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Talking with 'Prince of Persia' creator Jordan Mechner

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Princeofpersia_lJordan Mechner might not be a familiar name. Well, not unless you’re an avid PC gamer and are old enough to have once owned an Apple II. Then, there’s a chance you may remember him as the creator of two seminal computer games: 1984’s Kareteka and 1989’s Prince of Persia. The latter, of course, has seen something of a rebirth in recent years. The franchise was successfully relaunched in 2003 (Sands of Time) and the eponymous latest chapter — yet another reboot — is one of the most anticipated titles of this holiday season. Oh, and they’re shooting a Prince movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, slated to be released in the summer of 2010.  Mechner has been involved, to some degree, with most of these installments — he also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film. And when he’s not writing or designing games or directing movies, he’s found time to start a blog (jordanmechner.com) in which he muses on any number of subjects that happen to strike his polymathic fancy. EW.com contributor Gary Eng Walk had a chance to talk with Mechner — you can read the Q&A after the jump.   

EW: Could you have imagined in a jillion years that a littlegame for the Apple II and designed 20 years ago would spawn abig-budget, Hollywood tentpole movie?
Mechner: Twenty yearsago, my big worry was whether I could finish the game before the AppleII games market died completely. I thought I’d just spent three yearsmaking a really solid, polished game that 500 people would play and itwould disappear without a trace. If you’d told me [then] that in 20years it would be a [Jerry] Bruckheimer movie, I’d have said: ”The guy who did Top Gun?!‘ — but yeah, what’s happening now is about as close to daydreams-come-true as it gets.

EW:
This is Hollywood, so you’ve probably had to come to terms early onthat there would be some liberties taken with the source material.What’s the number one thing about Prince of Persia that you, as its creator, feel shouldn’t be changed or compromised under any circumstances?
Mechner: This goes all the way back to the original 1989 game: somewhere in the story, there has to be an hourglass.

EW:
In a paper about game design you wrote a few years ago, you said thatwhile the storyline is king in movies, it should always be subordinateto action and gameplay in videogames. What’s the rule forvideogame-based Hollywood blockbuster films produced by JerryBruckheimer? Story seems to have the clear disadvantage here…
Mechner:For a movie, it’s all about the story. No matter how spectacular, theaction is only gripping if it’s happening to characters we care about.Otherwise, in the midst of all the Dolby fireworks and explodinghorses, we’ll start to get that restless feeling… you know, wishingwe had our ten bucks back and that we were back home playing a videogame.

EW: Gamers like myself would drool over a Karateka reboot. Any chance of that happening?
Mechner:I can’t go into too much detail yet, but it’s definitely happening.It’s very cinematic and brings some cool new ideas to the gameplay, butit still honors the original. I’ll let you know when I can say more.

EW: [Long pause as we catch our breath…] We’re assuming you still have time to play games. What was the last one you played from start to finish?
Mechner:I have time to play games but I don’t have time to finish them. Maybethat’s why my favorite games lately are ones you can pick up and playany time… like Guitar Hero.

So there you have it. We’ve learned that Mechner: (1) always wanted to work on a movie with producer-of-blockbusters Jerry Bruckheimer, (2)may be at work on a new version of Karetka, and (3) likes to rock out with Guitar Hero. Quick show of hands: Who’spsyched to see Prince of Persia movie? Who would like to see a spiffyreboot of Karetka?  And what kind of scores do you suppose Jordanachieves in GH?

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