Here's one from the mists of time. Chris happened across a 2004 article, "A History of Space Combat Simulations", at ViaArena. Naturally, Wing Commander gets several paragraphs... but unfortunately, the research wasn't great. Even a novice WingNut should be able to spot the mistakes here:
Wing Commander was another popular Space combat simulation franchise that maintained a healthy level of popularity for quite some time, though the ill-fated movie of the same name (released in 1999) quite probably sealed it’s demise. The brainchild of Chris Roberts (who also went on to direct the above mentioned ill-fated movie), the Wing Commander phenomenon kicked off in 1990 with the first title, simply called Wing Commander. It wasn’t a full 3D game, but was a passable sprite-based representation of 3D to be referred to as 2 and a half D. Graphically speaking, Wing Commander was worlds apart from Elite and was popular enough to be followed up by Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi, which continued the adventure by adding a few welcome plot twists.For those keeping score at home: 1) One development of Privateer Online occured well after the release of the movie, and two Wing Commander ports have been published since its release. 2) Wing Commander III did not feature a new 3D engine, it used the RealSpace system developed for Strike Commander and also used in Armada. 3) Wing Commander III's title was "Heart of the Tiger", not "Armada". 3) Privateer came out before WC3, not after. 4) Wing Commander IV's budget was $14 million, not $10 million. 5) Privateer 2 has several connections to Wing Commander, including being the sequel to Privateer. Whew.
A few years later the third installment was released, giving us the first real insight into Chris Roberts desire to fuse cinema and computer games. The 4 CD set contained over 3 hours of live action video footage starring actors such as Mark Hamill and Malcom McDowell. Featuring over fifty missions, offering multiple endings and powered by a new 3D engine, Wing Commander III: Armada went on to win numerous game of the year awards, despite facing some serious competition from LucasArts and Totally Games. The franchise pushed on with the release of Privateer (loosely based around the Wing Commander universe, but with less emphasis on dogfighting and more towards exploration, traveling and trading) in the same year. Wing Commander 4 was released in 1995 with a massive development budget (for the time) of 10 million, which was largely due to the continued use of copious cinematic cut scenes to convey the epic storyline as it unfolded.
Released in 1996, Privateer 2: The Darkening is one space combat simulation that also rates a mention, though unlike Privateer, bore no relationship to Wing Commander at all. Like Privateer, however, it was a heavily story-driven game that also focused game play around travel, trading and exploration. Similarly to the Wing Commander series, Privateer 2 featured a lot of cinematic sequences to deliver the twisting plotline as the game progressed.