Wing Commander was one of the greatest space-flight game series ever created, with a deep story, deep characters, and awesome gameplay (it was awesome).
Indie game developer Anton Romanyuk is bringing back that awesomeness with Wing Commander Saga, which recreates the vast universe of the famed series with stunning graphics and builds on the story told by the series. The game is scheduled for release soon.
“The Wing Commander series was one of the best of its time, probably of all time,” said Romanyuk, via e-mail.
He said this was due, in part, to the game’s depth, and “Every game offered a highly immersive, branching plot line which made you feel that you are not just watching the action but actually stepping into the role and experiencing what it is like to be Col. Blair.”
“Your choices mattered. Your victories or failures lead to changes in the progress and outcome of the war,” he said. “You felt like you actually formed friendships with your wingmen, and the quality of your relationship with them affected their performance. You mourned their deaths, and you celebrated their victories.”
The team is trying to bring all these elements into Wing Commander Saga—and the project is by no means a simple, get it out, get it done piece of work. It has more than nine hours of dialogue recorded from more than 60 voice actors. There are 55 missions, 70 cut scenes, and they created more than 90 models for the game.
The flagship campaign of Wing Commander Saga, “The Darkest Dawn,” starts just before the events of Wong Commander 3 and ends with the Terran-Kilrathi War. Whether the Terrans win will depend on the player.
All this takes place six months after the Battle of Earth and new fighters and carries are joining the Confederate Forward Fleet. Players take the role of Second Lieutenant David Markham, who joins the TCS Hermes at the frontline of the battle.
“Wing Commander was a triumph of great game dynamics and solid storytelling, and that is what drew us to it as a universe we wanted to tell a story in,” Romanyuk said. “We all grew up playing the series and were excited to have the opportunity to do something in homage of it.”
Doing this hasn’t been easy. Romanyuk and his team are trying to create the same character depth and immersive story that Chris Roberts and the team behind the original games managed to create.
“We quickly learned that the process is much more difficult than it sounds,” Romanyuk said.
“We have tried to learn from all of these sources about what makes for great mission design,” he said. “After all, a game can look great and have wonderful dialogue, but if the mission flow is clunky, it tends to kill the experience.”
Romanyuk said that while there have been a few good space-flight games, “they just seem to be lacking certain elements that would make them stellar, like a compelling storyline, spectacular graphics, interesting characters with compelling development, action packed and diversified mission design, high quality voice acting, or a combination of these and other factors. In my opinion, a perfect space game would be a sum of Wing Commander plot, Freespace styled missions, and storytelling similar to Mass Effect 2.”
Although Saga will stick close to what the original games did, it will also bring in some new elements. Romanyuk said they are “trying to take advantage of some of the options that the Freespace Source Code provides.
Part of this will be large fleet battles—which were absent from nearly all the original games with the exception of Wing Commander: Prophecy, and the fan-made project Wing Commander: Standoff.
“In Saga, the engine we are using allows us to do more than massive fleet battles. The player will be dropped right in the middle of some of the most intense fleet battles in the history of the Terran/Kilrathi war at a scale unprecedented by official Wing Commander games or fan projects,” Romanyuk said.
“That’s one experience were are particularly excited about, although the player will still have his share of small patrols, skirmishes, and a few other types of missions that we will keep a surprise for now,” he said.
When all is said and done, however, the community will be the final judges of whether the game succeeds. But the team has a fair chance at this, since they, themselves, are hardcore fans of the series. “We made this game because we wanted to play it, ourselves,” he said. “We love Wing Commander, and exploring a new story line in that familiar universe is a welcome opportunity for us.”
Chris Roberts, Origin, and EA have been cool with letting fans create games that build on the series, and Romanyuk mentioned his hope that “if we and other Wing Commander fans show that there is enough interest out there, maybe we’ll see a new, full scale Wing Commander title someday, maybe even developed by Chris Roberts and other members of the original team.”
He added, “Even if that never happens, the point has been to create a fun game that we and other Wing Commander fans can enjoy. One thing seems certain: Wing Commander isn’t going away any time soon.”
[box_light]Images courtesy of Anton Romanyuk[/box_light]