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Origin published their first in-house Wing Commander book for Privateer, the Privateer Playtester's Guide. The guide includes detailed maps of every system in the Gemini Sector and introduces you to the whole Privateer playtesting team! There was also an unofficial guide in Germany, Das Privateer Piloten Handbuch by Peter Schmitz and Christian Schmidt. It has a cool space battle with a Gladius on the cover!
The main goals in the design of Privateer were to create a commerce trading system within the Wing Commander universe. Another goal was to provide a game with random missions that players could play over and over again. That freshness ensures the game never ends.(Read the full chapter.)
Some initial ideas never quite made it into the final game. One such idea involved player finances. The game initially enabled players to get loans from banks or other (less reputable) characters. In this scenario, you might run into debt, and be pursued by creditors or bounty hunters which were after the price on your head. Privateer took about a year and a half to make, and so during this period, many such ideas were dropped while others were developed and added to the game.
Early on there was a spinoff game called Privateer which used the original Wing Commander engine and some of the original ships, but had a free form universe you could explore until you stumbled across the story line. That was followed by an ad-on scenario called "Righteous Fire" that was the single most enjoyable action game I have ever played. I loved Privateer and Righteous Fire... I still wish they’d simply publish the specs for writing ad on scenarios to the original Privateer, though. If they want to improve the graphics levels, fine, but in fact that was about good enough; and it sure was fun. I can think of a number of stories I could write in that universe.
The game we know as Wing Commander: Privateer began life as Trade Commander, a game planned in 1992 to take advantage of the RealSpace technology being developed for Chris Roberts' opus, Strike Commander. The plan was to offset the tremendous cost of Strike Commander by quickly releasing other games built on the same engine--something that could be accomplished by beginning their development before Strike was ready. As Strike Commander ran into delays and overruns, it became clear the new 3D engine would not be available in time. Plans for Trade Commander were adapted to use the existing, less technically impressive Wing Commander engine. Trade Commander's sister project, Phoenix Force, was less lucky: it was unceremoniously cancelled and is rarely remembered today.
Trade Commander was formally announced, in typical Origin fashion, in 1992:
In 1990 ORIGIN revolutionized the industry when it introduced interactive cinema with the first Wing Commander game. In 1991 Wing Commander II carried this vision to new heights of game action, and with it new depth and sophistication. Now this year (we hope) will see the release of Trade Commander (now Privateer), a game that brings interactive entertainment software to a higher pinnacle of excitement than ever before.(Read the full announcement.)
Wing Commander Arena was full of Privateer references... but the coolest was this, the back page of the game's manual. It's a wanted poster for Privateer's lead character and it's full of Privateer jokes (the picture of an older, angrier Burrows was an earlier version created by Origin.)
You don't need to speak Spanish to appreciate this awesome Privateer feature article from a 1993 issue of MicroMania! It's amazing to remember that there was a time when gaming magazines were both this comprehensive and just plain attractive:
Lead Erin Roberts tells a story about the talkie CD-ROM version of Privateer being cancelled and restarted so many times that he decided to stop listening to EA and have his team finish the game whether they were supposed to or not. Thanks to deals with companies like Dell and Gateway 2000, it would go on to be one of the most bundled CD-ROM games ever made. Here's a great magazine review from 1994:
Privateer's four ship options are loved by fans everywhere, even the cheaper choices (internally, the game calls the Tarsus the 'clunker' and the Orion 'tug'--so they knew what they were doing)... but did you know there was originally going to be a fifth "speeder" ship? Here's a design sketch:
Per tradition, design teams at Origin would create a team shirt for each product being developed. Working on Privateer's team would have earned you an especially cool t-shirt! Check out this awesome Centurion:
In 1993, Origin released an amazing Windows 3.1 screensaver package called Origin FX. It was filled with modes from all the top of the line Origin games... including two from Privateer! In one, Privateer ships fly around your windows... and in the other the TCS Paradigm moves back and forth in space.
Which is your favorite Wing Commander game?
Wing Commander IV: 15%
Wing Commander III: 11%
Wing Commander II: 7%
Wing Commander: 6%
Ever want to have a closer look at the 'holo posters' that appear in various offices in the Gemini Sector? Thanks to the discovery of the original textures, you can--there are some truly bizarre jokes in there that no one could ever have seen.
WingCenter recently posted scans of a great Privateer preview from PowerPlay magazine. The most interesting thing, though, is that it's using early mockup images--check out the fully 3D ships in the cockpit image... and a cinematic scene with Demons!
Does the Privateer manual seem a little plain to you? There's an interesting story behind that--they actually produced a full set of Claw Marks-style line art for the booklet which somehow went unused! You can download the whole thing here (17 meg). A collection of faxes relating to this project is also available here (43 mb).
I wrote Origin a letter a long time ago regarding opening my own custom software store, and asked them for any assistance about purchasing software, business licensing, etc... and they sent a HUGE mailer back to me with a bunch of stickers, promotion pages of upcoming games, and a nice letter wishing me good luck. Over the years though they were all thrown away, grrrrrrr. But I do still have all of their games! :) (thank you DosBox! :))You can learn more here.
Anyway, Wing Commander Privateer came out soon afterwards and when I saw my name in the Flight Training portion of the manual, I FREAKED! It's great to be a permanent part of Origin's history!
Privateer features four Kilrathi ships, all of which are versions of ships created for other games: the Gothri, Drathi, Kamekh and Salthi (in Righteous Fire). But what if there were a fifth ship? It almost happened! The art team also created a Privateer version of the Strakha stealth fighter--but cloaking devices were removed from the game, rendering its inclusion impossible. Here is what it would have looked like?
Privateer wasn't just an American success story--the game was well reviewed around the world! Here you can see a Korean advertisement (left) and a blue Japanese DOS/V release of the game!
No, actually, I've never gotten into the Privateer stuff...I have the new Wing Commander, but my joystick is screwed up (others have made that observation before), so it's waiting until I can yank the computer out of its niche and install the Fancy New Joystick I bought that has fifteen thousand different plug-in points.
If you're heading to the Gemini Sector this weekend, you can expect to encounter a LOT of Talons--they're flown by the militia, the pirates and the Church of Man ("Retros"). But did you know that each type of Talon actually has a different paint scheme in the game? Look carefully and you'll see it! Here's a handy chart to help you pick them out (also pictured are the SWC Gratha and the Privateer 2 Talon).
You can be forgiven if a few of the ships in Privateer seem familiar--that's because Origin borrowed several from Wing Commander II... and then re-used several others in later games! Wing Commander II's Broadsword, Kamekh and Dralthi make return appearances in Privateer. The Dralthi, Salthi and Raptor models created for Privateer return in Super Wing Commander (the Gladius as a Raptor) and then again in Wing Commander Armada (as the Shok'lar and Gladius, respectively). Privateer's Demon also seems to have evolved into SWC's Raptor and then Armada's Banshee and Phantom. Strangest of all is the Talon model, though, which reappears as a Kilrathi Gratha in SWC and then again as a Talon for one mission in Privater 2!here.
In this day of celebration for Wing Commander fans, we should take a moment to remember one of Privateer's developers who is no longer with us. Artist Brian Smith passed way in 2007 and is greatly missed by his colleagues and fans. Brian was part of a small art team and did a great deal of the graphics in the finished game--including the Mercenary's Guild fixer who he modeled on his sister! Hopefully it is of some comfort to those who knew him that his work is still bringing joy and excitement to Wing Commander fans almost twenty years after the game was first released. You can find our online memorial here.
Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed Privateer's signature Centurion heavy fighter in the logo art to Wing Commander Arena! It's true: the Centurion (and Gothri) were originally to be playable ships in Arena, but were cut during development. You can actually find the Centurion model hiding in the game itself--floating listlessly forever near a derelict Pelican.
Learn your Privateer ships with this handy chart--and simply click on the target for more information!
Here's a two-page Privateer advertising spread which ran in many magazines in 1993! Note the wrong date--2670 instead of 2669. Also exciting: this quick shot was the first experimental image taken by a new camera purchased today for an upcoming CIC secret mission.
Origin presents Privateer, a next generation space combat simulator for the IBM platform. You'll move through an intensely cinematic universe experiencing the two very different thrills of reaching a hard bargain and real time 3D space combat. Make your own alliances and choose the life of a pirate, a mercenary or a merchant. Customize your ship, modify your weapons, armament and systems. Explore a complete universe with more than fifty bases and planets in almost seventy systems!
Hey, I heard a good one the other day. Seems that there’s this hollow asteroid along the Kilrathi border... The thing of it is, the Kilrathi use it as a munitions dump! The guy who finds that dump can help himself to as much ordnance as he can haul!So, to clarify once and for all: is there a hollow asteroid full of Kilrathi weapons hidden somewhere in Privateer?
The rumor is meant to refer to the Steltek derelict! Stop searching the Kilrathi star systems--you will not find this asteroid!
Here is another set of unseen Wing Commander Arena screenshots, showing the unused Centurion model in great detail. Also included are very early 'top down' shots of the game in action, which include both the Centurion and Gothri in action!
Privateer 1 Ship Viewer - Old program that allows viewing the Bitmaps of P1 ships.
Dralthi Patch - Allows you to fly a Dralthi, works with Floppy and CD versions of Privateer. Replaces the Tarsus.
Stiletto Patch - Allows you to fly a Stiletto, works with Floppy and CD versions of Privateer. Replaces the Tarsus.
Privateer 1 - TRE Format - This information file will explain the format of the TRE files Privateer uses. This is the same format WC Armada and Strike Commander use.
Test mission for P1/RF - A new mission for Privateer, Righteous Fire, where you have to search and destroy a Paradigm stolen by the Kilrathi. Pays 300k credits. Many thanks to RFBurns for the dedicated beta testing of this new mission and discovering a few bugs i didn't see in the first version!:) To install this mission, edit your rf.cfg file and add to the beginning of the file the line "=test.tre". Then start Righteous Fire and load the test savegame.
- The Merchants' Guild
- The Militia
- The Confederation
- Anonymous Employer
- Lynch Enterprises
- Lynch Shipping
- Lynch Mining
- Lynch Security
- The Exploratory Service
- Private Citizen
- Omni, Inc.
- Cerberus Shipping
- Blankenstaff Ltd.
- Tsunami/Azuma, Inc.
- Trebor Corp.
- Tactical Micro Devices
- Izanami Corp.
- Omniscan, Inc.
- Galaxy Resources, Inc.
- Tetsuo Distribution, Ltd.
- Cerebus Shipping
- Azuma Weapons
- Gemini Export
- The Cardann Group
- Beto's Foodcorp Unltd.
- Tanya/Sepree, Inc.
- Frontier Enterprises
- United Distribution
- Confederated Mining
- MegaCrunch Credit
- Austin Entertainment Group
- Russo Disposal Systems
- Manners Arms and Shielding
- Johnson and Cafrelli, Ltd.
- Terraform Corp.
- Hydroshock Manufacturing
- Universal Imports
- Transector Plus
- Fellowship Systems
- Skybird Scanners
- Rolling Hills, Unltd.
- Valle Brothers
- Frake Packaging
- Capri Mining
- Nexus Mining
- Taurus Mining
- Saturn Mining
- Deep Space Asteroid Mining
- Dell Refineries
- Nicholson Refineries
- Hendershot Mining
- Starfield Cruises
- Maximum Pleasure
- Ultima Resorts
- Infrared Detection Systems
- Total Eclipse
- Merry Rover
- Mycroft Mining
- Middleton Securities
- First Bank of Gemini
- Gemini Savings and Loan
- Jefferson Confederal
- AllSafe Retrograde
- Bridesmaid Enterprises
- TDR Symposium
- Borderline, Inc.
- Averson Dynamics
- Hawkeye Security
- Renegade Weapon Systems
- TipTop Systems
- AntiStealth, Ltd.
- MicroDeath Delivery
- Second Star
- QuarterMast Nav and Chart
- Parsec Mining
- First Strike, Inc.
- Heistand Forecasting
- Abyss Minerals
- EnvironMental, Unltd.
- The McLaughlin Company
- Delta Resorts
- Thermal Optics
- Scorpio Consulting
- Obsession, Inc.
- The Outskirt Consortium
- Big Bang Pharmaceuticals
- Cannon Research Group
- Capital Investments
- Universal Charter
- Martin Swig Distillery
- Origin Systems, Inc.
- Electronic Arts, Inc.
- Lehman Carbonshares
- Black Hole Retrievals
- Triple Play Enterprises
- Oxford Research Foundation
- Castro Memorial Foundation
- Grim Reaper Systems
- Voight, Inc.
- Brainwave Instruments
Consider this a miniature "WC vs. History"! Earlier today you learned that Privateer was originally called "Trade Commander". The change was likely because, well, Trade Commander sounds dreadfully dull (there was actually another pitch at the time called Alien Commander--more on that in coming months)... but having changed the name, what is a Privateer?
A Privateer was, during the age of sailing ships, essentially a pirate sponsored by a government. Nations could create Privateers by issuing a "Letter of Marque and Reprisal" (Wikipedia) to a private ship. The 'privateer' would then have government-sanctioned permission to fight and capture ships belonging to an enemy nation. For their part, they would profit from the sale of captured ships and material. Creating privateers was an especially important tactic in situations where a country might have a disadvantage in terms of sea power, such as the United States during the Revolutionary War.
The background is largely left unsaid in Wing Commander Privateer (although letters of marque were later referenced in Star*Soldier)--but the assumption is clear: because of the desperate war situation, the Confederation has given your character special permission to fight the Kilrathi and pirates. Now let's see one of our talented fans come up with a 27th century letter to hang in our Tarsuses!
Original Concept - Joel Manners, Chris Roberts
Lead Design - Joel Manners
Design - Tom Kassebaum, Anthony Nichols, Phil Wattenbarger
Lead Programming - Ed Maurer
Programming - Charles Cafrelli, Reinaldo Castro, Richard Dean Johnson, Arthur DiBianca, Edwin Herrell, Alex Jen, Jeff Wilson
Graphics / Artwork - Chris Douglas, Robert Frye, Beverly Garland, Danny Garrett, Craig Halverson, Jake Rodgers, Brian Smith
Music - Laura Barratt, Marc Schaefgen, Nenad Vugrinec
Sound - Randy Buck, John Tipton
Executive Producer - Chris Roberts
Producer - R. Scott Russo
Associate Producer - Erin Roberts
Writing / Dialogue / Story - G P Austin
Playtesting - Bill LaCoste, Starr Long, Dan Orzulak, Tobin Shelton, Dee R. Starns, Perry Stokes, Todd Wachhaus
Special Thanks To - Whitney Ayres, Bill Baldwin, Paul Isaac, David Lawell, Aaron Martin, John Miles, Alan Perez, Kevin Potter, Zachary Booth Simpson, Suzanne Taylor, Jeff Wand, Jason Yenawine
Righteous Fire Credits
Project Leader - Arthur DiBianca
Game Concept - Phil Wattenbarger
Programming - Arthur DiBianca
Design - Tom Kassebaum, Phil Wattenbarger
Conversations - Arthur DiBianca, Phil Wattenbarger
Art - Melinda Bordelon, Alan Perez, Brian Smith
Music - Barry Leitch
Quality Assurance Leader - Dan Orzulak
Quality Assurance Team - Charles Angel, Jerrold Harrington, Kevin Kushner
Graphic Design - Trey Hermann
Documentation - Arthur DiBianca, Tuesday Frase, Melissa Mead
Producer - Warren Spector
Special Thanks - Ed Maurer
Privateer CD Credits
Project Leader - Arthur DiBianca
Programming - Arthur DiBianca
Voice Direction & Recording - Randy Buck, Arthur DiBianca, Scott Hazle, Phil Wattenbarger
Voice Processing - Randy Buck, Britt Daniel, Stretch Williams
Additional Voice Processing - Arthur DiBianca, Scott Hazle, Phil Wattenbarger
Voice Talent - Kerry Awn, Marten Davies, Arthur DiBianca, Annie Greenwood, Lucinda Hinton, Bill Johnson, Colum Keating, Ev Lunning, John Meadows, Diane Perella, Marco Perella, Toni Perensky, Don Phillips, Shannon Sedgewick, Michael Stewart, Ron Tatar, Kirk Winterrowd
Quality Assurance Leader - Jeremy Mappus
Quality Assurance Team - Evan Brandt, Don Derouen, Mark Franz, Bill LaCoste, Dan Orzulak, Harvey Smith, Brian Wachhaus
Graphic Design - Jennifer Davis
Documentation - Melissa Mead
Producer - Warren Spector
You can head on to the downloads section to check out this new ship, which we've dubbed Artemis-class, and which will be present in Standoff's next episode among the many civilian ships that fell to the Kilrathi offensive in orbit around Mars. This patch will replace the Raptor in Standoff's simulator with the Artemis, and will temporarily disable sending your scores to the online scoreboards (for all ships), but it can be uninstalled through the Windows Add/Remove program control panel.You can download the patch here (300kb).
Privateer did eventually get a sequel. Privateer 2: The Darkening is one of my favorite games of all time (and GOG willing, a subject for PRIVATEER 2 DAY)... but why wasn't there ever a direct sequel? The sad truth is that while many other Privateer followups were attempted, all met sad ends. Here's a quick rundown:
Privateer 2 was a Chris Roberts project that would have been developed after Wing Commander IV. Chris left Origin instead and the project was replaced by The Darkening, already in development in the UK. Privateer 2 (and a sequel) were also part of the plan for the 1995 Privateer television series project.
Privateer 3 was one of the saddest chapters in our history. Privateer 3 was deep in development by the Crusader team and ready to shoot its film segments when it was unceremoniously cancelled. Adding insult to injury, the cancellation came just days after a beautiful multi-page magazine preview had formally announced the game in the first place.
Privateer Online seemed like a natural followup to Ultima Online, and all the more so after EA dictated that Origin go 'online only'. Sadly, after some development the game was cancelled and the team fired mere days before the release of the Wing Commander movie in 1999. Most of the POL group went on to do Star Wars Galaxies for Sony. The proposal actually talks about four games--Privateer Online, POL Gold, Privateer Online 2 and POL 2 Gold.
Privateer Online (again!) was a second attempt at Privateer Online developed in 2000-2001. The game got far enough to have a very rough interface where players could walk around in an environment... but in the end, the budget axe killed it. This version would have reused elements from both Ultima Online 2 and Wing Commander Prophecy!
Wing Commander Mercenaries was a Privateer pitch developed in 2005 by Origin veterans who moved to California with the UXO group. It was described as 'Battlefield meets Grand Theft Auto' and would have involved a multimedia franchise relaunch similar to that developed for Dead Space.
Privateer Browser Game was a project explored by Electronic Arts in 2008, similar to what became 'Lord of Ultima'. It would have been a very simple click-to-play RPG, but absolutely thick with Wing Commander lore. Critical Mass did early concept work for the title but had a falling out with EA over rights.