The Making of Prince of Persia The Making of Karateka

Download a free PDF sample of the first 53 pages of the new hardcover edition of The Making of Prince of Persia.

Dive behind the scenes with the creator of Prince of Persia in this deluxe illustrated edition of his journals.

Before Prince of Persia was a best-selling video game franchise and a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, it was an Apple II computer game created and programmed by one person, Jordan Mechner. Mechner's candid and revealing journals from the time capture his journey from his parents' basement to the forefront of the fast-growing 1980s video game industry... and the creative, technical and personal struggles that brought the prince into being and ultimately into the homes of millions of people worldwide.

Now, Stripe Press celebrates Prince of Persia's 30th anniversary and enduring legacy with a hardcover collector's edition, annotated and lavishly illustrated with archival visuals illustrating stages of the game's creation.

"Mechner's journals are a unique record from the birth of an industry, in the words of one of its pioneers — and if that's all they were, they would be invaluable. But The Making of Prince of Persia is also an unvarnished window into the creative process, with all its excitement, toil, setbacks, doubts and triumphs. A fantastic read."

—D.B. Weiss
Writer, co-creator of HBO's Game of Thrones

"When an industry is brand-new, its innovators are generally so busy creating the future that they rarely have time to document the present. Luckily, Jordan Mechner did. With these journals, we can track the development of Prince of Persia from a few penciled squiggles to a global franchise. For anyone aspiring to create a game — or any endeavor that takes months and man-hours — Jordan's journal is sobering and inspiring."

John August
Screenwriter, author, host of Scriptnotes podcast

"Probably my favorite book on game development."

—Neil Druckmann
Writer and Director of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4

"Prince of Persia was the first computer game I ever fell in love with. Thirty years on, we are very lucky to have this window into its creative process. Mechner's journey is a universal one for anyone creating something brand new, and it brought me back to the early, crazy days of building Instagram. The engineer in me loved his description of the technical challenges and solutions, and the entrepreneur in me loved the honest chronicle of his emotional adventure. I'm excited to get to revisit these journals in newly illustrated form."

—Mike Krieger
co-founder of Instagram

In Jordan's Words: About the Old Journals

I started keeping a journal in college, and kept it up for many years afterward. During those years I created my first games, Karateka and Prince of Persia, on an Apple II computer.

Rereading these notebooks years later, it occurred to me that others might find them of interest — even if the meant-to-be-private musings of my 17-to-28-year-old self can occasionally make me wince.

These journals are a raw, present-tense record of my journey making those games in the 1980s.

The Making of Karateka covers the years 1982-1985, and The Making of Prince of Persia covers the years 1985-1993.

To celebrate Prince of Persia's 30th anniversary this year, I've worked with Stripe Press on a new illustrated, hardcover collector's edition of my original "Making Of" journals. You can read my posts about the genesis of this project and latest updates below. The book is now available for preorder.

Hot off the presses!

The new Stripe Press edition of my "Making of Prince of Persia” journals will be released on April 28, 2020 — 30 years to the month after the first PC release. (I can't tell you the exact date in April 1990 it shipped, because I didn’t write it in my journal. I might have been busy celebrating, or maybe sleeping.)

Update: You can pre-order it now.

Sheets are coming off the presses as I write this. The binding is hardcover, and a pleasure to the touch. I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.

A big thank you to everyone who sent in stories and images for the “Legacy” chapter. Your contributions added up to a full-color, 32-page special section at the end of the book, highlighting moments in the prince’s 30-year (so far) journey since the original game’s release. The whole book clocks in at 336 pages, with work-in-progress sketches, screen shots, and visuals illustrating the stages of the game’s creation.

We’ll be doing a giveaway of 10 signed advance copies, so you can have a chance to win and receive your copy a month before the pub date. I’ll post details on Instagram when the contest opens, on or around March 9.

Note: The paperback first edition of The Making of Prince of Persia will be withdrawn from sale and replaced by the new hardcover edition.

Meanwhile, here's my journal entry from 30 years ago:


Collecting a fan legacy

The Prince of Persia book project is going full steam ahead. I've spent enjoyable hours combing the Strong Museum collection for images to illustrate my old journals, while book designer Tyler Thompson has been developing exciting design concepts.

It felt right to end the book in 1992, when Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame signed out of QA. After that, a decade would go by before I'd be hands-on again in the creation of a Prince of Persia title — joining Ubisoft in Montreal to make PoP: The Sands of Time, then pitching it to Disney/Bruckheimer as a movie.

But a 30th-anniversary collector's edition wouldn't be complete without some kind of acknowledgement of the prince's subsequent adventures. So Stripe and I decided to add a "legacy" chapter: a kind of scrapbook of the prince's odyssey since 1992.

We have mementos of the episodes I was involved in, but what I really want to see are things that aren't in the Strong's collection. Like this fan-made Prince of Persia LEGO, which I love. (If you're the person who created it, I hope you'll read this and submit it for the book.)

We're reaching out to you for submissions. If you feel inspired to share a souvenir of a Prince of Persia-related moment in your life — whether as a gamer, fan, artist, programmer, collector, cosplayer, dev-team member, or other capacity — please send it! We'd like to see photos, art, screen shots, anything that could fit on a book page.

Because time is short, and Stripe's book design staff is small, we ask you to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Send submissions by email to: pop30@jordanmechner.com
  • Image attachments only, ideally 300-600dpi.
  • Please only send images that are yours (photos you took, or something you created). If it was a work for hire or someone else controls the rights, let us know who.
  • The text of the email should include your name, where you live, and explain the context or story of the image, in 1001 words or less.
  • One email per submission.

There's a good chance we'll receive more submissions than we have manpower or bandwidth to acknowledge. Here's the deal:

  • We'll choose a selection to include in the book.
  • If we choose yours, we'll reply, and ask you to sign a release. As a thank-you, we'll send you an autographed copy of the book once it's printed. This courtesy copy is the only compensation we can offer.
  • Submissions that don't fit in the book might get posted on Instagram @pop30anniv, @jmechner, and/or jordanmechner.com.
  • We won't be able to answer follow-up emails, individual messages, or questions. (Especially if they're about when and what the next Prince of Persia game will be. I promise that when I have info to share on that subject, I'll post it.)

Thanks for playing! I'm excited to see what you'll send.

Meanwhile, here's my journal entry from 30 years ago:


A 30th anniversary note to Prince of Persia fans

Thirty years ago today, I was at my Apple II, crunching on a six-week deadline to finish Prince of Persia by mid-July to ship in September.

I know this because I wrote it in my journal. If I hadn't, those details would have long since faded from my memory, along with the 6502 hex op codes I once knew by heart.

In 1989, I could never have imagined that Prince of Persia would last this long — much less have foreseen it being ported to a future generation of game consoles from the makers of the Walkman. (Or to the big screen by the producer of Beverly Hills Cop.)

To all of you who've played, watched, and supported PoP over the years — thank you! I've been especially moved by the things you've shared about the ways PoP has touched your lives. Your kind and encouraging words have been an inspiration to me.

Many of you have asked when there will be a new PoP game (or movie, or TV series). If you feel that it's been a long time since the last one, you're not alone. I wish I had a magic dagger to accelerate the process — it would have been poetic to time a major game announcement with this 30th-anniversary year. But I'm only a small part of a bigger picture.

There is one PoP announcement I can make, and am happy to share with you. Stripe Press, an imprint specializing in books about innovation and technological advancement, will publish a hardcover collector's edition of "The Making of Prince of Persia" — my 1980s original game development journals, newly illustrated with notes, sketches, work-in-progress screen shots, and as many visual features as we have the bandwidth to add by our target "gold master" date of September 2019 (30 years after Apple II PoP signed out of Broderbund QA). Oh, and there'll be an audiobook.

What I cherish about books

For me as a kid who dreamed of creating mass entertainment, in the pre-internet days, when you still needed a printing press to make a book and a film lab to make a movie, the Apple II was a game-changer: a technological innovation that empowered every user to innovate. Suddenly, I didn't need adult permission (or funding) to tell a story of adventure that might reach thousands — and ultimately millions — of people.

That direct connection between author and public is still possible today for small indie games — and for books. By contrast, making a major movie or AAA game requires millions of dollars and hundreds of people. It's a thrilling ride, and the rewards can be great, but by nature it's beyond the scope of what one person or even a tight-knit creative team can accomplish alone.

So it felt very much in the magical 8-bit spirit when Stripe's co-founder Patrick Collison emailed me to propose this book, and less than two months later, we're doing it. For me personally, in the midst of longer-term projects whose announcement is still a ways off, it's refreshing to add one whose timeline is reckoned in months rather than years.

In 2012, when the PoP source code disks I thought I'd lost turned up in my dad's closet, I discovered that an incredible retro-gaming fan and archivist community has been keeping the flame of early game development knowledge alive.

The Internet Archive and Strong Museum of Play (which houses work materials and artifacts from my past projects) are already on board to help us make the collector's edition of "The Making of Prince of Persia" as feature-rich as possible.

As we move toward beta, we'll document and share our progress online via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. With luck, we'll be able to bring boxes of printed hardcover books to PAX East in spring 2020 — 30 years after the PC release of Prince of Persia (which is the one most people remember). I hope to see many of you there in person.

Until then, here's a fateful time-capsule post (and photo) from the week PoP went alpha, thirty years ago. Reading it now, the drollest part is that I still thought (as usual) I was about two weeks from the finish line.

And then there's the mullet.

Join the anniversary celebration:

Jordan's Journals: Free Downloads

Download a free PDF sample of the first 53 pages of the new hardcover edition of The Making of Prince of Persia.

Resources for a Deeper Dive

For readers interested in the nuts and bolts of game development, Jordan has posted archival materials to supplement his "Making Of" journals. Links to these resources are provided below.

The Apple II Prince of Persia source code is on github. Jordan has also posted an explanatory technical document (PDF) to help those wishing to study the code.

"Jordan's journals are remarkable. I so wish I had kept a similar record. Reading them transports me back to that place and time. We all knew this was an exciting new industry, but I don't think we had any clue what it was going to turn into during our careers. There were no schools, no books, no theories covering what we were doing. Everyone was just figuring it out on their own. Following Jordan's creative path is a great example of how to go with your own gut instinct. It's also a great inspiration, showing how persistence and determination can lead to unexpected and wonderful results."

—Will Wright
Game designer, creator of The Sims

"Mechner's journals are a time machine that takes us back to an era when ambitious young creators were making strange new video games all by themselves and making up the rules as they went. It is not a retrospective; instead, it is a present-tense diary written by the creator throughout the creation of his most influential work. It is a humbling and inspiring record of what it was like to make one of the best video games of all time. I love these journals."

—Adam "Atomic" Saltsman
Game designer, creator of Canabalt

The Making of Prince of Persia The Making of Karateka