GDC: Mattes reflects on Elika mechanic

"Projecting my own attitudes".

Ubisoft producer Ben Mattes has said that it was a "mistake" to believe that consumers would accept the no-death mechanic in last year's Prince of Persia.

"I guess I made the mistake of projecting my own attitudes... I believed that, as a consumer base, the gaming industry had evolved to the point where they were punishing themselves for their failures," Mattes said at a GDC gathering reported by MTV.

"The idea with the Elika mechanic was [that] if you were a really good player, a single fall - when she had to pull you up - would be devastating thing because it ruined your perfect run.

He went on to say that he believes developers shouldn't continue to "punish players for not being super l33t hax0rs", but that games must maintain some challenge to avoid the hardcore giving up and trading them in.

Although Prince of Persia was warmly received in some quarters, a few of its more controversial ideas did cause consternation, and the way that Elika automatically rescues you when you start to fall and returns you to a nearby ledge (even when she's tied up, inexplicably), was one.

That said, while we didn't particularly enjoy Prince of Persia, the no-death mechanic was one of the few things we celebrated. "For some the absence of death will be a step too far, but we agree with Ubisoft's designers; having to try again is punishment enough, and the lighter the punishment the better," some handsome devil wrote in our review.

For us, the main problem with the platforming was the relaxed timing for things like wall-runs, which meant that even before you discovered the Elika safety net, there was no real challenge to the Prince's death-defying feats. We also weren't hot on the combat, repetitive level design and the Prince himself.

Still, a lot of you were, and the game was among your 50 favourite games of 2008. We'll certainly be interested to see where Ubisoft takes it next.

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