Back when Wing Commander 4 came out in 1996, Origin took the highly unusual step of promoting it in cinemas with a short 60 second trailer that was produced on 35mm film stock. After the trailer had it’s run in however many theatres, the film was then returned back to Origin and several of these have found their way into the hands of people like myself.
I’ve been curious as to whether it was any different to it’s digital equivalent all the time I’ve had it but the cost of a transfer has been prohibitive with quotes as high as £250. I managed to source a far cheaper alternative though and here on Youtube are the results of a 1080p HD transfer:-
The answer is that it’s exactly the same 60 second trailer we all know and love. The quality isn’t what I might have hoped. It turns out that despite being on celluloid the trailer was first computer generated and then scanned onto film meaning that it’s nowhere near as sharp as 35mm is capable of. All in all, possibly not the best £50 I’ve ever spent but now we know.
Hello from Austin! After 24 hours travelling, I made it here Thursday night. I had a couple of days of being a regular tourist then met up with the WC CIC crew Sunday and started on the more eclectic Origin activities.
Today was kind of like work helping out archiving the David Downing boxes at the University of Texas. The contents more than make up for the effort, such as a full set of storyboards for Wing Commander 4 :-
I also got my hands on the Garriott archive and grabbed a full set of photos of the Underworld 3 documents. I didn’t read through them but there was way more detail than the story already scanned on here and I’m fairly sure there was a later expanded version. All of this will make it on the site when I get chance to go through it.
I had a browse through the rest of the box for an hour while Loaf took over camera duty. There was a pitch for a space RPG called Terminus which was being developed by Vicarious Visions. It appears Origin were considering publishing this and using the team, game or engine as the basis for Wing Commander Online. One email stated that the game essentially was already WCO and just required a change of story/art assets + faith. That deal clearly never happened but the game was still published elsewhere a year later.
Highlights were Ultima 9 design documents including concept art, details on the Ultima and Savage empire RPG’s and two huge folders full of Ultima 7 design documents. If I could have smuggled any of it out it would have to be the storyboards for the cutscenes:-
As for tomorrow, after going years never meeting any ex Origin guys I should get to hang out with a horde of them in the evening and will hopefully get to visit Portalarium before that. It’s going to be a good day to be an Origin fan!
When Games Attack was a UK video game show that ran for one series on Bravo around 2004/5. It featured a top 5 that ran throughout every show and out of all those top 5’s there was only one Origin game to get a mention. Since it’s the UK press giving an opinion on Wing Commander 4 you can probably guess where this is going so without further introduction, here are their top 5 worst celebrity gaming tie-ins.
One more Terra Nova review, this time from the May 1996 PC Format:-
While Wing Commander 4 was getting pummelled by the British press, Terra Nova appears to have been universally praised. It’s curious when they strike me as being similar in so many ways.
On the subject of WC4, the WC CIC has been running some of my magazine scans recently and today made it onto the Wing Commander 4 reviews. The question was posed in the forums, was WC4 really that unpopular in the UK back then? Most of the rest of the WC4 reviews are no doubt going to make it look that way, although I did find one decent review. I was going to enlist a couple more scans to answer the question myself which I’ll post here first. Both of these come from the April 96 PC Gamer, one month after their WC4 review. First a letter from a reader:-
I’m shocked to read this from a Wing Commander fan of the time. It sounds like one of his problems is that his PC isn’t fast enough to play the game properly. I do think Origin suffered to a degree in the UK because of this. PC’s over here were way more expensive than in the USA and the average spec suffered as a consequence. On the other hand, how anyone can prefer the WC3 movies and story to WC4 is beyond me.
To actually answer the question of whether Wing Commander was really that unpopular, the games chart for that month (where WC4 had only been on sale for a week) speaks volumes:-