Chris Knudsen has made progress with Privateer Ascii Sector, and he's released a new video to show everything off in motion. The 6 meg wmv file reveals the game's new artificial intelligence with an intense dogfight between the player, a bounty hunter and a Kilrathi. What looks like a blob of yellow and red asterisks is actually a triumphant explosion. It might be hard to make sense of the symbols in the screenshots, but the neat ship icons take on a life of their own in the new clip. The third screenshot shows the player evading a Kamekh while piloting a large merchant ship. Chris describes this scene in further detail below.
The ship I'm flying is a Pegasus -- one of the 'capital' ships available to the player for a steep price. I'm running away from a Kamekh while firing the rear turret at it (equipped with two mass drivers and a particle cannon). As you can see, the lower left MFD displays the rear turret's status (all guns are green and thus not damaged), just as it would show the front guns and missile launchers when in the cockpit. The colored '+' around each ship shows which way the ship is pointing. As I'm currently using the turret, the forward pointing '+' is dark grey, while the '+' that indicates where the turret is pointing is the usual green. You switch between the cockpit and turrets with the F1-F4 keys. F1 is the cockpit, F2 the rear turret, F3 starboard turret, and F4 port turret.
Gamasutra has put together a thorough article on the history of Electronic Arts. It begins with the events surrounding the company's 1982 founding and covers many major milestones that contributed to its growth over the last 25 years. Page 4 gets into the acquisitions of studios such as Maxis, Origin and Westwood that bolstered the EA lineup in the mid nineties. Wing Commander is mentioned there and also cited as a major 3DO title when the company's original founder partnered with EA to launch the system. It's kind of neat to read about how some of EA's current hit franchises came to be. You can find the full article here.
Another thing I don't think I've mentioned yet is the colors of the ships, both on the main screen and on the scanner. These colors depend on the kind of scanner you've got installed. Just as in Privateer, there are three series of scanners: B&S, Hunter AW and Iris. Each series differs in how ships are displayed. The B&S scanners display all ships in a light grey color (both on the main screen and the scanner), Hunter AW shows friendly ships as blue and hostiles as red, and Iris uses colors to indicate which faction the ship belongs to: Kilrathi are yellow, merchants grey, pirates red, and so on... As you can see, I've currently got an Iris scanner installed on my Pegasus.
Electronic Arts purchased its first outside development studio, Distinctive Software, in 1991. Based near Vancouver, British Columbia, Distinctive had previously worked on the Hardball and Test Drive series’ for EA’s competitor Accolade. After joining EA, they set to work on several of EA’s sports franchises and created the long-running Need for Speed series. Distinctive was later renamed EA Canada and is now one of the largest studios in Electronic Arts’ organization.
In 1992, Richard Garriott’s Origin Systems joined the fold. The Austin-based studio would go on to develop new volumes in Garriott’s Ultima and Chris Roberts’ Wing Commander series as well as the groundbreaking Ultima Online. Other important games from Origin included Crusader, Privateer, and Warren Spector’s System Shock. AH-64D Longbow, the first installment in the Jane’s Combat Simulations series, was also developed at Origin.
Despite its successes, Origin had difficulty integrating with EA and in 1999, after the release of Ultima IX, Garriott left the company. Later, several of Origin’s high-profile projects were canceled and the company was dissolved in 2004.