Thursday, May 17, 2012

Indie Tech Talk 02: Kaho Abe

Kaho Abe is a game designer who builds very physical games along with the hardware associated with them. She spoke at the Game Innovation Lab at Polytechnic University about her games and her inspirations.

  • Hit Me! is a two-player, physical game that encourages face-to-face real-world interactions, by both the players and the spectators. Two players wear hard hats with huge buttons on top. The object of the game is to hit the opponent's button on top of their head, which would cause the hitter's camera to take a snapshot of the victim that is then projected on a wall. The hitter receives a point and the judges can award additional points based on the quality of the snapshot.
  • The big inspirations for Hit Me! are Twister and Van Damme's Lionheart. Kaho wanted to make a game that people can watch. She looked to Ridley Scott's Gladiator and sumo wrestling to help her design the game's rules. Players of the game had to sign a personal injury waiver form in order to play. The form psychologically got people to be really intensely physical.
  • Mary Mack 5000 is a competitive twist on the children's hand-clapping game Patty Cake. Two players wear gloves with sensors in them and clap hands along with the rock music playing in the background. Each glove is assigned a voltage ID and the Arduino microcontroller knows exactly which glove is in contact with which. The message is sent to the Flash software that compares it to a XML sheet with timestamps and the correct clapping combinations. The game also comes with a rocker vest that give players the feeling of being a rock star playing a silly children's game.
  • Kaho wanted to reintroduce a children's game as a rocker's game. Her major inspirations were Patty Cake for mechanics and Guitar Hero for the theme and aesthetics.
  • Ninja Shadow Warrior is a photo-booth game using the Kinect camera built into an arcade cabinet. Players are tasked with filling up a silhouette of an object using their bodies. The game promotes face-to-face cooperative interaction as multiple players can work together to fill the silhouette. A snapshot of the players are taken at the end of each round and automatically uploaded to
  • Kaho first worked with webcams and green screens, but was unable to get the accuracy she wanted. She finally went with the Kinect and used Daniel Shiffman's Kinect library. With the Kinect, she extracted the silhouette of the players and it put it against the selected object using  a simple pixel-matching algorithm. She also built an elaborate arcade cabinet with giant ninja stars sticking out from its side and pictures of cartoon ninja bunnies to promote playfulness.
  • The major inspirations for Ninja Shadow Warrior were arcades, photo sticker booths, and Twister. The game experiences a lot of emergent play behaviors from its players (ie. a father would carry his daughter on his shoulder to recreate the image).
Conversation with Andy Nealen
  • Kaho has worked on all these projects in her presentation in the last two years. She started with binary buttons built by herself (Hit Me!) and moved onto using someone else's technology (Ninja Shadow Warrior's Kinect). She actually started working on Ninja Shadow Warrior before the Kinect was released, but later reappropriated it for the Kinect.
  • She has no engineering background so she's personally constrained by her knowledge. Andy argues that these limitations help her design since she often designs very easy interfaces that are good for galleries where most attendees have never played a game before.
  • Does she think about technology or game design first? She usually comes up with the concept first, then finds the technology to fit the concept.
  • She loves Fry's Electronic stores and often finds good objects to work with. Fry's has tables and exteriors made out of things you'd find at a theme park.
  • Kaho has a background in fashion design, which led her to create Mary Mack 5000. She finds fashion and tech to be very related since they both have functional and trendy aspects.
  • Doug Wilson's Monkey See, Monkey Mime is a mimicking game that makes people wear silly things. Kaho's games are similar as evident in Hit Me's helmet, which resembles something from Ape Escape. The intention is to make people feel more comical and ridiculous. The hard hats tends to makes people feel more crazy and physical rather than feel safe. One time, a player grabbed a folding chair while playing Hit Me!.
  • All her games are multiplayer and she tries to push a specific social dynamic with her games. During prototyping, playtesters would help her guide the design of the game, but she needs to balance that with pushing her original social intent.
  • She loves Johann Sebastion Joust. That game and Hit Me! were both presented at the Plaython event in Athens and she would often go play Joust between sessions of her own game. She finds that there's a natural progression of bringing games back into the physical space.
  • Public space games should be easy to use and understand. Using low tech and being accessible is synergistic. Most game designers design something very complex and spend iterations subtracting from it to make it accessible, but Kaho spends less time iterating since she designs very accessible games from the start.
  • Her advice to game designers: think about physical interactions from shaking hands to hugging. Think about what make children games fun like Tag and Capture the Flag.
Question and Answer
  • How does Kaho distribute her games? She documents her game-making process and posts code online. She also provides release kits so other developers can jump right into it. She hopes others take her work and make more of them.
  • Her hardware components are not just a piece of software for people to download. As an artist and academic, her goals are not the same as a professional developer so she doesn't need to make distributable hardware. Her intention was always to make games people can play face-to-face. She wants people to meet up at specific locations and play.
  • She explores the performative aspects of games and designs for the spectators as much as for the players. It makes the game more exciting to have an audience watching. With performative props and costumes, her work is more performance art than commercial products.
  • Her games have a high barrier to get and setup. Ninja Shadow Warrior, on the other hand, is very accessible and distributable since it uses the Kinect technology. But Kaho hated the Kinect because she's used to making her own devices. She actually thinks the Kinect is less accessible since it's $150, which is a lot compared to the cheapest webcam you can find.
  • It's not creatively or financially important to her to reach as many players as possible. She assumes people like to make and wire things up like she does, and hopes they will do so to play her games.
  • Her inspirations come from pop culture, movies, and scenarios in stories. She actually derives very little inspirations from games. She's neither a part of or completely distanced from the game community; she's somewhere in between.
  • Hit Me! and Mary Mack 5000 included fashion components. Kaho comes from a fashion background and her graduate thesis was about wearable technology. She finds it funny that there's a barrier between people and their clothing and that they are often more intimate with technology.
  • What are fashion people's response to her work? They find it fun and interesting.
  • Kaho worked a corporate design job that she hated. September 11 made her decide to go to graduate school and there, she realized she liked game design and logic. Logic turned on a part of her brain that she has previously turned off to focus on art and design.
  • Her games are designed to create interaction. She constantly reverse engineers things and finds fun in the success of figuring out new technology.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kickstarter Stories

With Double Fine's Kickstarter success, the website has become the go-to place for aspiring game developers to fund their ideas. This panel, held at Polytechnic University and moderated by Katherine Ibister, discusses the pros and cons of the website, as well as the process of raising funding through Kickstarter for game projects.

  • Michael Astolfi is the game designer of Blindside, an audio adventure with no graphics and played entirely with sound. The game went up on Kickstarter with a pledge of $7,000 and was funded with twice the amount.
  • Michael Consoli is the game designer and developer of Against the Wall, a Unity3D game where you navigate up an infinite wall of large bricks. You can extrude bricks from the wall to jump on them and colored bricks come with specific limitations or power ups. The game was funded with $8,400 on Kickstarter.
  • Alex Thomas of Stoic is the game designer of The Banner Saga, a viking-based adventure game with role-playing elements, interactive dialog, and turn-based strategy combat. Stoic is made up of former Bioware employees. They formed in January 2012 and pledged for $100,000 on Kickstarter. They overshot their goal with $720,000 in funding.
  • Wade Tinney, CEO of Large Animal Games and NY chapter coordinator for IGDA, is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Nomsters. Large Animal Games started in 2001 and has developed over 100 games. They typically work with a publishing partner, but they want to develop their own individual IP. Nomsters is an iOS and Android game built in Unity3D by a 5-man team over the last couple of months. The game has a pinball-meets-pool mechanic with various ball-shaped characters.
  • Cindy Au, community director for Kickstarter, was also in attendance at the panel. Kickstarter launched in 2009 and has recently been huge for the games community, funding up to $20 million for games. It is a good place to test ideas and find out immediately if there's an audience for your game.
  • Jerry Hultin, president of Polytechnic University, provided a keynote before the discussion began. NYC gives angel funds for the right idea and about $100 million of venture money goes into technology. He believes gaming is good for education and sees big markets for it in India and China. Only 2% of India get educated and he wants engineers and game developers to solve that problem. Polytechnic University started building the Game Innovation Lab in 2006 and in the near future, NYU will move all its gaming departments to Brooklyn.
Panel Discussion
  • Why choose Kickstarter? For Blindside, the developers started on PC/Mac but wanted to add gyroscopic controls, which requires an expensive license from Unity, so they turned to Kickstarter to get extra funding. Wade wanted freedom from publishers for Nomsters. In general, all panelists agree that Kickstarter allows you to see if you have an audience for your game before you build it. Use backers as a marketing tool and gauge the success of your product. Publishers usually spend money to find that out, but Kickstarter allows you to do it at almost no cost. 
  • Are there additional purchasers for the games after release or has everyone who's interested in the game already contributed to the project in Kickstarter? Cthulhu Saves the World was funded on Kickstarter for $6,800 but sold 300,000 copies after launch, so there's a good chance there's an additional audience not involved in the Kickstarter.
  • Against the Wall had a playable alpha build when the Kickstarter campaign started. This was to prove to backers that he can make a game, even without industry experience. The game was covered by the press, namely Kotaku, and was able to get funded.
  • The Banner Saga's campaign highlighted the fact that the developers were industry professionals and they were able to get more press from that.
  • What are some general tips for starting a Kickstarter campaign? Be prepared to talk openly about your project and support the campaign. Constantly updating your backers with news chews up a significant amount of time. Set up your own forums after the campaign has ended so you keep your community talking about the game.
  • Do they have fears of product failures and not living up to backer's expectations? Social pressure from backers is very motivating. Also, backers can change their commitment to the project at any time.
  • To run a Kickstarter campaign inevitably means putting an unfinished game out to the public. Do they have concerns of people stealing the ideas and beating them to the market? Making the game public is pretty much putting it on the market first. If you come out with the idea first, even in this manner, people would support you. It's not a big worry concerning other game developers stealing your ideas. Most developers already have a road map of games in their pipeline and it's too expensive to shift gears.
  • There are instances of Kickstarter projects where the creator backs their own campaign to get through the threshold for funding. Getting covered by the press is extremely important to drive people to the campaign. How do you get press and increase discoverability of your projects? According to the panelists, the community and friends are more important to the virality of the campaign than the press. Also, having zero backers is validation that the game idea is not very good.
  • If the project is not funded, you can still talk to your backers. You won't get backer reports like a funded project would, but you still have contact with your dedicated base.
  • How do you put a freemium game on Kickstarter if the model is that you pay upfront for the game? The Banner Saga and Nomsters are both freemium games. Nomsters will offer backers a package with in-game currency and no advertisements.
  • What are the panelists' favorite Kickstarter rewards? Usually a physical prize or the chance to be in the game. However, when you offer a physical prize, keep in mind that it would eat up a bunch of your funds. The prize that people crave is involvement in the game development process.
  • What are common mistakes of Kickstarter campaigns? Overshooting and setting high goals are common mistakes. You have to be realistic about what you need and be patient. You need to frame what the interesting thing about your game is and make sure to tell a story to the audience. Present yourself; you are your greatest asset.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prince Building Tech Talk

The building located on Prince Street in Soho, New York is home of some amazing tech companies including 10Gen, ZocDoc, Thrillist, and foursquare. In their first meetup, these four companies each gave overviews of their technologies and also tours of their offices.

  • Eric Milke, core server tech lead engineer of 10gen, represented the company at the talk. He graduated from Cornell University and specializes in C++.
  • 10gen, developer of MongoDB, was founded in 2007 by Eliot Horowitz and Dwight Merriman. The company now has over 100 employees and four offices.
  • MongoDB is a scalable, high performance, open source, NoSQL database. It provides document-oriented storage, dynamic schema, full index support, replication, high availability, auto-sharding, and fast in-place updates.
  • MongoDB's document storage of JSON docs allows for the three main pillars of the company -- availability, scalability, and simplicity.
  • To advocate availability, MongoDB provides easy replication and automated fail-over. Servers are constantly transmitting data between each other. For scalability, there are scale reads and built-in sharding. The system auto-rebalances shards if they grow disproportionally. And for simplicity, the database has simple configurations with few startup parameters, a flexible document model that doesn't force unnecessary normalization, and natural-looking language binding.
  • The server is written in C++ and has extensive use of memory mapped files. 10gen supports drivers for C, C#, C++, Erlang, Haskell, Java, Javascript, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, and Scala, but there are many unofficial third-party drivers for other languages.
  • Their future plans include implementing concurrency (yielding and database-level locking), a new aggregation framework, TTL collections, hash shard keys, and improving free list implementation to avoid fragmentation.
  • The perfect job combines the stuff you love to do, the stuff you're good at, and the stuff you get paid to do.
  • Harry Heymann presented foursquare's stack, team structure, vision, and a couple examples of tough technical problems they're trying to solve.
  • foursquare is a "better Yelp than Yelp." It is individualized to the user. If the user likes expensive restaurants, it would recommend higher end places to eat.
  • foursquare currently has logged 2 billion checkins, 20+ million users, and 30+ million places. The company is only three years old but it has 110 employees, 50 of which are server engineers, 12 client developers, 5 product managers, and 6 designers. The company frequently holds hack days.
  • foursquare uses MongoDB for its database.
  • Local ads are the biggest ad market.
  • Their company culture is to hire the best and give them authority to build what they want with little overhead. Developers form teams of two or three people and they conceive and launch features on their own schedule.
  • In the last year, the company has streamlined the signup process, revamped venue searches, added user and merchant newsletters, added networked list and web explore, deeply integrated Facebook, and implemented user tools, menus, and fast checkin flows.
  • Future plans include auto-identifying local experts and surfacing their knowledge to other users (ie. getting sushi experts to give tips about the best local sushi places), letting users following merchant news, scaling upwards to 20 billion checkins, recommending based on GPS, aggregating a huge number of tips, and visualizing a user's history into a beautiful infographic-like diary. And there are always algorithmic improvements to the software.
  • Tools that they use include the Scala programming language, Hadoop, Hive for data analysis, EC2 hardware, and MongoDB.
  • They stopped using Google Maps because it was too expensive and went with OpenStreetMap, a user-driven map system. Comparatively, Wikipedia would bypass Encyclopedia Britanica in five years and they see the potential of the crowd-sourced, open-data map to do the same.
  • They plan to add functionality that promotes super users to have editing permissions to the database.
  • They have one of the nicest offices. The main working area promotes a flat structure. There are no cubicles or offices; all the desks sit together without any divisions between coworkers. There are multiple cameras to the other office in California, all overseeing the entire space. The cameras are on 24/7 and it makes it feel like an extension of the NY office, rather than a completely remote location. When they have inter-office stand-ups, all the team members actually stand up next to the big monitors that are connected to the other office. Whenever they want to speak to a person at the other office, rather than sending an instant message on the computer, they go to the stand up station, unmute the microphone, and ask for the other person.
  • There is an abundance of conference rooms, each named and themed after a foursquare badge. The Herbivore room is filled with plants and rustic furniture, the Socialite room had modern furniture and a nightclub feel, and the Far Far Away room had a wallpaper of a skycam of New York City.
  • In the middle of the office was the Atrium with a ceiling window so employees can get some sun and a small theater space for members to do in-house classes and experimentation. The kitchen was filled with picnic tables and snacks, and had a small stage in the middle for talks. There were also multiple phone booths spread around the office for people to make private phone calls.
  • Mark O'Neill, CTO of Thrillist, ran through the history of the company and the technologies they employ.
  • Thrilist is a website about men's lifestyle and does data recommendations. It has two sister sites -- JackThreads, a members-only online-shopping community for men, and Thrillist Rewards, which runs curated events for its target demographic of young males.
  • Thrillist's stack involves LAMP, MongoDB, and Solr, along with some Ruby and Python. The JackThreads stack includes Drupal and MySQL, and Thrillist Rewards uses Cake.
  • The three pillars of the stack are content, users, and commerce. After Thrillist merged with JackThreads and launched rewards, they began moving to a ervice-oriented architecture.
  • In their new architecture, they have four main services named JITR, Zuul, Artemis, and Content.
  • Future plans include API acceleration, personalization, recommendations, and analysis of user behaviors.
  • Nick Ganju, the CTO of ZocDoc, talked about ZocDoc's technology and building the engineering team.
  • ZocDoc is a website to find local doctors and book appointments online. The average wait time for a doctor is 21 days, but ZocDoc appointments are made within 48 hours.
  • The company only has 35 engineers but plans to double by year end. They run Hackathons in the Hamptons and have a super selective hiring process.
  • ZocDoc is focused on scaling, both in the sense of user traffic and in the sense of developers and code base. Currently, they have millions of lines of code written.
  • Tools that they use include Tortoise, Kiln, and Mercurial. Nick stresses that developers need to move to distributed version control as soon as they start scaling. They also use TeamCity and Jenkins.
  • All of their other tools are Microsoft based, including C#, Visual Studio, IIS7, and SQL Server 2008. They use C# because it is important to use a static typed language when you scale up. C# provides many of the modern programming features such as lambdas, tuples, async, parallel, and dynamic binding.
  • They build features per branch and have automated rule-based code reviews that detect production commits and analyze static code. The code reviews outlaw certain classes like SqlCommand. A Selenium bot runs unit tests every 15 minutes and has the functionality to rollback the code if a committed feature ends up breaking.
  • They constantly run A/B tests for every possible feature and also implement feature flags, a development feature inspired by Etsy. With feature flags, they put lots of Booleans in the code to easily turn on and off features.
  • Developers should not over engineer at a startup. The priority is to develop the product and release it, then go back and refactor when you have the resources. Over engineering your caching system, for example, will delay your product development.
  • ZocDoc traces everything that happens on a page, but the logs can only be read by trusted IPs. This helps them track down bugs that randomly happen every once in a while, otherwise called Heisenbugs.
  • They developed ZocMon, a monitoring tool like Google Analytics that soon will be open-source.
  • They make daily deploys. They code freeze at 9pm, whereby the testers in India spend the rest of the time testing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

NYU Game Center Lecture: Jordan Mechner

Jordan Mechner, creator of Karateka and Prince of Persia, gave a talk at NYU about his creative process and his ambition to tell stories in any medium.

  • Jordan's hometown is New York, but this is the first time he is actually speaking here. He is currently working on a Karateka remake for the XBLA and PSN platforms.
  • Jordan's first game was a direct copy of Asteroids, but was rejected by Atari in an act to prevent clones. His second game was Death Bounce, a game that involves avoiding bouncing balls, but was also rejected because it wasn't what the publisher was looking for.
  • Choplifter for the Apple II was a very influential game for him. He was inspired by its story. When the player finished the game, it said "The End" instead of "Game Over." The characters had so much emotions when they run happily towards the chopper or when they wave for help as the helicopter flies up without them.
  • Inspired by Choplifter, Jordan made Karateka, a side-scrolling fighting game released on the Apple II computers. The game told the story of a karate warrior attempting to rescue the princess in a castle fortress. Home consoles can tell stories, whereas arcades were more focused on getting the players to pump in quarters.
  • Jordan's goal was to make games that tell stories.
  • For Prince of Persia, Jordan videotaped his brother David and created rotoscoped animations for the protagonist. He spent four years making the game. The process of rotoscope animation was very complicated and arduous.
  • His concept for Prince of Persia was to make Lode Runner with more visceral animations where the characters felt like they had actual weight and physics.
  • He developed his own tools to play frames, his own image editor before Photoshop even existed, and his own level editor.
  • His friend, Tomi Pierce, saw Prince of Persia while in development. She said Karateka was fun because you had a goal and you fought your way towards it, whereas Prince of Persia was all struggle and no conflict. She said that the game needed combat and enemies. Jordan argued that Prince of Persia was not about conflict; it was about cleverness, agility, and puzzle solving. In addition, the protagonist was designed with all these realistic animations to make him a likable and connectable hero. He did not want to go against that by giving him a sword.
  • During playtesting of Prince of Persia, many people praised the animation, but they did the one thing that every game developer fears; they put down the controller and started talking about something else. Jordan realized that he needed to listen to his friend and add combat.
  • At this point, he couldn't add combat because he had used all the memory on the protagonist's animation and could not add a second character to the game. But he figured out he can include a "shadow version" of the protagonist, reusing all the same sprites and without taking up any additional memory.
  • At the end of the game, you fight against the shadow man as the last boss. Every time you attack the shadow man, you lose health yourself. The only way to win is by putting away the sword and running straight towards the shadow man, thus causing him to run straight towards you. You and the shadow man collide, reuniting the two into one person and replenishing all your health. This moment was one of Jordan's greatest achievements in game storytelling and he was only able to come to it because of the technical constraints of the project.
  • in Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, he writes about the creative process and how the best ideas come from constraints. This was true for Jordan since the memory constraints led to his climatic ending.
  • Jordan decided to go to NYU film school after Prince of Persia. He used his game as a film reel to apply, claiming that games are the next evolution in cinematic storytelling. He was rejected.
  • He was intent on going to film school so he had already moved back to NY. He did an intensive one year film program and did a short film in Cuba. Then he went to Europe, learned some foreign languages, and made more short films.
  • He didn't return to games for a while because he didn't have any ideas. In 1993, his friend Tomi inspired him to make The Last Express. He also got inspiration from Deadline by Infocom, a real-time, murder mystery, text adventure game set in a mansion.
  • The Last Express was a real-time, murder mystery set on a train. The train is a perfect place to tell a story because it has finite rooms and finite characters.
  • The Last Express also had four years of development and was released as a CD-ROM game for the PC and Mac. It was not a commercial success. Jordan had used his royalties from his pervious games on The Last Express and ended up broke at the time of its release.
  • Ubisoft Montreal revived Prince of Persia with The Sands of Time in 2003 with a team of 100 people.
  • Jordan wrote the script to the Prince of Persia movie. He cut up a trailer using footage from The Sands of Time game to pitch it to Jerry Bruckheimer.
  • Before writing the screenplay for the movie, he knew the story of the game didn't work for the movie. A story can't work for both mediums. A game story is about what's fun and building the plot around the interactive elements. It was okay for the prince to kill a bunch of zombies in one secluded location, but the movie was going to have live people and many different locations like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
  • Jordan is now working on stories for all kinds of mediums including games, films, and graphic novels.
Conversation with Frank Lantz
  • Frank asks what's the difference between movies and games? Are games in their primitive form being that most are designed around violence? Chris Hecker had said that blowing up spaceships in movies is extremely hard to do, but showing people talking to each other is easy, whereas games are the complete opposite. Jordan says that movies are about showing and games are about doing. Games have to be fun and compelling first, then layer a story on top of those mechanics. Movies originate from the story.
  • Adventure game as a genre is about talking and not combat. Journey is an adventure game in essence, but it deepens involvement without any talking. The Last Express was an adventure game with talking, but the mechanic was basically "press button to talk." There were no dialogue trees.
  • Creative design influences others and fuels our games in the next generation. It's harder to be innovative in a triple-A game because they're so expensive that you second guess every decision and end up playing it safe. In a one-person-developed game, you can do anything you want even if others say it sucks.
  • Jordan went from making games by himself to making games in a big team to Hollywood. In many ways, these processes are similar. Writing a script is like programming a game with limited memory capacity. You have to fit your story in 120 pages. You have to optimize your scenes, sometimes compressing two scenes into one to save the production $100,000.
  • Frank argues that the Prince of Persia film was successful because the script was written by the original creator of the series. Jordan says that even though the movie made a profit, it was still too expensive to make and that's why we won't see a sequel. Resident Evil movies, however, are much cheaper to make and they always make their money back.
  • Jordan had a recent adventure to find the original Prince of Persia source code. He couldn't find it anywhere. It turned out it was living in a box at this dad's house. His dad shipped it back to him and now the code is up on Github.
  • Jordan doesn't write code anymore. He didn't learn C, but knows a little APL.
  • Programming is key to making a game. It's the only way to try things out and learn what works. Would you make a movie if you never want to touch a camera?
  • Coding, editing, meetings, and screen writing are all the same skill to him because it makes him feel tired in the same way. The only skill that relaxes him is sketching and drawing. Jordan wonders what artists do to unwind.
  • Jordan always liked drawing by didn't know animation. He resorted to rotoscoping for that.
  • He enjoys writing graphic novels because the process is so intimate. It's just the author, artist, and editor working on the project. He doesn't have to think about budgets. If he wanted to write a scene with 100 men in a sand dune, the movie producer would come back and tell him to rewrite it because it would cost too much to film. In a graphic novel, however, the budget doesn't matter.
  • Jordan is currently playing Journey and Spelltower.
  • Jordan's advice for academia is to not harden the curriculum too much and leverage all tools. Give people a chance to practice their own principles rather than pigeon-holing them into a discipline.
Question and Answer
  • Are there any stories that interest him that are not ancient or set in the past? Jordan is currently writing a movie that takes place in the present time. He usually enjoys the past more because he loves researching time periods.
  • Why remake The Last Express if it was a commercial failure? He is rereleasing it on iOS. He thinks it works well on the device and provides a deep, immersive experience that's missing on iOS now. The handheld provides a more intimate relationship with the player.
  • The success of the Prince of Persia film is in between Hunger Games and John Carter. John Carter's failure made executives to avoid the Mars settings for the next couple of years.
  • Once games moved into full-motion video and rendered movies, it took a giant step backwards. The more simpler the visual representation is, the more universal it is. Refer to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics for this phenomenon. More pixels doesn't make a game more emotive; it just gives us better tools. However, we'll eventually get used to it like how movies got used to sounds. When sounds were first introduced, it also made movies less emotive because the actors couldn't move in the ways they were used to in fear of making unexpected noise.
  • Do his games provide social contexts, in terms of tying to current events like 9/11? Thankfully, his stories are set in the past.
  • Jordan tells the story of how platforming, combat, and story all affected each other. Prince of Persia started with a technical challenge of how to rewind. The team then started testing how to capture the fluidity and flow of the classic game. The game in its early stages had moments of combat alternating with moments of platforming without much interaction between the two. When multiple enemies were introduced to the engine, it finally tied the platforming mechanics with the combat. It allowed acrobatics to enter the combat with the prince jumping off enemies' heads. If the parkour was fun, then why have the game take place in a palace with pre-built staircases and bridges? So the team added a cataclysm at the beginning of the game to destroy the entire palace and create rifts in the architecture, causing the prince to have to leap from poles and run on walls to get through a collapsed bridge. The cataclysm also became a story point for the prince to undo, giving that he had the dagger and the sands of time.
  • Game design and storytelling is just problem solving. You have to reverse engineer story and mechanics.
  • Jordan was not involved with subsequent Ubisoft Prince of Persia games. Warrior Within went back to the shadow man idea from the classic and The Two Thrones used the "too goth" theme from the second game as fodder and a jumping off point for its story.
  • Prince of Persia games were always gutsy and innovative with its mechanics, even Gameloft's version.
  • What does Jordan think about Prince of Persia's imitators such as Assassin's Creed and Uncharted? Prince of Persia itself is an imitator of Lode Runner. Then Tomb Raider was Prince of Persia with a girl in 3D. Then Sands of Time was just Tomb Raider with a dude.
  • What advice does Jordan have when pitching a movie to Bruckheimer? If they ask if you want something to drink, say a bottle of water. Don't ask for anything complicated like a Diet Pepsi because that makes you seem needy. Also, don't reject the offer because that makes you seem like you don't welcome their generosity.