The Wing Commander Project: Chronicles of a Wing Commander

At the beginning of this year (2010.01), I decided that it was time to revisit a game that I greatly enjoyed during my youth, and have many fond memories of playing: Origin’s Wing Commander. With the advent of DosBox, all the games in the series were playable again, and I figured I’d fly a few missions for old time’s sake, think back nostalgically about what the game was like and what it meant to me then, and move on after a little while.

I was wrong.

I played a few missions of the original Wing Commander, and found myself coming back time and time again to take the fight to the Kilrathi the way I used to back in the day. The game had the same effect on me at age 27 that it did at age 12: cool factor 50. What started out as something I figured I’d do for a lark turned into a cross-decade odyssey across gaming, seen through the Wing Commander series. Below, I hope to document my experience with the games as an adult versus how I remember them from my teenage years, and chronicle the moments I’ve had with the game since I picked it up again. Perhaps other Wing Commander fans (“Wingnuts”) will be interested in browsing these pages. Who knows? All screen caps are of actual screens from my computer, not pictures I pulled off of the internet.

I started playing Wing Commander when I was about 12 years old. The games were a few years old by then, but the main reason I started playing it was I had been given a hand me down computer that used a 5 1/4" floppy drive, as well as a 3 1/4" floppy drive. During a time when CD-ROM drives and 486 Pentium PCs were the rage, I was running this unknown make/unknown model PC with dinosaur-era hardware. It was the classic parable of child begs for computer, the child's parents (in this case, my dad and my grandma) refuse to buy new computer because of the expense. Figuring that all computers are essentially the same, the family finds some junky computer to hand down as a Christmas present. What's funny is that after all these years, I wish I had that computer back.

Receiving this computer prompted my first visit to a store in San Diego, CA called "Software & Such," who sold used and new computer games, computer parts, etc. I remember telling the clerk at the store during my first trip how I had a computer "that uses those old, big black floppy disks with a hole in the middle," and asked if he had any games for a computer like that. He replied: "Not many, but we might have a few over here," at which point he led me over to a section of the store that looked like most folks didn't ever go to. Honest to God, I can't remember what other games there were to choose from, just the fact that I saw Wing Commander and inwardly said: "Oooh. This looks fun!" I asked the guy if I could return the game should my computer not be able to play it, for whatever reason, and he told me that I could, as long as I kept my receipt.

Well, I finally got it home; and low and behold, it worked, by some miracle. I played the living daylights out of the game. Ultimately, I ended up inviting a new friend over to my house one day after school to see if he wanted to "play computer games and watch TV." He came over, and we ended up getting real into Wing Commander. He would spend the night at my house, or I'd spend the night at his; and we'd either play the game at my house, or talk about it at his. We went through a lot of Mountain Dew, but those were probably some of the best nights we could have had as 12 year olds.

We played all the games right up through Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, but for whatever reason, could not really get into Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom. I played the Wing Commander spin-off, Privateer, by myself, but that was really the last of "good ol' days and Wing Commander."

Before I get into everything, I personally want to thank:

  • The Wing Commander Combat Information Center.

  • Chris Roberts, designer of the game.

  • Electronic Arts, for keeping the game alive.

  • My good friends, Joe and caffeine.

  • Everyone who reads these pages.

    Without further ado, fire up your engines and meet me out on the space lanes! Experience the battle! Dissect the tactics! Re-live the dogfights!