Wing Commander Prophecy – 3dfx Test Demo

I thought while I had my Win 98 machine connected up, I ought to have a go at the Wing Commander Prophecy demo. There are actually two of these of which this is the first. It was released as a 3dfx hardware test for an early version of the game engine. The demo is 3dfx only so it needs Glide in some form to run and can be downloaded from WCNews.

It’s a fairly simple demo with no FMV and consists a 5 minute gauntlet against Kilrathi ships. On the intro screens it states that the best score any of the testers achieved was 17 kills, although the readme file says that one of them had since got this up to 24.

The mission starts off at a slightly different looking Midway with a few quick video messages to set up the scenario before I autopilot to the nav point and get stuck in. It has to be said the engine does still look good although it’s less polished than the final product was. The nav point marker is a couple of white lines and the space background doesn’t look quite right among other things but the gameplay is all there. I’m up against a never-ending stream of Vaktoth’s, Dralthi’s + another Vaktoth being flown by Thrakhath (which is actually easier to kill than the others).

I found the demo to be fairly unstable and my PC kept locking up and needing rebooting so I only actually played through the once. I’m sure this is my PC and not the demo. Most of the components are from one of my old PC’s which wasn’t running too well at the time I upgraded it. I’ve been underclocking it to keep it running which had been working but it looks like it’s on its last legs now. I’ll have to track down the faulty part and swap it over the holidays.

Aside from the crashing, I had a great time playing this. It’s frantic action with no holding back in an attempt to get as many kills as possible. I didn’t realise it until it happened but you get a second set of missiles after 15 kills. I wouldn’t have held back on my missiles so much if I’d known. The other tactic I’d try differently is to send my wingmen home at the start. They tended to drift away from me taking Kilrathi with them, leaving me wasting precious time afterburning to the next fighter when I’d cleared my area.

I still managed 18 kills, beating the initial target at least. I did have a screenshot to prove it among others but apparently missed copying most of the jpg’s onto my phone so this post is a little lacking on pictures. If I can get 18 kills on my first attempt, the testers can’t have had much chance to try this out when the splash screen was created. If it didn’t keep crashing I’d have gone for the 24 kills which would be far more challenging.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie segments on WCP when compared to WC4 (although I’ve heard they nearly didn’t happen at all), but the gameplay still stands up brilliantly and I could have spent ages trying to up my kill score. Any WC fan should have a look at it and I’ll probably be going back myself when I get my PC fixed up.

A couple of bits of news to finish. First off, Amazon Canada have cancelled my pre-order for the Wing Commander Academy DVD set for the creative reason of not being able to get hold of it yet. I presume this is happening to everyone who pre-ordered. I suppose I’ll place my order again and go to the back of the queue.

Much more importantly, my parcel of Origin bits and pieces from Rhea Shelley has arrived just in time for Xmas. I don’t know if I simply got lucky or British customs officers were showing some Christmas spirit (not likely) but it got through without any added VAT. I’d been steeling myself for a huge bill, so this is a welcome early Xmas present. There is still some shop posters and the like which were too large to send regular post which will be following on in a month or so but it’s the bulk of the value. I didn’t buy any of the games which are currently up for auction on Ebay for anyone who wants them, with loads of shrinkwrapped copies of Origin titles among other things. I might have a go at one of them myself if it stays cheap but I’ve got other plans for the money I just saved.

In the meanwhile, I’ve not had time to even open the parcel yet and may not get much chance to start going through it all until boxing day. I won’t be posting again before then so happy Xmas to all.

4 thoughts on “Wing Commander Prophecy – 3dfx Test Demo

  1. This demo is oddly important in the creation story!

    At the time, Chris and I were doing all the work at the “Wing Commander Home Sector” which was… basically the same site. It had been started by a guy named Akkbar in 1995, but he lost interest when it turned out he wasn’t going to get rich reporting Wing Commander news and Chris and I came in to do all the work. I think he’d completely vanished from the community by the time Prophecy was gearing up (actually, he did briefly turn the site into a job working for a Warbirds-like proto-MMO space game that the rest of us weren’t remotely interested in… I wish I could remember the name of the thing.)

    Anyway, Origin’s PR guy, Boomer, found out that I didn’t have a 3Dfx card and couldn’t play the test. He e-mailed me to say that Origin had an extra board that I could have if I wanted. This was the first time anyone had ever offered me something cool for writing about Wing Commander on the internet and I was sorely tempted, but I knew that my mother had bought me a Canopus Pure3D for Christmas… so I replied back that it was very kind of him to make the offer but that it should go to Chris, who was younger than I was and who had no hope of getting his own 3dfx card any time soon.

    And he said yeah, that’d be fine, put me in touch with Chris and I’ll set it up. Unfortunately, when it came time to do this I sent the e-mail to our WCHS group address instead of to Chris’ AOL. So, of course Akkbar immediately reappeared after months of silence–I started the site so that’s MY 3dfx card and Origin has to send it to me and if they don’t I’m going to sue you and blah blah blah. We were kids at the time but we were still veteran internet warriors so that didn’t necessarily scare us… our big worry was that fighting about it would cost us Origin’s respect, which Akkbar didn’t seem to care about… so we went ahead and let him have the card. We agreed then and there, though, that we were going to start our own site without Akkbar as soon as we could.

    (I later learned two things that made the whole story stranger. One was that Akkbar already had a 3dfx card and was just doing this because he could. But then later I mentioned the whole thing to one of Prophecy’s testers who looked at me like I was crazy: the budget-strapped QA team was in desperate need of 3dfx cards at the time as they had two they had to share with everyone. Boomer had apparently been sent this one by some 3dfx rep and never mentioned that he had it to the team… and he never should have offered to give it away in the first place.)

    • You’ve been doing Wing Commander websites since the mid 90’s then? The internet was barely even on the radar over here back then. I’d have been in the middle of an IT degree at the time and I don’t think it was ever so much as mentioned. That may say more about the degree I suppose. I ended up having to learn everything I’ve ever actually used afterwards.

      Interesting to hear how you got started anyway. Expecting to be paid for a website is not the best motivation so that could only end one way. The single freebie I’ve ever had from this was that GOG gift you got me and that was only useful in the sense of writing the patcher. That said I have been half hoping someone would come along and at least offer to sell me a Caverns Of Callisto for the last 3 years if I mentioned it enough times. It never worked of course.

      • Yeah, I’ve been doing basically the same site since mid-1995 or so. My goal was always to make a ‘Wing Commander encyclopedia’ style site which still eludes me to this day. I only got involved with the news stuff when Akkbar was supposed to interview Bill Forstchen… I was the only person he could find who had read the novels. This is what it looked like, back in the day: (unfortunately, the news archive isn’t complete; for the first few years we used to have to trash old content because we didn’t have space to keep it on the server. And then there’s a few lost months between WCHS and WCNews that I lost and couldn’t recover… at the time it felt like I wanted to start fresh.)

        I started with the Wing Commander community in 1993, on Compuserv. There was a Privateer “club” you could join to chat, swap files and compare save games (I remember there was a Windows notecard file you’d download with everyone’s pilot profile and number of kills.) Back then the communities were split between the big dialup services, AOL, Prodigy and Compuserv, and there was no linking between them. I think the Ultima Dragons got their start on Prodigy? And the Wing Commander Aces on AOL. Compuserv was kind of the quieter, older-skewing of the services… but it was also the one Origin would hold their chats and it was where Mark Minasi who went on to write Secrets of the Wing Commander Universe, got his start.

        Around 1994-95 the walls came down and everyone creeped out onto the web and got together. I started lurking at the and then groups on the Usenet, but I couldn’t figure out how to actually post articles. Then in 1995 Origin launched their website which had its own wwwboards for the various series. Anyone could post messages with no registration required and it was the coolest thing in the world. That’s where I got “famous”… for being the guy who replied to everything.

        Very glad to see you found Caverns of Callisto! That ‘found a holy grail’ feeling is the best thing in the world. (One left for me – WC2 SNES…)

        • Well, WCPedia may not be finished but you’re a Wing Commander encyclopedia in your own right from what I’ve seen.

          The holy grail feeling was tempered somewhat by it being 3 in the morning on a day when I’d eaten and drunk way too much but I know exactly what you mean. I won’t quite believe I’ve actually got it until the parcel turns up.

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