Damocles has been released for Atari ST and Amiga in 1990.
Two mission disks followed early 1991.
Work on Damocles began in 1986. The game says: "File opened 20 Mar 1986 - Paul's name for MERC2". C&VG magazine announces "Mercenary II" at the same date: "Novagen boss Bruce Jordan says that in this sequel you'll be able to visit two or three nearby planets"... Which ended with 29 planets, explaining Bruce's in-game memo to Tim ("Check Paul's ambition to have more than one solar system next time - and I do mean check it as in stop it - PLEASE!").
Damocles was set as a long run project. Paul Woakes was programming (including tools for the team), Mo Warden did the graphics, helped by Neil Toulouse and Nick Bacchus (and others?) for objects design, Bruce Jordan was working on the story, texts and more, and of course play testers... Tested! The list is certainly longer: Mo remembers a team work, citing Martin Stallard who also contributed. Nick Bacchus gives an example on how things could work: "I remember coming up with the Dart II, because Bruce liked the idea and phoned up Paul to insist that it be in the game!"
Paul simultaneously worked on other Novagen releases (Backlash, 2nd City, 16-bits Mercenary) and other games like Tony Takoushi's Hyperforce. A reason for the many Damocles delays? Magazines previewed it for years, announcing release dates as early as Christmas 1987! There was some confusion late 1989 when reviews were published after journalists visited Novagen, though the game was not finished. Its 4 years long development became a running gag, and release dates are listed as such in the game: EASTER 89, PC SHOW 89 (Sept), CHRISTMAS 89, MARCH 90, APRIL 90. Also in the Demo disk: "Damocles is set for release pre-Christmas (this year apparently)".
With time, it seems Damocles evolved a lot. Previews report 8-bits computers versions, up to February 1988, with David Aubrey-Jones working on it for Spectrum. They were discarded later (game gone too big, 8-bit market too small?) But even by taking full advantage of the Atari ST and Amiga, Neil Toulouse remembers the challenge: "We had a real problem with getting the size (as in kilobytes) of the objects down to something more manageable which meant a lot of interesting designs had to be scrapped. Some of the object data was hitting a whopping 5K so we had to cut everything down to 1 - 2K so it would fit on a low-density floppy disk!". Bruce's "two or three planets" aside, previews reveal some dropped ideas: wireframe space stations (8-bits remnants?), nine islands on Eris, a camera with film (used to record events), ships remote control, vehicles such as helicopter, tank and skate-board, a map room, buildings spotted in the Demo Disk... And a PC version!
Eventually, the game was released mid-1990, even if new ideas kept flowing. From Simon Berry: "I remember Bruce telling me when I was at the duplicator (Reflex) the day the master disk arrived for duplication that Paul had only just finished the routine where you can place one object on top of another." In Retro Gamer #166, Mo Warden explains: "We had got to the stage where we had to release it but then we knew we could come back to it through the mission disks." And that's what happened, apparently including bugs feedback. Nick: "a player had phoned up and told Bruce that it was possible to pick up the author's computer or chair from outside the house, and it was never intended to be possible!" This was then used as a trick in Mission Disk 2.
The reception was very good with high ratings, only a few complained about the 4-years wait and a feeling of emptiness.
Did you know?
Damocles holds many references to Birmigham area, UK culture or Novagen itself. President Margaret for instance, refers to Margaret Thatcher, UK former Prime Minister.
In recognition of positive Mercenary coverage, some journalists are honoured with buildings names (at least Gary Penn, Tony Takoushi and Brian Nesbitt). Music fans also stroke, with Marillion's (the band) appartments in Chaldea City, (Peter) Gabriel's Place and Mother (Freddy) Mercury's in Bacchus, as well as Sapphire being a (Dean Matrin's) "Blue Moon".
Bruce Jordan explained a few more: Glenn Spaceport? John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth! GUM Store? Named after a Russian State Store because the one in Damocles only had a couple of items for sale. Frank's Bargain was inspired by Frank, a market trader in UK TV Soap 'Eastenders'; Charlene's Disco by Charlene (Kylie Minogue!) from the soap 'Neighbours'. Scott Airport: "Captain Scott" was a South pole explorer hence an airport in a cold wasteland. Hathaways wine bar: Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare and the cottage in Stratford-on-Avon where she was born was still a tourist attraction. At that time, it was a popular activity to convert all sorts of premises into "Wine Bars". Ralph Hantzen? R Hantzen = Ester Rantzen, saying Bruce: "a witch of a woman who ran a well-known consumer affairs program and who was amazingly naive about the commercial reasons behind business (mostly sales) practices." EKMPV & S Ad Agency: many advertising agencies were consolidating their previously well-known names into consolidated shortened 'initials'. EKMPV & S it just a ridiculously long combination. Bosher's bar: this is Bruce joking with Tim about being a 'drinker'! And the Moorby School Of Flying gets its name from Jack Moorby who apparently had hard times flying the Dart ;)
Some more, guesses this time? Lloyds is a banking / insurance company, Group 4 is a security company. Lloyds Group 4 is probably some combination of these. ECU: European Currency Unit, which eventually became the Euro. Poking fun at Europe by making it less interesting than IGCs. Commissioner of police Sellers: Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau! Wilberforce K DODD - Governor - Bank Of Gaea: Ken Dodd was an English comedian, charged with tax evasion in 1989. Lord Chief Justice Pickles: James Pickles was a judge of the 80s known for his controversial sentencing decisions and press statements. Vesta's scroll if poking fun at UK's unpopular Poll Tax. ACME suit: Acme is a fictional corporation from Warner Bros' Road Runner cartoon, but also means "perfect" in Greek. "perfectly" protecting from any environmental hazard? Also called Acme Universal - another wink to another studio? Elmdon Spaceport: Birmingham's airport is located at Elmdon village. Air conditionner: seems like Paul Woakes had one at home. Ghettoblaster: this was Simon Berry's, and playing his music! HACKERS PLEASE WRITE YOUR NAME HERE - - - AND (CONT P94): "cont p94" was used by UK's satirical Private Eye magazine, to end something abruptly – the page didn't exist!
There are certainly many more, some of which can be found in the Gamma System page.