Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake was announced earlier this morning at Ubisoft Forward. The game is the first lead title for Ubisoft Pune and Ubisoft India, who have previously assisted in other Ubisoft projects. Prior to the game’s announcement, I had the chance to speak to Pierre-Sylvain Gires (Game Director) and Annu Koul (Senior Producer) who were both visibly excited and immensely proud to talk about the game.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake releases on January 21st for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
THERE HASN’T BEEN A PRINCE OF PERSIA GAME IN SOME TIME NOW. WHAT PROMPTED THE RETURN OF THE FRANCHISE?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: Ubisoft listened to the players and fans that kept asking for the Prince to come back. They wanted this character to come back to current consoles, so it was the ideal candidate to be the first remake from Ubisoft. We were pleased to satisfy the player and bring the Prince back.
WHY THE CHOICE TO BRING BACK SANDS OF TIME OF ALL GAMES?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: Sands of Time was the first Prince of Persia from Ubisoft and it’s been more than 15 years now and we thought it was the natural choice to use Sands of Time as it’s such an iconic game.
THE ORIGINAL SANDS OF TIME HAD A LOT OF GREAT DIALOGUE. HAS ANYTHING BEEN DONE TO ENSURE THAT PLAYERS DON’T MISS A LOT OF THAT DIALOGUE?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: It’s a great question. The original game is a piece of art. The dialogue and narration of that game is highly important because of the relationship between the Prince and Princess. We had the chance to work with Yuri who is the original voice actor for the Prince from the original game. We redid all the dialogue and respected the original script, but we added some variation. We also let the actors have their own interpretation of the dialogue for the projection and the way that they act during the motion caption for the cinematic, so we stayed true to the original story, we respected the original script, but we had some room for improvement.
In the original game, the Prince and Princess were not recorded in the same place at the same time, so being able to record in the same place at the same time, the emotion is enhanced due to things like facial capture.
WAS THE PROCESS FOR YURI WEIRD CONSIDERING HE RECORDED THIS SAME SCRIPT NEARLY 20 YEARS AGO?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: You just have to close your eyes, listen to Yuri and you felt like you were instantly back in the game. The game is really close to his heart, and you can see his energy, which spread within the other actors as well.
Anna Koul: At the same time, because his voice hasn’t changed, people connect the voice to the character and they are playing the game that they remember, so this is something we tried to do. It’s a wonderful trigger for the nostalgia and those that have played the game in the past.
FROM A GAMEPLAY POINT OF VIEW, THERE ARE THINGS THAT WERE CUT DURING DEVELOPMENT. HAS ANYTHING BEEN ADDED TO THE GAME FROM A GAMEPLAY POINT OF VIEW?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: In terms of gameplay, we had to respect the original game. It was really well balanced with the combat, the parkour and the puzzle parts, so we really wanted to stay true to the story. We wanted to focus on the nostalgia, but also make a great game for those that hadn’t played the game before.
We completely redid the camera with a free camera approach to really aid the player through exploration, but also constantly have the right framing through the combat. With the combat, we worked with designers to improve the combat, to enhance the velocity and continuous flow of the gameplay, so we respected everything, but we just wanted to bring the game to 2020.
IT’S INTERESTING BECAUSE SANDS OF TIME WAS REMASTERED ON PS3. DID YOU LOOK AT THAT VERSION AS WELL AS THE ORIGINAL?
Anna Koul: That version was kind of an enhancement with visuals only, so we did look at it, but we thought more about how we should remake the game, because there is a very thin line between changing things, but also keeping that nostalgic feeling, so we always wanted to keep in mind about how it was then, and also how it is now.
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: The PS3 version has a texture upgrade only. The challenge for us was creating the game from the ground up. We started from scratch with the new engine, which was used for Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but we really wanted to tweak and inject the 1001 Nights fantasy, which is unique to Sands of Time, so we really worked on the contrast, the saturation of the colour to really allow the player to enter the 1001 Nights feeling.
On top of that, the game has been developed here in India between the studios in Pune and Mumbai. As you know, the first part of the game takes place in the Maharaja’s Palace, so you can imagine how excited the teams were to create something that belonged to their culture. Everything from the concept art to the lighting, you can see how involved the team were to inject Indian culture into this.
YOU MENTIONED THAT THE ORIGINAL GAME IS PLAYABLE IN THE REMAKE AS WELL. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THAT?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires: It’s a legacy. In the original Sands of Time, you could play the original game. The name of the level is ‘A Long Buried Secret’ and we do believe that actually playing the first Prince of Persia is a legacy. It’s for the player to understand how the game has developed through time. Prince of Persia was an amazing game, even the DOS version as well as Sands of Time was unique, it created a new genre for the games industry, so as a remake, we wanted to include everything from the game, even this. It was a technical challenge for the team on the new engine but we wanted to do it.
THE GAME IS COMING OUT IN JANUARY WHICH IS AFTER THE PS5/XBOX SERIES X HAVE RELEASED. IS THERE A REASON THIS ISN’T GETTING A NEXT-GEN SPECIFIC RELEASE?
Anna Koul: So we focused more on PC, PS4 and Xbox One but with backwards compatibility, players will be able to play on next-gen consoles.