When Wing Commander Armada was released in September 1994 it was well ahead of the curve: the game featured multiple multiplayer modes that allowed players with modems or local area networks to go head-to-head or to fly together through the Gauntlet. The release of a free addon, Wing Commander Proving Grounds, expanded these significantly by adding six-player IPX play with more game modes and features like asteroids and pickups not available anywhere in single player. Unfortunately, this was a case of too much, too soon: without an internet for matchmaking, Armada's multiplayer never really took off.
There's some good news at the end of the tunnel, though: Armada and Proving Grounds are still just as much fun to play with human opponents today… and thanks to GOG they're easier than ever to get working! Gone are the days of dialing modems, configuring network drivers and praying. If you've never had the rush of gunning down your best friend then read on to find out how you can join the action in Armada just a quarter century late.
You will need a copy of the GOG release of Wing Commander Armada. After installing, look at your start menu for an additional icon labeled MULTIPLAYER. This is a special launcher the team at GOG have created that runs the game pre-configured to simulate a mid-1990s LAN. Starting the MULTIPLAYER launcher will give you three options: Start Single Player Game, Start Network Client Game and Start Network Host Game. To play a multiplayer game you will need one player to act as host and between one and five others to connect as clients. Instructions for both follow:
The network host will need to do a small amount of additional work before starting the game. First, they must provide their IP to the other players so that they can connect. Don't know your IP? You can check it via What's My IP Address? at any time. Second, they must make sure their router is set to forward UDP port 213. This is a simple process although instructions vary slightly depending on the make and model of router you are using. You can find a guide to your particular hardware at Port Forward.
Once these steps are complete, launch the Wing Commander Armada MULTIPLAYER shortcut and select Start Network Host Game. You will launch to a text mode menu in DOSBox asking you to select between Wing Commander Armada or Proving Grounds (see below for a quick guide to the differences.) Both the host and the client must select the same option here in order to connect successfully.
Once the game has launched, select MULTI PLAYER and then NETWORK GAME in Wing Commander Armada or IPX NET PLAY in Proving Grounds. The game will prompt you for a callsign and then pause shortly as it configures. Once it's illuminated, select CREATE to start a new game and then follow the instructions on screen to select the desired mode. Once your players have joined press PLAY to start the action!
To play as a client you will need to first have the IP of your host ready. Launch the Wing Commander Armada MULTIPLAYER shortcut and select Start Network Client Game. You will then be prompted to enter the IP address. After this, you will launch to a text mode menu in DOSBox asking you to select between Wing Commander Armada or Proving Grounds. Both the host and the client must select the same option here in order to connect successfully.
Once the game has launched, select MULTI PLAYER and then NETWORK GAME in Wing Commander Armada or IPX NET PLAY in Proving Grounds. The game will prompt you for a callsign and then pause shortly as it configures. Once it's illuminated, select JOIN to join your host's game and then follow the instructions on screen. Press PLAY once you're ready to start the action!
What's the Difference?
Here's a quick-and-dirty game mode checklist for those who aren't sure what they want to try first. Wing Commander Armada features:
- Armada - 1v1 strategic mode with a randomly generated sector
- Battle - 1v1 fighter combat
- Campaign - 1v1 strategic mode with 11 pre-set sectors
- Gauntlet - 2p co-op battle through a 15 mission story campaign
Wing Commander Proving Grounds features:
- Battle - 6 player (any configuration) fighter combat
- Proving Grounds - 6 player free-for-all with powerups
Play with Us!
Proving Grounds is one of the littlest-known Wing Commander titles and we aim to change that! LOAF and Dundradal will be going head to head (to head to head to head) in Proving Grounds as part of All Wings Considered this Thursday at 7 PM Eastern. Since Proving Grounds supports as many as six players, we're inviting the community to join in the action! The IP address and technical support will be available during the show on the WCCIC Discord Server. We look forward to reuniting you with an old friend: the thrill of battle!