There were plenty of reasons to love the prior two games in the Prince of Persia series--responsive controls, great storylines, and thrilling adventures among them. The series has continually evolved its artistic approach and level design as it has continued--from the storybook environments of POP: The Sands of Time, to the darker, edgier feel of POP: Warrior Within. The upcoming Prince of Persia 3 looks to continue this trend with an outdoor, urban theme that should present an entirely new set of challenges for gamers. To get an idea of the artistic direction the game is heading, we spoke to Olivier Leonardi, artistic director of Prince of Persia 3.
GameSpot: What is the main difference in terms of environments between POP3 and The Sands of Time or Warrior Within?
Olivier Leonardi: POP3 is the end of the Sands Trilogy and we want it to be the climax of the POP series. For the first time in the POP franchise, this third installment will take place primarily in an outdoor environment, as opposed to a huge fortress like POP: The Sands of Time or an island like POP: Warrior Within. The Prince will evolve in the city of Babylon, his hometown. Our goal is to make Babylon feel like a rich, vibrant city…but plagued by conflict. That is a huge challenge for our team!
GS: Babylon in POP3 looks like a real Middle Eastern city. Where did you get your inspiration for the game?
OL: To make this legendary city feel credible and realistic, our team took inspiration from real Middle Eastern cities: Cairo in Egypt and the medinas of Marrakech and Casablanca in Morocco all inspired the color palette, textures, and architecture for POP3. The preproduction of the game was done by Ubisoft's studio in Casablanca, allowing us to draw on the daily life of the team to lend authenticity to the environment.
GS: What will this new urban environment bring in terms of gameplay?
OL: It will bring a lot of new features that will refresh the whole experience for POP players. Babylon, like most ancient Middle Eastern cities, features a succession of rooftops that, altogether, form a real "city above the city." The rooftops are the player's kingdom. Being a powerful acrobatic warrior, here the Prince reigns as a predator. High on the rooftops, the player will see foes and objectives from a distance. Massive jumps and amazing heights will give players a great sense of vertigo. Conversely, when the Prince is in the streets, the claustrophobic environment will serve to reinforce the feeling of being hunted.
GS: How many different environments will we find in the game?
OL: We've created a city full of contrasts: everything from the mighty palace to the lowly sewers, from the lighter "high city" of wealth and prosperity to the darker "low city," home to the poor and decrepit. Our ambition is to deliver the organic feeling of a Middle Eastern city to players, with its intricate networks of streets and its typical "living" elements such as the interiors of homes complete with everyday necessities--vases, plates, carpets, etc.
The player will experience Babylon by day and night, which will bring even further variety to his experience.
GS: Tell us more about the Tower of Babel in POP3.
OL: The mythical Tower of Babel is omnipresent in the game. The player will see it from afar when he's perilously leaping across Babylon's rooftops or even driving a chariot at full speed through its narrow alleys!
We wanted to break from the traditional image of the Tower of Babel established by 16th-century European painters. We aimed to create an original tower, both in terms of its shape and internal structure. In POP3, the tower serves as the Royal Palace. It is divided into two parts. The first part is inspired by the bark of a tree--a defensive layer that protects the palace from enemy projectiles or sandstorms. The second part--the Royal Palace--is much more open, with terraces, apartments, the throne room, and the famous Hanging Gardens. All of this splendor overlooks the whole city of Babylon.
GS: Thank you Olivier.