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Image credit: Ubisoft Montreal

This is why 'Prince of Persia' has the legacy it does

Kick back and watch the game's designer explain what went into 2003's 'The Sands of Time.'
Ubisoft Montreal

Ubisoft's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time defined how the company looks at its properties. But before the publisher began pumping out annual sequels with a startling cadence at rapidly diminishing returns, there was just the Prince and his snazzy ability to rewind time while jumping, wall-running and shimmying from stone column to stone column. And it's the latest episode of DoubleFine Productions' "Devs Play" series that focuses on that seminal game and finds its director, Patrice Desilets, explaining what went into development.

Desilets admits that when doing background research for 2003's incredible, genre-defining Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time that he'd only played an hour of Jordan Mechner's 1989 original. Honestly, his explanation of what he took from the game when making Sands sounds a lot like Square Enix Montreal's approach when it makes mobile AAA games: he took the "essence" of the original and translated it into new approach. "There was no rewind in the first one, but maybe there should have [been]," Desilets says with a hint of bravado.

Comparing it to the original, Desilets mentions that game development isn't about animation when making a platformer, it's about the transition between short animations and long ones. You know, they type of idiosyncrasies that give a character's movement weight and, well, character. "Animators are more behavior crafters than animators in the movies," he says early on. "It's really important that you're always there and your character feel alive and credible.

"That's one thing: I don't want people to go back into their living room, right?" he asks DoubleFine's vice president of business development Greg Rice. "That's why they play; they want to be out of there. And if your character isn't fluid enough, the suspension of disbelief will be gone." All that to say, it's up to a skilled animator to keep the player present in the game and not looking at their phone or other distraction.

Like previous episodes in the series, this one isn't short by any means, but the hour-long video offers a wealth of insight into one of gaming's touchstones that you likely won't get outside of the annual Game Developer's Conference.

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