Breath of the Wild director on rethinking Zelda’s conventions, having all staff playtest at the same time
When Breath of the Wild was teased many years ago, one of the aspects Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma highlighted was the desire to upend the series’ conventions. That’s something Nintendo managed to do in the end, resulting in a very different type of Zelda game.
In an interview with GamesRadar, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi spoke about Breath of the Wild’s development and re-thinking Zelda’s conventions, of which he stated:
“And then we thought, ‘Oh no, why do we actually have to do that?’ And a lot of that was re-thinking things specific to Zelda. You know, ‘Zelda games have always been like this so we have to make it like this.’ But thinking about it from the user’s perspective, we wanted to give them more creativity and freedom, thinking, ‘Well, no. It doesn’t actually have to be like that.’ We definitely learned a lot from that whole process. And hearing how people have reacted to that makes me very happy.”
Zelda: Breath of the Wild ended up having around 300 staffers working on the game. Towards the end of development, everyone on the team actually did nothing but play the game itself. Fujibayashi said that there was more to this than just “more playtesting, more polish.”
“When they hear the story about 300 people testing the game at the same time, I think what a lot of people misunderstand is [in thinking] that the big leaps ahead came from all of the data we got out of that. And obviously we did get a lot of data out of it. But I think what was even more important was just the fact that people were able to see exactly what they were working on in the game, and also what the people next to them were working on in the game, and figure out, ‘Well, what can I do to make that part of the game better?’ Getting that group understanding of how everything was working together really leveled up the staff’s work, and I think that’s a big part of how we came to the level of quality that the game has.”
Aonuma, who also participated in the interview, had some concerns about having all of Zelda’s staff playtesting, but ultimately felt that it was a good move.
“Initially I thought if we did this we wouldn’t have enough time to finish the game, but as we did this more we realized, ‘Oh, the staff’s motivation is really up too!’ And so we realized that we needed to do this to the end.'”