Quest for the Holy Grail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

Well, I headed down to the local comics store today in search of information on Wing Commander stuff. I picked up the January issue of Previews, and you can check out the little articles on the movie toys below. The owner of the store said he had been planning to order a case of Wing Commander figures anyway, but would order more & the vehicles if I wanted to reserve them. Naturally I did, and they'll call when they're in. I'm on the edge of my seat... oh, the magazine had a little tiny picture of the figures (the picture we've already seen, except tiny), and a little tiny diagram of the Rapier. It's pretty messy, but I scanned it so you can see that the Rapier does indeed have wings...

Wing Commander Action Figures
First came the mega-popular computer and video game series. Next up in 1999 is Wing Commander the movie! And these all-new 4" tall action figures bring the characters from the sci-fi epic to 3D life! this series may include: Blair in Flight Suit, Marine Blair, Maniac Marshall, Devereaux, Commodore Taggart, Pilgrim Traitor, Kilrathi General, and Kilrathi Pilot. Each figure comes with accessories and weaponry. Blister card packaging. (10010) (CAUT:4) Note: This item is sold to retailers in case lots- please check with your retailer for availability. This item may be available in other outlets before comic stores.

Wing Commander Spaceships
Blast into intergalactic battle with these miniature starfighters, based on the upcoming Wing Commander movie! This wave may include: rapier Fighter or Dralthi Fighter. Boxed. (10110) (CAUT:4) Note: This item is sold to retailers in case lots - please check with your retailer for availability. This item may be available in other outlets before comic stores.

Attractive Models Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

While at the comic book store I chanced to come across a British Magazine, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, which features a huge interview with the people who created the Kilrathi for the Wing Commander Movie! I've omitted a bunch of it (that had nothing to do with WC), but check out this large article below... with some great pictures too! Be warned, contains uber spoilers...

Creating Prosthetics/Animatronics/Makeup FX for Wing Commander - The Movie

An interview with Nick Williams and Pauline Fowler of Animated Extras.

Animated Extras is renowned for being one of the U.K's premier Prosthetics/Makeup FX Houses, with each project taking the facility from strength to strength. One of their most recent projects has been the creating of an alien race, the Kilrathi, for the film adaptation of the popular CD-ROM game Wing Commander. I visited Shepperton Studios recently to speak to Nick Williams and Pauline Fowler about their involvement on Wing Commander, which was recently filmed in Luxembourg, and about other projects they have worked on over the previous year.

SF&F: How did Animated Extras become involved with the Wing Commander production?
Nik: We started off by meeting the director, Chris and the producer, Todd Mayer, in a hotel in London. They asked us to become involved in the production. We then met up with Chris and Peter Lamong (of Titanic fame), who was the head of the art dept.

SF&F: Animated Extras' main contribution to the film was the construction of the cat-like alien race, the Kilrathi. Were you also involved with the design of these creatures?
Nik: Yes, we were. Chris had worked on the motion sequences on one of the Wing Commander games, where they had had feline-like Kilrathi. However, this time Chris wanted something that had never been seen before, and asked us not to look at the CD-ROM game for reference. Dave masters produced several designs and then it went quiet! We assumed by this that we didn't have the project, then around Christmas it came up again. Our original designs for the Kilrathi utilized a combination of African and Japanese samurai warrior influences. Chris, however, wanted them to be more feline, but still wanted to keep the samurai aspect.

SF&F: How did you go about creating the Kilrathi?
Nik: Firstly, one/third scale maquettes of various designs were sculpted by Pauline and Julian Murray. We only had six weeks to build eight full size Kilrathi. Two of them had a huge amount of facial expression; another two were "backgrounds" that had slight mouth movements while the remainders were just static faces but were still full suites. Our sculpting department split the work up, with someone working on the head, someone on the hands, etc. When this was done, we put it together on a full zied person. One of the people who worked on it - Mark - ended up as one of the Kilrathi. It looked a bit like him as well! (Laughs) This was great as we could try things out. For example, we could see if you could run around in the costume, and it also meant that we could see if anything needed altering. There were quite a few discussion about the Kilrathi teeth, as to whether they should be lion-like or several rows of sharp teeth. In the end, Chris decided that they should be a mix, which was great, as we didn't want them to look too wild. We were aiming for a mean appearance but they still had to look intelligent and capable of conversation! The Kilrathi are dressed in armor, and the trouble with this in the time was that once the design was okayed, there was no chance to go back and alter things. It was very much a case of choosing upon a design and deciding upon the rout that we were going to take in constructing it. We thought that we would alter the proportions of the Kilrathi legs and that we would give them a third joint and an exo-skeletal appearance. Our plan was that the third joins would flex and disguise where the knees of the operator were located.

SF&F: Were the suits individually tailored for the operators?
Nik: To a point. We didn't know who we were going to get in Luxembourg, so they had to be fairly standardized. Chunks of the belly were soft so you could get flexibility out of them. The suit was primarily based on a backpack, from which the legs were suspended. The legs actually had mechanical joints on the knees and the ankles so they moved where we wanted them to, as opposed to where humans move. You have the problem of when a human operator is in a costume the legs twist slightly inside, so the joins had to be more flexible than we originally made them.: Another problem was that Chris had originally wanted to make them eight feet tall, but Peter Lamont wanted them smaller due to the size constructions on set. But Chris was very keen on this idea of the Kilrathi towering over people, so we ended up with them standing on eight-inch stacks, but their feet are at an angle. This gives the impression of a second joint in the position of the operator's heel. The only problem with this is that it is much more difficult ot balance yourself. In the end, we had to redesign the shoes around five times to get things to work properly. We started about working through Chris, but we did a lot of initial design with Peter. We e-mailed the designs off to Chris, but I think there is a big difference between a drawing and seeing the design in the flesh, so it was great when he came over after Christmas.

SF&F: What materials did you utilize in the construction?
Nik: They were constructed mostly out of glass fiber on the armor areas, with metal fabric lined with polyurethane foam for the flexible areas. The glass fiber areas were given a burnished bronze finish. The finished effect is a kind of bronze armor with a flexible chain mail underneath. For the face and the hand gloves we used foam latex. We looked into using silicone, but the trouble with silicones is that they are heavy. The head on the Kilrathi was mounted so the actor saw through the throat, and if we had made it out of silicone, it would have lolled around, so we wanted to keep the weight down.

SF&F: Did any problems occur in the construction stage?
Nik: The temptation when you do freehand designs is that they look great, but trying to make them work can sometimes be a practical impossibility. We try to base them over a figure, because then you are guaranteed proportions between the shoulders, the length of the arms, etc. Basically, everything is how it should be. Not that it gets rid of all of the problems, but it enables you tog et closer to what the designer has envisioned. Even when we were out in Luxembourg, we were still changing things. The Admiral, the Captain and the Office Kilrathi animatronic heads had to be distinctly different from the others, as they would not be wearing helmets like the others. They also had high collars. Another thing we added was retractable claws to the gloves for the fighting sequences. Other things that hadn't been discussed in the U.K were the fact that they wanted to shoot the Kilrathi in the head, the chest and even wanted to blow some of them up. So there was a lot of stuff we had to work out while we were there. In the climax of the film, the Kilrathi ship's bridge is blown up. The Floor FX team sent a fireball from the bridge down a corridor on the ship. In this scene you see several Kilrathi, who are running towards the bridge, getting blown apart. So, the stunt personnel were wearing the costumes, which presented another problem, as the glass fiber bodysuits would not have been soft to land on! So, we had to chop bits of the suits away so that they could wear them and land safely. Some of the Kilrathi stunts had to be rigged with bullet hits. As with a lot of things in the film industry they didn't shoot the Kilrathi looking brilliant at the beginning and being blown apart at the end of the shoot - it was done when they could schedule it in on set. Inevitably, the firs suits we made were virtually destroyed by the third day, and we had another four weeks to go, so we were frantically repairing them. There weren't really any other surprises, but it was a challenge working things out in Luxembourg.

SF&F: Did you have to build any special suits or panels specifically for pyrotechnicians to utilise, which would produce the desired effect - say - in a shoot-out?
Nik: We took the moulds with us to Luxembourg, so we could produce pieces that we could cut-pre-arranged holes in, which would then be rigged with pyros, blood bags and bits of guts. Green blood, of course! Finally, they would be covered with a thin layer of plaster and painted to blend in with the rest of the armor.

SF&F: Were there many re-takes with the pyrotechnics?
Nik: No, it went pretty well. There would have been no chance for a re-take with the fireball sequence, as it destroyed the set! (Laughs)

SF&F: Oh!
Nik: It was intentional. (Laughs)

SF&F: How did you go about the process of designing and dressing an animatronic head?
Nik: They all utilized the same basic head, so we would change the visual appearance by changing the foam or changing the paintwork. With regards to the mechanics, one problem was that we didn't even have a skullcap to fit the actors inside the suits, because we didn't know who they were going to be. So we had to make a universal skull cap, which means it takes up more space in the head. Once it was made, we knew how much space we had left inside, which was then jam-filled with servos to operate the fake eyes. With the Kilrathi eyes, I didn't want a boring blind; I wanted them to have nictating membranes. Personally, I think it looks meaner than a normal blink. Another thing we tried to do was not make them look to human when they spoke. We wanted them to sound as if they could never speak human words, emphasizing the point that they were from another race, and keeping it more feline, like a lion roaring, rather than a human speaking words.

SF&F: Did you spend hours punching hairs into the heads?
Nik: They all had goatee beards except the Admiral, who had a few extra odd white hairs people can get when they're old. Chris wanted them to be quite sleek, so they're completely smooth skinned as if they had evolved and stood up on two legs, and in the process of evolution they've lost their facial hair.

SF&F: Something like that must be a tremendous challenge for you. {Referring to The Alchemist}
Nik: To be honest, things like the Kilrathi are much more so. There is so much of it, part costume, part animatronics, part rigid, etc.

Caption: The spread: The animatronic heads and body suits created by Animated Extras for the Kilrathi, a feline like alien race featured in Wing Commander.

A Hard Act to Follow Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

SXGlory sent me extracts from the last (December) issue of Previews. They're about the WC Movie novelization and the Confederation Handbook... the coolest thing has to be the fact that there's going to be a hard cover version of Peter Telep's first WC novel! I never thought I'd live to see the day... check out the description below, but be warned, they contain spoilers!
Wing Commander Confederation Handbook by Chris McCubbin

The official authorized Confederation Handbook adds stunning background and authentic detail to the most powerful and popular CD-ROM game series. Illustrated with drawings, diagrams, and full-color photographs, this book gives you the ultimate insider's understanding of the technical expertise, military precision, and awesome courage demanded of the thin red line of heroes that stands between Earth and annihilation. $17.00

Wing Commander Novelization by Peter Telep

Look for the movie in theaters March 1999! Chris Blair is a young cadet fresh from the Academy. His first ship has an awesome mission: Recover the NAVCOM device from the savage, egomaniacal alien Kilrathi before the NAVCOM leads the Kilrathi to Earth. But somewhere among Blair's fighting wing - Earth's last hope - a traitor lurks. HC: $24.00 SC: $5.99

CGW Exudes Wing Commander in February Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

After my long hard mission to reserve Wing Commander Movie action figures and buy a copy of Das Boot DVD I returned to my secret lair to find the February Computer Gaming World in my mail box. This month had an article with reviews of three 'minor' space sims: the Descent Freespace addon, Hardwar and Prophecy Gold. Our boy outranked both of the others, scoring 4 stars (out of 5)... although the article (see below) kept calling Secret Ops 'Strike Ops' or something... CGW also had an interview with JMS (B5 creator), who said he played 'all' of the WC games.

Wing Commander: Prophecy Gold Edition

Publisher: Origin
Price: $39.99

For all of its visual grandeur, Wing Commander Prophecy followed the same well-worn path as its ancestors. The enemies were different, but little else changed. Missions remained simple affairs, the movie interludes provided most of the interest. Wing Commander Prophecy Gold Edition (WC:P) is more of the same.

The package includes the original Prophecy and an additional CD containing the Secret Ops missions (available free on the Internet for a time in 1998)/ The documentation includes the background fiction that was on the Secret Ops Web site.

WC:P Gold is still a solid blast-fest with gorgeous graphics, especially on PCs equipped with 3D cards. The missions are the only downside. You fly the assigned waypoints and kill all the bad guys at each, then rinse and repeat. The Strike Ops missions take this to unimaginative extremes. They are stuffed to overflowing with multiple waves of enemies, turning an amusing game into a monotonous shooting gallery.

There is some added value in the Secret Ops package. Instead of sandwiching in video, the package uses the game's graphic engine to provide new storyline vignettes. Your ships are fitted with new, rapid-firing weapons - you'll need them in the packed arenas in Strike Ops. Earlier Wing Commander spaceships make encores, but you can't piloted them.

Strike Ops adds little that Prophecy didn't already beat into the ground. I'd recommend WC:P Gold if you missed the original release, but Prophecy owners won't find much added value.

More Wise Words from Boomer Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

Boomer posted a bit more stuff over at the 'zone about massively multiplayer games.... check it out. (Hopefully Boomer won't mind... it's very interesting information, after all!)
Online worlds just cannot provide unique storylines and single player quests like standalone games can.

I don't agree with that. Sure, the story is much more open ended but to me that's a *strength*, not a weakness. Personally single user games do not hold my interest because I'm always trying to second guess the *designer* (what was he thinking, what does *he* want me to be doing here). OTOH, I create my own plot in a MMPOG. Take UO.. some want to be the biggest/baddest muther on the block. I content myself with being the 'Kings groundskeeper'.. a poor ranger that's imminently knowledgeable about the woods. My 'conditions for success' are completely different than any other player in the game. And *I* determined those conditions. Play any single user game and you're forced down a particular path (to win).

Why cant Privateer 3 be designed as a proper sequel?

Assuming there *IS* to be a Privateer 3 (and I'm not suggesting there is), I suspect the answer to your question would be one of time & resources.

Again, it's purely a personal decision and while I'd hope that you wouldn't make that decision, remember there are probably lot's of others that would play such a game that would never purchase a single user version. But unfortunately you're right: you win some/lose some.

Again, I'm not alluding to ANY Privateer product, whether single user or Online. I just saw some concerns & false assumptions about MMPOG's and having lots of experience with the genre thought I'd share that experience. Besides, that decision is clearly not in my hands ;)

Please understand I wasn't downplaying 'fantasy D&D'. Just that IMHO online roleplaying is distinctly different. For example, in 'Fantasy D&D' there are specific rules (of character generation, results, etc). In online roleplaying *you* decide how you play your character (with the design of course). Will a squadron be 'strict' and 'official' (3rd Marines brigade, 135th Fighter Squadron) ? Or informal and 'playful' (The Flying Pigs). Will they meet religiously every Wed nite at 9PM EST? Or just show up. Will someone play an honorable character? Or a untrustworthy pirate? It's their choice (and not that of the dungeon master ;)

Open ended games add a different degree of a story but I have never seen one which has had as good a story as a single player game.

I understand your observation. As I mentioned, a single user game *has* to have its plot/story 'expertly' laid out (and finished, with opening, mid & end game completely programmed). It's the talent of the designer in doing this that makes a game compelling (from a plot/story point of view). And as you point out, the environment in a MMPOG is made by the players (And that's why not all single user games are good candidates as a MMPOG). But that doesn't mean there can't be a compelling 'backstory' with gameplay designed around that. I'm purely 'fantasizing' as a 'designer' here, but what if you could pop into a 'WC/Privateer universe', choose to be either the confed or a civvie. If you were confed, you would have access to specific fighters, etc. call a specific cap ship 'home', be a part of a squadron (not get paid much but have security in numbers, etc.). If you were a Civvie you would have to build your ship, avoid Kilrathi/bugs/pirates (but make lots of money if you succeeded, thereby enabling you to upgrade your ship). Or pay for escort by the military (or maybe there's civvie 'police' squadrons that serve as bodyguards... for a price of course ;)

I wasn't downplaying 'dating services'. They clearly have their place. Just pointing out that you cannot compare the richness or depth possible in a MMPOG with multiplayer games designed for a 'dating service' (or more specifically the 'technical' aspect of why such games are limited to 4 or so players). Ever wonder why most multiplayer (vs MMPOG) games are designed primarily as 'deathmatches'? IMHO a Privateer multiplayer game (ala 'dating service') would be nothing more than an incessant dogfight ala XWvT. BOOooring....

But I'll say it again: I am (personally) definitely biased *toward* MMOG's in general. I think they provide the potential for a gaming universe/environment far far richer and more immersive, much more 'human' than any single user game. That is, *IF* designed and delivered properly (e.g. I can also give examples of poorly designed/executed MMPOG's).

Sure, but whatever evolution, riches, fame, skill you achieved during a Diablo multiplayer game (whatever your class) is lost as soon as you leave the game. What's the fun in that? It's a very 'temporary' success.

Regarding the recent poll and 'what 80% the majority wants': At the risk of being blunt, unfortunately the 'poll' recently offered is *not* good market research. Not just because only few voted (if done correctly even 300 could serve as a 'statistically relevant' sample). But such web based polls are inherently biased (or more correctly, cannot be proven unbiased). They're not blind, there are no controls (can you prove/state unequivocally only 'objective' people voted?). So I'm sorry, but my (personal) reaction is all it tells me is that 80% of whoever (?) voted is 'for' a single user game. Other than that the methodology just doesn't scientifically support the assertion that 'the majority of the potential market for a privateer type game wants a single user game'.

But I can pretty much guarantee you this: If it does come to light the potential for success of a single user game exceeds that of a MMPOG (knowing the MMPOG business) I doubt any sane businessman would make the decision to go down the less successful path ;)

Finally, I'm really not trying to 'spin', mislead/misinform anyone. What was it I said that make you think "some of the things you said I think are far from accurate".

p.s. sorry if this post is 'chopped up', out of order. It's hard to 'view' the format and I'm just trying not to let the dialogue degrade into massive 'tomes' and cutting/snipping to keep topics 'new & fresh' ;) [LOAF: Uhm, same, I've been cutting out Boomer's comments and a few important questions, but a lot of what he's responding to isn't here... so it'll seem disjointed...]

While you can do these such things, they still don't create as good an atmosphere or story that a single player game produces.

Oh I dunno.. I've been involved in some large scale scenarios recreating specific historical events that made you feel like 'You Are There'. Of course a fictional environment is a bit different. Then it's only limited to your imagination ;)

There are infinite possibilities.


Couple 'good design' points bear mentioning:

1. limit the visible players to the closest 32 (they're the only ones that present a 'threat' anyway). That way you aren't subject to *everyone's* connect.
2. In my experience, only the players with a poor connect appear 'laggy'. e.g. if one person has a poor connect they don't affect the other players. Point being, you don't send/receive *everyone's* data in one big packet since if one person is lagging that packet is detained creating lag for everyone. You individually 'ID' each of the closest 32 players and send an individual packet for each player (this happens many many times a second for each player). If the smoothing code is well designed, you can have "large" ping times (since you don't need to positional updates in real time). For example, the last company I worked allowed for almost 2000 ms lag (that's 2 seconds). Further, regarding (predictive smoothing) distances between players matter. The closer the distance, the less 'forgiving' predictive smoothing is (that's why you don't see successful MMPOG auto racing games ;). Distances of a 'real life' hundred yards can be very forgiving.

So no, individuals shouldn't have to 'wait' for an update, even from other individuals (since *your* computer is 'predicting' where that laggy player is/was heading). Those players with good connects will be updated regularly (thereby providing a smooth appearance) while those with less optimal connects will 'lag' (generally from dropped packets) and only they will appear to 'warp'. Most often, other players will inform the 'warpy' player of the situation and ask the player to 'relog' (hoping they will achieve a better route next time they connect).

2 dimensions (land), 3 dimensions (air/space), what's the difference? Only one additional geometric plane to contend with (X, Y & Z), right? It's all Linear Algebra (matrix, integer math) anyway. It's really just as fast.

And positional (attitude, heading, velocity, etc.) have nothing to do with the *online* performance (ping time). The graphics (e.g. the # of poly's, shades, textures, etc.) are being processed locally (on the client, or YOUR computer). Thus, the performance of the 'client' computer determines *frame rate* (just like a single user game). In any good online design frame rate should NOT be tied to the communications code. However, I've noticed some developers have limited frame rate to that of the fastest host computer (in a peer to peer games). This is, IMHO unfair (and bad design ;). Bottom line is, graphics are NOT sent over the net (and thus, should have nothing to do with the quality of your connect, ping times, etc)

Not sure I understand your question (so allow me to offer 2 answers). MMPOG's require a different overall design approach than single user games. For example, a single user game has the plot/story/path/ending all defined and 'hard coded' even before you start the game (you must go down a certain path to 'win'). Online games are best when left 'open ended' (players decide how to play the game). So 'good gameplay' is not a function of ping time. If you're asking whether you can have awesome graphics, a good game play design, and still remain enjoyable for 100's of simultaneous players I can give you an unqualified 'Yes!'. That is, assuming a) the predictive smoothing code is well designed (e.g. 'ping tolerant'), players positional info is sent independently, the burden of displaying the graphics is local (a no brainer.. no developer worth his salt would try to feed graphical info/files over the Internet for a real time game).

Can it be done 'good for everyone'? TBH, no. There will always be those that simply don't understand what they're purchasing from their ISP, have no idea/desire to optimize their computer/connect, etc. For those it will always be 'this sucks'.

But Online gaming has come a LONG way from when I first started. You wouldn't believe the hoops I had to jump thru, the (literal) price I had to pay, to get 'hooked up' 10 years ago (You almost had to be a TCP/IP network engineer to even get into the arena ;). So for the majority, I'll still say yes...

Like what? Names of companies/games that offer real time MMPOG flight sims? Off the top of my head:

Kesmai Airwarrior (WW2, $9.95/mo), Microsoft Fighter Aces (WW2, $9.95/mo), Imagiconline WarBirds (WW2, $2/hr), Sierra Red Baron 2 (WWI, free last I heard), Novalogic 'Novaworld' (jets, free). Not sure about how well the last two are 'technically' (never flown either online)

Or try Planetary Raiders (a ummm... not so well designed/implemented MMPOG 'ripoff' of Privateer. On the plus side, I think it's still free. Not much fun but it'll certainly demo the current state of the TCP/IP communications technology.)

(do a search on the above for specific URL's)

Hope that helped.

SO Magazine CDs Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

Oh, and Boomer posted this about Secret Ops being released on magazine over at agwc. Its worth nothing that Boomer isn't saying that there's going to be a Privateer Online, but rather defending the idea of massive online games from recent attacks -- as I understand it Boomer has had a lot of experience with such games in the past.

The 'problem' is, how could you look a magazine editor in the face and say 'you can't do that' when they could turn around and point to many online sites making SO available. Doing so would be shooting ourselves in the foot (e.g. risking the relationships with magazines).

And it seems regarding SO, if we were to shut one online site down from offering it another would pop up somewhere else.

That's HOTT!? Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

Wow, that was a lot of updates... here's ONE more. Karl Frank was kind enough to scan me a pretty high res copy of the German WC3 Novel cover... check it out below.

The Results Are In Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Update ID

Jumpstart has closed his Privateer poll over at the Killer Bees site and the results are in..
What type of Privateer do you prefer?

A Privateer Online type game *ONLY* (as described by Origin) (46) 17%

A Single Player Privateer type game *ONLY* (with regards to the single player aspects only as described in the CGS article) (93) 34%

A mix of the two type, however, some sacrafises on each will be made.(a combo between Origin's PO plans and Priv. as described in the CGS article) (133) 48%

I simply don't care for Privateer at all. (5) 2%

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