Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s  Video Game of the Day.

Game development is tough, I don’t think anyone would dispute that. It takes a lot of work by some very dedicated people to make a game. Still, every once in a while, something comes along and reminds you that Star Citizen has been in development since 2011! *Sigh* Today, let’s talk about why Chris Roberts making a new space flight simulator was such a big deal when Star Citizen’s crowdfunding began. Today’s game is Wing Commander, developed by Origin Systems and originally released for MS-DOS in 1990.

Wing Commander follows the nameable protagonist aboard the TCS Tiger Claw in the midst of war between humans and the cat-like race of aliens named the Kilrathi. Your character is a fighter pilot who runs dangerous missions in this war but not alone. On board are several other fighter pilots as well, who fly with you on your missions. Fly well and they may even survive to help you out later.

Space dogfighting games were far from new even in 1990 but what Wing Commander did remarkably well was make you feel like you were actually in a persistent war and your actions matter. In most games, you get your mission and either you lose and try again or you succeed and go on to the next mission. Wing Commander doesn’t work that way. Each mission can end a number of different ways. In a best case scenario, you complete the mission and you as well as your wing mate fly back to the Tiger Claw. However, maybe your wing mate doesn’t survive the combat. Well, then they’re gone for the rest of the game and you won’t be able to talk to them between missions and learn from their expertise. Maybe you finish your mission but your ship becomes damaged and you have to eject. If you get rescued, you likely won’t be awarded more expensive ships on later missions since you can’t be trusted to keep them intact. And maybe you just don’t finish the mission at all. As long as you don’t die by either ejecting or fleeing back to the Tiger Claw, there’s no game over. The game just keeps going but you can bet the war effort will suffer because of your failure. 

When Wing Commander came out in 1990, it quickly became one of the best reviewed games up to that point. Gaming magazine Dragon gave the game six stars out of their total of five, because five just did not adequately explain how great Wing Commander was. It won a number of Game of the Year awards and despite being obscenely expensive to make for the time, it still was a massive success financially, spawning a series that would go on through the 90’s. Wing Commander would receive two expansion packs known as the Secret Missions and would be ported to a number of other platforms such as the Amiga, Sega CD, the 3DO and Super Nintendo. Today, gamers can buy Wing Commander 1 and 2 bundled together on GOG along with all expansions for each, for only 6 US dollars. While finding a decent joystick these days may be difficult, the game runs great on modern OSs and works perfectly well with mouse and keyboard or a controller.

Thank you so much for listening! You can follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday for up-to-date news from me on the show. The archives and transcripts for every single episode are also up on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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