Tom Wilson’s take on the character…. It’s referenced throughout the TCG, too!

Carl LaFong was because there was no set name for the hero at the time, you picked your own. It’s a reference to a WC Fields movie called It’s a Gift that has a joke about Mr. LaFong never appearing. It’s hard to explain. Carl the pilot watches the movie in the study, too.

Origin actually had started using Blair internally at that time… “Arturo Blair” for Our Hero Bluehair. He doesn’t show up in print for another year, though, with the briefest cameo in Freedom Flight. He became Chris for WC3 which needed a name for cutscenes. Maverick was Chris Roberts’ call sign and they started using it behind the scenes on WC3. Most projects use it only sparingly (it’s not in the movie, WC3 or WC4!) but Wing Commander Academy really embraced it.

Also check out this bit from the series bible that named him Falcon and then Phoenix. Never used in a game but it did get a call out in End Run! (That you wouldn’t know was a reference to anything without this context.)

...but you don't have to take my word for it!

Original update published on July 30, 2023