Prince of Persia
Jordan created and programmed the original Prince of Persia on an Apple II computer in 1989. A decade later, he partnered with Ubisoft to reinvent his classic for a new generation of gamers with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Its success launched a global franchise that now includes video games, graphic novels, toys, LEGO, and a blockbuster Disney feature film.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be speaking at Game Developers Conference 2011 in San Francisco, about the making of Prince of Persia (the original, 1989 side-scroller) as part of their “Classic Game Postmortems” series.
I’m especially excited to hear from the other speakers — an awesome lineup including, among others, Eric Chahi, Will Wright, Ron Gilbert, Peter Molyneux, John Romero, and Toru “Pac-Man” Iwatani — about how their games, which sucked up so many hours of my youth, came to be.
(A non-game-industry friend asked me, in some confusion: “Why call it a post-mortem?” These are retrospectives of games that shipped, not ones that got killed. But even though we game designers and programmers are supposed to be a logical bunch, I don’t think the term “post-partum” is going to catch on any time soon.)
See you at GDC!
Or rather, partial script. For writers interested in the differences between writing for movies and games, it’s worth noting that there is no game design document equivalent to a film screenplay (i.e. an established format for the writer to communicate the story to producers, director, cast and crew).
Typically, the larger part of my writing work on Sands of Time was conveyed through non-screenplay documents (dialog recording and tracking spreadsheets and the like) to the team of designers, artists and engineers. I’ve described that process in more detail in this article for MIT Press.
The “readable screenplay” posted here reads like a film screenplay, but that’s because it contains only the cinematic cutscenes — not the in-game scripted events, dialog, and voice-over narration that are just as essential to the player’s experience of the story. Those exist in no easily readable form.
The best way to experience a videogame story is to play the game. But for a quick read, this script offers at least a glimpse into Sands of Time’s beginnings.
Now that the movie is out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I figure the easy way to satisfy curiosity is to simply post my screenplay from June 2005.
Quick history: This was the last draft I wrote, starting from the story John August and I pitched to Disney/Bruckheimer in 2004. A series of other writers took it from there: Jeff Nachmanoff, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard, in that order, resulting in the shooting script that went into production in summer 2008.
Update: If you’re curious about the game-into-movie adaptation process, I’ve also posted the original game script of Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which I wrote in 2002-03, and an accompanying article about how that game story was developed. As these materials illustrate, writing for games and movies are two very different crafts.
Just got back from my first-ever visit to Toronto, a city I’ve long wished to visit for many reasons, yet somehow, amazingly and despite being from New York, never did until this weekend.
It was a whirlwind, too-short 36 hours including
- Ubisoft’s Toronto studio launch party Sunday night
- giving the keynote Monday morning for Interactive Ontario (talking about one of my favorite subjects, Prince of Persia)
- doing a TIFF “Film and Games” panel later that afternoon with Jade Raymond and Jon Landau (a really nice, down to earth guy who produced two small yet profitable indie films, Titanic and Avatar)
- standing ovation for Catherine Deneuve after the premiere of “Potiche” (her 109th movie according to IMDB)
The Toronto International Film Festival felt welcoming, spiffy and well organized, like Toronto itself. I left the city by an airport on an island in the middle of downtown that you take a ferry to get to. Now that’s cool.
I woke up this morning thinking “Today’s the day!” One that’s been emblazoned in my mind for weeks now, thanks to subtle reminders like this one:
But it wasn’t until I picked up my iPhone and blearily checked email and Twitter while making breakfast (compulsive habit, I know; I’m trying to break it) that I received the surprising news that today is ALSO the release date of the original Prince of Persia for iPhone/iPad.
You’d think such perfect timing would have to have been coordinated months in advance, but it wasn’t. If there was a mastermind, it could only have been some unsung Apple employee with a sense of irony.
This weekend might be just the occasion for me to try playing through the game for the first time in 20 years. I already have my fallback strategy: If I can’t get past level three, I’ll blame the touchscreen controls. It couldn’t be aging reflexes. No way.
And I promise not to play my iPhone during the movie after the lights have gone down.
This is the plane that took us from London to Moscow for the Prince of Persia press junket. It was the nicest plane I’ve ever been on. I felt like Tony Stark for a few hours.
Every fun, relaxing hobby ought to contain an element of danger; for me, drawing people I know at close range is the halfpipe of sketching. When the result is a bad likeness, unflattering or both (which it often is), there’s nowhere to hide. In this case, several of the people on the plane with me were world-famous, so the stage was basically set for a spectacular wipe-out. But I had to try.
The ones of Jerry and Mike Newell (above) are at least more recognizable than some of the others.
None of the ones of Gemma really look like her. Girls are harder to draw than guys to begin with, and the more beautiful they are the harder it is. It often ends up either looking like a generic “pretty girl” or a different girl entirely.
Gemma got her revenge, as you can see from her rendition of me on the right-hand page above.
The press junket, premiere and afterparty were on Tuesday, so I didn’t get to do any sketching that day. Wednesday was our free day; Mike Newell and I began it with a three-hour tour of the Kremlin’s incredible armory.
This was my first visit to Russia, a country I’ve long wanted to visit. At three days, it was much too short.