Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

A Brief History of Wing Commander

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 16, 2011

Okay, you may not think two full articles to be all that brief, but considering the scope and significance of the series, this seems pretty well abridged to me. G4TV has a two-part history of the series:

The History of Wing Commander, Part 1

The History of Wing Commander, Part 2

As a young gamer, there were probably many times when I thought, “It would be cool to make a career out of making video games.” But I never thought seriously about it until Wing Commander.  I even called Origin to ask about what sort of qualifications they were looking for with potential hires after playing this game. Fortunately, I didn’t take the H.R. lady’s advice, as she pretty much downplayed the whole “finish your degree” thing. And by the time I finished my degree, they were a wholly owned subsidiary of EA and beginning the downhill slide. But Wing Commander was the game that made may decide to pursue what I thought was a ‘dream job.’

Were it not for Wing Commander, who knows what I’d be doing right now?

Unfortunately, this genre – the cinematic mission-based space fighter sim – is largely dead now, though there are some indies and smaller studios that continue to carry the torch. The direction I wanted to see it go – after playing Wing Commander: Armada – was in the direction of the multiplayer strategy / action-combat direction. However, as Microsoft proved with the awesome but poor-selling Allegiance, that might not have had commercially super-powered potential.  But as the FreeAllegiance community has proven, indies and open-source can do some great things with a small niche.

In an alternate universe where the genre popularized by Wing Commander didn’t go the way it did – where Freespace and Freespace 2 were mega-sellers in spite of lacking the big cinematics of their inspirational series – how could the genre have “evolved” (much as I hate the connotations of that word). What sort of advancements could we have seen in the genre and series?

Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • anonymoose said,

    I’m imagining the love child of Privateer and Mount&Blade, creating the ultimate sandbox game.

    Surely today’s CPUs would allow the player to have several AI allies, piloting ships that you’ve designed and purchased for them. You could build a fleet of speedy smugglers that outrun trouble, or maybe a couple of heavily armed/armoured cargo ships with a few speedy escorts.

  • Max said,

    It kinda puzzles me where all the great space sims went. A lot of classic games are space sims
    -Wing Commander series
    -X-Wing and Tie Fighter

    the genre could have evolved into something like eve with combat which is actually fun. Imagine X series MMO, or EvE with allegiance style combat

    But seem all the space themed mmo are doomed to fail or dwell in obscurity(jumpgate, vendetta and now coming black prophecy)

  • Silent said,

    I was more into open-ended Elite-likes (well, that is : the Elite series) than mission-based Wing-Commander-likes. And I’m still waiting for a satifactory Elite-ish game : all the games that tried to get close, such as X3, Freelancer, etc, have disappointed me so far. I think these is room for space-based RPGs. Their absence is one huge gaming mystery for me. I can only assume that these games made more sense at the age of joysticks than at the age of mice and keyboards. Anyway, for me, the future of Wing Commander was in the Elite genre : advancements such as more freedom, more customisation, more evolutions… Ultima IV with 3D spaceships. Morrowind in space. Ah well…

    Don’t get me started on the underwater genre either. Everybody seems nostalgic of Subwar 2050, but nobody seems interested in re-experiencing something like that.

  • Tesh said,

    Privateer is one of the first games I really sunk a lot of time into. No space game has quite nailed things the same way. Freelancer was good, but I miss Privateer.

  • Thomas said,

    Privateer 2 was one of the first classic games I ever played. I loved it so much that I bought few extra copies of (Now if I can remember where I put it). Every few years I get nostalgic & install the game all over again. Not sure if it is playable in Win 7 64bit though, as I recently this year only upgrade from Win XP as I was reluctant to let go of Win XP due to most old games are playable on it.

  • JJ said,

    Still waiting patiently for Privateer 2 to be reintroduced through GOG. Still waiting… come on GOG get on with it!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Tomorrow, maybe. Supposed to be one or more new EA games tomorrow. Rumor has it that it will be an Origin game.