I started out making video games (Karateka, Prince of Persia, The Last Express) and now also write movies and graphic novels. My new project is an original graphic novel, TEMPLAR (http://templarbook.com) about renegade knights in 14th century France. Ask me anything!

You can download the free "behind the scenes" Templar e-book at http://jordanmechner.com/templarbook (13MB PDF).

Verification on twitter (@jmechner) at https://twitter.com/jmechner/

Update: The AMA is over. Thanks for your questions!

Comments: 96 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

medi6413 karma

Have you ever been in Persia?

jmechner18 karma

Never been to Iran. It's high on my travel wish list.

Persia in the 9th century was really huge, and included places that today are within Turkey, China, India, Uzbekistan, and many other countries... so if you expand the definition to include all the places mentioned in the 1001 Nights and Shahnameh (which Prince of Persia is based on)... I've been to Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, and Istanbul.

medi6412 karma

Right. You should definitely visit Shiraz and Esfahan in Iran. These cities will remind you of your game.

jmechner9 karma

I want to!!

RayWest5 karma

And on that note, please take a picture of the locals and make your character look Persian for once.

I still love your work though!

jmechner9 karma

Thanks! I'm gonna stick up for the art direction of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (the game) and say the character DOES look Persian, to me. His face structure and coloring would fit right in among the Persians in my neighborhood in L.A., and in the 15th-century Shahnameh illuminated manuscripts I've seen.

But if you're talking about the art on the 1989 game box, or the much worse SEGA box art, or aspects of certain other versions, yeah, there's plenty of POP-related stuff that falls into the most embarrassing Hollywood/Orientalist tradition.

RayWest2 karma

I'm really just busting your balls. I have loved your work since I was a kid. I don't think I'd care if the guy looked Chinese and wore a Dashiki.

Keep up the good work.

jmechner6 karma

Actually, John August's and my first casting pitch was for Zhang Ziyi as Tamina and the people in Alamut to be Asian-looking (to distinguish them from Dastan's "Persian" invaders). But, that didn't happen.

TheThirdStrike7 karma

Mr. Mechner,

Prince of Persia was the first graphical MS-DOS PC game I ever played, back on my friend's Dad's business computer (maybe a 286, definitely an amber monochrome monitor). To this day, Prince of Persia is one of my favorite game series (Prince of Persia 3D is the exception.)

I just wanted to thank you for all the wonderful years of entertainment and inspiring similar games like Another World, and Flashback.

Looking back, did you ever think that Prince of Persia would take off like it did, or inspire so many similar games, or were you just having fun making a game?

jmechner8 karma

Thanks! For an honest answer, I HOPED it would take off, and (on my good days) definitely indulged in fantasies about how awesome it would feel if the game were successful -- but over the 4 years of making it, I had lots of down days too, and doubts as to whether it would be good enough or if I would even finish it. Those ups and downs are reflected in the pages of the journals I kept at the time -- you can read those 1980s ramblings on my website or at http://jordanmechner.com/ebook.

By the way, Eric Chahi developed Another World in parallel, working mostly alone in his parents' house in France, much as I'd been doing in New York -- he didn't know yet about Prince of Persia (although he'd played Karateka). We developed a lot of the same ideas separately, an ocean apart. I finally met him in 1993 and we became friends.

BriProv5 karma

You were a pillar of one of the original indie eras. Do you think it was more of a golden era for indies then or now? How do you feel things would've been different had you been younger and grown up to reach that point today?

jmechner9 karma

Golden eras are only golden in retrospect. I have no doubt we'll look back on the 2010s as a golden era for indie games. But if you're making indie games right now, you know it's hard to make a game, harder to make a GOOD game, and harder still to get the word out and attract a large audience of players. All of which was also true in the 1980s.

klinham3 karma

And one more thing, man you rock. Thanks for the games (karateka, pop)

jmechner2 karma

Thank you!

Chilaxicle3 karma

Hey there Mr. Mechner! I just got finished reading both of your journals (Karateka and Prince of Persia) and they've proved to be a great inspiration to me. They've made me realize that people who make it big are just normal people too, who's talent is purely what puts them in the spotlight (well, most of the time anyway...).

In your journals you talk a lot about movies, and I was wondering, what are you favorite movies that have recently come out (maybe the past 10 years?) and why? Thanks!

jmechner6 karma

Hmm... that's tough, because most of my favorite movies HAVEN'T come out in the past ten years. I'm gonna go with.... Rocketman.

jmechner8 karma

Some other all-time favorites are Seven Samurai, Reds (the Warren Beatty one, not Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren with a machine gun, though that one was awesome too), 28 Days Later, Raiders of the Lost Ark... I was just kidding about Rocketman. Don't see it.

lRONVULVA3 karma

Not a question, but the ending of Kareteka (when you approach the princess "incorrectly")... I think that provided one of my earlier childhood ಠ_ಠ moments.

jmechner4 karma

Thanks! It's one small sliver of female power in a game that's otherwise entirely about a helpless damsel waiting to be rescued.

klinham3 karma

Going back to "Karateka". I've read "The making of ..." - did you learn the assembly language all by yourself ? It's very impressive how you put it all (graphics, ai, sounds) working. I played the game as a kid on Atari (lame conversion, I know) but this was one of those games that influenced my childhood the most. Greetings from Poland.

jmechner3 karma

Thanks! Yeah, I learned 6502 assembly language pretty much on my own. The Apple II Red Book by Steve Wozniak was a big help. There was also a book about 6502 by Rodney Zaks, but it was written for electrical engineers, and I think it confused me more than it helped. (John Romero had the same experience.)

Visited Poland for the first time last year, Warsaw and Krakow. Loved it!

CouldBeSavingLives3 karma

What was the most challenging aspect of your career so far?

jmechner5 karma

Looking back over 30+ years, I'd say my biggest challenge has been (and is) to balance "career" with the other things in life -- friends, family, love, and interests outside my own projects -- and navigating the many ways these get tangled up together.

An additional challenge is because I've always done independent, self-directed projects and never had a "normal" job, it's hard to know where to draw the limits. Am I working too hard, or not enough, or on the wrong things? There's no one to tell me, so I have to ask myself those questions every day.

AntiRush3 karma

There has recently been talk of a The Last Express movie. Is it really happening?

The Last Express is definitely my favorite game - after the new Karateka game, are you considering another game in that universe? Maybe a prequel?

jmechner3 karma

Thanks! Director Paul Verhoeven and I really want to make the movie happen. We're very close to having a screenplay everyone is happy with, but there are a lot of next steps, including securing financing. It's not as big a movie as Prince of Persia, but it's not exactly small either. I mean, there's a train, and (spoiler alert) bad things happen to it.

_mediajunkie3 karma

Why did you pick Paul Verhoeven or why did he pick you? Or did he contact you or you contact him? Basically how did you and Paul Verhoeven get together to make the movie? Would you have picked any other director? Who do you have planned for the cast? What is your ideal cast for Cath and Anna Wolf and other main characters? Will you be casting unknowns?

I have loved the Last Express and bought it when it came out on iOS. I wish you made something similar along those lines. I learnt all about European history because of that game.

jmechner2 karma

Thanks! How it happened: Our film agents set up a meeting, and we hit it off. I'd been a fan of Paul's films since the 1980s, Robocop and Flesh and Blood (which by the way remains one of my overlooked cult-favorite medieval fims, and was also a big inspiration for TEMPLAR)... but it was his most recent, "Black Book," that sealed it for me (if I needed convincing) that he would do an amazing job of directing "Last Express." Because Last Express is not only an action thriller, but also a story that's specifically about a certain moment in 20th century European history, it needs a director that is comfortable in both worlds, and Paul is one of the few who is brilliant at bridging them (as Black Book does). The experience of working with him for a year developing the script was great and rewarding and taught me a lot about film storytelling (even though we haven't made the film yet).

For casting, that is all tied up with financing, so nothing to say at this point, although of course it's fun to daydream.

Intimmynator2 karma

What are you hoping to accomplish with writing Templar? Where do you want it to be in a couple years (contracted series for example)?

jmechner2 karma

We've accomplished it! It's a book! I hope (and the artists, and our editor at First Second hope) that enough people will discover it to make the publisher glad they took the gamble of publishing a thick, 480-page, color, hardcover graphic novel, in this age of downloadable content when actual physical books are harder to sell than they used to be.

Not to say that a Templar movie or miniseries wouldn't be awesome, but that wasn't my goal in writing it. It was meant to be an original graphic novel that could stand on its own, and I'm happy it turned out so beautifully.

kittyfartfart2 karma

Just wondering, have you ever seen the adventures of prince achmed? It's an early 1920s german silent cutout animation which should be enjoyable to PoP fans, as it draws on similar inspirations. Ithink the whole thing is on youtube...

jmechner4 karma

Yes! It's quite beautiful and haunting.

ala-akbar2 karma

Are you machine?

jmechner3 karma

OK, fair question, I messed up that tweet. Third time's the charm. Check it now https://twitter.com/jmechner/status/358634485358678016/

SilentSamamander2 karma

What's your opinion on the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal in the Prince of Persia movie?

jmechner3 karma

What's yours?

SilentSamamander4 karma

I personally felt they should have gone with a more middle-Eastern looking actor.

jmechner6 karma

Hmm. On the one hand, see my comments in http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1ipa3z/im_jordan_mechner_writercreator_of_prince_of/cb6p4vr Some Persians might disagree with the stereotype that people in a movie set in 9th century Persia should look "Arabic" in the way I imagine you're imagining when you say "Middle Eastern"; for a lot of Persians, Jake looks plenty Persian enough.

On the other hand, MOST of the characters in the movie and games are "Persian," not just the prince... and if you look at the cast as a whole, it's pretty hard to ignore that the movie (and many of the video game versions, the box art in particular) falls firmly into the well-entrenched, and (to me) embarrassing Hollywood/Orientalist tradition of "good guys/girls are light, villains are dark."

At least the movie didn't ask us to root for the white "hero" who is introduced cheerfully shooting dozens of Arabic-looking "bad guys," and their horses, for no reason that is ever explained, like in THE MUMMY.

sweeper802 karma

How much research/travel do you do for your novels?

jmechner2 karma

I love research, and traveling, and usually do a ton of both -- it's one of my favorite side benefits of doing what I do for a living. For Templar, the artists and I went pretty deep into the historical research; we talk a lot about that in our free ebook -- you can download it at http://jordanmechner.com/templarbook. Please let me know if you have any further questions!

I_smell_awesome2 karma

What did you have for breakfast today?

jmechner3 karma

What's breakfast?

Moath2 karma


jmechner3 karma

Thanks! Glad you liked POP2, it's probably the game I've talked about the least over the years. Sounds like you already saw the big fat design docs I posted on http://jordanmechner.com/blog/2013/04/pop-shadow-and-flame/ and you probably know Ubisoft is about to release a mobile version with updated graphics.

The music was composed by Jonelle Adkinson and Tom Rettig did the sound. They were both in-house at Broderbund, and yeah, they did a fantastic job, especially given the hardware liminations at the time.

hopelesspie2 karma

First of all, I think Prince of Persia and The Last Express are brilliant games. I wish I had some more inspired questions, but I hope these will do:

  1. What was the best and worst part about turning Prince of Persia into a movie?
  2. Do you still play the new Prince of Persia games -- if so, what do you think of the series nowadays and what has been your favourite that you didn't work on?
  3. Do you think you'll ever make another game? If so, what about an adventure game?

Thanks for your time, Jordan!

jmechner5 karma


Best part about doing the POP movie: It got made! It became an actual movie, and thus realized a lifelong dream of mine. And it got made in a huge way, on location in Morocco, with real horses and camels and literally a cast of thousands. Being part of that process was a fascinating education and brought many, many encounters and memories I'll always cherish. And it gave my my first produced movie credit as a screenwriter.

Worst part: The dreams of what the movie might have been (my dream, and others') that ended up being compromised, for many reasons. A project that size, with so many people invested in it, is beyond the control of any one person, or even of a small group of people who are really really good at what they do.

ubomw1 karma

Did you visit Rennes-le-Château?

jmechner3 karma

No. But I know a bit about the Templar legends surrounding it (developed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code).

Did you know that the "Priory of Sion" documents, which sparked that whole theory, were actually forged by one (rather odd) guy in the 19th century? Alas, none of it is true.