This year's keynote speaker was Jordan Mechner and he took us down memory lane in "Story time with Jordan Mechner". Read on for some highlights from the speech.
Mechner started out talking about his start in the gaming industry by talking about his never released game "DeathBounce". This was met with an applause and a chant for Mechner to release the title to the public. The game was a spoof on Asteroids and was deemed not good enough to release by Broderbund... and Mechner said "with good reason". He was welcome to donations via Kickstarter to revive the project. As a funny aside, one of the Q&A questions was asking "what should I name my cat?". A woman in the audience, after hearing a lot of people yell "DeathBounce", yelled out "DeathPounce" and the cat was named.
Next Mechner mentioned a game I grew up playing on my Apple IIGS, Karateka. For the first time I have heard it pronounced, and he called it Kara-TAKE-a. He also announced that a modern version of Karateka will be available on PSN, XBox Live, and other systems by the end of this year. Mechner gave out 3 special unreleased Karateka shirts to attendees who Tweeted to him the fastest answer to "who is the owner of the bird in Karateka?". Answer: Akuma.
Mechner then brought up his most popular title Prince of Persia and his failed project that he put all his money into titled, The Last Express. A lot of the Q&A folks sad they really enjoyed The Last Express and were quite sad to hear it was not a commercial success. The Last Express will, however, be available for iOS in the near future.
The best part of Mechner's speech was that when he was bored with game developing, he decided it was time to write screen plays that were not being picked up by Hollywood. Surprisingly, he stated, it wasn't his screen plays that got him into Hollywood in the end, it was his Prince of Persia that was picked up by Disney and was made into a feature film. Mechner said never in his life, especially when making Prince of Persia, did he ever think a video game that he made would end up becoming a full length feature film.
When Mechner was talking about Prince of Persia, he stated that he originally didn't want combat in the game, but it was not testing well without it, and fighting was all the rage then. A friend of his at Broderbund said that Prince of Persia was missing three things from making it great. "Combat, combat, combat", she said. Also, some of the more famous parts of Prince of Persia, such as fighting your shadow, were done due to memory constraints. Mechner closed by saying memory constraints made developers think more creatively, and some of the greatest ideas in gaming history are due to the fact that developers didn't have the room for 100s of fancy enemies. They had to use their imagination more and some great ideas came out of it. It is amazing to think what people can do when they work around the limitations that are handed them in video game design and also in real life.