Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Rapiers All in One Place Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

ChrisReid: While looking up links associated with the Rapier for a couple of news posts this past week, I notice we'd never taken LOAF's massive research on the ship and turned it into a singular article. It's a huge amount of info, so buckle your seatbelts and hang on! Here's LOAF with everything you ever wanted to know about the Rapier:

LOAF: The Rapier fighters in the Wing Commander movie were constructed from the cockpits of eight F.53 English Electric Lightning jets. I decided to read up on their history and it turns out they're part of a group of 34 ordered by the Saudi Royal Air Force in 1965!

One of these Lightnings crashed during its test flight; to replace it, BAC produced an extra plane using end-of-line parts. It was the last Lightning ever constructed and it became the Rapier flown by Freddie Prinze Jr's Lieutenant Blair! The Lightnings flew ground attack missions against Yemen in 1970. In 1985, BAC bought back the 18 remaining flyable planes as part of a deal to sell Saudi Arabia the Lightning. They returned to England and were offered for sale used to other countries; there was little interest. BAC eventually made the unwanted Lightnings available cheaply as museum displays and gate guardians. Seven of them eventually went on display around the UK (sometimes repainted as an RAF F.6 Lightning.). An aviation enthusiast named Wensley Haydon-Baillie saved the remaining eleven from the scrapyard. He had become wealthy running a drug company which seemed to be on the verge of a cure for Herpes.. Unfortunately, the drug didn't work out and Mr. Haydon-Baillie was forced to sell his aircraft collection. The Lightnings went to a salvage company in Portsmouth in the mid-1990s. Luckily, the operator couldn't bring himself to destroy these classic aircraft! Meanwhile, Wing Commander IV was wrapping up and Origin Systems was finally talking at making the long-talked-about Wing Commander movie a reality. Chris and his team started to put together a short demo to show how it would work. While the project was still at Origin (and the ships were still called Sabres) a series of painted storyboards for this test was put together. The first plan was to do completely CGI spacecraft, which was a tall order for 1996. When Chris Roberts left to start Digital Anvil, Electronic Arts granted him the Wing Commander movie rights and work on the pitch continued at the new company. The demo premiered at SXSW in 1997 using a game-inspired Rapier built by artist Dean McCall: FOX was impressed enough to finance the movie with a comparatively small budget. The first pass at the Rapier was done by Ron Cobb, probably best known for Alien's Nostromo. The Cobb design was discarded as the original plan (building a full practical spacecraft like the X-Wing in a New Hope) for non-CGI shots ran into limitations of budget and technology. But what the production lacked in budget it made up for in talent behind the camera! Production designer Peter Lamont, fresh off of an Academy Award win for Titanic, created a lived-in, industrial world using salvaged equipment. And that's where our stories meet! The production purchased eight of the ex-Saudi Lightnings' cockpits from Marine Salvage (plus a Canberra bomber nose for the Broadsword cockpit) and flew them to Luxembourg. Contrary to popular belief, the production didn't cut aircraft to pieces (with one exception); the Rapiers are built on top of the cockpits which were designed to detach from the fuselage and wings. Not all eight cockpits were modified. Some became full Rapiers for flight deck shots, some were mounted on motion rigs for spaceflight and one (ZF587) WAS cut in half down the windscreen for closeup shots of the pilots. The team measured and photographed the physical spacecraft carefully to create 3D models for the VFX shots. Compare two shots of the physical Rapier with two using 3D models. To my mind, that's pretty darned impressive for 1998! (Think of watching Wing Commander today versus The Phantom Menace, which was released six weeks later with ten times the budget.) My next question was: what happened to the eight Wing Commander Lightnings? After principal photography finished, several were moved to Pinewood Studios in London for pickup shots. These were later returned to Marine Salvage to be resold, some still kitted out as Rapiers. Three most likely remained 'abandoned in place' in the Luxembourg warehouse that was the Tiger Claw flight deck. They and a number of other Wing Commander props appear in the 2004 Dolph Lundgren movie "Retrograde" which was shot in the same space! In 2009, an urban explorer named Spako sneaked into the warehouse and took a beautiful HDR photo of one of the planes. She reported there were two others, one of which was not a full conversion. Of the Rapiers that went back to England: Lightning ZF579 was only slightly modified for the film and was purchased by Gatwick Aviation Museum, where it was reunited with its fuselage and wings. It's on display there today! ZF587, the plane that was sliced in half, was restored and is now on display at the Lashenden Air Warfare Museum! You can still see the scar: Several suffered a more ignominious fate. ZF589 (Blair's Rapier) spent a short time in a Scottish science fiction museum and was then sold to a paintball arena! Where it spent several years as a target/spaceship. It was recently rescued and is currently being painstakingly restored (as a Lightning.) You can follow that process on Facebook!: Lightning ZF590 is exactly the same story: it spent years as a paintball target and was purchased and restored by a private citizen. It's privately owned today and is visible in storage at Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicestershire. That's where the trail goes a little colder! Three are MIA. One pops up at a possibly-now-defunct lasertag arena outside London. It was last seen still in Rapier form in 2015, current whereabouts unknown! One more was last seen across the pond: it was the centerpiece of a Planet Hollywood in Columbus, Ohio until it closed in 2001. I've reached out to Planet Hollywood to see if they know what became of it! Ooh, and here's the final version's concept art I forgot to include earlier. You can see how they initially expected the additional superstructure to be more apparent! Let me add a little about the fictional ship! Here's the Joan's Fighting Ships entry from The Confederation Handbook, which is kind of like the manual for the movie! Star Citizen fans may recognize the Rapier's designation :) You can see that in-fiction, the huge cannon is supposed to be a neutron gun. Kind of an odd choice! The rotary slug thrower aesthetic carried over into Chris Roberts' next game, StarLancer... and you can still see it on ships in Star Citizen today! Jumping back in time a little, I mentioned earlier the Rapier was originally the SABRE. You can read that first draft of the script here. The Sabre was the Confederation's heavy attack fighter in Wing Commander II. It's the ship you fly for the final missions of the game. It had a crew of two, with a rear turret gunner (that you could also switch to control.) As an aside, I only just learned [back in 2018] that one of the background ships in Wing Commander Academy (the Saturday morning cartoon) was intended to be the Sabre! Thanks to this storyboard: Chris Roberts did the first rewrite of the script for Wing Commander and in the process changed SABRE to RAPIER. You can find that script here. The original Rapier was the 'hero' ship in Wing Commander I. It's the Confederation's brand new badass dogfighter that you finish the game in. The 2D concept art was by Glen Johnson and the 3D model by outsourcer Mary Bellis working on an Amiga. The Rapier shows up again in Wing Commander II as a neat narrative trick to show the passage of time (intended to be ten years.) Now it's the 'average' fighter, missing the bells and whistles of the others! It's said to be the G model. The original F-44A Rapier got a super sexy reboot look for Super Wing Commander. The design was used heavily in the new cutscenes (including the intro.) We should also be honest with ourselves and give the 1982 Clint Eastwood movie Firefox a... little... credit for the design (another reason not to stick closely to it for the move to the big screen!) The Rapier and (the Sabre) figure prominently in most of the Baen Wing Commander novels. Author William Forstchen was a military historian who liked to spin gems into the lore; thus was born things like the Sabre-D model intended for the shorter runways on escort carriers! The last Baen novel, False Colors, even follows a squadron from a smaller country flying the export model Rapier just after the Kilrathi war. Just like the export model Lightnings that would eventually become Rapiers! Wing Commander Arena for Xbox Live Arcade brought back the Rapier in three flavors! The artists referenced the original and the Super Wing Commander designs. Embarrassing background: I chose the eight ship types used in Wing Commander Arena. I was asked what the four best known ships were for each faction... if I'd known we would go on to set the game in 2701 I'd have lied! (Arena was a very weird time in Wing Commander history, but I don't regret it!) I accidentally boned one other piece of Rapier-related Wing Commander lore, too, the story of which I will now share to end this thread! In lore, the Rapiers in the Wing Commander movie (which is set in March 2654) are very old. The ships are clearly beat to death and you can see in the Joan's entry above the design is said to be a century old. But in Wing Commander I, which starts in April 2654, the Rapier is BRAND NEW. There is a mission where you literally fly the prototype on its first combat test (historically the mission is flown by Spirit and Angel.). Superfans explain this by referencing the Kilrathi Saga manual which for whatever reason renames the Rapier-G from Wing Commander II the "Rapier II." Wing Commander uses USAF-style designations where a trailing Roman numeral indicates an entirely different design. P-47 vs. A-10. Ergo, in the future WC universe the two Rapiers must be totally different ship designs. The CF-117 Rapier retires and is immediately replaced by the F-44 Rapier. Clunky as heck, but it lets you sleep at night when you're a crazy fanboy (I'm talking about me and no one else.)

How did I mess this up even further? As part of the movie's licensing deal, a series of 'movie books' were written by author Peter Telep (better known today as the co-writer of several Tom Clancey books!) These started with an adaptation of the film.

When you write a movie adaptation, it has to be published the same time the movie comes out. So you can't actually watch anything, you have to work in parallel from the script and possibly some early production concepts. As a result, novelizations of movies (or things like Star Trek pilots!) can vary wildly from what you see on the screen. That surely happened with Wing Commander, which includes all the traitor and Merlin scenes dropped when the film was in post.

Mr. Telep is a wonderful man and he does very thorough research, even for a video game movie adaptation. He reached out to me through my fan site at the time and asked if I could provide him with background about the WC universe. I was fifteen or so at the time and thought I'd handed responsibility for the fate of the universe. I sent him copies of the games and he sent me a list of proper nouns. He couldn't share the script, but could I provide background on these things referenced in it? So I happily wrote up every single fact I could think of about RAPIERS, DRALTHI, KRANT, ANGEL, the TIGER'S CLAW and so on. I made him exhaustive lists of ships and Kilrathi language references and maps of how known space was laid out. But all I knew was the game, I had no idea what they were doing with the movie. I didn't know the Rapier was old and neither did Peter... so instead of the CF-117b, the book features the brand new F-44A described just as it is in Wing Commander I (straight from my notes.)

The first sequel novel, Pilgrim Stars, includes an explanation that just adds another layer of trouble: "[Blair] surveyed his instruments, noting a few differences between his present fighter, the CF-117b Rapier, and the old F44-A he had flown only three days prior..." "The new model had increased missile capacity to ten guided or dumbfire missiles and packed a second generation nose-mounted rotary-barrel neutron gun that allowed for longer continuous neutron fire."

If you're still here, thank you very much and I'm very sorry about inadvertently making starfighter lore a little bit more confusing.

Unfortunately, HarperCollins killed the line before the third, already-finished novel was published. But if you'd like you can read the uncorrected galley here (a longtime grail of mine!). One more fun one -- a comparison of four Rapier cockpit designs! Wing Commander (1990), Wing Commander II (1991), Super Wing Commander (1994) and Wing Commander (1999): MORE NEAT STUFF! The Rapier props in the movie have some incredible details that you barely get to see. Many of the markings are based on World War II carrier planes. Look for grids of kill markings based on the Japanese flags you would see on a Hellcat or Corsair ace's plane. Each one also has a name and rank like a modern jet fighter, an identification number, a small piece of nose art and various warning signs. That's the Terran Confederation Space Force logo on the left, too! And here's a Flight School variation on Blair's pilot evaluation (the text quietly includes the events of the first episode of Wing Commander Academy!) The ID numbers are also based on vintage USN carrier planes. The Rapiers do lack the tail markings which identify which aircraft carrier a particular plane belongs to. (Maybe the Tiger Claw works alone!) What numbers do we see? Bossman/Blair is 18, Rosie is 59, Maniac is 64 and Angel is 69 (hah?) The numbers were simple stickers and could be swapped easily. We also see 13, 21, 65 and 72 in various places (and maybe others.) Here's a closeup of the kill markers! The shooting script makes a bigger deal of the kill markings. Blair specifically notes that Bossman and Angel both have 26 at various points. You can read the shooting script here. Closeup of the TCSF wings, thanks to AD. One little mistake: this shot is used twice during the big scramble in act two, mirrored the second time! I guess that's Rapier टმ. :) Wow, those look cool lined up. Here's a page showing the different nose art for the different characters (Knight flew a Broadsword.) Bossman's art is the squadron logo with his name over it. And who knew Rosie's callsign was SASSY?! Rarely noticed: the Rapier control surfaces are LUXURIOUS. They're so good you assume they're just stock Lightning controls. They aren't! Chris smartly had a second unit shoot lots of footage of just the controls in use which appear throughout the film. And that's the end of our story for now! I'm passionate about aircraft preservation but I do hope one of these somehow remains a Rapier. Here's a spreadsheet I made as I was trying to track them all.

I just thought of another kinda silly Rapier story! There was a toy line for the Wing Commander movie, with eight different Star Wars-scale action figures (including the traitor who was fully cut from the film.) The package also advertised Rapier and Dralthi vehicles coming soon.

The movie was not a hit and the vehicles never went into production. But some years ago, Joe Garrity of the Origin Museum tracked down the man in charge of the company and asked if he would be willing to sell the prototypes. Joe asked if I wanted to go in for half, and I dug up every penny I had to my name at the time and we went to meet the president of the toy company. The company was named X-TOYS, which was a terrible thing to name something people would want to Alta Vista for in 1999. For their first toy lines they licensed WING COMMANDER and WILD WILD WEST. I don't know if they were late to the the licensing expo or just liked Ws.

We had lunch with the guy and he told us his sad story. They followed the Ws up with a series of Saturday Night Live toys that also didn't sell. He talked all about what else he'd wanted to do for Wing Commander! C'est la vie. He also mentioned he was onto the next big thing (tiny skateboards that rolled) and in fact he was about to meet a big name skater about licensing. "Tony Hawk?!" Joe and I said in unison. "No!" he replied angrily, "why does everyone keep asking that?!" Poor X-Toys.

Anyway, here is the prototype of the toy Rapier, which is safely in a box in my office! Joe Garrity kept the Dralthi in his museum.

Okay NOW I'm done, I promise. Have a great night, everybody!
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CIC

Emulated iPad Wing Commander Looks Slick Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The iPhone/iPad app iDOS 2 has been in the news this week since it was announced that the program will be coming down soon per Apple's app store guidelines. The company has always been very leery of emulators and programs that can run other code or operating systems (like Windows 3.1!), and it's honestly surprising that the program has been allowed to exist on the platform for this long as it is. While it's still available at the time of this writing, it might not be around much longer. Nevertheless, there's been a surge of downloads, and people have been posting about different games that they've gotten to work. Here's a picture that Steve Makofsky took playing Wing Commander 1 on his iPad, which is pretty darn cool!
Kinda shocked it worked so easily - iDOS2 running vintage Wing Commander.
This is by no means the first app to enable this kind of activity, but most have been relatively short lived. In the future, there are promising methods in development to run emulators via browser, which would allow virtually seamless play of classic games on any system.

Rapier I Holds the Line Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

It's a good week for Rapier I art. We posted an uncommon 3D render of a fan model a few days ago, and now we've got a top down line art sketch of the CF-117. The rotary neutron gun is a bit long, but the ship portions are pretty good overall. This type of drawing was really big in the late '90s, so I'm surprised we haven't seen more of this over the years. bagera3005 is certainly a fan of this art style with thousands of Star Trek ships and other similar designs in his gallery. He's also made a Kilrathi-inspired ship, pictured below. It's kind of a funky cross between a Goran and a Sorthak by my eye.
My version of Wing Commander Rapier from the movie
If you'd like to see more cool WC line art, be sure to check out our prior updates.

Chess Blog Delivers a Reality Check Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Belgian Chess History website runs a remarkable blog where they analyze and dissect chess games in progress across a variety of film and television. They look at the chess board setups and discuss how the characters (often inexplicably) got into their situation. Wing Commander has been featured, and it got a characteristically brutal scrubbing. Not only do they hate the setup, they're not fond of the characters nor even the chess pieces! You can find the full Belgian Chess History article here.

LOAF actually researched and found the actual chess set used in the WC Movie a while back. He also put together a slightly more accurate placement of the pieces, pictured below.

LOAF: It's just not a situation anyone would reasonably get to. Unless Bishop, a man named after a chess piece with said piece painted on his Rapier, is particularly terrible at chess.
Belgian Chess History: The idiot on the table in the background is, unfortunately, one of our main characters. He is introducing himself and his companion to the crew of the spaceship they just entered. Since he has the brain of a hard-boiled shrimp, it doesn’t go very well. But it seems like the director knew that he should focus as little as possible on Matthew Lillard and show some chess players instead.

Let us follow this very wise piece of advice and look what’s happening on the board. Immediately, I get a hit of nostalgia: the board has been set up wrongly with a1 a white square and, believe it or not, that’s been a while. The next thing we note it that, in the future, people apparently use really inconvenient, stumpy pieces that all look alike. That makes our task a bit harder, but we get good enough camera angles to make a reasonably reliable reconstruction:

Lillard, who is watching the game, suggests: "You want to take his castle with your little horsie."

A brilliant piece of advice, eloquently delivered. He goes on to claim, quite wrongly, that it is checkmate. This claim is immediately accepted, since this is a very stupid flick.

Blue Origin Successfully Launches Bezos Flight Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

For the second time in as many weeks, a private space tour company has launched their first fully crewed vessel (and their billionaire founder) into space. This time they had the audacity to do it on a work day, so we've posted some nifty photos and video below for the people who couldn't watch live. Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket reached an altitude of about 66 miles and produced a similar brief period of weightlessness as the Virgin Galactic experience last week. Unlike Richard Branson's specialized type of jet plane, today's craft was a more traditional vertical rocket. It's been almost fifteen years since we first reported on their efforts, which once again highlights how challenging these milestones are to reach. In addition to space tourism, the company is also aiming to compete with SpaceX on moon missions in the future.
Much like I said last week, I won't really wade into the controversy around Bezos' wealth or what else he could be doing with the money. Whatever he's spent getting Blue Origin stood up, he still has plenty of money to do anything else you can possibly imagine if he were so inclined. All of the money spent on Blue Origin has paid for a large group of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians to further push the technological envelope, and that's awesome.

Rapier Gets Its Feet Wet Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Here's a nifty old school Rapier I put together by FetzerJoshua. Art based on the Wing Commander Movie is kind of a special breed, and this one's no exception. Due to differences in the medium, most fans probably haven't spent nearly as much time staring at stills of the film ships, so it might not be obvious at first how much detail he got right. The layers to the fuselage, cockpit pylons, landing gear and even unusual missile placement are pretty good. I added a few reference shots below so you can compare. Not sure why it's on the beach, but why not?

Mac's Escort Carrier Makes Its Debut Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Mac has put together a nifty visual of an escort carrier cruising in the Freepsace engine. The core model comes from Klavs' collection, and the resulting image is a beauty. We wanted to share in case some people could use a new wallpaper image. There's some additional shots of some funkiness from a gameplay perspective, but even those shots look cool!
A viewer on my recent #wingcommander video commented about the Tarawa, which reminded me of my efforts to import her into #FreespaceOpen It has no shield impact anims, the bumpmaps are a little weird, and it cant fire. But it looks nice at least. The Tarawa model was from Klav's Wing Commander 3d model pack btw.
Oh ya, one more thing, how the Tarawa deals with itself exploding in FS is....really weird. She's a long way before I can have her ready for prime time.
Mac's other big hobby is his YouTube channel dedicated to sci-fi history. He's recently put together a new intro trailer for Mac's Lore below.

WC1 Speech Mod Improves Memory Handling & Gameflow Dialogue Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Destro has an update on the project to add Sega CD speech to Wing Commander 1. He's recently managed to make some significant improvements to memory utilization and thereby enhance performance. As far as matching up the audio between game versions, he's nearly complete with the basic shipboard audio and will soon be moving to inflight communications. Real life plans have slowed things somewhat, which is something that everyone involved with fan projects should be very familiar with. Nevertheless, fans like Destro continue to persevere and make gradual progress towards amazing things!
I have been picking at it on my free time, which unfortunately has been not much lately. :( I have fixed many issues including memory leaks and lowered the memory usage from over 5gb to a under a few hundred mb which is more in line with what it should be. I managed this in a few ways but most notably instead of loading all audio files off the top they now simply stream them in when needed. I had to re-write, (what's new? :p) but got it all working.

The reason my lack of free time lately is that I've open my own business back in May. I specalize in technical, design and managment for Live Theatre & Film. I had planned to do in early 2020 but with Covid delayed my plans. I was thinking the first few months before and after would a be slow start but I was very wrong and have far exceeded my expectations. So far, I've done a several music live stream, a short TV series, a pilot for a talent show similar to Americas got talent, several profesional Theatre's Lighting and Sound design just to name a few. Honestly it's a good problem to have but it eats up most of my life at the moment. Never fear however, I'm almost complete with all the bar scenes and the general dialog. Next will be the inflight com's which I have to actually edit out from one larger file. :p

I know hearing that lack of free time is not that great of news but honestly this project is close to my heart and come hell or high water I will get it out to you. :p I wish you all the best and I hope your summer is going great. I'll stay active and bring this to you all as soon as I can. Cheers.

Freddie and Circuses Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Cosmic Circus has covered Wing Commander in their latest retro review. Wing Commander games from the late '90s aren't "pixel art" and I still think the year 2000 sounds kind of futuristic, so it's almost jarring to find that Wing Commander falls into the retro category these days. At any rate, this article does a good job of emphasizing the fun parts of the film while also spending some time analyzing the character elements that didn't work as well. The author has a history with the rest of the franchise, which helps give some valuable context that other recent reviews might lack. Check out the full piece here!
  • Even in the year 2700, there’s product placement. Nokia makes the brand of computers that humans use in their ships. If you remember the Nokia brick phones of that era, this makes total sense.
  • If you’re a fan of Star: Trek Voyager, you might do a double-take at Maniac. He could be Tom Paris’ blonder twin. Maniac’s bleach blonde hair is also a fun throwback to the 90s.
Here’s hoping that whoever owns the rights gives it another go because this world has so much potential for juicy conflict and fun.

This German Prophecy Is Extra Special Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Dennis Mull is back with another wonderful Wing Commander find. The latest addition to his collection is the Special Edition of Wing Commander Prophecy. While these are fairly uncommon in English, it's even more rare to see a German one floating around. The main differences are the Cobalt 60 soundtrack as well as the awesome Wasp mouse pad. This is a nice pickup!
Mail Day: #WingCommander Prophecy Special Edition (German Release) complete with Mousepad and Soundtrack CD

PC Gamer Celebrates Universe's Best Cockpits Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

PC Gamer has posted a new article about the coolest cockpits in gaming. There's a lot of new stuff in there, as you might expect, with some of the slickest UIs from Star Wars Squadrons, Titanfall 2 and Rebel Galaxy Outlaw throughout the piece. There is precisely one retro throwback though: the Hornet from Wing Commander 1. It's hard to argue it's not among the most iconic cockpits in gaming history, but it still doesn't show up in that many modern articles. The author chose a 16-color Amiga screenshot for the piece, which is an interesting decision, but they all look good. Wing Commander just has so many great choices. You can find the full article here.
F-36 Hornet (Wing Commander)

One of the all-time classic cockpits. Seeing your legs tucked under the console, and your hand wrestling with the flight stick as you fly and fight, gives you a real sense of being squeezed into the pilot's seat of a small, nimble fighter. An old game, but the pixel art oozes charm.

Thanks to ODVS for the tip!

Joystick Preview Hypes P2 Launch Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Here's a nice spread from the December 1996 issue of the French gaming magazine Joystick. We start with a wonderful cover shot of the Heretic fighter, which is great to see since Privateer 2 was also competing with C&C Red Alert for top billing this month. There's a full five pages of preview material, and although I don't read French, it's just fun to see the layout. The Darkening is full of wonderful FMV set pieces and a unique combat engine, so this is full of eye candy. You can find the full issue at archive.org here.

Catch Wing Leader Ships From Every Angle Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Howard Day has been putting together lots of pretty ships for his Wing Leader project. We've seen them in action in some slick videos, but here's a different way to view them. As most are aware, the original Wing Commander used a series of rotating sprites to imitation three dimensions. Howard has prepped the sprite sheets below to show off his 3D models can be cut up similarly to great effect. The Grikath view is his re-render of the WC2 assets, which still look so darn good after 30 years!

Virgin Galactic Completes Milestone Flight Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson today achieved their long anticipated goal of launching a full crew aboard their rocket-propelled space plane. Way back in 2006, we reported that commercial launches were expected to be about two years away - and it's been more than 15! But as we've seen time and time again over the past decade, space is hard, but it's still possible to transform iconic ideas from science fiction into reality. Much of the internet is quick to point out that today's flight is not without caveats: the ship barely crosses the 50 mile line for a few minutes, and it's slightly suspect that the flight was timed to occur just ahead of Jeff Bezos' launch next week. You could call it a fancy jet rather than a space ship. But I prefer to focus on the technological achievement. We see spacecraft launch from planets in Wing Commander like it's nothing, but that doesn't happen without baby steps like this. And it's not enough that Lockheed, Boeing or SpaceX have done much more for much longer. Imagine how much we could achieve if there were another dozen companies attacking these challenges from different angles. It takes thousands of very smart people working long hours to make something like this happen. This is a huge success for them, and for all of us who are one step further into the future.
Origin founder Richard Garriott had this to say. He's been following their efforts since the beginning, including getting the winning bid to fly a statue up in their 2004 prototype flight.
And here's an amazing observation from Richard Hercher!

Josh Lucas in the Spotlight Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Many of the actors from the Wing Commander series have retired from acting or are otherwise engaged in different types of projects these days, but one person who's continued to see a fair bit of movie success is Josh Lucas. He's had a varied mix of action, drama, romance and now thriller type roles over the past 10-15 years, so he's enjoyed a pretty typecast-free career. He's also the main star of The Forever Purge, the fifth movie in the Purge series, which was just released in theaters this month. It looks like the new movie came in third place with about $12 million last weekend, but that's not so bad considering fairly stiff competition posed by F9 and the new Boss Baby sequel - not to mention the shadow that the pandemic still casts over the industry. As part of the press tour, there are a handful of interviews catching up with Mr. Lucas, such as the GMA piece below. Wow, he's fifty now! He'll always be that young test pilot hotshot that lacks front line experience to me!

Loco for Logos Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Chris Kabigting recently shared this creative video. He's mocked up a series of WC logo interfaces based on the initialization screens for Ace Combat 3. Think of the Data Swallow system as a modern day Quine or P.A.D. line. Each sequence goes by pretty quick, so you might want to pause for full appreciation.
This is what happens if you play Ace Combat 3, Homeworld, and Wing Commander IV at the same time in the 90s lol.

GalaxyCon Prinze Autographs Starting to Arrive Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Freddie Prinze Jr virtual autograph event held by GalaxyCon earlier this year has successfully concluded, and they are now starting to ship merchandise out to fans. Note that not everyone's items have shipped yet, but we would expect this to happen soon. People who chose to obtain a certificate of authenticity should expect a slight additional delay. I am fortunate to have received mine already and am pleasantly surprised. The Wing Commander poster is a good size (11x14 inches) with solid quality, and Freddie's personalization is crisp. Yes, I'm well aware he's not the one who said, "It's not faith, (it's genetics)." It's just one of the most memorable quotes from the film to me. It was a close competition between that and "I love this baby!!" Maybe I'll get that next time.

One Preview for Wing Commander Two Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Today we have another vintage mag scan from 1991. It's a dual look at both Strike Commander and Wing Commander 2 by The One for Amiga Games magazine, which seems like a slightly unusual publication to be getting a preview of these games since neither was ultimately ported to Amiga. WC2 only made its way to Windows 95 and the FM Towns (and the unreleased SNES version!). Apparently they do have variants of the mag for Atari, PC and 16 bit games though, and we are the beneficiaries here 30 years later. This article has a nice zoom in on the early version of the bridge, which got some big changes by the time the game was finished. You can find the full magazine over at Archive.org. Thanks to ATMachine for finding this one!
Some nice pre-release shots from Wing Commander II! (And Strike Commander, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Jrathek Lights up the Sky Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Today we've got a drawing of a Kilrathi fighter. That's pretty standard, and if your eyes haven't scrolled down yet, you might be picturing a classic Dralthi. Fortunately we get to highlight something different this time: a Jrathek painted by Tse-10. This ship always had a certain mystical quality to me. It first appeared in Academy where it is positioned as a type of advanced prototype comparable to the Wraith, which is an extraordinarily potent medium fighter. In practice it doesn't quite have the speed or weapon advantages that the Confed craft does, but it's still solid. It's also memorable as one of the first times we get to fly a Kilrathi ship outside of The Secret Missions 2. Playable Kat fighters arrive in a big way in Armada, and the Jrathek reappears there as cost efficient and effective mid range fighter flying off the Shiraak. It's nice to see it finally pop up in some fan art!
A dogfighting spaceship inspired by elements from Wing Commander. The red sky was part of a matte painting test.
If you'd like to build a papercraft Jrathek, be sure to check out this news post about Pericles' version.

Advanced Krant Ready for Wars Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Howard Day has put the long weekend to good use with the creation of a fighter for Wing Leader. The new addition is the Krant, which is a popular alternative to the Dralthi in the medium fighter space. This one's got a few unique quirks down the middle: Howard has done some creative placement with the cockpit as well as a second set of guns. You can see in the final shots below some further experimentation with these elements. These latest shots make me think the ship would fit great in an Advance Wars game, and now I really want an AW-style Wing Commander game.
Evening #WingLeader work - making my version of the Kilrathi Krant medium fighter. It's definitely got some modifications - single cockpit, and 2 additional Ion Cannons are the main ones. Still WIP, but good enough to show.
I think you'd be surprised to hear there *aren't* any textures on this guy - the only thing that might qualify is the the screen-mapped dithering pattern. It's all geometry and vertex colors!

Happy Fourth! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Last year our headline update ended with a question mark rather than our typical exclamation point. It's been a hard year, but we are in a decidedly different place this summer compared to last. Some of us have had to put off funerals for the people we've lost, while at the same time many are welcoming new additions to the family. The omnipresent dread has made way for cautious optimism.

At this point two years ago we were looking forward to gathering at in-person CIC events, and while all our future plans are still soft, it certainly seems like we're much closer to getting back together. It's encouraging to see on the Discord that Wingnuts from many different countries are steadily getting vaccinated, and we're eagerly awaiting authorization for younger children to get the shot as well. So wherever you find yourself this weekend, hopefully things are looking up for you too. Above all else, please continue to keep yourself and your family safe!

Gemini Sector RPG Preps Ground Forces Ahead of New Sector Kickoff Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Gemini Sector RPG will soon be launching ground actions, so they need some Kilrathi tanks to fight against. We've seen some wild designs in Wing Commander Academy, so we know exotic Kat tanks are certainly a thing. Rear Admiral Tarsus put together four mockups by way of WC1-style VDU graphics. You may or may not be in a position to suggest some names for these, but it's very cool that fans are playing around with the awesome VDU art style. If you'd like to help, visit the CIC Forums. Also, as a reminder, their new sector campaign kicks off tomorrow! Join in the fun!
Hey all you awesome WC fans.

In the Gemini Sector RPG, we may be doing some planetary missions soon. Those missions will be to support some ground forces. I would like some help coming up with the names of the kilrathi land vehicles. Here they are with VDU Images. I leaned in a bit on the Command and Conquer Brotherhood of Nod while making these designs.

  • Kilrathi assault tank, the workhorse. Quad treads and dual offset cannon.
  • Kilrathi missile tank. Spams IR missiles, also it's a hovertank.
  • Kilrathi laser turret. Think of a jalthi fixed to a point... so basically a jalthi
  • Kilrathi flak turret. A tank that drills it's rear into the ground for stability and then fills the air with mass driver flak fire. (it can mine for more ammo)
If you have any semi serious suggestions for names, I would love to hear them.

p.s. the Hak'a'loogie is already taken. ;)

Blazing Into the Weekend Like... Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

...like this I suppose. Here's a scene by NeoSilverThorn. A few more of their creations are below. We hope you have a great weekend - and that you stay safe and healthy!
Bad, bad day: Things in Gemini Sector could be better. Sure, the Kilrathi jump the border, the Navy's over-stretched...but one normally doesn't find Bloodfang-class fighters this far from Kilrathi space, let alone away from the Imperial house. Yet, here they are, and one under-gunned privateer is unhappily dealing with that fact...
On a Wing Commander kick. Well, a scifi kick in general. So, have a somewhat cartoony Kilrathi pilot gal.

Wing Leader Preview Leverages Great Concept Art Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Yore Computer dug up an old August 1990 ACE Magazine preview of Wing Commander (then Wing Leader!). We tend to refer to '93-'94 era mag scans as quite vintage, but this is particularly ancient in WC terms. As this is such an early preview, it also's also an uncommon appearance of some of the game's early concept art. There's a very nice Hornet, Scimitar and Jalthi on the second page. Otherwise, it's always fun to read these time capsules that talk about groundbreaking 3D graphics and stellar cinematics. Newer players today might see the original WC games as nothing but retro, but they were truly impressive at the time! LOAF has some additional sharing on this topic:
It's always a treasure to see Wing Commander I concept art that didn't wind up in Claw Marks! Unfortunately it's very rare. A couple more from the game's original press kit:
A couple more that surfaced in a CGW supplement promoting The Secret Missions:
And extra bonus: turn the page and you get a review of Chris Roberts' RPG Bad Blood!

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