Collecting a fan legacy

The Prince of Persia book project is going full steam ahead. I've spent enjoyable hours combing the Strong Museum collection for images to illustrate my old journals, while book designer Tyler Thompson has been developing exciting design concepts.

Work in progress on Stripe Press book design for The Making of Prince of Persia

It felt right to end the book in 1992, when Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame signed out of QA. After that, a decade would go by before I'd be hands-on again in the creation of a Prince of Persia title — joining Ubisoft in Montreal to make PoP: The Sands of Time, then pitching it to Disney/Bruckheimer as a movie.

But a 30th-anniversary collector's edition wouldn't be complete without some kind of acknowledgement of the prince's subsequent adventures. So Stripe and I decided to add a "legacy" chapter: a kind of scrapbook of the prince's odyssey since 1992.

We have mementos of the episodes I was involved in, but what I really want to see are things that aren't in the Strong's collection. Like this fan-made Prince of Persia LEGO, which I love. (If you're the person who created it, I hope you'll read this and submit it for the book.)

Fan-made 2D Prince of Persia LEGO

We're reaching out to you for submissions. If you feel inspired to share a souvenir of a Prince of Persia-related moment in your life — whether as a gamer, fan, artist, programmer, collector, cosplayer, dev-team member, or other capacity — please send it! We'd like to see photos, art, screen shots, anything that could fit on a book page.

Because time is short, and Stripe's book design staff is small, we ask you to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Send submissions by email to: pop30@jordanmechner.com
  • Image attachments only, ideally 300-600dpi.
  • Please only send images that are yours (photos you took, or something you created). If it was a work for hire or someone else controls the rights, let us know who.
  • The text of the email should include your name, where you live, and explain the context or story of the image, in 1001 words or less.
  • One email per submission.

There's a good chance we'll receive more submissions than we have manpower or bandwidth to acknowledge. Here's the deal:

  • We'll choose a selection to include in the book.
  • If we choose yours, we'll reply, and ask you to sign a release. As a thank-you, we'll send you an autographed copy of the book once it's printed. This courtesy copy is the only compensation we can offer.
  • Submissions that don't fit in the book might get posted on Instagram @pop30anniv, @jmechner, and/or jordanmechner.com.
  • We won't be able to answer follow-up emails, individual messages, or questions. (Especially if they're about when and what the next Prince of Persia game will be. I promise that when I have info to share on that subject, I'll post it.)

Thanks for playing! I'm excited to see what you'll send.

Meanwhile, here's my journal entry from 30 years ago:

September 6, 1989

Oliver found a bug in POP. I'm bummed — it was one I'd fixed once, too, and it somehow got undone. But it's shippable, even with the bug, so that's probably what they'll decide to do. Shit.

A 30th anniversary note to Prince of Persia fans

Thirty years ago today, I was at my Apple II, crunching on a six-week deadline to finish Prince of Persia by mid-July to ship in September.

I know this because I wrote it in my journal. If I hadn't, those details would have long since faded from my memory, along with the 6502 hex op codes I once knew by heart.

In 1989, I could never have imagined that Prince of Persia would last this long — much less have foreseen it being ported to a future generation of game consoles from the makers of the Walkman. (Or to the big screen by the producer of Beverly Hills Cop.)

To all of you who've played, watched, and supported PoP over the years — thank you! I've been especially moved by the things you've shared about the ways PoP has touched your lives. Your kind and encouraging words have been an inspiration to me.

Many of you have asked when there will be a new PoP game (or movie, or TV series). If you feel that it's been a long time since the last one, you're not alone. I wish I had a magic dagger to accelerate the process — it would have been poetic to time a major game announcement with this 30th-anniversary year. But I'm only a small part of a bigger picture.

There is one PoP announcement I can make, and am happy to share with you. Stripe Press, an imprint specializing in books about innovation and technological advancement, will publish a hardcover collector's edition of "The Making of Prince of Persia" — my 1980s original game development journals, newly illustrated with notes, sketches, work-in-progress screen shots, and as many visual features as we have the bandwidth to add by our target "gold master" date of September 2019 (30 years after Apple II PoP signed out of Broderbund QA). Oh, and there'll be an audiobook.

What I cherish about books

For me as a kid who dreamed of creating mass entertainment, in the pre-internet days, when you still needed a printing press to make a book and a film lab to make a movie, the Apple II was a game-changer: a technological innovation that empowered every user to innovate. Suddenly, I didn't need adult permission (or funding) to tell a story of adventure that might reach thousands — and ultimately millions — of people.

That direct connection between author and public is still possible today for small indie games — and for books. By contrast, making a major movie or AAA game requires millions of dollars and hundreds of people. It's a thrilling ride, and the rewards can be great, but by nature it's beyond the scope of what one person or even a tight-knit creative team can accomplish alone.

So it felt very much in the magical 8-bit spirit when Stripe's co-founder Patrick Collison emailed me to propose this book, and less than two months later, we're doing it. For me personally, in the midst of longer-term projects whose announcement is still a ways off, it's refreshing to add one whose timeline is reckoned in months rather than years.

In 2012, when the PoP source code disks I thought I'd lost turned up in my dad's closet, I discovered that an incredible retro-gaming fan and archivist community has been keeping the flame of early game development knowledge alive.

The Internet Archive and Strong Museum of Play (which houses work materials and artifacts from my past projects) are already on board to help us make the collector's edition of "The Making of Prince of Persia" as feature-rich as possible.

As we move toward beta, we'll document and share our progress online via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. With luck, we'll be able to bring boxes of printed hardcover books to PAX East in spring 2020 — 30 years after the PC release of Prince of Persia (which is the one most people remember). I hope to see many of you there in person.

Until then, here's a fateful time-capsule post (and photo) from the week PoP went alpha, thirty years ago. Reading it now, the drollest part is that I still thought (as usual) I was about two weeks from the finish line.

And then there's the mullet.

July 26, 1989

Left a stack of disks three inches high on my desk for Brian. Eleven for sales, three for QA, plus seven more. Hope they work.

I played the whole game straight through for the first time ever, start to finish, cheat keys turned off. Made it with seconds to spare (my hour ran out while I was fighting the Grand Vizier).

You know what? It was fun!

There's a level of tension generated when you know you can't cheat, which is completely absent from the normal playtesting I do. By the time that final battle rolled around, I had a solid hour invested, and damned if I was going to lose!

Still a few bugs — two weeks of work, like I said — but it's a game, and a damn good one. I'm content. I'm ready to go river rafting.

July 1989 photograph of Jordan finishing work on the original Prince of Persia

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