In 2001 Ubisoft's founder, Yves Guillemot, invited me to lunch in Paris. His proposal: Bring Prince of Persia — at that time a decade-old, "classic" (i.e., dead) game franchise — to the current generation of consoles.
It wasn't a slam-dunk. Broderbund's recent attempt at a 3D Prince of Persia had fizzled, treading ground already broken by Eidos's POP-inspired Tomb Raider. Nostalgia wouldn't be enough to excite PlayStation2/Xbox gamers too young to remember the original 2D POP. The new game had to stand on its own merits.
I flew to Montreal and joined a talented young French-Canadian team led by producer Yannis Mallat — first as creative consultant, then as scriptwriter, casting and directing the voice recording sessions, and finally coming on board full-time.
For the team, it was a chance to show the world a franchise reboot done right. For me, the project reawakened my joy in making video games after a four-year hiatus.
Sands of Time was one of those creative collaborations when everything meshes. It became an underdog success story of 2003, sweeping that year's industry awards, catapulting POP back to the top of the charts and even onto French postage stamps. I will forever love Montreal, even in winter.
The game was a career milestone for many of us who worked on it, confirming Ubisoft Montreal's arrival as one of the world's top development studios.
It led me to my first professional screenwriting gig writing the Prince of Persia movie for Jerry Bruckheimer, while the core POP team went on to develop a sequel that became Assassin's Creed.
Ubisoft followed with four more major POP titles: Warrior Within, The Two Thrones, POP 2008, and The Forgotten Sands. To date, 20 million POP games have been sold. Not a bad second run, for an Apple II game hero who seemed to have run out of lives until he found that magic dagger full of sand.