If we'd had a kid instead of a Wing Commander community, they'd be starting high school right now. Let THAT sink in!
This was a good year to be a Wing Commander fan. Between the GOG releases of the series and the DVD set of Wing Commander Academy, everything is just plain available again in a way I never would have predicted. Who knows what kind of surprises 2013 will bring? As I look at our sister community getting their Origin franchise relaunched by EA and the core concept revisited by their games' creator, I just know the same will be happen for Wing Commander. And it could be soon!
But for now, enjoy the birthday! I'll warn you that we decided it just wasn't possible to top the 100+ updates last year... and our staff has been busy with several projects that unfortunately we can't reveal tonight. Nevertheless, you'll find an extraordinary array of Wing Commander history updates, fan contributions and all the old traditions in today's news!
Be sure and stop by #WingNut for trivia and chat through the night! It's great to be able to have one of these on a Friday night.
We're honored to have a birthday message from series creator Chris Roberts for the community:
Happy fourteenth birthday WC News! I tip my hat to Ben, Chris, Barrie, Brandon, Kris, Aaron and Jason for keeping the dream alive. I’m humbled that a world I created because I wanted to feel the dream of being a pilot flying a star fighter with a mission to save humanity connected with so many people and grew into something so much larger. A lot of talented people contributed to making the Wing Commander universe what it is today, and that includes the people at WC News and the fans that keep its spirit alive today despite there being no new commercial “AAA” game for 14 years (sorry Arena isn’t a real WC – it has to be first person 3D and cinematic!). To see the continued discussions, ships being modeled and even a full featured game being made is amazing. Enjoy this day and many more to come!
And a very happy birthday to our sister community's flagship site, the Ultima Codex (formerly Ultima Aiera)! They turned eight years old yesterday... so at least they won't have to go to the same high school as the CIC!
Blair Armstrong says always use protection. (This is the actual medal case in Super Wing Commander; I miss the bikini girl.)
We always start the next Wing Commander year (WCY) with a poll asking how long you've been with the community... and every year we're blown away by both the number of people who have been with us since WCHS in 1995 AND the fact that we still get new WingNuts today! So, keep the tradition going and vote!
Last time we asked which Kilrathi had the coolest sounding name and the winner by a long shot was Dakhath "Deathstroke" nar Sihkag with almost half the total votes. It just goes to show you, being the candidate people have heard of before is a valuable thing!
Fourteen years ago, CIC founders Chris Reid and Ben Lesnick, awkward teenagers both, sat down for an interview with Evan "Hadrian" Adnams to record an 'infoburst' (the term podcast not yet existing.) Justin "LeHah" Bielawa and Echo Sector's Keenan Weaver sat down with Chris and Ben again earlier this week and asked them the same questions. How has a decade and a half in the Wing Commander community changed us? Find out here (53 meg MP3).
The CIC is going back... to Austin! Last year we celebrated the birthday from Austin, TX while visiting former Origin developers and studying material housed at the University of Texas' videogames archive. If you missed that adventure you're about to get a second chance: we will be in Austin the second week in October (during the Game Developers Conference.) There will be another archiving project, general hanging out and a variety of fun Wing Commander-related events. If you're interested in helping out or just meeting up for a good time, please let us know!
Last year the Chatzone was upgraded to new forum software called Xenforo. One thing that was not possible to implement with it was the old rank system. The software continued to see updates over the last year and we can now announce that a new Chatzone rank and medal system has been implemented. Wingnuts can earn service ribbons, bronze, silver, and gold stars, along with other awards for Chatzone activities. Doing so, they will earn medal points. The number of medal points a wingnut has determines their ranks. The ranks follow the Space Navy's structure from Spaceman to Space Marshal. Wingnuts will notice when they log into the Chatzone that medals are awarded for retroactive achievements. Below is a breakdown of the medals. The point values are there for now. We're only able to test this one in the field so expect a fair number of tweaks. Once we see that the medals are working properly, ranks will be enabled. Maybe a week or so after release.
- Posting 50 messages (50 points)
- Posting 100 messages (100 points)
- Posting 150 messages (150 points)
- Posting 200 messages (200 points)
- Being registered for 30 days (50 points)
- Logging in on your birthday (100 points)
- Being registered for 3 months (75 points)
- Posting 250 message (250 points)
- Posting 500 messages (500 points)
- Being registered for six months (150 points)
- Posting 750 messages (750 points)
- Being registered for one year (300 points)
- Being registered for two years (450 points)
- Being registered for three years (600 points)
- Being registered for four years (750 points)
- Posting 1000 messages (1000 points)
- Posting 1250 messages (1250 points)
- Posting 1500 messages (1500 points)
- Posting 1750 messages (1750 points)
- Being registered for five years (1000 points)
||Distinguished Flying Cross
- Has 5000 medal points (5000 points)
- Posting 5000 messages (5000 points)
- Posting 7500 messages (7500 points)
- Being registered for seven years (7000 points)
||Medal of Honor
- Posting 10000 messages (10000 points)
- Being registered for ten years (10000 points)
- Has 50000 medal points (10000 points)
Attached are pictures of the original Wing Commander press release... from when the game was still called Wingleader! This would have been sent to store owners who were planning on ordering new games from Origin.
This is a special treat. In the past we've explored earlier drafts of the Wing Commander movie -- the pitch to Sony, the first, second, third and shooting scripts. We've followed the original through Chris Roberts' and Kevin Droney's rewrites and revealed how it became the movie we saw in 1999. But what if we told you there was a Wing Commander movie pitch before all that?
In late 1991, Origin worked on an internal Wing Commander movie project. The idea was that a team at the company could do a demo version to be shown to investors at CES. A script for the demo was written by G.P. Austin and a longer treatment for the entire movie that could be done with investment money was included.
If you've ever wondered if the Wing Commander movie would have been better without "Pilgrims" and done at Origin, the answer here seems to be... no. It's incredibly fascinating but it isn't a very good story: it tells about Blair's first missions on the Tiger's Claw and his quest to punish Prince Thrakhath for murdering his parents. In the end, he learns the true meaning of revenge.
Very little of this version survives to the 1999 film, but there is a little bit... especially, the name Forbes for a fellow Tiger's Claw pilot.
Download the treatment here (PDF)
In the tradition of last year's selection of Wing Commander posters, here's something you can print at home: a copy of Blair's orders prop from the Wing Commander movie! It's interesting that some (but not all or even most) of the Wing Commander movie material considers him to be a Confederation Marine.
Here we have Ellen Guon and Stephen Beeman's original script/pitch for "Wing Commander II: Cloak and Dagger," written in November 1990 shortly after the release of the first game. It's Vengeance of the Kilrathi, for sure, but it's Vengeance of the Kilrathi writ large... with many more elaborate scenes and ideas that didn't make it to the finished game. There are too many highlights to list, so let me just mention this: players get to watch a reporter talking about the state of the war between missions... a reporter that Tolwyn eventually punches in the face!
We apologize for the quality of the three Wing Commander 2 documents. We're hoping to have proper scans (or typed versions) available soon. But they're too cool to wait for!
Ah, the Wing Commander 2 pilots: Iceman, Minx, Turbo, Tomcat, Cirocco, Bogey... wait, what?! This fascinating document, glimpsed in the Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy Guide, introduces us to the characters Ellen Guon and Stephen Beeman initially imagined for Wing Commander 2. As with the script, there is a LOT here that didn't make it into the finished game!
Finally, we have the preliminary list of art assets needed for the initial version of Wing Commander 2. These are all the talking heads, background sets, special scenes and so on that Guon and Beeman believed the art team would have to create. Note that they're already thinking about saving money/time: there are notes about reusing things from Wing Commander I... and Ultima 6!
At some point during the development of Wing Commander 2, someone at Origin ran a text file of all the game's ship stats through a dot matrix printer. From there they marked changes as the game was finished--what ships were cut, what changed roles and so on. Over the years that printout yellowed, the text faded, the edges tore and it slowly disappeared... until it was discovered and photographed for this post!
The Wing Commander 2 ship codex, available here (PDF), is the archeology world's most important look at the development of Wing Commander 2's ships. Here are just a few of the amazing facts it has revealed:
- The Kilrathi originally had a second transport named the LUMBAKH. Which solves an age-old question: what is the 'fatso' ship (pictured below)? It was found in Captain Johnny's 3DS collection with the other WC2 ships and labeled ANLUMBA.3DS. At the time we assumed it was an unused WC2 ship of unspecific class and had that name because it was then reused by Super Wing Commander (with different textures) for the Lumbari. We now know it was something else entirely!
- For years debate has raged over what the 'tube' at the front of the Rigakh cruiser was intended to be. A launch tube, a planetary missile launcher, an anti-matter gun? Shockingly, as the ship codex includes the in-game specifications for the Rigakh, we now know it was intended to be a Phase Transit Cannon!
- The Crossbow was originally a Confederation corvette! This explains why the original 3D model and the version in the Wing Commander Academy ship selection screen have Confed capship markings instead of the white and blue scheme seen in Special Operations 1. Also, why the Crossbow exists in the first place, seeing as it's incredibly similar to the Broadsword when used as a fighter. The corvette had two forward particle cannons and a pair of flak guns!
- The supply depot from Special Operations 1 was originally cut from Wing Commander 2.
... that the back of the box for Special Operations 2 has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens in the game?
The Confederation's electronic grapevine is running amok with rumors that vital intelligence has been withheld by the High Command. Luckily, Special Operations has its own sources of information, and they say the waiting game just won't cut it any longer. Someone has to lead the way, and you're getting the call!
The quest for Wing Commander II Super Nintendo goes on... but we have found a trace! This Wing Commander II hat was created by publisher FCI to promote the game. It was given to us by Billy Cain, who was lead on the sadly lost project!
1992 was the first "down" year for Wing Commander. It's something of a surprise, after Wing Commander in 1990 and Wing Commander II in 1991, that there was no major game project. Privateer ("Trade Commander" at the time) was initially planned for a holiday release, but delays to the Strike Commander technology pushed it back to 1993. Instead, we now celebrate the twentieth anniversary of four smaller projects, all now considered true classics.
Special Operations 2, the final mission disk for Wing Commander II, pitted the player against the oft-discussed Society of Mandarins and allowed for a final showdown with "Jazz" Colson. Along the way, you encounter your old friend Maniac and test some hot new hardware.
Freedom Flight inagurated the Wing Commander novel series in a grand fashion. An adaptation and extension of The Secret Missions 2: Crusade, Freedom Flight put Hunter in the main character's shoes and followed his adventures trying to free a group of Firekkan prisoners. While lacking the military tone of the later books, Freedom Flight is perhaps the most accurate to the games at the time, written as it was by Ellen Guon.
The original Wing Commander was ported to two popular platforms by Mindscape: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Amiga. With the long-delayed Amiga port, Wing Commander finally gained widespread acknowledgement in the UK... and the SNES version introduced the series to a generation of more casual console gamers. Both were technological marvels, doing an enormous amount of work with very limited technical resources.
We've asked WCNews staff members to chime in with their memories of these projects. You should do the same in the forums!
1992 was probably when I got serious about Wing Commander. I remember I had some graph paper that I used to sketch out intricate reproductions of the various ship VDUs from the original two games (screenshots, who knew?) and I had pretty much committed the original Claw Marks to memory. There wasn't a big release, but it was a good year!
Special Operations 2, in retrospect, is a bit too much wish fulfillment. Special Operations 1 was sort of a subdued story: it continued the Ghorah Khar arc from Wing Commander II, the new fighter it gave us to play with was actually pretty dull (though pretty!) and the characters it introduced were actually just stopping by on their way to a novel. Special Operations 2, on the other hand: it's your old enemy Maniac... and now he's being disgraced! And the Morningstar with its best guns and super missile and light fighter speed and maneuverability. And of course now you actually get to KILL Jazz! It's all over the top, compared to Ellen Guon's much more nuanced Wing Commander II script. But I loved the hell out of all of that as a twelve year old boy. It's also important for what it represents from the creative side: the artists and writers who fashioned the first games were on their way out and others were taking over. Nothing signifies the difference between the 'anime styled' Wing Commander I and II artwork and the modern military look found in the later games like the Morningstar, essentially an F-15 in space.
Freedom Flight, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. As a kid I found it too juvenile. Where were the great military campaigns and the space battles and so on? As an adult I recognize it was the most true-to-the-game of all the Wing Commander novels and the only one lacking Dr. Forstchen's unnecessary politics. As I say in another update today, my favorite scene in all of Wing Commander now is Hobbes' wistful goodbye to Hassa on Ghorah Khar (of course, who knows how real any of that was? I choose to think it is, anyway.) Today I wish we'd had an alternate slate of novels with Ellen Guon and Mercedes Lackey's more humanistic take on the characters and their world.
The ports, on the other hand, I didn't play at the time. My mother would NOT allow me to have a game console and I don't think any American knew what an Amiga was. I do remember salivating over the box art to Wing Commander SNES in the video rental store (it's a different painting, look closely!) I once convinced a friend with an SNES to rent a copy so I could try it, but when we got to the store it was out. And so it was quite a few years until I got to play the game! What was really impressive about it, in addition to all those tiny details only Wing Commander fans will notice, is how much Mindscape managed to put into a tiny cartridge. It really is the Wing Commander I experience, through and through.
The Amiga version I had no idea even existed at the time, but over the years as we came together online it was clear that there was an 'Amiga faction' of players who insisted that their version was better. Especially, they would repeat, it had amazing music. So of course that's why I won a troublesome Amiga 4000 today, to play that game alone. Now I'm sorry to say that it is NOT better. The music is spectacular, the game is a technical marvel... but the 32 color graphics just cut it down too much compared to the PC release. But it's still an amazing game with an amazing story (it was delayed a year because the SOLE programmed became deathly ill!) and I'm sorry we never saw further Amiga Wing Commanders.
1992 was a big year for me! I didn't have a computer good enough for Wing Commander in 1990 & 1991, but I did shortly thereafter, and I got into Wing Commander 2 big time! Every single day I'd come home and fire it up. Like many Wingnuts, I installed a Soundblaster just to hear the Emperor's voice, and it was just thrilling to have such a variety of ships to fly. It didn't matter if I resumed the previous mission or loaded a random savegame, I'd just play and love to fly around. Slightly off topic, but this same enjoyment is what made Wing Commander Academy (the game) so great. There was a huge demand for a flexible mission simulator in the gorgeous immersive Wing Commander spaceflight engine.
1992 was also the year that Wing Commander was released for ther Super Nintendo, and I also played that whenever I wasn't playing WC2 on the computer. It's a slightly trimmed down version compared to WC1 on the PC (green Salthis instead of Jalthis!), but it's pretty amazing what they were able to do both in graphical fidelity and gamepad controller input. To this day, I can still pick up this version of WC1 (once again popularized by EA Replay and its rerelease on the Playstation Network) and feel right at home.
1992 was the start of a golden era of Wing Commander *playing* for me. With relatively few distractions, I played the hell out of WC1, WC2, WC3, Academy, Privateer and Armada from 1992 through 1995. After 1995, much of my time has been devoted to a mix of Wing Commander experiences (novels, collecting the CCG, watching Academy, etc) and spending a huge amount of time discussing the series online with fellow fans. Sure, I can play Wing Commander games whenever I want now, thanks to the modern rereleases, but I have extremely fond memories of those early years when the series was new.
I didn't become a wingnut until several years after these products originally came out. My recollections are based on my first encounters with them.
I have an odd history with Wing Commander 2 and its addons. My dad brought WC2 Deluxe home from a yard sale not long after we got our first DOS box. After playing through WC2, for some reason, I was unable to beat the second mission you fly with Hobbes, Ghorah Khar B. So the game sat idle for longer than I care to admit while I played other WC games, before the Kilrathi Saga was released. That was the first time I played the early games in their entirety. It's hard not to love the story of WC2 and its expansions. Chasing down Jazz, blasting Kilrathi and traitors, then destroying an asteroid base, with a nuke no less, tell me where to sign! It's everything for a teenage boy to love. Trusting your front line pilots with what the Confederation considers "tactical" weapons is always an excellent idea. Others tried to replicate, but nothing beats the original Mace. The experience was amplified by being able to quickly swap stories with other wingnuts in #wing-commander. For me, it was a more of a social experience with the early games because of the ability to talk to so many others. It's definitely what I remember most about SO2.
I got Freedom Flight, End Run, Fleet Action, and The Heart of the Tiger novels all at once at some point in 1996. It might have been my birthday or Christmas. I read them in order and like most young boys immediately thought End Run and Fleet Action were the best of the bunch. They had everything you'd want. At first I thought Freedom Flight was good, but not great. Nothing special, if you will. Overtime though, you realize how great of a story it is. I didn't grow to love Kirha hrai Hunter nar Aussie from the brief reunion in Fleet Action. It was Freedom Flight that did that. I'm still partial to End Run because of the pure destruction wrought by the Confederation on the Kilrathi. Freedom Flight is a close second.
When I was in my teens a lot of my PC gaming was done over at a friend’s house. He had a fantastic 486dx66 and one day I went over to his house and he was playing something entirely new. I was used to playing flight sims and submarine sims at his house because that was all we ever bought. but this was a space sim. And the sim was Wing Commander II on the 1994 EA 'Top 10 Pack' which also had Chuck Yeager's Air Combat and Seal Team.
I was immediately struck by how gorgeous this hand-drawn game was and how different the combat was from a traditional flight sim. It was a mixture of arcade action and top gun style flying and it had a story told through cut-scenes! I was astounded. We took turns beating the Kilrathi in sortie after sortie and were glued to the screen trying to figure out who the traitor really was, I went over to their house every day for 2 weeks until we played it through with a trackball mouse controller.
My purchases after that were a bit out of order. The next game I got was privateer, then Wing Commander III, then Privateer 2, WCIV, prophecy, and finally the original. My lifelong addiction to Wing Commander was birthed by Wing Commander 2.
In 1992, my mom had uprooted me from our home and moved us several
towns over. When you're 11 years old, that means you might as well be
leaving to go live on the moon. You have to leave behind all your
friends, your yard, all those hard fought trails in the woods near
your house. All those little childhood victories meant nothing now.
You had to start somewhere new. It was, in no small sense, traumatic.
As a bookish child, I tended to turn further inward and increasingly
isolated in my new environment. I was going through books like nothing
else, finishing Tolkien and Le Guin, Malory and Coleridge, Bradbury
and Cooper all within one spring and one summer. Unfortunately,
despite my passionate love for these writers the two things I really
wanted at that age were banned from the house: video games and comic
books. My mom did relent and let me have a Game Boy (whoop-de-do, mom)
but everything else had to be kept at my grandparents - my NES only
got played on weekends and my stacks of Spectacular Spider-Man were
left only for Saturday afternoon reading.
Needless to say, feeling I had nothing to lose in this new environment
and feeling a swell of teenage angst, I started sneaking comics into
my house. It wasn't enough to be reading high fantasy every day, I
also had a thirst for X-Men and Star Wars and (god help me, looking
back on it) Savage Dragon. But sneaking them past my warden wasn't
easy and I was frequently caught in the process. I'm not sure why she
disliked them so much - I'm assuming because my mother thought I was
dumbing myself down with them somehow? - but I eventually figured out
that the one place she never looked was inside my bean bag chair.
So I kept my favorite ones hidden in that dumb, red bean bag chair,
only taking them out when everyone else was asleep or when they went
out to do errands. I read those issues over and over and over until
the spines wrinkled like crows feet and I knew every line of art,
every sound effect, every dot of printer's ink. I knew every issue
backwards and forwards. I had to, you can only hide so many in a bean
One of the things I remembered being especially interested in was the
old Super Nintendo Wing Commander ad on the back of Marvel comic
So long before I actually had a computer (or a console!) to play a
Wing Commander game on, the best I could do was stare at that ad and
wonder what the heck the game was about. My only point of reference
was Star Wars movies and I wondered how a computer could possibly do
the same thing. I'd played plenty of other games but... looking out of
a cockpit, shooting at an enemy? The idea was absurd at that time.
Everything was a side-scroller or top-down. This was something
entirely new and it wouldn't be for a week or two before I saw the
original tech demo for X-Wing at a Software Etc with a religious awe.
Going home and looking at that ad again fired my imagination but it
would be another couple of years before I had my own computer that
could run a Wing Commander game. Those were weird, wild, innocent
times and I still have no idea how I got here from there.
Ever wonder how Baen got the first Wing Commander novel into the stores? Probably not, but here's the answer to the question you didn't ask! It's interesting that there's really very little focus on it being a WING COMMANDER book and a lot on the fact that Mercedes Lackey has a whole host of successful fantasy series' to her credit. Bonus: it's very, very pink.
Interested in Freedom Flight after twenty years but aren't sure you're willing to spend the $0.01 for a used copy on Amazon? We've got your hook-up: the preview chapter for the novel is now available online here.
This was originally included in copies of Wing Commander 2 Deluxe and features an edited version of the novel's first two chapters. It's nothing too exciting, but it does feature my absolute favorite paragraph in all of the Wing Commander novels:
Silence hung between them for a long time, as Ralgha fought his emotions again, and considered what she had said in as dispassionate a light as he could manage under the circumstances. "I will do this," Ralgha said slowly. "I must. I will not be forsworn. But I know what it means... I will never be able to return. I will never see you, or my home of Hhallas again." He looked up at the mountain above them, the first stars beginning to appear in the night sky. "Sometimes I wonder if we should ever have left our planet, Hassa. We were so happy there as children, we could have stayed there... perhaps I should have claimed you as my mate and bearer of my children when I had the chance. Years ago, before politics and soldiering claimed my life, and the Lord Sivar claimed yours."
It's no secret that Chris Roberts' Strike Commander had something of a pained development cycle. Advertising promoting a Christmas 1991 release date (below) was so inaccurate that the final game's manual included a parody promising it would finally be out in 2011. One interesting fact is that Strike actually had a much more diverse selection of vehicles in the original proposal, including an attack helicopter and a P-38 Lightning which mercenaries of the future were somehow going to use as a ground attack aircraft!
As evidence of that, we've archived both versions of Origin's press release for the game. They're very interesting not only because of the changes (and the original line art!) but also because of all the detail they go into about the team and Chris Roberts' vision for the game. I can't really imagine a company today sending out bios of everyone working on a new title.
If you'd visited Origin's headquarters in 1992 you might have found this "editorial cartoon" taped to more than one office wall. We'll leave it to you to divine the meaning.
To help with the promotion for the Wing Commander Academy DVD set, we created incredibly high resolution scans of a number of animation cels from the series. None of them were used by anyone, and so here are four updates worth for anyone who is interested. The first shows off the series' main characters, including Blair, Maniac, Grunt and Archer.
The third set of Wing Commander Academy cels are the series' ferocious Kilrathi. Many consider the Wing Commander Academy Kilrathi to be the 'ideal' look for the alien race... even though some of them were purple and green.
The second set of Wing Commander Academy artwork includes many of the game's classic fighters... and a few capital ships!
Last and certainly least is animation cels featuring... the Warrior King!
The 300+ images on the Wing Commander CCG weren't all computer art. A great many of them were traditional paintings... and we've added high resolution scans of two to our collection in case you'd like a really close look at how making a card works. These pieces by Robert Daniels Jr., "Stabilizer Destroyed" and "Accidentally Shot Wingman" are traditional acrylic paintings.
You've already seen the out-of-nowhere VDU image update above. Here's the story behind it: I was just trying to come up with something that looked cool for a birthday update and figured I'd see what it looked like if all the Wing Commander I VDUs were lined up. It quickly became clear that I'd accidentally discovered the coolest looking thing in the world. And so by Wednesday night I was frantically playing through Super Wing Commander on my PowerMac, Bertha, so I could be sure to include the SWC versions.
Then it occurred to me that people would probably enjoy seeing the entire Super Wing Commander screenshots, since most are unfamiliar with that game's artwork. So, here you can get a quick look at all the cockpits and many of the game's environments!
With all the interest in both medals and Super Wing Commander, I thought it might be fun to show you what a full set of 'chicken guts' looks like in that release. The game will show up to three of each 'star.' The first gives you the medal, the second the complete bar and the third the small triangle on top. It is only possible to win one Medal of Honor (lower row, right) in the game.
The Wing Commander Prophecy soundtrack is strange enough: it's two tracks from the game and a dozen randomly licensed techno/industrial songs. But now look at this: the Wing Commander Prophecy OST--from 1997!--on a cassette tape.
It's a real thing: for whatever reason, cassettes apparently had a longer shelf life in Thailand... and in 1998 a company called Rock Records licensed and released the Wing Commander Prophecy OST there.
What does it sound like? I have no idea, not having owned a cassette player since 1993.
We are pleased to announce that an anonymous xOrigin employee has donated 36 DAT tapes... most of which are labeled Wing Commander 3 or Wing Commander 4! We have absolutely no idea what these tapes contain... and are not yet sure how or if they can be recovered. Do you have experience with this sort of data recovery? Please contact us immediately!
Now it can be told! In early 1999, Origin laid off the Maverick team and cancelled their project, Privateer Online. In October, 1999 they hired back as much of the team as had not moved on to Star Wars Galaxies as they could to create... Wing Commander Online: Privateer. This enormous document is the executive summary for that game, created to convince Electronic Arts executives that it was a well planned project. It includes more details on the cancelled game than have ever been revealed before and even some full color artwork! Download a copy here (202 meg PDF).
Paul Steed, an Origin artist who would later go on to fame working on the Quake games, once pitched Origin a science fiction game called Cyclone Alley. Paul explains:
Back in ’94, I was Project Director at Origin, and they knew I was going to quit and they said, ‘look, what’s it going to take to keep you here?’ And I said, ‘get me my own project, and I’ll stay. I want a team of people to do a project like I think it should be done.’ And they go, ‘okay.’ So they gave me a bunch of guys. So basically I sat down, and I closed the door to my office and I go, alright, I’m going to write down all the things off the top of my head that I like: I like motorcycles; I like rock and roll; I like women; I like violence; I like science fiction. So I took all that and rolled it into this game I called Cyclone Alley. Which basically was a racing game like Road Rash, except you’re on these Hover Bikes and you can do 360 loops inside these tubes and you’re in this space station in outer space. That was the general premise. It’s a good storyline where you’re this hero. One of the stories was, you were racing and you’re doing really good, and the whole time you get these emails or voice mails, which is how the game system runs, and some of them are cutscenes, and one of them was your girlfriend saying, “hey meet me here.” Lo and behold you finish the race and you get to this place and she’s been kidnapped and these guys are pressuring you to race for them, or throw some races or fix some races or whatever. They’re mafia in space. So that was Guido. Guido kidnaps Tanya, and if you win the race, well there was a whole intricate story. What I wanted to convey was Guido was just this sleazy guy and you need to save her.
Cyclon Alley was not a Wing Commander game... initially! Warren Spector liked the concept and pitched the idea that it could be mated with Privateer to create Privateer 2: Cyclone Alley. His pitch (and some sketches from Paul Steed's version) are below:
You may have heard of Alien Commander, Warren Spector's pitch which ultimately became the famous System Shock. What you don't know is how delightfully crazy it is: the game is set on the wreckage of the TCS Tiger's Claw and has the player face off against Double Helixes! Below are scans of the two-page pitch which is worth a read.
This was a birthday surprise even to us: Wing Commander actress Ginger Lynn Allen was kind enough to stop by the forums and answer fan questions! Here's what we've learned so far. If you'd like to ask her a question you can post here - hopefully she'll be back soon!
I've just found this site and thought I join and have the chance to talk to all the Wing Commander fans out there. This was one of my favorite acting jobs I ever had. Heck, I even brought my grandma on the set a few times! So much fun.
I've met SO many Wing Commander fans over the years, and each and everyone of you was just so nice. I know that talking to you here will be so much fun. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer them if I can!
It's pleasure to be here. I've never interacted with fans of WC in this format before. I'm not a computer guru, gamer or techie so please accept my apologies and take me along on your ride.
Thanks for having me.
WC III Heart of the Tiger was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Chris Roberts was hands on in every aspect and it was a pure pleasure. WC V was an entirely different experience. Though it was amazing, the absence of Chris as a producer, director, writer and game creator was very much missed. Not to say the experience wasn't wonderful, or the game wasn't terrific, but Chris was definitely missed. Still loved everyone involved from beginning to end.
Although I've not been approached to be a part of any future WC creations/productions, I would dive in head first at the opportunity. I've not heard the rumor that Chris is working on something new, but tell him to call me, my number hasn't changed!
Q: Which cast member do you think was your favorite to work with? Mark Hamill or Tom Wilson seem like obvious choices, but how about Jason Bernard or Malcolm McDowell?
Tom Wilson had me laughing my ass of from 6am till midnight every night we shot. John Reis Davis is one of the most brilliant actors I've ever worked with. Malcolm McDowell...glad I wore my chastity belt, and Mark Hamil shame on you.
Q: I guess the only question I can think of is the most obvious one: what were your fondest memories of shooting the games? Any in-jokes you can remember between cast and crew? Did you keep anything from the shoot?
Awesome to be here. You guys are great.
My fondest memory of the project is one that no one with the exception of me and my grandmother will ever appreciate the way I do.
Most of the sets were shot on a green screen. My grandmother, bless her sole, had a great fondness for lime green and dayglow purple. I invited her to the set nearly everyday we shot. And one day during dress rehearsal "Gram" walked across the green screen while the cameras were hot. The image everyone saw on the monitor was my grandma with her purple shirt and her grey hair floating across the monitor with nothing below the waist showing!
There was one cast member that was the butt of many, if not all of our jokes, but most likely for this person, they were too dunk to remember most of it. That's all I'll say about that.
If you knew me, you wouldn't ask if I kept anything from the shoot. I keep everything. I have every jumpsuit, uniform, toolbelt, nametag, t-shirt, sweatshirt, pair of shoes and everything underneath (yes I mean my socks) from the shoot. I have everything. That's how special these things are to me, and that's just the kind of girl I am.
Q: But yeah, what Nomad Terror asked... you worked with a lot of great personalities on the Wing Commanders... who were the most fun to work with, and what was the awesomest/most memorable thing that happened on the set?
In WCIII there was a scene where the player has to choose who the ships commander kisses. Flatulence was involved. Won't say who...
Q: How did you come to hear about the casting call for Wing Commander? What were you thinking when you tried out for the role?
It was a long time ago, but if memory serves correct, it was the same person who recommended me for the role of "Ginger" in "Casino" (a role I came in second to to Sharon Stone. I still have the original sides that I auditioned with and the original characters name was not named Ginger. However, if you've seen the movie, they renamed the character Ginger and that's how it appears in the film. With Sharon Stone.
Chris must have preferred me over Sharon Stone in this role...
Q: If the Wing Commander series was ever resurrected with a new game would you be on board to doing another game if they offered?
I'm so on board, I've chosen my weapons already. Have you?
Q: Anyway I recently got my DVD of the animated Wing Commander Academy TV series in the mail - which is finally available for purchase after all these years. They got Mark, Tom, and Malcolm to reprise their roles from the games. Did they ever aproach you about lending your voice?
Sad to say, I was never approached. Would loved to have been part of it.
Q: Neato, thanks for stopping by! Did you ever get a chance to play the Wing Commander games much? Wing Commander 3 was recently rereleased online so that it runs well on modern computers, and we'd be happy to send you a virtual copy if you'd like to try it (again?).
Neato, Guido, Speedo.
I have played the game a few times, and I could never get the ship out of the dock. I sucked at it. I probably shouldn't say that, but it's the truth.
Q: What were your thoughts on acting out Rachel's character? Did you do anything to get into character before filming? Who would win in a fist fight, Rachel or Flint, and why?
WC was one of the most challenging projects I've ever taken on. The script was 3-4 times the length of the "normal" Hollywood script. Each scene had 3-4 endings and it was so mcuh fun to shoot because it was just so different and exciting. Every imaginable ending I was able to live out and that was just exhilarating.
Well, Flint is taller, but I have 22 years of martial arts experience and several black belts. What do you think? But, in the end, I'm a lover not a fighter.
Q: Out of curiosity, would you have liked to have a role in Wing Commander 4?
I had such an amazing time in WC III and V that it would have been an honor to be a part of that and any WC games. Lock and Load.
Q: Have you ever read the novelizations of WC3 and 4? If yes, what do you think about both of them, especially about the backstory of Rachel leaving Blair, and in comparison with the games? And what do you think about the fan-made WC-Games and mods, if you've ever gotten a chance to play them (WC: Saga (+Mods based on it), Unknown Enemy, Standoff, Invasion, Privateer Gemini Gold, etc)?
I've never read the books. Sorry. But I do have autographed copies!
Don't know anything about the fan-made WC games and mods. Tell me more!
Q: What are Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell like; was it fun working with them?
Mark Hamill was....neverendingly....uh....entertaining.
Malcolm was also there..
Did you know the CIC has a twitter account? It's @wccic. Now LeHah has set about creating a list of Wing Commander related celebrities who use the service. Know someone who should be added to this list? Let us know!
- @davidgovett - David Govett (Wing Commander composer, unused Twitter account)
- @TheMightyFatMan - George "Fatman" Sanger (Wing Commander composer)
- @DavidGArnold - David Arnold (Wing Commander movie composer)
- @BarryLeitch - Barry Leitch (Wing Commander II SNES, Righteous Fire)
- @mercedeslackey - Mercedes Lackey (author, Wing Commander: Freedom Flight)
- @petertelep - Peter Telep (author, Wing Commander movie novelizations,Pilgrim Truth & Pilgrim Stars)
- @FreddiePrinzeJr - Freddie Prinze Jr. (Lt Christopher Blair - Wing Commander movie)
- @BlameItOnGinger - Ginger Lynn Allen (Chief Tech Rachel Coriolis - WC3 and WCP)
- @MatthewLillard - Matthew Lillard (Lt Todd "Maniac" Marshall - Wing Commander movie)
- @HamillHimself - Mark Hamill (Colonel Christopher Blair - Wing Commander 3, 4 & Prophecy)
- @TomWilsonUSA - Tom Wilson (Major Todd "Maniac" Marshall - Wing Commander 3, 4 & Prophecy)
- @mindystimeouts - Mindy Hester (actress, Wing Commander Prophecy)
If you're anything like me you're constantly frustrated that the digital manual included with the CD-ROM edition of Wing Commander Academy does not include the cover art or the back page featuring the "Wingman's Creed." Thanks to a pair of high resolution scans from Sheppard now it does! We've inserted the missing pages into the digital version of the manual. It's a small update, but one I truly appreciate. Download your copy of the complete manual here. (PDF)
A lot of Wing Commander manuals are available as digital downloads... but you wouldn't know it for looking! Kris has cut through the disorganization and gone back and gathered up all the manuals we posted in single updates and then forgot about over the years. Remember the UK versions of the Privateer 2 manuals we posted in 2006? We didn't, either. But now they're all in one place! You can access the index here.
We've had a lot of questions about what is going on with the Wing Commander computer project. When I started building the fourth Wing Commander computer I set a seemingly impossible goal: I'd like to add a 3DO Blaster to the setup. The 3DO Blaster was an ISA card which allowed PCs to run 3DO games in Windows. Because of the VGA connection it's absolutely the best way to play--and get screenshots from!--Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander III 3DO. Unfortunately, they're extremely rare today... running for upwards of $1,000 each on eBay when they do appear. They're also extremely awkward, requiring a specific model of circa 1994 CD-ROM drive, a particular class of Sound Blaster and an internal VGA feature connector.
Well, thanks to a very lucky Yahoo Japan auction I am proud to report that Karga now features a 3DO Blaster! A 3DO Blaster that WORKS! And there are no more worlds to conquer. Any idea what other rare bit of hardware I should start looking for? You can read the whole story here.
For the past month or so I have been snapping Instagram photos of hardware going into the Wing Commander computer... and I thought it would be cool to see it all in one place! All of these boards, consoles and controllers help play Wing Commander games in some specialized way!
The CIC's deep content has begun the move to the WCPedia! Kris has been hard at work converting many of our sections to the new, easy-to-update format and the results speak for themselves.
The Books Landing Page now features information on all the novels, official guides and unofficial guides. It merges information from /background, /books and several articles. If you haven't seen them before, Germany has some cool translations and unique cover art. If you're in Germany, we'd love higher resolution scans!
The Music Landing Page features all the information from our /music and /albums sections. Additional tracks have also been added!
Individual Game Landing Pages are in the process of being set up and are available now. Patches and other downloads, music tracks, quick controls and manuals have been included with each.
A straight conversion of the Academy TV section has also been completed!
Let's get it out of the way first. We failed. Not for lack of trying, we made a huge number of updates and edits with a decent number of new articles created this year. What we've been doing is going back and updating old articles to match new layouts we are working on. Finally settling on a ship article layout has been a major improvement. Wingnuts will eventually be able to quickly receive every piece of information about a ship. The articles themselves are still a work in progress with only a handful being close to complete. But the F-36 Hornet article shows off how we plan to do every article. Welcome to the future ultimate resource.
We've also added graphical navigation for the Confederation and Kilrathi Capship, Support Ship, and Fighter categories. We'll continue to improve navigation through categories wherever possible into the future. The remaining factions will have their graphical navigation added soon.
The WCPedia team's goal for the next year is to retire CIC Green. Iceblade has done a great job implementing the new ship template and stat tables into a number of ship articles. The team has still got a lot of ships to switch over to the new format and still a few to create. With the article template finalized, even Wingnuts unsure about wiki editing can learn fairly quickly how to create the articles and enter basic information. We are always looking for help! In the evenings, EST, you can typically find a number of the WCPedia team in #wingnut. I'm always willing to show someone the wiki ropes to get started. Feel free to stop and...
Enlist today! The WCPedia Project needs your help to become the ultimate Wing Commander resource!
This awesome Kilrathi sketch is by John "The Gneech" Robey, who is no stranger to Wing Commander!
One of the most iconic moments in Action Stations is the final communications between TCS Yorkshire and the remains of the Confederation force. The young executive officer of the Yorkshire, already heavily damaged from the attack on the Kilrathi fleet, gives the order to slow the ship down and draw in the Kilrathi. Doing so will buy much needed time for the other Confederation ships to flee the system and fight another day.
To honor the TCS Yorkshire and the rallying cry she created, NinjaLA has created a fantastic piece of art. He's rendered the final moments of the Yorkshire's battle against three Kilrathi battlewagons. Yorkshire was lost in the fight, but not before taking one Kilrathi battlewagon with her and heavily damaging another.
"Take as many of the bastards with you as you can, Yorkshire," she said, her voice harsh and cold.
"Most certainly will," Yorkshire replied. "Must get back to work here. This is Yorkshire. Long live the Confederation."
The image snapped off. Strange, "Long live the Confederation." Two days ago such a line would have seemed like a bad line from a vid, now the words nearly moved him to tears.
Ninja has really outdone himself this year. Those battlewagons look great!
The image is available in four sizes: 800x603, 1280x965, 1920x1448 and a massive 4431x3341.
But wait, there's more! Ninja also drew this amazing Kilrathi warrior art:
The crew of the Wing Commander: From the Ashes play-by-post roleplaying game were kind enough to send the community their birthday regards: "Phoenix Roleplaying, home of Wing Commander play-by-post game 'From the Ashes,' wishes wcnews.com a very happy birthday." They add that anyone is welcome to join their game, an easy to pick-up-and-play forum-based roleplaying scenario. You can learn more about their game and start playing yourself here.
Forum member capi3101, known for his ongoing Wing Commander RPG project, is celebrating the birthday with a stand-alone role playing module based on the Enyo Engagement! Titled "Enyo," the document contains everything you and your friends need for a thrilling adventure circa 2639.
I am pleased to announce the release of Enyo, a WCRPG miniature campaign, in honor of the 14th anniversary of the founding of the Wing Commander CIC website. Enyo is a pseudo-historical campaign that allows players to participate in the Enyo Engagement, an event first mentioned in Claw Marks. The campaign plays a lot like a single "series" from the original WC campaigns; it is composed of a total of seven missions, with two missions on the "losing path" and two outcomes (either the players chase the Kilrathi from the system or vice versa). Players have a choice of eleven pre-designed characters from which to choose (including a young Joseph Khumalo); the character creation rules are included, so the option is there for them to make their own characters as well. Players may also have four fighters they may fly from that era - Arrows, Scimitars, Raptors and Wildcats. As with my earlier work, Prelude to Goddard, a light set of rules is included with the game and enough additional information has been included that players and GMs should be able to design their own pre-WC1 era missions.
Enyo is currently available from Lulu both as a free PDF eBook and as a paperback. The eBook is a free download, while the paperback costs $6.84 plus S&H; the cost covers printing only (i.e. I'm not making any money off of it). Please bear in mind that the versions currently up are the uncorrected proofs. I do have plans to create an ePub version for electronic download as well.
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!
While the 200th anniversary for the Burning of Washington is still two years off, I figured why not get it in early. So for the CIC's 14th birthday WC vs History turns to the US Capitol Building and the Hall of the Great Assembly. The legislative hearts of the United States and Terran Confederation respectively, they are brought together in Wing Commander IV. Happy Birthday Wingnuts and enjoy!
The United States Capitol Building, located in Washington, D.C., houses the legislative branch of the American government. Comprised of the House of Representatives and Senate, the legislative branch is tasked with making law in the United States. The building itself began construction in September 1793, with construction lasting for a fair number of years. The Senate building was completed in 1800. The House of Representatives building was first occupied by the House in 1807, although the structure was not finished until 1811.
Construction on the Rotunda had not started, the two wings only being connected by a crude wooden hallway, when the United States went to war against Great Britain for a second time on 18 June 1812. The current dome was authorized in 1855 and completed during the American Civil War in December 1863 when the statue Freedom was placed atop the Dome.
The incomplete Capitol Dome in March 1861 during Lincoln's first inauguration and the statue Freedom atop the completed Dome.
The War of 1812 has been a little remembered conflict in the two primary adversaries for a number of years, although interest in the United States has ticked up with bicentennial celebrations starting this year. I’m sure our Canadian wingnuts are well-versed in the war. It’s one thing they can certainly be proud of.
The defeat of Napoleon by Spring 1814 allowed the British to divert a large number of ground forces to the war against the United States. British forces conducted an invasion of the United States in August 1814 on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The British easily defeated American forces in the Battle of Bladensburg on 24 August, nearly capturing the entire American federal government which was present at the battle, before marching onto Washington itself. The battle later became known as the “Bladensburg Races” for the panicked retreat of American forces. As the Americans fled the field, President James Madison sent word to his wife, Dolley, at the White House. She was to evacuate the White House immediately! The Red Coats were coming, again!
Dolley Madison, First Lady of the United States, was already a well-known entity to the American public. Considerably junior to her husband in years, she transformed the White House into the center of the Washington social scene. Her public profile was to grow considerably when word of her actions on the night of 24 August became known.
Dolley Madison and the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuartt she ordered saved.
Mrs. Madison had the servants and slaves gather various important and valuable items from around the White House. As the British advanced into the city and closed on the seat of Executive power, Mrs. Madison called for the frame to be broken on the portrait of George Washington and had the picture cut from it. Loaded with the painting and various valuables, she as one of the last people to flee the city before the British entered it in force.
Rear Admiral George Cockburn led the British forces in their attack on Washington, D.C.
The British force, of over four thousand men and led by Rear Admiral George Cockburn (actually no, it's not pronounced that way) entered the American capital and began burning government buildings. This was not in retaliation for the Revolution, instead it was in retaliation for the American burning of the Canadian city of York in April 1813. The US Capitol Building, the White House, the Library of Congress, the Treasury and other public buildings were put to the torch by the British. The US Patent Office was actually saved from the torch by William Thornton, then Superintendent of Patents, by convincing the British not to destroy the building and patents within.
A sketch of Washington burning along with images of the US Capitol and White House following the fires that consumed their interiors.
Before being burned, the White House was looted by British forces. Dinner was still sitting on the table in the East Room. The soldiers helped themselves to a meal. Various objects were taken, including a jewelry box which was returned by a Canadian man to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 who claimed it was taken by his grandfather.
The Capitol Building continues to stand into the 27th century. At some intervening point in time, a new structure was built on the eastern side of the building, roughly in an area just beyond the location of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Hall of the Great Assembly was a massive construction. Housing thousands of senators and spectators, the Hall had a large dome enclosing the entire structure. Those in the speaking well had a view of the Capitol dome along with the numerous flags of Confederation worlds.
On 2654.148, the Hall of the Great Assembly suffered a Pilgrim terrorist bombing that killed a large number of people, Pilgrim Truth explains:
"We interrupt this recorded broadcast to bring you a special report from CNH, Vega and Sol sectors." The news hub emblem faded into the grim countenance of a young captain in dress blues. "This just confirmed from CNNH Sol sector: Three days ago CST, Pilgrim saboteurs gained access into the Hall of the Great Assembly, where they detonated a CF-three-two-seven-A explosive device, killing two hundred and twenty-nine senators, including the Assembly Master himself, Pequin Gydideron, and three representatives from the Pilgrim enclave Triune. The facility has been declared a disaster area by President Vasura, and as per the constitution, Vice-president Harold Rodham will assume the duties of Assembly Master until a new master is elected. Rodham has called for an emergency meeting of the surviving senators. Not since the first Pilgrim War have so many of our leaders been killed in one event." President Vasura appeared in the holograph, standing behind a podium before throngs of reporters. "The Confederation we will mete out punishment to those behind this act of cowardice. The saboteurs themselves were merely instruments and gave their lives for their cause. Believe me when I say that those who sent them will make the same sacrifice."
With the public outraged, Bellegarde expected that the surviving senators and interim senators would whole-heartedly support the destroying of all Pilgrim systems and enclaves by one-five-eight. Anything to make their constituents happy.
The US Capitol Building has suffered several terrorist attacks, including two on 1 March of different years. In 1954, four Puerto Rican separatists fired 30 rounds from semi-automatic pistols into the House chamber before being arrested. Five members of the House of Representatives were injured in the attack. The Weather Underground, a 1960’s far-left political organization, staged a bombing of the Building in March 1971 to protest of the US invasion of Laos. The Capitol also saw a terrorist attack on 7 November 1983. The US Senate Building was bombed by a group claiming to be called the “Armed Resistance Unit”. Six people were later arrested and tried in the “Resistance Conspiracy” case with also bombing the Washington Navy Yard and Fort McNair. The Capitol Building was also the likely target of United Flight 93 on 11 September 2001. The passengers of United 93 fought back against the Al Qaeda terrorists who crashed the plane rather than allow the passengers to succeed in retaking control.
Washington, D.C. next appears in the Wing Commander III losing endgame. We are treated to the crushing sight of a Kilrathi fleet cruising over the Capitol Building, while looking at the building’s East Front, and the remains of D.C. itself. It seems that at some point in the next six hundred years the construction height ban is abolished by the various skyscrapers scene.
The first view of the Hall of the Great Assembly comes in Wing Commander IV. The Hall appears to be sunken into the ground off the East Front of the Capitol Building. The top half of the Capitol Dome is visible through the Hall’s own transparent ceiling, along with a empty space between the skyscrapers which is most likely the National Mall. During the endgame, Colonel Christopher Blair flies a commandeered F-104 Lance heavy fighter towards the Capitol Building from the Lincoln Memorial side of the Mall, swinging to the left to avoid the Washington Monument, before heading towards a landing near the Capitol Building. The camera cuts away before we are able to see what must surely be a massive dome over the Hall of the Great Assembly.
The reason there are two WC vs History's for the birthday is rather quite simple. LOAF lost this one in his email. I sent him the history parts asking for some WC polish. So it's sat idly for months. But we are now able to present it to you complete! And it's almost rather timely, with Confederation Day being a few weeks off.
“In the annals of naval warfare, no naval surface ship had greater revolutionary impact on the art and concept of war at sea than has the aircraft carrier.” Admiral T.H. Moorer, 1974
The Raids on Pearl Harbor and McAuliffe, in 1941 and 2634 respectively, ushered in the Ages of the Aircraft and Space Carrier. These were not the inaugural operation of the respective capital ships, both types of carriers had existed for a number of years prior and had participated in both combat operations and training exercises. However, the respective raids helped to define the place and role of the carrier within the Fleet. They were not instantly crowned Queen of the Seas over the battleship, which had reigned supreme for a considerable time before the newcomer with wings arrived and offered a challenge. However, in order to challenge the battleship some developments were required in both situations.
The Raid on Pearl Harbor was not made possible by a specific technological breakthrough as the Raid on McAuliffe was aided by. Pearl Harbor was possible because of a doctrinal development. The credit is given to Genda Minoru for seeing the potential for a multi-carrier force. He said his inspiration for the idea came from, of all places, an American movie newsreel showing the battleships and carriers of the US Fleet steaming in line together in the late 1930s. By grouping the carriers of the Imperial Navy into a single striking force the Japanese created a new weapon, the fast carrier task force. The large number of aircraft available to a multi-carrier force allowed it to conduct powerful strike operations. Kido Butai (Mobile Force), as the Japanese called the 1st Air Fleet, conducted its first operation at Pearl Harbor and continued with a string of successes across the Pacific and Indian Oceans in early 1942.
Captain Genda during the war and it was an image similar to this one he said inspired the idea for Kido Butai.
The carriers of Kido Butai (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, Zuikaku) embarked more than 350 aircraft on their six flight decks. In December 1941, this was the most powerful aerial force the world had known. Armed with the devastating Type 91 aerial torpedo and modified 16” naval shells as armor-piercing bombs, the planes of Kido Butai inflicted grave damage on the ships of the Pacific Fleet. It was not the first carrier raid, that honor belongs to the British in World War I.
The British began operations with ships capable of carrying and launching aircraft in 1917. HMS Furious was the first ship declared an “aircraft carrier”. HMS Furious was not an aircraft carrier in the classic sense as built. It was a battlecruiser that was modified during construction to have a short “flying-off and landing deck” in place of the forward turrets. You can only take your hat off and salute Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning who landed in that manner twice before being killed on his third attempt while attempting to find a better approach solution. Furious returned to port to have her aft turrets removed and a dedicated landing deck and hangar installed.
HMS Furious, as built, and the Sopwith Camel, both took part in the first carrier raid.
Operation F.7 was conducted from HMS Furious on 19 July 1918. The raid targeted a German airbase at Tondern, Germany. Seven Sopwith Camels from Furious struck the airbase and destroyed two zeppelins for the loss of one man. The Tondern Raid was the inaugural combat operation of capital ship-based naval aviation. However, the British raid that helped the Japanese in terms of Pearl Harbor was the Raid on Taranto in November 1940 as discussed in the previous WC vs History.
The interwar period saw experimentation with carriers by the three major navies, Britain, the United States, and Japan. The British tended to operate their carriers independently of each other whereas the United States and Japan operated their carriers in pairs. The United States and Japan developed different doctrine for operating their carrier pairs that was the result of several factors but air group size, as a result of the carrier’s physical size and where aircraft were stored onboard, played a large role. The American Navy developed what is called the “deck park”, something still in use today, where aircraft are stowed, armed, and fueled on the flight deck opposed to the hangar deck. The hangar deck is typically reserved for maintenance operations or stowage in poor weather. Stowing aircraft in this manner allowed for a greater number to be carried onboard American carriers. The Japanese stowed their aircraft in the hangars, just as the Royal Navy did with its carriers. Hangar stowage gave some protection to the aircraft from the elements and attack, but greatly limited the number of aircraft onboard. Most British carriers carried less than 45 aircraft (in some cases Royal Navy fleet carriers had air groups as small as 36) as a result of the armored flight decks and hangars. These afforded great protection to the ships (especially during 1945 when Kamikaze attacks did far less damage to British carriers than their American cousins) at great cost in terms of strike power. The Japanese attempted to resolve the problem by building their carriers with two-story hangars. This increased the number of aircraft carried, however the cost came from elevator cycle times bringing aircraft up and down. In World War II carrier warfare, time was critical.
Example of the deckpark on USS Lexington (CV-2)
Even though the Americans and Japanese operated their carriers in pairs in the interwar years, does not mean they operated the same. True multi-carrier operations were not undertaken by American forces in the interwar period and did not begin in the Second World War until mid-1943. American carrier air groups operated independently of each other, even if in direct sight of each other, during missions. The smaller air groups of the Japanese carriers and the usage of the hangar for stowage presented the Japanese with a problem and pushed them into thinking about multi-carrier operations. They were incapable of spotting their entire air groups on the flight deck at once. Instead they had the ability to launch roughly half the air group. This forced the Japanese to come up with a solution to power projection problem. The first option was to launch the first part of the air group and let it circle while the second group was spotted on deck. The problem with that method is that it takes forty-five (thirty if they are really moving) to spot the flight deck for launch. That’s forty-five minutes of time and fuel burned circling the carrier. This method was unworkable. The solution was to use the ability of each carrier in a division to launch half its aircraft to create a combined strike. One carrier launched its dive-bomber squadron and a number of fighters for escort, while the other carrier launched its attack-squadron (torpedo) and additional fighters. Using this method the Japanese were able to put up combined strikes from their smaller carriers that packed a considerable punch. If another wave was to follow the first, the carriers simply launched their remaining squadrons, which still produced a balanced strike package of dive and torpedo planes.
The six carriers of Kido Butai: Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku.
The development of Kido Butai, and the fast carrier task force, revolutionized naval warfare. It allowed for operations like Pearl Harbor to be considered, planned and executed. It gave Japan a “leg up” in this regard, as almost no American considered an attack on Pearl Harbor possible. It was supposed to be a of the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, like British Singapore and Japanese Truk. The US Pacific Fleet, hundreds of Navy and Army aircraft, sheer distance from Japanese possessions, all made it seem the least likely target. It also made it the perfect target.
When planning the Raid on McAuliffe the Kilrathi had doctrinal and technological problems. Much like the pre-World War II navies of the world, there was the “black shoe vs brown shoe” debate (Naval aviators wear brown shoes, whereas Line officers wear black). Was a lightly armored carrier to replace the massive guns and armor of the battlewagon? How? Certainly the shields and armor of the battlewagons along with its defensive turrets would swat away any fighters dumb enough to get too close. They needed a new weapon and a plan to use it.
Dr. William Forstchen based his Wing Commander prequel, Action Stations, on Pearl Harbor and its surrounding events, down to a narrative structure patterned after Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept. It should be obvious from summary alone that this was the inspiration: the novel tells the story of the Empire of Kilrah's surprise attack on the Terran Confederation's major naval base at McAuliffe. Interestingly, the scenario was not Dr. Forstchen's invention: he works within the confines of history established in the original Claw Marks manual (which itself borrowed the McAuliffe code breaking story from the Battle of Midway.)
Prange's book was the inspiration for Forstchen's the attack of McAuliffe. In both raids, the torpedo played an important role.
Many of the characters introduced or otherwise adapted in Action Stations are based on figures from the actual history. The Kilrathi Crown Prince Gilkarg and his second fleet commander, Nargth, echo the 'black versus brown shoe' debate of the US Navy. Gilkarg insists that space carriers were the way of the future while traditionalist Nargth believes that nothing will overpower the battlewagon. Much of the book forms around this argument, the same one naval tacticians had in the interwar peroid. Before 2634, the role of carriers was for performing reconnaissance and support missions as well as space-to-planet bombing. With the development of the torpedo at McAuliffe--foreseen by Gilkarg as well as Tolwyn, Richards and Turner--the dynamic changes to the one we are familiar with in the games. As in real life, it is the development of a successful torpedo that makes spacecraft capable of destroying large capital ships... and teething difficulties created by unreliable early torpedo technology causes a great deal of drama, such as an unexploded torpedo impacting with TCS Concordia.
Crown Prince Gilkarg was executed by his father, Emperor Joor'rad, in 2655. Being the Emperor's son did not spare him from the cost of failure.
Vakka nar Jukaga, father of the famous Baron Jukaga nar Ki'ra, echoes Yamamoto by arguing that the Empire should not go to war with the Confederation. The Empire of Kilrah is similarly said to be a hollow shell, failing to assimilate what they conquer. General Long, in charge of the ground installations at McAuliffe, is a play on Pearl Harbor's General Short. The "Panama War Games," in which the Confederation is said to have experimented with fighters capable of destroying enemy capital ships, is based on the US Navy's Fleet Problem IX.
Some of the novel's references are more on-the-nose. The Confederation fields a carrier named the TCS Soryu, borrowing from one of those which served with Kido Butai. Admiral Nagomo, head of the 7th fleet at McAuliffe, is a play on Nagumo. The novel argues that he is not fit for the job, similar to that used against Nagumo who was a non-aviator second in line for the Japanese command. He should also not be confused with Admiral Nagano, who was part of the Imperial Japanese Navy General staff during the war.
The Kilrathi "Jak-tu" attack style, springing from concealment to defeat a larger foe, is similar to that which the Japanese had successfully used against Russia and China in the first third of the century and hoped to repeat at Pearl Harbor. Here the Kilrathi have used it for generations, defeating races like the Wu and the Varni and hope now to crush the industrialized Confederation before it can arm for war. As with the Japanese in the Pacific, the Kilrathi plan to strike McAuliffe while other fleets spread to grab territory and tie up Terran forces.
The Kilrathi briefing shows they have clear maps of McAuliffe, down to the base's weapons layout. At Pearl Harbor the Japanese gained ship movement information through a Honolulu newspaper and a single spy on the island, at McAuliffe we are told it was broadcast on an open vid channel. The Kilrathi are seen practicing their attack plan over and over, just like the Japanese pilots.
The first two maps are of Pearl Harbor captured from an aircraft and midget sub respectively. The third map is of the Lahaina Roads Anchorage in case the US Fleet was there.
One significant difference is that the Confederation is strongly against mobilizing for war, even though limited war had already been declared. This is more Dr. Forstchen's particular modern politics than a commentary on history.
Finally, Dr. Forstchen invents "Confederation Day," a holiday similar to the Fourth of July on which the Kilrathi can strike. This is based on the fact that the Japanese attacked on a Sunday morning when the Navy would be at its lowest readiness. On Confederation Day, crews are on shore leave and can not be recalled in time to fend off the attack. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy staged its own series of mock attacks on the base in the 1930s. One of those the US Army bitterly protested the attack coming on a Sunday morning, not only because the Navy was able to give a black eye during the exercise, but it was Sunday! "Who attacks on a Sunday?", they'd argued. Someone who knows the Fleet tends to be home on Sundays.
Like we do every year, we want to offer up some trivia and a prize to those unable to make the 'party.' The first person to correctly e-mail us the answers to these five questions will win a copy of the Wing Commander Academy DVD set! (... but you should all have bought a copy already, anyway.)
Q1: Who created Cyclone Alley?
Remember, the answers to all these questions can be found in features released today!
Q2: When was Strike Commander originally scheduled for release?
Q3: What was Major Edmonds' unusual original callsign/nickname?
Q4: What two Washington DC landmarks appear in Wing Commander IV?
Q5: How many years has WCNews.com been in business?
I hope you enjoyed all of that material! The most sincere thank you to the thousands of Wing Commander fans who continue to make this site worthwhile. It sounds corny, but we wouldn't be anywhere without you.
Thank you to the rest of the staff for making the day and day-in possible: Chris, Dundradal, AD, ace, Hades. You are the best friends someone could ask for. And as always, WCNews.com would absolutely not exist without Kris' quiet competence.
Thank you to NinjaLA, LeHah, PopsiclePete and NomadTerror who continue to support the Wing Commander community in myriad ways and who all help make #WingNut a joy to come home to. And a personal thank you to Trelane, who has always been there for me.
And to all the former developers who continue to share their history with us! I learn something new about Wing Commander every week because of their impossible kindness.
Now let's make 2013 the best year yet.