The lens begins to cloud - the February 14 issue of The Point of Origin is the only one archived for 1997... and indications are that no others exist. Luckily for Wing Commander fans, it includes an article specifically on the status of Maverick Productions.
- Spotlight: Point Exclusive: What the hell is up with Maverick? answers that very question:
An interview with Rod Nakamoto, Dave Downing and Adam Foshko
Point: So Rod, how do you feel about being here at ORIGIN?
Rod: Austin is a great town. I like the fact that it has a smaller population than Los Angeles which is where I used to live. I like the fact that I can actually breathe the air without having to worry about my lung condition. I also like the fact it has a much lower crime rate - sometimes in LA, you get lulled to sleep by the sound of police helicopters.
As far as ORIGIN is concerned - the primary reasons for me coming here were the people and the culture. I think there are very few companies like ORIGIN that have developed a unique culture among its employees. It's something of a magnet. There is a high degree of initiative and creativity, and the work ethic is probably far above any other company I am aware of in this industry.
I had to get over my doubts about Texas to come out here for an interview. But once I met the people and saw the process by which they worked, I was extremely impressed. Another "big carrot" for me was my role overseeing Wing Commander and Crusader, two of the biggest products that ORIGIN has.
Point: What about Wing Commander?
Rod: We have, for all intents and purposes, a new team. Yes, many of the members have worked on previous Wing Commanders. But everyone has new leadership, new goals, and new focus on what the product is in terms of quality.
Point: Any hints?
Rod: Wing Commander is still a spectacular single player product, but it has an appropriate multi-player component that will relay bring a much larger audience to this particular product.
Point: What's the working title?
Rod: Wing Commander: Prophecy is the working title - it can still change, but it's not being called Wing Commander V.
Dave: We've decided to drop the numerical sequencing of Wing Commander because we want to be able to focus on each game and not have to compare this game with future iterations or past iterations. This is Wing Commander, today and now, and we're going to make it the best game it can be. We want to allow ourselves some latitude and flexibility with each Wing Commander. We also want to open up the Wing Commander franchise to different genres of games.
Adam: We want people to know that this game has a new face and that this is a new coalescence of the team. With that in mind, we also want to be unfettered about the past. This is a fresh perspective. Why put a number on it?
Rod: In the past, ORIGIN, and other companies have used sequels as a way to leverage the marketing. Although, I think using numbered sequels was appropriate at the time. Now, a coming of age has come about for this team and this product. We're looking at what Wing Commander could become. There is a great deal more of the Wing Commander universe that has yet to be explored. And we're the guys who are going to do it.
Point: Any other tidbits of information?
Rod: It's going to be more spectacular than any other Wing Commander released. Yes, I know that sounds like a bunch of empty hype, but actually, we don't want to come off that way. People want to know what more can be put into Wing Commander. My response is, "A Lot."
Dave: This is the most well-designed Wing Commander that any of us have ever experienced. Before we ever started to actually script the missions or write the story, we sat down and designed the kind of game we wanted to build. We developed a structure for how each of the missions is to be played out and that drove the writing of the story, which added the flesh to the bones that the structure was composed of. Every element of game play - promotions, medals, how you log into the computer, has been well thought out, well designed, and integrated into an overall game design, rather than being added on. This is how it's being designed from the ground up.
Adam: Wing Commanders III and IV were both great products, but they are more like unequal halves. This is a much more synergistic product. It's very team drive - it's not one person's vision and I think it shows.
Point: What is the makeup of the team's leadership?
Rod: The thing that's always made Wing Commander exciting is the live production element. Dave Downing and Frank Roan are in charge of the entire production of Wing Commander, making sure all the pieces by different individuals come together into one product. Because of their experience in previous Wing Commanders, they will make sure that it lives up to the name. Adam Foshko is director of the live production element. His experience with Hollywood plays a great factor in the quality of the production.
Point: Who else is part of the key staff?
Dave: Mark Day is producer of the movie shoot, Frank Roan is the project director, Mark Vearrier is art director, Billy Cain is lead designer, Pete Shelus is lead programmer, Jeff Grills is lead technologist, and Stretch Williams is the audio director.
Point: Sounds like there are lots of veteran members of Maverick Productions. It's not like you've just fallen off the turnip truck.
Rod: No, these guys are driving the turnip truck.
- In Ink has good news for Privateer 2:
Let's move on to Privateer 2, which is starting to reel in its fair share of high scores and great reviews. The news is especially good from across the pond. Here's a quick rundown of European reviews:
* What Personal Computer (UK): 5 out of 5 - Award for Best Space Game of 1996
* PC Player (Germany) 5 out of 5 - Gold Player Award
* Edge (UK): 9 out of 10 - "The Darkening bears the hallmarks of a classic."
* PC Format (UK): 90% - "An utterly engrossing game that combines for the first time, a rich and interesting story, with compelling and fun gameplay."
* PC Review (UK): 9 out of 10 - "Probably the most plished PC game ever and the most rewarding, ambitious and addictive computer game for a good few years."
* PC Gamer (UK): 85% - "It's much, much better than Wing III or IV but disappointingly still not as good as it could have been."
In the states, reviewers are, for the most part, equally impressed. PC Gamer gave P2 an Editor's Choice Award and a grade of 92%. "The most fun you can have in a starship. The long-awaited sequel to ORIGIN's space-smuggler game tops Wing IV in just about every way." From Boot magazine the report card reads 9 out of 10. "3D Studio-rendered cut scenes mixed with live-action FMV invoke a cinematic experience that would even make Lucas do a double take." And from Computer and Net Player, Privateer 2 scored a 9 out of 10. "If you like your space battles fast and furious, chances are Privateer 2 has a mission for you."
One downer has come from Gamespot,which rated P2 at 6.8 out of 10. Greg Kasavin wrote, "An aesthetically pleasing space flight sim seasoned with high budget full motion video and garnished with more bugs and glitches than this reviewer has ever seen in a product boasting ORIGIN's seal of approval."
Still, the bad is completely outweighed by the great press on Privateer 2 coming from such national publications as Entertainment Weekly, CNN (see accompanying picture), the New York Post and the Hollywood Reporter.
There's good news for Wing Commander IV, which also won an award from PC Gamer for Special Achievement in Cinematics. Calling the movies in WCIV "top-notch," editors wrote, "ORIGIN managed to exceed expectations and extend beyond the tiny confines of the computer screen tow eave the game's tale of intrigue and deception, propelling the story line and providing us with this year's finest cinematic performance."
- Product Support Spotlight has another tale of helping fix a Wing Commander game:
Dear ORIGIN Product Support I would like to take just a little bit of your time to speak to you about Mr. Chris Errett.
As an owner of two Origin flight sim games (AH-64D Longbow and WIng Commander IV), I was having a problem running these DOS based games on my Windows 95 based computer. Chris was kind enough to spend all of the time I needed (1 hours and 25 minutes!) to get these games up and running. If it were not for his knowledge and assistance, I would have had to return both games. Something I did not want to do, and I'm thankful to Chris that I did not have to.
Ms. Williams, valuable employees like Chris Errett do not come along every day. You would be well advised to do what ever it takes to keep him happy. Losing him to one of your competitors could be a major blow to your company. He is by far the BEST product support technician I have ever dealt with to date. Thank you for your time.
- The EOM is Trey Hermann!: "Congratulations to February's EOM, Trey Hermann. Trey joined ORIGIN 3 1/2 years ago as a graphic designer in Creative Services. One of his favorite projects that he worked on was the 'Behind the Scenes' electronic press kit for Wing Commander III. That ambitious undertaking went on to win a prestigious 'ICON' award."
Point of Origin
Vol. VII, No. 1 - February 14, 1997
ContentsSpotlight: Point Exclusive: What the hell is up with Maverick?
Math is Hard
Product Support Spotlight
Game Design Winners