DOS Days

Wing Commander

Released: September 1990
Published by: Origin Systems, Inc.
Developed by: Origin Systems, Inc.
Author(s): Chris Roberts, Ken Demarest III, Paul C. Isaac, Steve Muchow, John Miles, Herman Miller, Steve Beeman, Erin Roberts, Daniel Bourbonnais, Denis Loubet, Glen Johnson, George A. Sanger, Dave Govett, Marc Schaefgen, Warren Spector


The first game in what would become a long-running franchise, Wing Commander is a space combat simulator from ORIGIN Systems, released in 1990. Somewhat unique at the time was the immersive storyline intermixed with the action gameplay. The player takes on the role of a nameless pilot (later referred to as Christopher Blair in sequels) aboard the TCS Tiger's Claw, a Bengal-class Strike Carrier. The Terran Federation are at war with the feline-like Kilrathi Empire, who are bent on the destruction of the human race.

The player names the pilot and chooses his call sign. Missions varied from jumping to different jump points to seek and destroy, running patrols, and escorting cargo vessels. You usually have a wingman at your side on these missions who you can communicate with in-cockpit to direct their actions throughout the mission. You can also taunt any Kilrathi you come across through your comms system!

The pilot, known in-production to Origin personnel as "Bluehair" after his most notable feature, quickly rises through the ranks of the flight wing. The campaign is spread over various planets and scenarios depending on the player's performance. If the player performs well, they eventually lead a strike on the Kilrathi High Command starbase in the Venice system and force the Kilrathi to retreat. If the player fails too many objectives, missions become increasingly defensive in nature.

Despite Wing Commander appearing to make use of 3D models for the spacecraft, these were actually bitmapped sprites that were cleverly rotated. These sprites were pre-rendered at a number of angles to keep the game speed high.

The game would later be re-released on DOS, with ports on Amiga, Macintosh, SNES and Sega Mega-CD.


System Requirements

System Requirements Intel 80286 12 MHz minimum (80386 16 MHz recommended), 640 KB RAM (768 KB for Tandy) - 2 MB RAM recommended.
Graphics support for EGA, VGA, MCGA and Tandy.
Audio support for Ad Lib, Sound Blaster and Roland MT-32/LAPC-I
Keyboard, mouse and joystick supported.
Original Media Six 3.5" 720 KB floppy disks, or three 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy disks,
or eleven 5.25" 360 KB floppy disks, or four 5.25" 1.2 MB floppy disks.
Secret Missions expansion: One 3.5" 720 KB floppy disk.
Secret Missions 2 expansion: One 3.5" 720 KB floppy disk.
Installed Size Main game - 5.1 MB
Secret Missions expansion - 1.18 MB uncompressed or 0.74 MB compressed
Secret Missions 2 expansion - 1.41 MB uncompressed or 1.03 MB compressed


From where can it be run?

From a hard disk only. The game comes on six 3.5" or eleven 5.25" low-density floppy disks - simply insert Disk 1 and run INSTALL.EXE. You cannot install the game from a subdirectory that has the install files on your hard disk, only a floppy drive letter is permitted as the source.

If you have issues with INSTALL.EXE hanging or rebooting your PC, use this version instead (make a backup copy of Disk 1 and on your copy put this file instead, then run it with INSTALL -a

This tells the installer to avoid running hardware checks as the installer begins, which is likely the cause of the hangs.

If the installer detects your hard disk has more than 6 MB of free space, it will ask if you want to Save Space or Save Time. By choosing Save Space it will keep many of the files in compressed form on your hard disk. If you choose Save Time the installer will copy all the files to your hard disks's game directory and then uncompress them, taking up more disk space but taking less time during gameplay as it won't need to uncompress them on-the-fly.

Installing the Secret Missions 1 and 2 expansions prompts you for the location of the game on your hard disk, asks again if you wish to save space or save time, and then goes through your graphics and sound options again before installing the expansion's files.

Game Audio/Video

Roland is from MT-32 "old"
OPL3 (Ad Lib) Intro 
Sound Blaster Intro 
Roland MT-32 Intro 

Copy Protection

Wing Commander has manual copy protection. When the game starts you will be prompted to enter a number from the four blueprints included in the box (Hornet, Scimitar, Rapier and Raptor), and the "Claw Marks" booklet/ship magazine.

How to Setup

To change your graphics card and audio configuration, run INSTALL.EXE after installing the game from the original disks:

Screen 1: Graphics options

Screen 2: Audio options

Screen 3: Confirm

If the install program doesn't detect an Expanded Memory (EMS) driver such as EMM386, it will then show this warning (note that you need to run an EMS driver if you want to hear any in-game music):

You can also force the graphics and audio mode by running WC.EXE with these command-line arguments:

V - runs the game in VGA/MCGA mode
E - runs the game in EGA mode
A904 - runs the game on an AST computer with Ad Lib or Sound Blaster audio
R - runs the game in Roland MT-32 sound mode


Symptom: The game runs too fast!
Cause: Wing Commander is a very speed-sensitive game - you are playing it on a more modern PC than that for which it was designed. WC and WC2 are both happiest running on an Intel 80386 computer, preferably one that is 25 MHz or slower.
Resolution: Try slowing down your PC by disabling the L1 or L2 cache in the BIOS, and perhaps additionally running a slowdown utility such as Slow v3.0. Check here for my results running WC on my Pentium MMX 200 retro PC.

Symptom: The game runs too slowly, with jerky ship movements.
Cause: Wing Commander will not run well on any 80286 computer, despite the minimum system requirements shown on the game box. Another possible cause of jerky ship movements in-game are that you chose 'Save Space' when installing and you don't have sufficient free hard disk space for the game to unpack the game files.
Resolution: Check your free hard disk space and if lower than 2 MB you might want to free up some more space and reinstall the game with the Save Time option. If you simply have a slow PC you can use Ctrl <PLUS> while playing until the speed improves - this will cause the game to skip animation frames. You can use Ctrl <MINUS> to increase the number of frames again. You can choose from 0 to 4 frames to be skipped - a message will appear on the screen to acknowledge the change.

Symptom: It says "Limited music will play." when I begin loading the game and/or music comes out sounding odd or non-existent.
Cause: Wing Commander requires an Expanded Memory Manager such as EMM386 to be loaded in order to fully play all music and sound effects. It also requires a minimum of 560,000 bytes of conventional memory to run the game, and a minimum of 583,000 bytes if you want full music.
Resolution: Add these lines to your CONFIG.SYS file (assumes the files are in C:\DOS directory):


Then reboot your PC and try running the game again.


To Quit the Game

Press Alt-X at any time, following by Enter to return to the DOS prompt.




Start the game with wc Origin to run the game in debug mode. You can then use Alt-Del to destroy your current target, or Alt-Ins to destroy the entire enemy wing.

Start the game with wc Origin -k to have the same as the above, but also with invincibility.


Supporting Documents


Save Games

You can save your game between each mission in the campaign in the Barracks. There are 8 'beds', where upon selection you are prompted for a Game Name up to 16 characters to describe that save game. When a 'bed' is occupied it means that save game slot is used.

You can load from a saved game by clicking on the person's head - a message will appear saying "AWAKEN <Game Name>?(Y/N)".

You can overwrite a previous saved game by clicking on the body of the person - a message will appear saying "Replace <Game Name>? (Y/N)". If you press "Y" you will be prompted for a new Game Name.

All save game entries are written to a single file in the GAMEDAT subdirectory called SAVEGAME.WLD. This file is not text-readable/editable.


Additional Files, Drivers & Utilities

File Comments
WCINSTAL.ZIP Revised INSTALL.EXE which has a "-a" command-line argument to switch off any hardware sensing during installation. This can prevent lock-ups due to resource conflicts, typically when you have a funky sound card configuration.
WCJYPTCH.ZIP Joystick patch
no asteroid If you're frustrated with dying as you go through asteroid fields, use these revised executable files to run the original game or Secret Missions 2 - they reduce the collision radius of asteroids, thus making it easier to get through.
SM15.ZIP Fan made patch that extracts Secret Missions 1.5 from Super Wing Commander and allows it to be played with the Kilrathi Saga version of Wing Commander + Secret Missions 2 (I tried this on the original game + SM2 install and it worked fine).

To play: First, back up your install.dat in the KS gamedat folder (and make sure your KS install includes Secret Missions 2 already). Then unzip the contents of this file (60KB zip) into wc/gamedat. It includes a new install.dat that will replace Secret Missions 2. You can flip back and forth between iterations of the file to choose which campaign you want to play.

Author's note: This is about bringing the Secret Missions 2 campaign from Super Wing Commander and 3DO, known as "Secret Missions 1.5", to the PC. For a start, I'll just make the files available here that have been converted 1:1 from the 3DO version. That's possible due to the awesome work of UnnamedCharacter and many others who paved the way. The zip file contains a readme file with all necessary information and instructions. So, by downloading and installing this zip file to your Wing Commander I, Secret Missions 2 installation, you should be able to play the full SWC Secret Missions 2 campaign, which is commonly referred to here on the forums as Secret Missions 1.5.
WINGHARD Modifies WC1&2 ship damage values in order to allow players to customize the difficulty just to their liking. Rather than making yourself invulnerable or killing enemy ships with the push of a button, you can carefully tweak everyone's armor values to balance the right amount of challenge and fun. As an extra bonus, you can adjust the radius of impact and increase or decrease how deadly the asteroids are. Created by Sheppard.
Mission Editor Work in progress. In this preview release, each mission's nav maps and mission details can be pulled up, which is itself already a useful function. A copy of WC1 is not actually needed - just unzip the file and run wce1.exe. The code behind the program and user interface are now being improved, and the hope is eventually that custom WC1-engine campaigns should be easy to make.
WCSAV A utility for viewing and editing Wing Commander save files. This program allows you to view and edit data concerning pilots, awards, and missions. By David S. Raley
WCVIEW A program that will allow you to view and edit some of the parameters associated with the ships used in Wing Commander and Secret Missions II. By John Martuch
Editing Info Editing information for WC1, WC2 and Privateer.

Versions of the game known to exist

Version Date Comments
Demo 1990 A non-playable demo of Wing Commander.
1.0 26th Sep 1990 Initial public release.
1.0 1990 First add-on released: "The Secret Missions"
1.0 1991 Second add-on released: "The Secret Missions 2: Crusade"
? 1994 Re-released in a bundle consisting of WC + WC II. These re-releases do *not* support the expansion packs.
? 1996 WC ported to Windows 95 in a bundle called "Wing Commander: The Kirathi Saga", consisting of WC1, II and III.


Original Floppy Disk Contents

The floppy disks have no specific volume label. There is a small file on each disk called DISK.001, DISK.002, etc, which identifies to the installer which disk is inserted.

Disk 1 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\

DISK 001 48 07-18-02 9:00p INSTALL EXE 55,056 07-18-02 9:00p WC EXE 304,976 07-18-02 9:00p ARROW VGA 513 07-18-02 9:00p COCKPIT VGA 50,008 07-18-02 9:00p CONVERT PAL 256 07-18-02 9:00p FONTS FNT 7,664 07-18-02 9:00p GAME PAL 1,120 07-18-02 9:00p INTRO DAT 630 07-18-02 9:00p MODULE 000 22,085 07-18-02 9:00p OBJECTS VGA 125,960 07-18-02 9:00p PCSHIP V00 139,788 07-18-02 9:00p PCSHIP V04 27,574 07-18-02 9:00p PLANETS VGA 15,583 07-18-02 9:00p SAVEGAME WLD 6,624 07-18-02 9:00p SHIP V17 134,941 07-18-02 9:00p STRAX DRV 4,869 07-18-02 9:00p WINGLDR TIM 5,596 07-18-02 9:00p INSTALL DAT 976 10-21-12 1:21p 19 file(s) 904,267 bytes 548,352 bytes free


Disk 2 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
COMMUNIC DAT        12,320 07-18-02   9:00p
PCSHIP   V01       151,825 07-18-02   9:00p
PCSHIP   V02       123,317 07-18-02   9:00p
PCSHIP   V03       157,968 07-18-02   9:00p
PILOTANM VGA       139,984 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V18       132,555 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V21        71,664 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V00        64,522 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V01        75,274 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V02        60,523 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V03        72,291 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V29        12,754 07-18-02   9:00p
WINGMEN  VGA        57,211 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     002            48 10-24-20   2:59p
       14 file(s)      1,132,256 bytes
                         321,536 bytes free

Disk 3 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
BRIEFING 000       222,366 07-18-02   9:00p
BRIEFING VGA       516,592 07-18-02   9:00p
CAMP     000           651 07-18-02   9:00p
RECROOM  VGA       262,789 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     003            48 10-24-20   3:01p
        5 file(s)      1,002,446 bytes
                         453,632 bytes free

Disk 4 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
SHIP     V06       139,615 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V07       131,031 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V08       148,101 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V15       154,183 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V09        66,046 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V10        76,725 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V12        73,145 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V13        65,060 07-18-02   9:00p
TALKING  VGA       228,237 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     004            48 10-24-20   3:02p
       10 file(s)      1,082,191 bytes
                         373,248 bytes free

Disk 5 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
MUSIC    MID       139,707 07-18-02   9:00p
SCRAMBLE VGA       301,503 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V11        75,045 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     005            48 10-24-20   3:02p
        4 file(s)        516,303 bytes
                         940,544 bytes free

Disk 6 of 6 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
MIDGAME  V00       109,608 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V01        82,001 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V02        97,523 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V03        61,438 07-18-02   9:00p
SUPERTM  DRV        65,281 07-18-02   9:00p
TITLE    VGA       271,553 07-18-02   9:00p
TM       DRV        29,779 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     006            48 10-24-20   3:03p
        8 file(s)        717,231 bytes
                         737,792 bytes free

Secret Missions Disk 1 of 1 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\
BRIEFING 002        90,407 07-18-02   9:00p
CAMP     002           437 07-18-02   9:00p
COMMSM2  DAT        12,320 07-18-02   9:00p
CONVERT  PAL           256 07-18-02   9:00p
DISK     005             8 07-18-02   9:00p
INSTALL  DAT         1,120 07-18-02   9:00p
INSTALL  SEC           352 07-18-02   9:00p
INSTALL2 EXE        56,288 07-18-02   9:00p
INTRO1   DAT           743 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V06        38,083 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V07       148,941 07-18-02   9:00p
MIDGAME  V08        83,661 07-18-02   9:00p
MODULE   002        17,765 07-18-02   9:00p
PCSHIP   V05       105,764 07-18-02   9:00p
PLANETS1 VGA         8,598 07-18-02   9:00p
SERIES   VGA        15,486 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIP     V19        85,884 07-18-02   9:00p
SHIPTYPE V14        48,575 07-18-02   9:00p
SM2      EXE       305,024 07-18-02   9:00p
TALKING1 VGA        33,859 07-18-02   9:00p
TITLE1   VGA        31,467 07-18-02   9:00p
TRANS2   EXE        71,200 07-18-02   9:00p
WINGMEN1 VGA         2,057 07-18-02   9:00p
       23 file(s)      1,158,295 bytes
                         293,376 bytes free

Secret Missions 2 Disk 1 of 1 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):



Installed Directory Contents

Once installed, the following directory structure exists in the game directory. Note that file sizes and the existence of files themselves may differ between game versions, and that this listing is the original version of the game with no expansions:

    Directory of D:\GAMES\WING
    .            <DIR>         11-09-21   4:54p
    ..           <DIR>         11-09-21   4:54p
    ARROW    VGA           513 12-25-96  12:32a
    BRIEFING 000 222,366 12-25-96 12:32a
    BRIEFING VGA 516,592 12-25-96 12:32a
    CAMP 000 651 12-25-96 12:32a
    COCKPIT VGA 50,008 12-25-96 12:32a
    COMMUNIC DAT 12,320 12-25-96 12:32a
    CONVERT PAL 256 12-25-96 12:32a
    DISK 001 48 12-25-96 12:32a
    DISK 002 48 12-25-96 12:32a
    DISK 003 48 12-25-96 12:32a
    FONTS FNT 7,664 12-25-96 12:32a
    GAME PAL 1,120 12-25-96 12:32a
    INSTALL DAT 928 12-25-96 12:32a
    INSTALL EXE 55,056 12-25-96 12:32a
    INTRO DAT 630 12-25-96 12:32a
    MIDGAME V00 109,608 12-25-96 12:32a
    MIDGAME V01 82,001 12-25-96 12:32a
    MIDGAME V02 97,523 12-25-96 12:32a
    MIDGAME V03 61,438 12-25-96 12:32a
    MODULE 000 22,085 12-25-96 12:32a
    MUSIC MID 139,707 12-25-96 12:32a
    OBJECTS VGA 125,960 12-25-96 12:32a
    PCSHIP V00 139,788 12-25-96 12:32a
    PCSHIP V01 151,825 12-25-96 12:32a
    PCSHIP V02 123,317 12-25-96 12:32a
    PCSHIP V03 157,968 12-25-96 12:32a
    PCSHIP V04 27,574 12-25-96 12:32a
    PILOTANM VGA 139,984 12-25-96 12:32a
    PLANETS VGA 15,583 12-25-96 12:32a
    RECROOM VGA 262,789 12-25-96 12:32a
    SAVEGAME WLD 6,624 12-25-96 12:32a
    SCRAMBLE VGA 301,503 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V06 139,615 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V07 131,031 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V08 148,101 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V15 154,183 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V17 134,941 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V18 132,555 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIP V21 71,664 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V00 64,522 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V01 75,274 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V02 60,523 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V03 72,291 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V09 66,046 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V10 76,725 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V11 75,045 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V12 73,145 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V13 65,060 12-25-96 12:32a
    SHIPTYPE V29 12,754 12-25-96 12:32a
    STRAX DRV 4,869 12-25-96 12:32a
    SUPERTM DRV 65,281 12-25-96 12:32a
    TALKING VGA 228,237 12-25-96 12:32a
    TITLE VGA 271,553 12-25-96 12:32a
    TM DRV 29,779 12-25-96 12:32a
    WC EXE 304,976 12-25-96 12:32a
    WINGCMDR CFG 6 10-16-20 4:07p
    WINGLDR TIM 5,596 12-25-96 12:32a
    WINGMEN VGA 57,211 12-25-96 12:32a
    60 file(s) 5,354,508 bytes