30 years of Wing Commander: the space game milestone – topical games

Chris Roberts and his team at Cloud Imperium Games are still working on Star Citizen. The expectations are immense: On the one hand, due to the <a href = "https://www.pcgames.de/Star-Citizen-Spiel-3481/News/Entwicklungskosten-lieg- readys-bei-ueber-200-Mio-US- Dollar-1273843 / "title ="high development costs "target =" _ blank ">high development costs and the long production timeSecond, because Roberts is none other than the creator of Wing Commander. His space action simulation, which is considered a milestone in computer game history, appeared almost 30 years ago. Four sequels, numerous offshoots such as the Wing Commander based on the classic Elite: privateers, various fan mods and novels and even a – albeit rightly flopped – movie followed. In the following we give you a compact overview of the Wing Commander series, but we limit ourselves to the legendary main series.

Since he saw Star Wars in cinema as a child, US game designer Chris Roberts has been fascinated by space battles and epic science fiction stories. With the advance of the IBM PC and inspired by the technically impressive flight simulation Battlehawks 1942 from Lucasfilm Games (1988), he saw the time to bring his enthusiasm to the screen. The result: Wing Commander.

In the interstellar war between humans and the cat-like Kilrathi, the player slipped into the role of a young space fighter pilot who started his career on the TCS Tiger's Claw in 2654. While the story slowly unfolded on the carrier ship and the player gossiped in the bar during combat breaks with fellow pilots, there were a total of 39 missions in space. These offered plenty of variety, from simple reconnaissance flights to combat missions against enemy squadrons.






Disk bitmaps instead of vectors: In 1990 Wing Commander's graphics were the ultimate and required an enormously powerful MS-DOS PC. (1)



Disk bitmaps instead of vectors: In 1990 Wing Commander's graphics were the ultimate and required an enormously powerful MS-DOS PC. (1)

Source: Moby Games




Wing Commander was remarkable in many respects and pioneering in 1990: film-like staging, dynamic soundtrack, influence on the plot through one's own style of play instead of blunt high-score hunt, splendid graphics as well as action-packed and varied space battles – specialist press and players were thrilled. The collective enthusiasm did not detract from the fact that for Wing Commander an expensive 386 PC along with a VGA graphics card and two megabytes of main memory should ideally be called its own. And if you then installed a sound card in the computer, you were finally in the gambler heaven thanks to the massive soundscape.

The add-ons The Secret Missions (published in late 1990) and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade (1991) provided additional fun and mission supplies. While the later developments for the Amiga and the Super Nintendo could not keep up with the technical brilliance of the PC original, the best version of the game appeared in 1994 with Super Wing Commander for the exotic console 3DO. This impressed with revised graphics, voice output and additional missions. And the implementation for the Mac from 1995 was also impressive.






The cinematic cutscenes and the ramified story of Wing Commander thrilled almost every game fan 30 years ago.



The cinematic cutscenes and the ramified story of Wing Commander thrilled almost every game fan 30 years ago.

Source: Moby Games




Wing Commander 2: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (1991)

Wing Commander 2: Vengeance of the Kilrathi was released a year after the debut, so it was playfully similar to its predecessor. However, the focus was now even more on the narrative of a space opera. This time, Origin Systems decided to forego a branched mission structure in favor of a linear, more complex story that took place ten years after Part 1. Wing pilots could no longer die, and there were no promotions or awards.






Star Wars mime Mark Hamill inspired 1994 in Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger in his role as Christopher "Maverick" Blair. The involvement of numerous other Hollywood stars made the cutscenes a pleasure at the time - even if they now seem rather antiquated.



Star Wars mime Mark Hamill inspired 1994 in Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger in his role as Christopher "Maverick" Blair. The involvement of numerous other Hollywood stars made the cutscenes a pleasure at the time – even if they now seem rather antiquated.

Source: Moby Games




In terms of technology, the second Wing Commander made another significant leap forward thanks to the revised graphics engine, which however resulted in even higher hardware requirements. Also noteworthy was the separately available Speech Accessory Pack, which at the time further fueled the success of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster sound card: after installation, it replaced the on-screen texts with digital voice output. As with its predecessor, Wing Commander 2 also received two add-ons, which looked somewhat careless: Special Operations 1 (1991) and Special Operations 2 (1992).

Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger (1994)

With Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger, Chris Roberts once again proved that he likes to push the limits of what is currently technically feasible as far as possible. Instead of bitmap graphics as in the predecessors, Origins Systems now used a 3D graphics engine that provided the finest SVGA resolution. And instead of animated cutscenes, the series featured FMV scenes for the first time in addition to pre-rendered images. Numerous well-known actors participated in the action game and created a lot of Hollywood flair. The role of the protagonist Christopher "Maverick" Blair was played by Star Wars star Mark Hamill, furthermore Malcolm McDowell (orange movement), John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings) and Tom Wilson (Back in the Future) with. And with Ginger Lynn Allen there was even a porn star from the 80s on board. Cool: At certain points in the game you could choose between several answer options and thus influence the subsequent events.

Despite the immense development costs for the time and the high hardware requirements, Wing Commander 3 became a commercial success and made a decisive contribution to the breakthrough of the CD-ROM as standard medium. Later moderate implementations for 3DO, Playstation and Mac followed.

Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom (1996)

With the end of the Kilrathi trilogy, Chris Roberts actually saw the series as complete. Then, however, he was asked by the parent company Electronic Arts to produce a successor and was given a generous budget. Since the development time was rather short, the technical and playful innovations compared to Wing Commander 3 were manageable. However, unlike in the previous version, the creators of Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom did not rely exclusively on blue screen technology, but also shot scenes on real film sets in a Hollywood studio. The actors known from part 3 were again part of the party.






Developer Origin Systems continued playfully the series in Wing Commander 3 with brilliant space action.



Developer Origin Systems continued playfully the series in Wing Commander 3 with brilliant space action.

Source: Moby Games




Directed again by Chris Roberts, who finally left the series after Wing Commander 4. The lack of profit probably also contributed to this: the game, which was delivered on a full six CDs, generated immense development costs that the good sales and the implementations for Playstation and Mac could not recoup.

Wing Commander: Prophecy (1997)

After the departure of Chris Roberts, Origin Systems wanted to focus more on the first two Wing Commander parts. In Wing Commander: Prophecy, the number of film sequences has been reduced and the focus has shifted back to space battles. Graphically, the series increased significantly thanks to hardware-accelerated optics – thanks to 3Dfx and Direct3D-capable graphics cards.

However, it was less well received by the fans that for the first time the player no longer slipped into the role of Christopher Blair, but the makers introduced a new, young pilot as protagonist with Lance Casey. The open end also annoyed many series lovers.
The addon Wing Commander: Secret Ops, which was released free of charge a year later, offered new missions, but brought no new insights into the storyline. The fifth part of the series was also the last; In 2003 it was ported to the Game Boy Advance in an astonishingly good implementation. So the fans are still bothered by the question: What happened to Blair? Maybe one day Chris Roberts will have mercy and continue the cult series. Although we have our doubts because of Star Citizen's infinite history …

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Like the dinosaurs: These games are threatened with extinction

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