Wing Commander (computer game)

From Academic Kids

Wing Commander is a series of space combat simulation computer games from Origin Systems, Inc.. Created by Chris Roberts and first appearing in 1990, Wing Commander is most noted for its style of cinematic storytelling, which it pioneered in computer games.

Set in the 27th century, the games tell the story of humanity's war against the Kilrathi, an alien species of 7-8 foot tall feline bipeds. Humanity is organized in the Terran Confederation and the player is part of the Confederation's space forces. Launching from carrier ships, the player fulfills various missions in starfighters. The games were all notable for their storytelling through extensive cutscenes. Starting with Wing Commander III, all story scenes were done with live action filming, utilizing some major Hollywood actors, including John Rhys-Davies, Mark Hamill, and Malcolm McDowell.

In early games, the Terran Confederation is simply a generic "good guy federal republic" type government, but as the series progresses, more details are added. In Wing Commander IV, the Confederation is shown to be a future progression of the United States of America.

Origin was acquired by Electronic Arts in 1992, and some point to this occurrence as the end of true greatness in the Wing Commander franchise.

Chris Roberts left the company and formed Digital Anvil in 1996.

In 1999, a movie based on the games was released. Directed by the game creator himself, Chris Roberts, the movie told a story set in the time period of the first Wing Commander game. As with many films based on games, it was both a critical and a financial failure.

In 2004, Origin ceased to be an independent game studio and its operations were folded into a new EA building in Redwood City, California.

Contents

Franchise

Games

Wing Commander (1990)

The player begins his tour of duty as a young officer on the carrier TCS Tiger's Claw. Through his heroic efforts the Confederation is able to destroy the Kilrathi's sector headquarters and drive them from the Vega sector.

Through the course of the Vega campaign, the player can gain numerous promotions and medals and fly in various squadrons, each featuring a different fighter. The game was notable for its innovative "campaign tree" structure, whereby the "path" you took on the way to the end would be determined by your performance on preceding missions. However, in an infamous design decision, Roberts included an incredibly hard mission along the "victory" track which required you to protect a defecting Kilrathi cruiser from a large number of Gratha heavy fighters. Even though it is possible to win that mission, it is incredibly difficult. Since that mission was a critical victory condition for that system, the player would almost always wind up on the losing path after. Of course, the player's position was completely salvageable from this point, leading to the conclusion that the designers just didn't want anyone sailing too smoothly to the end.

The game was originally to be called Wingleader, but trademark issues forced a name change to Wing Commander. The dev team's nickname for the otherwise-unnamed protagonist was "Bluehair," an accurate description. Perhaps in a nod to this little in-joke, when the character was given an actual name in later installments, Origin chose "Blair," a shortened version of the old nickname.

Wing Commander was ported to the SNES, Sega CD, Macintosh. 3DO, Amiga, and FM Towns systems, the most ports of any Wing Commander game.

In 1991, Wing Commander won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1990.

The Secret Missions (1991 expansion)

A new Kilrathi secret weapon destroys an entire human colony with only one blast. The Tiger's Claw must follow the Kilrathi deep into their own territory and destroy their new dreadnought.

The Secret Missions 2: Crusade (1991 expansion)

When the Confederation is just celebrating a new alliance with the bird-like native species of the planet Firekka, they learn that entire fleets of Kilrathi ships are leaving from other sectors and heading towards the Firekka system.

Puzzled, the Confederation ships must retreat, but they soon learn from a Kilrathi defector that Firekka has been chosen as the place for a holy Kilrathi ceremony. The Confederation soon develops a plan to disrupt that ceremony to deliver a blow to enemy morale and it's up to the Tiger's Claw's pilots to ensure the success of that plan.

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (1991)

Shortly after the Firekka campaign, the Tiger's Claw attempts to attack the Kilrathi headquarters in the Enigma sector, but is destroyed by new Kilrathi stealth fighters. No one but the player sees these fighters and soon he is blamed for the loss of the Claw, is demoted and transferred to a backwater space station.

Ten years later, he is called back into action when he is able to save the Confederation's flagship, the TCS Concordia. Meeting many old friends there, he continues the fight against the Kilrathi, finally culminating in the destruction of their sector HQ, and also in clearing his name and finding the true traitor.

Wing Commander II was ported to the FM Towns.

In 1992, Wing Commander II won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1991.

Special Operations 1 (1991 expansion)

The player is transferred to the undercover Special Operations division, supporting Kilrathi colonies that are defecting from the Empire. But first he must solve the problem of a mutiny on a Confed cruiser.

Special Operations 2 (1992 expansion)

Jazz, the traitor from Wing Commander II, has fled imprisonment and the Mandarin (the society of traitors) are also able to steal the latest starfighter from the Concordia. The player must hunt the Mandarin down and face Jazz in one final showdown.

Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994)

The war is going badly for the Confederation. Battles are lost on all fronts and the Concordia is destroyed. Colonel Christopher Blair (the player from the first games, now with a set name), is transferred to the TCS Victory, an old ship from the first days of the war.

In a last-ditch attempt to win the war, Confed has designed the Behemoth, a doomsday weapon able to destroy an entire planet. It is Blair's mission to help end this war for good, by destroying the Kilrathi homeworld of Kilrah.

Starring in the video sequences are well-known actors like Mark Hamill (as Blair), John Rhys-Davies, Thomas F. Wilson and Malcolm McDowell.

Wing Commander III was ported to the Sony PlayStation, Macintosh and 3DO.

Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (1996)

The war with the Kilrathi is over, but not all is well within in the Confederation. Skirmishes in the Border Worlds destroy ships regularly. Both Confed and the Union of Border Worlds assign blame to each other and the skirmishes threaten to lead to all-out war.

Blair is recalled to active duty and sent to the Border Worlds to confirm Confed's determination. But he must soon find out that a conspiracy of war-mongers with members in the highest Confed circles are responsible for the attacks. Defecting to the Border Worlds, Blair must expose the conspiracy to help restore the peace.

The Price of Freedom retained the storytelling-style of its predecessor, using live-action (filmed) cutscenes with an ensemble cast of actors. Many of the actors from Wing Commander III returned to reprise their roles. The story's final sequence was innovative in that dialogue choices made by the player affected the outcome of the hearing. However, only three endings were possible, and the two of the outcomes depended on the earlier choices made by the player.

Wing Commander IV was ported to the Sony PlayStation and Macintosh. To owners of the original MS-DOS version, Origin made available a Windows95 DirectX port, free of charge.

Wing Commander: Prophecy (1997)

Peace has finally come to the Confederation, or so it seems. Still remaining vigilant, they commission the new megacarrier TCS Midway, which is soon needed when Kilrathi worlds are attacked by an enemy whose coming was foretold in ancient Kilrathi prophecies.

The insectoid enemy, codenamed the Nephilim, soon begin attacking Confed space and the Midway is called in to stop their advance. As young hotshot pilot Lance Casey, the player must fight their organic ships to help destroy the wormhole they used to enter Kilrathi space, thereby halting the invasion, at least for a while.

Prophecy was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2003 by Raylight Studios.

Wing Commander: Secret Ops (1998)

The Nephilim return, this time much closer to Earth. Transferred to the cruiser TCS Cerberus, Casey and his wingmates must repel the invasion once again.

Secret Ops was an experiment in game distribution. It was at first only available as a free download. In regular intervals, new episodes were released, each featuring several new missions with the storyline told through in-game cutscenes. The game was later available in a collection together with Prophecy, and sold as Prophecy Gold.

Wing Commander Academy (1993)

A game where the player could build his own missions using ships from Wing Commander II.

Wing Commander Armada (1994)

Armada featured both an action and a strategy game mode and several multiplayer options.

Armada was ported to the PC9821.

Proving Grounds (1994 expansion)

This add-on for Armada added numerous new features such as a new "arcade"-mode with powerups, radar-obscuring asteroids, and several new multiplayer options, including IPX.

The Kilrathi Saga (1996 recompilation)

Kilrathi Saga was a retooling of the first three Wing Commander Games (Wing Commander, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi, and Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger), fixing some bugs and adjusting the speed to run on the early Pentium processors of the time.

The production run was quite limited, and today Kilrathi Sagas fetch exorbitant sums on eBay.

Wing Commander: Privateer (1993)

Set in the border regions of Confederation space, the player takes control of a privateer (in Wing Commander, a "Privateer" is a mercenary spacer akin to Star Wars's Han Solo) on a mission to gain profit by trading, taking various missions or pirating. Some consider Privateer to be the best game in the Wing Commander series, while others consider it to be little more than Elite lite.

Meanwhile, an ancient alien spaceship has been awakened and is on the loose, attacking ships at random and the privateer may be Confed's only hope in defeating it.

Righteous Fire (1993 expansion)

When the player's priceless Steltek Gun is stolen, he embarks on a quest that will bring him into conflict with the Luddite-like Church of Man and their shady leader, Mordechai Jones.

Privateer Remake (2005 remake) // Other fan games

On March 6th, 2005, a fan-made remake of Wing Commander: Privateer using the Vega Strike game engine was released, updating Privateer to modern Windows systems as well as offering it for the first time to Mac and Linux users. Wing Commander has very much of a cult following even now, years after the release of the official game. Fan made games and expansions can be found at the Wing Commander CIC ( http://www.wcnews.com ), including most recently this complete remake of the original Privateer. A "Privateer writ large" expansion tentativey named Wing Commander Universe is also in the works -- this will allow the player to play the role of a Privateer throughout the Wing Commander saga.

Privateer 2: The Darkening (1996)

As Lev Arris, a man with amnesia, the player must take the life of a privateer in the Tri-System region of space, finding out about his past along the way.

Although The Darkening features no obvious connection with the "mainstream" Wing Commander series, there are several links that bind it to the larger universe. The game features references to a "Confederation", and one of the easter egg derelicts is a Talon light fighter. Perhaps anticipating a future title connecting The Darkening with Wing Commander, the game's developers set the plot sufficiently far in the "future", in the year 2789.

Note: Original promotional materials for Privateer 2: The Darkening only referred to the game as "The Darkening". It is believed that the the "Privateer 2" title (and inclusion as a game in the Wing Commander series) was added in later as a marketing ploy to take advantage of the Wing Commander name and popularity amongst gamers as nothing about the game resemble or relate to the Wing Commander universe, aside from the fact that the gameplay is similar to the original Privateer and that the game was designed by Erin Roberts, brother of Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts and one of the producer of Privateer. The references to the "mainsteam" Wing Commander universe could be coincidental in nature and the easter egg could very likely be an in-joke by the game developers rather then an explicit hint of any actual connection with the Wing Commander universe and canon.

Produced in England, The Darkening is the only non-mainstream Wing Commander game to feature live-action video. The cast includes Clive Owen, John Hurt, Christopher Walken, Brian Blessed, David Warner and Jürgen Prochnow (the latter two would appear again, this time in the Wing Commander movie).


Film

Television Series: Wing Commander Academy

Wing Commander Academy was a short-lived cartoon series that aired on the USA channel in the fall of 1996, apparently set before the events of the first game. Many ships from all over the Wing Commander canon make an appearance, and most of the actors from the latter games reprise their roles.

Novels

Several novels based on the games have been released by Baen Books. They usually closely adhere to the continuity of the games.

Freedom Flight

The novel describes the Firekka campaign of the Tiger's Claw's, featuring also the defection of Lord Ralgha (known as Hobbes in Wing Commander II).

Freedom Flight was written by Ellen Guon.

End Run

The novel tells the story of a daring Confederation plan to weaken the Kilrathi Imperial family by attacking the planet of Vukar Tag. A strike force led by the TCS Tarawa must head to the heart of the Kilrathi Empire to divert part of the Kilrathi fleet. Set after Special Operations II and before Wing Commander III.

End Run was written by Christopher Stasheff & William R. Forstchen.

Fleet Action

The Kilrathi have been severely weakened by the most recent Confederation attacks and their new fleet of secretly built carriers will not be finished for another year. So they try to lure the Confederation into a trap and sue for a false peace.

However, some daring Confed personnel try to prove the existence of the secret Kilrathi fleet and in the end, the fate of humanity is decided in a gigantic battle for Earth. Set after End Run and before Wing Commander III.

Fleet Action was written by William R. Forstchen.

Heart of the Tiger

Novelization of Wing Commander III, written by Andrew Keith & William R. Forstchen. Though it ignores a number of the games more trivial missions, it adds a great deal more personality to the crew of TCS Victory, and includes a scene that was cut from the actual game: an explanation from a traitor, explaining their otherwise-incomprehensible behavior (the game itself was criticized for excluding this vital scene, although the later PlayStation version of the game *did* include it along with other scenes that were originally shot yet not added in the PC version).

The Price of Freedom

Novelization of Wing Commander IV, written by Ben Ohlander & William R. Forstchen. It departs significantly from the plot of the video game: it trivializes several significant characters and plot developments, and totally rewrites game-established Border Worlds technology.

Action Stations

The novel tells the story of the beginnings of the war, twenty years before the first game.

An interesting detail about this story is that it is presented as a historical drama, from the point of view of an author writing about the beginning of the war many years after the fact.

Action Stations was written by William R. Forstchen.

False Colors

After the end of the Kilrathi war, powerful Kilrathi warlords are not satisfied with the peace and remain aggressive towards the Confederation and other organizations like the Landreich. Operatives of the Landreich try to salvage a Kilrathi supercarrier left over from the war to prevent a warlord from starting a second human-Kilrathi war. Set after Wing Commander III and before Wing Commander IV, False Colors was intended as the first part of a trilogy, but author Andrew Keith died before he could begin on the other books.

False Colors was written by Andrew Keith & William R. Forstchen. (Keith's brother, William H. Keith, was incorrectly credited on the cover).

Wing Commander

Novelization of the original movie script, including a traitor subplot filmed but cut from the final release.

Wing Commander was written by Peter Telep.

Pilgrim Stars

The second part of the movie novelization trilogy, Pilgrim Stars deals with a Pilgrim rebellion against the ruling Confederation.

Pilgrim Stars was written by Peter Telep.

Pilgrim Truth

The conclusion to the movie novel trilogy, Pilgrim Truth was never released due to (what publisher HarperCollins believed) was dwindling interest in the Wing Commander universe. For those interested, a synopsis of the book can be found here (ftp://ftp.wcnews.com/files/wcm/pilgrimtruthsynopsis.doc).

Pilgrim Truth was written by Peter Telep.

Universe

See also: All about the Wing Commander universe


States

Terran Confederation | Empire of Kilrah | Free Republic of the Landreich | Union of Border Worlds | Pilgrim Alliance

Races

Kilrathi | Firekkan | Double-Helix | Nephilim | Yan | Mantu | Varni | Wu

Characters

Main article: List of Wing Commander characters

Games

Christopher Blair | Jeannette "Angel" Devereaux | James "Paladin" Taggart | Todd "Maniac" Marshall | Thrakkath nar Kiranka | Geoffrey Tolwyn | Ralgha "Hobbes" nar Hhallas | William Eisen | Rachel Coriolis | Lance Casey | Maxwell "Maestro" Garrett | Jean "Stiletto" Talvert

Books

Ian "Hunter" St. John | Mariko "Spirit" Tanaka | Jason "Bear" Bondarevsky | Janet "Sparks" McCullough | Kevin "Lone Wolf" Tolwyn | Jukaga nar Ki'ra | Hans Maximillian Kruger

Technology and Vehicles

Main article: Technology and Vehicles

Confederation Starfighters

Hornet light fighter | Scimitar medium fighter | Rapier medium fighter | Raptor heavy fighter | Ferret patrol fighter | Epee light fighter | Sabre heavy fighter | Broadsword bomber | Arrow light fighter | Hellcat V medium fighter | Thunderbolt heavy fighter | Longbow bomber | Excalibur heavy fighter | Bearcat interceptor | Dragon heavy fighter | Piranha light scout fighter | Tigershark multirole fighter | Wasp interceptor | Panther medium fighter | Vampire heavy fighter | Shrike medium bomber | Devastator heavy bomber

Confederation Capital Ships

TCS Midway | TCS Vesuvius | TCS Concordia | TCS Bengal | | TCS Concordia | TCS Ranger | TCS Tarawa | TCS Plunkett | TCS Waterloo | | TCS Tallahassee | TCS Cerberus | TCS Gilgamesh | TCS Sheffield | TCS Murphy | TCS Tiger's Claw | TCS Victory | TCS Behemoth |

Kilrathi Starfighters

Salthi light fighter | Dralthi medium fighter | Krant medium fighter | Jalthi heavy fighter | Gratha heavy fighter | Sartha light fighter | Drakhri medium fighter | Jalkehi heavy fighter | Strakha stealth fighter | Grikath heavy fighter-bomber | Gothri heavy fighter | Darket light fighter | Dralthi IV medium fighter | Strakha stealth fighter | Vaktoth heavy fighter | Paktahn heavy bomber

Kilrathi Capital Ships

KIS Hvar'kann | KIS Hakaga | KIS Bhantkara | KIS Snakeir | KIS Fralthi | KIS Fralthra | KIS Ralari | KIS Ralatha

Nephilim Starfighters

Skate light fighter | Moray medium fighter | Manta heavy fighter | Devil Ray heavy fighter | Squid interceptor | Remora interceptor cluster | Stingray interceptor

Quotations

"Damn this war." - Capt. Jason Bondarevsky, End Run

"Tengoku de omachishi te imasu!" (I will wait for you in Heaven) - Tanaka "Spirit" Mariko, Vengeance of the Kilrathi

"This court cannot condemn me! Only history can decide if I'm a villain or a hero. And our history will be written by the Kilrathi!" - Major Zack "Jazz" Colson, Wing Commander II: Special Operations 2

"By God Baron, tell Thrakkath that if he does there'll be a day when we come back. If it takes a hundred years we'll come back and we'll watch Kilrah as it burns to ashes". - Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, Fleet Action

"Carriers don't fly themselves, Admiral".
"Right. Quite, quite right. It is the men, isn't it?" - Blair and Tolwyn, The Price of Freedom

"'Space Marshal' Tolwyn believes that our victory over the Kilrathi was a fluke. That we as a race need tinkering with, engineering. If a few billion people die along the way well, they weren't worthy anyway. Why can't we be more like the Kilrathi, addicted to battle, the only meaning in life being found in death? Tell us all, Admiral! Is that the price of freedom?" - Col. Christopher Blair, Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

"The Price of Freedom... is eternal vigilance." - Admiral Tolwyn, Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

"I still love Wing Commander. Given the right opportunity, I would definitely revisit it". - Chris Roberts

External Links

de:Wing Commander (Computerspiel)

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