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DAMOCLES for PC

No, you're not dreaming, there is a PC version of Damocles. It was planned to be released at the end of 1995, but nobody really worried as nothing happened (as said Jeff Minter: "you know how much a perfectionnist Paul is, remember how long it took him to finish off the original Damocles?"). But the truth is rather sad: the game was almost finished when a change in Sony and Psygnosis marketing policy lead them to drop some PC projects. Psygnosis never released the game, and it seems we'll never see it released...



What did it look like?

A few details, gathered in discussions about the game with people that made it or saw it:
- the game had an orchestra soundtrack, and "an innovative treatment of music" (from Bruce Jordan). You can hear the music and read how it was intended to be used, thanks to Andy Krouwel who posted all this at the bottom of his Mercenary article page. Don't miss that!
- "There was video sequences in parts of the game when you came to an end sequence and I remember seeing a few of the people that worked for Psygnosis appear in these short video's." (Jonathon Wild's interview)
- other videos included actress Carolyn Jones (State President Margaret) and actor Connor Byrne (journalist Justin Wharburton)
- the game was programmed for Pentium 90 computers, maximum speed at the time
- it needed fixing to run on fast machines 10 years later
- Paul wrote a routine that scrolled the sea panels to simulate it rolling
- buildings co-ordinates etc. were moved/changed compared to ST Damocles.
- support of Virtual Reality headsets like the Forte VFX 1
- Jonathon Wild recalls there was a finished box. A complete mock up of the box and manual would be in the archives in the Liverpool office, though he wonders what was kept after the Psygnosis days.
- a master version existed according to Jonathon Wild (tester) and Bruce Jordan (co-author). But sometimes said to be "90%+ complete" by Bruce himself, and Mo Warden (graphic designer) explained there were still bits of graphic design to be thrown in ("the surface maps for Gaea were never finished and most of the other planet data was in rough form and awaiting completion").
- according to Mo Warden, "Damo PC had one completely undrawn planet. Gaea was intentionally left with no surface textures, no buildings or objects, nothing except white noise random data. And it was done intentionally because Gaea was a large part of the early gameplay. We knew that we'd have to supply development copies and if anyone 'accidentally lost' a CD and somehow it found its way onto sharing sites, it couldn't be played. That was Paul's idea if I remember correctly, and a very smart one."


Damocles for PC story

The curse of Eris Islands
Around 1992, The One magazine (issue #42, Feb. 1992, page 20) revealed that Novagen had plans to work on new platforms. According to Brian Nesbitt's article, the team had some extra work with Mercenary III after its release in the UK (like on-screen translations - which apparently didn't happen). Followed by: "And then? Paul's softography has no PC or console products, which may give a clue". Indeed!


Mo Warden's pictures from backup tapes

Pictures collected in 1997: these pictures were sent by Mo Warden, from her backup tapes, with Paul Woakes and Bruce Jordan's agreement. Thanks to you ;) These pics are (c) Novagen and Mo Warden.

Eris, where it all begins, Vesta and Solon.

The Capital City Spaceport and its VIP limosine.
 

The Key West coast...

And Snow Island coast.
 

Now look at the difference: Vesta Parliament...

And its old version !
 

Same for the Presidential Palace!

Hope the President will enjoy the improvement ;)
 

Dion, Atropos and Lachesis (see the islands from space!)

Eris, Theon and Vesta.
 

Icarus: flying over lifeless land next to the sun.

Logos and Aurora.
 

The arrival craft landed at Eris Spaceport.

Desert road on Bare Island.
 

Some small buildings on Eris Capital City.

The quayside in the commercial sector of Eris Capital City.
 

Mining craters on Lachesis.

The Pentagon on Solon.
 

Typical inside of the blocks of flats in Capital City.

Inside of the Vesta Parliament. Make your choice ;)
 

The outside of the Parliament.

Wonderful texture used for Eris
 

And the one for Triton.

Inside the VIP limo, one of many modes of transport.
 

The logo used during the video sequences, representing the president.
Simone Gremmo analysed the screens, to which Mo gave some explanations in 2004: "it was about 4 or 5 months into the project, so the text was way behind the result. The screen shots were snapped at a very early stage of project development. We (Paul, Bruce and I) had to meet certain milestones and "built" some scenes to demonstrate the stage of our development. They were, effectively, throw-aways to show the routines and graphics in action. As such, they didn't have real titles as they weren't intended to be any part of any planet at that stage.
I hope this helps."
 

Magazine's pictures

Pictures collected between 1995 and 2020, from magazines and cover CD: Timo Weirich sent the screenshots from the cover CD of a German games magazine called PC Player, issue April 1995.
Simone Gremmo, Derrick Bill Newall and I scanned the other pictures from various magazines:
- January 1995, issue 71 of The Games Machine (Italian)
- May 1995, issue 75 of The Games Machine (Italian)
- May 1995, issue 60 of Joystick (French)
- April 1995, issue 19 of Edge magazine.
You can find the full reviews in the reviews section.

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From PC Player magazine.

From PC Player magazine.
 

From Edge magazine.

From Joystick magazine.
 

From Edge magazine.

From PC Format magazine.
 

Dion seen from Atropos, from Edge magazine.

From Edge magazine.
 

From Edge magazine.

From Edge magazine.
 

Eris, from Edge magazine.
 

From The Games Machine 71 magazine.
 

From The Games Machine 71 magazine.
 

From The Games Machine 71 magazine.
 

From The Games Machine 71 magazine.
 

From The Games Machine 75 and Joystick magazines.
 

From The Games Machine 75 magazine.
 
Early 1995, magazines were reporting a PC release of Damocles on CD-ROM, with brand new graphics and, according to Coming Soon Magazine, "an orchestra soundtrack". Novagen team was actually working on a PC version for Psygnosis, itself having been bought by Sony in 1993. Sony being busy releasing the Playstation 1, had decided to work with different teams to produce games, some of which would support the launch of the console.

Bruce Jordan, co-founder of Novagen, sent me an e-mail in 2004 explaining how the Playstation was to be the next project after the PC release: "Our original 'sign up' with them for the PC included the prospect of (would you believe) a Playstation version of Damocles. The 'deal' originated in 1992 when the Sony / Psygnosis team-up was launched and I think that the initial philosophy for Playsataion was for it to have a much wider base of software types than it ended up with at launch. Indeed Paul had a 'Playstation' PC based simulator issued for him to use in the work (and on which, typically, he gave them some valuable feedback). All of this was very much subject to a non-disclosure contract so really we didn't tell anyone anything".

And then... Nothing, no Damocles release for PC. What happened? Years later, for a short while, the idea of a dispute over money between Psygnosis and Novagen was mentioned, but this isn't what happened. There was no actual 'dispute', Psygnosis simply suddenly pulled the plug of several projects including Damocles - hence no more money!

From there I will let the people that worked on the project or at Psygnosis speak.

In their own words...
John Gibson, from Psygnosis, stated in an Retro Gamer interview about the company: "Those days were still the halcyon days of game development, the Imagine mentality still existed. A handful of very expensive cars could always be found in the carpark and every man and his dog had a company car. Inevitably this lifestyle could not last and when Sony realized it'd been pumping millions in and getting very little out, it moved quickly to first of all vote Ian Hetherington off of the board and shut down all the satellite studios."

Mike Clarke, who worked at Psygnosis in the 1990s, wasn't involved with the game, but recalls (from a newsgroup post): "I remember when we were doing Damocles. I'm not quite sure what happened to be honest, but it was around/just after the time that Psygnosis was sold to Sony, and it seemed apparent that everything apart from Playstation stuff (this was when we got the HUGE prototype Playstation and had a group working on it) was not worth the bother. As far as I remember it was in development for quite a long time. We were also going to release Tir Na Nog on the PC as well (anyone remember that from the Spectrum?), and also about 4 SNES games and some Megadrive stuff in development. I know that the console stuff got put under Sony's jurisdiction for them to decide what to do with them. I think the whole lot got canned. Maybe the PC stuff went the same way, I'm not sure, but it seems very likely."

Jonathon Wild, beta-tester at Psygnosis: "I completed all the endings in the game on the Master version and had to fill in a form saying this was a Master version and fully complete. (...) I think we were contracted to get the game to a Master version and then to inform all parties that this was done but I've no idea why it didn't hit the shops. It was a shame as it was a truly fantastic game and I still haven't got my own copy!!"

Mo Warden, Novagen's graphic designer, was working on Damocles for PC. In 2006, she explained in her blog: "Novagen died when Psygnosis promised to release a PC version of Damocles and then dropped us just before we finished. I mean literally just before. It seems that they were drastically cutting the company budget and we weren't the only ones to be dumped on our collective backsides."

Back to Bruce Jordan, in 2004: "We didn't really have any argument with them [Psygnosis] over money, although the 'relationship' didn't continue as long as we had anticipated. (...) The plan was certainly for the PC version to be launched first and, in the event, the two-year development contract on that was fully honoured by Psygnosis and 90+% of our work was completed with the only remaining work being the final 'mastering' compilation, testing and signing-off which was to involve principally Psygnosis people.
The 'disappointment' arose, not only from them failing to give us a yes or a no on the Playstation conversion, which was to proceed as the next part of the 'contract', (so eventually a no decision, so no money to follow on happened at very short notice) but, of course, from their 'dumping' Damocles along with another six or so other 'completed' PC projects that had been initiated on the same basis. Their change in policy was really based on the Playstation launch in Japan being so successful (and really with just a small number of pure 'games' products) that all of the Psygnosis efforts were switched to achieving the same in the UK. Which they did. In retrospect, quite understandable, but all very painful at the time.
As to understanding the 'dumping' PC of games, I'm sure that these were one's that they finally decided wouldn't fit their eventual PlayStation 'style'. So, considering them for PC alone, it then becomes just a financial question and, when you consider that the cost of 'advances' paid for development are nowhere as much as their Marketing spend, it's cheaper to drop the software and forfeit the advances. This does mean that the developer is the sufferer because the Royalty payments on sales are - on anything like a successful product - considerably more than the advances. So, product dropped, no royalties. Sad eh. But then that's life :) "

So there it is. Game over? Not exactly yet...

A new hope.
In 1997, I made an attempt at contacting Psygnosis, asking them if a copy of the unfinished game could be released for the fans. The 1st reply stated "Unfortunately, we did not release this title for the PC. It was dropped, and we do not have any plans to release it." Asking if, official release put aside, maybe they could consider selling a copy to individuals, I got a definitive reply: "The game is not available for the PC, because it was never ported over, and there is no way to purchase it, because it was never made." All right, giving up.

Stewart Gilray made a much more solid attempt, in 1998, being in touch with Paul Woakes and Bruce Jordan. Here's his story: "in 97/98 I had two meetings with Paul and Bruce with regards to trying to get the PC version published. I worked for a company called Grolier Interactive UK, based in Oxford. I went to see Bruce, Tim and Paul in Birmingham for the first meeting. The action points were that Id arrange the DirectX3 SDK for Paul, and Bruce would contact Psygnosis about another company publishing the PC version...
At the 2nd meeting Paul and Bruce came to our offices in Oxford and showed us a copy of it running, as a die hard fan I was floored!!! But it still needed some work, unfortunately Psygnosis refused to relinquish the PC rights back to Bruce and Paul... Shame really."

Years later in July 2004, Bruce Jordan sent me this: "I'm sure Paul would love to re-visit the PC version. (Your recent mail did prompt him to look). He never did put a speed governor in, other than in the Benson-triggered entry sequence, after which the entry landing is crash/bang/wallop with everything thereafter virtually undriveable."

Then in January 2005, I got mails from Andy Krouwel, free-lancer at Retro Gamer. And that was a great surprise: "Yes, I have received permission from Sony to release the Damocles 95 demo on the cover disk, but I'm trying not to tell too many people at the moment to not spoil the surprise. And I haven't got Paul Woakes explicit permission yet, as apparently he wants to make some changes before letting me have it."

To Andy's own suprise, he had asked Sony's PR, and they said "ok". Amazing! A few days later, Andy added: "the article is still progressing, but with the same speed as a Damocles release date. One more item from Bruce Jordan, an OK from Paul on the Damocles thing and we should be finished". He was obviously preparing something really nice, having (at least!) interviewed Bruce Jordan, got in touch with Mo Warden, the MDDClone author, and even bothered asking me some questions about the website.

Bad luck strickes back.
So, did it happen? You guessed: it sadly didn't. The article seemed delayed, then Retro Gamer's publishing company went into bankruptcy in 2005. Authors edited a CD (called Retro Survival), with unreleased articles, but Andy's Novagen article wasn't there, having sold it to Edge magazine. Eventually, it was released in Edge in a much shortened version (4 pages still!), and no Damocles for PC - Paul hadn't sent it to Andy anyway.

Bruce Jordan told in 2004 the game had "an innovative treatment of music, which I still don't think has been done anywhere else", not being more specific. Later in 2007 he dropped a "who knows, I could release the backing-music CD!!". Which didn't happen as Bruce sadly died a few months later. But he had sent it to Andy, who found it back in 2020 and put it on his website! (scroll down)

After 5 years of discussions about Mercenary or his current lighting company, I decided to go at Bruce's funeral. There, I met Tim Bosher, who promptly introduced me to Paul Woakes. During a short discussion, Paul said he had taken a look at the Damocles PC version a few years before, and that the game would require some fixes to run on modern computers. According to him, the intro sequence played in something like 10 seconds - probably a recollection of what Bruce had described in 2004. He then explained that it was very likely that the copyright was still held by Sony, and that he wanted to avoid any legal problem.

The latest try.
Time flies... And in 2014, here comes Stewart Gilray again! A mysterious email linked to a secret concept trailer of a Damocles remake to be developed by his company Just Add Water, now visible here. Stewart explained: "We've been talking to Paul and Tim for a year :) We only shelved it recently, but looking to come back to it. Sony only own PC rights, but we're still trying to get them back too."
Another effort that remained unfinished. Now below the video, one can read: "Back in 2014 we started to look at a passion project. This project was a modern remake of the classic CBM Amiga and Atari ST title Damocles by Novagen Software. We put this trailer together to show prospective publishers and backers of the project. We decided to shelve the project after a while as there was certain legal issues surrounding the ownership of the IP. Not related to the original developer Paul Woakes, who had given us his blessing."

Here's the story so far. A bit depressing, wouldn't you think? Let's keep hoping that, at some point, we will see this famous Damocles for PC. Just like Damocles, life has multiple paths that can lead to happy ends! We can now enjoy the music and videos showing what the game was like. This is already huge! And don't forget several great PC adaptations of the ST/Amiga game now exist, especially the MDDClone, and the recent Mercenary Reloaded.

Simon

From Edge magazine.



Screenshots and videos from 2008

2020: we now have LOTS of new pictures, and... Videos! I wasn't allowed to tell until today... In 2004, Mo Warden took stills from the final copy of Damocles PC that was in her possession, dated 13/11/1995, for Andy Krouwel's Retro Gamer article. In 2008, she also made some videos. This was done on a 'modern' PC but the original had been intended for a PC running at about 100 MHz, so DosBox (emulator) was used to slow it down. Unfortunately this was only partially successful, the animations displayed so fast that they were comical, as well as the game being unplayable and Dosbox crashing a lot. However, Mo was able to catch short video sequences. To be quite clear: you bet I asked, but Mo is not a copyright holder and couldn't agree to make a copy of the game, which I perfectly understand. I asked once and won't ask again. So let's be thankful for the photos and videos and enjoy! :-)

SCREENS - Click to enlarge

Acheron - blue beacon
Acheron - golden tower
Acheron - King Tut
Acheron - Sphinx back foot, secret room
Acheron - Sphinx
Acheron - the quad at night
Bacchus - a comfy bed for the night
Bacchus - chintz
Bacchus - a bottle of something green
Bacchus - fish tank!
Bacchus - Juno setting
Bacchus - Outside Uncle's Casino
Bacchus - Uncle's Casino, wanna bet
Bacchus - ziggurat
Damocles - up close and personal
Dion - a cottage
Dion - barn
Dion - coming in to land
Dion - Damocles in the sky
Dion - flying in
Dion - flying in closer
Dion - the docks
Dion - windmills at VERY high speed!
Dion - windmills at high speed again
Eris - part of the wind farm
Eris - another part of the wind farm
Eris - another quay
Eris - Bare Island
Eris - Bare Island from higher
Eris - Initial briefing part 1
Eris - Initial briefing part 2
Eris - News reporter, tower block
Eris - reporter
Eris - Snow Island, lift
Eris - we certainly will
Eris - wonky satellite dishes and an antenna
Eris - yet another building at night
Eris - yet another building during the day
Eris - yet another quay
Midas - pyramids
Solon - spaceport
Vesta - Anne Hathaway's
Vesta - igloos

VIDEOS - Click to watch on Youtube!

Watch the full playlist, or click on individual videos below.

Intro
Getting the limo
Getting to the Pres
Brief
Get the key
Get the Dart
Stumbling around and some news
Vesta
Lucan
Dion - Moseley Road
Dion - splash
Atropos, wandering
Cronus, a beacon
Cronus
Wandering around again and a transporter
Transporter
Suffocated (bug!)


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