The DOS era was the Wild West of video games. No Internet, no rating boards, not even a truly reliable source of opinions – any game could be made and succeed, or fail, in the industry. Back in that age the best you could rely on was the developer’s reputation. If a company you trusted made a game, you took it on faith that it was going to be amazeballs.
Origin Systems stood amongst the few high-revered, hip-firing fighters of the DOS plains. One of their most popular franchises was Wing Commander; known for its deep storylines and incredible production values. Wing Commander: Privateer was a spin-off of sorts from the main series – where players controlled a mercenary spacer and their spaceship – and was arguably one of the most open-ended games of its generation. It even had a sequel! I believe there is a very notable lack of open-ended spaceship mercenary games today and we need to get that fixed.
Privateer was a mind-blowing game (for 1993). It wasn’t about highscores, or completing it quickly, it was about exploration. The game was truly an open-ended masterpiece – arguably more so than many today – as technically you could play the entire game without doing a single main story mission, and the adventure did not lack from it.
You were a lone pilot, with a small spacecraft, trying to make his way in the Universe. Want to master intergalactic human-trafficking? Supply water to distant thirsty worlds? Escort freighters across dangerous asteroid fields? All options are as equal as the last. It was your game to play, as you saw fit.
Unfortunately, for almost all involved, we must mention Privateer 2: The Darkening. Stupid names and technological marvels aside, this game really blew. It was an utter travesty that the gameplay itself sucked so hard, because the amount of money poured into the production value was tremendous. Everything but the player experience itself was magnificent.
How magnificent, you ask? Privateer 2 pushed the envelope and had full-motion video, with actors, and an extremely well-written script. To give you a small hint at how amazing Privateer 2 should have been, allow me to name a few of the actors who starred in the FMV (full motion video) sequences in this video game released in 1996: Clive Owen, John Hurt, Christopher Walken, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, Mathilda May David McCallum, and Brian Blessed. That list includes two Oscar nominees and one winner.
Now imagine if they made a Privateer today, with the same calibre of stunning actors, open-ended space mercenary exploration, and technological advancements. I know some may say EVE Online fills this gap, but it doesn’t. I’m talking about true loneliness here. Only you, your beaten up spaceship junker, and a whole lot of space to venture upon – that’s WC: Privateer.
Origin Systems was bought up by EA in the late ’90s and unfortunately shut down in 2004. But if EA were to put some of their weight behind a title such as Wing Commander: Privateer 3 it could be a smash. Sci-fi is more popular now than ever. The technology is ripe for the picking for this genre, and the marketplace is not yet totally swamped leaving plenty of money to be made. Without having to rely on Sims 3 sofa fabrics or such things.
Earlier I did say that EVE Online was not relevant to this Pipe Dream, but look at EVE Online’s revenue. In 2011 alone Eve Online brought in over $66,000,000 in revenue for Mobius games. I know it’s an MMO, and there are obvious differences in their marketing, but it proves demand. Players love the setting, the battles, the exploration that these games can give.
I think that a Privateer game, especially on consoles, which gives the player nothing but a spaceship, a protagonist, and a whole lot of space and planets to explore/destroy/help/pillage/shoot giant death lasers at/introduce to Skrillex would be pretty fantastic. I’ve been left in wanting for many years, and there’s just no excuse for it any more.
That’s it for this episode of Pipe Dreams, my name’s Duncan Aird and I approve these dreams.
Do you have a suggestion for future Pipe Dream posts? I want to hear it! I think it would be awesome, and make my job a lot easier, so please do leave it as a comment down below. However, if you would prefer to use that social networking addiction we all have constructively then you can also Tweet your thoughts to @ReadyUp with the hashtag #RUPipeDreams, or just put a post over on our Facebook Page. The options are endless! Except those three are pretty much all of the options… I look forward to each and every one of your opinions! Especially if you think the games industry needs more Brian Blessed.