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Paul Woakes escaped from Earth

Paul Woakes, author of the Mercenary games many loved so much, passed away on 15th July 2017.

Words fail me. My thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues... And with the Mercenary and Novagen games players.
Paul left us with a few video games that are part of history. And with many amazing memories for all those who played them.

Thank you, Mr Woakes.

A personal note: I only met Paul Woakes once, in 2007. That was in another sad moment, at Bruce Jordan's funeral. Tim Bosher introduced me with a "Bruce would have loved a Mercenary discussion!". I remember a very welcoming and thoughtful man, and we had a short, interesting chat about Mercenary.
We never got to carry on the chat - Paul being a legendary private man (I thought there was no interview of Paul at all, actually there's a very short one you can read from ST Action, May 1988 in the press reviews).

Simon, webmaster.
7th February 2018
Click for full size
Paul Woakes (right) at Awesome Developments in 2001, with the first playable PS2 version of Jimmy Whites Cueball World - Paul Woakes wrote the PS2 renderer (thanks to Andrew Griffiths and Tom Davies).

Following are reactions to Paul's passing, collected on the former BBS, or received by email. Thanks to all for sharing those kind words.

From: Tim Bosher (by email)
Feb 7, 2018

Paul sadly died in 2017. A great loss to the gaming community and to Mercenary fans in particular. Although he hadn't worked on games for more than 20 years, he was still flattered by the attention of the retro crowd and took delight that his games had been enjoyed by so many people.
Since about 2000 Paul had been working with me on software for the lighting industry. Quite a departure from games, but nevertheless a genre in which he also excelled.
All his colleagues at Lighting Reality and the many thousands of users of his software will miss his unique contribution to the business of lighting design.

Please pass on my best wishes to your Mercenary friends
From: sparkynz74 (on the BBS)
Feb 9, 2018

This is very sad news indeed.

Paul transformed the many hours I spent playing on my C64 by taking me to a different world. That world was Targ within Mercenary. I never met him but in some ways I got to experience his sense of humour throughout Mercenary, Damocles and Mercenary 3.

I always wished there had been more Mercenary games. Paul was definitely one of (if not) the first person ever to present an entire world or entire solar system to a player for exploration and puzzles to solve. Its quite hard to find something as engaging these days even if modern day technology has advanced.

We should also recognise that modern day games have massive development teams who typically write games using a third-party game engine. Paul wrote everything from the ground up and manages to squeeze the experience into a computer such as the ZX Spectrum with only 48k of RAM.

He never knew me but I will never forget Paul Woakes and the impact he had on my life as a child and the curious developer that I am today. I have my own car audio player which will speak the bleeping sounds of Benson upon the display of text. Paul's work will never be forgotten.
From: Stewart Charles Burne-Jones (on the BBS)
Feb 11, 2018

This is sad news indeed.

Mercenary is a more than just a stone that forms part of my childhood, it was a foundation. So many fond memories brought to my by Paul Woakes and the Novagen team.

Rest in peace Paul. A great man from the British gaming scene, who will be sorely missed.
From: Anthony Kane (on the BBS)
Feb 18, 2018

I have always been inspired by the Mercenary games especially Damocles and Mercenary III.
Paul Woakes will live on in the memories of all the people that have played his games.
R.I.P. Paul. Thank you for your great games.
From: Enjo (on the BBS)
Feb 17, 2018
I shed a tear

I'm sorry to hear that. Too bad we've never got the chance to know Paul, but your personal note cheered me up, I must say.

This makes me even more eager to work on the series.

I sign with my both hands what y'all wrote. I grew up on Mercenary, and while driving my bike in a park, I was imagining I was flying the Dominium Dart.
From: Bruce Coates (by email)
Feb 7, 2018
The Great Paul Woakes

(...) There aren't many players in the Atari 8bit world in the UK but Archer Maclean and Paul Woakes were two amazing programmers of the machine and I believe both thought very highly of it. Encounter is just amazing on it.

I think Paul's achievement with Mercenary was massive, a whole planet to discover in (fast) vectors in 1985. Nobody else came close on those computers for the rest of their 8 bit lives. It was a brief stand alone look at future gaming and I still find its depth astonishing.

I didn't want to put anything on Facebook as I felt he always steered clear of this type of thing so It shouldn't be my place to bring to the attention of the world but I think people do deserve to know who he was and what he did.

Note from Webmaster: in a previous mail dated Jan 26, Bruce drew my attention on an alarming Obituary for a Paul Woakes from Birmingham. I contacted then Mo Warden and Tim Bosher, both confirmed the sad news.
From: Ross Sillifant (by email)
Feb 10, 2018
Paul Woakes

Someone on Atari Age mentioned the very sad passing of Paul Woakes :'(
(...) Paul was apparently interviewed in an issue of THE ONE magazine..ST and Amiga around time of Mercenary III. Sadly one thing I found was UK Press has been happy to make up claims.. quotes and interviews.. so no idea how factual the interview would have been.
We have lost SO many from the industry that either never wanted to do interviews or press never approached them and so much information has sadly passed with them.

I always wanted to know more about Paul's aborted 3D version of Asteriods, which he had running, called Skeltar, but could'nt work a decent game into the impressive 3D engine...
From: Richard Farrell (by email)
Feb 16, 2018
Paul Woakes

I thought I wanted to say something. I just saw someone make a comment about Paul Woakes on the Lemon64 Chat and to the effect the he had passed away. I felt devastated when I checked and found out it was true, he was my programming Idol he let the end product speak for itself.
My first Paul Woakes game was Mercenary on the C64 and I have fond memories of playing it pretty much non-stop until I was able to escape and do it all over again when The Second City came out. I had a friend at the time who had an 800XL and bought it on my recommendation and he too loved it they even did two versions for the Atari 48K (Fast) or 64K (Hires) how’s that for service!. I have seen someone call it the No Man’s Sky of the 8-Bit era and I kind of get what he means. The isolation, the exploring but your imagination filled in the blanks and it could be any thing you wanted to be. I have been lucky enough to play Mercenary on the 800XL, C64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST & Amiga. I also have Encounter & Backlash. I have such fond memories of these games I cannot believe he is gone.
I would have loved to have met him but never had the chance. It seems rather poignant that a man who was so private in life would be able to keep his passing away so low key. It is just so terribly sad, the man was a programming genius in my eyes and always will be.
From: J Horsfield (by email)
May 16, 2018
Paul Woakes escaped from Earth

Sorry to hear about Paul Woakes from your site news, remarkable memories from his creations and his person.
From: Eric Johnson (by email)
September 19, 2018
(as a fan) thank you for your tribute.

The name Paul Woakes didn't mean anything to me before today. What it means to me now, is someone who created a lot of enjoyment to my much younger self who at the time was going through hell. The Mercenary series allowed me to temporarily escape from that. Without him knowing, or intending, Paul had a positive impact on my life and I raise a glass to his memory. Thank you Paul.
From: David Hearne (by email)
November 24, 2018
Paul Woakes.

So sad to read about Paul's passing. I didn't know him but fell in love with both Mercenary on the c64 and Damocles on the Amiga. They were more than games, they were another realm to escape to. I wrote a nice letter back to Novagen back in the day and they were kind enough to send me the Mercenary kit (maps etc.) free of charge.
I'm a screenwriter (2 short films made, 3 books, more at and my latest feature screenplay features a robot named Benson. He's trapped on a Comedy Cruise space liner called 'Targ' which he cannot escape from.
Paul's work lives on and he'll be long-remembered for the joy he brought to many.
From: Mike Rooke (by email)
August 28, 2019
Paul Woakes.

Paul was a great coder, there's really not much more I can say about him personally. He helped my career and I shall be forever thankful.
Click for full size From: Andrew Griffiths (by email)
May 11, 2020
Paul Woakes.

I used to work at Awesome Developments when Paul was doing some contract work for the company (around 2000-2001 I think), making a PS2 port of the pool game we were working on. I believe he was focused on the rendering side of things if my memory serves. I remember Archer was thrilled to have him on board, being the legend that he was. Paul mostly worked remotely, but he used to come into the office sometimes to show his progress, or get insight from the other team members into how some of the code was meant to work. He used to drive over, and a couple of us would go downstairs to help his PC and PS2 dev kit up to the 2nd floor office.
One particular night we were in the office late with Paul. I can't remember why but I think he was really close to getting a bunch of the rendering code running on PS2 for the first time. I captured the moment when we finally had graphics rendering on screen - it was quite momentous. You'll have to excuse all the mess in the room, it was late night programming :)

Note from webmaster: pictures dates are 2001-06-10 02:27:20 for the one on the right, and 2001-06-11 00:17:25 for the one at the beginning of this page.

You can also read reactions on various forums or social media
- Jaz Rignall's Twitter (loads of reactions)
- Retro Gamer forum (see Gary Walton's post!)
- Atari Forum
- Atari Age forum
- rllmuk forum
- Lemon64 forum
- English Amiga Board
Retroreactiv8 tribute
StooDogg's tribute on Youtube
Mikes Retro Tech's tribute on Youtube
... and probably many more.

(Paul Woakes, on the far right of the picture)

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