It's Wing Commander: Privateer's fault that I'm playing too much Elite Dangerous today

by: Randy -
More On: Elite: Dangerous

The team putting together Star Citizen makes too many videos. Way too many videos. It's easy to be cynical, after so many years and so many millions of dollars in development, to be all like, "You need to stop making videos and start finishing your game, Star Citizen."

I'll try to not be that guy.

But among the literally hundreds of dev diary videos Star Citizen has made, this one caught my eye. It's a series they're calling Happy Hour Museum, and this time they look at Wing Commander: Privateer. This is almost 100 percent what Star Citizen is basing itself on. Love or hate Chris Roberts's handling of crowd funding, I can't fault the guy for wanting to rebuild and push the technological envelope of what Privateer is and was.

Now, to call Privateer (1993) seminal would be a disservice to the original Elite (1984) on which Privateer is based. But to call Privateer seminal would likewise be a disservice to my entire gaming history. Privateer is why, since 1993, I've kept watching and waiting for every next great space sim to come along. It occupies a huge amount of mind share in my mental library. And this was a year—1993—that also launched monster hits like Doom and Myst, games that also take up a big chunk of my memory banks. Privateer is also the reason why I am playing a dozen hours of Elite Dangerous (2014) every week now. Elite Dangerous drops you off in a backwater space station with a capable but admittedly bunk little ship, equipped with nothing more than Baby's First Pew Pew, and a universe of opportunity at your fingertips. That's a whole lot like your scrappy beginnings in Privateer.

In Privateer you could do anything and everything space sim-related, along with nothing of what you didn't want to do. You could be a humble trader, a pirate, or a bounty hunter. There's a lot of nuance in between, despite that narrow-sounding spectrum. Importantly, you could also barfly your way around to different planets, drool over various hulls in the shipyard, and spend all day comparing tachyon gun prices vs. tungsten armor plating. Man.

It was mind blowing to launch your own storyline, removed from the Star Wars-ian bravado of the regular Wing Commander line. Those games are also brilliant, but going solo in the unprecedented open sandbox of a galaxy with Privateer's playground of options was just too much for 15-year-old me's little heart.

This video isn't so much a Let's Play of Privateer. There's gameplay, but there's also a look at early '90s artifacts covering the game's (sometimes embarrassing) development, from chesty women on bar-napkin concept art to broken ship hacks. But the world building is insane, and for 1993, the animations are gorgeous. All the way from the blinking neon and constant downpour of the Blade Runner planets, right down to the Mercenary's Guild front desk receptionist filing her nails. So good.

Also, the intro is fantastically bad in a good way. "Who are you that flies so good?" You'll see.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to bring my Elite Dangerous scout ship back into the bubble of civilized space in order to turn in some planetary scans to Universal Cartographics so I can rub elbows with the ship dealers and cut a 15-percent-off deal for my next rig.

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