What Sands of Time Gets Right

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What Sands of Time Gets Right

Yahtzee finally explains what it is he likes so much about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

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The game hero is a little different from the Movie Hero, and as a result true character arcs are actually pretty hard to come by.

Most of the Game Hero types have their roots in power/hero fantasy type situations. When a hero is 'flawed', it usually just means the writers want an excuse to make him an ass, not write in true flaws. AS much as I enjoyed Mass Effect 2, it was pretty obvious that whether he was a paragon or a dick, Sheppard was designed to be an exceptional example of the human race, and it was a little bit disappointing.

The Prince was very well done in that regard, as was the Nameless One from Planescape: Torment. There are not many others that I can think of where I leaned back in my chair at the end of the game with that measure of satisfaction regarding the story's conslusion.

Flaws are usually, well, flawed in their intention and design in various forms of media, games especially. Hopefully as time goes on, human personification of these characters will become more natural, but it's subjective.

I think player insertion roles work because they let the player's flaws become the character's.

Yahtzee seems to not realize that in the day and age of Uber-realistic graphics, story and gameplay take the axe to the face.

Yes, Sands of Time had superb platforming; Ratchet and Clank did it better though. Assassins Creed 2 did it better. You dont explain anything in this article. Your not explaining HOW it flows, your saying "it flows". You explained the story, which was good... but your hyping it up too much. Even Ubisoft decided to take the axe to its story; hence why the story suffers in its later installments.

In your review of the re-release of Bionic Commando, you say there is nothing inherintly good about old games; there just old. When you make an arguement like that, and back it up with this, I have to disagree. As I stated earlier; Realism is whats killing games. The Forgotten Sands couldnt hold a candle to The Sands of Time because of the budget: most games budgets are in the graphics department to make them next-gen. When that happens, the developers axe the story, and refine the gameplay elements so they dont run over-budget. You said it was a "movie cash in" in your review, and I have to disagree with you on that. Ubisoft cant afford a huge budget to make a game look pretty, have a nice story, and all that good stuff unless it sell. Prince of Persia is not a series that sells: THATS why the axe was brought down on it.

Till gamers start asking for less graphics, or the technology drops in price, you will find fault in games like this: popular games that arent popular enough.

I would have much rather seen you tackle things like that, rather then just another review of The Sands of Time. You gave us one already.

Ok, one point here I have to make. Old games in that context referred to games made in the late 80's, not 2003. The difference between Sands of Time on the PS2 and assassins's creed 2 on the 360 and even Forgotten Sands is one console generation, not 4-5.

mmm...seems like it'd be difficult to make a well rounded, interesting character in a video game. Now I feel like a twat cuz I've never actually played sands of time. Oh, and there was a small earthquake while I was watching the last ZP. :/

Uber Waddles:
I would have much rather seen you tackle things like that, rather then just another review of The Sands of Time. You gave us one already.

To be fair, that was a five minute review of the whole series with dick jokes thrown in liberally. The whole point of this article is for Yahtzee to take a more relaxed and less "low attention span" approach.

jtesauro:
Ok, one point here I have to make. Old games in that context referred to games made in the late 80's, not 2003. The difference between Sands of Time on the PS2 and assassins's creed 2 on the 360 and even Forgotten Sands is one console generation, not 4-5.

Exactly, and it's not a matter of "I played it when I was a kid and didn't know what actual 'good' was." That's the argument against stuff like Bionic Commando's remake. It was actually not all that good a game to begin with. We just thought it was because we were young and dumb and full of sugar. Sands of Time, on the other hand, IS a good game, released when at least Yahtzee was old enough to appreciate it properly, and I don't think anyone's tried to remake it, yet. >_>

Basically what he's saying that Prince of Persia: SoT remains the best game evur and nothing can beat it's characters and story? BioWare might be rivalling their games but still, this game needs a serious HD Package towards the PS3. No doubt.

Character arcs in games are very few in recent years. I do like to see characters develope over the corse of a game, comming out of the experience at the end a new (maybe not better) person. Without development in games, the cast just seems lifeless and boreing.

dudeman0001:
mmm...seems like it'd be difficult to make a well rounded, interesting character in a video game. Now I feel like a twat cuz I've never actually played sands of time. Oh, and there was a small earthquake while I was watching the last ZP. :/

Look at the leap in gameplay innovation and graphics from the PS2 to the PS3; a rather large leap if you ask me. The context in which he was referring in that review was a remark on the games industry remaking games because fans constantly ask for them. That shift in Graphic presentation has opened up the "Next Gen" to a can of worms that the last gen didnt have to worry about. Motion Capture technology, for example, is expensive a hell. Most games use it; last gen, that was not the case. Not to mention, texturing, lighting... This generation was a HUGE leap

CyricZ:

Uber Waddles:
I would have much rather seen you tackle things like that, rather then just another review of The Sands of Time. You gave us one already.

To be fair, that was a five minute review of the whole series with dick jokes thrown in liberally. The whole point of this article is for Yahtzee to take a more relaxed and less "low attention span" approach.

To be fair, if you remove the penis jokes and attention-grabbing comedy, he's essentially saying the exact same thing. He priased the gameplay for its flow; explained that the story was good because, even though it took a fairly common theme, it was peppered with enough emotion to make it good, said "its always brushed up against perfection but never attained it". Reading this article; thats what we got.

Uber Waddles:
Yahtzee seems to not realize that in the day and age of Uber-realistic graphics, story and gameplay take the axe to the face.

Yes, Sands of Time had superb platforming; Ratchet and Clank did it better though. Assassins Creed 2 did it better. You dont explain anything in this article. Your not explaining HOW it flows, your saying "it flows". You explained the story, which was good... but your hyping it up too much. Even Ubisoft decided to take the axe to its story; hence why the story suffers in its later installments.

In your review of the re-release of Bionic Commando, you say there is nothing inherintly good about old games; there just old. When you make an arguement like that, and back it up with this, I have to disagree. As I stated earlier; Realism is whats killing games. The Forgotten Sands couldnt hold a candle to The Sands of Time because of the budget: most games budgets are in the graphics department to make them next-gen. When that happens, the developers axe the story, and refine the gameplay elements so they dont run over-budget. You said it was a "movie cash in" in your review, and I have to disagree with you on that. Ubisoft cant afford a huge budget to make a game look pretty, have a nice story, and all that good stuff unless it sell. Prince of Persia is not a series that sells: THATS why the axe was brought down on it.

Till gamers start asking for less graphics, or the technology drops in price, you will find fault in games like this: popular games that arent popular enough.

I would have much rather seen you tackle things like that, rather then just another review of The Sands of Time. You gave us one already.

You need to realsie that Story\Writing are an infinitesimally small portion of the game budget, not just compared to graphics, but pretty much to everything else in the game. What we have isn't nearly so much that every game in the market is getting their writing budget cut to make way for graphics, than a couple of games here and there are actually getting an exceptional writing budget.

TL;DR we can't lose what we never had. Writing is slowly gaining prominence for the first time.

Agree with Yahtzee, a game with story and characters are the ones that sticks with us the most.

Yahtzee:
Portal is as close as it's gotten but loses another point every time internet fuckheads make a cake reference.

First off the cake references are lies.

Yahtzee:
But many games forget about that part. I've mentioned before that it's an inherent issue of gaming that main characters have to be constantly succeeding in the challenges given to them, and consequently drama suffers. But there's no reason success can't be a mixed blessing. Sawing off a finger in Heavy Rain was technically a success, but I doubt the character would have thought so afterwards.

I think this is something that keeps games as mere games - trivial entertainment. Designers feel obliged to reward a player even when it is detrimental to the narrative of a story, when they should stop pandering. By the end of Heavy Rain], I had certainly completed the game but I didn't feel like I won anything. But the better reward was going through with the entire experience and seeing how games to come will be like.

It's always games for me that make me believe in characters which I find the greatest. They have problems, sure. But if I can at least feel for them, it means alot

when will we get more fun space game: the game news?

Yahtzee,

I really wish you hadn't written this article. I understand and agree with the acclaim for PoP's gameplay, but I feel like you should have kept your enjoyment of the story a secret. You're a bright mind in this industry, and it's important that you continue to hold a mirror to the video game medium so constructively. When you start oozing about how much you love and relate to the characters in a PoP story, you kind of hurt that credibility. I'm not saying you shouldn't have attachments to games which have lavished you with fond memories, but you definitely shouldn't share them. Speak about these things objectively as a critic, not subjectively.

On a side note, since you've provided me with the writing space, I'd like to see more strong female portrayals in video games, like Bonnie MacFarland. The only relatable characters are realistic ones, whether they have names or not.

P.S. the cake is a lie, motherf*cker

I don't think you need to be a comically overly-critical reviewer to enjoy having characters you could see yourself either punching, hugging or casually chatting to.

It just seems like hiring one talented writer would solve this problem for (most) games... I mean, look at Saint's Row 2.
It's not a master-work, sure, but it's well crated, I've never enjoyed dialogue and cut-scenes as much before.

When will you come, Saint's Row 3?!
Sigh...

Anyway, Yahtzee, thanks for giving us some insight into the "why", but I had a feeling "good writing and characters" was probably "it".

It is good to see that at least one person cares about characterisation in games. Not always necessary for the game to be fun, perhaps, but I find a decent story with good characters can be fun on its own.

Ignore MisterFaulkner, by the way. People asked you to explain yourself, and you did just that.

A diverting article. Thanks.

Yahtzee would shoot me down (gee, really?), but I feel the same way about my favorite game of the last console generation, "Devil May Cry 3." The story is quite Japanese I think, as Dante learns to put duty to his family above his own Earthly desires. His lessons are that he pretty much has to follow in his father's footsteps, and also deal with his brother's villainy.

It's also based on "Purgatorio" and they seem to work that in by purging him of some of the Deadly Sins. At the beginning he's explicitly shown to be slothful, proud, wrathful, envious and lustful (he hangs on to that one), but not so much gluttonous or greedy that I could tell. So he gets rid of four out of his five. Nonetheless, he's a different person at the end of the story and has suffered a big personal loss.

I also found some of the dialog quite good, if not quite up there with SOT. Maybe my standards were lowered by DMC1's script and I was just happy that most of it was at least decent. I did laugh a couple times though.

At any rate, it had an actual story that changed the characters.

MisterFaulkner:
Yahtzee,

I really wish you hadn't written this article. I understand and agree with the acclaim for PoP's gameplay, but I feel like you should have kept your enjoyment of the story a secret. You're a bright mind in this industry, and it's important that you continue to hold a mirror to the video game medium so constructively. When you start oozing about how much you love and relate to the characters in a PoP story, you kind of hurt that credibility. I'm not saying you shouldn't have attachments to games which have lavished you with fond memories, but you definitely shouldn't share them. Speak about these things objectively as a critic, not subjectively.

On a side note, since you've provided me with the writing space, I'd like to see more strong female portrayals in video games, like Bonnie MacFarland. The only relatable characters are realistic ones, whether they have names or not.

P.S. the cake is a lie, motherf*cker

No critics are truly objective, but it's really OK to admit it. Sometimes liking something goes deeper than technical details, and if all you ever focus on are those details, you're going to end up with the boring mediocrity that insults Yahtzee and many other gamers (myself included). Maybe you want Yahtzee to be a cold, calculating, dick-joke-spewing robot, but I prefer my game information to come from a human. It was his repeated praise for this game and its characterization that made me want to play it, and it was worth every minute (except for some of the longer combat sequences). Really, how do you quantify a game's emotional impact on you?

Uber Waddles:
Yes, Sands of Time had superb platforming. Assassins Creed 2 did it better.

... Uh... what? asscreed2 was likely the slowest and clunkiest platformer I've ever played. Even those timed crypt sections are frequently forced into a restart, because you run into a situation the developers didn't intend, but should work. Not to mention hundreds of times throughout that game you're standing on the side of a wall, with a grip within arm's reach, and the moron just remains completely still or, for some reason decides you're telling him to jump backwards, off the wall, 1500 cubits to his death. Then they introduce that retarded "wall leap" and thats really all you do the rest of the game. That clumsy stupid looking glitchy little move that, of course, suddenly requires you to decide when to grip.

Sands of time, on the other hand, only really had similar problems when you managed to climb up off the map in various places. Which the game had no problem letting you do. The platforming segments had an intended button/timing combination, but the level design and the prince's own abilities allowed a good amount of wiggle room. Just to be clear, I'm praising sands of time because alternate methods through the levels were often harder than whatever was intended, but still possible. Something the reboot and pretty much every similar ubisoft game missed entirely.

To compare to splinter cell, sands of time felt like you were actually navigating the levels, rather than searching for whatever intended path the developers had created for you (and dying horribly and completely randomly every time you deviated).

Uber Waddles:
Yahtzee seems to not realize that in the day and age of Uber-realistic graphics, story and gameplay take the axe to the face.

Have you not seen his review of Mass Effect 2? He touts the writing of that game, saying that it's always good to see a game where writing is part of the game's core design instead of little streamers tacked on to its handlebars.

cyce3:
when will we get more fun space game: the game news?

Never.
Just cold.

This article was very informative, I must say that I missed on much of the development that you describe. Personally I liked the sequel more than the original plot-wise maybe because it had more time jumping (or maybe because I just like being confused).

But there is one thing I have to admit, during the epilogue of Sands of Time, Prince showed us the only proper way of using the Dagger of Time (wink)

Believable storytelling when it came to the two leads and their developing relationship in Sands of Time?...hmmm?

I don't know Yahtzee, all I remember from the first game when it came to story and romance was how much I rolled my eyes from the cliche-ness of it all...-_-

Yahtzee is right about the story. It had characters that could be liked and hated at the same time. The flaws of the prince were always visible. The game just seemed like his own attempt at personal redemption. The whole thing was really well written.

bleh. gameplay is god and PoP isn't exactly saving private ryan.

cyce3:
when will we get more fun space game: the game news?

I second that question.

It really shouldn't be this hard to get a writer on one of these projects. There are a lot of freelance writers out there. Hell, the comic book industry has tons of 'em. There has to be some a-hole out there willing to write a story for a game, a good story (Me! ME!!). It just strikes me as moronic that so few games have a good story these days. It's either that or a good multiplayer that sells it, and I'd imagine a good multiplayer is much harder to make.

Yahtzee:
Over the course of the game the Prince learns the cost of being unable to open up to people.

So, you could say that him losing his physical armor is a metaphor for him also losing/lowering his emotional guard?

Which, of course, ends up biting him in the ass, because we can't have nice things.

I guess i have a word for characters changing their personality throughout the game, now. It's also something i've wanted to do for a long while; further proof that i'd probably make a good game designer. Now if i could only find a job as one.

Great article! I'm pretty disappointed with stories in games as well. I will say this: There are plenty of low-budget games that have amazing stories. Lack of stories in games isn't a budget problem, it has to do with two things: The industry thinks we all have the minds of adolescent 16-year-olds that won't touch a game without breasts or explosions, and, worse, we keep proving them right. We keep buying their games, don't we? Maybe we're demanding good stories from our entertainment on forums and chat rooms or whatever, but the fact of the matter is we're still buying Gears of War and Bayonetta.

It's kind of how I feel when I watched Avatar. Good stories in movies just aren't going to be encouraged when the #1 movie of all time (Seriously?) is some explosion-laced, deep-as-a-poker-chip, blue-cat-people-porn-loaded science fiction wank. It's why I paid to see every other movie I saw that year twice. I can't take my money back from that smug asshole, but I can give twice as much money to everyone else.

This is turning out way longer than I thought it would be. Anyway, I don't give a crap about money myself, but THEY, the industry, do. They're making games with crappy stories, and we keep buying them, so why would they bother to mess with success?

The Sands of Time has been my favourite game since the day it came. It just has so much... I dunno... soul? It tells a genuinely good story with genuinely good characters, and it does so in a way that feels so inspired.

Contrast the 2008 reboot Prince of Persia, where they tried to capture the magic of Sands of Time and wound up with remarkably mechanical characters, forced wit, forced romance. The gameplay was pretty lame too, but that's beside the point.

I don't know what it was about Sands of Time, how they managed to make everything feel so natural and flowy and genuine, but whatever it is, that's why I love it so much. Ubisoft has made three games (not counting Warrior Within) trying to recapture the elegance of Sands of Time, and they've yet to succeed. To be honest, I don't think they ever will.

For other incredible character development arcs, check out ANY of the Gabriel Knight games. Maybe not the games 90% of the population of this forum would like, but man, can Jane Jensen write compelling stories.

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