The original Wing Commander, Chris Roberts, is back!
Creators are like sharks; if they stop moving, they’ll suffocate. That’s why it’s encouraging to see our favorite artists continue to push themselves into new territory even when their newer creations don’t have the same particular flavor that drew us to them in the first place. Chris Roberts, the mastermind behind famed 1990s space opera Wing Commander needed to spread his wings and fly in 1996 after just ten years making his own video games. No more games about Mark Hammil fighting alien cat people! Time to make movies. Movies didn’t quite pan out for Roberts. His movie version of Wing Commander exchanged story quality for production values, and he moved on to subpar projects like the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher.
You know what creators do when they start to stagnate mid-career? They revisit their roots.
A website called Roberts Space Industries popped up online this week, featuring little more than a countdown clock to October 10th, which just so happens to coincide with GDC Online. Entering the number 42 into a password field on the page though brings you to a message from Roberts introducing his new studio Cloud Imperium Games.
“I grew up making video games,” reads Roberts’ note, “I sold my first game at the age of 13 and created Wing Commander when I was 21. But 10 years ago, at the height of my career I took a break. Not because I stopped loving of playing games but because I had become frustrated with the limits of technology at the time to realize my vision.”
“With the power of today’s computers and the reach of the Internet I finally feel I have the tools to build the connected experience that I always dreamed of. A world that would be more satisfying and richer than any film I could work on. With films you tell stories but with games you create worlds.”
Even if he’s returning to games, that ethos is a big shift away from Roberts’ old games. The Wing Commander series was always concerned with telling a story first and foremost, albeit one that could change in impressive, unexpected ways depending on your choices. (Go play Wing Commander III and check out its alternate endings for a peek at how Roberts played with choice.)
What will Roberts announce on October 10th? An online space simulator of some kind considering the spaceship art accompanying his note.