Revisiting The Shadow and the Flame

Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame was released for PCs in 1993 — three years after the prince’s original Apple II debut, and a full decade before his leap to 21st-century consoles with PoP: The Sands of Time. I’ve posted a lot about my work process on the other PoPs, but almost nothing about this one.

To jog my memory, I dug out of my archives the game design “bible” I created for the PoP2 dev team in 1991. It’s a curious artifact of that era; you can download the PDF (19MB) if you’re interested.

Why I hate bibles, and made one anyway

POP2 sliding wallThere was no “bible” for the original PoP. That game evolved over four years in an organic process of improvisation, trial and error. The level design — the balance of action, exploration and combat that gave the game its particular flavor — came together only in the final few months. I had the liberty to do it that way because I was game designer, animator, and programmer, working on my own with no fixed timetable or budget.

Writing a detailed 200-page bible, then handing it to a team and saying “Make this” is the complete opposite way to start a project, and it’s almost always a terrible idea. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But that’s how PoP2 was made. It worked because of a peculiar combination of reasons:

  • I’d already made PoP1. The idea for PoP2 was to basically make PoP 1.5: keep the existing PoP1 code, animation, and gameplay, add souped-up graphics, a few new twists, traps and enemies, and build twelve new levels. Designing the entire game on paper was possible because it was just similar enough to the original that everyone could easily imagine how it would look, sound and feel to play.
  • I was 3,000 miles away. The team was in California, and I was living in New York, about to move to Paris. In those pre-internet days, communication was by fax and long-distance phone calls, with game builds and data sent on floppy disks in DHL envelopes. I knew I wouldn’t be on site often enough to permit fast iteration and tight feedback loops. So it made sense to spell everything out ahead of time.
  • We had a budget. Broderbund was a conservative studio and PoP2 was the biggest internal game project they’d ever done. They were already nervous about doing such a graphics-intensive project, and wouldn’t have signed off on it without a design document that gave them confidencehorse that the cost estimates were solid.
  • The team actually followed the bible. If the on-site team had included a creative director, my bible would have been obsolete by month two. Games evolve so quickly that any design that gets put on paper is usually out of date by the time anyone reads it. This is why making a detailed bible is usually a waste of time. PoP2 was the rare situation where the studio and team were united in wanting to faithfully execute the design I gave them — and I was safely off-site where there was less danger I might get inspired to improve it.

For all these reasons, it made sense to have a bible. It’s interesting to read it now and see how it compares to the final game. There were cuts and trims, for the usual budget/schedule reasons (the blow-by-blow story of the game development is in the second volume of my old journals) — but I’m most struck by how much was kept, and how faithfully it was executed.

The Shadow and the Flame burns again

To the many readers who have posted asking for a version of The Shadow and The Flame to play on mobile devices, I’m happy to report that Ubisoft has just announced a modern “remastered” version for smartphones and tablets.

The mobile Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame will feature updated graphics, sound, and touch controls in the spirit of Prince of Persia Classic, rather than a direct port of the original like 2010′s Prince of Persia Retro. Here’s a link to the trailer. For myself, I’m looking forward to trying to beat the game again, twenty years later.

Questions & Answers (Spoiler Alert!)


POP2 tower
Having recently visited memory lane, I can now answer the following questions posed by readers about Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame. Thanks to Jose and Rishi for asking!

Q: Who is that old lady that is shown at the end of the game? I’ve always wanted to know that.

A: Ah, the Old Witch. In the final shot, after the prince and princess have defeated Jaffar and are flying off on a magic horse to live happily ever after, we pull back to reveal they’re being watched in a crystal ball by a sinister old hag. Tattooed on her forehead is a serpent-S symbol. Observant players may recognize that symbol from earlier in the game, as graffiti scrawled on the walls of the ruined city, presumably by the marauding army that sacked it.

oldwitchThat’s the peril of cliffhanger endings: I wrote PoP2 thinking there was going to be a PoP3… but then there wasn’t. (PoP3D doesn’t count.) In that never-written third game, the Old Witch would have been the primary antagonist. She’s the arch-villainess who gave Jaffar his powers, the one behind the slaughter of the prince’s parents and sacking of his home city, and whom he is destined to vanquish one day. The serpent-S is the symbol of the evil god she serves. (Apologies to Tolkien, Wagner, Lucas, etc. It was the nineties.)

Q: And what about that fire sword in the red castle, and that little man who comes when you get locked in a level (I don’t remember which) and opens the gate to allow you to escape?

A: The Temple of Fire was built to house the sacred blue flame, a very ancient magic. The traps and bird-headed priests are there to protect it. The flaming sword that fights by itself is one of those traps, placed there to guard a door.

The tiny man in the bottle is a Djinn. The original idea was that when you opened the bottle, he would grow into a fearsome giant and attack you. As I recall, we had to cut the giant Djinn for budget reasons. If you’ve played the game recently enough to remember what the final implementation was, please remind me — but I think in the end, we may have had him just run away and accidentally step on the switch to open the gate as a bit of comic relief. It’s just the stub of what he was originally planned to be.

Posted on Apr 11, 2013 in Blog, Games, Making Games, Old School, Prince of Persia | 51 comments

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  1. 4-11-2013

    We are really worried about Prince of Persia, Ubisoft seems not to care anymore and they focus on Assassins Creed only. This year is Sands Of Time 10th anniversary and they don´t seem to be planning anything to celebrate it. And next year 25th anniversary for the whole saga, and it´s paused!

    When will we get a POP game like the Sands of Time one, a great game? We´re losing hope. And Ubi doesn´t even care. :(

    We want POP back, we want the Prince back to his throne.

    • 4-11-2013

      Thanks Cristina, I’m really grateful for such loyalty from you and the PoP fans who have been waiting for so long. I wish the same, and I promise that as soon as there’s news to share about a new PoP game, I’ll post it right here!

      • 4-11-2013

        Thank you Jordan for all the updates!

      • 4-11-2013

        Thanks for replying, but do you really think that POP has a future in Ubisoft with Assassins Creed there? They only focus on it. Every time the E3 or any other game event arrives we get some hope because of rumors we see, but then we only get dissapointed because we get nothing from POP. We see other games grow, continue their legacy and growing better, but what about POP? It has become a ghost of the past. A memory. And this game doesn´t deserve that. No way. We want POP back.

        So, in the name of the POP Fans (and, specially the spanish ones I try to reach with my fansite) we ask you to contact Ubisoft and make them bring us POP back! Please!

      • 7-17-2013

        I was hoping that the devs were thinking of revisiting the Sands Of time Trilogy as “The Prince”.maybe a new trilogy that continues after two thrones or something. Any info about that?

    • 4-11-2013

      We want POP back, we want the Prince back to his throne !

  2. 4-11-2013

    Great article Jordan, thanks :)
    I have one question about it. I love the first Prince on PC. The second was great but I love the first one much more so I don’t know the second one by heart as the first one.
    The question is, where exactly can I find the Djinn? I don’t remember I ever foud it and I am sure I’ve beat the game on PC, on SNES and on Mac.

    • 4-19-2013

      U can watch the Walk through videos on YouTube. The Second last Level which has RED Brick walls.

  3. 4-11-2013

    what a kind of shit Assasian creeed is,and this shit is being made popular by ubisoft. in originality , it dosent deserve anything. three years gone since we saved a kingdom! and we are eagerly waiting to save another kinhdom . yes, i am talking about prince of persia, my favourite game series of which i am crazy about, in real life too. ubisoft ignores our questions on prince of persia next release.. they dont cares. no one cares .not even u jordon :-(

  4. 4-11-2013

    hi jordan, I’m a big fan from argentina, Ive been playin prince of persia since I was 5, 24 years ago.
    I think that prince of persia 2 was the ultimate pop experience, the level designs and the feel of the game is amazing. Im super excited to read the game’s bible!

    hope that this new mobile version doesn’t suck!!

  5. 4-11-2013

    I must the the only dolt in the universe who liked Prince of Persia 3D. :)

    • 4-19-2013

      Prince of Persia 3d is a gr8 game. The Music is Awesome and the green graphic in Level 3 and the blue one in Level 2 (Ivory one) was amazing. You are among those people who know the true value of unknown gr8 stuff which people dont pay attention to. Pop 3d was really amazing game but due to bugs and glitches the game does not run properly in Windows 7 or 8. That’s bad….

  6. 4-11-2013

    Hi Jordan! Here there’s the most important fansite in Spain about Prince of Persia. All news, curiosities, games and a lot of things about your great creation. Get into and see how we love your work. I say you thanks very much in name of us for all the hours of fun you give us. We hope you like it and if you want to participate you’ll be welcome :)

  7. 4-11-2013

    P.S Click in my name for get into the page. Sorry, this page don’t let me to write the link. :)

  8. 4-11-2013

    I’m so happy that sir Mechner is grateful to us PoP fans… Our loyalty can never be equaled…

  9. 4-11-2013

    I’m ecstatic over this remake, playing PoP2 with my dad is one of my first video game memories ever(I was born in ’89); best of luck with its launch and know that you’ll be featured on PGR in the next couple of hours.

  10. 4-12-2013

    Hello!

    You mentioned a third game was never actually written, but did you have any more concrete plans for it (perhaps plot-wise), that you could reveal to us here? Already, I’m super excited by that little old witch titbit.

  11. 4-12-2013

    Hi Jordan, I have a doubt, I am from Colombia and I want to buy prince of persia in the Xbox live market (the prince of persia retro), but this game is not allowed for my region…is there any reason for that? I really want to play again the “old prince of persia” but I can´t do it… and my another question is.. this POP 2 game will be only on mobile devies or will be ported to Xbox too. Thanks!!!

  12. 4-12-2013

    Hi Jordan, thank you so much for answering my questions! I’d been waiting for years to know this, and I must say this is more than I expected. I’m really glad you could read me and took your time to write this. Just some more questions: you mentioned that you thought there was going to be a PoP3; why did the project failed or was canceled? Have you thought recently about working on it? I don’t think it would be that hard with all the tech we have now and I know fans of classic PoP would love it (at least Morgonkaffe(suger) and I would).
    Thank you again for your answers and sorry for my English, I’m from Perú and I haven’t had to use it in a lot of time.

    • 4-19-2013

      I had 386 PC when I played Prince 1. Prince 2 in Win 3.11 had loads of error but later I found that the game was corrupt. I was only able to see the Cinematic in the beginning and then there was a popup: Insufficient far memory. When I got a good non-corrupt version, I was disappointed because I thought the game would be like “Disney’s Aladdin”. I loved Prince Of Persia 1 so I took the sequel as OK but later after playing it several times, I fell in love with this game & so till now I have huge collection of Prince Stuff. Mr Mechner does not even know I have his signed Autograph which he did it for me in Pop Movie premier in London… I ♥ Prince of Persia and Jordan Mechner.

  13. 4-13-2013

    Thank you for this article Mr. Mechner, I always wanted to know what was the deal with the old witch.

    Have you thought about making POP3 in today’s gaming world? The last few years have proved that side-scrollers are back in full force, indie games like Super Meat Boy, Braid, Fez, Deadlight, Machinarium, Limbo, And Yet It Moves, Mark of the Ninja and many others have won many awards and also sold pretty good.
    I don’t think there’s any POP fan out there that wouldn’t buy an indie POP3 sidescroller made by you with today’s technology. Please give it a thought, please. (also click my name)

    • 4-19-2013

      This is actually a great idea, I hope it will catch the eye of you, Mr. Mechner.

      Personally what I also dearly miss is a re-release of the original PoP 1 and PoP 2 Shadow and the Flame on today’s machines. The Mac versions of these two games still look good visually because of the high quality 2D art in them and I honestly think those specific versions should be ported to PC / modern Mac for a release on Steam or GOG, even on mobile platforms. While I do think this new remake is suited for a mobile market it’s just bad it does not even remotely resemble the original art style and I see it as a mistake from Ubi that they do not care about the original games in an era when countless other old titles are successfully sold digitally. Some of them actually are so successful that their creators even started making sequels to them (recent example being Planescape Torment which was a flop in its time of original release and now is a top seller almost every day on GOG).

    • 6-29-2013

      I agree, a great idea to conclude the original trilogy. Would surely support a kickstarter like that, especially if it comes to current-gen consoles.

      Anyway, is this new version also planned for PSN like the Prince of Persia: Classics?

  14. 4-14-2013

    Mr. Mechner, I’ve been a PoP fan since I was a child and Shadow and the Flame is actually my favourite entry so thank you for ending the mistery behind the witch. :D

    I would be excited about the remake but there’s no chance I’ll be playing it as a PC gamer: PoP Classic was never released on PC so I guess this one will share the same fate.

  15. 4-25-2013

    I’ve been a huge fan of Prince of Persia since it came out when I was a child. Shadow and the Flame is my favorite in the series. I thought it was incredibly innovative and different from the original and yet extremely familiar and comfortable at the same time. Very few game sequels do that nowadays but it seems you and Broderbund had it down. It is an incredible piece of work, truly.

    I would love to have POP1 & 2 republished on PC again (I’m pretty sure I bought it 10 years+ ago on my mac but I can’t play it on a modern mac anymore). I would snap up a new copy in an instant! I don’t know how much sway you have in that, but I beg of you to consider it.
    Thanks for these treasures.

  16. 5-1-2013

    I have spent my entire childhood playing this game.
    Even my mother used to play this game.

    Everyone was so happy when i caught the horse and went to the eagle castle.

    My best is 14 minutes remaining.

    Thanks a ton.

  17. 5-6-2013

    Just wanted to say thank you for the greatest game – series that i ve ever seen/played in my life.
    I’m very happy that a new PoP game is about to be released and just like Cristina, i just can’t wait for a new PoP game. Maybe a sequel to the Legendary shadow and the flame! ..It’s my favorite! :)

  18. 5-13-2013

    Those two POP games were the best and it’s sad that there weren’t POP3 back there as the finish of that original trilogy (with the best plot, ah how I like that intro from POP2 and other video moments), as Prince couldn’t avenge his parents death (burn that witch!), as for the snake shaped symbol, I got at the first time when I’ve completed that game, that she is responsible of all problems that have happened to the prince… BTW, it was interesting to know, are those flying woman heads were trying to painfully kiss him or they were trying to eat him (also, I wanted to know, if those creatures were transformed from original people of this city or there were just dark creatures that have killed all people there?). Anyway, it would be really cool to get that part (POP3) in real (it would be cool if it could make Ubisoft interested in to make it). And for final, I’ve read in Wiki that there is some big PDF released that have a lot of info about POP2 game (I still two first POP games (new ones also – on Steam, but I’ve not played them yet) them somewhere and even replayed POP2 two years ago at old PC that could run it normally), but I’ve not found it. Anyway, thank you very much for those games as the new ones aren’t that Prince of Persia, as it’s not a fairytale, as it was before, but that is my opinion (I read about their plot and so on).

    • 5-13-2013

      Ah, found that PDF, thank you for that…

      • 6-1-2013

        I’ve read some of that POP2 bible and so I’ve got some answers for most of my questions. I knew when I’ve started to play that game that it was cut in some places (as it usually happens with the other games), but in reality it was butchered too much for my expectations, cause there were a lots of interesting ideas which were cut off from it (as the time and budget was short for this game and that was a pity). Anyway, even with out those things it was (and still is) a really cool game (not only for that time being when it got into the light).

  19. 5-23-2013

    i am a pop fan this is a awesome game

  20. 6-27-2013

    what story of the ruined city in prince and The Shadow and the Flame

  21. 7-3-2013

    Hi Jordan! I’m a huge fan of your PoP games. I would like PoP and PoP 2: The Shadow And The Flame for PC!!!
    It would be great if we can get back these amazing games for PC too.

  22. 7-27-2013

    Hello Mr. Mechner. Greetings from Russia. Thank You a lot for information about PoP2 ending.
    And yes, there will be awesome, if PoP3 will be created by You.

  23. 9-8-2013

    Hi Mr. Jordan. I’m a huge brazilian fan of the entire series and I’ve played POP since my childhood. POP 2 is at the top of the original series. Any chances about writing and being involved in a third game to finish the original trilogy? The fans (including me) would love It, even being released in a new generation console.

  24. 9-19-2013

    Hello Mr. Mechner, fantastic to leave a comment on a blog of a person whose name I remember seeing on the screen so often back in early 90′s, when I was mesmerised by Prince of Persia :) The best things about these games is those unusual objects you would meet after familiarising yourself with repeating elements… Like the carpet, or mirror in the first one… Modern games are too filled with events and objects, they don’t make such an impact. But I never could finish POP2, it was too difficult for me. I’ve recently discovered a Mac version of this game with MUCH better graphics than the DOS version. Did you know of this version, or was it done without your involvement? I really wish it were re-released, because it’s practically unplayable on modern machines. I didn’t realise there was supposed to be a third game, and I share the hopes of other commenters that you would be involved in its creation if such event would happen.

    • 9-21-2013

      Have you tried virtual box to emulate the hardware?

    • 9-26-2013

      Michael — thanks for the kind note! I honestly don’t remember who did the Mac version of POP2 or whether I supervised it, but I’m sure seeing it again would jog my memory.

      It’s ironic that old Mac games are pretty much impossible to play on Macs today, whereas old MS-DOS games can usually be played on Mac with a DOS box emulator.

  25. 10-14-2013

    Thanks for answering who the witch was, I’ve been wondering that for nearly 10 years!!!!!

  26. 11-8-2013

    Excellent! Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame, is my favorite DOS’s game! It is a pleasure for me, read this kind of “making of” of those 2 Prince of Persia classics. I very admire your work!

  27. 11-8-2013

    I remember playing Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame in 1994. Difficult game to complete, but, worth every retry along the way.

    Having to execute those precise, flowing steps to mount the horse was brilliant. I also recall thinking there was a bug in game because it seemed impossible to cross the bridge defended by the skeletons. Ended up buying the game guide at Egghead software (in Culver City, LA) just to find out how to get past that point. Even after reading about the solution, it still took some time to master the sequence and positioning before the bridge collapsed.

    Looking forward to reading the POP 2 [design] bible, as well as the Making of Prince of Persia.

    The iphone/iPad “remaster” seems to have spirited some cool POP nostalgia.

    -e

    • 11-24-2013

      Just played and finished POP 2 S&F (v1.1) under DOSBOX after over 10+ years! Great game that stands the test of time. As one review back in the day said “Cruel & Merciless”, but, an amazing game none the less. Favorite levels are 9 (Flying Horse) and 11 (Temple Level).

      Interesting this time around. I discovered a floater potion on level 13 that was hidden under the area where you do a long run to get to the 2nd part of the level just before you acquire the Blue Flame.

      Read through most of the POP2 design bible. Would have been great if the game had included some of the things mentioned, but, did not make it into the final release. Being able to get potions off guards in the earlier levels would have been interesting, but, would have made the game a bit easier. The genie sections described in the document would also have been very cool.

      Interesting that DOSBOX, by default doubles the MCGA (320×200, 256 colors) resolution. I temp. modified the preferences file and ran in 320×200 on my Mac Cinema display (2560×1600). Looked like a postage stamp in that mode. :-)

      Would love to see a direct sequel to pop2. Assuming at some point, UBISOFT will be releasing another game on the new console, e.g., PS4/XBox one.

      Jordan: did UBISOFT buy the rights to POP?
      -e

      • 12-13-2013

        Been running POP2 S&F under Boxer (wrapper around dosbox). Most compelling highlight is that setting the CPU speed to max (from 3000 cycles to emulate a 386-era machine), yields instantaneous side-screen transitions, and near instantaneous cut-scene animation loading. At the end of Level 9, when you make that last jump to the Horse Statue, there is zero delay, and the jump results in an immediate transition to the horse-rearing animation with the prince on it’s back. Very Cool! When playing at emulated speed, there is a very noticeable delay before that transition happens. Other places as well, where the instant side-scrolling to next screen makes it much easier to execute a last minute jump etc. Very smooth. And no other, [negative] effects on the actual gameplay.

        Very, very cool!

        -e

  28. 11-8-2013

    “I wrote PoP2 thinking there was going to be a PoP3… but then there wasn’t.”

    well.. MAKE IT, PLEASE!!!

  29. 11-20-2013

    I always want the Prince of Persia 3 to know about the old hag and all that stuff i was expecting that on pop3d but i enjoyed anyway.

    I really thank you for such games i really love Prince of persia games i never got bored of them.

    • 12-29-2013

      I always wanted it too.

      Sometimes I wonder that, since Ubisoft remade Prince 1 and 2, Mr. Mechner could finish the 1st series with a brand new game :)

  30. 12-22-2013

    Tried to remake the first level of PoP2TSatF on the Cry of Fear game, i hope you don’t mind Mr. Jordan, it’s only the first level.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDWelbKvzsU

    Custom Campaign page :

    http://www.moddb.com/mods/nostalgia

    • 12-22-2013

      I was quite a big fan of PoP BTW, played from the original trilogy (Except PoP3D, haven’t got that.) to the Forgotten Sands (Which was disappointing interquel to the SoT trilogy.), shame what UbiSoft did to it, the remake of this PoP2 are much worse than the Mac version when they were made a long time ago, i’d rather play that, and because of these problems i was quite rather doubtful if PoP3D will ever get a remake, not to mention a good one.

      I really hope the prince can jump back to the great hall of gaming as it was before, cheers.

  31. 1-11-2014

    The question is – When are you making PoP3 – side scrolling – NO 3D. You have GOT TO end the cliffhanger of the devil lady at the end of PoP2. I have some kind of story for this in my mind. Perhaps I could send it to you! I am sure in this era of uber complex and ultra memory intensive games, PoP3 would be one of the biggest hits amongst us veteran gamers!

  32. 4-14-2014

    The 3DS will usually be alright with that, but it’s not
    designed for it, and that occasionally shows. *Game pertarungan tanpa judul
    dari Khaeon Gamestudio. The first is a built-in clickable
    capacitive touch pad on the front of the controller.

  33. 4-15-2014

    Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a
    sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said
    “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

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