Preview: Unknown Enemy Gets High Res (August 11, 2012)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I bet you thought you'd heard the last of Unknown Enemy, the grandfather of all modern Wing Commander fan projects. Well, you thought wrong: the team has been hard at work at a high resolution patch which will take advantage of modern advances in Wing Commander Prophecy improving science. The update isn't quite ready yet, but they were kind enough to send us this preview:
Way back in 2002, we released Unknown Enemy, the first major mod for Wing Commander: Secret Ops. Looking back on it now, it seems in many ways primitive and naive - certainly, it's hard to compare with what we achieved in Standoff. But this was how it all started, and that's what makes UE fascinating to look at. Sadly, compatibility issues make UE a difficult thing to look at. In Standoff, these issues never popped up, because the final Standoff release incorporated an OpenGL patch that added a new rendering mode to the Vision engine - and this still works today.

So, we'd been talking on-and-off about patching UE since the day Standoff was released. Finally, the CIC's 14th birthday kicked us into action: unfortunately, far too late. There was no way we could get the patch done in time for August 10th. Instead, what we offer now to the community is a glimpse of what we're working on, and a release date announcement: October 30th 2012, UE's tenth anniversary.

The idea behind this 10th Anniversary Edition is to make the game fully playable on modern systems, without unnecessary improvements. We don't want to pull a George Lucas. We know we could improve UE a lot, but what would be the point?

So, here's what we'll do:
  • Incorporate the OpenGL mode first seen Standoff. We will not be increasing texture sizes, replacing models with more detailed stuff, or adding hand-made specular maps. That would be going too far.
  • Drop support for software, Direct3D and Glide rendering modes. Come on - if you have a machine from ten years ago, you can just use the original release of UE. For everyone else, only OpenGL is needed, because the other modes hardly work for anyone, any more!
  • Incorporate the internal fiction viewer used by Standoff. This is a big change, and sadly it does involve Lucasesque improvements - we really can't sensibly integrate the fiction into the game without shortening it significantly and rewriting parts of it. But we have to drop the external viewer (again, compatibility issues), and UE just has waaay too much text to put directly into the game. But hey - to compensate for the changes, the original fiction will be available outside of the game, through the launcher.
  • Polish the missions. No balance changes. No new events. No new missions. But we do know there's a few small bugs in there, and we're gonna squash 'em.
  • Add behind the scenes stuff! Did you know that we had two new ship models ready to go for UE2? One of them could be seen in a wallpaper we produced for the CIC's 5th birthday. Now, if we were ever to return to the Border Worlds, we'd obviously need to create all the models from scratch, at a much higher standard. But still, if we already have these two models ready to go, why not at least add them into the object viewer?
  • Add more behind the scenes stuff! When UE started out in 1999, Hadrian produced this cool-looking CIC room. When UE restarted in 2000... for some reason, we decided it needs to change (I honestly don't know why!), so we asked Hadrian to produce a new one. He did, and it was just as great as the first one he produced - but isn't it a pity that the original was never seen anywhere? It costs us nothing to add it into the game, so that's what we'll do.
In the weeks to come, we will post (ir)regular progress updates at the UE forum here at the CIC. Do you know of any issues in UE that absolutely must be fixed for this final release? Drop by the forum and let us know!

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Original update published on August 11, 2012
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I am looking forward to this :)
So am I! Hope they're still working on it!

Oh, right ;).

No, seriously. It's been very slow-going (not in the sense of it being hard or more time-consuming than expected, but in the sense of us spending less time on it than we need to be), but we haven't forgotten, and without even trying to guess at a completion date, I can at least say that we absolutely do intend to get it done. As a matter of fact, we even did some work on UE last week... no, really :).

By the way, at the risk of being whiny, do you know what really, really helps? When people who are interested in this update talk about it. I have to admit, one of the things that has undoubtedly discouraged me is the fact that once we got the initial announcement out of the way, it became clear that really - no one cares. At the end of the day, we're working on the UE update for the sake of our own satisfaction - just as with Standoff (which also still waits for its final patch), we simply want to feel that we have well and truly completed this project. But we are only human, and it's really much easier to motivate yourself to work on something when you can see that someone is actually interested. I was genuinely hoping that after the announcement made during the CIC Birthday Party, we'd at least see a couple of people posting at the UE forum, asking us to fix this or that bug, and so on.
 

Skanks

Rear Admiral
Personally I'm waiting on the update to do a run through of Unknown Enemy, I was about to start the other day when I saw it and I'd much rather play it through using the OpenGL renderer along with any other engine updates/bug fixes you can do. I've been hoping you'd update it for years! I haven't played enough of it to be able to give you any feedback on bugs in the existing version. To be honest I'm not that good at noticing bugs in other peoples work unless they are very very bad.
 

Triple-B

Rear Admiral
So am I! Hope they're still working on it!

Oh, right ;).

No, seriously. It's been very slow-going (not in the sense of it being hard or more time-consuming than expected, but in the sense of us spending less time on it than we need to be), but we haven't forgotten, and without even trying to guess at a completion date, I can at least say that we absolutely do intend to get it done. As a matter of fact, we even did some work on UE last week... no, really :).

By the way, at the risk of being whiny, do you know what really, really helps? When people who are interested in this update talk about it. I have to admit, one of the things that has undoubtedly discouraged me is the fact that once we got the initial announcement out of the way, it became clear that really - no one cares. At the end of the day, we're working on the UE update for the sake of our own satisfaction - just as with Standoff (which also still waits for its final patch), we simply want to feel that we have well and truly completed this project. But we are only human, and it's really much easier to motivate yourself to work on something when you can see that someone is actually interested. I was genuinely hoping that after the announcement made during the CIC Birthday Party, we'd at least see a couple of people posting at the UE forum, asking us to fix this or that bug, and so on.


You and Pete know,that At least I was bothering the whole last year on this topic. I even mailed Pete a couple of times in This year about it. So Plesse, do it :)
 

Whistler

Commodore
Personally I'm waiting on the update to do a run through of Unknown Enemy, I was about to start the other day when I saw it and I'd much rather play it through using the OpenGL renderer along with any other engine updates/bug fixes you can do. I've been hoping you'd update it for years! I haven't played enough of it to be able to give you any feedback on bugs in the existing version. To be honest I'm not that good at noticing bugs in other peoples work unless they are very very bad.
Same as well. Waiting for the finish before trying out Unknown Enemy. I patiently await any work on Standoff as well. I've lurked here for years, I can lurk some more, if need be. If you guys feel underappreciated, know you have at least one more Wingnut cheering you guys and gals on. (There's got to be at least one. :p)

Still need to pick a "merciful" point in Standoff to fly the losing track. Eager to fly that Arrow.
 

Triple-B

Rear Admiral
concerning the two new ships: will they be only added to the object viewer or will they be playable in the simulator, or even in the campaign ( as an alternative to the original ship, could be pickable for a mission)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
concerning the two new ships: will they be only added to the object viewer or will they be playable in the simulator, or even in the campaign ( as an alternative to the original ship, could be pickable for a mission)
I can definitely rule out the campaign - that would be exactly the kind of change we should not be making.

The simulator? Hmm. In general, I do not want to give much information about these ships. I do not want them to really be playable, with stats and all. All I want is to show off their visual form.

See, in the unlikely event that I get struck by lighting and decide to go back and create a new WC mod, it would most definitely not be UE2 - but it might be some variation on the theme. I rather like the Border Worlds, and I wouldn't mind telling another story of the 2681 era Border Worlds (although this story would not only ignore, but outright contradict UE - I see no reason in trying to stay in continuity with a mod that's so out-of-continuity with the rest of the universe). Or perhaps some day, someone else will want to do that. Either way, should that highly, highly unlikely event happen, I'd like to keep open the option of using these two designs, and to retain the freedom to establish whatever backstory and stats are appropriate without having to explain to anyone why all of a sudden it's different to what we had described in UE.

That having been said, there is one very strong argument in favour of putting them in the simulator, and that is simply this - the simulator is a far better environment to admire a ship than the object viewer. You get the pretty backdrop, the lighting, everything, while in the object viewer you just see a poorly-lit model on top of an ugly grid background. So yeah, they probably will wind up in the simulator - just don't expect them to be enjoyably playable, because I may well fudge up their stats just to make sure no one thinks they're meant to be taken seriously :).
 

Triple-B

Rear Admiral
I can definitely rule out the campaign - that would be exactly the kind of change we should not be making.

The simulator? Hmm. In general, I do not want to give much information about these ships. I do not want them to really be playable, with stats and all. All I want is to show off their visual form.

See, in the unlikely event that I get struck by lighting and decide to go back and create a new WC mod, it would most definitely not be UE2 - but it might be some variation on the theme. I rather like the Border Worlds, and I wouldn't mind telling another story of the 2681 era Border Worlds (although this story would not only ignore, but outright contradict UE - I see no reason in trying to stay in continuity with a mod that's so out-of-continuity with the rest of the universe). Or perhaps some day, someone else will want to do that. Either way, should that highly, highly unlikely event happen, I'd like to keep open the option of using these two designs, and to retain the freedom to establish whatever backstory and stats are appropriate without having to explain to anyone why all of a sudden it's different to what we had described in UE.

That having been said, there is one very strong argument in favour of putting them in the simulator, and that is simply this - the simulator is a far better environment to admire a ship than the object viewer. You get the pretty backdrop, the lighting, everything, while in the object viewer you just see a poorly-lit model on top of an ugly grid background. So yeah, they probably will wind up in the simulator - just don't expect them to be enjoyably playable, because I may well fudge up their stats just to make sure no one thinks they're meant to be taken seriously :).


Well, just showing the ships in the object viewer without any details or playability would make the whole fuss about these ships uninteresting. I am glad, that you want to put the ships at least in the sim :)

however castrating them to useless ships and making them unplayable or to weak, has about the same effect of a "better" screenshot. I fly it one time, and then it becomes uninteresting.

I think the fans are curious about these ships and their specs and even their handling as they were planned to be back then. So please keep it original.

Think about it ;)

I know you hate UE and everytime we talk about UE, you keep telling that you do not stand behind the story of the game etc.

I know there are some logic problems and even some plots in the game, that are a bit too weird. But still, UE is a great and fun game and you had good ideas back then. Don't discredit your game, it is simply not fair ;)

Besides, look at the fans. A lot of people here liked the game and so do I.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I think the fans are curious about these ships and their specs and even their handling as they were planned to be back then. So please keep it original.
The fans always like a hot new fighter to fly - so in this case, we are bound to disappoint no matter what we do, because these ships were never meant to be particularly good :).

I know you hate UE and everytime we talk about UE, you keep telling that you do not stand behind the story of the game etc.

I know there are some logic problems and even some plots in the game, that are a bit too weird. But still, UE is a great and fun game and you had good ideas back then. Don't discredit your game, it is simply not fair.
That's not really correct, though. I do not hate UE. I have a lot of sentiment for it, and in the aspect of technical implementation, I have no doubt that UE is just about as good as we could have hoped for back then - so I'm proud of it, I know we did our best.

With the story aspect, as you know, it's different. But you have to understand, what bothers me the most is the sense of lost opportunity. I very much like the Border Worlds setting, and I know we could have made a very fun and very interesting story without destroying the universe - and in fact, the bulk of the story is perfectly fine, it's only in the details that things get very messy. These details are sadly more than enough to cross out the notion of a sequel - about the only way to get back to UE would be like I said, to do something completely new that tells a similar story. But I cannot do this, simply because I have neither the time nor the energy for it. Hence the feeling of opportunity lost, as well as. We were just so close to getting it right!
 

Triple-B

Rear Admiral
if the fighters weren't plan to be good in the first case, then a castration of their specs shouldn't be necessary ;)

it sounds like you only could make peace with yourself, if you would give yourself a chance to redo UE ;)

However I understand that you lack of spare time at the moment.
 
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