Wing Commander is a space flight simulation title developed by Origin Systems and first released for MS-DOS in 1990. It was the first in the Wing Commander franchise, one of the most popular PC game series of the 90s, eventually spawning several sequels, spinoffs, both an animated and live action series, a trading card game, and of course a film starring Freddie Prinze Jr.
Wing Commander was considered a major milestone in PC gaming graphics and audio, creating an at the time unmatched space dogfighting experience. Several critics called the game the “Star Wars” of the 90s. While the first two games in the series would use animated cutscenes, amusingly enough Star Wars actor Mark Hamill became involved in the project when 1994s Wing Commander III switched to live action cinematics.
As the original game neared release, the team discovered an exception error when exiting the game that would display a window with error codes. With less than a weekend to isolate the error and fix it before the game was set to ship, programmer Ken Demarest had a novel idea. Rather than fix the exception error, he hex-edited the memory manager so the error message instead printed “Thank you for playing Wing Commander”.
At release, prolific PC game designer Chris Crawford said that Wing Commander had “...raised the bar for the whole industry”. The games success spurred other developers to begin developing competing space combat simulation games, including LucasArts much beloved X-wing and Tie-Fighter series. The series began to decline in the late 90s, with 1997s Wing Commander: Prophecy being the last major release.