Jordan Mechner today reminisced about the development of his seminal platform game, Prince of Persia at the Game Developer's Conference 2011, offering recollections on the screenplay that almost derailed the project.
In August 1987 Mechner, who had been working on a screenplay while creating Prince of Persia for the Apple II, received a call from a Hollywood agent. "Against all odds I received a call saying that the agent had read the script, loved it and wanted to represent me," he said. "That was the beginning of my first Hollywood adventure."
"Within weeks I had a producer and a director and it really seemed like the movie was going to happen. I got distracted and didn’t really work on Prince of Persia for a while."
But after 8 months there had been little progress on Mechner's movie-writing career. "I realized that nothing had really happened yet so I went back to work on the game," he said. "I still remember that awful feeling of sitting down at this dusty computer and not knowing what any of the commands in my code meant."
Mechner explained that his desire to create video games began at a very early age. "I received my first Apple II in 1979," he said. "Having a computer in my room changed my life. Not only could I save quarters at the arcade but also I could use this machine to make games."
Mechner's first game was Karateka, a scrolling fighting game released for the Apple II in 1984. "I programmed this in college in my sophomore and junior years, which caused me to get really bad grades," he said. "Broderbund software was my first publisher and I went out to California in the summer between junior and senior years to finish the game. It was really my first taste of adult life."
The high concept idea for Prince of Persia was "Lode Runner mixed with Karateka with a story influence from Raiders of the Lost Ark," he explained. "That sort of visceral excitement was what I wanted to get into my game. I wanted to make a game that if you fell too far it would feel like it really hurt."
Mechner revealed that the setting for the game arose in a brainstorming session during a visit to publisher Broderbund. "There was a suggestion to make a game based on the mythology of Sinbad. That resonated with me. I re-read Arabian Nights and saw it hadn’t been done on the Apple II yet. The setting seemed appropriate for the hardware too: the baggy pants and arches."
"That said, my publisher was disappointed. They were kind of hoping tat I’d create the sequel to Karateka," he added.
"So they were disappointed when I announced I was going to make a new IP. Some things never change."