Where are they now? - Jordan Mechner

Jordan Mechner - Creator of Prince of Persia

Recently, I finished reading Jordan Mechner's journal called "The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985 - 1993", which is highly recommended reading if you want to learn more about the life and times of a legendary PC game developer in the late 80s and early 90s. While I have a good idea of what Mechner went through during 1985 - 1993, there's still quite a few years before he became a gaming celebrity and the two decades after 1993 which I know little about. So how did Mechner start off as a game developer? What has he been up to until now? And what are his plans for the future?

Mechner was born in New York City in 1964 and started programming games on his Apple II when he was in high school in the late 1970s. It took him a few years before he was able to successfully have a game published and that game would be the critically acclaimed Karateka which was published in 1984 and managed to reach #1 on the Billboard software charts (I never knew Billboard did software charts...).

Mechner graduated from Yale with a BA in psychology in 1985 and during this time he was already working on his next computer game which was initially codenamed "Baghdad" but would eventually be known as Prince of Persia. Mechner was (and still is) keen on writing screenplays so at times it was a bit of a juggling act between him pursuing a career in film and developing computer games. Prince of Persia was finally released in 1989 for the Apple II but sales were initially poor due to the Apple II being a system at the end of its product lifecycle and limited marketing from Brøderbund, despite Prince of Persia being a critical success. When the game was ported to other platforms over the following years however, sales figures skyrocketed.

Mechner designed Prince of Persia's sequel which was released in 1993 but also setup a new studio in the same year known as Smoking Car Productions. Despite Mechner not typically being a fan of the adventure game genre, he decided to work on a CD-ROM adventure game using extensive rotoscoping for animations which would finally be released in 1997. The game received positive reviews but sold poorly (perhaps because adventure games were generally waning in popularity by that stage. Who knows?).

In 2001, Mechner worked with Ubisoft Montreal to reboot the Prince of Persia franchise and the result was 2003's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game was a huge success receiving 12 nominations and 8 awards at the Interactive Achievement Awards (D.I.C.E.) and was instrumental in paving the way for several more sequels and spin-offs (over 20 million games sold to date), graphic novels, toys and even LEGO sets.

Speaking of LEGO sets, they were probably based off the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film which was released in 2010. Jordan Mechner is one of the few video game creators to adapt his own creation into a feature film, and not just any film, but an action blockbuster with a budget of $150-200 million, Jerry Bruckheimer as the producer and Hollywood actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina starring in it. The film unfortunately didn't do so well with the critics but it's still critically one of the best video game adaptations to date and it grossed over $335 million worldwide.

In 2012, a remake of Mechner's 1984 classic, Karateka was released, a game I played having never experienced the original (well not in its entirety anyway). After its release, Mechner hosted an IAmA on Reddit and when asked if the fans were going to see any new Prince of Persia games or remakes in the future, he remained hopeful. He also mentioned he was working on a screenplay because it apparently "helps save [his] sanity to keep switching between media".

In terms of recent achievements, Mechner wrote the New York Times best-selling, Eisner award-nominated graphic novel "Templar", illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland, which was released just last year.

[ Wikipedia: Jordan Mechner ]
[ Jordan Mechner Official Website ]
[ Reddit IAmA with Jordan Mechner (6 Dec 2012) ]
[ MobyGames: Jordan Mechner ]