Prince of Persia released


Many thanks to the readers who’ve been following and commenting on my old journals. Originally, I’d planned to end the feature here — in October 1989, with the release of Apple II Prince of Persia, four years in the making.

Now that we’ve reached that milestone, though, I realize that no self-respecting storyteller would end at such a critical moment, with my worst fears about the game’s commercial prospects soon to be horribly confirmed. So I’ll let my 20-years-younger self keep on blogging from the past a while longer.

Meanwhile, here are answers to some nostalgia-oriented readers’ questions — this one from Ugur Mengilli:

In which programming language was PoP written?

From Nabil Nawaz:

What language did you program Karateka in? How long did it take to code the game?

I coded both Karateka and POP in 6502 assembly language. Looks like this:

CLRMEM  LDA #$00        ;Set up zero value
        TAY             ;Initialize index pointer
CLRM1   STA (TOPNT),Y   ;Clear memory location
        INY             ;Advance index pointer
        DEX             ;Decrement counter
        BNE CLRM1       ;Not zero, continue checking
        RTS             ;Return

Karateka took me about two years and POP four. Both were significantly slowed down by other things I was attempting at the same time (like finishing college, and writing my first screenplay), as the old journals show.

For true die-hards (thanks, Maurice Kaltofen, for tipping me off to the existence of this site), and anyone who’s interested, I’ve posted the POP source code documentation here.

From Sam Assenberg:

I am Sam and I still play the original Prince of Persia almost every day. I’m a big fan of you and Prince of Persia!

Soon, Prince of Persia exists 20 year and we, my uncle and I, are planning a Prince of Persia anniversary! He played it during a few years after it had been released and I started to play when I was about seven years old, almost nine years ago. We love it very much.

We’ve searched all over the web for the exact release date of PoP (we need that for the anniversary), but we couldn’t find  it. And that’s our question for you: when has PoP been released exactly?

I had to check the old journals myself to find the answer. The first Apple II version was published in the U.S. on October 3, 1989. So, still six months away. Thanks, Sam and your uncle, for reminding me!

If you’d like to read the old journals from the beginning, they start here.

Posted on May 3, 2009 in Blog, Games, Making Games, Old School, Prince of Persia | 21 comments


  1. 5-4-2009

    While I think the programming and art pipeline work of the original PoP would be almost trivial these days, I did notice from the journal that the game’s design did take a long time to take shape.. how long would you think the project would take nowadays? Four to six months?

  2. 5-5-2009

    I’m really glad that you’ve decided to extend your old journals blog life, I’ve been following it pretty actively.

    Although the posts are mostly POP oriented, I really enjoy the personal, introspective part of it. I’m 26 years old now so I find myself identifying a lot with the personal feelings, philosophies and views you had back then. It’s been very enjoying to read this great story of our hero’s journey, with all his ups and downs, his human fears and flaws.

    I bet that it must be great for you going back, realizing how much (or how less) you’ve changed, what have you learned (or sadly forget) since then, it’s like getting to be your younger self’s shrink. Reading it makes me want to start writing my own journal. Keep ‘em coming! :)

    • 5-7-2009

      Most often it makes me want to go back and slap my younger self silly and point out the screamingly obvious opportunities right in front of me. Glad you’re enjoying it.

  3. 5-6-2009

    @Sol_HSA – I have to wonder what you are asking.

    Of course digitizing the video is trivial now and we have far better tools for editing the images. A game engine that was difficult to produce on the Apple due to memory, storage, graphic, and tool constraints is now, yes, trivial to produce.

    Using modern tools, you can create a POP clone in a couple of weeks. Or less.

    But that’s not the point. How long does it take for you to come up with an original game play idea? Push the boundaries of what people think is possible from a game? Create something that is iconic, loved by many, and still remembered 20 years later?

    And remember this is a one-man team without a lot of pressure on him, so you have to factor in 4-6 months just for playing WoW or, more likely, Left 4 Dead.

  4. 5-6-2009

    @Michael: I am, by no means, belittling the achievement that PoP is (not was – is), and to recreate it, as is, would probably only take a couple weeks. But that’s because the design is already done =)

    What I’m pondering is, if all the work that took a long time was taken away, and only the design work remained, how long would it have taken.. Of course, you can’t compress several years’ worth random ponderings while waiting for lights to turn green, discussions at lunch and late nights staring at the ceiling into a few weeks of “concentrated” design effort.

  5. 5-18-2009

    I am really happy that you’ve decided to extend the blogs as well. I’ve been keeping up with them for the past few months. I have really enjoyed them.

    I was wondering did you do a journal for your other games like The Last Express and Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame?

    Thank you for sharing your journals! Also do you have anything in mind for the 20th anniversary of the original PoP?

  6. 5-21-2009

    First, thanks for the game Jordan. I remember when I got PoP for my Apple IIGS on my 15th birthday, and the first night of playing it was completely magical. And so were the 1000s that have since followed!

    I just pointed out your old PoP journal to an Apple II friend (a guy who has written the majority of Apple II game FAQs at for reasons Fred_PJ has mentioned above in this blog. I found it to be an inspiring read, combining Apple II history and ancedotes with empirical stuff about game development at the time, and just your growing up and ‘trying to work out some wisdom’ experiences. I’m in my early thirties now.

    Funnily enough, what made me think of PoP tonight was thinking of its box art, which I always loved. The reason I was thinking of the box art was that I had just spent an evening trying to chase up box art for another old Apple II game, ‘Fortress of the Witch King’, which also has a brunette beauty on its cover. So obviously I was chuffed to read all this stuff in your journal about the battle over PoP game’s cover image, etc.

    I have one question if you feel like answering it. At the time you wrote the journal, you felt the PC version of PoP would be the whizbang, hi-tech one. I remember when I first played the PC version at a friend’s house, not long after it came out, I didn’t like it much at all, visually. Now I know I was a kid and I was gorged on the first one, but years later, I still perceive that the Apple version has a kind of incredible liquidity in the animation that no ports ever reproduced. As soon as anyone drew an outline around the characters, that quality seemed to evaporate. My own assessment of it is that it’s the fact that the prince is nearly all one colour in the Apple, and has no outline. I feel like it has something to do with perception and persistence, etc., but it just looks so creepily fluid on the Apple. Have you felt anything like that in the years that have since passed, or did you always feel that the first PC version looked better?

  7. 5-27-2009

    I really enjoyed reading your journal. Wish it kept on going. Would love to see what happened to some of those people. Do you own the source code to the Apple II version POP? or just the name/story? If you own the source code, it would be very educational for others to get a look at it.


    • 5-28-2009

      I do have the Apple II source code — but it’s on 5 1/4″ disks in ProDos/Merlin assembler format.

      If any readers have an old Apple II with the necessary hardware, and would like to volunteer to figure out how to to transfer the source code to text files, I’d be grateful and would gladly post the result. I’d be curious to see that code again myself, after almost 20 years. Feel free to pass this on.

      • 6-18-2009

        I’m volunteering. I have all the necessary hardware and will figure out how to transfer the Merlin source code files to text files.


      • 7-7-2011

        Hi Jordan,

        We’re all still waiting for the game (DOS and Apple versions) to be open-sourced, just as others like Doom etc. have been.

        Any ETA on this?

  8. 6-1-2009

    Ah, if only I had asked this a year ago.
    At that time, I had the necessary hardware and converted all of my old disks into image files so that I could see them again.
    I will ask around to see if I can find someone to do the same here.
    It would be wonderful to see the code.

  9. 6-1-2009

    While I think of it – there’s a program called Disk2FDI. It can convert Apple II disks to image files with no need for special hardware. All it needs is an IBM-compatible PC with a standard 5.25″ drive and a standard 3.5″ drive connnected. Of course, that is rare now, but it’s still better than trying to find a CatWeasel card.

  10. 6-6-2009

    Send Jordan a private message offering to do the transfer. Hope to get this rolling soon.

  11. 6-25-2009

    What’s the status of this? Did Jordan reply?

    I’m in the middle of reverse-engineering the code of the Apple II version myself, and would appreciate a look at the source to confirm some of the assumptions I made.

  12. 7-29-2009

    Nothing yet. We’re still waiting for Jordan to become less busy… :-)

    • 8-11-2009

      I can understand that… In the meantime I’m making good progress anyway.

  13. 2-28-2010

    how i can find it i want play it :)

  14. 7-7-2013

    hello, I’ve been playing PoP 1 since 1990/91 on PC, I don’t need to tell you what a revolution it was when it came out, I was a kid back then, it was shocking, in a good way, the game trapped me for hours and hours… I had a no-hard drive old PC and I used to dream about “when I get my first hard disk, a 40 mb one, that should be enough for life!, I’m going to have the c:\games\prince directory and no more abuse on the poor floppy disks!!!”, hahaha, I had a green monochromatic monitor back then, CGA graphics card, 640kb of ram, it was a 10mhz processor, only pc speaker, no sound blaster, and the game was awesome. when I got a color monitor it looked funny….. the colors were not right….. like purple….. it was supposed to be like that, I know, the CGA pallettes are awful. I swear the game looked better on the green mono monitor than on the color cga one!!, hahaha.
    anyway, thank you for creating the game, congratulations for making history, and…….. I’m still waiting for the real prince of persia 3 :) I want to know the answers to the unresolved stuff from the shadow and the flame!!.

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