Thirty years ago, I made a game called Prince of Persia. Later, I worked with Ubisoft (as game designer) and Walt Disney Pictures (as screenwriter) to relaunch the franchise with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time––the game in 2003, the movie in 2010.

Now we're celebrating the original game's 30th anniversary with a new illustrated and annotated hardcover book of my 1980s game-dev journals: The Making of Prince of Persia, just published by Stripe Press. Ask me anything!

Well, ALMOST anything. I can’t answer questions about unannounced projects, even (especially) Prince of Persia. Alas.

Info about the new Prince of Persia book at and

Info about all my projects (PoP games, movies, graphic novels, and others) at

I'm also on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, usually in that order. My social media links are in the footer at

And for a 20-minute look behind the scenes of making Prince of Persia, check out this ArsTechnica War Stories episode:


***UPDATE: AMA is finished. Thanks for so many great questions and comments! I wish I'd had time to answer more of them. You can also find answers to many frequently asked questions in the Projects section of my site at --Jordan

Comments: 2350 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

SleeplessInS2415 karma

Where did you get that brutal sword slicing sound from ?

I wore out floppies loading that game hundreds of times... It was amazing for it's time.

StripePress2172 karma

Ha! You must be talking about the PC version :) Broderbund sound designer Tom Rettig was responsible for the audio of that port. It was a big step up from the Apple original, where sound effects could only be done by toggling the speaker (was it $c030 ?) and as much as I might have wished for brutality, fell somewhere between click and plop.

I think he got the sfx from various libraries and then fiddled with them a bit, but Tom would know best!

Tom also went on to lead a bigger audio team for the sequel, The Shadow and the Flame.

goomyman54 karma

Is it sad that I loved that game but never even knew their was a sequel. How does a sequel to such a beloved classic not get advertising. Or maybe it did but it definitely didn’t reach me.

StripePress109 karma

Sorry to hear! The 1993 sequel was only on PC -- it didn't get console ports. That might be part of the reason. The industry was changing fast, and between 1993-96 the attention of gamers shifted to real-time 3D in a big way.

OversteerCentral1072 karma

If I want to play the original now, where can I find it?

StripePress2354 karma

Alas, the original POP is not *officially* available anywhere. But you can download and play it for free under emulation on Apple II, MS-DOS, Amiga, and many other platforms. Just don't say I told you to do that.

I don’t have links at hand, but I’m sure people in this forum do.

How about it, can you help this guy out? I’d be curious to know what formats are out there. I bet there are some I haven’t played at all.

Keshimayu795 karma

Jordan Mechner. Your name was forever engraved in my mind because of the countless hours i spent dying to the numerous hard-but-fair traps on my way to the princess in the original Prince of Persia and to a lesser extent in Karateka too. I spent a big chunk of my childhood playing and replaying your games, and finished them numerous times. And came back to them time and again just for the pleasure of watching the incredible animations (for the time it was probably the closest to motion capture we ever got wasn't it ?) and level design.

I don't really have any question for you to be fair, but I just wanted to thank you for being one of the Great Ones from the days of yore and fueling my passion to this day with fond memories (and deaths, lots of deaths). I'll be getting your book ASAP and showing it to the yung'uns.

become_taintless169 karma


I didn't have an Apple IIe, but my friend across the highway did, and I sometimes went to his house to play Karateka, and it was awesome.

Keshimayu183 karma

Awesome it sure was. Vicious till the end, even the friggin' princess would kill you if you did the wrong move once you beat the boss. Pure genius. This guy's games were something else entirely.

StripePress314 karma

Sorry about the princess.

maleorderbride752 karma

What's a trend in gaming today that you'd love to see go away?

StripePress2951 karma

In-game purchases. I really thought we were finally done with that in 1980 when the industry moved from rolls of quarters to owning our own copies of games on cassettes.

igabeup606 karma

what's your favorite recent game to play? (last 5 years or so.)

StripePress1337 karma

Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

nosuhtravala10432 karma

Did you beat the game?

StripePress1275 karma

More times than I care to remember.

The great risk for developers of endlessly playing our game to test and fix bugs is that it becomes easy, so then we feel like we need to add a bit more challenge. And so it gradually gets so hard that nobody else but us can play it, and then we think it's just right.

TheGarageDragon362 karma

Reflecting back, how does it feel to have your game go on to become a multi-million dollar franchise and later inspire yet another multi-million dollar franchise?

StripePress416 karma

Strangely remote. I'm happy, but the thing that feels most vivid and urgent to me is always the thing I'm working on right now.

ChecksUsernames276 karma

How do you feel about the movie that was released with Gyllenhaal? And were you involved at all with that movie?

StripePress773 karma

Oh yeah! John August and I pitched it to Disney/Bruckheimer, I wrote the first screenplay and stayed on as executive producer. The story of my involvement is briefly told at And in the Legacy chapter of the new Making of PoP book.

It's hard for me to judge the movie objectively, as the first screenwriter; I simultaneously see the movie, and the "ghost image" of the script I wrote and that I still wish had been filmed, as I guess every screenwriter does. There were 4 writers after me, so I feel kind of like I imagine a parent might if your kid is taken away from you at age one and is raised in a different country, then you meet them again at age 20. There's a fondness, but I can't really take credit.

theassassintherapist148 karma

Is there any reason for movie scripts to go through so many rewrites? Is there any part of the movie you liked that was added during the rewrite?

StripePress489 karma

There are a lot of reasons, partly rooted in studio exec and producer psychology. As the budget increases and expectations grow (like, once they decide this is going to be a $100M+ summer blockbuster), they want to be sure they're doing everything they can to maximize the chance of success. So hiring multiple writers and paying them lots of money makes the stakeholders feel confident they're getting the best version possible. Some producers do this more than others; Bruckheimer has a tendency to use many writers.

In this case, I humbly still think my version was best (I'm probably the only writer in the history of Hollywood to think that :) But if the execs gambled the entire budget on shooting a draft by a first-time screenwriter whose only previous credits were video games, and anything about it didn't work, they could be fired. By hiring five writers, with more credits, they're protected.

edcmf171 karma

Are you free to release your script version into the wild if you were so inclined? And/or is it already out there somewhere?

StripePress516 karma

Yes! It's at Clickable link downloads the PDF.

TeamSatan6926 karma

Sorry if this is a dumb question, is it the version you wrote that's being publicised? Or are the game-dev journals another thing?

StripePress46 karma

It's a new hardcover illustrated edition of my 1980s game-dev journals about making the first PoP game. Info about the book is at

bagero14 karma

Do you by any chance still have the original script? Can I read it please?

real_human_person16 karma

I'm gonna go ahead and add a pretty to this please.

StripePress55 karma

Done and done, see above!

spursss17 karma

How was working with John August? Any stories? I’ve been a fan of his since a Big Fish and his IMDB blog.

StripePress39 karma

John and I worked together for the first time on the PoP movie, subsequently on an unproduced TV pilot and feature, and Karateka remake (all of which John has written about on his blog). He is a great human being, wonderful collaborator and mentor, wise and generous in his advice, and awe-inspiring to me in his ability to organize and manage multiple projects while being nice to everybody and without collapsing into chaos, and still return e-mails promptly. I recommend to anyone who has the chance to work with him to do it.

kindall40 karma

He's credited for "screen story" on that film and I'd love to hear what that entails.

StripePress110 karma

Screen credit is the result of a WGA arbitration process. "Screen story" can mean many things. In this case, I wrote the first screenplay, so it means the arbitrators felt that the writers who came after me kept the story, structure and characters, but not much else.

If you're interested in this process (on PoP specifically, and in movies in general), my co-exec producer John August has a great blog at where he's posted a ton on the subject, as well as on his Scriptnotes podcast with Craig Mazin.

AlPalpacino274 karma

I’ve read that the original draft for The Sands of Time (the game, not the movie lol) was scrapped, but couldn’t find out why. What was the cause for this decision? Also, is there anything from that draft you wish had made it to the final product?

I love the series btw, thank you for all your work. I hope to see a comeback someday!

StripePress405 karma

Thanks! To clarify, your question is about the first story for the Sands of Time game at Ubisoft Montreal before I joined the team, right?

When I came on board in 2002, I replaced the writer of that first draft, he moved to a different project, so we never actually got to work together on SoT. I kept a few elements I liked, but basically started over. There was no conflict, it's normal for game narratives to go through many iterations, especially at that early stage.

TestUserDoNotReply242 karma

What's the shortest time in which you've finished the original Prince of Persia?

(My own record is 29 minutes on PC.)

StripePress296 karma

I don't remember, but you could DEFINITELY beat me today.

deckard1980226 karma

Dude, thank you! Your game was my favourite on the gameboy. Such an amazing conversion, which version do you think was the best?

StripePress314 karma

The Super Nintendo version was the most ambitious and added the most as compared to the original game. But I'd still have to say the MS-DOS version is definitive. (The Amiga port by Dan Gorlin, which used the improved PC assets but much of the original 6502 code, is a close runner-up.)

Mavzor223 karma

Jordan, this could be seen your lifes magnum opus.
Looking back 30 years, what do you wish you could have done differently?

StripePress746 karma

Put all my royalties into Apple stock starting in 1984 and left them there.

victormaker182 karma

First of all, I'd like to say that you're one of my personal idols. The way that Prince of Persia revolutionized the industry was mind-blowing for me as a kid, when I began to read about games much older than me. I'm anxious waiting about the new projects mentioned.

With all being said, do you haver any personal idols (inside and outside the game industry)? How did they inspire you and how they influenced you? Have you met any of them personally?

Thanks for doing this AMA. I hope your book travels overseas as soon as possible to Latin America, or I'll have to import it anyways hahahahaha

StripePress268 karma

Thanks, and I love that question! I've been so inspired by the work and life stories of others, ever since I was a kid. Too many to list, but here are a few:

Akira Kurosawa. I read his book "Something Like an Autobiography" in college. His Seven Samurai was (and maybe still is) my all-time favorite film; I studied it endlessly, and Karateka was among other things a homage to how much I love his work. He was a true master and hero of mine.

Walt Disney was an early role model for me as a kid. Although that hero-worship was based on an idealized image rather than a fuller understanding of who actually did what at Disney -- and my feelings now are complicated by the many dark sides of what he accomplished -- I still admire so much about his achievement.

Mike Nichols: filmmaker, stage director, actor, improv comic. I had the good luck to hear a lecture by him when I was at college and there are things he said that are always in my mind whenever I'm writing.

Ben Kingsley is one of my very favorite actors. The sheer power and warmth of his human presence, in film and in the spell he somehow casts as a public speaker, fascinates me.

John Le Carré is the fiction writer for our times, the one whose next thriller I await with greatest eagerness.

Jeez, I could go on for hours. MANY hours.

amazeranand158 karma

What was Broderbund like? How big was your team?

StripePress273 karma

Broderbund was a small family company founded in 1980 by the Carlston siblings in Eugene, Oregon. By the time I showed up in 1984 (as a 19-year-old college student with a floppy disk of Karateka) the company had grown a bit and moved to San Rafael, CA, down the road from George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch. It still felt like a family, but was becoming increasingly "corporate" -- as we programmers understood that word in the 1980s, and complained about. Little did we know.

The company continued to grow, and shifted its emphasis increasingly from games (where it started) to productivity and educational software. As a solo programmer not on salary, working basically on my own, I was already an anomaly by the time I came back to Broderbund to start making Prince of Persia in 1985. The changing atmosphere and growing pains at the company during that period from 1984-1993 are a subject I wrote about a lot in my journals at the time.


It's hard to comprehend what a juggernaut Broderbund was for a while in the early '80s. Games like Karateka and Choplifter were big. Lode Runner was huge. But The Print Shop was massive. Like "everyone you knew had a copy" massive. To me, nothing says early-'80s quite like a banner printed out sideways across a couple dozen pages of fan-fold paper on a dot-matrix printer.

Granted, knowing the times, probably 90% of those copies were pirated and made $0 for Broderbund.

StripePress94 karma

In that period Print Shop and Carmen Sandiego were Broderbund's bread and butter. It was hard to get anyone in the company to see much potential in a game -- any game.

CthuluSpecialK127 karma

Is it pronounced Mek-ner, or Me-TCH-ner?

Also, did you write bonjour cause you are currently stationed at Ubisoft Montreal, or another reason? Cause if its cause you're in Mtl, nous vous apprécions vraiment!

My brothers and I were all introduced to PC gaming on floopy disks where we had Prince of Persia and Doom. You have no idea how happy we were taking turns and playing for hours. You gave the world a great gift; sincerely, thank you.

StripePress184 karma

Je suis à Montpellier (France)!

I appreciated Montreal a lot too. Merci a toi!

Mek-ner in English, Mesh-NER in French. The family name comes from Austria, so German speakers on the thread will know how it's *really* pronounced.

amirthebored101 karma

As an Iranian, I'm really interested to know how you came up with this idea and why the prince, is Persian? Cause technically, no one in the world has anything nice to say about us (specially back in 80s)

StripePress151 karma

Back in 1985, as a 21 year old American, despite a college education, most of what I knew about Persia came from reading the tales of the 1001 Nights. It was only later, doing the research to write the script for The Sands of Time (first game, then movie) that I read the Shahnameh and began to gain a deeper appreciation of Persian culture. Since then, I've learned even more about Persian history, myth and legend, read Hafiz and Attar, and understand that the Prince of Persia stories up till now have only scratched the surface.

sdkessler93 karma

So, I heard that the original Prince of Persia was completely written in Assembly? You absolute madman.

StripePress168 karma

It's not like I had a choice. The alternative was BASIC.

The code is in 6502 assembler. It's up on Github now if you're interested.

cuba20061173 karma

How did the upside-down version of Karateka on the other side of the floppy of the Apple II original came to be?

StripePress111 karma

Roland Gustafsson (the wunderkind who did the copy protection) and I walked into Doug Carlston's office and pitched it to him. We suggested that some people who put the disk in upside down by accident would think it was normal and all floppy disks worked that way. We never thought he'd actually go for it, since it would add to the cost of goods and reduce Broderbund's profit per unit. But he did.

slpgh70 karma

How much was the game intended to be a conceptual and maybe technical follow up from Karateka, vs being a completely new project?

Also, I wanted to thank you - I’ve been a software engineer for decades, and learned to program in the Apple II days. Karateka was one of the first games I’ve played on my Apple II and left a huge impression on me. PoP has really defined a generation of games for programmers in my county in terms of what was possible, long before 3D took over.

How do we buy an autographed copy? ;)

StripePress84 karma

Basically, I wanted to bring the smooth rotoscoped animation and cinematic feeling of Karateka to a different genre, a puzzly/platformy game with modular level design like Castles of Dr Creep or Lode Runner, which were great inspirations.

I always envisioned PoP as a new IP with its own story and setting. Of course, we didn't use the term IP in those days. Broderbund would have preferred a Karateka sequel.

In the year (or 2 years) between Karateka and starting PoP, as my journal recently reminded me, I actually discussed with Broderbund a proposal to design and supervise a Karateka 2 in parallel with making PoP. But they didn't see what value I could add if I wasn't programming it myself, so we didn't do it.

piojosso63 karma

Hi Jordan!

Let me start by saying I am a game developer and a huge fan of Prince of Persia. One of my most prized possessions is a complete in box copy of it for the Super Nintendo, the first words i learned to write besides my own name were PRINCE MEGAHIT (at age 3!), and one of the things that got me into trying to get into game development were the videos of your brother jumping and running that are all around the internet. Of course you know your work has touched the life of millions, but I'm not sure you know how far away (I was born, raised and first played PoP in Catamarca, Argentina!).

My questions are:

1- How did it occur to you to film actual people to make games instead of drawing like everyone else? What was the thought process behind it?

2- I'm sure you've had lots of business meetings since 1985. Do you have any advise on approaching that for people who are not so experienced?

Also, a friend of mine (also a developer) hosts a business and industry related video interview show (through video call) for an important latin-american gaming and game industry news site. I'm sure you are a very busy person and i will totally understand if you can't, but if it's possible to get a half hour of your time, would you be willing to do a skype interview? It would mean so much to me if you did.

Thanks a lot for both doing this AMA and for your awesome work on this medium!

EDIT: First question was incomplete

StripePress177 karma

Thanks! The best advice on business meetings is the one I got from my dear friend Tomi Pierce before I went to my first Hollywood screenwriter meeting in 1987. She said (I'm paraphrasing her exact words, which I wrote in my journal): "Remember they're just guys. Pretend it's xx and xx" (she named two people I am used to and don't feel intimidated by).

Business people use a lot of jargon and talk like business people usually because they're insecure about their position and the value of what they contribute (which in fact, may not be much). The more you can talk straight, skip the bs and get to what is really going on and what matters, the more the people who count will appreciate it, be grateful and relieved.

Straight talk, clarity and sincerity is only a problem in situations where the emperor has no clothes. And in those situations, maybe you should consider moving to a different empire, if you can.

molivo1058 karma

I played the prince of persia as a little boy and it was a magical experience. Thank you for that. Where did you get the inspiration for the little mouse that helps you?

StripePress116 karma

That was my friend and colleague Tomi Pierce. She reminded me that the princess ought to do something useful, not just be passively waiting to be rescued. The white mouse was a great solution because it only took a few bytes of memory, and added some much-needed human emotion to the mechanics.

roadhouse_music53 karma

I made a reddit account for this, so I hope you see it. My grandfather introduced me to Prince of Persia when I was a kid and he is currently on his last leg battling alzheimer’s (as well as just fighting against the toll 50+ years of hard farming can do to your body.)

After helping Papaw work all day, he’d teach me to play computer games and Prince of Persia is the only one I remember. We played this game all the time and I fondly remember sitting in his lap in front of our old Windows 9X machine lol. He was always so happy and I miss seeing him smile like that. He’s much more confused and morose these days, but Prince of Persia reminds me of the kind, gentle man he used to be.

Thank you for your game. Thank you for the memories.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

StripePress50 karma

Thank you for sharing that! It really touches me to hear a story like this. That's all any game creator could wish for.

An African or a European swallow?

_saratoga50 karma

Would you consider donating your personal papers/documents/whatever to the Library of congress? It would help serve researchers in the future!

StripePress119 karma

I've actually donated them already to ICHEG at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. They're doing amazing work there. They also have the collections of Broderbund founder Doug Carlston, Will Wright, John Romero (who told me about the Strong), and many others.

gpranav2542 karma

I know you worked a lot with Ubisoft team for Sands of Time, but what happened afterwards? Why did you not get in involved much in the making of Warrior Within, Two Thrones, the 2008 reboot and Forgotten Sands games?

vale20243 karma

He went to Los Angeles to write the Script for the "Sands of Time" Movie that came out in 2010 so wasn't available.

Yannis Mallat said this in a "WW Making of" video.

StripePress48 karma

That's true.

IntellegentIdiot21 karma

Prince of Persia blew me away in the early 90s, I couldn't believe something like that was even possible when I saw it on someone's PC. It paved the way for games like Another World and Flashback and I don't think I've been as impressed by a game visually as I was then.

The thing that impressed me as I discovered the background of the game was that you knew what rotoscoping was and was able to get a frame grabber/capture card for the Apple II. That wasn't impressive in the mid-90's but the late 80's it was unheard of, at least for me. How did you learn about rotoscoping and video capture?

Didn't you already release your journals as a book or was that something else?

StripePress13 karma

Thanks! Yes, both the Making of Karateka and Making of PoP journals have been published. The new PoP book is an expanded edition of the PoP journals, illustrated and annotated, but the journal entries themselves are what I wrote then.

nashodkebeshe18 karma

Have you ever travelled to Persia?

StripePress29 karma

I never have. I would like to. I've come close, including with a Ubisoft team -- but on each occasion, an unforeseen event got in the way and prevented the trip.

beachhousebaltimore14 karma

Hi Jordan! I just read that your father is a well-established psychologist (and accomplished in many other fields as well.) Would you say that his work has any sort of influence on the way you approach writing and making games?

StripePress22 karma

Absolutely! Beyond that, he composed the music for Prince of Persia and Karateka. His role is often mentioned in the old journals, especially the first volume about Karateka.

thomasthehedgehog88810 karma

I know it sounds strange, but have you still got any Beta/Prototype builds (or maybe even that scrapped level editor) of the original Prince of Persia still on your computer? I love playing early prototypes of video games to appreciate how far they've come and it's fun to compare what might've been with what the final product was and having those builds become available would be a DREAM COME TRUE, as I loved this game as a kid.

It's also great for preservation as to not have them be lost to the sands of time (pun intended), is a great website for video game preservation of prototypes and unreleased content!

StripePress10 karma

I agree! The Strong Museum and Internet Archive have those disks. It would take a bit of work to dig into them, but they're there. Screenshots and notes about work in progress builds are also included in the illustrated edition of the Making of PoP journals.