Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time
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Time can be especially cruel to videogames. The ever increasing power and graphical fidelity of modern computers and consoles can make a blockbuster game from five years ago look primitive compared to more modern games. It’s a testament to just how good a game Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time really is when almost 10 years later the game still feels so fluid and playable. While the visuals have dated some, on a modern PC they can still look crisp and vibrant. If you’ve never played this classic title before, it’s well worth hunting down a copy and jumping through a few hoops to get it running perfectly. While the game has been remade for modern games consoles, the original PC version actually runs in a higher resolution than the remakes available on the consoles, making it arguably the definitive way to experience this classic title.
Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time will install without any issues on modern PCs, simply install it from CD as usual. The game should ship with two CDs, the second CD should be in the drive while you play the game. Windowblinds users may need to add the games executable file (PoP.exe) to their list of excluded applications to prevent a crash.
Unusually for a PC title, Sands of Time does not require any patches. There was only ever one patch released for the game and that was to fix issues with the Gforce 6800 graphics card. You do not need to install this patch unless you have that specific graphics card in your machine.
Running the game
The game should start without any compatibility options enabled. Like many older games, Sands of Time saves all of its data and various settings files inside its installation directory. This can cause problems with the default security settings in more modern versions of Windows. If you install the game to the default directory (i.e C:\Program Files (x86)\UBISOFT\Prince of Persia The Sands of Time) you may find that you are unable to create a player profile or save your progress. To fix this, you can do either of the following:-
1) Run the game as Administrator each time you want to play (right click and choose “Run as administrator” on the game’s icon).
2) Change the permissions on the “Prince of Persia The Sands of Time” folder so that your user account has full access. (A tutorial on how to do this can be found here).
Tweaking visual options
On most modern systems you can run Sands of Time with all the graphical settings on maximum. There is one setting you may need to change however. If you find that all you can see is a smoke filled screen, with some silhouettes running in the background, then Under “Effects” on the graphics options menu, turn Fog to Off. The picture below shows the setting you may need to change.
Note that on some systems the fog can be fixed by editing a configuration file in the games directory. We’ll show you how later.
You should also use the sliding control at the top to change the games screen resolution to match your monitor. Note that Sands of Time doesn’t support widescreen resolutions by default. We will show you how to enable those later in the article.
Don’t forget to click on “Advanced” to access more visual options. Under advanced settings, set Filtering to Trilinear, V-Sync to Enable and Texture Quality to High. With the graphics options set, you might want to start a game and check that everything looks right, before we move onto configuring game controllers.
Fixing the fog
Thanks to the user ‘Hateful Sight’ on Facebook for pointing out a possible fix for the fog problem. If you open the Prince of Persia installation folder and find the file “hardware.ini”, there are several hidden settings that can be changed. Open this file in a text editor and change the following lines (if you need help with editing configuration files, see this tutorial).
Save the file with these new values and then start the game again. Re-enable fog if necessary and try starting a new game. If you can see the prince clearly on the balcony, the fix has worked. If not, and the fog still obscures everything, then you will simply have to disable it again and make do without it.
If you have a Nvidia or ATI graphics card, you can use the software that comes with your card to apply antialiasing. This will make the edges of objects in the game look smoother. Configure your graphics card software to override the games default antialiasing settings, then choose the highest available antialiasing option. As long as you have a modern graphics card in your system this will improve the graphics and should work without any noticeable impact on the games performance. Nvidia users can find the antialiasing settings by opening the Nvidia Control Panel and clicking on “Manage 3D Settings”. ATI users can find the settings in the Catalyst Control Center by clicking on “Gaming” and then “3D Application Settings”. Consult your graphics card manufacturers website if you need more information or help with this.
There’s nothing like an old PC game to remind you what a blessing the standard Xbox controller for Windows has become. Sands of Time is quite flexible with its controller configuration options, but even so we are going to need Xpadder to get the most out of the game. If you want to map your controller buttons to be similar to the console versions, then for reference here are the button layouts from the Xbox and PS2 versions of the game:-
Left Thumbstick – Move Prince
Right Thumbstick – Move camera
A Button – Action (jump, roll)
B Button – Cancel action (let go, put away sword)
Y Button – Dagger (freeze foes, retrieve Sand Cloud)
X Button – Attack (sword)
Left Trigger – Rewind (hold), slow motion (tap)
Right Trigger – Special Action, block (battle)
Black Button – Look in first-person
White Button – Landscape view
Left Thumbstick – Move Prince
Right Thumbstick – Move camera
X Button – Action (jump, roll)
O Button – Cancel action (let go, put away sword)
Triangle Button – Dagger (freeze foes, retrieve Sand Cloud)
Square Button – Attack (sword)
L1 Button – Rewind (hold), slow motion (tap)
R1 – Special Action, block (battle)
R2 – Look in first-person
L2 – Landscape view
Using the above for reference you can configure the controls in-game accordingly. On the PC, first person view is called “Camera look” and landscape view is called “Alternate view”. There’s also a useful “Reset Camera” button on the PC, that can be assigned to a click of the right thumbstick.
If you have a copy of Xpadder then you can improve the controls further. If you intend to use Xpadder then setup the basic controls in-game but leave the attack button (X on the 360 pad) undefined and don’t assign any inputs to the camera controls (you can set up controls for camera look and alternate view, but leave camera forward, backward etc undefined). You will see why in a moment.
Below is my Xpadder profile for Sands of Time:-
So what’s going on here? The Escape key is assigned to the Start button. This is a convenient way to pause the game and also to skip cut-scenes. The left mouse button is assigned to the X button and the right analogue stick is set to emulate the mouse. Why do it this way rather than simply assigning these controls in-game? By having the stick emulate the mouse in this way, you can navigate the games menus entirely from your joypad, rather than having to reach to your desk to do so. If you like to game from your big screen TV this can be very convenient. In this setup, you may need to increase mouse sensitivity in-game for best results.
Finally, you can see that W, A, S and D are assigned to the left analogue stick, but why would we need to do this when the game supports analogue controllers anyway? This is an optional step, but you may find in game that the controller sensitivity doesn’t feel quite right. On an analogue controller the prince will walk slowly if you push the controller a tiny fraction, and will go from walking to sprinting depending on how far you push the stick. The problem is that the sensitivity for sprinting seems wrong, in other words sometimes the prince will walk calmly when he should be running full pelt. To combat this problem, the W, A, S and D keyboard controls have been assigned to the analogue stick, but only when the stick is pushed more than 75% of the way. If you’ve never done this before, here’s how to do it in Xpadder. Firstly, click on the analogue stick direction you want to assign, we’ll start with up in this instance:-
Click on “Advanced” to open the advanced settings window, which is shown below:-
We need to add what Xpadder calls a distance zone. Click on the pink icon circled in red in the picture above. A pink icon with a percentage will then appear near the top of the screen. This icon is now in slot 1. Xpadder will move automatically to slot 2, so press the required key to assign it to this slot, in our case for up that would be ‘W’. Before clicking on “OK”, click back on slot 1. Click on the 25% icon under “Distance:” to assign a distance, then click the plus icon next to it to increase the value until it gets to 75%. The picture below shows the correct configuration:-
You can now click on “OK”. Repeat this procedure for the other directions and save your profile. You’re now ready to fire up Sands of Time again and test your controls. Unfortunately, no matter how you configure your controller the in-game tutorials will refer to keyboard and mouse controls, so getting used to joypad controls will take longer, but is well worth it in our opinion.
Tweaking sound options
If you have a suitable sound card, you should use the Creative Labs ALchemy software on your copy of Sands of Time before you start to play, this will restore full surround sound capabilities to the game. This only applies to Creative Labs and EAX compatible cards.
Once you have configured any ALchemy settings, start the game and choose your profile. Then select Options->Sounds from the main menu. The following screen will then be displayed:-
The volume options at the top of the screen can be configured to taste. At the bottom of the screen there are three options relating to sound quality. Audio Virtualization is a technology that emulates surround sound. If you have a stereo speaker setup for your PC you can turn this to ‘Light’ or ‘Full’. If you have a real surround sound system you may prefer to leave it on ‘None’. 3D Audio Hardware Acceleration should generally be turned on. If you have problems with the audio in the game then come back here and turn this setting to off. Creative EAX should only be turned on if you have an EAX compatible sound card and you are either running Windows XP or you have activated the Creative ALchemy software.
Sands of Time can be patched to support widescreen, unfortunately however this requires that you find a version of the games executable file with the copy protection removed. It is site policy that we do not host or link to files like this for any game that is still commercially sold so regrettably we cannot help you find this file. If you do manage to obtain the file, then widescreen support can be added easily by using the Universal Widescreen Patcher. This can be downloaded from the widescreen gaming forums here (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it). The program is downloaded as a zip file, so you will need to copy it from the zipped folder to a directory on your hard drive. You should also right click and choose “Run as administrator” when starting the Universal Widescreen Patcher, otherwise the patching process might fail. The program itself is very easy to use:-
Select “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” from the drop-down box at the top of the window, then click “Find it for me…”. The program will search and find the executable (or alternatively you can use the file browser to find it yourself). Once the file is found, enter the new resolution in the boxes at the bottom left of the window. For 1080p enter Screen Width: 1920 and Height: 1080, for 720p use Screen Width: 1280 Height: 720. Finally, click on “Patch”. You can now start the game and go back into the graphics settings menu and choose your widescreen resolution. You might find that the games video cut-scenes are now in the wrong aspect ratio, but they aren’t affected too badly and the trade off is well worth it. Below you can see a couple of screenshots of the game running in 720p (click each picture to get a bigger view):-
For reference, here’s a picture of the game running in its original aspect ratio:-
This has been one of our longest guides so far, as always we welcome reader comments on anything covered in this article. Now it just remains to wish you all good luck and farewell as you journey with the athletic prince on his epic quest.