Mercenary 3 (The Dion Crisis) has been released for Atari ST and Amiga in February 1992.
Little is known about Mercenary III development. It happened between mid-1990 and late 1991, while Damocles Data Disks and 16-bits Encounter were being released.
In the 1991 re-release of Mercenary 1 Compendium, an ad states that Encounter is planned in March 1991 and "Damocles II" in May 1991. Magazines first report "Damocles II - Double trouble" around April 1991, with a story draft: 1st trouble is Damocles comet threatening Eris again; 2nd is a bad guy named KC Kim, ruling the outer reaches of the Gamma System, and willing to destroy other planets to be the sole ruler of the system. Release planned in summer 1991. Novagen promoted it with the fact that people were now visible in the game, as Damocles felt empty to some players. So it seems that as usual, the world enhancements were worked at first (people, public transport, more enemy ships), and the story was refined later.
August 1991 shows the first pictures with PC Bil (so long KC Kim), and taxi drivers. Now it seems PC Bil dominates the airways, truning flights into arcade games? No more release date announced.
September 1991 brings new pictures, still with the old Damocles Benson and its grey coulour. Christmas release is planned. And in October, the game seems ready, named "The Dion Conspiracy". Apparently the storyline has quickly evolved and was then set as we know it, along with physical clues. But according to Amiga Format in December 1991, Novagen still had to work out a few things regarding clues, transport tests and (game or real?) cash flow problems. The shortly missed Christmans release probably didn't help Mercenary III sales, it was finally released in February 1992.
So, the development time seems to have been rather short. Paul and the team probably struggled with memory again, for instance all the Benson text has been compressed (letters being stored on 6 bits, with a little dictionnary of the most used words to save room). Nick Bacchus: "One of the required objects was a 'mailbox' so I came up with this American style thing on a pole, with a flap open at one end. The way some facets (or polygons I suppose they call them these days) interfered with others when it was viewed meant that it had to have extra definitions for the priority of the facets from different angles... and the amount of data for that little object grew to the point where Bruce said it was too much... so in the end I did it with this light blue see-through bit that was supposed to be glass... which probably looked more like something had gone wrong with the graphics! :)"
The press reception ranged from very good to average, most of the criticism focusing on the same Damocles environment being used again, and being dated. Bruce Jordan explained Mercenary III didn't have good sales distribution, possibly because of the diminishing market.
Did you know?
As in previous episodes, Mercenary III holds lots of winks to real life; here are a few listed and explained.
Mo Warden appears as a taxi driver on Vesta, and Steven Sargent as a pilot on Dion. Steven was a fan who had phoned a lot about Damocles; he contributed to a few objects in Mercenary III, being asked by Bruce Jordan for ideas.
It's certainly no coincidence that President Margaret, referring to Margaret Thatcher, is using a witche's broomstick to travel! You can find it in her home, but though it is set as a ship in the game code, apparently it is not operational.
Who was this KC Kim character from the first previews, named by Bruce Jordan? "Kim is a child from Paul's step family and KC (derived from KC & The Sunshine Band) just sounded nice initials to go with that. Ouch - I don't think even Paul has worked that one out.". He soon became PC Bil, which of course stands for Palyar Commander's Brother In Law!
The game holds an item called Jules' Trophy. This is the first Football World Cup trophy, created by Jules Rimet, and stolen and lost in 1983. Burce: "It was, of course, more current news at the time that the trophy had been stolen, so just amusing then that it should turn up in 'our' solar system."
"Stellar Factors"? Bruce again: "'Factors' refers to Invoice Factors, so (and I think we may have been using their services at the time) these advance money payments against unpaid invoices (where large store groups buying from us may take up to 90 days credit). Stellar, well, just not a company big enough to be Interstellar."
BICC was a UK 'Investment' Bank that went spectacularly bust in the early eighties, with some embarassment to the Bank of England who just a few weeks earlier had said that BICC had 'sufficient' assets.
Regarding Queue Locksmith, Bruce did not really remember: "I can't particularly remember Queue Locksmiths. Perhaps a play on words: 'Queue' is what the English do best in forming an orderly line of people waiting. 'Cue' - pronounced the same, is a theatrical term meaning 'begin' - so, maybe when filming 'cue action'. There's a possibility that this location had some beneficial effect on keys being carried - but I'm really not sure."
And why are we asked to fly "Kaos" ? According to Mo: "I think KAOS was named after Bruce had some 'fun' (not) at an airport, but I'm not sure."
The Canine is a useless item, looking very much like Dr Who's K9 robot dog.
Among the media advertising the campaign, are several UK video games magazines editors: at leat Europress and Future Publishing.
Remember Novagen office was above a real estate agency in real life? C Rooke Estates' name is probably a joke about it, or show how honest real estates were considered by Novagen (they arleady crooked the player in Damocles selling him a tiny house!)
Finally, Paul Woakes was a Star Trek fan, so PC BIL's Enterprise Base on Tolosa is probably linked...
I wish I could have asked more but Bruce left us as our discussions about Mercenary III vere still on.