After I spoke at GDC in Shanghai yesterday morning, Gamasutra posted a summary of my keynote. Their report was very good and accurate, but I want to clarify a comment that set off alarms with some Sands of Time game fans:
Film and games, though they have similarities, have important differences as well, says Mechner. “There’s no button on the controller for sit down with someone and have a nice conversation… The game story was just an excuse for getting the player to get from point A to point B and kill everybody he meets.” It is not, in his words, “this epic, romantic action movie that [the film version of] Prince of Persia was setting out to be.”
This sounds like I’m saying the Sands of Time game story is somehow less ambitious or less fully realized than the film story. That definitely wasn’t my intention.
Just because a game story is designed to support and enhance a particular game play mechanic (which, in the case of Sands of Time, does indeed consist largely of getting from point A to point B in various challenging, acrobatic ways, while killing sand monsters along the way) does not mean that it can’t be every bit as sophisticated and nuanced in terms of dialog, character development, emotional and thematic resonance, literary qualities, etc., as a movie story. Indeed, the Sands of Time video game achieves some narrative effects that are beyond the scope of film, or at least beyond the scope of a 110-minute action-adventure movie: for example, the counterpoint, sometimes emotional, sometimes ironic, between the voice-over narration, the onscreen banter between the Prince and Farah, and the Prince’s actions under the player’s control.
The 2003 Sands of Time game doesn’t need me to defend it, but I hope this post helps clear up any misunderstanding.
In my GDC China keynote about Prince of Persia’s 20-year journey from game to film, I showed a 2-minute trailer I made six years ago to pitch the movie to Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney execs. I’m posting it here for those who are interested.
Why did I cut a new trailer, instead of using one of the existing game trailers Ubisoft had already produced to market the Sands of Time game? Because the game marketing trailers were very specific about certain story points that weren’t in the movie (freeze, fast-forward, sand monsters, visions). Co-producer John August and I didn’t want to confuse the execs by showing them a different story from the one we were pitching.
It took me a week to cut on Final Cut Express, in late 2003. Assembling a trailer from existing PS2 game footage was an editing challenge, because key scenes, locations and characters from the movie didn’t exist. So rather than attempt to explicitly tell the story of the movie in the trailer, I set out to convey the kind of movie it would be. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers — the trailer reveals nothing about the plot of the movie beyond what’s in the game.)
The sound mix is rough — I didn’t have the proper elements or the time to do a professional-quality mix — but it served its purpose of selling the pitch. Hope you enjoy it.
I’ll be giving a keynote at the Game Developers Conference in Shanghai. The date is October 12, I think. If you happen to be in Shanghai and are interested in attending, the official GDC website has details. Looking forward to it!
A thoughtful article by Tom Cross on Gamasutra about The Last Express and immersive game worlds:
Just gave a talk to Lucasfilm at their Presidio campus. The invitation included spending a night at the Skywalker Ranch — the stuff of dreams, for me.
I’d been to the ranch once before, in 1987. I was two years out of college, stalled halfway through the first Apple II version of Prince of Persia, and torn between pursuing a career in computer games or screenwriting. In fact, the old Broderbund Software building where I programmed POP is just down the road from the Skywalker Ranch (a long, winding, scenic road, often foggy and frequented by deer). So being invited back to tell Lucasfilm staff the story of POP’s 20-year journey — from 8-bit computer game to summer movie — felt pretty cosmic.
Especially considering that it all goes back to the first ten minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Both the Skywalker Ranch and the Presidio campus are seriously nice places — in idyllic natural settings, with a level of luxury and attention to detail rarely found in movie or videogame studios. And filled with sacred artifacts like the Original Millenium Falcon.
I got a tour and a sneak peek at some of the cool stuff the LucasArts guys have been working on, at least one of which I’m pretty sure I can mention without violating the NDA I signed along with the retinal scan.
Thanks, Lucasfilm, for a great and memorable visit.
Had fun checking out some of this year’s E3 titles (without actually going to E3) at House of Game, a “vernissage” organized by the Hollywood gamers who started Nerd Poker.
Among the cool-looking upcoming titles: Tim Schafer’s Brutal Legend, Pandemic’s The Saboteur, Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, and, of course, Uncharted 2.
I especially enjoyed seeing some of the indie games: A USC student project called The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. And Shadow Physics, a very cool mechanic in search of a game. Maybe because they’re works in progress, or just because they’re underdogs; but three hours later, I find myself thinking about them more than about the big studio fare.