The first Wing Commander debuted in 1990 and quickly gained many fans. At the time, this space flight simulation/combat game was on the cutting edge of things. By the time the third installment, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, arrived in 1994, the gaming landscape had already begun to change. FMVs, or full-motion video, had become quite popular in the video game industry. The team behind Wing Commander even managed to get Mark Hammill to play the lead role for it. The success of 3D gaming, along with FMVs, prompted EA to invest even more money for Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom. This time around, there would be full sets and the addition of even more notable Hollywood names.
Well, it’s been 24 years since the original release of Wing Commander IV. Along the way, EA did rerelease it in DVD format, giving the FMV content some nice upgrades. However, the game’s engine and assets have not aged quite as nicely. For better or for worse, 2020 has already seen a number of classic games remastered, so why not this one? The folks over at DSOG have spotted a fan attempt to do just that. This project has been undertaken by a team called Omega Systems.
Wing Commander was an incredibly popular space combat simulator series from the ’90s known for its strong narratives. With Wing Commander III, the series switched to full-motion video. With Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom the series created what is probably the greatest example of the medium, with Hollywood budgets, real sets, and an outstanding cast including Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, and Tom Wilson.
Thanks to the release of a DVD version of the title, fans already possessed relatively high-quality video that has aged incredibly well. This video has been further enhanced by AI upscaling. Gaming has never again made such an ambitious FMV title, and now the video quality is close to modern, high definition standards.
Unfortunately, gaming has moved on significantly over the last few decades and, while hugely impressive at the time, the game engine has perhaps not aged quite as gracefully.
This project is a fan attempt to allow owners of Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom to enjoy a more modern experience by loading the files from the original game into a new engine, complete with specially created, high definition assets.
RealSpace is the name of the engine Wing Commander III, IV, and Armada originally used. Eventually, if successful, we would like to support titles other than Wing Commander IV.
The idea behind this revolves around a few different parts. Firstly, players would need to own the actual game and have provided links for it to either GOG or EA/Origin. Next, the new engine would load assets from the original game files and then use AI to enhance them. The team has already been at work using AI to upscale the original DVD FMV files to 1080p with impressive results.
No official release date has been set. The game’s controls will support flight sticks, XInput-compatible gamepads, along with mouse and keyboard. Omega’s FAQ page also indicates that the project is not in danger of receiving a cease and desist order. This is due to the following reasons.
We aren’t creating a standalone product, just a method to improve the user’s experience of a product they already own.
The original product is required to be purchased legally in order to play.
We aren’t claiming ownership of the intellectual property, or the assets included in the product. All copyrights, trademarks, logos, credits, etc will remain in place.
This project doesn’t compete with EA’s products.
Let us hope the team is able to complete and release this, as its early progress has yielded impressive results. Old fans would likely enjoy revisiting this iconic series as well.