Computer Graphics World

JUNE 2010

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Editor’sNote A Royal Heritage W hat does psychology and game development have in common? Not much, unless you are Jordan Mechner. A Yale graduate with a degree in psychology, Mechner found suc- cess delving into the minds of virtual humans, as opposed to real ones. His first foray in the world of video-game creation occurred while he was still a student, with Karateka, which he created on and for the Apple II. The title, lauded at the time for its fluid animation, was published by Broder- bund, which would also publish another of his hits and one that would make him the early king of video-game character creation. Several years before the archaeologist/adventurer Lara Croft began making game character history, Mechner introduced the world to the nameless Prince, who waged his first battle against ancient baddies in Prince of Persia, for the Apple II platform. A big hit, the game eventu- ally was ported to every conceivable platform. At a time when video games consisted of basic pixels jumping around on the screen (think Mario rescuing Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros.), Prince of Persia presented a giant leap forward in terms of its look and style—in particular, its fluid animation. It popularized many of the computer gaming features that eventually became commonplace, such as rotoscoped anima- tion, for lifelike human motion. (Mechner had used videos and photos of his brother running and jumping in white clothes as a guide for the Prince’s actions.) Four years later, Mechner followed up with Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame, which introduced as many as four enemies on the screen at a time, as opposed to just one in the original game—a big accomplishment at that time. In 1999, the Prince and his band of characters slashed their way into 3D in a title aptly named Prince of Persia 3D, followed by a second and more successful attack in 2003 with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which stormed the marketplace yet again with its realistic, fluid character animation in a graphics-rich environment. Indeed, Prince of Persia 3D for the PC was a giant leap forward for the property, accurately simulating the Prince’s world in 3D as opposed to a flat 2D plane—a move that required extensive research into the period’s history, myths, paintings, and buildings. Architects with a passion for Persian construction helped design some of the environ- ments. But The Sands of Time, developed by Ubisoft for the then-new consoles (Xbox, PS2, and GameCube), took the visuals and acrobatic combat to new heights. Little did they know that this was just the first big step in bringing the Prince and his world to life. While two more sequels followed in 2004 (Warrior Within) and 2005 (The Two Thrones), the biggest development in this franchise occurred last month, with the release of a film writ- ten by Mechner and loosely based on The Sands of Time though carrying the same moniker. Mechner has stated, “Rather than do a straight beat-for-beat adaptation of the new video game, we’re taking some cool elements from the game and using them to craft a new story.” And cool it is. In this live-action adventure, a number of VFX houses contributed cutting-edge CG effects—from stunning environments and magical elements, to digital armies and deadly weap- ons. They even helped the now-named Prince (Dastan) rewind time (see “Against the Grains,” pg. 10). Coinciding with the film’s release is the Ubisoft game Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, for the current generation of platforms (PS3, Xbox 360, and more). An interquel, oc- curring between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within, the game sports a vivid painterly style teeming with lush, detailed environments in which the Prince continues to exhibit his extreme, fluid, acrobatic abilities. Whether in interactive mode or one that is digitally enhanced, the antics of the beloved Prince (and those who created the film and the latest game) are sure to be a treasure worth embracing. ■ The Magazine for Digital Content Professionals EDITORIAL KAREN MOLTENBREY Chief Editor • (603) 432-7568 36 East Nashua Road Windham, NH 03087 CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Courtney Howard, Jenny Donelan, Audrey Doyle, George Maestri, Kathleen Maher, Martin McEachern, Barbara Robertson WILLIAM R. RITTWAGE Publisher, President and CEO, COP Communications SALES LISA BLACK Associate Publisher National Sales • Education • Recruitment • (903) 295-3699 fax: (214) 260-1127 KELLY RYAN Classifieds and Reprints • Marketing (818) 291-1155 Editorial Office / LA Sales Office: 620 West Elk Avenue, Glendale, CA 91204 (800) 280-6446 PRODUCTION KEITH KNOPF Production Director Knopf Bay Productions • (818) 291-1158 MICHAEL VIGGIANO Art Director CHRIS SALCIDO Account Representative • (818) 291-1144 Computer Graphics World Magazine is published by Computer Graphics World, a COP Communications company. Computer Graphics World does not verify any claims or other information appearing in any of the advertisements contained in the publication, and cannot take any responsibility for any losses or other damages incurred by readers in reliance on such content. Computer Graphics World cannot be held responsible for the safekeeping or return of unsolicited articles, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations or other materials. Address all subscription correspondence to: Computer Graphics World, 620 West Elk Ave, Glendale, CA 91204. Subscriptions are available free to qualified individuals within the United States. Non-qualified subscription rates: USA—$72 for 1 year, $98 for 2 years; Canadian subscriptions —$98 for 1 year and $136 for 2 years; all other countries—$150 for 1 year and $208 for 2 years. Digital subscriptions are available for $27 per year. Subscribers can also contact customer service by calling (800) 280 6446, opt 2 (publishing), opt 1 (subscriptions) or sending an email to Change of address can be made online at and click on customer service assistance. Postmaster: Send Address Changes to Computer Graphics World, P.O. Box 3551, Northbrook, IL 60065-3551 Please send customer service inquiries to 620 W. Elk Ave., Glendale, CA 91204 CHIEF EDITOR 2 June 2010

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