Topic-icon Fan Reviews

11 years 2 months ago #8783 by A Laggy Grunt
Replied by A Laggy Grunt on topic Fan Reviews
Short version: find out if Chris Roberts will let you work on his new game. Wing Commander Saga tells me none of you should have a problem getting the job :)

Long version:
Test machine: Wine 1.4.1 from Debian Wheezy's package manager.
Reference versions of old Wing Commander: Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3 for Mac.
Played on easy mode.

Graphics: For Wing Commander, the best ever. Graphics are a little dated, but it's very hard to get super-modern graphics out of an open-source game engine. If you have to do it again, maybe have a look at Vegastrike.
Gameplay: Pretty good, with some small design issues.
Story: Kind of familiar story, well developed, lots of fun characters.
Music: Well made, epic, and well fitted to the game.
All the big pieces worked together very nicely, and most of the little ones. There were a few places which could use extra polish, but it's still a really good game.

Fun stuff:
Attacking capships. They shoot down your torpedoes, so you have to get creative to make them count. To strip off turrets, you have to get inside the capships' shield bubbles.
Picking at enemy ships' systems. You have to watch the enemy fighters you're sparring with, to see if you've put out their engines and are about to ram them!
The countermeasure game. Usually, if you countermeasure while the missile is distant, the missile keeps its lock. If you wait until it's practically on top of you, the missile usually misses. If your enemy selected dual fire for missiles, one usually gets through anyway.

The voice acting was mostly very good. These people are amatuers? I couldn't tell.

Hazy stuff:
I remember there being a "repair" subsystem on the fighters in WC3 (you could allocate power to damage control), but I don't remember it doing anything except soaking up power.
By diverting power to engines in WC3, you can exceed your ship's maximum speed. WC Saga doesn't let you do this.
The nebula seemed to have way too much lightning in it. With bolts that big, you kind of expect one to go through your ship and destroy it. I'd rather see density variation in the nebula, so you or enemies can hide in dense spots.
Range attenuation in WC Saga seems a bit more severe than in the original WC games, meaning you have to be really close to your target if you want to hit it hard.
Old Wing Commander used the spacebar for primaries, enter for missiles.
In the final mission, the briefing went on about how that dreadnought was stuck in a planetary gravity well. Why not have an alternate objective of just disabling enough of its engines so it can't keep orbit, maybe in a version where you fly a longbow?

Wing Commander Saga has some rough spots:

WC saga has MANY key commands, so it's very difficult to pick up-and-play. I'd like to see something like Star Trek: Klingon Academy's Verbal Orders System implemented. Besides actual speech recognition, the VOS gave you numbers at the bottom of the screen, which corresponded to your simulated officers. Press a number on your keyboard, and you get a nested list of commands which went with that officer. This didn't replace the usual fire/throttle/target/etc keys for faster actions.
Most of them worked like this:
[Officer number], [Category list/numbers], [Action list/number].
How this works in KA:
Helm [2], warp to target [1].
Helm [2], execute emergency maneuver [6]: and you get shown Turn[1], Stop[2], and Reverse[3].
Engineer [1], set power allocation [4] to standard combat [1] (defensive [2], aggressive [3], stealth [4], hunt for cloaked ships [5], withdraw and repair [6], custom power macros [7] and [8])
And on, and on, and on for all the ship's officers, systems, and commands. It was absolutely necessary for KA because of the sheer amount of micromanaging it let you do:
You had 4 firing arcs, which usually had weapons. Two usually had two types of weapons. All your weapons could be off, on standard, or overloaded (but not fire-linked, oddly enough).
You had six shield bubbles. These could be off, at standard strength, or overloaded.
All of the ship's other systems also had partial or overload power settings.
(Back to WC Saga)

Unused key commands: I don't think there was ever a repair ship in Wing Commander, at least not that your fighters could use. Maybe there were more, but that one stuck out.

For Wing Commander Saga, a VOS could be used not only to tell what wing to attack what enemy target, but also to instruct a wing (maybe of bombers) to hit particular subsystems.

Wing Commander Saga's communications menu was only used once or twice. You couldn't order any squadrons around with it, except the occasional bomber strike. For example, you can't order any wing to attack *that* Paktahn flight, which would be useful when they're coming from more than one direction, or to order some Arrows to ignore the Paktahns and keep the Dralthi/Darkets away from you.

Afterburner/Glide. Afterburner is bound to Tab, and glide is bound to Alt-G: Alt-Tab. I got around this by starting X11 with just a terminal window and running Wing Commander Saga from the command line. Maybe this isn't a problem in native Windows?

Capship missile hitboxes don't seem to line up with the visuals. To hit them with guns, I've had to sweep guns from the ITTS indicater back over the missile and into the exhaust trail, and usually attack from an angle. I've tried to get up really close so I can't miss. Then I let off the afterburner, start shooting, see the missile's exhaust port fly away, get hit from behind by the capship missile I think I'm chasing.

Artificial Stupidity: Carriers let you fly inside, where thare are no turrets. Fighters don't usually chase you into carrier hangars. Fighters like to ram you.

The mission with 3 skippers can be a big pain. They come all at once. I got lucky and was able to finish the first time, because two of them spawned really close together for me to kill, and other fighters were smart enough to get the third. To make this one possible, they should come from approximately the same direction (later in the mission, we find the one ship which was lobbing them).

Skipping dialogue. There's no way to skip dialogue you've heard many times (it's fun twice, but gets old after 5-6 times) when you restart a really hard mission.

Pure Exaliburs got a little repetitive in the later half (it felt like half, anyway) of the game. It needs to be mixed up a little more. Maybe some missions where you can choose if you want to fly bombers or fighters?

Shooting a Dralthi from straight behind with the Excaliburs' reaper guns would usually miss, even at point-blank, unless you were rolled off-level with said Dralthi. The Excalibur would aim dead center, right below the Dralthi's central hull.
Shooting any fighter with the Excalibur's tachyon cannons is kind of annoying: they don't converge on the target, so normally you have to choose (roll) if your left two or right two bolts are going to hit. I didn't see any way to disable the Excalibur's aimbot feature in the key commands. Maybe it could use one?

It's a pain to aim the Arrow's guns at a target with the keyboard. Maybe it needs +/- 3 degree correction/aimbot with keyboard flight? Maybe a slow-turn modifier key precisely for more accurate shooting?

The pre-briefing cinematics looked good, but were too short (they looped several times). They can be dragged out, or the motion in the cinematics could be spaced out with arrows pointing to things as the animation progresses, with slightly meaningless text labels which acts like it's typed in real-time or placed line-by-line.

The ambush mission where you have to fight off all those bombers with Thunderbolts was a huge pain in the neck, even on easy setting. There were just so many fighters, and the Thunderbolt can't dodge well. Maybe thin that furry cloud just a little?

Story texts.
They're too long, and the format doesn't really fit with the rest of the game. They would make the earlyish part of a good Wing Commander novel, but I don't think they go very well in a computer game.

The default color (cyan) didn't go well in that planetary atmosphere. The intro movies showed 3D cockpits, but these weren't in the game itself.

Co-op campaign mode?

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11 years 2 months ago #8786 by X3N0-Life-Form
Replied by X3N0-Life-Form on topic Fan Reviews
That's a very good review. I usually tend to refrain from commenting on the review thread itself, but since it got me thinking, I figured I might as well share. Enjoy :)

Hazy stuff

About diverting power to the engine: it actually did something in WC3? I know that in WC4 (can't remember about Prophecy) it would only make your ship (supposedly) accelerate faster - which I think is what it does in WCS.

About the last mission: Disabling the Wratghar's engine: I doubt that would actually do anything, I figure the Wratghar must have entered a low but stable orbit, since it's not moving during the mission. It would also probably take a while for the ship to crash/accelerate out of the player's reach. I the meantime, the kitties would realistically either mount a rescue and repair operation, or simply evacuate the ship (meaning they keep the experienced and valuable crew). Of course, you could then have the rest of the mission being spend on preventing the kitties from actually succeeding in evacuating/rescuing the ship.
In short: I feel that blowing it up it both more satisfying for the player and easier to do from a mission designer's perspective.

About nebulas: density variation would certainly be neat, but a bit tricky to do with the Freespace Open engine (the engine WCS is derived from). I think it would be doable, but would require a lot of time and effort.

Rough spots

About keybindings: Klingon Accademy's system was really good, but in this case we would be bumping into a few engine-related problems.
The main problem would be the keybindings themselves: as I understand, there are no easy way to add new key/remove commands into the engine without risking to break something in the pilot code. This is currently changing in cutting-edge versions of the Freespace Open engine (FSO) which introduce a complete rewrite of the pilot handling code, which among other things should allow modders to define their own keybindings.
The second problem would the interface, which is a bit difficult to manipulate for basically the same kind of reasons (engine limitations).
But yeah, it would be a bit easier on the learning curve to have to memorize a few important context-related keys than, well what we have now.

About ordering wingmen around: Yeah, you can give orders in most of the Longbow missions, and two other missions outside that. I think a good chuck of WCS's difficulty comes from the fact that you can't give orders to anyone.
Case in point: in the majority of the Excalibur missions, you need to defend a few ships from incoming bombers and their escort. Problem: the AI tends to only be issued generic "attack any ship" orders, which means that they'll basically engage the closest enemy ship, be it a darket or a paktahn, while at least some of them should prioritize the bombers.
I'm currently working on a sort of "upgrade" project for WCS, and while revisiting the Freya missions, and it seemed so silly to me that the elite pilots would almost outright *ignore* incoming bombers that I manually gave order to at least a few wingmen to engage the paktahn flights in the more extreme cases.

Alt-G to glide: in the same "upgrade" project, I've added a recommendation to rebind it to 'G'. Makes it much easier to use.

Hitbox dissonance: Now that's weird. I haven't had that kind of problems with capship missiles. Could be some sort of bug. You're positive that you've been hit by the missile you were chasing and not another missile travelling on the same path?

Artificial stupidity: GODS YES. Seriously, I've taken much more damage from ramming kittys than from any other source. To be honest I'm a bit puzzled regarding the AI, they really seem to be performing poorly compared to what FSO should be capable of. Their suicidal confidence reminds me of the old Retail-FS2 AI... which actually make a lot of sense given that WCS has been in development for a long time, and it wouldn't be the first artifact of more ancient times to still be present in the game. Though I would be very surprised if nobody complained about ramming fighters during testing.
Regarding the fighterbay trick: You've always been allowed to do that in WC, and I can't figure out an easy way to discourage the player from doing it - the AI doesn't do well with enclosed spaces (see everyone bumping into the Wratghar in the last mission). That said, if a wing of turreted fighters spawn in front of you, you're pretty much toast :P

Nothing to add about the skippers. I'm trying to figure out a way to fight them off that doesn't involve as much luck.

Skipping dialogue: That was my main motivation behind the WCS Upgrade project. In fact, I'm almost done with that: there's only 2-3 missions left in Freya, + skipping the Kinney's destruction in, well, the Kinney mission .

Excalibur fatigue: yeah, this is the longest squadron assignment, the longest missions in the game and (in my opinion) the most repetitive ones. It's unfortunately not something we can do much about, as these missions were designed with the Excalibur in mind - taking anything else (apart maybe the Arrow) would be an exercise in frustration.

Shooting with the Excalibur: I too wish there was a way to disable the autoaim. Hmmm, something I'll need to look into...
Shooting with the Arrow: Have you tried using the mouse? I know that several players tend to do most of their flying and shooting with the keyboard, but still use the mouse for precision work.

The ambush mission: It could be worth it to implement a checkpoint system in it. I'll have to look into that.

Cockpits: This is a question that comes up often, you can searh the forum for more detailled discussions, but in short it would have required a lot of work and wasn't high on the dev team's list of priorities. To be honest, I'm still amazed at the amount of assets this game has (though given the rate at which Scooby_Doo pumps out models ...).
Most recent FSO discussion about cockpits: linky .

You should also have a look at the Battlestar Galactica-inspired game Diaspora -> Discussion forum + Release thread , which feature extremely well done cockpits alongside pretty graphics on a much more recent version of the FSO engine. It's a bit shorter than Wing Commander Saga, but they have an episodic release cycle, so we'll see new content in the following years.

Coop campaign: Multi in general would be nice to have, but the devs broke their multi compatibilty in favor of other features. I don't see that happening until 1) Freespace Open gets a good overhaul of its multiplayer code (which hasn't been improved all that much since 1999) and 2) we can get WCS to run on up to date versions of the engine.

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11 years 2 months ago #8833 by KeldorKatarn
Replied by KeldorKatarn on topic Fan Reviews

A Laggy Grunt wrote: Short version: find out if Chris Roberts will let you work on his new game. Wing Commander Saga tells me none of you should have a problem getting the job :)

Thank you but no thank you ;)

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11 years 1 month ago #8883 by Uraninja1!
Replied by Uraninja1! on topic Fan Reviews
Ill be quick about this cause its Late...I just finished the campiagn I would say perfect ten. I have been playing these kindve games since TIE fighter and WC3 in the mid Nineties. Youre game was one of the best ive played in ages Thanks Tolwyn and to your team for helping me get some of my child hood back. Perfect pacing, great mission desig,n ps I still hate skipper missles. and I want to fly my dragon and my Bearcat now that is all thanx u guys.

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6 years 3 months ago #10116 by badmojo77
Replied by badmojo77 on topic Fan Reviews
I want to say up front, i truly and deeply love wing commander saga, it is an incredible fan project that actually outstrips several of the actual cannon games.

However, as much as it pains me to do so, one of the main points of reviews is to help improve a standing project. To that end there were 2 issues I did not care for in wing commander saga, one being a cannon issue, and the other being a slightly over done fanfare issue.

Dispite what wikipedia might claim to the otherwise, the novels of wing commander 3 and 4 were not signed off or approved by the creator of the series, and nor should they be considered cannon lore. Specifically the event around Locanda were intended to be left open ended and player controlled and never meant to be locked into the lore. I know the old arguments such as "well its what wiki says is cannon so that is what we went with" but if you actually carefully read both of those books the author whom was under duress when writing them, having been contractually obligated to do so, deliberately sabotaged the story in several places by bringing back to life characters whom had died in previous stories (read them carefully and you'll be shocked) It would have been alot better if you had side stepped the entire Loconda system issue altogether by simply making is one of the other systems hit by a bioweapon. (as mentioned in the actual wing commander 3 game)

the second issue is a fairly minor one, the "house" fanfare dialogue while very very funny does drag on a tad too long, still love it, but I think this would have been a good case of "less is more"

all in all Wing Commander Saga is one of my favorites and I play it side by side with the other main games, perhaps though a Mod to the Locanda system could be made for players whom would prefer the other outcome? (wishful thinking I suppose considering how long age this project was originally developed)

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