New Wing Commander Game? Freelancer 2014?
“Chris Roberts, the director, producer, designer and programmer of one of the most popular space sims on this Earth is planning a comeback…”
For those that never had a truly exhilarating experience, one that made the player feel like they were a part of something greater… something that shifted the course of an entire race of people or creatures… where the decisions in the game determined who lived and who died and affected the possible outcomes, well then give Wing Commander a try.
No game, in 1990, ever came close to the experience that Wing Commander provided on a 12MHz 286 computer with 640KB of RAM and 256 color VGA graphics running DOS 4.01.
Chris Roberts, the director, producer, designer and programmer of one of the most popular space sims on this Earth is planning a comeback, after a 15 year hiatus from the PC gaming industry.
Chris Roberts, in 1988 worked for Origin Systems, working on the infamous role-playing game series called Ultima, but also producing Times of Lore, Bad Blood and later the ever popular Wing Commander, Wing Commander II, Strike Commander, Wing Commander: Privateer, then Wing Commander III, IV and Freelancer games.
Wing Commander was one of the first games to use CGI sequences to tell a story that was affected by how well the player performed during his time in the cockpit. If a player performed well during all the various missions, the player would lead a final strike against Humanity’s enemy, the Kilrathi, a giant feline race. If the player failed in his missions or didn’t perform well, the missions ended up being more defensive and the Human strike force would eventually be forced to abandon its goals to take down the Kilrathi Empire.
During the story sequences the player learned about his wingman’s histories, their motivations and nuances. This helped develop a bond with those pilots which would have a tremendous impact if they were shot down and killed. Not only would this mean increased difficulty in completing future missions, until a new wingman was assigned, but it could also alter the way the story played out.
“Chris Roberts went from telling his stories as a game developer to the movie industry.”
In 1994, Wing Commander III was one of the first games to use video sequences with real actors, props and CGI backgrounds. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) played the main character from Wing Commander I and II, finally being given the name Christopher Blair, so that player could finally identify the character. Other popular actors like Malcolm McDowell (best known for his role in Clockwork Orange), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from LoTR the movie) and Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future) had major roles in Wing Commander III and IV. Mark Hamill and Tom Wilson continued acting in the Wing Commander series until Wing Commander Prophecy. However, the player character was now represented by Lance Casey, a new Academy graduate that was assigned to the USS Midway carrier where Colonel Christopher Blair (Mark Hamill) was stationed as an advisor on the new threat facing Earth and the Kilrathies. Tom Wilson, continued to play the crazy wingman and hot-head pilot Todd ‘Maniac’ Wilson.
Chris Roberts went from telling his stories as a game developer to the movie industry. There he could tell his stories as a writer and director. He went on to directed Wing Commander the movie, wrote the TV series Wing Commander Academy, and produced popular movies like Lucky Number Slevin, Outlander and The Punisher.
However, recently some Freelancer fans were talking about a sequel on Reddit and were wondering what Chris Roberts was up to and stumbled upon an unfinished website Roberts’ staff was still developing. The fans did some “sleuthing” and found out that the domain, robertsspaceindustries.com, had just been registered as of August 22, 2012.
Following the viral distribution of that information to fan websites of Wing Commander and Freelancer, Roberts made a statement to individuals that had signed up on his new website; here is an excerpt:
I hadn’t planned on writing another message so soon after launching this “underground” site, but because of the amazing outpouring of excitement and support I felt I couldn’t wait.
I am both humbled and excited to see so many people sign up with just the buzz from the various fan sites that spread virally.
A running count-down, on robertsspaceindustries.com, which expires October 10th, could point to some new press regarding the project. The site already lists some teasers that point towards the development of another space sim. Polls on the site appear to ask the community whether fans prefer a cockpit or no cockpit, and what type of controller they like to fly with.
Some folks on the RSI forums have hinted that the project will require 2 more years of development, but at this point, that may just be speculation.
Considering that the IBM PC 286 was my start in the IT world, configuring autoexec and config.sys files, trying to get Wing Commander to recognize my Adlib sound card, there’s definitely some nostalgia there.
For those interested, Good Old Games is selling Wing Commander 1+2, 3, 4, and WC Privateer for $5.99 a piece! However, even using a DOSBox wrapper, one may find flying the missions in Wing Commander 1 and 2… a bit fast.