Prince of Persia Producer Dismayed by Lack of 'Pats on the Back,' Wonders If Gamers Want Innovation

By Chris Faylor, Dec 23, 2008 2:42pm PST A lack of appreciation for the numerous "risks" developer Ubisoft Montreal took with the recently released Prince of Persia (PC, PS3, 360) has left producer Ben Mattes wondering if gamers really want innovation, or if the studio fell short of its lofty goals.

"We set out to keep a few core fundamentals but to re-imagine everything else, discarding some very well entrenched ideas not only about the brand but also about video games in general," Mattes explained to IGN.

"What surprises me is how little these high level risks seem to be noticed and appreciated as attempts to shake up the industry and push things forward," he noted. "Perhaps I'm an idealist, but I think I was expecting a few more virtual pats-on-the-back for our attempts to do something new."

Prince of Persia was praised by critics for its distinctive graphics and dialog system, which lets gamers control when characters talk and for how long, but chastised for a lack of difficulty, as the open-world platformer does not allow players to die.

The title also removed the ability to rewind time--a staple of the three previous PoP games--and streamlined the series' traditional control scheme to be more simple.

"Whether this means we didn't totally succeed in our risk taking or whether our industry in fact has a stronger appetite for the familiar then it wants to admit remains to be seen," Mattes continued.

He also criticized the belief that immortality within the game prevents it from being enjoyable, and offered details on the forthcoming downloadable content.

Mattes acknowledged that the team worked "very hard to remove frustration from this game" to make it more accessible and admitted that the game "could have done a better job" in providing a challenge, but asked hardcore players to "please consider the pleasure you'll get from an engaging experience that can actually be finished."

As for the fabled downloadable content "of significant value", the upcoming release will offer up a new area, new enemies, a new power, and new fight moves.

"This is not at all a chunk of the game that was supposed to ship but that we didn't finish in time--this is a significant DLC team that has taken all of the lessons they learned during the development of PoP and all of the feedback we've read on boards and in reviews and are creating something really special," said Mattes.

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54 Threads | 197 Comments

  • I really loved this game, despite a few niggles. There wasn't any real punishment for dying in the game which lead to the game being far to easy for its own good. Also the game is under 12 hours long, thats if you don't collect all 1001 Lightseeds.

    I enjoyed the puzzles, as few as there were. They weren't to tough and required you to think just a little which I like in platform games.

    The save system was a bit messed up, when i fought against the Concubine I saved during Mid-Battle which caused a bug in the game. Basically I loaded the game and the concubine vanished which meant I couldn't progess and had to reload from previous save.

    Story for me was awesome, I never played Ico or SoTC. The ending was really well fleshed out and just what the game needed after all the dialogue you hear in the game.

    All in all i'd give it an 8 or 9 out of 10. I'd easily reccomend it to anyone with an interest in platforming or in nice fantasy settings with a good dose of decent story telling.

  • here is a prince of persia product i would buy, and I know it is complete tangent to what they have been doing currently: take a look at the original Prince of Persia, look at what made it fresh and interesting, the 60 minute time limit, the fluid animations, the adrenaline/fear of death and the puzzles, walking into a spike trap, also some of the solitude of the dungeon parts.
    ..while we're back then, take a look at out of this world too for ambience.

    now take a look at mirrors edge and what it does well and what makes it fresh for something "next gen"

    combine it and focus on all the small personal details that you would experience in the world, and communicate all that to the player as best you can. make interacting with the game feel good, make the game always have possibility of an adrenaline rush, with so many different routes and ways to save the princess, but with moment to moment (or encounter to encounter) challenges on a small, direct to the player scale.

    i guess it is just personal opinion, but i'd much rather see games that scale back in size or at least simplify themselves to a few strong concepts rather than a bunch of things forced into a linear stretch and use technology and next gen aspects to just make the experience richer and evolve everything in the game around the player or players.. L4D would be a good example of that in some ways but not all.

  • PoP's producer sounds very naive. He should not be surprised that the "innovative" games don't sell super well. If you want to succeed in just raw sales, then make yet-another-space-marine-FPS-game-with-aliens-and-1998-circa-gameplay. Generally, Joe Sixpack isn't going to put the time in to learn a new model of controlling characters, no matter what the payoff is. There are exceptions, obviously, such as the Wii and Rock Band/Guitar Hero. But even both of those are appealing largely because they use existing metaphors and now make them valid within the context of games. Did you laugh at people when they tilted the controller to turn in Mario Kart? Well, now that *is* how you drive in the Wii version. In that sense it is brilliant, because new players don't have to construct a model of, "I push that button and the character does this...but only in these conditions."

    Ultimately, he is right. You can either make consumable games meant to appeal to the widest possible audience (and inevitably end up very mediocre by definition) or you can cater to a smaller crowd within that and succeed there. There will always be a sect of artsy games, just like there is in music and movies. The games that do succeed within this crowd (fairly hardcore gamers) are the ones that innovate and take the concept and run with it, but not sacrificing the other parts of the game for it. It still has to be fun (Mirror's Edge's failing for a lot of people), have good production values (sprites and MIDI won't cut it anymore), and have what is perceived as a fair difficulty.

  • I bought the game because Sands of Time was awesome, and its sequels were at least fun in terms of their puzzles.

    The new Prince of Persia is monotonous. It's basically a series of quick-time events, most of which are at such regular intervals you might as well be playing Guitar Hero on easy. All the new moves are just different versions of jump pads, and the fights take forever even if you never miss. The comic book style involves a nice edge detection filter I haven't seen before, but in the end I think the lack of definition in the background (as opposed to the characters) makes all the detail blend together. The dialogue is boring as hell (please stop using American accents!), and I could really care less about the story. The ability not to voluntarily talk to Elika is better than being forced to hear useless dialogue, but that's hardly deserving of congratulation. I'm about half-way through the game because I was hoping it would get more interesting, but I probably won't touch it again.