Not only is Prince of Persia now available as a paperback and ebook, but the source is now on GitHub!
The original Prince of Persia source code recently “just turned up” after being lost for 22 years. Jordan Mechner and two stalwart companions dedicated most of a day and night extracting the source and posting it on github. His friend Jamie — who knows the term “source code” primarily as the title of the movie Jake Gyllenhaal did after Prince of Persia — looking as confused as before, asked “Why?!?”
Why the source code?
Why spend a whole day trying to recover data from some ancient floppy disks?
“Because if we didn’t, it might have disappeared forever.”
Video game source code is a bit like the sheet music to a piano sonata that’s already been performed and recorded. One might reasonably ask: If you have the recording, what do you need the sheet music for?
You don’t, if all you want is to listen and enjoy the music. But to a pianist performing the piece, or a composer who wants to study it or arrange it for different instruments, the original score is valuable.
It’s possible, up to a point, to reverse-engineer new source code from a published video game, much as a capable musician can transcribe a musical score from listening to a performance. But in both cases, there’s no substitute for the original document as a direct line to the creator’s intentions and work process. As such, it has both practical and historical value, to the small subset of the game-playing/music-listening community that cares.
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