Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Mercenary Site

Update: Paul Woakes sadly passed away on July 15th 2017. RIP †

The Mercenary Site

I love finding websites that are active and buzzing with great content - especially for games that were available for the Atari ST. The Mercenary Site is run by a great guy called 'Symoon' and it's dedicated to the entire Mercenary series. He's a bit of an obsessive addict and it shows when you browse his immense website!

Personally, I'm all about the second game - Damocles. What a cracking Atari ST game thanks to an excellent open-world environment that isn't hampered by linear restrictions. Yep, you're free to do whatever you choose and however you choose to do it. And that's something that holds dear - because I'm a sucker for messing about :)

Before you rush off to his website, we chatted and I asked him a few questions about it...

My site is horribly old but, to me, the content is more important than its look - and spare time is a rare thing these days ;) .... (we then began to talk about Hunter!) ... I also have fond memories of Hunter, except that the energy was dropping way too fast! I cheated to stop that and finished all the missions a long time ago. Really good fun using helicopters or hovercrafts!

There isn't much to say about me - I can't call myself an active Atari ST owner. But my brother bought an Atari ST and we mainly played games with it. I remain attached to it, but not as much as I am to my very first computer (the Oric!). You'll find a few occasional posts from me on some Atari forums under the nickname Symoon, but nothing worth talking about really ;)

I began the website around 1996, learning HTML to make a solution page for Mercenary III while I was doing the compulsory military service in France. I had struggled so much to get my copy of Mercenary III (I guess it hasn't been imported at all in France then) that I played it and found a way to complete it with all the solutions. There was almost no information about Mercenary III on the Internet at the time, and I had discovered the great Mark Sachs' guide to Damocles which inspired me. So it all began as "the Mercenary III solution page", designed in the same way...

Then the site grew little by little, as I added content very quickly thanks to many, many contributors. I recently read old emails and was puzzled at how many people wrote to me about it, and how interesting many of the messages were. I got in touch with many people from Novagen (first was Mo Warden), all very kind, and even met some of them. I'm so sad that Bruce Jordan, who lead the Novagen company with Paul Woakes, passed away 9 years go.

Firstly, because he really was a friendly man! Of course, on more Mercenary-driven motivations, because he was a great source of information. The MDDClone, that appeared around 2002, also was a source of real motivation. Its author hadn't been here, I might not have kept updating the site so long - and certainly not with so much detailed content.

What I loved about the games? I can't tell you really, I'd say the freedom feeling, and the first-person 3D which put YOU in the world (it wasn't that common at this time). The fact that a whole world was created for the player to simply walk around and the mix between adventure and some kind of flight simulation too. Also, it's humour. As a French young man though, I didn't always notice or understand the fun there was in Benson's words!

I was visiting each and every location hoping to find something significant at any corner. I found (and still find) it amazing that a whole universe was there on a disk. Thanks again, I hope you spend many pleasant hours in the Gamma system soon!


  1. Woakes died? And almost a year to the day... dang.

    Well, at least he would have lived to see the second largest dwarf planet in the solar system (almost exactly the same size as Pluto...), as well as one of the most mysterious (it's something like the second most distant thing in the system we know about other than comets) given the same name as the one in Damocles. I hope he got to hear about that.

  2. yeah i didn't hear this sad news until later, hence the addition update I posted near the top.