Title: Wing Commander
Subtitle: The 3D Space Combat Simulator
Developer: Origin Systems
Genre: Flight Sim
I parked my car in what seemed like the forgotten recesses of a parking lot. The strip mall itself made a kind of an “L” shape, and I had driven through a small opening where the two wings met. There was a small parking lot that held maybe 20 cars, many of the spots already taken by employees of the nearby shops. I found that the foot of the “L” actually extended past where they would have joined, and
back here on the heel, facing a little used side street was my destination.
AmiTek. I didn’t even know the place existed. It was one on the last remaining Amiga stores anywhere in my area in fall of 1992. I headed in–they were big Toaster guys, and had an entire corner of the little storefront setup for video production. Mounted on the wall were some of the first good shielded multi-media speakers I had ever seen–stereo if you can believe it!
But they had a rack with probably only 20 or so game titles on it. Little cardboard Lemmings (some kind of marketing pack) were taped all over the walls and shelves, all doing nonsensical but cute things. But I immediately saw something that I frankly hadn’t expected–a box that proclaimed to the world that it was a 3D Space Combat Simulator…
My hand, almost of it’s own accord, reached out and took hold of this game. Someone else had just entered the shop and was heading over for the game rack…there were other games I
wanted to investigate, but did I dare put down this one? I intended to buy a game that Saturday morning, but was it this one? I tucked it under my arm, and from that point only visually inspected the rest of the titles–not wanting to appear greedy by picking up a second one.
I could sense that this new shopper–my competition–was eyeing the game box under my arm. That did it. My decision was made. It was time to along, calmly, slowly–nonchalantly.
“I see you grabbed hold of Wing Commander pretty quickly there,” a store employee said with a smile as he came around the counter. Then a concerned look crossed his face. “What model of Amiga do you have?”
“Uh…a 500,” I said sheepishly, and feeling immediately lame I quickly added, “I want to get a 3000 later this year.”
It wasn’t quite a lie.
His eyes narrowed a bit and said, “You might want to try it out first, Wing Commander runs a little slowly on a 500. We have a new 600 over here if you want to boot it up.”
I was loathe to admit that I had no idea what a 600 might be…but I ambled in the direction he seemed to be indicating and found a little gray box that apparently was a new Amiga model. (It actually was the replacement model to my Amiga 500.) Not wanting to appear like the noob I truly was, I was rapidly inspecting every inch of the computer in front me with my eyes as my hands slowly opened the Wing Commander box. Ah-ha! The floppy drive is in the side! Now, where’s the power button?
I flipped the disk in and booted up the game. This may seem odd to the PC world, but all Amiga games pretty much came on floppies with the operating system built in. So literally one would put the first game disk into the machine, power it on, and it would load an OS and then launch the game. In the case of Wing Commander on an Amiga 600 (and later at home on a 500), I was presented with a horribly slow, almost frame-by-frame, 3D engine that was nearly unplayable.
Nearly, I said.
Yes, I bought it. I was already in love with it, even after only a few minutes. So much so that Wing Commander II was the first PC software I ever purchased. But now, I want to play the real Wing Commander–the original, on a PC, full 256 colors, and a great frame rate. I’ll be honest, it was a struggle on the Amiga to play–and I never really got that far.
Once again, we turn our eyes to DOSBox, and prepare ourselves for the ultimate retro gaming experience in the Space Sim category.
Wing Commander is unique in the gaming world. It has a long lineage, a rabidly loyal fan-base (of which I count myself a member), and even a new game coming soon to Xbox Live, Wing Commander Arena. It may also be the only motion picture, based from a game, that can actually be watched without repeated compulsive vomiting. I can’t say whether space will ever be the same or not…but the movie wasn’t horrible.
But, more even more exciting than a new Xbox game is some of the fan projects that have been started in the Wing Commander universe, such as Wing Commander Saga. But we’ll get to that–right now, let’s get to the point of this guide!
Our choice for an emulation environment will be DOSBox on this one. It runs with 90% of the dos games out there, and it wonderfully easy to use. So, I’ll assume that you have the latest version, if not get it here: http://dosbox.sourceforge.net. Here is the video guide, click on the image below to launch it.
And you will need the game itself–I am not certain of Wing Commander’s abandonware status. I have an original copy of the Amiga version, so I felt well within my rights to download the PC version from Abandonia. Click to watch the Guide:
For the purpose of the video, I am running the game in a windowed mode. Full screen provides better performance on average, so I usually run things that way from the batch file. The command line for the batch file is:
dosbox -conf wc1.conf -fullscreen -noconsole -exit
I’ll just post the changes from the changes to the standard DOSBox config file below–as always, please note that this is not a full configuration, but just the settings that were adjusted to make this game work.
The cycles setting needs to be dialed-in for each computer system. Ordinarily I would start somewhere above 10000 on a modern system and work forward until the game started acting strangely. However, this Wing Commander can run faster that a human can play–so in this case we have to dial in a playable speed. For my system, that is about 5500 cycles. Start the game in windowed mode, then use Ctrl-F11 to slow down and Ctrl-F12 to speed up the cycle rate inside DOSBox. The title bar of the window will display the current setting, so you can make it permanent in the config file.
mount c c:\Archives\games\wc -freesize 20
WC Origin -k
Here is a video of the game in action–gaze at the hand-drawn wonder! Below is a quick sample of the in-game sound. I did a little processing on it, so I think it sounds pretty good for FM modulation.
Wing Commander Saga
And now we have something really special: Anton Romanyuk, otherwise known as Tolwyn of Wing Commander Saga fame, has sat down a moment to talk with us. The interview will spread across all six Wing Commander guides that are planned, so you’ll just have to keep checking back to see it all 😉
Hey, Anton, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I think people are very excited about Saga–I certainly am. First off, please tell a bit about yourself.
Ok, my name is Anton Romanyuk and I am the founder of the Wing Commander Saga project. I have been its constant advocate to make sure it makes its way out of my dreams and in to reality. As the project leader, I have to maintain the Wing Commander Saga website, render 3d animations and models, create 2d graphics, address scripting issues, edit sound, coordinate team efforts, and much more. When I am not busy with Wing Commander Saga, I am pursuing a degree in medieninformatik at the Munich University.
Great, but what is Wing Commander Saga, anyway (as if I didn’t know)?
Wing Commander Saga is a space combat simulation computer game based on the popular Wing Commander universe created by Chris Roberts. A few months ago, on the 31th of December, the introductory chapter entitled Wing Commander Saga: Prologue had finally been released. The game is completely free to download.
Wing Commander Saga: Prologue feaures a new chapter set before Wing Commander 3 which explains the events suffered by the human race in its fight for survival.
Prologue doesnâ€™t use the same graphic engine as the original game. The actual engine is that of Freespace 2, improved by the efforts of the Source Code Project team. This results in a spectacular adventure with an incredible visual aspect. The game features a solid plot with models, music, sounds and feel all transferred from the original series to the new engine.
The flagship campaign of Wing Commander Saga, â€œThe Darkest Dawnâ€ begins right before Wing Commander 3 and concludes with the ending of the Terran-Kilrathi War (whether or not the Terrans win depends on you). Check out the progress at http://www.wcsaga.com/.
To be continued…
Here are some clickable screenshots from Saga you’ve probably never seen. 🙂 It’s looking great, Saga Team!
“This feature hasn’t been shown before: seemless transition between different systems (should remind of WC4 and the mission in the Axius system). :)”
Sandman: “Looks like no one’s here.”
Have fun, and check back often–Wing Commander 2 is next, which is yet another great game. And, I will also be posting another excerpt from the Wing Commander Saga interview. See you, Space Cowboy.