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

It’s interesting because we wanted to get as many guys on the screen as possible, and we managed to get 50 guys on-screen at the same time. And that makes for rather a massive encounter. Because the problem some had with Prince of Persia 2008 was that it’s rather an empty screen, you fight one guy at a time. It’s just you, Elika and that guy… It’s just three people at most on the screen. Whereas here there’s tons of stuff going on.

VGD: I felt charging up moves folded into that well, betting on how long you can hold the button before somebody lands a blow. You’ve said that this won’t be a ‘ground-breaking’ Prince of Persia. In the third-person action genre as a whole, which game or games do you think are breaking ground?

Sjovall: I don’t know! I mean, the interesting thing that happens when people are trying to explore narrative, how we can bring narrative into games, how we can create similar experiences in games that people have with films – the issue with this is that in the past, we only thrived on two emotions in games, and those are violence and fear.

Those are the only things we do, and that’s pretty weak. So we just create these horror experiences where you’re like ‘I’m scared, I’m going to get shot’, and if that’s all there is to gaming… I mean it works, but only because it’s pretty basic. But then you have games like Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy that try to bring narrative on a different level – I find these games great, but ultimately as a gamer they bore me to tears!

I’d rather watch a movie, you know, two hours and I’m done – with this I also have to deal with this wonky walk cycle, how I’m never getting the guy around. But still, I find this very valid, and it pushes us forward. And I think that Uncharted 2 was a very basic game in terms of experience, gameplay mechanics, but it was great in terms of how they’d made it an interactive experience.

And the same was true of Half-Life 2, it’s great how people experiment bringing these kinds of experience forward. But as to what’s going to happen in the future, it’s a good question. I was also asked before about the new controllers – I don’t know, we will see. Everything is kind of a playground right now, people throw stuff out and see what sticks.

But it would be nice to see games move forward, not having the FPS to the nth degree. It becomes so boring, I want to play games that are a little different. What’s new about God of War 3? Is that going to be a really different game, or just really good graphics?

VGD: I’m one of the evil people who gave it an 8/10, you know. Thanks again for your thoughts, Jan-Erik.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in May, with a PC version slated for June. Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable and Wii versions are also being developed separately: we understand these titles will effectively be different games.

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