Early in Wing Commander's development, Origin artist Glen Johnson created a series of schematics showing the 21 ships the game's designer had planned to include. Each schematic was created using a traditional draughting technique which resulted in five different views: front, back, side, top and bottom (only three for the Star Post). Origin didn't yet have their own 3D artists and so the schematics were sent to the team of Mary Bellis and Steve Spear in New York City who rendered out the in-game sprites using an Amiga.
We recently published a selection of the images scanned from Claw Marks and modified to show both the top and bottom views of the ships (available here). That project prompted us to take a look at the history of how these original 103 ship views were reused over the years and to inventory exactly which remain lost to time.
Sixteen of the schematics were reproduced in Claw Marks with the front and back views removed and the top and bottom shown as a single mirrored figure. Five ships did not appear in Claw Marks: the end-game 'boss' Star Post plus four that were cut from the game during development for disk space: the Diligent tanker, Lumbari freighter, Sivar dreadnought and Spikeri corvette.
The original ship concept art was also reused to create Wing Commander's signature blueprints. The blueprints reproduce the side, front and back art for each of the Confederation fighters as well as an update of the top view that adds additional details and a 'cutaway' section. Want a closer look? You can download a high definition set of blueprint scans here (42 meg zip).
There was one additional 'lost' schematic printed in 1990: the front of the Dralthi is included in Wing Commander's original press kit (as well as the unmirrored top)!
Computer Gaming World
Origin provided 'advertorial' content for the July 1991 issue of Computer Gaming World's review of both Secret Missions campaigns. This included artwork and specifications for several of the 'cut' spacecraft that were reused in those expansions including the Spikeri, which was reused as Secret Missions 2's Snakeir carrier (note the large cockpit on the final model!).
Origin's Official Guide to Wing Commander I & II
Origin's Official Guide to Wing Commander I & II reuses the Claw Marks artwork with a twist: it has been 'painted over' with an early 1990s desktop publishing program. These slightly more textured ships appear throughout the book in a series of side views, as page headers for the different Kilrathi AI routines and as a series of detailed maneuvering diagrams, something the series would adapt in different directions in later game manuals. Most interestingly for the sake of our inventory, this is the only place the 'front' view of the Salthi has ever been published.
In 1994, Origin created a series of updated 'how to maneuver' schematics based on those first seen in the Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy using the concept schematic artwork. These were included in the Sega CD, Super Wing Commander and Kilrathi Saga manuals (despite the fact that Super Wing Commander otherwise redesigned all of the ships).
The Japanese Mega CD and Super Famicom versions of the Wing Commander I manual both update the line art, colorizing it and using it to create completely new sets of maneuvering diagrams. Both also feature closer looks at the Tiger's Claw!
Out of the 103 original drawings, 64 are known to exist in some form or another. This leaves 39 that could still be discovered:
- The back views for the Salthi & Dralthi (2)
- The front and back views for the Kraht, Gratha, Jalthi, Dorkir, Ralari, Fralthi, Drayman, Venture, Exeter and Bengal (20)
- The bottom, front and back of the Spikeri/Snakeir (3)
- The bottom, front, back and side of the Sivar (4)
- All five views of the Diligent and Lumbari (10)