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Wing Commander II (filfre.net)
232 points by doppp on Mar 2, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments

I remember playing and enjoying Wing Commander (and possibly Wing Commander II) back in the day. But just a few short years later, X-Wing came out and blew Wing Commander out of the water. True 3D (flat shaded, but still infinitely better than sprites), and of course, set in the Star Wars universe :) Followed shortly afterwards by Tie Fighter, which introduced Gouraud shading IIRC.

Then X-Wing vs Tie Fighter came out, it was the first to use a 3D accelerator so the graphics were better, but it wasn't that good compared with the previous one. The series kind of recovered a bit with X-Wing Alliance (back to a mission- and story-driven campaign, and with much better art). And then it stopped.

TLDR: I miss X-Wing and Tie Fighter and wish there were new games like that with 2018 technology :(

Check out Freespace Open http://wiki.hard-light.net/index.php/Source_Code_Project_ind.... The engine for Freespace and Freespace 2 was open sourced and has been under continuous development for ~20 years. They've remade the rendering engine about 3 times to keep up with AAA titles. All of the ships have been re-modeled and textured to look great. You can play the original campaigns with the updated engine and graphics but there are also about a dozen fully voice-acted campaigns made by fans, some of which like Blue Planet and Silent Threat Reborn are utterly amazing. For $4 on GoG, it's hard to beat the shear number of hours of (really impressive) play time you'll get with the community improvements.

I went looking for youtube videos showing the current status of the game and unfortunately most of them are from when the 2014 models were released. You need to dive into the forums for the most recent models (they are supposedly in the process of packaging a 2018 model pack though). This video is using the most recent engine and models combined with some models from the Blue Planet player made mission pack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wABQXJx7xFo

Blue Planet, especially War in Heaven, is absolutely amazing. Excellent storyline, great missions, great voice acting, and a devastatingly emotional experience. It's a pinnacle of gaming for me.

You even have mods for Wing Commander and Star Wars, though they are unfinished. http://scp.indiegames.us/mods.php

I thought Wing Commander Saga was complete, no? http://www.wcsaga.com/

It features a prologue of 5 missions and a full 50 mission campaign. That's on par with regular WC games, I would say.

I don't know that the X-Wing series really "blew Wing Commander out of the water," though. The two series ran concurrently and were constantly one-upping each other. Wing Commander III (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Commander_III%3A_Heart_of...) came out the same year as TIE Fighter, but sported SVGA graphics, full-motion video segments between sequences and actual name actors playing the various characters. X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter brought multiplayer to that series in 1997, but Wing Commander had gotten there three years earlier with 1994's Armada (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Commander:_Armada).

(None of which is to say that the X-Wing games weren't innovative and great, of course. Just that Origin gave them spirited and worthy competition.)

Both series were consistent, huge sellers for their respective publishers, so it's not like one drove the other into the ground. If anything, they both fell at the same hurdle, never really making the jump into the 3D-game marketplace that the newly emerging GPUs of the late '90s made possible.

I always found it wryly amusing that Wing Commander III had bigger name actors in it than the Wing Commander movie did.

I have very fond memories of Armada, alongside Microsoft's Allegiance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegiance_(video_game)).

Oh man!!! I was one of the beta testers for Allegiance, and I loved it, but I never heard of MS actually releasing it. Thank you for the link!

Allegiance is the one game I keep coming back to after 18 years.

I was very pleased to see Microsoft redo the license so the community could put it up on Steam.

X-Wing was the future in terms of using 3D, but it was there too soon. Wing Commander (not to mention WCII) looked better than X-Wing IMO because the ships had more geometric complexity.

One thing that did bug me about WCII was the lack of feelies; I still have the ship identification posters from WC I, and making the manual in the format of an on-ship magazine worked great.

I got the WC II special edition, which had roughly 15 3.5" floppies in it, and until I opened the box, I assumed much of the weight was from feelies, but instead it was a single cardboard keyboard reference card / install instructions.

Wing Command III really brought the two together. If you played it in VGA instead of SVGA mode, you'd get the smooth/speed and even texture feel of WC2. SVGA mode gave you really cool detail at a lower framerate, unless you had like a DX2/100 PC.

WC4 was really the blow out engine .. so much smoother and they removed the cockpit view entirely for a much more functional HUD. The story was also much more complex.

Prophecy was the first game with actual 3D acceleration, with extra effects if you used Glide/3Dfx. The story wasn't as good, but the graphics were nice, even though the actual flying/shooting felt a little more arcade like (you could ram and bounce off of ships).

I think I still have some of the old CDs .. might need to fire them up in Doxbox or wine.

I actually have my WC I/II floppies and all expansions, but I suspect that if I found hardware to hook up a floppy drive to my machine, they would no longer work (such are the vagaries of magnetic media). I have WC 3 and 4 and Prophecy, but I don't think the prophecy DLC I purchased once upon a time will work anymore...

There is a guy that is updating XWing game to use modern 3d acceleration with detailed 3d models and FX. https://youtu.be/TLrqtmKazpI Also, try Star lancer. I think that is the most modern game that follows the lineage of XWing and Wing Commander, and had a decent history.

Yeah, I started with X-Wing and Wing Commander always looked like a step back regarding the actual game mechanics and graphics style, too.

Shooting at enemies was more fun in X-Wing and TIE Fighter because everything seemed to move faster (except the laser bolts, see next point) and you had to aim with much greater lead, one of the most important skill elements. The production values of X-Wing and TIE Fighter were incredible, whereas the style of Wing Commander felt generic (I and II) or like Starship Troopers (III).

But just a few short years later, X-Wing came out and blew Wing Commander out of the water.

I think they mostly flew by each other and then went into separate directions and ended up not competing all that directly. X-Wing came out between the releases of WC2 and WC3. X-Wing continued down the 'space combat simulator in the Star Wars universe' path, Wing Commander became 'movie/adventure game with some space flying stuff'. WC3 had two hours of video, Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell and only got crazier from there.

Tie Fighter collectors edition (Updating to 640x480 iirc, also including enough missions to last like months of gameplay) was a mainstay for me for years.

X wing vs tie fighter was much later (1997 to tie fighters 94). It was both inferior gameplay IMO and a bit graphically behind, being not really much better than tie fighter while other things had gotten much better (descent and quake and mechwarrior 2 all better imo while half life and unreal werent released much after XWvTF)

There's dozens of current free-to-play games out there with that sort of technology, plus others like Elite Dangerous that even do it in VR.

But has any of them really captured the feeling of the originals, in your opinion? Not to mention not being set in the Star Wars universe... I have a similar problem with FPS, after playing Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, I haven't been able to enjoy any other FPS :( They're good, they're OK, but they're not quite ET.

None of them ever will if you've already played a Wing Commander-style game. You can only have that "first" moment once.

There's good news though. Hopefully none of them will force me to change CDs every few minutes.

Wing Commander was great because it was one of the first of its kind and it worked on very modest hardware, it didn't have extravagant system demands.

I've played recent games that follow the Wing Commander template almost exactly but they feel dull and repetitive because the original was dull and repetitive.

One adaptation that actually adds on the original is the new X-Com series. They took out a lot of the fussy useless work, like allocating ammunition per soldier (even per pocket!) and refocused the game on the good elements from the original, like the turn-based combat system.

I'm sure you could do the same with Wing Commander but you'd have to throw out a lot of garbage and work hard to polish, refine, and improve on the original flight mechanics.

W:ET was great. Real teamwork emerged in multiplayer, which is hard to find. Is anyone still running servers?

edit: yes!


Client download here (Win/Mac/Linux!):


Maybe it'll feel dated. But it was really a wonderful online multiplayer game. I thought I was done with gaming as I was bored of single player. This game turned me on to online.

I absolutely loved it, especially the vast array of maps. To once again defend Minas Tirith from the Nazis...

There is also ET: Legacy, an open source implementation of the game: https://www.etlegacy.com/

But I don't really know if it's any good.

Edit: looking at it I now realise that the game already was released as open source, the ET Legacy project is based on it and fixes bugs and stuff :)

The only modern game I’ve played that has strong teamwork elements is Battlefield 1. When you’re on a squad that works together it makes all the difference. If your team has multiple such squads you’re unstoppable. Great game.

Agreed! Bring back the X-Wing franchise! The X-Wing VR video clip in the Disney app in the Oculus store makes me think an X-Wing game could be the blockbuster that brings so many people into the VR fold that it becomes mainstream. A bit like the early X-Wing games were a reason for people to buy PCs :)

The Kickstarter is done, but these guys have an interesting premise in the works:


Thanks, I was going to post about Starfighter! My name will be in the credits, can't wait to see it. Loving the attention to details the devs are bringing to the table here.

We're really getting spoilt for choice between Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen and the likes.

Can we really include Star Citizen in that list? I'm one of the original Kickstarter backers, and I still don't have a playable game yet.

I'll grant that I'm amazed by its ability to make a six core Haswell E, 32 GB, NVME 1080TI system feel sluggishly old, however I have been able to go flying at least a few times. The first time I tried a planetary approach was pretty amazing.

I should add that I got to meet Chris Roberts when he was in Melbourne a few years ago. I thought that was pretty cool, as I absolutely loved WC and Freelancer way back; very nice guy also. So after that and my backing level I'm not really capable of being objective on SC. :)

Elite Dangerous is miles ahead of it in overall completeness though.

I think that's arguable. I'm also an original backer, and I've spent at least 50+ hours playing Star Citizen in some form or another.

Sure, it's not the complete experience, and there's no real single player story yet, and the vision has evolved and changed and the scope has gotten somewhat ridiculous..

But so far everything I've seen has convinced me that it's ok to keep waiting, and I'm excited to see what it eventually/hopefully becomes.

In the meantime, I've got plenty of other things to keep me busy.. :-)

It looks nice, but they mention "REALISTIC SPACE COMBAT", but the in-game footage looks like the ships have a maximum velocity, rather than a maximum acceleration. How could it be considered realistic? It's more like WW2 dogfighting.

If it turns out as good as it looks, I may have to figure out how to install windows on my machine...

huh. I might be interested in backing that. I feel like there's a big void in space sims. The last one I really liked was Strike Suit Zero. That game was awesome, but it also got INSANELY difficult. The last four or five missions I could only beat on easy and they were still insane. The music and story were really good though. It felt like being inside the new Battlestar Galactica series, although much more colourful .. and the music wasn't quite as good.

There was an indie Starfox type game I saw a few years back on Kickstarter but it never got the funding it needed. All the other stuff out there is really MMO which I'm not really into. Give me a single player set of campaigns with a beginning and an end.

Loved the Wing Commander universe and specifically Privateer of all things (not Privateer 2 sadly). I think my fav of most of the games was Wing Commander III - I suspect many people thought it was cheesy having video integrated like that - it was becoming more popular in a certain timeframe in 90s video games, but man they did a good job.

I thought of Wing Commander III as the game demonstrating that video could be integrated into a game and it didn't have to be cheesy. The cast was top notch and for what it was, I really enjoyed the story (and even read the novelization). I can't think of many titles outside of pure RPG's that drew me into the characters and their interactions in quite the same way.

If anyone could point me to a spiritual successor to Privateer, I would be so extremely happy. Does such a thing exist?

The X series. Try X3 reunion, or X3 terran conflict.

tbh, there is a bit of a steep learning curve / bafflingly bad interface thing going on with them but theyre the best of those kind of games imo.

Theres also elite dangerous, but I could'nt rally get into that. Because the galaxy is real sized with billions of stars everything is necessarily samey and bland. Also its sorta like an MMO you need to be checking out forums and engaging with the community to actually find out what to do. I do not want that from my privateer-likes. I want to just be able to completely immmerse myself in the game and explore on my own and find cool things and possibilities and implement my own schemes.

There's a ton of them. The "official" one was Freelancer, though.

To expand on this, I feel like there's a lot of Privateer successors, but few-to-no WC successors.

There's privateer remake https://sourceforge.net/projects/privateer/files/ (supposed to have a homepage here: http://privateer.sourceforge.net/ )

Disclaimer: Ages ago I coded the GPL Vega Strike http://vegastrike.sourceforge.net/ engine on which the privateer remake operates -- you might need to run in xp compat mode unless you checkout the data dir

I think you could say that Star Citizen is the modern spiritual successor to the Wing Commander series (and is being created by the same person, Chris Roberts).

I wonder why SC has had such a prolonged development period. It seems a game that's bound to never fully launch; or have a Duke Nukem 3d-like end product. I bought into it early, but I've never been able to enjoy it once so far.

FYI, in this comment section there's a lengthy discussion regarding Start Citizen's development; lots of good answers to your question there.

Also, there is Avorion, Starpoint Gemini: Warlords, Evochron Legacy, Rebel Galaxy, and Endless Sky!

I was seriously bugged by the regression of Tolwyn in WC3. In Spec Ops, he was a fan of Bluehair, but they retconned him back into not liking Blair (nee Bluehair) in WC3 and he seemed gratuitously cruel towards; I was totally find with the characterization of him being a hard-ass and extremist, but it was out of character for him to not like Blair who was well established as a hero by this point.

But McDowell played it well as written and if you put John Rhys Davies in something, I will like it.

My problem with III was that the gameplay quality took a nosedive in comparison to II mostly due to the integrated video. It was clear that it was the focus of the title, not nailing the game dynamics.

It was still good though but, combined with some clunky characterization issues (continuity of that is hard moving to real actors), just turned me off the game.

For me the peak was WC2, and Privateer, but WC3 signaled where it lost... something important about the series.

Random detail: in an earlier Wing Commander, many subsystems, when they lost hitpoints, would start to randomly reject user input. Repeatedly mashing e.g. the afterburner button until you got the "good" audio signal was one of the most immersive features in the whole game. Your damaged ship could still fight effectively, but it would take increased attention and a bit of luck. Later iterations would just make the subsystem x% less effective, punishing you for taking damage without adding anything to the experience.

Right, just like it was mentioned in TFA, I recall limping back to the Tiger's Claw, not sure if I would be able to hail the ship to request a landing. It was touches like that that made it so immersive.

I grew up on Wing Commander! I had WC1 and got all the add-ons. I guess I'm one of the few who LOVED the branching missions and even played through the game so many times and purposefully lost at certain times to make sure I'd experienced every mission. Heck I even created a branch diagram for all the missions. I was only 15 at the time!

I then played through the game with such "anal" tenacity. I had to have EVERY kill for the killboard that was possible. If my wing man ever got any.... I'd dump out and try again!

Then WC2 came out... holy moley! Yes I had to have it all, and as the article pointed out... I also promptly saved my pennies until I could afford my first sound blaster card and picked up the Voice pack too!

Played and loved and enjoyed EVERY WC game in the series. The sense of wonder that I got... I wonder if kids have anything even close to those experiences today.

I got into Wing Commander very late (WC 4), after having spent probably thousands of hours in the X-Wing series. So when I failed a mission and the story kept going, I was blown away. It's THE feature I remember most fondly, looking back. And this was a game with branching paths in full motion video! I was blown away.

> The sense of wonder that I got... I wonder if kids have anything even close to those experiences today.

I have 3 kids, and I can honestly say yes, they do. Minecraft. It has simple mechanics, but can be pretty deep too if you want it to be. You can also build anything your mind can imagine. Add on all the fan created stuff, mods, etc. and it definitely provides the same stuff for the new generation.

Don't worry, they do. Hell, so do adults. Dark Souls pretty much redefined my standards for great single player games.

> Heck I even created a branch diagram for all the missions. I was only 15 at the time!

I did the same thing! Would sometimes play the losing-then-winning route, that was my favorite.

The article surprised me by saying the branching wasn’t popular. I LOVED that about WC1 and was disappointed it wasn’t like that in 2.

I loved Privateer as a kid too. I made a massive chart of buying and selling prices for different goods to and where just about everywhere.

I need to see if it's on an abandonware site somewhere!

Before my time, sadly. But am familiar with the title from Masters of Doom, the id Software story

In 1990, Richard Garriott's company Origin, released a space-themed combat flight simulator called Wing Commander, which became a favorite around the id lake house. Carmack figured he could do better. Flight sims, he thought, were painfully slow, bogged down by their heavy graphics and leaving the player to snail through the game play. What he and others preferred was the fast action of arcade games such as Defender, Asteroids and Gauntlet. Carmack tried to see how he might do something that hadn't been done before: create a fast-action game in 3D

Privateer was my personal favorite because of the exploration / trading / upgrade system. There are similar experiences today, but most of them fail to replicate what was special about this game (maybe I am just wearing nostalgia goggles though)

No, nothing has managed the same combination of exploration, trading, ship building, and combat skill, plus an over arching slow burn story. So good.

I loved WC 1-4 (hated Prophecy), but Privateer was the best.

I will not speak of Privateer 2.

I remember getting it into my head one day as a kid that I _had_ to have WC II right away. Would probably would have been several years after it came out, though - I think I might have gotten one of the later re-releases.

I also remember being deeply moved by the story of Spirit and her captured husband, and her suicide run on the Kilrathi starbase at the end of WCII.

The article has some valid critiques of the merits of the story and the gameplay, but I've always had extremely fond memories of the game.

Funny, I had a similar experience a few years later. Saw the WC4 box in a store, very imprssive looking - I knew I had to have this. That was back when I had to save two months worth of allowance to afford it as a kid.

my favorite space sim game was Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994).

I think they got the graphics just right in that game (lol, "Gouraud shading"!).

It was minimal yet expressive, and felt immersive & real.

* note - I wish development had been completed on 0x10c - I think that would've been a good spiritual successor to TIE Fighter, aesthetic-wise

This was the game that taught me what system requirements were. My parents got it for me for my birthday or Christmas - went to install it and my Leading Edge purchased from Crutchfield just laughed at me.

Be sure to find or download a copy of Wing Commander I & II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide [0] because about a third of the book is a great set of interviews with the development team about the making of the games, and the company culture at Origin in the late 80s and early 90s.

A fascinating snapshot!

[0] http://www.amazon.com/Wing-Commander-II-Ultimate-Paperback/d...

One of the Wing Commander developers visited our computer science class at Rice in the year 2000 and I'll never forget him mentioning how 80-hour weeks became common leading up to a release and they even hit 100 hours for a couple of weeks and he had to be hospitalized temporarily. I know the long hours are common in many game studios but I wonder how many get that bad.

Wow. This makes me not want to buy them. Why reward slave drivers? Unless it was an employee owned business.

I deeply miss games that had massively branching storylines. I understand why gamers dislike them (especially the completionists), but the branching gameplay was what set the first three WC games apart. (And maybe WC IV? I don’t remember much about branching in IV....)

I can’t believe no-one is mentioning the difference between Elite, WC and X-wing in terms of flight controls.

If you know your classic Elite, it’s basically roll and up/down. WC had (as basic controls) left/right up/down. Easier to control but felt very artificial. X-wing was the best of the three, where we had up/down and then left-roll-move and right-roll-move. Not only did it look much like in the movies, it was also excellent for actually dodging people on your tail.

And then came Frontier: Elite II, with its Newtonian physics...

Surprised Noone’s mentioned privateer. I loved that game so much. Had to make a special boot disk to free up memory on our 386SX

Hah, I remember fiddling for ages with autoexec.bat and config.ini for ages trying to free enough memory for WC to run with sound!

Everyone thought I was some self taught computer genius. The reality was I wanted to play Wing Commander without having to choose between having sound or a using joystick. Autoexec.bat, config.sys, and himem.sys and an insane amount of time is all it took.

Thanks to web emulators you can play the game online. Try it.


From the article:

" Like so much else about Wing Commander II, the speech, voiced by members of the development team, is terminally cheesy today, but in its day the Speech Pack drove the purchase of the latest Sound Blaster cards, which were adept at handling such samples, just as the core game drove the purchase of the hottest new 80386-based computers."

I am pretty sure they got some deals for that too. I got Wing Commander as part of a "Multimedia Kit" from Creative (CD Drive, Sound Blaster 16, Speakers), which bundled Wing Commander, Strike Commander, Syndicate Plus and Ultima VIII. All excellent games.

Whilst Origin likely used Wing Commander II as a huge cash cow to subsidize Ultima VII - much to WC2's detriment I distinctly remember a few short years later Origin gave Wing Commander III a lot more resources. At the time (1994) the gaming press declared Wing Commander III the most ambitious and costly game ever made at $4M.

Its sequel upped the ante even further with a budget of $12M which made headlines beyond the gaming magazines and actually into the newspapers.

Both good games incidentally and well worth a play.

I think I was one of three people that enjoyed the Wing Commander movie, even though it had very little relation to the game canon.

As far as video game movies go it was rather good. I enjoyed it, even having played most of the Wing Commander games that came before it.

I think that movie would be better received if it was released today instead of 19 years ago. We’ve had close to 20 years of comic book movies that are mostly divorced from their source to make such a source-material-disjointed movie more palatable.

"Better than the average video game movie" is not exactly a high bar to clear, though :-/

Wreck-It Ralph pulls that average up, and there's a sequel coming at some point

I don't think wreck-it-ralph is a video game movie in the sense that we are talking about (unless it's based upon a video game I've not heard of).

I really enjoyed the movie too!

Even the whole "broadside" missile launch like old war ships with cannons.

Despite the departures from the game information, I didn't hate it like so many others did.

The games had a somewhat fun story already. Why the movie decided to completely throw them out the window was baffling.

Books aren't treated well by adaptations, so how can we expect games to fare any better?

With the coming Rampage movie, I'm again excited for silly movies based on games. Clue is one of my all time favorite movies. :)

That said, your point is fair. Most book to movies, I though, typically strip out a lot, but don't fundamentally change the story. Do they?

Of course, as this article points out, the story for this game wasn't nearly as good as my rosy glasses give it credit for.

Ask Stephen King if they fundamentally change the story. He's still upset about The Shining.

Touche. I felt that one at least kept many of the same events. Just omitted things in a way that changed the theme. That said, I can see the err in that way of looking at it.

Wing Commander felt different because it was basically keeping a few of the names, but a completely different story. Not even the same mechanics, since there was no magic to the main character in maneuvering through space in the games. That just came out of nowhere.

A lot of these "adaptations" take the name, the cachet, and a handful of the character names and throw them into a blender.

Like World War Z. The screenwriter perhaps looked at the title of the book for inspiration, but that much could be coincidental based on the movie.

The problem is that a movie's fundamentally different as a storytelling method. You can't give the same insight into a person's mind. You can't reveal things about a character or situation that are intrinsically visual by describing them later on. Film is visual, it needs to show, but it's also not engaging in the same way a game is.

You can give people a taste of surviving in the wilderness, on a far-flung planet, at the bottom of the ocean in a film, but these films are at best a few hours long.

A game can take forty or more hours to complete and you're that much more immersed in the world. To replicate that experience in a two hour movie is impossible.

Be fair, though. Most of the 40+ hours in games are typically held in building levels fighting rats out in the wilderness. Compared to most of the time while reading, where you can psychologically enter the minds of the protagonists.

Not to say that some of that time can't be immersive, but it isn't as extreme as the time would have you believe.

Oddly, the closest direct competitor to the two hour movie, is the multiseason show. And even those have trouble making the jump to larger formats.

I think the truth is just that story telling is hard. Crossing mediums of any kind is far from easy. (Though, I have grown rather fond of audiobooks.)

Ahh, memories of playing this after work on our owner’s 386 because it ran so much more buttery smooth than on my 286 EGA computer. Calling the ATI BBS in Canada to download updated drivers after hours so the call was cheaper and hopefully Wing Commander ran or ran better.

I played wc, wc2 and all the special missions until my fingers bled without cheating and without fearing the 486-dx2-66. i played that game and i never cheated and I made medal of honor on all possible missions. it was the best game ever!!!! :)

I will never forget the first time I saw Wing Commander in a magazine and the sinking feeling that set in when I realized I needed a new computer to play it, but I was 13 and had no money.

I seem to recall coming across an article on how to properly engage the enemy in the original game in some magazine back in the day.

The still images alone captured my imagination for weeks.

btw: We collect material along these lines over in https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMakingOfGames/

anyway you slice it, this was and will always be the golden era of PC-gaming!

So.... 'Star Citizen'. I'm a game-maker and I've been following the development of star citizen since its 1st public announcement, before any crowdfunding even.

Even from the very beginning it has looked like an unmitigated clusterfuck. (I decided to hold off funding it, I'm so happy I did) For the initial demo videos it looked like Roberts used his own money to hire artists to make lots of assets for the demo videos in Cry-engine.. Which is grand, makes sense + it worked, they got funded.

But then they continued developing that demo-video project into the full game!!! Which is baffling. The main thing is that Cry-engine is one of the worst engines I could imagine for this type of game, I imagined they'd be fighting it every step of the way and they have been. Another practice theyve had from the start is building the game backwards, Creating (extremely labour intensive) final AAA polished art assets before they've even decided what the mechanics are let alone built and tried them, god only knows how may assets they've had to scrap. I could go on and on, eg. completely retooling cry-engine to use 64 bit floats. Which must have been a gargantuan task + also completely unnecessary if you plan out your game right. (eg. look at Kerbal space program)

Compare it to Elite dangerous which started development at the same time. It was made pretty much on schedule. Its been at version 1 for a couple years with many people enjoying an extremely solid game.

Star citizen has been in development hell for years. It looks like theyve reached the Sisyphusian point where X amount of work creates bugs that will take > X amount of time to fix.

Still I would love to be proved wrong and it comes out and is the best game ever of my fantasies. (Elite dangerous is too MMOey for my tastes)

In fairness, Elite: Dangerous was much, much less ambitious than Star Citizen. No out-of-ship experiences, no planet landings or exploration out of the box (that has been added now), not even any character customization in the initial release. Even now, with much more than the initial launch featureset added, E:D doesn't have anything close to SC's scope.

What E:D does have is an amazing flight model, great visuals and a genuinely well-made physics engine that offers a surprising amount of realism. It's the most "you are a real pilot in a real spaceship" feeling game I've ever played. It just needs more depth to the actual game beyond that.

You forgot the ridiculously detailed, rich and vibrant sound! That soundscape as you undock is just nuts, on a good set of cans. The best I've ever heard in a game. Love ED!

Edit: I played on a 34" ultrawide with TrackIR and the Warthog HOTAS. The immersion is staggering. Sadly my throttle has died so it's on hold until I can get a new set.

Star Citizen feels like a bit of an off-topic diversion for this thread, I guess.

But see, the shear ridiculousness of Star Citizen's scope is the only reason I backed it. ...I've always dreamed of a hyper-realistic space simm that allowed you to do whatever you wanted. (Even in the alphas that have been released so far, I can do so many things that simply isn't possible in any other space game, ever made. In Elite: Dangerous you can't even get out of your seat.)

Of course, knowing that scope when I backed it, I understand the risk. I won't be shocked if it fails. And I won't really feel like I was slighted, or cheated. I put the money towards a thing I hope can be a thing, and maybe it will be. Maybe it won't.

That being said, the current lawsuit with Crytek is a super good reason to withhold funding them until it's resolved. There's so much shiftiness in there, and it's probably the first thing I've seen that could prematurely abort SC. It boggles the mind that they went the way they did to dodge licensing.

I'm a Star Citizen fanboy, and have kept a close eye on the development process.

Yes, the development has been full of fits and starts, but they've also solved some amazing technical challenges. The 64-bit map size aspect was critical for having solar-system-sized maps with proper precision for multiplayer. The independent physics grids per ship implementation was a big deal. Also, they were able to pick up many of the core CryTek engine developers who had built the engine in the first place, and that's paid off with the rapid development of their procedural planet generation technology.

Sure, the development has been repeatedly behind schedule, and we've learned to pretty much ignore any projected deadlines they announce. But, they've got several hundred people working full-time on a pair of AAA-class games and the current alpha versions _are_ playable, so it's not just vaporware. They also have been posting the current project task planning info on the website for about the last year, with info drawn directly from their internal JIRA, and the community is watching that eagerly to calculate weekly progress update diffs. Supposedly CIG is aiming for quarterly patch releases this year based on what's ready at the time rather than a specific feature list target, with 3.1 due out this month. We'll see how that pans out, and if they can actually manage more consistent releases.

I pitched in for them to make the game of Chris Roberts' dreams, and I'm enjoying watching the development process. As long as they continue to make progress, I'm quite happy to sit back and wait for them to get it "right".

"The 64-bit map size aspect was critical for having solar-system-sized maps with proper precision for multiplayer"

No. When something is very far away from you, it will probably not even be visible, if it does appear it will be very small. You will not be able to interact with it. From your perspective its position does not need to be precise.

With a sane game architecture for this kind of game you dont need higher precision floats. This has been done in loads of games. I mentioned KSP because a tiny team did this in Unity (not even their own engine)

Considering how it will instantly double all the payloads, this is something you'd particularly want to avoid for a multiplayer game.

I can only guess that they did this because they used cryengines built-in physics, and every ship in an instance is in the same phsyics 'world' (which is insane)

"The independent physics grids per ship implementation was a big deal"

Thats not a big deal. Its relatively trivial to do imo. You just have multiple physics 'worlds' and any bodies which protrude into another system are represented by kinematics in the other system. Transitioning from one system to another could look very weird, simply because the fantasy of the game does not cog with consistent physics, but they have not overcome this problem either.

I imagine implementing it whilst using cryengines built-in physics system may have been the truly colossal task. But why in gods name are they using cryengine (an engine strongly geared towards making crytek fps games) to make space game?

I'll point back to a couple interviews and reports from the Star Citizen developers discussing these topics:

- 64-bit map sizes: https://www.gamersnexus.net/gg/2622-star-citizen-sean-tracy-...

- Multi-crew ships and physics grids: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/15...

I skimmed those articles. And tbh it seems like they are just whitewashing their backers who dont have game programming experience.

Eg. For the 64bit precision one they have a decent amount of detail explaining what it is. But not why they are doing it when its not necessary. (I assume the only reason one could possibly do this is cus every ship in a game instance exists in the same phsyics world (which is a crazy bad implementation))

The problem with making guesses about any of the technical decisions is that this is a software project with hundreds of people in multiple studios. There are no design efficiencies to be had here: somewhere within those hundreds of developers a rationale for taking on a more complicated architecture arises - a specific feature, or combination of features, that causes a cascade of requirements inflation.

For example, one reason they might want higher precision is for editing and processing persistent data: a need that doesn't apparently have anything to do with the physics simulation, but subsequently ripples down into "well, if we want to allow editing in real-time, then..."

It is interesting work, but nothing that you would want to emulate as a best practice for making a Better Game. It's just a result of the software aspects being scoped and executed in such an uncompromising way. A good majority of the work to date has been on the organization-building work of teams and processes that can execute at this scale.


Did they not ditch cryengine in 2016?

I don't have a very deep knowledge of game development, but my understanding is that they moved to Amazon's Lumberyard and just went through a lawsuit with Crytek over it.

Yeah.. Engine change years into development. Though in fairness this is not that big of a deal yet also not that helpful, as lumberyard is essentially cryengine with extra amazon netcode afaik.

Right. Per comments from the devs, it was basically a rebase that between two slightly different forks, that took a couple engineers two days to accomplish. The "engine change" was effectively just a licensing matter.

For some reason, Star Citizen attracts a lot of armchair project managers. From where I sit (not a backer, but a curious observer), it looks like a pretty normal large-scale project: full of decisions that are questionable in hindsight, but sensible if taken in context and assuming normal, fallible people following a—neither brilliant nor terrible—iterative and incremental process.

One of the things that people seem to miss is that Star Citizen development functions a lot more like a SaaS, with recurring revenue, than a traditional game project, with a big-bang release. CIG (the company behind Star Citizen) averages about $90K PER DAY in backer revenue. This has been consistent for years. [1] The money comes from ship sales which, at the time of nearly all the sales, are nothing but polished art assets in various stages of development.

Given this context, their decision to produce polished art assets and prioritize playable releases over rewrites not only makes sense, it's smart.

[1] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tMAP0fg-AKScI3S3VjrD...

Edit: I've read your other replies in this thread and your dismissive attitude towards software development challenges looks a lot like inexperience. Since you offered your credentials as a "game-maker," I have to ask: is your game development experience as a professional software developer, working in a large team on commercial AAA products? Or is it smaller scale? I ask because decisions that are obvious and trivial for a hobbyist solving small problems look a lot different at scale.

Ive done both. Based on what Ive seen, star citizen, as a piece of software, seems to be a total mess.

Theres no excuse for that imo, if its the result of bad project management or whatever then so be it, its still a mess.

"decisions that are obvious and trivial for a hobbyist solving small problems look a lot different at scale."

What scale? Users? team size? Also, I dont see how either makes it ok to write crummy software. Give me an example.

Also in what way are the hobbyist problems small? Tiny teams (eg. the Dwarf fortress guys) have done some of the most groundbreaking plain old technically difficult work Ive seen.

Team size. (Although, at scale, you're actually talking about dozens of teams.) The problems that occur at scale have to do with dividing work, cross-team collaboration and coordination, and the sheer volume of work being too large for any one person to fully track and understand.

I'm not saying Star Citizen development is perfect. They're doing a lot less automated testing than I prefer, the code they show in Bugsmashers isn't particularly well designed, and they would have benefited from adopting feature teams and timeboxed releases much sooner than they did.

But software development always looks easier from a distance than it is in reality. The problems are fractal, and don't make themselves known until you're deep in the middle of implementation. (This is why so many projects are under-estimated.) Your criticisms lack that nuance. You say they're writing crummy software, but you offer no evidence other than 50,000-feet hand-waving assertions. It comes across as either inexperience, or an axe to grind.

The issues that concern me the most aren't ones arising from production scale.

I think the project was just fundamentally flawed at the beginning because of the choice to use cryengine, and they never corrected it. They doubled down and poured huge amounts of great work after bad. At the very inception of any software project you need a very small handful of experts to decide some fundamental things eg. What language / framework / engine to use. What platforms it will be on, what networking model it will use.

In the case of star citizen, Chris Roberts picked cryengine himself (probably just cus cryengine games tend to look nice), even though he hadn't produced a game in years. It did make sense for the demo-video. As I said, it worked, he got funded, but after getting funded he should have scrapped that visual demo and hired a few experts to draw up a plan for how to realise the actual game. I would have been looking to headhunt people who were architects for battlefield or planetside. Instead it seems like CIG just started hiring everyone like crazy and dogpiling work ontop of the visual-demo.

It seems from their dev updates that the team is putting in a heroic effort trying to work through the issues, though it also looks like a perfect realization of the sunken cost fallacy.

Here's what you've said about Star Citizen elsewhere in this thread:

"An unmitigated clusterfuck." "A mess." "Crummy software."

And now you're saying they chose the wrong engine? That's a Far Cry from being the Crysis you described, which makes it sound like choosing CryEngine makes a game Prey to any Monster Hunter Online. Sure, Crytek's in a State of Decay, but the CryEngine Kingdom's Come: Deliverance in the form of Amazon. The engine is still maintained, and still used for major games.

Okay, I'm resorting to bad wordplay now. I guess that means I'm done. I'll let you have the last word.

I wish I could give you points or karma or something for that excellent punmanship!

https://www.reddit.com/r/starcitizen_refunds/ is a good community to find out negative information on the project.

It feels like vaporware honestly, but I still hope they'll release Linux version eventually (using Vulkan). I never backed them, so it wouldn't be as upsetting if they won't, as to actual backers.

None of this is in any way related to Wing Commander II, a game that came out in 1991.

Except for Chris Roberts and his interest in space games.

Barely. It's thread rage-jacking and is bad.

Star Citizen is “Wing Commander but we couldn’t/wouldn’t get the naming rights from EA, so Star Citizen wink-wink.” It’s the modern day continuation of Wing Commander.

Edit: Maybe minus the space tigers...

The rage yes maybe, but Star Citizen is definitely not off topic. Article mentions WC1-3, it's a franchise article. SC is Origin's canceled Privateer Online [:)] without the license.

For the Wing Commander community, they're inseparable despite the licensing.

[:)] http://www.wcnews.com/privateeronline.shtml

This is the 'everything is related to everything' theory of on-topicness. It comes up about seven times every time something is off-topic. Its main problem is that it's complete nonsense.

Thats fair. I have loved wing commander, privateer and freelancer. I hence followed SC development closely, and hence have been cognizant and baffled by these issues. I was too curious what the HN community would have to say in response. I'm frankly hoping to be slammed on my technical comments and have someone prove that its all gonna be ok!

You can always write a thing about SC and post it or post a thing about SC and comment on that. But hijacking posts with an unrelated thing you'd like to discuss or complain about just poops all over the ongoing on-topic conversations, please don't do it.

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