Whatever Happened to Wing Commander?

First published on  CubedGamers (Printed Edition): February 2015

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens riding high at the cinema, and Star Wars: Battlefront selling well for consoles, it’s fair to say that it’s a good time for fans of the Star Wars franchise. Over the next few years, it’s certain that Disney will release a slew of titles set in the new expanded universe, recreating the days when Lucasarts turned its hand to big budget PC productions in a variety of genres, from first person shooters, RPGS, and perhaps even pod racing!

Well perhaps not, but what can be said with confidence is that the least likely genre to be revisited is the space simulator. A mainstay of the PC and console gaming market in the 1990s, space sims are now one of the few genres that can truly be considered forgotten. While recent titles such as Mass Effect and Elite: Dangerous created immersive science fiction environments, neither focuses on actual ship-to-ship combat, with only Darkstar One – released a decade ago – coming close to recreating the atmosphere of games such as Interplay’s FreeSpace series, Lucasarts’ X Wing, and most notably, Origin Systems’ Wing Commander, one of the biggest game franchises of the 1990s.

The story of Wing Commander is one of ambition, and sheer gusto, in the pursuit of creating the cinematic gaming experiences that we all take for granted today. And, in retrospect, one could argue that they created a science fiction saga that was the equal to Star Wars.

Origin Software were one of the most ambitious of the first generation of computer games computers. Surviving the video games crash of 1983, Origin built their reputation with a series of strong titles for the Amiga, Atari, Apple II and PC platforms, led by company founder Richard Garriot’s Ultima RPG series. Recognised for their well realised settings and attention to detail, including Infocom style feelies (additional game related props included with the manual), the company eventually played up to this reputation, adopting the motto “We Create Worlds.” Even after their purchase by Electronic Arts in the early 1990s, were able to sustain their success right up until the conclusion of the Ultima series in 1999.

Read more