Let's look at some chalkboards! The kill board in Wing Commander I is one of those great immsersive touches: instead of scoring points like an arcade, you stay in the game world and compete with the characters you recognize.
All the characters' kills increase as the game progresses but they start from the same numbers. It's nice environmental storytelling, too: you can tell right off that Maniac is the rookie, Iceman is the top gun, etc. There's a million untold stories in this picture!
That environmental storytelling started to become linear storytelling as the series went on: here's a bit added to the Super Wing Commander Claw Marks that tells the story of how Maniac became an ace (as had already been reflected on the original board):
Quick aside: the kill board is based on actual 'scoreboards' used aboard aircraft carriers, particularly in World War 2. Here's a neat article with some history and pictures.
So I thought that it would be fun to emulate all the ports and compare their killboards. Starting with the obligatory EGA vs VGA! Wing Commander generated its EGA graphics programmatically so there aren't any artsy details to look for.
Here are the SegaCD and SNES versions. Very similar, except the former forces your name as HOT SHOT (or STARBUCK in Japan) and the latter allows only a user selected callsign and no last name.
The Kilrathi Saga, Amiga and CD32 versions are identical to the PC so I kind of assumed the FM Towns would be too... and boy was I surprised! The counts are all much higher and this version removes a rank! It has a single LT. grade and promotes all the other characters!
Then I captured the Super Wing Commander version and it's not only different but it has the same starting numbers as the FM Towns release! What's going on here? Did they intentionally up the challenge for players in these ports?
The answer is... no they did not! What happened is that the starting values are stored in wc.exe. Origin updated the executable for Secret Missions 2 and thought to plug in new starting values since the mission disk takes place two campaigns later.
The FM Towns, 3DO and Macintosh teams then worked from that codebase (which added things like a much needed frame limiter) and didn't think to change the hard values back. An old error echoing through eternity!
The standalone release of Secret Missions for SNES also thought to update the values (no others did). Which means we have canonical kill counts for the characters at the start of WC1, SM and SM2! Neat coincidence.
Quick aside: the dates work the same way. WC1 always starts on 2654.110 (4/20!) and then moves forward with a random element as you play. Most releases of the mission disks just leave this as is:
Even the FM Towns versions (note the change in rank!) always start at 2654.110 no matter which campaign you select.
But LOOK! The SNES version remembered when no one else did! The hard date, 2656.289 (October 16) doesn't really fit with later timelines but it's so cool that someone took the time to set it.
Also, have you ever noticed that the closeup of the killboard looks nothing like the one you see in the gameflow screen?
... but they caught that when they redid the graphics for Super Wing Commander!
I thought it would be fun to take this screenshot in every port, too. It's the one that every magazine article and retrospective uses since it's the first place you can stop to grab an image! Here's EGA vs. VGA:
Amiga vs. CD32:
Sega CD and SNES... someone took Shotglass' TV! And his plate of chicken wings!
Then here's the PSP version, which is really just the SNES one stretched out.
Next I wondered if there was any difference in the starter kill board in Wing Commander III. Here's the PC version, with no entry for Blair since I hadn't entered my callsign yet:
Sure enough, the values change from port to port! Here's the PSX version and the Macintosh version (which really surprised me!):
But the best discovery here was the 3DO port which starts with drastically higher numbers... and a different 'saying' for the total?!
Scratch that, it's not one new saying... I was able to find sixteen different version, some of which were extremely funny. And one is a reference to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, so good on you TCS Victory IT team.