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Home » Featured, Interviews

Prince of Persia; Q&A with Ubisoft

Submitted by on Friday, 5 December 20089 Comments

As part of our Prince of Persia coverage we sat down with Ubisoft to talk about their latest regal adventure and learn more about this illustrious three year project.

The interview covers an eclectic range of topics including the much lauded artistic direction of the game, its sound design, possible new content and a myriad of other subjects such as the decision made regarding SIX-AXIS control and lost Iranian religions. Yes, we went there.

We also ask the one question that is on everyone’s lips. New Prince Vs. Old Prince – who’d get the upper hand?

Check after the (Elika inspired) jump for some new information about what we’re calling “the last must have game of 2008“.

[PS3 Attiude] Ben Matte, the game’s Creative Director, describes the unique aesthetic of the game as “illustrative” rather than “cel-shaded”. At what part during the pre-production process did you decide to go in this direction? Did the game ever start out with hyper-realistic graphics akin to Assassin’s Creed or did Ubisoft always have this demonstrative style in mind?

[Ubisoft] We tried many different things with this game and the art style was one that we decided upon very early on in development. We didn’t believe that hyper-realistic graphics, similar to Assassin’s Creed or other titles, would do the Prince of Persia world justice as it calls for a fantasy world. Making an ultra realistic world would in fact be the opposite to the true Arabian Nights heritage of Prince of Persia.

[PS3A] Ben also spoke about the content bible; a veritable war-chest of artwork, content and back-story featuring the world of Prince of Persia. Is there anything in particular about a character or mythos of the world that you found exceptionally interesting but didn’t manage to feature in the final game?

[Ubisoft] We can’t go into too much detail as things like back-story and motivations are demonstrated throughout the game and we don’t want to give out spoilers. However I can say that such things are extensive as to give a character drive and direction you need to have somewhere where they have come from and reasons for that drive. All of the characters in Prince of Persia have this and you can learn a bit of these backstories from the videos we’ve created.

[PS3A] Elika strikes us as another strong female presence in gaming. Were you ever tempted to make her a fully-fledged playable character? Also, with the recent hints that next year’s DLC will be episodic, is it possible that players might be able to take control of Elika as part of a quest or would this disrupt with the dynamic of her role within the game?

[Ubisoft] We certainly consider many things in development and making Elika playable was one of them but we quickly realised that it’s not really feasible. Elika is called upon by a button press and you could, in theory, put this action in a secondary player’s hands but the timing required, the rhythm required to complete a platforming section/combat is impossible in this method. To time things correctly you really need to be in control of that timing and, unless you’re linked via the brain (or twins or something), then you’ll never successfully hit that rhythm.

[PS3A] As the Prince performs combos and acrobatic feats, the music builds to a crescendo and rewards the player with a rousing aural experience. Can you touch upon how the music within the game was developed? While most people focus on the game’s stunning visuals, was it a conscious decision to also take the sound design in an exciting new direction?

[Ubisoft] Music is an essential part of any videogame and in Prince of Persia it’s especially important as it helps build the world that you experience, the world that you’re in. Without it you can often find yourself in a very bland, emotionless world which is not what we wanted. We wanted your actions and your rhythm to be supported by an epic musical score which really helps draw you in. The main soundtrack was composed by two artists: Stuart Chatwood (who you’ll remember from previous Prince of Persia games) and Inon Zur, who both done a fantastic job on it.

[PS3A] The recently announced Altair skin was a nice touch and we’re seeing more and more studios share their distinctive IPs. With Snake donning Altair’s garb in MGS4, and now the Assassin’s Creed skin becoming available to the Prince, will we be seeing other skins/content from other games become available in Prince of Persia in the future?

[Ubisoft] Yes, if you preorder the game from specific retailers (different in every country) then you have the chance to unlock a skin for the Sands of Time Prince and Farah. There are other skins which you’ll learn about later!

[PS3A] As a PS3 specific news site we’re eager to learn any details of what it was like developing on the PS3. Did you incorporate any SIX-AXIS controls in the game for example?

[Ubisoft] No, the SIX-AXIS motion control system is great but we didn’t feel it added a lot to the awesome experience on the PS3.

[PS3A] With thousands of lines of “On Demand Dialog” (ODD) there appears to have been a great deal of time spent on story. Can you discuss with us what its influences were?  Such exposition obviously enhances the experience of playing the game but is there incentives for people to delve deeper into the tale of the Prince and Elika? With so many orbs to be found in the game, was there ever any temptation to reward their locations to those who took the time to experience all your hard work and listen to all the dialog?

[Ubisoft] This new epic storyline is close to Persian Mythology. During pre-production period, we made lots of researches and drew inspiration from Zoroastrianism, which is a philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster. It was once the dominant religion of much of Iran.

There is a huge incentive to use the ODD in that you learn much more about the back-story of the characters, the enemies, the king, the environments, the gods, etc, etc, so everything really comes together. We recommend you use this as much as you can!

There are many Light Seeds in the game (over one thousand) but to restrict a few to those who have listened to all the ODD is a barrier of entry we didn’t want to create. There is a LOT of ODD so if you go through the game listening to it all as you go along that’s fine but for the player who hasn’t done this and then wants to collect all the Light Seeds, making them listen to all the ODD at once just to find the final two isn’t really something we want to force upon them.

[PS3A] The look of the new Prince is a little more “San Fran than Iran”.  How difficult is it to balance the unique design for how you want your lead character to appear within the confines of the story’s setting and with what people think a Persian looks like versus what they actually do?

[Ubisoft] Obviously this is a very difficult thing to do as everyone has their own belief as to what makes a Prince of Persia game. We spend a lot of time testing and trying out many different things when making games, Prince of Persia is no different, and we believe that we’ve got the visuals of a Prince of Persia game “right”. Once people play the game and see it in action we’re confident they will agree with us but one of the strongest stamps of approval we’ve had so far is from Jordan Mechner, the original creator of Prince of Persia. He’s seen the game many times and has always said how much he loves the look of the game and he’s very happy with it.

[PS3A] Time for something completely different. Old Prince vs new Prince. Who’d win in a fight?

[Ubisoft] That depends on which “old Prince” you’re talking about: original PoP1 Prince? Dark Prince in The Two Thrones? Sands of Time Prince? Warrior Within Prince? Etc 😉

[PS3A] Finally, with Sony’s PlayStation Home having reached version 1.0 and its release imminent, have Ubisoft any plans for the new social online experience? Some of us in the beta have enjoyed the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Farcry Game Spaces. Are there any plans for a Prince of Persia Game Space?

As Home is still very early in development we’ve yet to make any large decisions in that area.

We want to thank Ubisoft for taking the time and talking with us about the new Prince of Persia. If you’re interested in the history of the franchise we highly recommend checking out our retrospective look at this iconic character from the seminal Sands of Time all the way back to his humble origins in Mechner’s side-scrolling time-based classic.

Our Prince of Persia launch day competition is running right now…

…will you win one of our three awesome prize packs?