Wing Commander Art Portfolio Campaign Announced Update ID

Video game artist Mike Winterbauer has shown off the first images of his latest project, a Wing Commander Art Portfolio! Mr. Winterbauer was the person commissioned in 1992 to hand paint the box art for the SNES version of Wing Commander, among many other cool contemporary pieces. These were showcased last year in a book launched via a successful Kickstarter campaign. Next month he plans to launch a followup that specifically focuses on the process of creating his well known WC design. Along the way, there will be opportunities to have your name included in the book as well as pick up a very slick metal reproduction. Stay tuned for more info as the campaign approaches!
Hello backers of Classic Game Covers! I hope you all are doing great.

Be sure to look for my up coming Kickstarter campaign call Wing Commander Art. It will feature a beautiful hard cover portfolio art book showcasing the art process of my Wing Commander 1992 painting and all the advertising that used the painting. Also, there will be exceptional print rewards all signed like the stunning metal print shown below. ... Cool backers who get the beautiful signed Wing Commander hardback portfolio will get their name on the second page as shown below!

Shown here is the cover and some interior pages of this super beautiful Wing Commander Art Portfolio.

Thanks,

Mike

Intrepid Enters Spacedock Update ID

Spacedock has profiled another Wing Commander vessel! The BWS Intrepid is the star this episode of "Sci-Fi Ships You've Never Heard Of." Daniel, the author, has a huge soft spot for the WC series, and he's especially fond of this one. He pulls from a mix of high res original renders and fan project shots for gorgeous exterior imagery, and he even goes inside to highlight the FMV sets built for WC4. While Spacedock is known for its videos on Star Wars, Star Trek and other mainstream media, they've recently kicked off a weekly Wednesday livestream of the WC series. They've just started WC3 and will move on the The Price of Freedom after that! Check them out on Twitch!
I break down a ship I'm very fond of that might have escaped your attention.

Sienta la Ciencia y la Ficción Update ID

Christian Klein marches ever closer to having a complete set of Wing Commander games translated for Spain. This looks like a pretty thorough job with everything from the box to disc to manuals in Spanish, although no in-game audio has been revamped. The front doesn't have the big Midway flap that opens, but the static front and rearranged rear screenshot collage make it its own unique collectible! Compare to the original packaging here.
This Wing Commander Prophecy version arrived today, and now my Spanish Wing Commander collection is almost complete. \o/

Homeworld Mod Locks & Loads Update ID

The Homeworld Remastered Mod has gotten another update to more fully implement the fuel & ammunition mechanics that L.I.F. has been working on for some time. There have been some intricate coding hurdles that had to be scaled, but the results seem to add a nice dynamic to the fighter/bomber versus capship style of play. The game still looks great as well! You can grab the update via Steam Workshop here.
The Steam version of the main mod has been updated to the 2.5 version of Flag Commander, which is defined by complete rework of the ammunition and fuel management system.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there is a new feature appearing in the unit screen on bottom-left. In the vanilla game, you can see three stats items, the speed (green arrow), average damage per second (red target) and HP (blue shield). From now on, however, there are two more items for fighters and bombers, the remaining fuel indicator (radioactive sign) and the torpedo indicator (small torpedo below the fuel sign).

Most fighters/bombers have limited fuel, in different amounts, with crafts like the Arrow being able to patrol for a long time compared to other ones, for example. Now, however, you'll be able to see much more effectively the remaining fuel in a given plane (I'll try to have a fuel bar present at all times in a later update). The big change was in the way torpedo launches are accounted for, given that there is pretty much no built-in feature in the game to allow this.

The new system is currently only for the Wing Commander III and IV factions, the I and II waiting a bit for some feedback. You'll notice that some crafts do not have limited fuel, such as the Excalibur, Dragon, Asteroid Fighter, Sorthak, etc., which give them another tactical use compared to cheaper alternatives (note the "N/A" on the second picture). Oh, and since I was on a streak, I went back on the solo mission I made a long time ago and updated it to work again before uploading it in the main mod (the upload should be online in a few minutes from the time I post this). The whole ammunition schtick should be really interesting for campaign editing.

The Edge of The Darkening Update ID

We've unearthed a fascinating piece of pre-history: a detailed preview of Privateer 2: The Darkening from the August 1996 issue of Edge magazine... written when the game was still just called 'The Darkening!' The article includes a beautiful two-page gallery of artwork, plenty of pre-release screenshots and a surprising amount of technical detail about the game's development team. "Owen Roberts" is a first, though!

Sticker Shock: Cross Promotion Update ID

eBay find: as part of the marketing for the Wing Commander movie in 1999, they sent out little promo stickers retailers could add to their existing stock of Wing Commander games... so you know this copy of Prophecy was still on the shelves about 18 months after release!

YouTuber Volunteers as Tribute Update ID

Wild Aces has cut together a nifty tribute to the Wing Commander series in the Star Citizen engine. It features a variety of spaceflight, atmospheric and pilot sequences set to the main soundtrack theme from the Wing Commander Movie. Good stuff!
Star Citizen 3.2.2

Musik from Wing Commander Soundtrack by Kevin Kiner & David Arnold

Customize Your Difficulty with Wing Hard Update ID

Sheppard has expanded on his patches that neutralize asteroid damage with a brand new tool. Wing Hard is a nifty app that modifies WC1&2 ship damage values in order to allow players to customize the difficulty just to their liking. Rather than making yourself invulnerable or killing enemy ships with the push of a button, you can carefully tweak everyone's armor values to balance the right amount of challenge and fun. As an extra bonus, his asteroid knowledge has also been included so you can adjust the radius of impact and increase or decrease how deadly the rocks are. Grab the app here (3.3 meg zip) and run it in your game folder to get tweaking! You can learn more about exactly which files to modify at the CIC Forums here.
This program lets you fine tune WC1 and WC2 (GOG releases) difficulty to what you feel is correct.

Basically, I programmed in all the offsets for Terran Confederation Ships/Craft's shield/armor values, along with their stock base values. So for example, if you enter a multiplier of 1.5 for difficulty for Terran Ships; the game becomes easier because you now have more armor.

  • WC1's Hornet has 40 stock value = 4.0 cm front shields stock.
  • Multiplying that, it becomes 40 * 1.5 = 60 (or 6.0 cm in game).
  • Likewise, entering a multiplier of say 0.8, the game becomes harder because you have less armor.
Over in asteroids; difficulty is changed via changing the radius of asteroids in the game via a multiplier. Radius is effectively the size of the in-game collision hitbox. Stock Asteroids have a radius of 100 in both WC1 and WC2. You can now adjust how "hard" asteroid fields are -- eliminating them entirely, if you enter 0.05, it computes a radius of 5, effectively removing them as a threat in the game.

The reason for the huge file size (for what it does) is because it's written in Python v3.x; and if you want to make a distributable executable for python scripts, the packager puts EVERYTHING IN, i.e. an entire python distribution is scrunched into the executable. Filesize issues are offset by the fact that Python is much more pleasant to program for as a hobbyist doing hobbyist things, and there's more tutorials or answered questions for things I want to do in Python.

WC Toolbox Adds Privateer Support Update ID

UnnammedCharacter has released another big upgrade to the WC Toolbox. This update adds preliminary support for WC Privateer, which opens up a whole new sector of possibilities! Through a variety of screenshots and tutorials, UnnammedCharacter goes through how to access the core game assets, manipulate in-game text and pick apart the graphical elements. I can't wait to see what people do with this! You can grab the latest download package here.
Work on the toolbox has continued and this release begins support for Privateer 1.

This update adds the ability to create or edit many of the Privateer file types: IFF, PAK, PAL, PFC, SHP, TRE, VPF, VPK; it expands the number of image formats supported: BMP, GIF, PNG, and TIFF; and also provides the ability to create compressed files where appropriate. All of this new functionality is specific to the Privateer tools.

There are major changes introduced in Privateer, such as the extensive use of files within files, the use of many different color palettes, and the move toward the Interchange File Format (IFF). With all these changes, I ended up taking a completely different approach for the Privateer tooling; it is actually modeled after the Prophecy development tools. I am leveraging the overall design approach used in the Prophecy tools such as the use of custom script files to guide the creation of new files. I am also making use of the existing Extended MakeIFF compiler (XMIFF) an old DOS program from the Prophecy tools for creating IFF files. All of this has the obvious benefit of saving me the effort of creating similar functionality.

See below for a series of posts describing each command, the custom scripts, and how to use the Extended MakeIFF compiler (XMIFF).

Prop ID: Bob-o-Matte's Tarot Update ID

At the end of Wing Commander Prophecy's first act, the tone of the story changes dramatically. We open act two with a CG sequence representing Dallas' funeral and then transition to a the TCS Midway's rec room where Bob-o-Matte is doing a tarot reading for communications officer 2nd Lt. Anderson. The large cards have stunning, unexpected art… were they created for the production or are they a commercially available tarot card?

But first, we're going to answer your big question: who the heck is Bob-o-Matte?! You likely know that Wing Commander III, IV and Prophecy use a 'green screen' system for their computer generated backgrounds (Wing Commander IV and Prophecy use more real sets but still feature many composite shots.) The 'green screen' technology used by the games is a compositing system called Ultimatte. And the people hired to provide and operate this system in the film shoots was a Los Angeles company called BlueScreen LLC run by Bob Kertesz. Mr. Kertesz was apparently a favorite of the film crew and for Wing Commander IV he was tuckerized as BOB-O-MATTE, one of the Banshee pilots shot down at the start of the Peleus series. He's back as a tarot-dealing redshirt in Wing Commander Prophecy (and according to this continuity polaroid is a full Colonel with three distinct campaign ribbons!)

Back to the tarot deck: it is, in fact, a commercially available deck that was especially popular at the time. The deck is called the Rohrig Tarot and it was designed by artist Carl Rohrig in 1991. The designs are ultra modern, mixing imagery like race cars in with more traditional tarot features. Original Rohrig decks like the one seen in Prophecy go for several hundred dollars today but a variety of replica versions are readily available today. For your reference we've tracked down the artwork to all nine cards visible in the game. Warning: some of the card details are not safe for work On the left, from the bottom going up: Princess of Cups, Interference and Prince of Disks (sideways.) On the right: Death, Strength and The Fool, Temperance, The World and Pleasure (sideways.) Just what this tarot reading might read… we'll leave to the experts!

Prop ID: Hawk's Knife Update ID

We've seen Cobra's Explora and Seether's Dual Shadow… today, we conclude the trilogy with Hawk's knife. Lieutenant Colonel Jacob "Hawk" Manley seems to have picked up a new habit between Wing Commander IV and Wing Commander Prophecy. Like Cobra in Wing Commander III, he repeatedly brandishes a large survival knife in various cutscenes, alternatively sharpening it or using it to threaten Maniac. After his death, Spyder bequeaths the blade to the player. Wing Commander Prophecy's script expressly introduces the tool as a hunting knife: "FEATURE big hunting knife as Hawk enters and walks towards table" Later stage directions repeatedly ask Hawk to sharpen or otherwise focus on the knife.

Hawk is carrying a United Cutlery Bushmaster Survival Knife, the same general type of knife as Cobra in Wing Commander III (and from the same company as Seether's Double Shadow!) The Bushmaster Survival Knife is a 10" stainless steel blade and like the Explora features a survival kit hidden in the hilt which includes sewing needles, band-aids, matches, a surgical blade, magnifier, fish hooks and compass. The sheath (also seen in Prophecy) also features a can opener, sharpening stone, animal snare, snakebite kit and flashlight. The Bushmaster Survival Knife is still manufactured today and is readily available for $25-$50.

More Ships Hold the Line Update ID

Deathsnake has expanded on the last few recent updates to the Last Line of Defense project with a new video. This one features three of his prime capships in formation with the cruiser launching a mixed squadron of fighters. It can be kind of hard to distinguish the Venture in the foreground against the Exeter behind it, so we’d recommend you blow the video up large when you take a look. It makes it easier to see the cool fighters launch too!
It is a lot of work to launch several fighters, but it could be possible to launch 16 fighters from the 2 tubes. Imagine 3 Tolmacs launching fighters - 48 fighters = 48 Scripted Events. :D

I'm not limited to Rapiers. Tarawa's loadout is a mix of Ferrets, Rapier and Sabre possible. WC1 Loadout - Hornet, Scimitar, Rapier. The big playes - Raptor and Broadsword not possible. F-44 Rapier A dont' work - wings too big. :/ So here's a WC1 Group: Exeter, Venture and a Tolmacs launching 13 Fighters - Hornets and Scimitars.

Wing Commander IV Cockpit Reference Update ID

It's common knowledge that Wing Commander IV doesn't have cockpits, famously dumping them in favor of displaying the UI on the previously optional 'invisible cockpit' (an option popular among players at the time.) But it turns out the game isn't completely without cockpits! The production built multiple physical cockpits for the full motion video sequences (including one extremely detailed Confederation shuttle set) which give us a look at what the 'real' world of Wing Commander IV is intended to look like. We've collected reference screenshots of these cockpits and the various control surfaces seen in brief cuts. Together they make up a few seconds of screen time… but seeing them together really gives you a better appreciation for what went into Wing Commander IV.

Several angles of the Terran Confederation Hellcat V's cockpit are seen during the game's introduction, including views of the flight stick, throttle and forward and right cockpit instrumentation. The Hellcat cockpit seems to be a fairly complete construction.

The F-107 Black Lance (or "Dragon") fighter also appears in several shots during the introduction. There are several good shots of the interior instrumentation as Seether fires first the flash pak and later performs his mine trick.

The Union of Border Worlds Banshee cockpit appears briefly in the cutscene which introduces the jamming crisis in the Peleus system. Only the rear of the Banshee set seems to be distinct, with the missile launch panel being reused from the Lance.

Wing Commander IV famously budgeted for a full sized Terran Confederation shuttle set. The shuttle is seen during the introduction as Blair and Maniac travel to Earth and then again when Seether executes Paulsen. The introduction features one extremely cool shot that reveals the extent of the work done to create the set, showing Blair and Maniac's conversation looking up from behind their seats.

Finally, the game features an all-CG ejection pod cockpit for the 'chewout' cutscenes which sort of explains the gap between the invisible cockpit view and the real world: a physical communications VDU folds out to play an unhappy message from Eisen, Paulsen or Pliers.

Prop ID: Seether's Knife Update ID

Character-defining knives are a theme in the FMV Wing Commander games. We've learned about Cobra's Marto-Brewer Explora from Wing Commander III and now it's time to take a look at Seether's significantly more distinct knife from Wing Commander IV. Depending on your choices, Seether can use his knife twice: during the introduction he will threaten Blair with it if you choose to rescue the man he is roughing up and then he uses it to execute Captain Paulsen after the Lexington is destroyed or crippled. The close-up shot of the knife slitting the Captain's throat was censored in the German release of the game.

Seether's blade is called the Double Shadow. The Double Shadow is a 5 1/2" stainless steel split blade "fantasy knife." It was released in 1991 and created by famed fantasy knife designer Gil Hibben. Seether's knife was almost MORE distinct: instead of a fantasy knife, the script calls for a futuristic one: "a mean looking instrument known as a laser-blade (a curved handle with a lethal thread of light that pulses from one end of the handle to the other)..." This detail was carried over into the Baen books novelization, confusing readers familiar with the game. The Double Shadow was originally concepted by Kit Rae for (but not used in) the movie Total Recall; you can read a very detailed first person account of its creation here.

Mr. Hibben's designs are readily available commercially (a Double Shadow will run you roughly $50 today) but they are also used extensively in film and television when an ornate or alien-looking weapon is called for. Seether's same Double Shadow can be seen everywhere from Time Cop to The Fifth Element to Babylon 5! Here's Praetor Shinzon providing a blood sample using a Double Shadow in Star Trek: Nemesis:

Cover Search Reaches a Turning Point Update ID

The first three German translations of the Wing Commander novels used the same Paul Alexander paintings commissioned by Baen as their covers. Starting with Heart of the Tiger, however, the publisher began using 'slush' artwork that they happened to own the rights to reuse. As a result, four books were published with covers initially used by (and created for) for other works. The first two unlikely sources were discovered in 2015 and now a third has been located!

The German cover to Heart of the Tiger (Book 4) is a painting by Romas Kukalis originally appeared in 1993 as the cover to Turning Point by Lisanne Norman, the first book in the Sholan Alliance series. The German publisher mirrored the image, making it more difficult to search for mechanically! With this discovery, the remaining unidentified cover is the translation of the Peter Telep film adaptation.

Prop ID: Maniac's Porno Update ID

Who says print is dead? In 2669, Major Todd "Maniac" Marshall, eternal teenager, still has a stash of printed pornography in his locker. When you chat with him in the barracks during the Blackmane series he takes a break from reading an issue of 'Playpen' magazine to tease Blair about flirting with Rachel. Is Playpen something created for Wing Commander III or is it the real 1980s magazine it appears to be? (And if the former is the case, why didn't they use the already-established Playboy parody "Plaything (tm)" from Privateer?)

Long story short: it's not real AND it wasn't created by the prop department. There are often legal issues involved with showing real products on television and in film. Take a close look at any popular sitcom and you'll find that what look like real groceries, magazines, books and posters are actually careful knockoffs that resemble (but are legally distinct from) familiar items. These fake products come from a company called Earl Hays Press, which has been keeping a ready stash of designs capable of suiting any production for over a century. In the case of magazines, productions can choose from a variety of already designed front and back covers and can even add real-looking prefab text if the interior needs to be shown. In Maniac's case, the Playpen he's holding's cover is a combination of the 1994 versions of MM-91 ("Centerfold of the Year Bobbi Brenner Reveals All") and MBA-32, an advertisement for "Nature's Champagne."

Issues of 'Playpen' appear in dozens and dozens of television and film productions from seaQuest DSV to The Partridge Family. In fact, Maniac's exact issue had a highly visible role in a 1998 episode of Friends. Hard to imagine it survived 671 years and made it from New York to the front lines of the Vega Sector! For more information on prop magazines and other items, you can find a catalog of Earl Hays Press' current offerings here which makes for a fascinating study!

Prop ID: Vaquero's Guitar Update ID

When Colonel Blair is first introduced to 2nd Lt. Mitchell "Vaquero" Lopez in the Orsini series of Wing Commander III, Vaquero is strumming a guitar and explains that guitars are an important part of his history: "But my family, they made guitars for many generations. I’ve got one that’s almost two hundred years old. The sound just keeps getting richer... Someday I’m going to open a cantina and bring in the best to play that guitar. A place for old fighter jocks like you and me."

There's just one thing odd about this: while Vaquero may have a guitar that dates back to the middle of the 25th century stored safely at home the one he's happily playing in the lounge is over seven hundred years old! The guitar used as a prop in the game is a Gibson SG Junior Cherry from the 1960s. The Gibson SG Junior is a solid-bodied electric guitar intended as a lower cost alternative to the Gibson SG. If you're musically inclined, vintage guitars of the same make and model are still available on the secondary market today for several thousand dollars. (As for Vaquero's specific guitar, it was returned to his family by Captain Eisen.) The prop team don't seem to have made any changes to the original guitar; in fact, Vaquero's scenes seem to be framed to avoid showing the head.

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