Wing Commander art


I have some fond memories playing Wing Commander 1 on the Amiga. A sticker on my box says it works on the A1200, so it must have been in 1993-94. I'm not sure if I enjoyed playing it as much as I enjoyed the cohesive immersion though. The blueprints, different cockpits, enemy aces, hit-debris flying off, debriefings, medals, bar, arcade, etc.. Being a fan of Frontier, I might have liked Privateer too, but by the time I had a PC Privateer II was already old. I picked it up, and never played it. It didn't seem very Wingcommandery, and from what I've heard it was a different game originally.

The ship design in WC is really all over the place. I don't think the early realtime 3D did the series any favours *eyes WC3 capital ships*. The original pre-rendered ones were more colourful and detailed. Later it got messy and there's hardly any design continuity. The stats does not make much sense either, but maybe it's because they accidentally replaced feet by meters, making the ships too large, light, and maybe underarmed for the given size.

Anyways, I wanted to draw something. I'm thinking of these designs as something from a mirror universe, so they are a bit different, and I can have fun coming up with strange alliances (evil birds?). I've used the figures in foot here, so 28 meters (blueprint) is actually 8.5 meters (or 28 foot).

Drayman and Dorkir, Exeter, Venture, Dralthi, etc

It is good to be aware of the scale of things, the relations, colours and shapes. Placing everything on one sheet helps much when balancing. I've sort of used the official measurements here (meters to feet, but a bit larger), and I nudged a few of the designs a bit. I'm going for a slightly more armoured look, with solid plating (topside at least). Less things sticking out. Also, the way the WC1 ships were pre-rendered made it look like there was white paint present, but that was likely just a light source specular. However, I decided to keep the artefact, turning it into an actual paint scheme.

Ships like the clunker/hauler (Privateer) are sort of like PCs I'm thinking. Big boxes that can be customized... at your own peril. Military ships (WC1) generally have more specific configuration (guns, engines, sensors), a smaller form factor, higher relative performance & reliability... and a price tag to match. Older milirary ships may be available to privateers, with aftermarket upgrades to modernize them.

Confed frigate, Longbow

Some of these are not to any particular scale. One idea is that, in this parallel universe, the Kilrathi-Human situation is similar to that of the Turians in ME. The war was decades ago and now they (sort of) share technology (so you can see Kilrathi coloured Longbow). Many of the ships from the old war has gotten into Privateer hands and are still upgraded.

WC 3&4 capital ships are mostly box models, but some of the fighters like the Longbow are nice. 3D here: wcnews site.

Wing Commander concepts

I added a few humanoid aliens of my own.. well, not quite my own perhaps. Thinking about how Mass Effect dealth with characters. It's similar to WC in some ways.

But instead of having the regular... "let's find their artefacts" type lost ancients, maybe they're still around, completely untouchable and overpowered in their Vimana ships. Many sci-fi settings feature a sort of even playfield where the factions all catch up, event to the top-tier aliens. It could be neat to do something different.

I made some Deva-like beings for a force-of-nature type role. It would have to be clear that these being aren't really going to offer any help to the player, but in old stories there's always some convoluted incident which eventually forces an interaction, resulting in a punishment or gift. Such encounters feature a captivating "mantra & dance" number to dazzle the lowly mortals. Also, I can imagine the player walking into a battle between some Devas and Asuras (or Rakshasas), and they are gobbling up entire planets for ammunition, eventually unleashing supernova powers in some minor quarrel. The player can't do anything because it's just a humbling spectacle and backdrop as the player goes for another objective.

The original ships are a little bit samey in terms of (jet-fighter-like) silhouette and colour scheme, so with these paraphrases I'm trying to find something to push. I put the moon at the front of the Jalkehi instead, to make it a bit more unusual. Sartha became almost UFO-like. Strakhas turned dominantly red. The Broadsword is a quite strange model not really giving a sense of scale. I wanted to do something more like a turtle-plated large gunship. Overall I've decided to make the redesigns a bit more compact with less wings & stuff pointing sticking out. The Straith is from Privateer 2. I'm just picking ships I like, but the later ones could be more modern in this universe too. The older ones are still used and upgraded though.


I did this rough concept based on the fun silver armour used by the character "Melissa Banks" in Privateer 2 (with some added Necromonger spice). Would be cool with some more alien aliens too and not just humanoids, I guess. Who knows what the Devas have done though. Broadsword front view.


There we go, some slightly more alien aliens. Maybe some cockpits are modules, i.e. the ship essentially has a cockpit socket. This way allied aliens could share some ships... and it might make asset production easier. I'm not sure what Steltek would be doing in this parallel universe. "Lower" or "upper" universe? And a middle-verse in flux where inconsistencies live. Didn't Blue-hair fall into a black hole? Maybe he ended up somewhere else? The Steltek are billions of years old, but haven't been up to much "recently". Even so, they are quite powerful compared to humans. The Steltek might be extinct over here though, or not. I might have to choose between the Steltek or Devas, though the Devas function is different (an unconquerable natural force).


The crystallised Kryyl supercruiser worn by this Rakshasa might be the last remaining artefact of the ancient civilisation.


I'm not sure how much to change the ships. I like the Gratha's polygonal humpback. I think I prefer to use length and wings as an indication of size. The original Gratha looks more like a modern fighter jet so I wanted to try something else with it. Maybe it's a flak-escort ship.

C21 online texture editor.

Thinking about assets... C21 online has a pretty neat indexed colouring system: There are three main colours ("main, sub, light") for the scheme, each with a light and dark shade/ramp. Then there are some extra colours which usually used for common grey-ish tech ("frame") or decals. The player can use a predefined scheme, or set colours manually for all body parts or select ones. Then there's the texture editor seen here. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way to preserve the shade value for panel lines, so reworking colour mass placement can be a bit fiddly. What's neat about an indexed mode though, is that the shading has hue offsets appropriate for each colour (changing a colour sets up the shade/ramp automatically). Style-wise, the game has a bevelled look and relies a lot on 90 and 45 degree lines to avoid antialiasing. I suppose more modern games use some sort of... bump... displacement mapping or whatever it's called.


Clunker cockpit doodle. Maybe pilots use chosen avatars rather than video portraits.


I'm thinking the three weapon types come in different sizes, and the larger ships will basically murder fighters. If WC is a WW2 naval battle analogy, then it's worth to consider how many planes in the air it took to sink Yamato, and a spaceship won't even sink. A game has to be a game though, I suppose. The Broadsword ship (torpedo boat analogy) on the ship sheet is one solution to dealing with destroyers. Boost in with about 20 Broadswords, each launching four evasive, large torpedoes, and hope that the flak won't get them all.


Not many aliens in WC. Syd Mead actually drew the big lobster... bugs... Nephilim? I made a Pearl version. Blue cats to make it clear it's a parallel universe? The big-birds (Firekkan) are from Secret Missions. Maybe they're the baddies?

Sivar Explorer

The Sivar Dreadnoughts look a bit wonky, so I turned it into an... exploration vessel (length to be decided). The Kilrathi are not the one-dimensional bad-guys we thought they were. Actually, the confeds were the bad guys all along?

Wing Commander Amiga box

I don't remember swapping those particular floppies, so I likely had it installed on my beefy A1200.

Privateer 2

I think I installed this budget copy of Privateer 2 and never actually played it.
Ft. Christopher Walken tho!


Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Why the heck are you showing me the Hornet? It's the Dralthi, dangit!


I don't really know what kind of project I envision here. But, it might need pixel art characters in a base location. 400x300 pixels so ships at a distance gain some readability. Letterbox in the base to reduce asset demands and maybe make it look cinematic. Preferably with hand-optimized backgrounds rather than straight 3D renders. I think I could go for colourful 3D models, poly-efficient (not necessarily low poly) and absolutely not greeble-textured, be it hi or low poly.

But pixel art is a pain to make. I could see hand drawn highrez art being more feasible.

Maybe you're on a private trading company Nostromo/Refinery which is quite homely (no xenomorphs), and you're an employee doing trading runs and errands. The base jumps from system to system and you meet new aliens/environments and see the conflicts from a different perspective. Space 1999 had a traveling base like that. Megaman Legends 1 had the city, whilst MML2 diluted the characters over several locations, which I felt reduced their efficiency as assets made. Wing Commander did fine just using the enemy Ace portraits and occasional remote scene clips.

The player could be forced to make a choice doing certain missions for the confederacy, or helping the rebels, Kilrathi, birds, shady organizations, or zealots. This would affect relations and change history of the local sector, keeping it contained for plot-interactivity reasons. There's a main plot on top of this, sort of like a tree structure in terms of dependence. In a privateer/elite-like, I also think it's a good idea to keep the early missions plot-free, as I don't like starting that kind of game with chores, or being set on a plot path which I then have to abandon/neglect in order to fool around. Supposedly Privateer 1 was pretty open early on. I believe P2 gets kinda plot-heavy right from the start.

The player could pick up new characters on the journey, such as... great bird mechanic, Kilrathi Ace, or a nutty priest which never fails to offer surreal conversations. Clearly nuts, or is he? He knows of several ancient temple sites... are his theories actually supported??? Regardles, these sites contain valuable indiana jones statues, and an alien shield for the base, which really helps later on. Not everyone are keen about having the priest onboard though... or a Kilrathi. In Starflight, enemy ships would scan your ship and act hostile if they spotted a hated enemy.

It would be amusing to see some more ships in the air... space, so some cannon fodder might be needed. These pilots don't hang out in the bar, but you see their names around... probably eventually on the KIA list. The main characters have some better ships, plot armour, and likely eject safely when in trouble. Thought: In trading games like Elite, it feels a bit... strange and wasteful to blow up so many expensive ships and getting nothing or scraps. Are people willing to die for business? A military scenario makes more sense in terms of blowing up tons of ships.

Notstromo roughs. For some reasons it moves very slowly from sector to sector. It might have to do with the main plot. A jumpdrive which needs to charge, and special cargo... something big. Maybe the player can see the guards outside the main cargo bay, and wonder...

Civilian ships from Privateer. I think these are actually quite large.

Privateer files

I found an archive containing the 3D models used for making the pre-rendered graphics in Privateer. These are in 3ds format, but I used a simple free viewer which can't show these old models with textures. WCNEWS - where I got the models from, has some proper renders of them up. There's also a model thread on the forum.

It's a mixed bag of stuff... speed-sculpts using ovals... and more ovals. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The main problem is that... well, I know it's called wing commander, but often the wings are not right for the scale of the ship. Everything looks like a fighter, which is not good in a game where being able to tell the distance to and size of objects is important.

I don't think the WC1 ship models have survived. They were done by an outside contractor, Mary Bellis, apparently on an Amiga. She passed away some years ago. Glen Johnson did the line/concept art (perhaps more or less the drawings we see in the manual). The WC1 ship renders have a pretty string specular/spotlight effect, washing out some of colours to white.

PERRY - I really quite like this bulbous space station that is featured so prominently on the box cover. It has to be seen from a certain angle tough. Maybe not this one. There are actually little bays around the equator. Model is over 2 megs.

PERSHIP1 - This is a formation of two capital ships (forgot the name). You can see them in constellation with Perry on the cover. The ellipsoids and scale kind of works here. Not sure of the Mon-Calamari aesthetic is appropriate though.

0CAPITAL - An example of the forms not suggesting scale. The wings and fuselage are main contributors to the silhouette, and other indicators like the small turrets and engine array are probably ultimately lost in pixels during rendering & ingame scaling.

BRDSWRDX - In this case the massive guns/turrets and missile pods are a bit too dominant, I feel. Not enough... "quiet" areas. Hard to say how big this one is. This appears to be a Broadsword Bomber from WC2. There's a different version in the "Confederation Handbook". A different look out of the blue.

PERSHIP4 - This appears to be some kind of modern fighter jet overloaded with "cool", which is so often the case with these designs. It's sort of like cutting out the boring bits of a song or movie, ending up with something loud which doesn't quite make sense... you know? Judging by a textured render of it, showing passenger plane-lake window, it's larger than the shapes suggest at a glance.

With no textures, I get this black surface material on most models. That's why I go for yellow lines on other screenshots.

ANCLYDE - More ellipses, but it kind of works here. The textures in Privateer are too gray or wierd for my taste anyways, so it's nice to view the models like this and imagine. Kind of reminds me of BBC Micro Elite. Hmm, I didn't play WC2 but I see a similar silhouette on the sprite/ship sheet.

DRAYMAN - Doesn't quite look like the old Drayman, does it? But pretty nice shapes.

CLNKVIEW - Many models come in multiple versions and have clones in several scenes. This is the Clunker, or Tarsus as it's known ingame.

DEMONVW - I've seen a few versions of this one too. It reminds me of the Porsche 907, which is a good thing.

CONTROL - This is my chair. There are many like it, but this one is mine. On a modern machine we could probably take a scenic walk through the station's locations in realtime.

CAPGOOD - An upgrade item, I believe. There are so many files in the archive that it actually slows down my computer. There's a gigabyte of files, with many models being a megabyte or two.

ROIDBASE - Asteroid base. I think... maybe for an asteroid base to make sense, the buildings shouldn't rival the asteroid in size.

CLUNKPIT - The Clunker cockpit is quite lovely with the CRTs and flip-switch arrays.

ANKTITH - A Kilrathi base, or cake? Many of these models are made out of intersecting spheres.

Art by Arne Niklas Jansson