Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Interview

Animation Director Jan-Erik Sjovall talks two-tone videogame storytelling, Elika, massive battles and ‘meat and potatoes’ design.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, March 25, 2010

But in this case it was more going back to the old Sands of Time approach, going back to the normal way of doing things. You have your acrobatics, you have your action sequences, and then you have boss fights where you get tested and where you progress the story. Personally I think that Prince of Persia 2008 was a really good experiment, where we tried to lean ourselves out of that window, tried to approach story in a slightly different way – you really had act one, two and three, and their being triggered by certain kinds of events, one leads to the other – and now we’re going back to what they call in Germany ‘hausmannskost’, the meat and potatoes side of things.

A little magic always goes down a storm.

A little magic always goes down a storm.

This is not anything ground-breaking in terms of trying out new things – new things was 2008. It was strangely perceived sometimes, but hopefully this will bring some peace to the some of the hardcore fans.

VGD: Are you tempted to go back to the original Prince of Persia platformers, perhaps revive that set of mechanics? Maybe what Eidos is doing with Tomb Raider [the company recently announced Guardian of Light, an episodic side-on Lara Croft platformer] could be a useful act to follow?

Sjovall: I think it would be cool, but I really don’t know. I don’t know what Ubisoft’s plans are. I think it would be awesome – I think anything on PSN and Xbox Live, where you can take the franchise and play with it, and it’s harmless because you’re not really messing with the original IP from the studio, but I’m not sure Ubisoft management sees it the same way so that’s just my personal opinion on this.

It would be cool, you know. Take for example the old Prince of Persia, a 2D game from 1989, and it was updated for PSN and Xbox Live with 3D graphics, and it was OK – I mean, a lot of companies do that – but it would be nice to push it one step further.

VGD: One of the issues with the original Sands of Time was slightly cheap combat. There were times when you could wall-rebound entire groups of enemies to death. How have you tackled that?

Sjovall: Yeah, there were so many different moves that you had in Sands of Time, but nobody used them. They would just do boosting slash, dagger, boosting slash, dagger, boosting slash, dagger. And you can literally win almost any fight with that. OK, sometimes there’s a guy that has a spear and you can’t jump on him or rebound on him, so you do another move just for this one guy. Or you just freeze him with the dagger and slash him. The rest of the time, you can literally do one move – tick, tock, tick, tock.

Definitely the largest number of enemies on-screen at once for a Prince of Persia title.

Definitely the largest number of enemies on-screen at once for a Prince of Persia title.

So what we tried to do was break the gameplay up, so that every enemy has a certain kind of challenge, and you’re forced to use a certain type of strategy on this guy to beat him. Because the problem was that otherwise it’s just a one-button fight. But in this case, no – there are too many enemies that will overwhelm you. It’s about managing space, it’s about managing your own position to these guys, so that you’re not getting overwhelmed.

We tried this thing, like a token thing. They have one token, so you give a token to one guy and he would attack, then you give a token to another guy and he would attack, and then we said ‘ah, let’s just try it with everybody attacking at the same time’, and it was like ‘holy s**t, this is going to get really hard’. But that was then tweaked a little bit, and turned into what it is now. It’s still being tweaked, it’s still being polished.

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