Xbox EMEA Community Manager – AceyBongos sits down and has a chat to Sean Penny the game’s Associate Producer at EA. about the recently released title – Wing Commander Arena.

You can download Wind Commander Arena from Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace (New Arrivals)

Give us an introduction to Wing Commander Arena.

Sean Penney: Wing Commander Arena is a 16 player online arcade space combat game using the favourite ships from past Wing Commander titles. It’s set 20 years after the Confederation and the Kilrathi Clans pushed back the Nephilim. It takes place on what was the Frontier before the Humans and Kilrathi were forced to ally to deal with the Nephilim menace. This Frontier has since lost contact with the core worlds. Now Regional Governors try to hold things together, but it’s very much like the Wild West – lawlessness abounds. Many of the weapons of the last war and older are state of the art in this environment, though there have been some innovative upgrades. Privateers, outlaws and robber barons are quick to take advantage of the constant turmoil this volatile mix has produced.

How is this game different than the original Wing Commander franchise?

Sean Penney: Wing Commander Arena will be a top down 2D/3D space combat game where players can form an armada and hunt down their enemies as players climb the leaderboard. This new game borrows from the Wing Commander brand history and rebuilds it for the modern multi-player experience.

What was the inspiration for EA to create a spin-off of the currently dormant Wing Commander series?

Sean Penney: We wanted to get into Arcade – it’s a new market and we wanted to make a statement. Multiplayer space combat was an area not well represented on Arcade, until now. Wing Commander was a natural choice as a universe in which to set our offering. As an arcade space fighter we can offer layers of control to the player. This will allow them to get right into the game out of the gate, as an arcade title should, but still offer significant game play depth to the old fans and the new fans of the series, as any Wing Commander title should.

How will Wing Commander Arena be true to the Wing Commander series?

Sean Penney: First through the game play. The 18 player ships, drawn from WC favourites, are true in function and form to the originals. Of course, things change in 20 years and out on the frontier it’s important your ship have some special upgrades. And some other old favourites will make an appearance as well, and we will introduce you to some new friends. Wing Commander fans have long wanted a multiplayer experience. Arena offers classic Wing Commander combat online with 16 players. For the fans who remember Armada, a dogfight in Arena is like a dogfight in Armada.

Second is our attention to detail. We are very cognizant of the Wing Commander continuity and brought members of the thriving and vocal Wing Commander community into the development process. We bring back classic ships and work in flavour from the original game to the movie. Arena has always been intended as an homage to the Wing Commander franchise and we very much wanted to do it justice.

Third is innovation. Wing Commander has always pushed the envelope. Every WC game set new standards in tech and design and changed the way we play games. Wing Commander Arena is doing the same thing with Live Arcade – from 16 player online game play to the number and depth of our modes to the beauty of our environments Arena is far and away more impressive than anything XBLA has had available before.

What are the different game modes? What will these involve?

Sean Penney: Single Player offers four game modes:

Melee is a Free-for-All verses a wide variety of AI opponents drawn from WC lore – they fight each other and you. It takes place in the very cool Space Station map and is timed. Scores are posted to Xbox Live leader boards so even though it’s single player you are still competing online.

Meteor Storm is a fun little mode where you defend up to three satellites from wave after wave of flaming meteors and marauding pirates. If all your satellites are destroyed its game over. High scores are also posted on the Xbox Live leader boards.

Gauntlet places your ship on a Midway class carrier that has seen some interesting action over the years. Your job is to defend the carrier from waves of opponents as they breach the carrier’s shields. Each consecutive wave will be tougher in terms of number of opponents, toughness of opponents, skills of opponents and so on. Later levels in this mode result in some pretty spectacular firefights. This mode also has Xbox Live leader boards.

Proving Grounds is a wide open space environment with lots of open space and pickups and obstacles to fly around and plenty targets to shoot at (some of whom will shoot back!). As the name suggests, it’s a training mode. consider it a playground in which you can test out your ships and weapons and maneuvers. Proving Ground has no time limit, frag counter or leader board.

Multiplayer offers 16 player Free-for-All play, 8 vs.. 8 Team play and 1-on-1 Duels. Team play is Kilrathi versus Human.

Capital Ship is a clash of titans. Your goal is to destroy the opposition’s Battlecruiser while ensuring the safety of your own. Battlecruisers have three levels. Your targets are the specially lit turrets, radar, batteries, missiles and the bridge. If your team destroys all the targets on a level the Battlecruiser will sink down to reveal more targets. Destroy the bridge and the ship breaks up and your team has won the game.

Satellites is classic Capture the Flag in a convoluted space map. Dock with satellites to claim them for your team, but if you leave them undefended the other side can claim them back. A good mix of ships, tactics and team play is needed to be successful here.

Boneyard is a beautiful environment with a derelict ships, amazing crystal formations, dangerous terrain and a unique planetoid in which one might find hidden treasures. Players can play both Free-for-All and Team games in Boneyard.

Space Station is the interior of a massive space station with room enough for all. You can lure your foes into dead ends, spring ambushes from around corners or race for open space. You can blow up fuel tanks to inflict collateral damage. Players can engage in both Free-for-All and Team play in Space Station.

Bearpit is a special Dueling environment where up to 16 players can enter a special map that has an arena within it. All players are in a queue – it’s basically a hold your ground dueling pit where winning streaks are what counts for the leader board. If you win, you stay, the loser goes back into the queue, and the next fighter in the queue enters the arena. The beauty of it is – the queue is really the space outside of the arena where you can fly around, play mini-games and dogfight for fun. You can also dock to the outside of the arena and maybe take a few potshots at the two people fighting within!

Duel is a head to head, best 3 out of 5 competition between two users. It takes place in a fantastical smoking crater with pickups and hiding places and some other surprises.

How big is the single player game?

Sean Penney: In Single Player it’s classic arcade style play – there is no real end to the levels – they just keep getting harder. I expect to see some truly monumental high scores there in time.

When you start Wing Commander Arena you have a choice of two Human ships and two Kilrathi ships. As you play the game with Human ships you unlock more Human ships. Likewise, as you play Kilrathi ships you unlock more Kilrathi ships. The unlocks happen in every game mode and are often mode agnostic.

Will Wing Commander Arena include high scores and achievements? If so, what will these be?

Sean Penney: High Scores go on the Leader boards for both Single Player and Multiplayer and include things like Frags, Points and Waves. Here’s a full list of the Achievements – you’ll have to unlock them to find out how much they are worth!

  • Ace: Finished first in Free For All
  • Commando: Earned Commando Tattoo (finished Seek And Destroy in under 10:00)
  • Dogfight: Shot down first pilot on Xbox Live
  • Gunfighter: Won 20 Duels on Xbox Live
  • Mercenary: Played first Free For All game on Xbox Live
  • Most Wanted: Shot down 1000th Pilot on Xbox Live
  • Veteran: Shot down 10th Pilot on Xbox Live
  • Wanted: Shot down 100th Pilot on Xbox Live
  • Rampage: Kill 5 pilots within 20 seconds.
  • First blood: Achieve the first kill in a free for all game.
  • Deathstroke: Deal the final blow to a Capitol Ship.
  • Navigator: Travel through every jump point in the game.

What are EA’s plans for the future? Will you continue to make games for Xbox Live?

Sean Penney: Yes!

Are there any plans for more Wing Commander games?

Sean Penney: Time will tell…

What does EA think about Xbox Live Arcade and the Xbox Live service?

Sean Penney:
I personally think Xbox Live and the Xbox Live Arcade service is a true innovation and it has opened doors for developers of all types, from little startups to established companies.

Let us know what you thought of the Q&A by leaving your comments below.

Luke De'ath

Bristol based Luke is a keen gamer who enjoys a good FPS or Stealth title. His Favourite game is Metal Gear Solid. Luke also loves FIFA and is a season ticket holder for Bristol Rovers FC

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