Wing Commander Soars Again; Fan-Made Sequel Debuts In T-4 Days - HotHardware
Wing Commander Soars Again; Fan-Made Sequel Debuts In T-4 Days

Wing Commander Soars Again; Fan-Made Sequel Debuts In T-4 Days

The 1990s were a veritable golden age for space combat gamers, but two series stand out in particular. Star Wars fans had the award-winning X-Wing and TIE Fighter series, while Origin developed the ground-breaking Wing Commander series. Ironically, Mark Hamil starred in the latter, beginning with 1994's Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (HOTT). WC3 was a smash success, and two sequels followed: Wing Commander IV and Wing Commander: Prophecy. After WC:P, Origin abandoned the series, and space combat sims in general went into decline. The Freespace series and Chris Roberts' own Freelancer were some of the last prominent titles in the genre.

Now there's news that one of the many fan-built projects in the Wing Commander universe is nearing completion and drops four days from now. Wing Commander Saga kicks off six months before the events of WC3 and tells a parallel story of the Confed pilots fighting to end the war and protect their homes against the Kilrathi. Those of you who were Wing Commander fans way back when may recall that in WC3, humanity's survival was very much in question; Blair's suicide mission against the Kilrathi homeworld was a last-ditch attempt to end the war, not a coup de grace delivered by superior firepower.



The game purports to put players in the cockpit of the Terran pilots who were fighting a pitched delaying action to open a path for Blair's desperate run. Pilots will start off flying Hellcats, then progress to the Arrow, Thunderbolt, and Longbow, with the Excalibur as the final type of fighter.


The new Arrow fighter.

The game has been built using the open source Freespace 2 engine, which is both a boon and a limitation. Without a pre-made engine, it's doubtful that any game of this sort would ever exist, but the F2 engine doesn't allow the sort of branching that made previous Wing Commander games nearly unique. In the WC series, unlike in most games, it was absolutely possible to lose. We've lifted the diagram below from an unrelated project to show how the games had winning and losing paths, with the ability to move from one to the other.



This approach increased the work on staff and actors but made the games feel far more realistic and added replay value.


The Yorktown-class Victory in Wing Commander III


The Hermes in Wing Commander Saga. The Freespace roots are evident but the updates are a welcome sight.

Looking at the screenshots of Wing Commander Saga, it's obvious that the 1999-era Freespace engine is dated, despite repeated updates. The game, however, still looks gorgeous. Fans of the series, including the author, are unlikely to care if the graphics are a bit old-fashioned. Given that the last full Wing Commander game came out in 1997 and WC3 dropped in 1994, even an aging open source engine is capable of delivering plenty of eye candy.

This fan-made sequel is made without the official or even unofficial approval of Chris Roberts or EA. Bring it on. Thursday can't come soon enough. More details are available at the project website.
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Doin' the happy dance! This has me jazzed.

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Yeah, this is cool.

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SO excited for this. I loved the Wing Commander series.

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Us young ones don't know what you are all talking about xD.

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What we're talking about is some of the best space opera to ever exist outside an established franchise. Descent: Freespace 1&2, the Wing Commander saga, and the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series and a few of their spin-off titles (Privateer, X-Wing: Alliance) were fabulous, fabulous games.

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Joel H:
Descent: Freespace 1&2

^^This^^ was my favorite for a long time.  Quirky music and all,.......

What a game!,.......

There's no telling how many hours I wasted on that game. I'd do it again too!

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Its really awesome to see a fan made game completed and brought to fruition but even more so at such a high caliber of quality!

Even though it might be early to throw that label on the game, what the trailer tout's appears to do the games quality justice if its delivered!

I Never played the original but I'll definitely give this game a play through just because of how and who made it!

I love the game dynamic with how losing isn't an obstacle to progressing through the game or detrimental to the playing experience at all either!

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I never played any of the Wing Commander games, but I played Descent Freespace 1 and 2 to death. Since there's a serious lack space sim games, this is definitely on my radar. I tried the X series, but it was way too complicated for me.

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I cannot speak for Chris or our former colleagues at EA, but just for myself and Steve Beeman... we both think this is AMAZING, and we salute this team's efforts!

--Ellen Guon Beeman

Lead Writer, Wing Commander II

Project Director, Wing Commander I: Secret Missions, Wing Commander II: Special Operations

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Great to "hear" from you Guon! What are you up to these days?

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