What if... - Wing Commander never happened?

Farlander

Rear Admiral
I think that's actually a real life retcon! You're thinking of Wing Commander I/II's bitmapped ships as being the kind of a muddy-looking dead-end technology we treat them as today... but they weren't seen that way in 1990.

I remember opinions on this being about evenly split among my friends and I. Wing Commander's graphics were more colorful and had a certain life to them, but they also could look extremely pixelated and lacked a natural look in motion, since the ships could only be viewed from a limited number of angles.
 

Astro commander

2nd Lieutenant
What a horrible horrible thought!

Two games defined my childhood, Wing commander and Quest for glory.
I played many more but almost no game has been replayed by me as often as those. Mainly because they are long continued story and consequences for actions. Something even most modern games dont have is a good story blended in to good action or adventure.

I pitty the alternate universe that never had WC, Though I envy the one that had more good sequels to the main story and to the privateer line.
 

Bob McDob

Better Health Through Less Flavor
In fact, go look at some *original* X-Wing screenshots. The game was remastered half a dozen times to take advantage of later technology, but the original version's ships are flat and ugly. The big advantage over Wing Commander was that it was much faster (X-Wing ran okay on a 286!) and you could have a lot more ships on screen at a time. (For my money, the prettiest version is the 1995 CD release where they upgraded to the 'shaded' graphics from TIE Fighter... they went back and glommed on textures later, but that never sat right with me.)

And they stripped out all the unique music that actually gave it character. What a crying shame.
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
Someone needs to study how that game made you feel accomplished scoring one kill

Merely the stunning realism, even if you don't care for modern sims, check out the FreeFalcon screenshots, sometimes picture perfect, and the game's like that throughout, from the fact that you start the engines from within the hangar by thumbing around the cockpit for a bunch of switches that need to be flicked in order, to flying the entire mission with realistic avionics (and realistic everything technical) - it's all there, and given what happened with the RAF, it's nice to get a glimpse of how easy this stuff is with a little reading.

THAT SAID...

I've easily played a hell of a lot more Wing Commander, because it's a 'game' rather than a 'sim' and it's just so much more playable. The problem is is that the sims, in their realism, have replicated the boredom of flying a fighter jet for real. I think a USAF pilot once said that combat flying is 90% boredom and 10% sheer terror...except in the sim you don't get the sheer terror, just the rare chance to shoot at far away stuff. In all honesty, the 45 minutes of flying to a target for the sake of 5 minutes delivering weapons (at targets on the ground that you can't really see) really does get boring.

Wing Commander wins.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
What a horrible horrible thought!

Two games defined my childhood, Wing commander and Quest for glory.
I played many more but almost no game has been replayed by me as often as those. Mainly because they are long continued story and consequences for actions. Something even most modern games dont have is a good story blended in to good action or adventure.

I pitty the alternate universe that never had WC, Though I envy the one that had more good sequels to the main story and to the privateer line.

Yeah, that's the follow-on to this thread's question. How would the 2000s have been different for all of us had they been full of WC releases like the '90s? Definitely in the early '90s, Wing Commander was a huge pastime for me, but another factor is when the modern Internet came into being and online communities formed.

So to me, the question of what life would be like without Wing Commander is similar to what life would be like if there was no Internet (or if something like the world wide web didn't get sparked until a decade later), since they go hand in hand here. Clearly, we would have had to find something else to do for hundreds/thousands of days/nights over the last fifteen years. While I certain spent an enormous amount of time playing Wing Commander in the '90s, there was also some point where I realized I spent more time talking about Wing Commander and talking to people who shared my interest in Wing Commander.

And so if you're one of the people with hundres or thousands of posts here, or even if you've just been lurking hardcore for many years, the amount of socialization and experiences you've had here have probably shaped who you are to a certain extent, and so for most of us, Wing Commander has had a part in making us who we are today.
 

Bob McDob

Better Health Through Less Flavor
So to me, the question of what life would be like without Wing Commander is similar to what life would be like if there was no Internet (or if something like the world wide web didn't get sparked until a decade later), since they go hand in hand here. Clearly, we would have had to find something else to do for hundreds/thousands of days/nights over the last fifteen years. While I certain spent an enormous amount of time playing Wing Commander in the '90s, there was also some point where I realized I spent more time talking about Wing Commander and talking to people who shared my interest in Wing Commander.

And so if you're one of the people with hundres or thousands of posts here, or even if you've just been lurking hardcore for many years, the amount of socialization and experiences you've had here have probably shaped who you are to a certain extent, and so for most of us, Wing Commander has had a part in making us who we are today.

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I'm one of the kids who joined in 2001 (and this February marked ten years of the CIC for me), and this was one of the first communities I actually joined, so the two go hand-in-hand for me in a way that they don't for the vets who were around for the Usenet and Origin's site.
 

criticalmass

Vice Admiral
So to me, the question of what life would be like without Wing Commander is similar to what life would be like if there was no Internet (or if something like the world wide web didn't get sparked until a decade later), since they go hand in hand here.
That actually was my take when I asked myself the starting question. In a way, the final releases of Wing Commander and the start of my 'online life' converged. It wasn't just playing a computer game and talking about it in the school bus or the recess area nerd corner, there suddenly was a medium to get together with people all over the world.

True, in the beginning I joined a lot of communities, and was disappointed quite often about how things were discussed. Among the few examples were some of the WC sites, for sheer variety: So many different angles led to so many different discussions, with often amazing depth. Then came Secret Ops, and gave me an idea of how games might be distributed in the future, and how the still struggling BBS- and Usenet-culture might get integrated into gaming in general.

Almost two decades later, it still feels a bit presumptuous to say that Wing Commander got me started on the internet, but in the number of reasons and parameters, it's got a huge chunk.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
My first internet posts were in 1990, to a World War II history forum on Compuserv asking for book suggestions about Nazi jets. I think I still have a printout of the conversation somewhere (I was nine years old).

I believe I posted occasionally to Compuserv's "flight sim" area in those early days... but the first community I really joined was their Wing Commander 'club' which was formed in 1993 just after Privateer came out. They put out semi-regular online fanzines for a while, which were word docs with collected stories and tips about the games. I think there were three or four of them and I'd love to dig them up again (I bet I have a floppy backup wasting away somewhere). You submitted your Privateer save to the guy moderating it and got added to the roster and I was very proud that I had the most kills. (I remember it felt like a BIG DEAL to stay connected to Compuserv long enough to download this 90kb file--they charged by time connected back then.)

Starting in late 1993 my father had pure internet access Johns Hopkins, where he was doing some sort of part-time graduate work (or teaching? I don't remember). The world wide web felt so *small* then, but it was just amazing in a way that nothing seems to be anymore. You would have to really work to get a connection and then pray it wouldn't disconnect and from there you could do anything.

I started reading the usenet around then and what really caught my eye was the Dune community, which just amazed my 13 year old self. Here were these graduate students and scientists and so on talking about my favorite book like it was a brilliant work of literature... I don't know if I ever actually posted, but I read everything on their newsgroup (almost twenty years later the same people are around and they're all enormous jerks, so... time makes fools of us all).

The first few Wing Commander websites appeared on the web in late 1994 and early 1995. The Wing Commander Aces Club was one of those college-restricted sites and it was almost never up... but when it was the fan fiction and the crude drawings of new fighters were so cool. There was the Terran Confederation Underground, which was HUGE. It was the first big Wing Commander site, probably still unsurpassed... it had stats for all the ships and it looked GREAT in 1995. There was 'The Jump Point' which was a site where Armada players submitted their bios... and then over the next few months some immitators.

Alt.games.wc3 and alt.games.wing-commander came into being around this time. I lurked at both from close to day one but wouldn't actually post there for a few years (using the usenet was becoming awkward around this time and we had one account for the family). There were also active Wing Commander clubs on AOL at the time with their own inane politics; I used my ten free hours to join, printed out a bunch of fanfiction to read and downloaded a beautiful rendering of a Rapier.

I was probably going to be a Wing Commander guy at this point, but I do remember flirting with some other communities. I posted to an X-Files message board run by FOX (to impress a girl at my high school, if you can figure that out) and was very fond of the Space Above and Beyond and Babylon 5 communities over the year (oddly, Star Wars and Star Trek were both huge to me and I don't remember ever getting into their online communities).

1995 was the big year that probably made me the Wingnut I am, though, for three reasons:

- Akkbar started "Introspection's Wing Commander Home Sector", the site that grew into WCNews.com. It was a Wing Commander 'news magazine' with an incredibly attractive layout (stolen from Blues News--but we were the first to do that, at least!) I was an uncredited writer for the site very early on and as Akkbar became more interested in making money online he brought on a 'staff' that included me, Chris and Bearcat.

- Origin opened a series of wwwboard forums at their website. You didn't need to register (I don't think anyone did anywhere at the time), you could just jump in and post about Wing Commander. There was very little moderation but aside from vehement arguments no one would think of doing anything to hurt the forum. I jumped in on day one, started a thread about the Ralari mission and Bandit (LOAF) was born. Bandit was my callsign, from my dog at the time.

I thought it was a great callsign but it didn't have much personality for an online community... so I added some form of (LOAF) after the name, usually as part of some sort of terrible joke (like 'Bandit (LOAFs You Very Much) or somesuch, each one was different).

(LOAF itself is LOAD spelled wrong from a high school BASIC programming class I was in. I kept making that typo and it somehow mutated into a bunch of simple gag programs where the computer would ask you LOAF? and depending on how you answered it'd display the word in flashing colors or flood the screen with LOAFs or something. Trying to figure out what it 'stands for' became a runner for the Wing Commander community for a decade.)

- Bearcat started #Wing-Commander, the Wing Commander IRC channel on the usenet and he invited me (from the message boards) and Eagle-1 (from the usenet) to run it with him. In 1995-6, IRC was a drug--there was always someone to talk about Wing commander or life or anything, Origin team members would drop in and be completely open about things... people were always fighting about something. It was AMAZING. Things fell apart over the years, but it was a huge part of my growing up. I wonder what became of Bearcat...

Wait, I forget where I was going with this.
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
So... this is a meme now?

Interesting story though, I had no idea you could actually talk to people about stuff on the Internet as early as 93... must have been pretty exciting to be a WC fan back then. :)
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
LOAF - thanks for the story, an interesting insight into the pioneering days of online fanclubs, I didn't get online until 1996, but then...

The Wing Commander Aces Club was one of those college-restricted sites and it was almost never up

This was my first experience of talking about Wing Commander online, I can remember sending an email to a mod at the Aces Club whose handle was 'Raptor' - I asked him if the fans had any info about the possibility we'd see Privateer online....he replied within the hour, I forget his real name, without adding a xenophobic slur to this post I think his name sounded like it may have originated from S.E. Asia, (this inclusion of this is irrelevant but I thought perhaps others may remember the moderator I'm thinking of) he was a really nice guy, wrote back and set my newb ass straight that this wasn't possible :D

I was "Leviathan" I still use that handle when I'm playing now.
 

Iceblade

Admiral
I forget his real name, without adding a xenophobic slur to this post I think his name sounded like it may have originated from S.E. Asia, (this inclusion of this is irrelevant but I thought perhaps others may remember the moderator I'm thinking of) he was a really nice guy, wrote back and set my newb ass straight that this wasn't possible :D

Rajan Ragupathy

(assuming this is the same Raptor who is working on Holding the Line)
 

Bob McDob

Better Health Through Less Flavor
Rajan Ragupathy

(assuming this is the same Raptor who is working on Holding the Line)

Yeah, he's Maori.

I haven't heard from him in ages. He used to be quite the regular here - he hasn't posted or to my knowledge checked in since 2007, but he became scarce years before that.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
He's on Facebook, if you want to drop him a note. I've been trying to reach out to some of the folks who were kind to me online back when I was a kid recently and it has been a good experience. Still lots of folks lost to the years, though...
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
I thought it was a great callsign but it didn't have much personality for an online community... so I added some form of (LOAF) after the name, usually as part of some sort of terrible joke (like 'Bandit (LOAFs You Very Much) or somesuch, each one was different).

(LOAF itself is LOAD spelled wrong from a high school BASIC programming class I was in. I kept making that typo and it somehow mutated into a bunch of simple gag programs where the computer would ask you LOAF? and depending on how you answered it'd display the word in flashing colors or flood the screen with LOAFs or something. Trying to figure out what it 'stands for' became a runner for the Wing Commander community for a decade.)

Don't believe this! LOAF's just trying to throw you off the trail. My money's on Lord of all Fighters...
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
- Bearcat started #Wing-Commander, the Wing Commander IRC channel on the usenet and he invited me (from the message boards) and Eagle-1 (from the usenet) to run it with him. In 1995-6, IRC was a drug--there was always someone to talk about Wing commander or life or anything, Origin team members would drop in and be completely open about things... people were always fighting about something. It was AMAZING. Things fell apart over the years, but it was a huge part of my growing up. I wonder what became of Bearcat...

It was a drug! I used to remember running home to log onto #w-c with my 28.8 modem and talking to everybody (what did ever become of Bearcat?) for hours and hours.

It was a great place. So many good times. I still remember Boomer and other OSI guys dropping in to give us some details about the next WC. I can still recall the rumors flying about WC4 (There will be *2* player carriers to choose from???? WOW!...Yeah I saw you can choose who to fight for for the whole game!!) and will never forget the year KS came out. Everyone's nick in the channel ended with -KS for probably 2 months as people played the games again.

And man did we fight (in the good way) about WC. There was always 20-30 people in the channel (picture the CIC bday parties x 3 filled with people half our age...it was awesome).

It's one of the reasons I'm still on IRC whenever I'm in front of my machine. IRC, more so than usenet, is what brought me into the WC community. The Terran Confederation Underground (I used to have the entire site printed out...my dad was PISSED when I did it...quite a few pages and tons of images!) was my first WC site and like LOAF said it was truly one of the great's from the early internet days.

If there hadn't been a WC I probably would be even more of a Bungie-geek than I am now. I love the Marathon trilogy (just look at my own custom version "Durandal's" name....Dundradal) and probably would have gotten more into the Halo community than I am now.
 
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