Prince of Persia 3D
The whole world's going 3D. In fact, it always has been, it's just that games are finally catching up. The latest to earn the 3D tag is Prince Of Persia, which by a stroke of luck is actually the third game in the series. It's been five years since the last outing though, so why resurrect it now?
We tracked down its creator, Jordan Mechner, at the recent E3 show in Atlanta and asked him just that. Why, Jordan, why? "The opportunity was there and it was kind of intriguing because Andy Peterson, the producer, had a really gung-ho bunch of artists and programmers who wanted to give it the full treatment - the best graphics, the best 3D. There's no sense in doing it if it's just going to be like 'take the Tomb Raider engine and slap a turban on if. But they really convinced me that they wanted to push it further than it's ever been before and use the Prince Of Persia to do that. So I thought, 'Hey, Jeez, twist my arm.'"
Clearly, a side-on platformer and a full 3D extravaganza are two very different prospects. And making the leap between them is a tricky business, as Jordan admits: "Well, the hard thing about 3D, of course, is you need at least a couple of extra keys. So the design challenge that we're still wrestling with is: how do you keep it to basically four directional arrow keys and two keys - because that's all I can do personally. Some of the people on the team can use both hands simultaneously all over the keyboard, but that's personally my limit and that's what we had on Prince 2, so we're trying to stick to that.
"But I think it's working out. It's a trick to keep people from getting disoriented. I'm sort of a check on them, because many on the team are very good core gamers and they play games like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy all the way through. They don't seem to have any trouble with menu bars, but I'm hopeless with them."
The first two POP games had a massive following, but that was then and this is now. So who is this game going to appeal to? "I certainly hope that people who played Prince I and 2 will be able to pick this one up and feel like they're continuing where they left off a few years ago, but with better graphics. I also hope that 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds will be able to enjoy this one, too. As well as that, I hope my wife will play it, because she never played Prince of Persia 1".
We've seen the game moving with our own eyes, and it seems to be an explore 'em up with swords. So is the emphasis on action, or adventure?
"We've tried to get the same mix of action and adventure that the first games had. The Prince doesn't have a gun; he doesn't blow out everybody in the room. There's a lot of thinking-type puzzles, but at the same time there's also a lot of action. I mean, the basic idea behind Prince I was to take the first eight minutes of Indiana Jones and make a game out of it, and that's pretty much the mix that we're still trying to do."
Latter-day gamers are accustomed to wielding an arsenal of weaponry that would shame even the most avid rifle-polishing Guns 'n'Ammo subscriber. Prince Of Persia 3D is lacking in the heavy firearms department, favouring a flashing blade rather than a smoking barrel, but Jordan doesn't foresee any problems: "I think there's room for swords, especially when you're in close. And the Prince does have one long-range weapon - it's a bow and arrow with which he can shoot spells and things."
Indeed he does, and some of the spells are particularly devious. For instance, piercing a guard with an Arrow of Discord forces him to launch a violent attack on his colleague, thus enabling you to sneak past.
On the subject of ugly wanton violence, Jordan says: "There's a fair amount. But of course, with respect to the seven-year-old contingent, we've tried to make it more suggestive than gory. That is, you should feel really awful, but it shouldn't be something that would make you turn off the game and never turn it on again." The first game was renowned for the way the titular character would occasionally fall on some upright spikes, twitching in a macabre fashion as death took an icy grip on his prostrate form. Has this trademark demise made it into the 3D version?
"Absolutely. There's just a few things that were sort of signature things for the first games: spikes, pressure plates and gates. And even though they may be 15 per cent of the game now, as opposed to 95 per cent of the first game, you've still got to have them in there as touchstones" Prince Of Persia 3D involves an inordinate amount of fighting, begging the question of when Jordan's last fight was. "Physical fist fight? Probably ninth grade 13 years old. I think some kid was teasing me and I decked him, then we got into a fight. To tell you the truth, I don't think I thought about it until you asked me just now."
As the scale of the recent E3 show demonstrates, the industry has clearly moved on a little since the first Prince Of Persia game, as Jordan concurs: "There's a different mix of people at these trade shows. One big difference is that the first Prince Of Persia was just me at a desk with a computer. There was nobody really looking over my shoulder to see when it was going to be done or if it was going to make Christmas. And the idea of getting publicity for a game before it was finished - like this - would have confused me."
Download Prince of Persia 3D
A classic returns in full-bodied fashion with Prince of Persia 3D, the long-awaited third installment in the legendary action/adventure series. The Prince and Princess have at last been married--only to be split up and kidnapped by King Assan. As the Prince, you once again wake up in prison without weapons and have to escape to rescue your bride.
Mind you, it won't take long to collect a few implements of destruction: The Prince can find various swords, staves, arrows, and hand-blade weapons during his travels through 15 levels and 7 environments. About 30 percent of the game will be swordfighting; the rest is puzzle solving, avoiding pitfalls, and sneaking past guards. Think of it as Metal Gear Solid--in 12th century Persia.
Part of POPs appeal has always been its devious traps--spikes that spring from floors, blades slicing out from walls--and POP3D will be no exception, featuring a mix of old and new gory surprises such as pressure plate traps, catapults, and decapitators. The Prince of Persia saga continues this fall.