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Prince of Persia Q/A: Skeretagent

Ubisoft offered us yet another exciting comprehensive look at Prince of Persia: Warrior Within remarkably dark storyline, written by sekretagent. Below is a brief Q/A session conducted with skeretagent which unveils their roots and other exciting tidbits.

1. Can you introduce yourself and sekretagent?

We're film guys. I mean we have been recently. We're young, so it's kind of weird to think that we do anything for a living, but I guess yeah we're in the film business. After college (Corey went to Harvard, Dooma went to Princeton) we went to grad school at USC for film (at the Peter Stark Producing Program). When that was all done we just started our own company. We called it sekretagent because we think it sounds cool. No special story there. We're working on 5 studio films and 2 independent films at the moment.

2. How did you get involved in this project ? What's your role ?

When we FIRST met with Ubi Soft it was to discuss adapting one of their game properties into a television show. However, as we talked, they told us they were looking for writers to work on one of their upcoming games. And when we were told it was the sequel to Sands of Time, we wanted to be involved in any way possible. We can't tell you how rewarding it's been and how happy we are to have worked on such a challenging game.

Our role has been that of writers, and we've been involved in overseeing the integration of the story into the gameplay. It has been great. The team is incredible to work with -- a lot of fun, and extremely creative. The team here really values our artistic contribution, and they seem to understand how important story is to making a great game.

3. Why have you decided to write stories for video games ?

We love games. So to have a chance to live out the dream of actually being involved in the creation and production of a game... how could we refuse?

4. Do you think a video game can achieve to provide players with real emotions (as a movie ?)

It is a tragedy that video games have largely failed thus far to illicit real emotional responses from their players. This is something that cinema has been able to do very well thanks to great writing, acting and directing.

But it should be easier for games than it is for a movie. When you watch a movie you're WATCHING an actor fall in love on the screen or kick someone's ass, or be afraid - so there's a bit of a disconnect between the audience and the story. In video games, YOU are that person. You are the one up there on the screen. Since the physical connection between character and player is strong (through the controller), the emotional connection should be even stronger. The problem is that most games don't take advantage of this potentially powerful emotional connection. Most games have focused solely on graphics and gameplay and never made any room for an emotionally powerful story. This stuff isn't mutually exclusive, so we aim to change that. Games can (and should) have it all.

5. What do you think players will feel playing PoPWW ?

They should go through a whole range of emotions: fear, anger, frustration, satisfaction, joy, and tons of shock. Emotional response from the players was our main goal working on this game. We've sought to make the Prince's journey one that an ordinary person can understand and relate to. That's why the Prince is scared for his life through much of the game -- it's a natural response. Horror films are very successful because they key into the most basic of human instincts -- self preservation.

6. Is there any message you want to deliver writing POPWW story ?

Hopefully players will come away with the understanding that if one works hard enough - remains dedicated to their goals, then ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. In this game, the task the Prince must achieve is beyond difficult -- it is IMPOSSIBLE, and the Prince must defy the laws of physics and time and space. Yet the Prince can be successful in his mission because he will not admit defeat. As two people who've made a successful film company out of nothing, we know that not knowing your limitations is the surest way to exceed them.

7. Is there any link between the story and the gameplay in POPWW? What's the most important?

We worked closely with the artistic team and level designers to make sure that the gameplay itself worked with the story, as opposed to independently of it. We wanted to avoid the level-cutscene-level formula prevalent in most games. So the story is going to progress WHILE the player plays. The team worked really hard to minimize those passive moments where the player just sits back and watches things happen. In Warrior Within you literally play the story.

8. Why did WW team decide to pick up the story after the events SOT?

POP SOT left us in a very strange place. The Prince had done something TERRIBLE. So terrible in fact that his father and loved ones DIED as a result of his actions, yet because he was able to "bend the rules" he was able to get away with no one ever knowing what he had done -- it was as if it never happened. As we all know, this is not how things are in the real world. When you make a mistake, most of the time, you have to pay for it.

POPWW picks up on this idea, and the Prince will pay dearly for the horrors he unleashed when the Sands of Time were opened. If he wants to live happily ever after, he's going to have to earn it - the hard way.

9. Can you tell us a bit about The Dahaka? How does he fit into the plot and how is the Prince going to face it?

The Dahaka is the entire reason for The Prince's adventure in Warrior Within. Despite the insanity that's going to ensue once The Prince reaches the Island of Time, his main goal is always the same: Stop the Dahaka from carrying out its mission (which is to kill The Prince). Since The Dahaka is about 3 times the size of our hero, exists independently of our concept of time and space, and seems completely invulnerable to all conventional attacks, The Prince is going to have to come up with a creative way to manage this threat.

From a characterization perspective, The Dahaka is the single biggest reason for The Prince's... personality shift between this game and the last. There's been some mention that Warrior Within's Prince bears little resemblance to the protagonist in Sands of Time. This is intentional.

Traumatic experiences change people - the more severe (or prolonged) the trauma, the more dramatic the transformation. We want people to miss the Old Prince - to long for the way he used to be - to wish that things had gone another way. Because that's exactly what The Prince is feeling! He wants this thing off his back - he wants to be at peace. It's been stalking him for years - and he's been pushed to the brink of madness.

The Prince won't really 'face' The Dahaka over the course of the story - he'll be avoiding it while he tries to discover a way to be rid of it entirely. There are some pretty harrowing chase sequences across the Island of Time for those unfortunate moments when the two DO come face to face.

It's going to take everything The Prince has to keep ahead of this beast. Of course, if players pay attention, they may learn a thing or two about the Dahaka - and the nature of its relationship with The Prince may change.

We'll let you figure out what that means...

10. What can you say about the female characters?

We don't want to spoil too much of the story, so we can only speak very generally. All three of them (Shahdee, Kaileena, and The Empress) are very different - physically and emotionally. They all have different agendas, and all of them are extremely clever. We wanted to play with expectations - so they initially appear to fall into traditional roles. Shahdee is the antagonist's unthinking subordinate. Kaileena is the innocent, oppressed damsel in distress. The Empress is the embodiment of pure evil. All of this will change over the course of the story. Shahdee is smarter than you think. Kaileena is more than capable of handling herself. And The Empress is not necessarily evil...

11. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Prince of Persia Warrior Within's story, may I ask if the prince will actually die :)?

We're hesitant to say much on the subject, because the answers to questions like this should be discovered while playing... But we'll answer it for you anyway. Yes, he dies. BUT most players probably won't notice. What does that mean? Play the game!

“You cannot escape your fate. No one can…” said the Old Man to the Prince.

The questions still loom…does the Prince reach his demise in Warrior Within? Or will he stand victorious once again, in the face of death? Watch the newest trailer from Prince of Persia: Warrior Within for a little more insight, or possibly more confusion, to this haunting enigma.

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