The Making of Prince of Persia, Journals 1985-1993 - Jordan Mechner

A present from a friend, I've been reading this while feeling a little under the weather. AFAICT, it's a self-published book by the game's author. I had not realised that the writer was both so young at the time of writing the game, and how much an Apple II thing it was. I always associated it with the PC, and it's all the more astonishing to think of it running on a 6502.

It's fascinating to read that Prince of Persia was basically a one-man-show. Rotoscoping the animation, doing most of the graphics, the coding, the game mechanics and level design, all one person. It's also really interesting to see how at times this became a part-time project, as Jordan was also getting deeply interested in becoming a film-maker, and spent a bunch of time jet-setting around (while being concerned he wasn't living it up enough! :).

These are clearly the journals of the author at the time, and the exhilaration of youth shines through. There are occasional insights into the past future - what will happen with FMV and CDROM? On the other hand, the journals are pretty verbatim and lack context. Mechner points out the journals represent his views at the time, and that they've changed since... but a bit of commentary from "grown-up Mechner" would have been nice. Many names are mentioned, but a lot of the time it's not clear who they are, so the journals feel... very personal, but not very useful.

Some of the incidental aspects feel weird but interesting. Throughout the course of the book, three people come down with cancer, like a surprise death sentence. I guess it fits with a person fresh out of university interacting with a working-age population and starting to see the surprises of life, but... it also feels like the '80s were a bit of a dangerous time.

Overall, by just delivering the journals of the time, and nothing else, the book feels like a bit of a lost opportunity. It's also not really a book about Prince of Persia, it's about a young, smart guy with a computer in the '80s being innovative and successful and exploring the possibilties. Not the book it could have been, but entertaining nonetheless.

Posted 2021-04-04.