Welcome, WingNuts to the Wing Commander Combat Information Center's 8th Anniversary Party!
This year, we're celebrating more than just our success and the amazing quality of our community: 2006 also marks the tenth anniversary of one of the greatest games of all time, Privateer 2: The Darkening. With that in mind, we've decided to focus many of this years efforts on that often overlooked title. Read below to see the many updates we have ready for you - including a giant collection of videos, some behind the screens material, an all new Darkening ships database and a tech support section that will help everyone keep playing Wing Commander forever.
In honor of this event we have asked Erin Roberts, the man in charge of Privateer 2 and the brother of series creator Chris Roberts', to say a few words about the game and his work. Here's Erin:
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that WC News was having a 10th anniversary celebration for Privateer2. Unlike all the other Origin titles I had worked on before (Wing Commander, Strike Commander and Privateer) this project was the first real project that I produced and directed from start to finish. Before P2, I worked with my brother on WC and SC as a designer / Associate Producer, and although I took over the role of Producer on the original Privateer in it's last year, my job was more to polish and get it into a box then really creatively design.
As August 10 got nearer and nearer, rumors have swirled about the status of HCl's Prophecy Multiplayer Patch. Does it really exist? Will it be released on the Birthday? Did HCl die? In fact, he did not, and here he is with a special birthday gift for you!
So anyway as a filler I thought I'd give you a brief history of what was going on during that time. (If it gets a little boring feel free to stop reading)
It was only a couple of months after Privateer shipped that I transferred to work in the UK with Electronic Arts who had acquired Origin a few months before, and here, with a few of the guys who Chris and I used to develop with in the UK, the idea for Privateer 2 was hatched. To be clear, when we first started working on the game it was only known as the "Darkening", not Privateer 2, that was to come later. We wanted to create a game which expanded on the premise of Privateer, allowing players to travel where they wanted, garner wealth and build up and buy bigger and better ships. We also wanted to give the player a much larger selection of missions, as well as a Wing Commander style driven story, driving the player through the game.
At the beginning we had no real plans to go with FMV, but that all changed with the success of Wing Commander 3, and with a studio wide re-org at EA. Development in the UK came under the same umbrella as Origin. Robert Garriott (Origin's CEO) was put in charge, and we were given the resources to film our FMV sequences ($4 Million budget). Due to the increase in our development costs, it was decided (by people outside the development team and to be fair many at Origin also) that the Darkening had to be tied into the Wing Commander Universe. Although I did not especially agree with this decision, I could see why with the increased expense, senior management / marketing wanted to alleviate some of their risk through branding the title in the WC / Privateer Universe. Although P2 was not set in WC space, we created a number of tie ins through missions and rumours to connect the two universes, to allow the new branding to take place.
All the film sequences were shot in Pinewood Studios next to the now burnt down 007 Stage. And as we hit that magical time, when actors were interested in this new interactive digital medium, we were very lucky to solicit the help of some of my favourite actors, balancing the main cast between the US, Europe and the UK. The shoot took 7 weeks, and involved a crew of well over 100 and if I remember at least 30 actors and over 50 extras... It was probably the most stressful 7 weeks of my life, mistakes are very costly when you are going through $100,000 a day, but I must say also probably one of the best experiences also. The crew were great and the actors, especially Clive Owen and John Hurt were really nice guys.
The game was developed 200 miles north of Pinewood Studios near the city of Manchester, in a little suburb called Poynton. The main team was made up of myself, three programmers and seven artists, who also towards the end of the project took on the responsibility of designing many of the text based missions. To be fair it was a big learning experience for all of us, and I think it would be fair to say that we had our fair share of issues / personality conflicts to deal with during this time. In fact once the project finished, there was a complete melt down at the office, which led to many people (including myself) going our different ways... I went back to Austin to join my brother in forming Digital Anvil, along with a number of the guys from Poynton, some guys stayed at EA and moved down south, and another group created a new team and formed a company called 'Warthog", which you will recognise as the developers who I worked with on 'Starlancer'.
On the whole, I think Privateer 2 was a sort of coming of age for me. It was the first real time I was solely responsible from ground up for such a large project and budget, and not only was I trying to direct and design and help push the game to where it needed to be, but I had to manage people and attempt to get the best out of them. (A task which I failed at on more then one occasion). Some times it felt like a fight to get us to where we needed to be, (and sometimes it was) but in the end I think everyone who worked on the project looks back with a lot of pride in what we achieved, especially given the challenges we faced, not least in our own naivety, as many of us learned on the job.
On behalf of everyone who's worked on the WC universe, thanks for your support, it's great that there is still a community out there supporting WC which we've spent many a happy hour helping to build, and forms personally the best memories of my working life.
Finally, an update! What have I been up to lately? Well, unfortunately Real-Life responsibilities have succeeded in keeping me very busy, so I haven't been able to divert much time to my usual WC activities. This means that the Multiplayer Patch hasn't seen that
much progress for the past few months, and it still doesn't have the functionality I intended for a first release. However, in celebration of the 8th CIC Birthday, I decided to put together a package that will allow everyone to take the MP patch for a spin and try it out by hosting your own games and battlng it out in the WCP engine.
Download the test release of the Wing Commander Prophecy Enhancement Pack here! Unzip it to your Prophecy directory, but note that it will overwrite your Prophecy.exe unless you back it up first. The pack is actually more than just a multiplayer patch. It incorporates the video skip fix, new high resolution upgrade and multiplayer patch all together. Install.exe configures the high res patch, and Multiplayer.exe launches the online component. One person runs the game as the server, and everyone else connects to his IP address in client mode. Be sure port 5555 is forwarding through your router/firewall, and stop by #Wingnut to meet up with other players. Have fun!
The Origin Museum has kindly sent us a copy of a DVD containing many of the cinematics from Privateer 2 : The Darkening, and we are happy to be able to make them available to you! The original source for the DVD is a VHS tape which was donated to the museum so while the quality isn't DVD quality, it is still higher quality than the video used in the game. Sadly there were a few scenes missing from the tape, most notably the intro and the first Joe the Bartender scene but the rest is well worth a look. You can find the videos in the Privateer 2 part of the Holovids Cinematics section.
It must be stressed, however, that this is experimental code, probably around beta quality. There is still much improvement to be made, such as making the code lag-tolerant and making a decent communication protocol, since most of the work done so far was determining what does what on the game EXE and studying how to best modify existing code to implement multiplayer functionality. This being said, have fun and try to be tolerant of any problems you encounter. ;-)
Update: a large zip file with all 24 movies is also available here. (730 MB)
It's time to face the music: our old Privateer 2 Ships Database was kind of plain. It was missing a vast array of ships, it lacked many screenshots and the specifications themselves had more holes in them than a Jincilla Skull. Worst of all, some of the pirate cruisers were just pictures of cats! With that in mind, we are proud to present Ships 2 - Privateer 2, a complete overhaul of our Privateer 2 ships section!
This update adds full specifications, text descriptions, more than twenty five megabytes of pictures (check the link below every graphic for a higher resolution image of each ship) and, shockingly, more than 30 missing ships! While spending many hours in the Tri-System for this project, I came across ships I'd never even heard of before -- ever seen a Kiowan Cruiser? A Previa shuttlecraft? How about a SpaceLab - Type 2? Now you can!
You can access the new material by faction: pirates, CIS/military and civilian (and also weapons).
And, of course, the crown prince of Wing Commander fan projects, Standoff, has something for us! Check out this amazing wallpaper:
But wait, there's more! Their news site has been updated with some exciting information:
the losing path missions for episode 4 are approximately halfway done. It's just that by now, we should be nearing the end of the episode, and that doesn't seem to be the case . Rest assured, however, that we are still here, and we still very much hope to have Episode 4 completed this year.
Finally, I've added one new screenshot. Every once in a while, people ask us whether there will be more missions with ship choices in Episodes 4 and 5. This screenshot, we hope, answers that question once and for all - yes, there will be more such missions, and it won't be just your standard fighter vs. bomber choices, either. In a few missions, you will get to choose from no less than three ships - the Rapier, Sabre, and the Crossbow.
Enjoy reading current comments from Erin Roberts and Paul Hughes? Then maybe you'd like to see some from ten years ago. We've collected a pair of Privateer 2 interviews that happened way back in 1996. The first is an interview with Erin Roberts that was conducted by this site's predecessor, WCHS, before the game was released. You can find that here -- one of my first Wing Commander news jobs was writing questions for the interviewer!
The second is a chat log of Origin's official Privateer 2 release chat. This session was held in 1997 shortly after the release of the game, and featured Paul Hughes answering questions. Because of problems with Ultima Online fans coupled with a freak ice storm in Austin, the chat was very short... but there's enough of my fifteen year old self asking questions to make me think twice about linking it! Read it here.
Every year we hear from people who had to miss the party due to professional obligations but still would love to participate... well, here's your chance. If you missed the birthday, answer these five trivia questions correctly -- one lucky winner will receive a coveted Wing Commander IV DVD! Good luck:
Q1: How do you return to the WC3 installation program after the game is installed?
Tough as nails? Well, yes -- but the answers are all in our new sections, so get exploring! The first person to e-mail us the answers after noon EST tomorrow wins the prize. E-mail your responses here.
Q2: What type of generators allow the Flux Beam gun to cause major damage?
Q3: During the making of Wing Commander Prophecy, what other movie's lost scenes did Mark Hamill talk about?
Q4: What company designed the Freij and Frej MK II?
Q5: After his accident, Lev Arris received a letter from Hermes Off-Planet Control. Americans know the author as Ian Esperanto... who wrote the letter in England?
We have a tradition at these events, when it comes to polls -- we'd like to know how long you've been visiting the CIC. Were you a loyal WCHS reader in the mid-90s? Were you around for our grand opening bash? Just how many of these birthdays have you seen?
As for our last poll, it looks like the majority of you would have joined the Mercenaries' Guild, given the option... and Admiral Tolwyn's Strategic Readiness Agency was a close second. Those are the two roles that were most closely tied with the games themselves -- with those options, it's no surprise that only a precious few selected the Church of Man. Hey, what were you Retros using to vote with, anyway?
We sincerely hope you have all enjoyed the evening, the features, the prizes and the company. The birthday is our favorite time of year, and we're looking forward to number nine.
As always, this event may have been marking the website's birthday, but it really exists to celebrate you. Wing Commander fans have come together to build an amazing community. Fan projects like Standoff, Saga and Fleet Commander amaze not only WingNuts but the rest of the world as well. You are a dedicated, intelligent and interesting group of people who deserve more than the small honor this site can bestow upon you in an evening. Pat yourselves on the back one more time, you've done the series proud again.
A special thanks to Erin Roberts and Paul Hughes for helping out with the Privateer 2 aspect of our celebration. Their game really was a spectacular achievement, and if you haven't played it yet then start hunting for a copy! That same thanks goes out to Joe Garrity and Mario "HCl" Brito, who both went through extraordinary efforts to make sure this really was a happy birthday!