The 1993 Journals: Prince of Persia 2 and The Last Express

In Jordan's Words: 30 Years Later

This page is a continuation of my journal from January 1993, starting the day after my published The Making of Prince of Persia diary ends.

That January, I’d just rented an apartment in San Francisco, after a year living abroad in Paris. My main reasons for returning were to be closer to the Broderbund team in the final months of production of Prince of Persia 2, and to form a new studio to make my planned next two games: Prince of Persia 3 and The Last Express (called, at that point, “train game”).

The success of Karateka and Prince of Persia had put me in a rare and fortunate position that few creative artists ever get to experience. At age 28, I was being offered a dazzling array of opportunities to write my own ticket. How I navigated those choices – including mistakes I made and things I was blind to, as well as what went right – was raw material for the journal I kept during the four years I struggled to finish The Last Express.

If you’ve read either or both books of my previous journals, The Making of Karateka (1982-1985) and The Making of Prince of Persia (1985-1993), you already know the back story and many players in the drama. The journal is not a look back; it’s what I wrote then, in present tense. The entries are selected and abridged (even my mother wouldn’t want to read everything I wrote between age 17 and 32), but apart from light copyediting, I've let the text stand as I wrote it thirty years ago, and avoided the temptation to revise with hindsight. If some lines make you wince in 2023, they probably make me wince too.

I’ll post a new “30 years ago this week” batch of journal entries (and relevant archival images) here every Wednesday. If you like, you can also follow via this site’s RSS feed, and/or my social media links and monthly email newsletter.


I'm sharing the journals here for educational and historical purposes.

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Thanks for reading! Now I’ll pass the fountain pen to 28-year-old me. I’ll occasionally jump in to add clarifying context, but mostly, I’ll stay out of it.

My previous journals, The Making of Karateka and The Making of Prince of Persia, are available in paperback, hardcover, audiobook, e-book and/or PDF. Books here.

January 11, 1993 [San Francisco]

Jake let me sneak a peek at this month's sales numbers. Guess I can go ahead and buy a car after all.

Bought a vacuum cleaner at Sears. The saleswoman was from Cataluña.

George [Hickenlooper] was thrilled that I’d met Brad Dourif. He’d wanted to cast him in Grey Night, but was thwarted by the producers.

January 12, 1993

Opened a bank account for Smoking Car Productions.

I need to buy a futon. (And a dining room table And chairs And bookcases And a coffee table And some sort of additional living room seating And end tables And floor lamps) And a shower curtain.

I see this apartment basically as a place to crash and entertain. No desk, no spare-bedroom office, none of that.

January 13, 1993

Day at Broderbund. Prince 2 goes on.

January 15, 1993

Kelly and Ann opened a bottle of champagne to welcome me to the neighborhood.

January 18, 1993

The movers arrived yesterday morning and, with amazing speed, transferred fifty-two boxes and a rug into an empty apartment. I spent last night on the new futon. Wow. After a year and a half of wandering, I’m once again chez moi on American soil. It doesn’t feel like home yet, but it’s terrifically exciting.

DuArt sent the first answer print of Waiting for Dark. I projected it today at a low-rent lab on Battery St. It needs another pass. But what a relief to see it all put together, clean, with no mistakes!

Spent yesterday shopping with Tomi [Pierce] for office furniture, sheets and towels for me, and the like. Did some more shopping on my own today after work.

Well, this café is pleasant, but I’m eager to get home and start hooking up my stereo.

Home! What a heavenly beautiful word it is after all.

Waiting for Dark was a short film I’d shot in Cuba over the summer of 1992. My friend Aarón Yelín completed editing and post-production in Paris.

January 20, 1993

Listening to music on my own stereo for the first time since August ’91. What a luxury! Unpacking these boxes is like opening a time capsule. Books packed away 18 months ago, dishes wrapped in New York Times from June and July ’91.

Yesterday was a Smoking Car day. Worked on the [train game] story with Tomi. Some good progress. She’s spread so thin, I have to fight to get her to work on it; but when she does, she comes up with really good stuff. I stayed till ten p.m. last night writing, elaborating on the ideas we’d invented in the afternoon.

Today was a Broderbund day. Lunch with Doug [Carlston] and Brian [Eheler], visited John Baker, Ken [Goldstein], and other people. Other than that, got no work done. It was basically a “bonding” day.

We’re probably going to slip the Prince 2 schedule two weeks, but it’s not clear yet whose fault it’s going to be. I’d be happy if they slipped it to June – I know every day Jeff [Charvat, lead programmer] has, he’ll use to make it better – but the powers-that-be are breathing down our necks. They want to ship in April as scheduled.

Doug and John made me feel good. They’re convinced it’s going to be a huge hit. John wants to talk about Prince 3. Heh heh heh.

Went out for drinks and fajitas with Lance [Groody, senior programmer on PC Prince 1] at Pepper’s in San Rafael so he could flirt with the bartender, Brandy. I told him a little about the train game. It would be an abuse of my uniquely privileged position as Broderbund’s only in-house outside developer for me to try to lure anybody out of the fold, but I figure it won’t do any harm to let people know I’m looking for talent.

Brian Eheler was my product manager on POP 1 and 2. Doug Carlston, who’d co-founded Broderbund in 1980, was one of my first game industry mentors (see The Making of Karateka).

Tomi Pierce was writing the new “train game” story with me; she and Doug had just gotten engaged.

January 23, 1993

Chinese New Year. It’s a beautiful day, cold with a clear sky and warm sun. Last night I went out with John Kavanagh of Domark and his friend Martin who’d just flown in from England. We had dinner at Caffé Sport and then to Grant and Green.

Thursday was a Smoking Car day, assembling office furniture.

Tomi says Pete [her artist partner on a contract project] is fretting. He feels cramped with three people in the office, and competitive with me over Tomi. Aww.

I’ve started playing The Dagger of Amon Ra. It’s got surprisingly good graphics, music and overall style.

January 26, 1993

My living room rug has fleas.

January 27, 1993

Day at Broderbund. Lunch with Brian and Rusel [DiMaria]. Played Prince 2 with Doug and Colleen. Dinner with Morris Silver [my accountant, visiting from NY] at Marin Joe’s.

My phone number in Paris has been disconnected.

January 28, 1993

Tomi lent me her table, chair and lamp. Having furniture makes a big difference. I’m sitting here listening to Ella sing Cole Porter. New York music.

January 29, 1993

Spent the day at the office. Got a hell of a lot of work done on Train. This story is writing itself.

Pete designed me a killer business card today, borrowing a train silhouette from that French coffee table book I bought at FNAC with Patrick. It’s great.

Awful news from Suzanne. George’s film Grey Night has been taken away from him. The producers are recutting it based on the suggestions of a PR firm. I mean, that film was done! I saw it! It was good! Now they’re going to reduce it to a piece of schlock. Thank God I didn’t go into the movie business.

February 1, 1993

Day at Broderbund.

Did a phone interview with Russ Cicola of Computer Games magazine. The first coverage of Prince 2 has appeared in print, in Joystick’s CES issue. They said lots of nice things. I showed it to the artists. They got a big kick out of seeing their work in print for the first time.

February 4, 1993

Worked till 1:30 a.m. on Prince 2. Got the first temple level pretty much laid out. What a relief. It only took all day.

Pete was still there when I left. He’s going to be there all night.

Patrick called. He’s coming to San Francisco! You can’t imagine how that call cheered me up.

Yesterday was a Broderbund day. Lunch with Brian, Ken and John Baker.

Patrick Ladislav, my friend and neighbor in Paris, was my second key collaborator on the train game. We’d met in 1991 at a NYU filmmaking workshop (see The Making of Prince of Persia).

February 5, 1993

Spent the day working on Prince 2. Second temple level, done. One level per day seems to be the rate. It takes a lot out of me; I feel drained and burned out at the end of the day.

February 6, 1993

John Kavanagh and his fiancée Fiona arrived and drove me to Leslie’s birthday party. Leslie’s hair caught on fire when she was blowing out the candles.

February 7, 1993

A grey day. I pulled out of my funk long enough to order some bookcases and put in a few hours of Prince 2 level building.

February 9, 1993

Yesterday I went to Broderbund. Prince 2 is shaping up nicely.

When I got back to the Smoking Car office a big batch of mail from France was waiting for me, including a charming pair of missives from Patrick and Sandrine, and all the letters from Cuba I’d missed dating back to November. I wrote back to everyone.

New print of Waiting for Dark arrived from DuArt. I can’t wait to screen it.

Spent today working on train game. Made up a master plan schedule.

February 14, 1993

Yesterday Patrick and I drove to the Haight and bought some Corto Maltese comics in English.

Friday I showed him the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific. He wanted to swim, but it was too cold and the waves were too big.

February 15, 1993

Rusel and his young artist friend Ocean drove in from Walnut Creek and took us to his favorite Persian restaurant, Pasha, for tea. The Turkish/ Azerbaijani owner is a friend of his and we stayed a long time drinking mint tea, arguing over whether belly dancing is a respectable occupation for a young lady, and how and where the next world war will start.

February 16, 1993

The sky was overcast this morning, as if announcing that the weekend was over. Tomi and Pete are back. Patrick sat at the Mac learning Photoshop while I made a particularly fiendish Prince 2 level.

Tomi had the rather brilliant idea of hiring Patrick to do video editing for their Software Toolworks project Pete is resisting. It was a good way for Tomi and Patrick to meet, actually, after all this time.

My bookcases arrived! Patrick and I unpacked the cartons and wow, suddenly it looks like I live here.

February 18, 1993

Another long day at the office. Breakfast with Patrick and Tomi, talking train story at Caffé Greco (where the French waiter last night told Patrick that Coppola has breakfast every morning). Today he didn’t.

Nicole [Tostevin, Prince 2 art director] came to the city for dinner. Patrick and I took her to North End Café. After Nicole left, it still felt too early for bed, so we went to the Savoy. I was in a funk. I felt everything coming down on me like a giant saucer, as Baudelaire would say. I decided to follow Patrick back to France next week. I need to get out of here, get my head straight, get my perspective back.

February 21, 1993

Another long day at the office, another night of café-hopping in North Beach.

Patrick tried to put into words what’s been bothering him about American women. “They don’t act like women! Even the ones that are beautiful don’t seem to know it. They don’t play with it, they don’t admit the power it gives them over men. A beautiful girl should have some shyness when a guy comes up to her and starts talking. Here, they’re just like ‘Hey, how ya doin’?’ They act like men. They even drink beer!” Voilá a French perspective.

February 22, 1993 [Los Angeles]

Having such a good time we decided to stay an extra day. Went to a party given by a friend of Mark Netter’s named Tamara. Mark was there, also Erika Schickel, star of his NYU film My Night in Bohemia. Patrick loves L.A. because “The people are cool and beautiful, but friendly... And they like me to be French!”

Yesterday we went on a drive in the mountains with George and Sue. It was startling to see snow only a short drive from Pasadena. George was happy to see us; he’s depressed about Grey Night, and we quickly hatched a new project which he got excited about shooting in Cuba this summer for $200,000. We saw Groundhog Day. It was great to go to the movies for the first time in months.

Had lunch with Brad Dourif and his wife at a 24-hour diner in Beverly Hills. He paid. (“You can’t pay,” he said. “You gave me a computer game.”) Next George took us to visit Cynda Williams. I fell in love with her. (She has a boyfriend.) George pitched her our Cuba film, introducing me as “my friend Jordan, an independent producer.”

George wants to come up to S.F. next weekend to start writing the script. It’s fun to have movie projects to dream about, even if they probably won’t happen.

Mark Netter graduated from NYU film school with my college friend Kevin Burget, who’d been George Hickenlooper’s roommate. All four of us were aspiring filmmakers, but George was the one for whom any life path other than directing movies was unthinkable. Rather than go into debt at film school, George had gone straight from college to L.A. to break into the business.

By 1993, he’d already directed an acclaimed documentary, Hearts of Darkness (see The Making of Prince of Persia), and had just wrapped his first narrative feature.

February 23, 1993 [San Francisco]

Day at Smoking Car. Dinner with Patrick and Tomi at Max’s Diner. Then back to the office with Patrick to finish the last two levels of Prince 2 while Patrick scanned maps of Europe into Photoshop.

“I dreamed I was an ant,” Patrick said this morning. “Newborn, with no teenage years or nothing.”

February 24, 1993

Introduced Patrick to Broderbund. Looks like it’ll be a good three weeks before I can get away from Prince 2.

Went driving on the back roads of China Camp. Patrick gave me pointers on driving stick shift. His dad used to race cars.

February 25, 1993

Drove Patrick to the airport this morning. By now he should be in Paris, reunited with Sandrine.

Spent the morning and afternoon catching up with Tomi. She’s overstressed by this Software Toolworks multimedia project; Pete isn’t carrying his weight. She wants me to take office space elsewhere so she can leave and move in with Smoking Car. At the same time, she’s appalled by the thought of what that would do to Pete and doesn’t know if she’ll be able to go through with it.

Meanwhile, she’s not working enough on Train and we both know it. I made her promise to reserve two hours every morning, 8-10 a.m., but it hasn’t worked out; too many crises, too many demands on her time from other sides.

On fait ce qu’on peut avec ce qu’on a.

February 27, 1993

I’m going to Paris next week. I’ll go for two weeks and come back before Brian and Jeff even notice I’m gone.

March 1, 1993

Brian Eheler came down for the afternoon so we could work on the Prince 2 documentation. George and Suzanne and Matt Greenberg are visiting. We all had dinner at Michelangelo’s. It was fun, mixing my separate worlds.

March 2, 1993

A long day at the office working on Train story. Some good innovations. Went to a Cuban restaurant with George and Matt and talked about our new screenplay, El Dorado. Saw a no-budget Mexican movie that got picked up by Columbia, El Mariachi.

Reading Black Lamb and Gray Falcon.

The character of Rebecca Norton, created later in The Last Express, was named in honour of the author Rebecca West.

March 4, 1993

Tomi and I have been working a lot on the train story. It’s getting better every day.

Jeff persuaded me to postpone my flight to Thursday to give him more time to work on the Final Battle logic before I leave.

March 5, 1993

Caught a cold, staying home to baby it. I feel as if I’m alone with myself for the first time in months. Come to think of it, I am alone for the first time in months. George and Sue and Matt left this morning.

Reading The Sheltering Sky.

March 6, 1993

Why do I always have the nagging feeling that there’s something better I could be doing, someone better I could be with? That little voice is so much a part of me that I almost don’t notice it any more; but man, I’m starting to think it’s my worst enemy. Is there any way to shut it up? Do other people feel this way, or is it just me?

I mean, you can go through life always looking ahead to the next thing – or backwards to the last thing; I don’t know which is worse – instead of just enjoying it. Where does it come from, this feeling that I might be missing out, that if I fail to extract the gold from this moment it will never come again??

March 8, 1993

Spent a few hours making a photo album. Contemplating the past is a tricky business. I’m not sure it doesn’t do more harm than good.

Keeping souvenirs (photos, journals) is tricky, too. Little by little, what you remember is replaced by what you’ve recorded. What is it all but raw material for a story – for your own story? But it’s a story that will never take form, never be told, never exist – except in fragments, in the minds of the people who know you.

I wish I were going to France for longer than just two weeks.

Smoking Car business cards arrived today.

March 9, 1993

Went out and bought a Hi-8 video camera.

Video dubs of Waiting for Dark arrived, finally. I was disappointed by the image quality, but still, it’s good to have them. Sent one to Oberhausen film festival.

Lunch with Tomi and Ann, Pete and James, at Malvina’s. Toolworks has killed their project. They weren’t sure whether to mourn or celebrate.

March 10, 1993

Day at Broderbund. Prince 2 is looking good.

Gave Doug his box of honorary Smoking Car cards. I think he was thrilled, actually.

March 14, 1993 [Paris]

Saw Arizona Dream with George and Patrick and Sandrine at the Champs-Elysées. It’s good to be home.

March 16, 1993

Spent the afternoon on the phone arranging meetings.

Patrick and I took the 1929 Orient Express to a suburb of Paris and back. A three-hour ride, dinner included, 800FF per person (special half-price deal). Filmed some stuff. Unfortunately, no coal locomotive and no sleeping cars.

Told Patrick and Xavier and Sandrine the train game story. Bénédicte came by and gave me a couple of sticks of incense. I gave her Leaves of Grass.

March 17, 1993

  1. Bought a Renault 205 “Roland Garros” convertible, green with a white top
  2. Drove Patrick, George and Sandrine through Paris with the top down
  3. Had coffee with Sandrine while Patrick and George had their meeting with a French producer
  1. Drank wine on the quai by the Seine
  2. Bought groceries for dinner, which Greg and Ilena cooked for everybody
  3. Took Bénédicte to an after-hours piano bar in rue Mazarine, drove at random through the empty streets and ended up at the Pantheon, her favorite place
  4. I love Paris.

March 20, 1993

Dinner at 8 rue Boutarel. Sandrine made salad while Greg and I made pasta upstairs, George came with Lucie, and we had a much better time than if we’d gone out to a restaurant.

After dinner we went to the quai and drank coffee and a bottle of wine. Patrick was the perfect host. We got sentimental and drank to our next reunion, our next film, etc. Patrick broke a glass, I broke one, and we threw them into the Seine and broke the reflection of Notre-Dame. Patrick poured me the last drops of the bottle: “You know what that means...” Another night that will live in memory.

March 25, 1993

Tuesday, two screenings of The Killing Box (fka Grey Night). Dinner at the Bateau Ivre, then a jazz club at Luxembourg, and drove back with the top down, singing at the top of our lungs. The next day, we left for Argentan.

Driving down a remote country road, Patrick spotted a Cardenas sculpture through an open gate, so we stopped and took a look. The owner was thrilled to show it off. I guess not many people in Argentan know about Cardenas. We also stopped at a couple of antique shops. I bought an old, beautiful metal belt. A gift for someone I haven’t met yet.

Now I’m on the train back to Paris. I left Patrick and Sandrine the Peugeot, to keep at Sandrine’s dad’s shop in the country until the next time I come to France. My flight leaves tomorrow.

March 28, 1993 [San Francisco]

Tomi met me at the airport Friday night. Man, was I happy to see her. We had dinner at Gira Polli, then she drove back to Marin.

Yesterday it rained. I drove up to San Rafael, to Jeff and Diana’s new house. Jeff was working at home over the weekend. Prince 2 is looking pretty good. He was vastly relieved when I approved of what he’d done over the last two weeks.

A new installment of Jordan’s “30 years ago this week” journal will be posted here next Wednesday. Thanks for visiting!

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