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Lost, but not forgotten, for 20 years, the source code for the very first Prince of Persia on the Apple II was released today by creator Jordan Mechner. The code was unknowingly discovered by his father on 3.5" floppy disks in a box at the back of a closet, and salvaged with the help of a huge amount of vintage hardware.
Mechner was jubilant when a box of old games arrived in March from his dad, who also composed PoP's music, with the source code disks apparently amongst them. "I've been searching for [it], off and on, for the past ten years, pestering everyone from Doug Carlston to Danny Gorlin and everyone who ever worked at Broderbund, and finally gave up hope of ever finding [it]," he said.
Decades-old disks can be volatile, though, so Mechner drafted expert help with specialised hardware to save them. It all went swimmingly, but you can follow it historically through the #popsource hashtag on Twitter.
Should you fancy tinkering with the source, you can download it now from github.
[Images from Jordan Mechner on Twitter.]
The original Apple 2 source code for Prince of Persia (1989) has been found by Jordan Mechner's father during a spot of spring cleaning.
A chuffed Jordan Mechner will now try to convert the archaic disks into a readable format for today's computers. And then he'll share what he can of the original Prince of Persia code on his website.
"My dad called from New York to tell me he was doing some spring cleaning and had shipped me a carton of old games and other stuff of mine he'd found in the back of a closet," Jordan Mechner wrote. "The carton arrived yesterday. My jaw dropped when I saw what was inside.
"No, I don't mean the stacks of Spanish Drosoft versions of POP and Karateka," he added, referencing the picture. "I mean those three little plastic 3.5" disk boxes nestled among them, which appear to contain the original Apple 2 source doe of Prince of Persia that I've been searching for, off and on, for the past 10 years, pestering everyone from Doug Carlston to Danny Gorlin and everyone who ever worked at Broderbund, and finally gave up hope of ever finding [it].
"I knew it wasn't like me to throw stuff out!"
The original, Apple 2 Prince of Persia game was released in 1989. It was ported wide and far. But it wasn't until 2003, and Mechner's Ubisoft collaboration on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, that the brand gained the status it enjoys today.
Ubisoft released a not-rubbish remake of the original Price of Persia game for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2007.
Mechner also wrote the story for the Jerry Bruckheimer Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film, which aired in 2010.
For some, a video game doesn't stop when the power is turned off - their gaming experiences are bleeding into their day-to-day lives.
This can lead to video game-like reactions to real-life situations, Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University have discovered.
It's called Game Transfer Phenomena.
The study - Game Transfer Phenomena in Video Game Playing: A Qualitative Interview Study - interviewed 42 "frequent" gamers aged between 15 and 21 years old. "Many" of the subjects "appeared to integrate elements of video game playing into their real lives".
The full study must be bought for $30. One amusing excerpt reported on The Metro website describe a 15 year-old boy wanting to use a gravity gun from Half-Life 2 to fetch something from the fridge. And why not?
One 19-year-old Price of Persia: Sands of Time enthusiast dropped his sandwich and immediately his finger used to press the rewind-time button twitched. A natural response.
Another 19-year-old thought he could use World of Warcraft's search function to locate his brother in a crowd. What a good idea.
Apparently half of the gamers interviewed said they'd looked for something from a video game to solve a real-life issue. One interviewee apparently saw a menu of topics available for him to think about (Heavy Rain?); another formulated a list of possible responses after being insulted (Mass Effect 2?).
Of course, there is a darker side to all of this. Use of aggressive, criminal and/or violent fantasies as solutions to real-life problems were reported by "a few" of the players.
The Daily Mail focused on one particular 15-year-old who said that "sometimes" he wants to be able to get a gun and "shoot down" people. "Irritating people", mind you.
"A recurring trend suggests that intensive gaming may lead to negative psychological, emotional or behavioural consequences," concluded report author professor Mark Griffiths, "with enormous implications for software developers, parents, policy makers and mental health professionals."
This research is being followed up by a study of 2000 gamers.
The Game Transfer Phenomena report hits headlines a day after Grand Theft Auto was linked to a shooting spree and eventually a murder onboard a Royal Navy submarine.
The Prince of Persia HD Collection is a European-exclusive Blu-ray collection of Ubisoft's original Prince of Persia collection remastered in high definition, but that doesn't mean North America won't be able to play them. We're just not getting the Blu-ray.
Nestled within the press release for Ubisoft's first half 2010-2011 financial results are upcoming release listings for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, and Prince of Persia: the Warrior Within, all listed for the PlayStation Network. A separate entry lists the European-exclusive Prince of Persia HD Collection, which collects those three games with a high definition makeover and 3D support.
What does it mean? According to Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot , speaking during the financial results conference call, those three titles will be downloadable via the PlayStation Network. North America isn't getting a disc release, but we're still getting the games.
During the call Yves also mentioned a downloadable Splinter Cell trilogy, lending credence to earlier rumors that Splinter Cell would be getting an HD makeover as well.
No specific release dates were mentioned. The Prince of Persia HD Collection is scheduled for release in Europe on Friday, so I'd expect we'll be seeing that in North America soon.
The previously rumored Prince of Persia Trilogy 3D for the PlayStation 3 has been confirmed by publisher Ubisoft today, stuffing three PS2 games onto one Blu-ray disc, which will only be available in Europe.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones will get a visual upgrade for the re-release, but judging by the first three screen shots of the compilation, not a terribly impressive visual upgrade. Either the sands of time have not been kind to the Prince, or we've forgotten what these PS2 games originally looked like.
Sure, the original Sands of Time looks alright, and maybe we've been spoiled by Sony's other HD makeovers (God of War, Shadow of the Colossus & Ico), but Warrior Within... what happened?
Ubisoft says the trio of Prince of Persia games will run in 720p resolution, plus feature new textures, normal maps, anti-aliasing and optional stereoscopic 3D.
Prince of Persia Trilogy 3D hits the PS3 in Europe on November 19, priced at £29.99.
The pressure was enormous. Legions of fans worried. Prince of Persia, the movie, was more than a summer blockbuster. "Maybe I'm being melodramatic," says movie scribe Doug Miro. Then again, maybe he's not. This was a Hollywood video game adaptation.
"The reality is that this movie has to do really well," Miro adds from LA as he makes his commute home just as the movie is getting its big U.S. release. "It still hasn't been proven that a game movie can be done. The perception is that it can't."
Films like the Hollywood adaptation of Super Mario Bros. in the 1990s or the more recent Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li haven't been well received. At all. Each new game adaptation brings the promise of maybe this is the one they get right. Maybe this is the one that becomes the blueprint for how to adapt video games into well crafted entertainment. Comic books have movies like X-Men and Spiderman. Video games have... The mishandling of video properties by filmmakers has made gamers jaded. And with each new big screen adaptation, the knee jerk reaction is that any game movie is going to stink.
How do you finally make a good video game movie? Some of Hollywood's finest — both in front and behind the camera — were assembled to see if they can turn popular video game series Prince of Persia into a popular film franchise. The guy directing the picture, Mike Newell, boasts a filmography that is as diverse as Four Weddings and Funeral, Donnie Brasco and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The movie's cinematographer, John Seale, shot Rain Man and The English Patient. The film's star, Jake Gyllenhaal, was nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain. Here is top flight movie talent!
What makes it different is that the man who created the game, Jordan Mechner, set up the movie deal. In 2003, Mechner wrote and designed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time game. And while game companies have been directly involved in the filmmaking process in the past, that has meant little. But Mechner wrote the first draft of The Sands of Time script after pitching super producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down, The Rock, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) in 2004. Miro and his co-writing partner and childhood friend from Detroit, Carlo Bernard, were then brought on by Bruckheimer to work on the screenplay for the film that would become Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Even though screenwriting duties were passed on, Mechner remained involved in the process. "Jerry respects the game," says Miro. "He respects Jordan." From the get go, the two were encouraged to take the source material seriously. According to Bernard, "Jerry wanted to do a high level, lavish production." For the writers, this was a chance to do an epic adventure film in the vein of classics they knew and loved like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Lawrence of Arabia. The duo dug deep into Persian history and culture, but knew that the original games themselves were based as much on Arabian Nights as on Persian tradition.
The duo could immediately see how the universe and gameplay Mechner created could make a compelling movie. The draft Mechner had written was a big screen version of his 2003 game, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, that centers on a dagger that is able to turn back the clock by ten seconds. However, the screenwriters didn't want to regurgitate the game stage by stage, cutscene by cutscene, moment by moment. Mechner didn't want that in his original pitch, either! Instead, the duo aimed to adapt The Sands of Time like one would adapt a book as they had previously penned the silver screen version of William B. Breuer's The Great Raid. When adapting a book, Miro says, it is necessary to isolate the elements that made the original work successful. For The Sands of Time, the two employed the same strategy — to evoke the feeling of the game. At the same time, it was necessary to surprise those who have played the game. And if they could do that, they say, then the film would be a success.
Game movies typically fail when they attempt to create a cinematic clone of the original source material. Movies are interactive, but in an entirely different way. Games have the luxury of drawing in players through gameplay, but also story. Cinema must rely on any combination of character, story, or even mood. Yet, these points are where most game movies fail. The creators are unable to spin a good yarn. Or the characters end up being flat. Or the universe is bland. Making a good movie is difficult. But if making a good movie is like capturing lightning in a bottle, making a good video game movie is like trying to capture lighting in a movie while gamers yell at you online. It is no easy task, and both Miro and Bernard know it. "We are translating a medium you experience in one way," says Bernard, "into a medium you experience another way." The stumbling block for many previous game adaptations is that they can't seem to get the balance right — meet what gamers expect from a movie and what moviegoers expect.
What both groups should expect is an entertaining motion picture.
Miro and Bernard, who are currently writing TinTin for Steven Spielberg, want to tell stories in the grand Hollywood tradition. "Our obligation is to entertain for two hours," says Miro. You can put down a video game, he adds, but you can't put down a movie in a theater. If that happens, it means the patron has left the cinema. Movies need different storytelling hooks to keep butts in seats. "In a movie, you are observing a main character," says Miro. "In a video game, you are the main character." That means, of course, that in the movie the lead star is in the player's role. He controls the same hero that we gamers did.
It follows, then that only when lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal began doing many of his own stunts on set in Morocco that he truly became Dastan, the film's hero. Physicality, Miro explains, is a huge part of the Prince. And in the game, that physicality is experienced first hand by the player. By experiencing it himself, Gyllenhaal was, like the player, able to understand Dastan's skill and experience the character. It's a type of method acting, sure, but it is also akin to the same process that gamers go through when they play a game — minus the weight training and exercise to get into shape.
The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time isn't yet concrete proof that Hollywood has gotten the game movie formula right. But at least, this time, Hollywood has taken games seriously. The industry understands the potential and maybe next time there's a Bruckheimer-scale adaptation of game to movie, gamers can breath a sigh of relief. Hollywood wants to get it right, too.
The power to rewind time will not save video game movie adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time from the likes of Roger Ebert and the assembled movie critics in this rare but highly warranted movie Frankenreview.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time might never live up to star Jake Gyllenhaal's most famous role. It's doubtful that a video game adaptation could ever stir the emotions or make a person re-evaluate their life like 2001's Bubble Boy did, but with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Mike Newell behind him, maybe Jake can actually turn back time to that storied moment in his career.
You will believe a man can jump around like a monkey, but is it art?
New York Daily News
Dastan is framed for his father's death, but the real reason for the chase is because the dagger has a doohickey on it that, when pressed, releases mystical "sand from the gods." The resulting storm sends the knife-holder back in time for a minute in the dumbest, clunkiest bit of mumbo-jumbo since anything in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider." That comparison is apt, since "Prince of Persia" is based on a popular videogame and sets up challenges for Dastan that are essentially get-to-the-next-level obstacle courses (he gets through many with his ability, shown in slow-motion, to leap like a flying squirrel). Within this world, the newly-buff Gyllenhaal is essentially an avatar, although his puppy-dog eyes always seem on the verge of tears, so maybe he knows he's trapped somewhere he shouldn't be. Kingsley scowls enough for the entire Persian army, while Arteron appears to have strolled in from making "Clash of the Titans" without even changing her wardrobe.
The Miami Herald
Proudly wielding the volume and frenetic, numbing pacing that are hallmarks of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced films, Prince of Persia is based on a video game that is probably a lot more fun to play than just watch, seeing as there's not much new in sword fighting these days. The story centers on the brave, agile orphan Dastan (who grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal), plucked from the mean streets by the Persian king to be raised with his sons. Dastan is sort of like an underprivileged Hit Girl from Kick-Ass, only less well armed and a lot less pithy.
Dastan is good at running on rooftops. He also can leap from back to back in a herd of horses, jump across mighty distances, climb like a monkey and spin like a top. This is all achieved with special effects, ramped up just fast enough to make them totally unbelievable. (Douglas) Fairbanks has a 1924 scene where he hops from one giant pot to another. He did it in real time, with little trampolines hidden in the pots, and six pots in that movie are worth the whole kitchen in this one.
Prince of Persia is too cozy and safe to excite the senses, though John Seale's location shooting in Morocco is a sight to behold. Gyllenhaal's roguish charm meshes nicely with the spirited sexual teasing of Arterton, who scored as a Bond girl too quickly dispatched in Quantum of Solace. Sadly, nothing pops up to take us by surprise. There's no Johnny Depp around as Jack Sparrow to twist the plot into perversely funny shapes. Director Mike Newell, equally at home with comedy (Four Weddings and a Funeral), drama (Donnie Brasco) and franchise-polishing (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), tries to compensate by staging a rousing series of traps and escapes that keep the blood racing. The retro appeal of the movie is undeniable, recalling the Arabian Nights splendor of 1940's The Thief of Bagdad.
Then there are the obvious physical charms of the actors. Arterton isn't just a blandly pretty face. There's something bold and sensuous about her, particularly in these costumes (designed by Penny Rose). In fact this, and not Sex and the City 2, is the movie for clothes lovers this weekend. Arterton's Tamina is decked out in silky harem pants, jeweled headdresses and mini brocade vests that highlight her decolicious decolletage, outfits that are completely appropriate for the woman, the climate and the fantasy-historic setting, as opposed to just being a fashionista mish-mash. Even the horses here are decorated, sporting some excellent golden nosepieces.
Sure, it's no blockbuster. It'll be lucky to get a sequel, let alone go down in history as an epic tale of sand, back flips and knife-play. But it's a solid film. It has a decent cast, a decent story and some decent effects. Most importantly, though - for me at least - for the first time in my life I could sit down with my wife, watch a movie and not feel embarrassed to say it was based on a video game. And surely that counts for something.
Still not going!
Who was at the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time big-time Mann's Chinese Theater premiere in Hollywood yesterday? These folks, among others...
(All pics by Frazer Harrison of Getty Images unless otherwise noted)
Ben Kingsley is in the Prince of Persia movie. Eddie Murphy is not.
When I think Prince of Persia, I think of Jon Voight shaking Tia Carerre's hand while Jon Lovitz stands by.
It's Alanis Morrissette, whose song I Remain is part of Prince of Persia's soundtrack. Who knew?
Sands of Time leading lady Gemma Arterton.
A fearlessly not-tall Seth Green with actress Clare Grant at the premiere for who-knows-what-reason.
Look! A video game person! That's Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner strutting his stuff.
One more... it's Bruce Willis with Prince of Persia super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (photo by Kevin Winter of Getty Images)