Didn't see a forum for introductions so I figured I'd do here. Hi!

Soliloquis

Spaceman
I'm Soliloquis. Been a fan of space games since I saw the art on the box of Freespace in the bargain bin at Odd Lots when I was a kid which is funny because I remember picking it up many years later and wondering why it was ever in the bargain bin to begin with. I've never played any of the Wing Commander games but I did play Freelancer and was blown away by it. I don't even know how many hours I've sunken into that game and every now and again I've installed it to play it again.

To be upfront I am a game developer currently working on a game similar to Wing Commander and Freespace. Heavy on the story side with something akin to a retro-futurism look and feel. Definitely different from the usual scifi artwork that can be seen in these types of games. Being as I've never played WC (save for dabbling in Darkest Dawn a bit) and only ever watched longplay videos on YouTube I'd really appreciate any feedback or tips about what the community loved about the games.

If you're interested I can drop a trailer but mostly I'm looking to get feedback and ideas right now and less about trying to pitch/sell the game at this moment.
 
Last edited:

MannerOfLoaf

Spaceman
I'm Soliloquis. Been a fan of space games since I saw the art on the box of Freespace in the bargain bin at Odd Lots when I was a kid which is funny because I remember picking it up many years later and wondering why it was ever in the bargain bin to begin with. I've never played any of the Wing Commander games but I did play Freelancer and was blown away by it. I don't even know how many hours I've sunken into that game and every now and again I've installed it to play it again.

To be upfront I am a game developer currently working on a game similar to Wing Commander and Freespace. Heavy on the story side with something akin to a retro-futurism look and feel. Definitely different from the usual scifi artwork that can be seen in these types of games. Being as I've never played WC (save for dabbling in Darkest Dawn a bit) and only ever watched longplay videos on YouTube I'd really appreciate any feedback or tips about what the community loved about the games.

If you're interested I can drop a trailer but mostly I'm looking to get feedback and ideas right now and less about trying to pitch/sell the game at this moment.
Hi Soliloquis - nice to meet a fellow Freespace fan!

I can only speak for myself of course, but I definitely have some thoughts on your questions. I've loved and enjoyed wing commander games and space shooters since I was a kid and I think if anything I've gotten to be more of a fan of them as I've gotten older. Some reasons I can think of for this
  1. As I get older I get busier - WC and WC-like games are chunked out in discrete missions. each mission has a briefing/setup, the mission itself, and debrief, with the occasional cutscene here and there. Since these missions usually don't last more than 15-30 minutes can pick up a game and make regular progress now matter how busy my life gets. I've gotten to love the old Capcom Mega Man games even more as an adult for the same reason.
  2. Related to #1 my progress in the game is very much based on skill, with little in the way of grinding or foreknowledge required. RPGs can be great of course but they also often "artificially" slow down my progress by requiring me to do things like level up or craft equipment. Provided that the challenge is well-crafted (like WC, X-Wing, and Freespace games were I felt) I think this is much more rewarding, even if my ego takes a hit when I have to drop a mission's difficulty lol
  3. I'm definitely in the minority here I think but I think the story and world built by the first WC game and its expansions were perfect for the video game medium, as were the freespace stories. Rather than poorly attempting to replicate a hollywood movie, origin's artists and writers had the skill and confidence to create their own worlds and communicate effectively with the player using the tools of the medium (I think the best examples of this would be the Tiger's Claw barracks save/load screen, the bar and fellow pilot portraits, and the way that the story is told in the Secret Missions 1 and 2 WC expansions)
  4. Great tactical problems - at its best each mission in these games give you a great, mostly self-contained tactical problem to solve. For example in wing commander I might choose to visit nav points out of order or skip some entirely depending on my mission objectives or the campaign progress. Likewise if the dogfight is being fought with a great sense of urgency (like if I'm trying to defend a Drayman against 5 Gratha) I'm going to want to be much more liberal about shooting missiles and taunting than if I just run into a few dralthi on patrol. Every mission is a series of meaningful decisions that are pretty self contained, but will have just enough impact on the wider campaign to be fun and not too frustrating or unforgiving.
Were you planning on using an existing design tool like FRED to design the game?
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
I'm Soliloquis. Been a fan of space games since I saw the art on the box of Freespace in the bargain bin at Odd Lots when I was a kid which is funny because I remember picking it up many years later and wondering why it was ever in the bargain bin to begin with. I've never played any of the Wing Commander games but I did play Freelancer and was blown away by it. I don't even know how many hours I've sunken into that game and every now and again I've installed it to play it again.

To be upfront I am a game developer currently working on a game similar to Wing Commander and Freespace. Heavy on the story side with something akin to a retro-futurism look and feel. Definitely different from the usual scifi artwork that can be seen in these types of games. Being as I've never played WC (save for dabbling in Darkest Dawn a bit) and only ever watched longplay videos on YouTube I'd really appreciate any feedback or tips about what the community loved about the games.

If you're interested I can drop a trailer but mostly I'm looking to get feedback and ideas right now and less about trying to pitch/sell the game at this moment.
Pacing
I agree with all of MannerOfLoaf's comments above, especially the first one. In a more general sense, you want to think about pacing, especially if you have a design where the game is divided into missions and you can only save while in between them.

The scale of missions in WC1 was excellent for pacing, forced upon it because the engine only supported about 32 ships per mission. It conflicted with the lore; the "Claw Marks" manual that accompanied the game said your carrier, the Tiger's Claw, could carry 104 fighters. But sometimes you and one wingmen were the sole defenders of the carrier. Were they busy replacing the windscreen wiper fluid on the other 102?

Later games could increase the number of both friends and foes, so did, even though this didn't automatically make the games any more fun. I would far rather see fewer missions, and where the fiction is written to say that yes, your carrier only carries a dozen fighters and the enemy has similar limitations.

AI
The AI in WC1 and WC2 is intentionally incompetent. Page 248 of the book "Wing Commander I & II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide" says they specifically made the ships do rolls and other flashy manoeuvres while in your line of sight, and then just aid towards their target when you're not watching. The recently released "Through the Moongate" has an even more revealing paragraph that anyone making a flight sim should read. I'm not sure that this is the only way to write the AI, but I think it's important to pay attention to.

I would specifically say that your game should be fun when it's 2 versus 2 (player and wingmen against 2 enemies). If it's not, no variety in your ships or in-mission events will fix this.

Capital Ships
Capital ships in WC1 are easy but tedious destroy. Just finish off their escorts and then shoot them continuously. If their own guns bring down your shields, move out of range to regenerate. It's not very exciting.

WC2 tried to fix this with "phase shields" that are invulnerable to everything but "torpedoes" that are only carried by the heavier ships, and to "antimatter guns" that only the capital ships carry. This made some sense, except your wingmen (thanks to those bad AI routines) made no attempt to evade the antimatter guns, meaning that missions that were supposed to end in a coordinated torpedo run instead had the player flying past the ejected capsules of their entire wing to finish of the enemy capital ships by themselves.

The WC2 expansion Special Operations 2 added the Mace Tactical Nuclear Missile, but it is so destructive that your wingman is programmed to never use his, despite having the callsign "Maniac". This is once again good design, but inconsistent with the fiction.

Starlancer refined the torpedo model, making them unguided and only carried by specific torpedo bombers. Defending these was annoying at times, but it generally felt fair: your bombers and the enemy's played by the same rules. But you also spent a lot of time chasing down torpedoes before they could impact, and one of my most causes of late-game mission death was chasing a little too close and ramming one of them. And Starlancer had some annoyingly long missions; see the point above about pacing.

While it's not a space sim, I really like the capital ship warfare in Crimson Skies (the 2000 PC game, not the 2003 High Road to Revenge for XBox). Because the capital ships are airships, damage is illustrated by how many gas cells they've lost, without having to target them and read their damage status. Gas cells can be damaged by aerial torpedoes, much like the Starlancer implementation, or by well-aimed shot at their cannons while the hatches are open.

So what's the point here? There's still a lot of scope for experimenting with your capital ship mechanics. Or you could make a game without them, either because they're part of a steady progression in size from the fighters, or because they're so huge that they're indestructible background scenery to the fighter combat. But whatever form of capital ship destruction you choose, make sure:
  1. It's not just a matter of tediously whittling a number down to zero.
  2. It doesn't rely on escorting allied bombers unless you've given them a decently competent AI
  3. It feels fair when the enemy does it to you.
  4. You don't have to give ships scripted invulnerability to avoid 2 or 3.
Good luck with your own game development, and I hope to play it someday.
 

st3lt3k

Rear Admiral
  1. As I get older I get busier - WC and WC-like games are chunked out in discrete missions. each mission has a briefing/setup, the mission itself, and debrief, with the occasional cutscene here and there. Since these missions usually don't last more than 15-30 minutes can pick up a game and make regular progress now matter how busy my life gets. I've gotten to love the old Capcom Mega Man games even more as an adult for the same reason.
  2. Related to #1 my progress in the game is very much based on skill, with little in the way of grinding or foreknowledge required. RPGs can be great of course but they also often "artificially" slow down my progress by requiring me to do things like level up or craft equipment. Provided that the challenge is well-crafted (like WC, X-Wing, and Freespace games were I felt) I think this is much more rewarding, even if my ego takes a hit when I have to drop a mission's difficulty lol
  3. I'm definitely in the minority here I think but I think the story and world built by the first WC game and its expansions were perfect for the video game medium, as were the freespace stories. Rather than poorly attempting to replicate a hollywood movie, origin's artists and writers had the skill and confidence to create their own worlds and communicate effectively with the player using the tools of the medium (I think the best examples of this would be the Tiger's Claw barracks save/load screen, the bar and fellow pilot portraits, and the way that the story is told in the Secret Missions 1 and 2 WC expansions)
  4. Great tactical problems - at its best each mission in these games give you a great, mostly self-contained tactical problem to solve. For example in wing commander I might choose to visit nav points out of order or skip some entirely depending on my mission objectives or the campaign progress. Likewise if the dogfight is being fought with a great sense of urgency (like if I'm trying to defend a Drayman against 5 Gratha) I'm going to want to be much more liberal about shooting missiles and taunting than if I just run into a few dralthi on patrol. Every mission is a series of meaningful decisions that are pretty self contained, but will have just enough impact on the wider campaign to be fun and not too frustrating or unforgiving.
Agree with all 4. For answer #3, I'd include WC 2 and Privateer.
 
Top