Wing Commander Theme Extended in Fan Remix Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Artist Gilles Nuytens has taken a stab at remastering the main Wing Commander theme from the Wing Commander Movie. He's taken the primary track off of the official album and then extended it with music from the credits (that wasn't on the album). The result is a longer take that potentially has a more lengthy and robust conclusion. Check it out below and let him know what you think!
This is an extended version of the Wing Commander theme by David Arnold & Kevin Kiner from the 1999 movie. The original theme from the CD album was good enough as itself but I thought it would be cool to extend it with the (unreleased) end credits (which was actually a rebuild of several cues from the album). The sound was quite muffled and wasn't very clear even on the original CD! I did what I could to make it sound better with my tiny and limited sound editing skills. Legal note: I do not own this music! All rights remain with David Arnold & Kevin Kiner.

Goodbye, Syd Mead Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Sad news to report tonight: legendary production artist Syd Mead passed away earlier today at age 86 (obituary). He leaves behind an enormous body of work that has inspired millions and helped define how we envision the future.

Mead began his career in 1959 as an automotive artist, envisioning what the next generation of cars might look like for the Ford Motor Company. In 1961, he struck out on his own as a freelance industrial artist. For three decades, he helped create what would become a familiar look for the future in marketing materials for companies ranging from old standards like US Steel and Atlas Cement to up-and-coming electronics concerns like Sony and Phillips. In the late 1970s, he expanded his oeuvre to include film production concepts and quickly established himself as one of the best in the business. Whether or not you've ever heard his name, odds are you must know some of his concepts, an unreal list of credits that includes Star Trek's V'Ger, Aliens' USS Sulaco, Short Circuit's Johnny 5, 2010's Leonov, Blade Runner's futuristic Los Angeles, TRON's Light Cycles and countless other key visual elements elements that helped define classic genre films. To those that knew him, he was considered exactly as down to earth as his visions of the future were not and is celebrated as someone who made a point of sharing his skills and experience with up-and-coming concept artists, helping to inspire a sense of cooperation instead of competition in the field.

Other concept work by Syd Mead.

Wing Commander fans may also know that he developed the initial alien concepts for Wing Commander Prophecy. There's no doubt that countless fandoms across the internet are putting together similar remembrances of his involvement in the creation of their worlds and in that spirit we would like to share a brief history of his involvement in Wing Commander. While Origin's marketing made sure that Syd Mead's name was closely associated with the game from its announcement, many people are unfamiliar with what he actually did for the project. Much of this confusion stems from the games' marketing material seemingly promoting Mead as the visionary behind the entire game and some from Origin's Official Guide to Wing Commander Prophecy incorrectly crediting him for some of the game's storyboards, set designs and human ships. In short, Syd Mead was responsible for establishing the look of both the alien spacecraft and the creatures themselves. His work took the form of 2D concept sketches and contrary to popular belief he did not design every spacecraft. Instead, his job was to provide examples early on from which in-house artists would derive additional ships; conversely, he did much more work on the Nephilim creatures themselves than ever appeared in the game.

Other concept work by Syd Mead.

Wing Commander IV shipped in February 1996 and it quickly became clear that the next iteration of the series would not be business as usual. Chris Roberts departure to form Digital Anvil cost Origin's Maverick team some of its most experienced talent and made Electronic Arts nervous about Wing Commander's future viability. In the interim, artists who did not leave to join Digital Anvil were tasked with assisting other teams working on projects like Ultima IX, Wing Commander IV Playstation, Crusader: No Regret or a number of other unrealized products (including pre-production on Silverheart and Hazardous Duty, a Wing Commander FPS). The pre-production phase of Wing Commander Prophecy, then called Wing Commander V, began in late April 1996 and continued for several months as Electronic Arts held the team in limbo deciding on a new management structure and overall direction for the product. One bright spot of this restructuring period was the appointment of the team's new art director, Mark Vearrier. Vearrier was a veteran of Dynamix projects like Nova 9 and Aces of the Pacific who had gone on to work as a 3D artist on Wing Commander III and IV. Now he was tapped as the lead charged with managing what would eventually become the next game's eleven-person art team For the next four months, he would continue to prove his mettle by overseeing the initial concepts for Wing Commander V's human ships as well as side projects like the new Origin logo animation, the Kilrathi Saga introduction and scheduling for the soon-cancelled Maniac Missions spinoff.

Manta progression: Art Director Mark Vearrier's original sketch, Syd Mead's exploration, 3D model constructed in Alias and final in-engine asset.

During this time, the topic of bringing in an outside concept artist to help define the look of the series new enemy aliens was brought up. This would serve two purposes: it would give the team fresh material to expand upon as production geared up and it would provide an Electronics Arts' marketing group concerned with the impact of Chris Roberts' departure on players with a 'name' that could be promoted as being involved with the project. Syd Mead, then already a legend, was among the names discussed. Vearrier reached out to Mead who seemed interest and the idea sat dormant for several weeks. At the end of August, the conversation resumed and Mead agreed in principal to work on the project. Hammering out the formal agreement took more time than was expected but by mid-October the contract was signed and Mead's timeframes had been established. As a contract artist rather than in-house talent, Mead would would work remotely from his studio in Detroit, Michigan and provide specified deliverables to Origin in Austin, Texas via mail. The process would be collaborative, with Vearrier providing an initial brief and rough sketches which Mead would develop into full blown concept drawings. As email had yet to become ubiquitous, Vearrier would provide feedback to Mead via phone meetings between iterations of the artwork. Per the agreement, Mead would have three major deliverables: examples of alien capital ships, examples of alien fighters and concepts of the alien creatures themselves. This sort of arrangement was common for films but unusual for games in 1996; it has since become the norm with projects like Star Citizen bringing in top film talent to define their overall look early in development.

Moray progression: Syd Mead's original sketch, updated feedback version, 3D model constructed in Alias and final in-engine asset.

The first package of artwork from Detroit arrived at the end of October and large 18"x24" printouts of the pieces were hung in the Maverick team's conference room and hallway for feedback from the larger team. That feedback would be collected and then passed to Mead by Vearrier. The team was very happy with the overall look to the point that work on building the first Mead-designed model in Alias, the next step in the process for creating individual ship assets, began immediately rather than waiting for his final delivery. It was a happy case of the first direction being the right direction and the next two months would see an ordinary back-and-forth to provide feedback and drill down on different ideas. By the time the development team broke for Christmas in 1996, Mead's final artwork had been delivered and the game had moved into full production.

Kraken progression: Syd Mead's original sketch, updated feedback version, 3D model constructed in Alias and final in-engine asset used in a cutscene and in-flight.

In terms familiar to the average Wing Commander Prophecy combat pilot, Mead was directly responsible for the design of the Kraken ship killer and the Manta and Moray fighters. These pieces would be modeled in Alias by production artists at Origin and then roughly twenty additional ship designs would be derived from their appearance. Mead explained his process: "The Aliens, I thought, should incorporate a queasy level of organic growth detail which would look appropriately weird and also indicate an exotic method of manufacture. The [fighter] cross section is axially hexagonal. The 'capital ship,' is immense in story scale, measuring about fifty kilometers in length. The command level is at the top. The spherical front end opens in an iris-like maw that can spew out hundreds of bio-mechanical fighter ships to form a frightening attack."

Warlord progression: Mark Vearrier's initial sketch followed by Syd Mead's concept and the final version which appears in the end of the game as well as in in-flight taunts.

In addition to his defining work on the game's alien ships, Mead was also responsible for a considerable amount of work on the alien (later called Nephilim) characters themselves. While the aliens appear only briefly in the game on comm VDUs and in a short cutscene, the game's designers sought to lock in a much fuller concept of them which was to have been applied forward to future stories. In total, Mead designed three different castes of aliens: drones, lieutenants and queens. The drones would appear as the game's normal pilots (though they were never modeled in Alias), the lieutenants are the 'warlord' aces which kidnap Commodore Blair and the queens would not be included in the game at all (though they were sometimes referred to as the 'mother creature' in taunts). Mead describes his process for imagining the aliens: "Creating the alien characters for WING COMMANDER V was a challenging exercise in combining several morphologies, something I have been doing since childhood. I have always been fascinated, for instance, with the mythical horseman creature known as a centaur. The Alien character set had to reflect a hierarchical social and command structure. What more natural 'fascistic' model than the colony-mind genetic imperative so elegantly exemplified by ants, bees and wasps. The bottom social order were the solder Aliens following the 'worker bee' and the 'drone' example. I decided on a six-legged physiology, using the rear set as the primary weight and mobility support. Having thus established a kind of bipedal locomotion, the middle pair of legs became an additional mobility assist when rapid turning or climbing was required. The forward set became the 'arms' with a kind of hand gesture and grasping function. The middle hierarchy were the Lieutenants. This level had a vestigial 'royal' carapace growth at the junction of head to thorax. And the 'queen' commander class had an elaborate carapace with distinctive silhouette 'points' on either side of the carapace. To further distinguish these royal variations, only the queens had the additional identifying characteristic of carrying weaponry mounted into the carapace plate."

The Warrior: Syd Mead's concepts for the Nephilim drone or soldier class. These were intended to be used as the game's ordinary pilots although a separate model was not built.

The Mother Creature: Syd Mead's concepts for the Nephilim queen.

Although Origin would not develop additional alien designs, Mead remained proud of the work. In 2001, he published an art book titled Syd Mead's Sentury which included a look at some of his Wing Commander artwork. He would also go on to incorporate some of the alien pieces in his regular convention slideshow, sharing the work directly with interested audiences around the world. Mead would note that he never personally saw the final application of the designs because as a Macintosh user he was never able to play the finished game.

Left: Syd Mead's 2001 art book, Sentury. Right: Syd Mead presents recolored Nephilim artwork in a slideshow at Dragon*Con 2001.

Syd Mead's influence on Wing Commander came late in the game but it was unquestionably significant. In addition to defining the new enemy, his alien aesthetics were used in much of the promotion for the game and his name was routinely mentioned in interviews. In a better world, his artwork for Wing Commander Prophecy's new enemy would have inspired multiple future games and his work on the deeper background of the aliens themselves would have become an essential part of the universe. Of course, it's still possible that could happen someday! Regardless of Wing Commander's future, Syd Mead leaves behind a legacy of unparalleled visions that are unlikely ever to be equaled; he will be missed.

Examples of other Nephilim spacecraft designed by Origin artists based on Syd Mead's aesthetic.

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Wing Commander Intro Rerendered Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

AD, the CIC's resident finder of things and doer of stuff, came across this video to help you start your Wing Commander week. It's a nifty animation by Kyle Bumpus that recreates the initial intro to Wing Commander 1. I'm actually surprised there aren't a lot more takes on this iconic scene. Check it out below!
Modeling/Animation by Kyle Bumpus
"Wing Commander 1 Intro Theme Orchestra" by Blake Robinson (Synthetic Orchestra)

Fun Rebel Galaxy Easter Egg Spotted Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is chock full of Wing Commander easter eggs from the "now entering automatic landing zone" comm message near planets to the... entire awesome premise of the game, but Fek'Leyr Targ found a fun one I hadn't seen before. In the attached screenshot, you can make out a "G. Burrows wuz here" scratched into the dust of the local space bar. Grayson Burrows was the conceptual name of the main Brownhair character in Privateer (later confirmed but the Star*Soldier magazine). Good catch! Last week we posted a few ships from RGO that fans had faithfully recolored in classic WC textures, and st3lt3k just shared a few more! The first is an RGO Coyote made by Jughead1981 and there's also a Sandhawk by MasterRevan2013. Those grays and greens look really nice.

Retro Review Returns to Gemini Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

There might not be a new episode of All Wings Considered this week, but you can still get your Privateer streaming fix thanks to a retro review from Event Horizon. They cover all kinds of diverse games, but the author says Privateer holds a special place in his gaming library. The vid clocks in at about 24 minutes and does a good job recapping the major features and what makes the game magical. It confirms that many players find Privateer quite playable even after more than 26 years, so if you've got a friend looking for something to do, Privateer is a great gateway drug into the Wing Commander universe. This review says a joystick is practically a must-have, but I've always found the gameplay to be a little bit slower and quite conducive to keyboard flying. The Tarsus cockpit is even anchored around a keyboard rather than stick or yoke of any kind!
My review of the 1993 classic, Wing Commander Privateer for the PC. One of the staples of the Chris Roberts library. Gives my overall impression, gameplay and whether you should pick this game up or not.

Squadron 42 Visual Teaser Released for Christmas Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

It's been a while since the Cloud Imperium team has shown off new Squadron 42 material, so they've put together a striking teaser of the game's visual effects. The new graphics shown off here are intended to highlight advancements made in the past year. There's definitely some pretty space environments to see! The Wing Commander-style single player campaign associated with these visuals will star Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies and many others. It's currently scheduled to advance to beta state in the later half of next year.
As a special holiday gift to all of you, we put together this visual teaser reel, highlighting some of the work we’ve done on Squadron 42 over the course of 2019.

Merry Christmas! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Wingnuts everywhere! We're mostly laying low today, but we're super appreciative of the fact that you chose to spend a bit of your holiday logging into the CIC. Hopefully you get some time to spend with family and friends today! You're also always welcome to join us over in the #Wingnut chatroom on Discord. Over the next few days, we'll be kicking off our annual fan project contest and doing a recap of 2019, which are always tremendously encouraging to look back on. Last, but not least, here's one of my favorite classic Christmas renderings by Marc. It's the Chimney Victory being escorted by Santa Broadsword and his eight Reindeer Ferrets!

Preview Moongate Artwork's Wing Commander Elements Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Origin history book Through the Moongate, from Wing Commander and Ultima VII to Portalarium now has a back cover! In his December update, author Andrea Contato shared an initial preview of artist Manda's conceptual draft. This will also be featured on the project's awesome cloth art piece. The cloth was included at the €110 tier, but may be available as a €30 extra as inventory allows by contacting Mr. Contato. There's still a lot of work to go, but it prominently features a Kilrathi warrior looking down on a couple of Ultima characters. There's also a Dralthi in the corner, which happens to be the movie's distinct KF-100 variant. I was sold by Denis Loubet's bookmark, but this WC art on the cover will be a nice bonus!
Working with Illustrator allows me to form a composition from the elements that I want. This painting combines elements from two key Origin "franchises": the Ultima series, and the Wing Commander series. Two heroes have just escaped through the Moongate, from the Ultima universe, into that of Wing Commander. As a feline Kilrathi snarls at the sudden appearance of several bogeys, the Guardian rages at the Avatars' escape.

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In a sense, I’m creating two paintings. The first is the back cover, and it will be cropped so that most of the solar flare won’t be shown. Much of the full version will be shown on the cloth poster.

In a previous post, I showed how I’m putting in the nearest-to-earth stars. The cloth version will be a map of sorts, as I’m labeling the stars. As an aid to astrogation, it won’t be especially useful. The arrangement of the stars is a three-dimensional thing. Still, the program from which I worked let me roll and tilt the display, and I took a 2D screen capture. The 3D view was heliocentric, i.e. Sol was always in the middle. So, there is one bit of info: the relative distance from Earth will be correct.

Spiegel Online Highlights Wing Commander Milestone Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Spiegel Online has posted a nifty 25th anniversary look back at Wing Commander 3. For the non-German speakers in the audience, SPON is an extremely popular and widely read news site, so it's a pretty big deal for the WC series to get such a mention. As you might expect, the article goes into detail about what set the Wing Commander games apart. The author is well versed in the franchise's history and has fond memories about the switch to live actors and 3D space combat. And although a lot has changed, the game is still a blast to play. You can find the original piece here and a pretty respectable Google Translate here. Thanks to Duke Nukum for the tip!
Even before the release it was clear to me: "Wing Commander III" would change the medium, I had to play that. At that time there were various multimedia projects in which filmed people were involved, but they mostly seemed involuntarily funny. Chris Roberts, on the other hand, promised a mature combination of classic computer game and interactive film.

Does This Aspect Ratio Make Me Look Fat? Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Displaced Gamers has put together a fascinating video that dives into the classic DOS game 320x200 pixel resolution. If you deal in old screenshots as much as we do, you'll notice the original Wing Commander games come in this slightly odd resolution and aspect ratio compared to the 4:3 640x480 stats of later games. The clip goes into the technical details of exactly why this is, and there's also comparisons between the vertical pixel stretch on PC versus the Super Nintendo's horizontal stretch. This is why the Super Nintendo characters look squished in the recent Head Museum update. LOAF has mentioned this in passing in a few episodes of All Wings Considered, but this video really dives into the topic. Wing Commander is depicted at the 12:17 mark, but it's a cool watch regardless of the WC mention. Thanks to ShadowArm for the tip!
Examination of the 4:3 aspect ratio of DOS gaming - primarily VGA Mode 13h and 320x200 - why it is not a widescreen aspect ratio despite all of the examples across the web.

Visual Guide Addendum: Pin-Ups Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Last week, we released a visual guide to propaganda posters in the Wing Commander movie which included a great deal of information. But readers were quick to point out one thing it did not include: the various pin-ups that also decorate the pilot's mess' walls. For this addendum, we've identified as many as possible and have also provided some history behind why they were included in the first place!

  1. There are two shirtless men to the left and a woman in a swimsuit with boxing gloves to the right as Blair and Maniac first enter the mess.
  2. On the pillar to Blair's left facing away from where he and Maniac enter. This one seems to be cutout of a woman in a red swimsuit.
  3. A collage of too-small-to-be-identified photos next to the "BE PREPARED" photo.
  4. A collection of rectangular photographs and a collage of photos that have been formed into a larger figure near the dart board. These are not seen clearly.
  5. An unspecified poster near the pinball machine. This one only appears in a few blurry frames during the quick pan before the jump; it may be a repeat of the boxing photo at the mess entrance.
  6. A cutout of a woman in a red swimsuit on a cabinet at the back of the room, best visible during the jump sequence (maybe he the same photo as the one on the pillar.)
  7. A black and white photo of a woman's butt which is visible in back of Maniac during the jump sequence time-slice.

The images themselves (at least those that are clearly visible) are most likely stock photographs from a license-free library available to the film's art department. It's quite possible that we will eventually be able to locate, for instance, the original photograph of the lady boxer. In fact, we've already found one! The rectangular butt photo visible in Maniac's is an art piece by the film's set photographer as found on his defunct MySpace gallery. In addition to maintaining continuity on the movie, Mr. Braun is a Luxembourg-based fetish photographer whose work has appeared regularly in galleries.

But why does the script specify including pin-ups in the first place? Like many small touches in the film, these pin-ups are a reference to the original Wing Commander. As the game's players began to examine what made the game especially immersive, seemingly minor details like the leaky pipe and the locker pin-ups in the Tiger's Claw's barracks gameflow screen were frequently identified. When Secret Missions 2 shipped in 1991 with an updated executable, programmers added the option to "check poster out" which loaded a larger image of the posters:

Perhaps in response to outcry on early bulletin board systems that adding cheesecake to the game was offensive, Strike Commander opted to offer both male and female pin-ups which could be selected from the Wildcats' headquarters.

Strike Commander's RealSpace engine follow-up, Pacific Strike, modified the system slightly and provided the pin-up as a player reward. If you are flying well, your crew chief will slip a small girly photo on your fighter's dashboard. Taking place during World War 2, there was less room for players to cry foul (or perhaps no one noticed over Pacific Strike's cacophony of other issues).

By 1994, sexy photos were out but the system was still being iterated upon. Wing Commander III featured a recurring gump in which clicking on Blair's locker triggered a video sequence. Depending on when in the game the locker was explored it could play a holographic message or cause Blair to reminisce about his vacation photos. These are the source photos digitized for the Premiere Edition calendar if you'd like to print your own!

Of course while Colonel Blair grew up in fifteen years of battling space cats, Maniac Marshall absolutely did not. He has a whole stack of pornographic magazines in his locker as seen in a famous Wing Commander III cutscene. You can read all about where it came from here!

Privateer may censor in-game copies of PlayThing(tm)... but artist Paul Steed (better known for his pioneering 3D texture work) was notorious for drawing pin-up girls in places they weren't wanted… like these Privateer storyboards intended to flesh out the designs for the game's different bases and ship modification screens!

Privateer 2: The Darkening features an AI pilot said to be a pin-up: Skecis Mk II wingman Vicksen Aureola's CCN biography reads, in part: "Pilot, Pin-Up and Philanderer, Aureola is a favourite with traders both in and out of the cockpit. Whereas her buxom charms have generated her a healthy income and wide-spread recognition across the Tri-System, it is as pilot of the fighter Bathukolpian that she chooses to devote her time." The game itself also brought in real life pin-up star Dani Behr to provide the voice of the player's ship AI. You can read more of her story here.

Finally, do you want a Wing Commander pin-up of your very own? We've got you covered: the March 1999 issue of Sci-Fi Teen magazine includes one of Blair in his marine armor! Copies are readily available on eBay.

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Rebel Galaxy Outlaw Announced for Xbox - Plus Updates on PS4/Switch Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The team over at Double Damage Games has announced that the highly acclaimed space sim Rebel Galaxy Outlaw will be coming to the Xbox platform! Most of the CIC Staff plays a good chunk of our modern games on the Xbox, so some of us who don't have a high end gaming PC were looking forward to this. Meanwhile, progress on the previously announced Playstation 4 and Switch ports continues, although the games won't make it out this year as expected. A new development roadmap will be published next month with more details on the timeline. A preview video of the Nintendo version is below, and it looks pretty sweet! The PS4 and Xbox versions will more or less be identical to the game on PC. You can currently buy the game on the Epic Game Store where there is a $10 coupon that can be stacked on top of a 25% holiday discount, which makes the game a whopping $12.49! Quite a steal!
We have something exciting we’re finally getting to reveal: based on your feedback, we are pleased to officially announce an Xbox One version of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is being worked on. While we’re unsure of a release date currently, we know players have been pretty anxious to hear either way about this possible port and this is a step in the right direction. Though we were hoping to have more definitive news, since there’s still some possible hiccups, for now we’re expecting to have more info regarding the Xbox One version in the new year. We’re excited that this is still much sooner than originally anticipated. We’ll have a new Development Roadmap in early January, reflecting our updated timelines and goals.
RGO is heavily inspired by Wing Commander, and fans quickly took to recoloring their ships with familiar WC paint schemes. Here's just a couple I saw. The first ship below was made by Matthew Nix and the second by Chris Kabigting. If you've seen more cool examples, let us know!

Catch Up On 'All Wings Considered' Favorites Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

As you may have heard last week, the first season of All Wings Considered is now complete! In all, LOAF, Dundradal and the gang produced 34 action-packed episodes comprising more than 100 hours of Wing Commander goodness. If you haven't kept up with the series, a few of our favorite episodes are embedded below. All the way back in February, the pilot kicked things off and set the tone for the rest of the year. In August, a bunch of us got together to fully livestream the annual CIC Birthday for the very first time. Everyone also got dressed up for the special Halloween episode in October, and things finally wrapped up last week in the final show of 2019. After a well deserved break, the team will be back bigger than ever next month for season two! You can find more episodes and subscribe on YouTube here.


Pilot episode:

Birthday livestream spectacular:
Spooky Halloween episode (The Blair Watch Project):
Christmas episode & season finale:

Enyo Missions Reenacted to Demonstrate New Capabilities Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Centaurianmudpig has made some neat progress on his WC-inspired space sim, Absolute Territory. To show off the flexibility of his new mission editor, he's mocked up the famous Enyo System missions. The game isn't a copycat of Wing Commander, but there are lots of clear similarities. It's come a long way in the couple years that mudpig has been working on it and looks pretty fun! You can learn more about it and how to eventually give it a try on Steam.
Since the last update, I've been busy working on the Level Editor. The inspiration partly came from Wing Commander Academy, but I never got over how limited it was in creating missions. I wanted to make my own WC1 style missions, not just the drop some enemies and go skirmish.

To that end, I've reached another milestone. To show what the level editor is capable of, I loosely re-created the Enyo 1 and Enyo 2 missions. These where made with the in-game level editor. While adding in some WC1 style Era ships would be icing on the cake, my Blender skills (what little they where) have diminished, so please use your imagination a bit.

GOG Sale Takes 75% Off Wing Commander.. and More! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The GOG winter sale is in full swing, and the series is 75% off. This makes each title $1.49 or under $12 for the whole series! st3lt3k points out that Origin's 1989 sim Space Rogue is a whopping 90% off. This proto-Wing Commander title isn't quite up to the level of the original WC1, but you just can't go wrong for $0.59!
What should you get for the Wing Commander fan who has everything? GOG is here to help with the recent addition of Space Rogue, a space sim published by Origin about two years before Chris Roberts' Wing Commander arrived on the scene. The game was designed by Paul Neurath who went on to fame with Ultima Underworld and the System Shock series. Other notable WC vet contributors include Denis Loubet, Jeff Dee, Steven Muchow, Keith Berdak, Warren Spector and Dallas Snell. It's clearly dated by its late '80s graphics, and its gameplay has never been one to challenge the WC series, but it's a charming addition to the back catalogue and an interesting artifact of the time that came before. And who can resist its dreamy cover art?! The package also includes bonuses like an associated novella and a cool star map.
Give these other Origin games a try if they're new to you!

All About That Base Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi opens with Blair being reduced in rank and assigned to a backwater Star Base called Caernaven Station in the Gwynedd System. Ever wonder what the inspiration for the base itself was? Director Siobhan Beeman tweeted: "The Confed starbases in WC2 were inspired by two things: the Cylon basestars from the original BSG, and Starfleet Headquarters from the old "Starfleet Technical Manual" from Franz Joseph Designs." We thought it would be fun to look at both Wing Commander II's Star Base AND the history of the two classic science fiction designs that inspired it.

Star Base - Wing Commander

The Confederation Star Base is a massive space station outpost seen in a number of different places in and around the Enigma Sector. The base is 1,200 meters wide, masses 230,000 tonnes and carries four flak guns and a full complement of fighters. A script document reproduced in the Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy Guide claims that "Bluehair and Shadow are two out of only six pilots on the station. The station (called Caernarvon) is referred to disparagingly as a pre-fab communications platform." though the Kilrathi Saga manual later establishes that such a station's full capacity is 400 fighters. In early drafts of Wing Commander II's story, Caernaven is an ISS police carrier named the SIR ROBERT PEEL.

The original 3D model for the station has survived and so it is possible to examine higher resolution images than those included in the game… which is great news for anyone wanting to compare to the design to the inspirations discussed below! Note that the Sprite Sheet for the Star Base has fewer angles included because of its round, symmetrical nature. If you would like to explore the original 3DS model you can download it here.

Little is established about the history or function of the Star Base beyond Blair's assignment to Caernavon in 2656 although Victory Streak features an unusual reference to the same base's history of unsuccessful scientific research in the form of an angry letter to the editor and response which refers to an unseen article about the station published in an earlier iteration of the Victory's onboard magazine (reproduced verbatim, though the dates are almost certainly in error and should refer to the 27th century instead of the 21st):

DEAR ECS,
You’ve got to have cat-dung for brains if you think that anyone would believe that trash you wrote about Caernavon Station last week! You seem to think that because it was not designed as a military research installation, nothing that came out of it was worthwhile. You couldn’t be more wrong. My father spent his life trying to further the war effort there.

We didn’t know how the war was going to turn out in those years. No, they didn’t get any direct results from their weapons research. However, the advanced Kaplein Visual Radar Enhancement System that daily saves the lives of countless pilots was based on Caernavon studies. Capital ship waste hydro-recycling is another benefit. I would go on, but I would hate to take up your time when you obviously have so much background verification to catch up on!

dschrueders@victory.libr

We would give you our apologies, Lt. Schrueders, but we find nothing non-factual about the writeup on Caernavon Station. Having spent a year’s tour of duty there, we know all about the research that went on. Your father made many contributions in his time, including the Kaplein VRES system AND the hydro-recycling units.

But, did you know that for every successful project, at least five failed? Take in these stats – in 2058, the station spent 4.3 billion on vacuum fusion research. In 2060, they wasted almost the same amount on biological research – Meta-Analysis of Synapse Replacement, and the Incidence of Myocardial Infraction among Pre-Geriatic War Veterans. The total bill? It ran close to ©10 billion, enough to outfit an entire fleet and crew. So, Lieutenant, perhaps you ought to do some fact-checking for yourself.

IOH editorial opinion, we need to concentrate on making our young pilots better now, instead of waiting until they’re old ...

The Star Base artwork is used for several different stations across Vengeance of the Kilrathi and its expansions including Caernaven, Heaven's Gate, Olympus, Pembroke and Akko. Heaven's Gate is the captured starbase that Spirit sacrifices herself to destroy, Olympus is the base constructed to defend Ghorah Khar, Pembroke is the base from Special Operations 1 which protects the border between Enigma, Vega and Deneb sectors and Akko is the base Blair is enjoying leave aboard at the start of Special Operations 2. Wing Commander Academy reuses the Star Base model for its own installation, Candar Space Station. While the Space Station is visually identical it is intended to be much smaller and less powerful. Candar is only 400 meters wide, masses 600 tonnes, lacks phase shields and defends itself with only two flak guns.

Since the player can fly off of both Caernaven and Olympus at various points in the games, there is imagery of several portions of the interior including the barracks, the flight deck, the communication room and an office. The barracks, seen as a gameflow menu, are a green variant of the Concordia's blue and the commo room is identical to that which appears on Concordia. Based on the starfields in the background, the flight deck conversations and takeoffs occur in the smaller ring at the bottom of the station. The office, used in Special Operations 1, is reused from the ground base created for Wing Commander II. The 3D files for two of these rooms have survived and can be downloaded from the CIC: the hangar deck and the comm room.

Barracks

Commo Room

Flight Deck

Office

An early trailer for Wing Commander II shows two slightly different interior shots including a Ferret-free landing bay (part of a scene of a Rapier landing on a starbase that is not used in the final game) and an unusual angle of Blair speaking in the comm room.

Fleet Headquarters - Star Trek

In the 1960s, Franz Joseph was a draftsman in the aerospace industry whose daughter introduced him to the Star Trek fandom. He began using his professional skills to develop blueprints of the various props and spaceship models that would appear on the show. He eventually developed the "Booklet of General Plans", a set of detailed blueprints of the original USS Enterprise that received the notice of Gene Roddenberry and resulted in his being asked to develop official material for publication. His blueprints became a best seller and they were soon followed by the famed Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual which greatly expanded upon on-screen material by imagining different starships, insignias, tools and more that might inhabit the 23rd century. The unexpected success of these projects would help convince Paramount to fund an updated Star Trek TV project which eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

One such addition to the Star Trek universe created for the Technical Manual was the Fleet Headquarters, created in a set of diagrams that showed an enormous inhabited space station that housed everything from Star Fleet Academy to drydocks for some two-dozen Federation starships. Over the course of seven pages, Joseph provided both the external schematics and cutaway deck plans outlining the stations' interior. The inspiration on Wing Commander II's Star Base is apparent in the first drawing. The Fleet Headquarters lacks the lower flight deck but is otherwise nearly identical to the design development by Origin's artists.

While Joseph's Fleet Headquarters never appeared on screen (seemingly replaced with the unusual choice of San Francisco as the fleet's main base), his work was a massive influence to both Star Trek fandom and official productions. The Technical Manual heavily inspired other expansions of the Star Trek world such as FASA's 1980s Star Trek RPG and the Star Fleet Battles tabletop game and some of his line drawings even went on to appear on background monitors in several original series Star Trek films.

In recent years, Star Trek artists have taken to including the Fleet Headquarters in their published pieces. See if you can locate it in these two images!

Cylon Basestar - Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica was a television series developed by Glen A. Larson in the late 1970s for ABC following the incredible success of Star Wars. The series spared no expense in terms of its initial production, hiring Star Wars' production designer Ralph McQuarrie to develop its spacecraft designs (including the Basestar) and creating a lavishly detailed world of science fiction sets and props. As a result, the pilot telefilm, Saga of a Star World, was the most expensive ever produced to that point.

The Basestar is the series' equivalent to the Imperial Star Destroyer, a massive enemy carrier ship capable of launching hundreds of space fighters. The Basestar is introduced in the pilot and the design continues to appear throughout the original series as the Cylon fleet hunts down the Galactica and the humans who have survived their surprise attack. Apogee Incorporated built a single 38 inch Basestar filming model for the series which was wired with fiber optic lighting and featured five landing bays (with one detailed for close up shots). While less directly similar than the Star Fleet Headquarters, the Basestar's influence on the Star Base (and especially its landing bay arrangement) is immediately apparent.

Encyclopedia Galactica, a contemporary technical manual for the series, explains more of the shi's history and functionality:

Battlestar Galactica aired for a single season and was followed by a retooled series, Galactica 1980, which proved to be far less popular. The series was revived in 2003 by Star Trek veteran Ronald D. Moore with a rebooted version that was extremely successful. The reboot series redesigned the Basestar but also used the original design as part of its deeper lore. Classic Basestars appeared in the series' pilot miniseries as part of a museum exhibit on a prior Cylon war and the design went on to appear in multiple prequel spinoff series.

In a small coincidence, Warthog, the studio that developed Privateer 2: The Darkening and StarLancer, would follow those projects with a 2003 Battlestar Galactica space game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The game uses the classic series' ship designs to tell a prequel story for the new continuity. Battlestar Galactica's newfound popularity in the 21st century has also expanded awareness of the original. In recent years, Revell has produced a plastic model kit of the original Basestar and Eaglemoss sells a die-cast desktop version.

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Visual Guide: PROP-Aganda Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Often forgotten is the fact that the 1999 Wing Commander film features truly incredible set design. From the minutely detailed Rapier cockpits to the cramped, submarine-like environs of the Tiger Claw, the movie's sets succeed far beyond expectations. That's courtesy of Oscar-winning production designer Peter Lamont. Lamont, fresh off his work on James Cameron's Titanic, turned a warehouse in Luxembourg into a 27th Century Confederation space carrier full of don't-blink-and-you-still-miss-them details.

One of these wonderfully crafted details is the series of propaganda posters created to decorate the Tiger Claw's pilot's mess. At least eight different posters were designed by the art team to adorn the walls of the mess, which called for them directly in the shooting script:"MESS is an apt adjective for these cramped quarters. Defaced propaganda posters, and pin-ups, male and female, line the walls." The posters are also reused in several characters' quarters… but even that is not enough for the average viewer to ever even notice them, as they flash by so quickly in the background.

We've attempted to locate and identify as much as possible from these posters, cataloged below. Text is included where legible and in two copies we are lucky enough to have preserved examples of the posters to study in further detail. We're hoping more of the original props or set photography surfaces some day as Wing Commander is just packed full of tiny details waiting to be discovered.

BE PREPARED - A black poster with illegible white and then red text followed BE PREPARED in large white letters. The bottom includes the Confederation logo and small white text. (Pilot's Mess)

CHAMPION - A muscular man wearing suspenders and sunglasses in front of a Confederation roundel. Text to the side reads CHAMPION. Text at the bottom is obscured but the first line ends "PACHO" and the last "2653". (Pilot's Mess x2)

DO IT FOR ME BOYS - A woman smiling in front of a Confederation roundel with "do it for me boys" in handwriting in front of her. There seems to be additional text at the top of the poster. (Pilot's Mess, Blair's Quarters)

YESTERDAY WE FOUGHT TO SAVE A COUNTRY - Features a man in marine armor superimposed over a panoramic shot of a planet from orbit. White text at the top reads "Yesterday we fought to save a Country. Today we fight to save a World." Text at the bottom reads "CONFEDERATION MARINES FIGHTING TO PROTECT THE UNIVERSE". (Pilot's Mess, Blair's Quarters, Maniac's Quarters)

REMEMBER - A white poster which reads REMEMBER in large letters followed by a drawing of a Confederation pilot, "only use your message code once inside the cockpit" and an 88th Fighter Wing logo at the bottom. (Pilot's Mess x2, Taggart's Quarters)

THERE CAN BE NO PEACE UNTIL EVIL IS DESTROYED - Multicovered poster which reads THERE CAN BE NO PEACE UNTIL EVIL IS DESTROYED in large, styled text and "The Confederation Navy needs you" at the bottom. Additional text is present alongside the TCS Concordia logo at the bottom but it can not be made out. (Pilot's Mess x2, Taggart's Quarters)

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE KILRATHI - A black poster which reads NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE KILRATHI at the top followed by three lines of additional text (that includes the phrases "is genetically" and "the difference") and features a 3x2 grid of photographs of humans. There is additional text at the bottom in two blocks, the larger of which includes "to know" and "talking to". The photographs are different on each version. (Pilot's Mess, Maniac's Quarters)

WARNING - A white poster which reads WARNING in red letters down the left side following by "C.W.O. INFORMATION" in white. The text at the top is "Before you trust him, find out if he's two-faced." and the image shows a woman behind a human torso with an alien head. Text at the bottom: "Issued by Confederation War Office 00:JKL00098/2654 For an information leaflet on identifying possible aliens please contact the Information Bureau on Concom 0900 0.87 Confed. ZT" (Pilot's Mess)

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Nomination Period Winding Down Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Somehow we're two weeks into December, so our annual fan project contest is about to begin! If you didn't get a nomination in earlier and feel passionate about some of the undertakings out there, send us a note at news@wcnews.com! You can find a fun rundown of past winners here to give you some ideas.

Rumor Control: The History of Ultima Cartoons Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

There is a long-standing claim that there was an Ultima cartoon created as either a TV pilot or straight-to-video OVA in Japan in 1989. This story continues that for whatever reason the episode was never aired or sold and was only rediscovered in the wreckage of a warehouse after a major earthquake in 1995. This is regularly repeated on social media and sometimes in legitimate articles. The story is paired with a brief portion of animation which is said to have been created for the show and then reused in a television commercial advertising Ultima: Exodus for the Famicom. It also sometimes references a quote from Shay Adams' Official Book of Ultima that mentions how "animated cartoons soon brought the Ultima story to television audiences" in Japan. It's a fascinating story and one that resonates because the information presented seems more than believable enough to escape much scrutiny. Indeed, Ultima was extremely popular in Japan at the time and did spawn a great deal of tie-in merchandise, the 1990 Official Book of Ultima does contain the above quote, there was a particularly devastating 1995 earthquake and the clip from the television commercial certainly exists. The issue, however, that the story is a fake.

The origin of the tale is an article written around the turn of the century and posted to a now-defunct Finnish anime fan site (available here via Wayback Machine). A quick translation reveals that it is a slightly more detailed version of that which has been repeated for years since, talking about the discovery of the lost Ultima tapes and how they were apparently sold at auction. But there's an ending that everyone has seemingly missed: hidden in invisible text at the bottom of the article is a disclaimer that the article is a joke!

The story of the unsold pilot and the lost tapes and the earthquake and the auction as well as the 'details' about the show's producers are not real and were never intended to be taken seriously. Ultima was certainly very big in Japan and a great deal of tie-in merchandise was created ranging from CD soundtracks to manga adaptations of the game stories to a customizable card game to oddities like frisbees. What connects all these things, however, is that their existence has been exhaustively recorded for posterity. The idea that there is a lost television show that has somehow escaped the extremely organized late-1980s anime fandom (to say nothing of Ultima fans) is incredibly unlikely. The oft-discussed Official Book of Ultima quote does not say anything about the cartoon in question being a TV pilot or an OVA. It is almost certainly referencing the cartoon created as part of Ultima's first ever television commercial. It's even immediately followed by more information on commercials: "To promote the release of the computer version of Ultima V and the Nintendo IV, a series of prime time TV commercials starred Garriott as Lord British...")

The Ultima: Exodus commercial; note that the characters match the ones on the game's Japanese box.

That said, there was a largely unknown attempt to develop a mainstream Ultima animated series… but it took place in Los Angeles and not Japan. In 1995, Origin shopped both Wing Commander and Ultima as potential properties for licensing. Based on their newfound Hollywood connections developed through shooting Wing Commander III and IV, they included a particular push to develop both the properties as childrens' animated shows which were then a particularly popular tie-in media for IP. Series bibles and concept art were developed for both shows and they were presented to a number of studios, including Universal which bought Wing Commander Academy and also assisted with the early development of the Wing Commander film. The Ultima pitch was developed based on a series bible developed at Origin and used artwork created by Will Meugniot of ExoSquad (and later Warrior King) fame at Film Roman. A pilot was never purchased and there was no lost animation. A single piece of artwork from the pitch has been discovered:

In late 2000, a blind item appeared on legitimate news sites claiming that ADV Films was developing an Ultima tie-in film or series that could have finally realized the old rumor. Little is known of this project beyond that it would have been a tie-in to the cancelled Ultima Online 2. If a deal were ever actually signed it is unlikely it ever went past the initial concept (UO2 itself would never release, leaving a variety of orphaned tie-in media including a series of action figures and three novels which were hastily repurposed as mainline Ultima stories.)

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All Wings Considered - Episode 34 - LIVE! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The latest episode of ALL WINGS CONSIDERED is live now! All Wings Considered is the CIC's first ever streaming variety show which features news, conversation and gameplay relating to our favorite series. This week's Nav Points include:

  • Wing Commander III - Torgo on the PC
  • Heart of the Tiger Book Club - Chapters 22 through 24
  • Holiday Cheer!

Missed the stream? The replay will be available below once it has been processed by YouTube. You can subscribe to the AWC channel for future notifications here.

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German Phone Card Highlights Prophecy Marketing Blitz Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Dominus of Exult managed to get his hands on a very cool and rare collectible, the promotional prepaid telephone card for Wing Commander Prophecy! It came in a large folder covered in key art, which contains a smaller container for the card itself. The denomination was 6 Deutsche Marks. To explain to kids of the new millennium: prepaid phone cards were used in the '90s to authorize calls from a pay phone without having to carry money. This is one of at least four similar Wing Commander promos that we know of. One was released in the UK with the Wing Commander II logo, another was available in Japan with the Super Famicon WC artwork and a second Japanese card tied in with the Wing Commander Movie.
I stumbled over a weird Wing Commander Prophecy telephoncard folder in Germany

WC4 Remake Tests Higher Resolutions Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

We're at that time of the year when most Wingnuts get busy with holiday business and fan project activity briefly slows. Nevertheless, Pedro managed to share this new screenshot of the WC4 Fan Remake going ultrawide. It looks pretty darn sharp, and all of that gorgeous screen real estate will come in extra handy during a dogfight!
Been out of action with flu, work craziness and most significantly moving, I haven't even had chance to set up the server again yet so I'm afraid I've made very little progress... but with the extra desk space I got a new monitor so I can start testing Ultra Wide resolutions and HDR.

Ginger's Prophecy Shooting Schedule & Contract Cover Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Wing Commander III and Prophecy star Ginger Lynn Allen (Rachel Coriolis) runs an eBay store which regularly offers items from her storied career. While much of the memorabilia pertains to her time as an adult film superstar, she occasionally comes across a document or prop relating to her time as our favorite chief tech. We recently purchased these two documents to add to our archive and wanted to highlight them here.

The first, two blue pages, is the shooting schedule for Wing Commander Prophecy showing which days each actor is scheduled to work. This is especially interesting because it shows how quickly Wing Commander Prophecy's cutscenes were filmed: just ten days total, compared to 25 on Wing Commander III, 30 on Privateer 2, 43 on Wing Commander IV and 52 on the 1999 movie. The second is the cover sheet for her Wing Commander Prophecy contract; the 'Crocodile Productions' of the header was Electronic Arts' internal full motion video studio at the time. We've previously archived the contract itself, which you can read here.

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Happy Birthday, Wing Commander III! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Origin Systems shipped the original PC version of Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger on Thursday, December 8, 1994, a whopping twenty-five years ago today. Heart of the Tiger was an immediate hit, selling hundreds of thousands of units to those lucky enough to own top of the line PCs that Christmas. The game was like nothing anyone had ever seen before, seamlessly blending advanced 3D graphical gameplay with interactive live action cutscenes starring familiar professional actors.

Wing Commander III's status as a true classic has never been in doubt, though its true impact on the history of video game development took some unexpected twists and turns. Upon release, it was felt that the game represented the next generation of entertainment media, harbinger of a new era of interactive games fused with Hollywood filmmaking. Sadly, Heart of the Tiger's blend of gaming genius and cinematic know-how proved to be a feat few could equal, ultimately condemning "interactive movies" to fad status. Nevertheless, many other aspects of the game set standards that are still recognizable in AAA game development today. These range from the large scale production processes developed to keep such a massive project on track to the revolutionary gameplay built around textured 3D objects, the decision to develop exclusively for CD-ROM media and the interactive conversations and missions that continue to inspire designers today.

For Wing Commander fans, Heart of the Tiger represents a Rubicon of sorts, the point at which the series went from being a set of extremely good games following one another to becoming a multimedia franchise. The unprecedented success of Wing Commander III was mana to the series' longtime fans, proof positive that Chris Roberts' genius could was recognizable to the world at large. Its success spawned licenses and spinoffs that would have been thought impossible a day earlier: Saturday morning cartoons, customizable card games, Privateer 2: The Darkening and ultimately a feature film. It's a game that took an already-great universe, turned it on its ear and made it something incredibly unique and special. It also brought Wing Commander to the nascent internet with fans coalescing on the Usenet around alt.games.wc3 and eventually on the World Wide Web through groups like the Wing Commander Ace's Club and Origin's Official Wing Commander Chat Zone, the forebearers of today's Discord and Facebook groups.

Over the next three years, Wing Commander III would be ported to the 3DO, Macintosh, Playstation and Windows 95 and the series would continue with massive projects like Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom and Wing Commander Prophecy. The game is still enjoyed and discussed regularly by fans around the world with modders and historians continuing to take it apart to learn ever more obscure details about the Wing Commander universe. Will it ever be forgotten by the countless fans who first leafed through their copies of Warbirds and Victory Streak on Christmas morning a quarter century ago? I mean, they're going to have to pry our dead carcasses out of the cockpit...

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Follow for Fighters, Fiction & Firekka's Finest Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Sticks, Stories and Scotch is a simple concept that brings together great flight sims, good stories and a solid dose of adult beverage. It sounds like a good time to me! Aaron just finished a thorough replay of Wing Commander 1 and has distilled his final thoughts on the run. He's also kicked off the Secret Missions campaign, so the adventure continues! Follow along here.
First, for a game that’s going to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, Wing Commander holds up surprisingly well. A lot of that can be attributed to the branching campaign structure which provides a lot more flexibility and replay value than might otherwise be in a game like this. There were a few losing path missions which I don’t know that I ever saw prior to this playthrough.

Despite the technical challenges, I feel that the game is still very much worth playing. For me, personally, I played through the original campaign numerous times growing up. That contributed to my general confidence when playing these missions. However, my brothers and I never had the Secret Missions expansions, so these missions I’ve only played through once or twice once I acquired a copy of The Kilrathi Saga to play on my own PC in the late ‘90s. From here on out, things get a lot more challenging.

Wing Commander Advent Calendar Brightens up the Season Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The ever-creative Tarsus has created another fun Wing Commander distraction to bring you some holiday cheer. With resources from the new Head Museum, he's created an automatic advent calendar with your favorite original WC characters as the daily reveal. It's a simple concept, but I can't wait to see who's queued up for tomorrow! Check it out for yourself here.
I've taken the liberty of making an advent calendar out of your heads.

All Wings Considered - Episode 33 - LIVE! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The latest episode of ALL WINGS CONSIDERED is live now! All Wings Considered is the CIC's first ever streaming variety show which features news, conversation and gameplay relating to our favorite series. This week's Nav Points include:

  • Wing Commander III - Caliban & Delius on the 3DO
  • A Visit to the Head Museum
  • Righteous Fire - Visiting Tayla
  • 25 Years of Wing Commander on the PlayStation

Missed the stream? The replay will be available below once it has been processed by YouTube. You can subscribe to the AWC channel for future notifications here.

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Happy Birthday, PlayStation! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The famed Sony PlayStation console turned an astonishing twenty five years old yesterday. The system was originally released in Japan on December 3, 1994, a mere five days before the original PC release of Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger hit store shelves (the system would be released in the United States a full ten months later in September 1995.) To mark this occasion, we'd like to share a short history of Wing Commander on the platform.

The so-called "fifth generation" of game consoles began in late 1993 with the launch of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and, shortly after, the Atari Jaguar. The previous era had come down to a cage match between two 16-bit systems, Nintendo's Super Nintendo and Sega's upstart Genesis. The messy, marketing driven battle for dominance between the two systems had proven one thing: Nintendo's massive market share, once thought to be absolute, could be overtaken. This meant that the title of champion of the 32-bit era was wide open… and there were more strong contenders than ever before ranging from established Nintendo's N64 and Sega's Saturn to newcomer Amiga's CD32 and Sony's PlayStation. It quickly became clear that the next generation of consoles would be largely defined by their ability to store much larger amounts of multimedia data, usually on variants of the CD-ROM, and to render dedicated 3D graphics.

Without a clear frontrunner, software developers were forced to either bet on one console over the others or divide up precious resources to develop for multiple platforms at once. Failing to support the right system could mean ruin for even the largest publishers. Electronic Arts initially threw strong support behind the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, a gaming technology developed by the company's founder and former CEO Trip Hawkins. EA put money and other resources into developing a range of early 3DO titles including Super Wing Commander. But the 3DO languished on store shelves, burning its first-to-market status with an overly-expensive $699 price point and a confusing marketing campaign that attempted to position it as a replacement for the VCR instead of the Super Nintendo, prompting Electronic Arts to rethink their strategy. Instead of attempting to play kingmaker, EA would port their major releases to as many of the new consoles as possible.

And no release was bigger than Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. Released for the PC in December 1994, Origin Systems had immediately begun in-house development of a console-focused 3DO port. The game was an enormous success and Electronic Arts wanted more, announcing plans to port the game to the increasingly popular Sony PlayStation as well as the Sega Saturn and the Apple Power Macintosh. Work also began on ports for the Atari Jaguar, the 3DO M2 (aborted successor to the Interactive Multiplayer) and later Windows 95. Origin Systems did not have an available team qualified to develop the PlayStation port and so the task was assigned to a group at Electronic Arts' Redwood City headquarters.

By the time these ports were shown at E3 in summer 1995, it had become clearer who would earn the crown. Sony had smashed its strongest competitor Sega's confusingly-marketed Saturn by undercutting the release price by $100 and its PlayStation, previously considered to be something of an also-ran, had built up an unprecedented amount of cultural cachet. For the next quarter century and beyond, the PlayStation and its successors would remain among the top selling, industry-defining consoles. The PlayStation had, against all odds, become the next big thing… but could Electronic Arts and Wing Commander take a late seat at the table?

Wing Commander III for the PlayStation was released on March 27, 1996 to generally positive reviews, though with black marks for a proliferation of loading screens and an incredibly complex control scheme compared to other console titles. The game was the final 'long box' PlayStation release, published in a larger cardboard case instead of the now familiar PlayStation jewel case. Where the magnificent 3DO release of Wing Commander III had focused on adapting the game design to the limitations of the console, the PlayStation release tried above all to retain the graphics and the gameplay of the PC version. The result was a version of Wing Commander III that looked amazing, featuring 3D on par with the SVGA PC release but that felt sluggish and overly detailed for the platform.

Wing Commander III for the PlayStation is not a bad game but it's also nowhere near as unique as the 3DO version. Like the 3DO version, it improves on the PC release with slightly higher quality videos and by restoring scenes that had been cut to save disk space such as the Hobbes explanation and the regular TNC news briefings. It also made use of full color comm scenes and unlike the 3DO version managed to include the 'fly through' ships. To improve the rough framerate, the team cut out the game's cockpit and also removed the planetary segments. The prison rescue mission is replaced with an attack against a pair of corvettes and the other three missions remain the same but replace any planetary gameplay with a cutscene.

Electronic Arts also opted to make a special push for Wing Commander III PlayStation in Japan where the system had become immensely popular. A full Japanese localization with an expensive marketing campaign (and new, more colorful key art) attempted to convince the previously unsold market on the wonders of the franchise. Japan even had a beautiful exclusive, full-color PlayStation hint book! (Available scanned here at Pix's Origin Adventures.)

Nevertheless, management at Origin were particularly unhappy with the release, believing the disconnect between the original developers in Austin and the team in California had resulted in a subpar product. In an attempt to rectify this, the job of porting Wing Commander IV to the PlayStation was given to Austin-based Lion Entertainment, a porting company which had previously developed the Macintosh releases of Super Wing Commander, Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV. Wing Commander IV PSX would be developed with close support from the original development team and with a special focus on adapting the game for play on a console instead of trying to emulate the PC experience.

The resulting effort worked well, more or less. Wing Commander IV PSX shipped on May 15th, 1997 with a re-designed cockpit interface and a plethora of optional control schemes generally intended to simplify gameplay and make it more enjoyable for a console player. It was also the rare original PlayStation game that included support for the Sony PlayStation Analog Joystick, a huge controller which featured two flight sticks. The device was the first analog controller for a PlayStation and the immediate precursor of the now-standard DualShock controller. It allowed Wing Commander IV to be played very smoothly, almost like an elaborate HOTAS setup on the PC.

The dark side of Wing Commander IV PSX was that the team was required to cut two full discs of content. This meant again removing the game's ground missions and also cutting a large number of optional missions and cutscenes. For example, instead of being given the moral choice between collecting weapons and rescuing civilians you automatically choose the former as the Circe series has been removed from the game entirely. While these cuts seem drastic to anyone familiar with the PC release, they do feel seamless to first time players picking up the game on the PlayStation.

Wing Commander IV also had a minor but incredibly important impact on the larger Wing Commander lore: it provided a date for when the game took place! Origin's web team, Chicken Boy Productions, put together a then-fancy interactive 'tour of the TCS Lexington' to introduce players to the game in 1997 (available in part here). The tour included an Easter egg: click on Captain Eisen's computer and you can read one of his e-mails to his Border World contact… through which we learn both the current date (2673.219 or August 7, 2673) and the first name of the Border Worlds scientist (Tuesday). You can find the original e-mail file archived here. Other WC4 PSX media was sprinkled with bits and pieces that added to the Wing Commander universe, like the 'Confed ReadyNet' computer login on the manual cover and a stunning two-page '2673 Dragon' magazine advertisement.

Wing Commander IV was the last Wing Commander game released for the PlayStation (at least until EA Replay for the PlayStation Portable in 2006) but it was not the last one developed. In fact, Origin felt so strongly that the PlayStation was the future of gaming that Wing Commander V, later Prophecy, began life as a parallel development with two teams sharing resources, one building for the PlayStation and one for the PC. As Origin lost top level talent to Digital Anvil, plans for the PlayStation version were dropped… but a number of early design decisions intended to allow the game to thrive on both platforms remained throughout the process and into release.

Today, the Wing Commander IV PlayStation port is still available for sale digitally. Sony maintains the game as part of their "PSOne Classics" line of downloadable games which can be played on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita. (Sale page here.) There's something quite special about playing a game that once seemed impossibly huge and advanced as a downloadable release on a handheld system! Unfortunately, Wing Commander III has not been made available in this manner. In fact, it's one of a handful of PSX games that were never certified as backwards compatible with the PlayStation 2, owing to a video playback bug that was actually present on the original hardware. Physical copies of the game, still readily available, can still be enjoyed on backwards compatible PlayStation 2 and 3 systems.

The PlayStation versions of Wing Commander III and IV are certainly not the best available and if you are a PC veteran interested in a truly unique experience then you should go for the 3DO port instead. But they are both incredibly solid releases that remain fun to this day and which are both incredibly important because of the new audience that they introduced to the Wing Commander universe. I still load up my PSOne with both games to this day and a PSP running WC4 remains a regular companion on trips! They're also much more readily available and much easier for the average gamer to pick up and play with relatively modern hardware… and if you're a Wing Commander fan seeking a slightly different version of the game, why not give them a try?

PlayStation PostScript: Origin Systems would go on to release two additional PlayStation games, a solid port of Crusader: No Remorse and a Japan-only enhanced edition of Ultima Underworld. A great deal of work would go into an unreleased version of Crusader: No Regret and an original mech battle game called Prowler (which began life as a 3DO exclusive before dying as the company's first in-house PlayStation project.)

Would You Like to Know More?

Archived Design Documents

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Familiar Faces Dot the Sectorscape Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Rear Admiral Tarsus' propaganda seems to be working, since his latest round of Gemini Sector RPG posters seem oddly captivating. Perhaps that has something to do with the stars of his new drawings, the CIC Staff. The first image features LOAF surfing on the back of a Ferret as it roars through space. Dundradal is in his element mansplaining lecturing the tech about torpedoes. Then #Wingnut regular Scout is shown getting tractored into the back of a Longbow after ejecting. Last but not least, it looks like I've been designated as a member of TCN News' press corps. Apparently flattery will get you somewhere! Read all about the Gemini game here and visit the team on their friendly Discord server.
  • Here is a poster with the mighty bandit surfing on a ferret while holding a shield with the crest of the confederation. Important note, his beard is generating oxygen, he's OK, I promise!
  • Here is a poster with Dundradal trying to ask a question we all had for the last 20 years, why can't an Excalibur be loaded with world war 2 era ordinance. :) Mechanic lady is not amused.
  • Here is a poster of Scout showing why we need to stick to established flight lanes. I took advantage of the scene to try a different style of nebula and to make the tractor beam more of a lasso than a blob.
  • Here is a poster of what investigative journalism can do during a war. Thank you Chris, you probably saved more confed pilots than the photon gun ever will. Charmin stocks will drop though.

Is V Greater Than IV? Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Great reward after a long week: two more Wing Commander CCG paintings! Dralthi IV vs. Hellcat V, as nature intended.

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Freelancer Mod Hotfixes Provide Cool Experience Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

As fans have continued to fly through the Freelancer universe in Wing Commander ships, they've uncovered a small handful of issues a glitches along the way. L.I.F. has worked diligently to swat them as they pop up. These should make the player experience more solid wither fewer crashes. The latest beta is available here (approx 300 megs), or you can also just grab the small hotfix (about 1 megabyte) and overwrite with the included files. The whole storyline campaign is now playable, and the beta edition of the mod includes enhanced economy options to keep all of the factions' ships relevant throughout the entire game.
In any case, grab the hotfix if you haven't already, it removed a number of CTD. If you're doing a new install and just downloaded the latest release, the hotfix isn't needed, it's already part of the release. It's there to save you the hassle of downloading 1 GB of models and textures again for a couple MB of corrections in text files done as part of the bug hunt process.

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