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The Making of Karateka

(Mechner Journals #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  420 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In 1982 -- the era of Apple II and Commodore 64 -- 17-year-old college freshman and aspiring game designer Jordan Mechner began keeping a private journal. This first volume is a candid account of the personal, creative and technical struggles that led to his breakthrough success with Karateka, which topped bestseller charts in 1985, and planted the seeds of his next game, ...more
Kindle Edition, 230 pages
Published November 27th 2012 (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
My first computer game ever was Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia. He's next collection of journals is about that game development. I guess now I need to read that also :)
That's just crazy how ppl coded during those times - "I need a new printout, to go over the code step by step."
Pirating by copying disks.
The excitement of working on games and seeing movies like the premiere of Return of the Jedi.
Distributed development across different cities with sending floppy disks back and forth.
Mridul Singhai
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't know why I like reading people's diaries. Probably because reading these memoirs of great people from the times when they were nobodies like me and you gives me a confirmation that anyone can succeed. Or is it because I think people are more truthful in such writings than say,in the real world?

The memoir has been neatly composed and traces the time Jordan spent developing Karateka -- quick skim, not much worth reading here unless you're interested in the creative process.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
Following up with a game's creative process is something that became quite interesting for me, and while The Making of Karateka is not the most inspiring or well-written book in the world, it does give you a lot of insights of the game making process. I never had the opportunity of playing this game and read the book more out of sheer curiosity, but it was a pretty good experience. This book serves as an example of how indie game development works, and I'm amazed to say that it's not outdated if ...more
Michael Scott
The making of Karateka is the memoir of Jordan Mechner (better known as the guy who made Prince of Persia). Chronicling the period 1982-1985, this book starts when Jordan is about to start the design of Karateka and ends with the aftermath of its publication. (There's no doubt he will finish it, especially for 1980s gamers, so no spoilers in this description.)

Overall, I liked this book very much. It's not the best of writing, it's at times as superficial as a journal written only for yourself ca
Ahmad Hajja
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Definitely a good read, not as technical as I had hoped but good enough. Some of the best quotes in the book:

"So what if I failed to read books and collect facts? I can do that any time."

"A landscape would distract the player and make it seem like there's more to the game than there is, without really enhancing it."

"Was it Butler who said 'A hen is an egg's way of making another egg'? It occurred to me a few weeks ago that a zoologist from another planet, observing me, might well conclude -- sin
Erich Strelow
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
So, you are a 19 years old college student living in the mid-80s. You combine the college schedule with a lot of movie going, part time jobs. In your spare time and in the summers in your hometown of Chappaqua, NY, you program video games in your Apple II. When the game is finished, you send a copy by mail to a software publishing company and the video game turns out to be a creative wonder and becomes a big seller the following years.

It sounds like a John Hughes movie. I love to read about some
Roy Tang
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book is literally a collection of journal entries detailing young Jordan Mechner's days as a university student at Yale at the same time working on what would be his first published game. I found it both inspiring (though some might consider me the wrong age to be inspired by it) and amusing as a look into the life of a young man in the early 80s. As a set of journal entries, the writing isn't particularly spectacular, but it is an easy enough read, especially for someone with an interest in ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
This was an amazing read for me. Not because of the writing, but because of the subject. I was a middle school kid at the time Karateka came out on my Commodore 64, and was instantly mesmerized by the game and its effect it had on people. The story was good, but it was the first game that actually had a cinematic feel for the play. You felt like you were part of a movie. Now this was a kid version of me, but I was in awe.

I started writing games as a result of playing this one. I never achieved h
Peter Mueller
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
To be honest this was underwhelming, a disappointing read after being excited to read the journal of the genius behind my first real eye-opening experience on a computer. There is no doubt Jordan Mechner is a genius ; what he was accomplishing at 18 is just mind-blowing, and he certainly was mature beyond his years, but a fascinating journal this is decidedly not. Fears about the future, whether he will be rich (a common theme), the constant delaying of coding, its repetitive and quite boring, a ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book to get an insight in to the game developers culture or mind psychology. The book disappoints on the first front. But it definitely is a showcase on the game author-designers psychology. I loved this book and feel that this book is less intense than the "Making of Prince of Persia". I guess this might be due to the fact that Prince of Persia was Jordan's second game after Karateka. And he was facing a drought of ideas before making prince. Also given the fact that he wa ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Understanding how driven Jordan Mechner was at 20 and the labour of love developing Karateka became is somewhat interesting, especially as this was written at the time and not in hindsight. I have never played the game, but I don't think that matters too much when reading this.

I guess my low score is because at the end of the day, this is just a diary of the period of time he was writing the game. Where he ate, friends he visited, films he watched just dilutes the content. Overall it is just no
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This hits all the Ready Player One like nostalgia pleasure points for me only with interesting cultural references instead. Also it's not about a dystopia but a kid growing up and making an indie game hit. Straight up the guys diary though so that format might put some people off. ...more
John Mccormick
Jul 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Interesting insight to the process of the creator of the game. Amazing he finished college while taking so much time away to work on the various projects on his plate.
André Bernhardt
Apr 10, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is actually very entertaining and still crazily up-to-date
Pablo María Fernández
I admire Mechner's work. He is the superb artist and videogame designer who created legendary pieces of art: Prince of Persia and Karateka. You can define him as a one-man dev army: coder, illustrator, composer. He even wrote the text you read on the package of his games! (because he didn’t like the style of the agency hired for that job).
I've already read his diaries on Prince of Persia days and loved them because I played this game a lot and found it fascinating reading about its genesis: th
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
An entertaining read with amusing details on how the game came to be. Making a game - or any creative effort for that matter - is difficult and one of the hardest aspects is staying focused as the author writes. The book is written in diary format, so it's easy to read a little bit at a time or all at once if you get carried away (like I did). On the negative side, the book doesn't go into game design or technical aspects in great depth. Regardless, definitely worth a read. ...more
Apr 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
The inside thoughts of Jordan Mechner going from a young guy interested in programming and computing to creating Karateka and laying the foundations for Prince of Persia. An interesting look into his thoughts and the support, particularly from his dad, he received in this time. Recommended for anyone interested in some retro gaming history.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Inspiring book about game development in 80s.
Connor Van Ooyen
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love this dudes stuff. His diaries are cool
Vasil Kolev
May 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Diaries of Jordan Mechner. Not the best prose in the world, but somewhat ok read.
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and down to earth look at the human side of the making of one of the very famous video game 'classics'.

Definitely worth a read by any gamer, game developer or tech history enthusiast

As game development recently becomes more and more an indie process and less and less dominated by big-budget AAA productions, this book provides a very good insight into what goes into the making of an indie game.

With the focus on the human side and very little emphasis on the technicalities, this
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
(Review of this and of The Making of Prince of Persia.)

These are Jordan's diaries, starting from his student days and carrying on until a year or so after the release of Prince of Persia. I found these very entertaining from a tech history point of view ("Roland came over for breakfast and we installed an extra 1 MB in my Mac."), and it was interesting to see all the details of how the games were designed and publicised. The description of his method of motion capture to get the sprites' movemen
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is exactly what it says on the tin: Jordan Mechner's personal journals during the period of time in which he was developing the classic Apple II hit video game Karateka. It probably doesn't hurt that I love the game, but truly, these are much more fascinating and riveting than I expected them to be. Mechner's writing is engaging, and he did a good job (as he set out to do) in deciding what to include and what to exclude when writing these journals. Also, the process of an individual college ...more
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating insight into the creation of this charming game. I would never have suspected that so much planning went into the game (as, when it came out, there were similarly complex games on the market), which only makes it even better. It was also quite interesting to see how insecure Mechner is about the whole creation process, and his own position in the gaming industry. The fact that he has published his journal so openly is certainly something to be grateful for!
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not likely to change your world and there's not much to it, but I enjoyed the light reading and glimpse into the past. Wish some parts weren't as sparse but, if you like diaries at all it's worth a read. (I've never even played any of his games)
I'll be checking out the sequel (on Prince of Persia).
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
The unedited diary of young Jordan Mechner, broke college student and 80s 8-bit game programmer. Teenage ramblings, but here and there, sometimes showing a maturity level and self expression it took me 'till my mid 30s to acquire. The target audience (probably only the target audience) will love this book. ...more
William McDuff
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it pretty inspiring. It's the ramblings of a college age Mechner in his diary, so the writing is kinda impromptu, up and down with his moods, but that's the point, isn't it? To remind us that if we get a good idea and work on it, with support and praise it can be something. Worth reading just to get a good kick in the pants to MAKE SOMETHING, DANGIT!

Just gotta take that advice.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read the Making of Prince of Persia a while back and really enjoyed it, but I was unfamiliar with Karateka so I didn't think it'd grab me the same way.
Turns out the game itself didn't really make that much difference, It's just fascinating seeing the process and in particular Mechner's vacillation between self doubt and utter conviction..
Ismael Mejia
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it
The diary of a game designer in the early 80s. A nice read, in particular the way he reflects the hopes, dreams and problems of a young 'geeky' man becoming an adult, and our regular battles between hopes and procrastination. Not a literary masterpiece but the equivalent of a funny weekend movie. ...more
Sean Mckenzie
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
worth every penny

If you make games, want to make games or wonder how games are made... this book is for you. You won't learn how to make one, but it's an interesting look into what it feels like to do so. Off to buy the next journal...
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Jordan Mechner is a game designer, screenwriter, graphic novelist, and author. Widely considered a pioneer of cinematic storytelling in the video game industry, he created Prince of Persia, one of the most successful and enduring video game franchises of all time, and became the first game creator to adapt his own work into a feature film with Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He also ...more

Other books in the series

Mechner Journals (2 books)
  • The Making of Prince of Persia

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