Prince of Persia 64

Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;

There's long been a rivalry (friendly and otherwise) between the Apple II and Commodore 64 communities. But there's much goodwill, too, with software and hardware being adapted from one to the other. The latest such example is Prince of Persia, the classic platform game that debuted on the Apple II in 1989; Mr. SID, a programmer from the Netherlands, has now ported it to the C64, with the result available for free and immediate download. Here's a sample of the gameplay:

Wired's Duncan Geere reported that the game was "painstakingly recreated the game from scratch using the original Apple II code." That seemed an unlikely contradiction: was it made from scratch, or did it use Jordan Mechner's original code? If the latter, from where was that non-open-source code obtained?

A more careful reading of the developer's blog reveals that the Apple II version's graphics and level data were indeed used, but the game engine came from Freeprince's Princed Project, a reverse-engineering of the Apple II game:

The Princed Project is the sum of many sub-projects related to Prince of Persia. Such software includes level editors, graphic and sound editors, resource extractors, and a new open source engine for the game. All the software in this website is Free Software, and is also available for several platforms.

Is this piracy? IANAL, but even from an ethical perspective, it's hard to say. As I opined in Open Apple, the effort and passion that drives an unauthorized port honors the original and pays it homage. And since there is no alternative to playing this game on the Commodore 64, this port does not detract from sales of the original, mitigating the damage. But none of this changes the fact that it is unauthorized and likely infringes on the original author's rights. It's a gray area.

Regardless, Mr. SID's accomplishment is remarkable, and I applaud him for spreading the Apple II love.

UPDATE: Jordan Mechner himself commented on the developer's blog:

That's crazy! Back in 1989, when I was making POP on the Apple II, I couldn't get anyone interested in doing a C64 port… because it was too old a system :)

Hat tip to Wesley Yin-Poole, by way of Edge Magazine.

  1. This really is extraordinary.

  2. Not bad for an inferior system!

  3. For a really interesting read, go to Mechner's website and read his PoP diary. Fascinating look at game development in tail end of the Apple II era.

  4. Martin Haye says:

    Fantastic port! I am very fond of unauthorized ports. Somebody should do Portal someday. I'm working on it but have been for years and will be fore more years, so there's plenty of room for somebody to beat me to it.

  5. As MrSid explains in his blog, the apple ii uses the same CPU, a 6502 so the code is easy to see through an emulator monitor. I believe he did a thorough work for himself trying to decode the original apple ii 6502 assembly code and did all the adaptations needed for C64 bitmap mode and hardware sprite animation. Most of the graphics seems however to have been ported from the DOS version, which from what I understand is the one Jordan liked the most from reading his blogs. A number of tools exist today to extract the graphics from this version including all level data since there is a community for making new levels for this old great game still. :)