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Prince of Packaging: A tale of 1990s box art

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Game Developer Deep Dives are an ongoing series with the goal of shedding light on specific design, art, or technical features within a video game in order to show how seemingly simple, fundamental design decisions aren’t really that simple at all.Earlier installments cover topics such as how art director Olivier Latouche reimagined the art direction of Foundation, how the creator of the RPG Roadwarden designed its narrative for impact and variance, and how the papercraft-based aesthetic of Paper Cut Mansion came together with the developer calls the Reverse UV method.In this edition, Jordan Mechner, the designer of the original Prince of Persia game, walks us through the process of conceptualizing its iconic cover, and how that key piece of art unexpectedly contributed to the game's success.So many video games, films, and music albums I “own” now live in the cloud, and I’m nostalgic for the days when they existed as physical objects on a bookshelf.

The tactile quality, size and shape, and cover art of every game box was linked to memories of how I’d acquired it—new, second-hand, or as a gift?—and of hours spent playing.For a game developer, a shrink-wrapped box that holds the thing we’ve been working on for years brings home the reality that our game is truly done.

In the pre-internet 1980s and early 90s, before downloadable updates and patches, shipped meant shipped. This month, the sale at auction of American painter Robert Florczak’s original artwork for my game Prince of Persia (the Broderbund “red box” edition) triggered memories of the in-house drama surrounding its creation.That summer of 1989, I was in the throes of trying to finish and ship Prince of Persia on Apple II, its first platform.

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