Search and Destroy

New Longbow exterior model

It’s finally time to delve into Mission 3 (Hellespont: Search and Destroy). This mission is noteworthy as it’s the first where you don’t fly the Hellcat by default. Instead, you’ll be taking out a pirate capship with the WCIV Longbow.

Longbow Cockpit
New Longbow Cockpit

Not even a Centaurian Mud Pig

Full disclosure: I never really cared for the cockpits in WCIII. Perhaps it’s because WCIV was the first title I played, and I always saw the cockpits as a way to save on rendering time. However, I am now a convert. With Defiance Industries’ amazing new cockpits, the ships have so much more personality.

Getting the new cockpit in wasn’t smooth sailing, though. The Hellcat cockpit was held together by a number of hacks from our first trailer. Now, everything is data-driven and reusable, with no hardcoding in sight, making future cockpits much easier to implement.

Each ship can now have its own custom HUD layout, necessitated by the different cockpit designs. Like in Wing Commander III, the Longbow has a wheel rather than a stick. Defiance Industries even hopes we’ll have a permanently active turret camera. While I want to make him happy, we have higher priority work first.

The improvements didn’t stop with the cockpit model. With multiple types of missiles, we needed to implement all the variants and adhere to the game data.

Take-off, new versus old

Pugh! Does anybody smell bugs?

Wing Commander IV was developed in a very tight window, given it was probably the most expensive game to date, and as a result, a number of bugs crept in.

This mission highlights two such bugs. The first is visual: when the Longbow takes off in autopilot, the camera originally culled the entire model. Presumably, this happened because the preset camera location got inside the model’s bounds. When the model returns to view, a number of polygons are incorrectly sorted.

Fortunately, these bugs were engine-side, so even though we follow the same camera commands, we get a much better result than the original.

Then there’s the bug where you can land manually even though you’re told to proceed to the next navpoint, which I hope to address. Anyone interested in the kind of bugs that got ignored can check out the post mortem at the CIC.

Destroyed transport
How could anyone do this to a bunch of civies?

How could anyone do this to a bunch of civies?

The most striking element of this mission is being sent to investigate the medical transport we see destroyed in the intro cinematics. This scene is also the first place in the game where we plan to use brand new incidental music to accompany noteworthy moments, courtesy of the insanely talented FilmCompos3r.

Since we lost our second composer, it’s still uncertain how many additional tracks will make it into the game. However, the most recent orchestral project has helped lighten our load.

You can tell a lot about a system from its music, you know?

This isn’t the only progress we’ve made on the musical front. All of the standard tunes have now been hooked up based on mission success, failure, tragedy, etc. We’ve even connected some of Oldziey’s bar music. Hopefully, we’ll have another article-worthy update coming on that front soon.