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Aonuma on Zelda: Breath of the Wild – fan feedback, voice acting, timeline placement, more

Posted on January 19, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch, Wii U

Vice has a pretty big interview up with Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma about Breath of the Wild. Topics include fan feedback, voice acting, where it sits in the timeline, and more.

You can find notable excerpts from the interview below. The full discussion is located here.

On fan feedback…

We do actually pay a lot of attention to what fans are saying, after every Zelda is released. We want to know how people have found each game, how they’ve reacted to it. What their experiences were. And we also take on board what people are saying in the run-up to a new Zelda’s release. Sometimes I’ll see a reaction, to a trailer perhaps, and it’s one I can empathize with—”Yes, I see what you mean. I feel the same way myself.” And the opinions that resonate most with me, I definitely take them into account when the time comes to create the next Zelda.

But there are always going to be so many different opinions out there, before and after a game’s released. And so many different ideas about what should, or could, be put into a Zelda game. If you listen to them all, you’ll end up with… Well, I’ve no idea what kind of game you’d end up with, but it probably wouldn’t be a very good one. So we have to follow our own vision, really, and not pay too much mind to speculation.

On the original speculation of Link being female and possibilities of it happening in the future…

I think it was three years ago, at E3 in 2014, when the game was still at an early stage of development that I said something that I maybe shouldn’t have. There wasn’t much serious meaning behind it, but I said something along the lines of, ‘Well, I’ve not said that Link is necessarily a male,’ and that got picked up on, and became a bit of a talking point.

Really, the main thing I realized then is that I have to be really careful with what I say, because there’s always the possibility of, even when you don’t quite mean what you’ve said, it can be taken differently, and become this big discussion.

And regarding the future possibility of us taking a Zelda title in a new direction, perhaps with Link as someone different, or with a new protagonist altogether who’s radically different from what we’ve seen before, on the Wii U there’s already Hyrule Warriors. In that you’ve got Princess Zelda herself as a playable character, and a real assortment of playable characters including numerous female ones. So, that title exists already. But in the future, regarding doing that sort of thing again, and changing what you expect from Zelda characters, I’d say yes, it’s a possibility.

On the amount of dungeons in the game…

It wasn’t necessarily an original design point. At first, we were planning to include more large, labyrinth-style dungeons, the sort of things you’d expect in a Zelda title. But the reason we decided to include the smaller shrines—which isn’t to say there aren’t some larger dungeons in Breath of the Wild—was to strike a balance, between this extremely large (over)world that you’re exploring, and these goals and objectives to explore within that. So by dotting these shrines around—a larger number of them, but with each smaller in size than the older-style dungeons—it helped bring up balance, and break up the huge world into smaller, explorable chunks.

Now, that is something that we hit upon midway through the development process, but it wasn’t as a result of us beginning development for the Nintendo Switch. It was purely something to do from a game design point of view.

On the voice acting…

I definitely feel that, when you’re playing a game, if a character actually speaks to you, with a voice, then you do have a deeper connection with them. You get a clearer sense of who that character is, and what they’re all about.

In terms of whether or not we’d considered using voice acting in the past, we definitely have thought about it. We weren’t able to do it, though. This time, we could. Now, why we could this time, but not before, is to do with a certain system we’ve used in the game. But I can’t really tell you any more about what that system is, because it’d kind of be giving too much away about the game. You’ll just have to play it, and see how the voice acting fits in for yourself.

On how dark the game is…

Regarding that trailer, we really wanted to create, using the music as well, this dramatic flow—and I think we achieved that. But in terms of the overall tone of the game, I wouldn’t say that it’s especially dark. Similarly to Ocarina of Time, it’s quite an all-encompassing story. There’s humor, there’s moving parts, there’s dramatic parts. But Breath of the Wild, overall, isn’t darker than previous Zelda titles.

On timeline placement…

I wouldn’t say that it obviously fits into any one part of the timeline, but if you play the game, you’ll be able to work out where it fits. As you probably saw in the trailer, the most recent trailer, there’s a woman’s voice, and she says: “The history of the royal family of Hyrule is also the history of the Calamity Ganon.” And as you know, the Zelda series, up until now, is a history of repeated attacks by Ganon. So, there’s food for thought there. I don’t want to say anything more as I’d like players to work it out for themselves, to play the game and see what they think.

On bringing the game to Switch…

The cross-platform aspect became a reality in the spring of last year—that’s when we really decided to develop this for the Switch, too. And that was difficult for the team, and I personally tried to work out in my own head how we’d make the necessary changes, and how we’d make that process happen, before I asked the team to work on the Switch conversion. I didn’t want to place too much extra burden on them. But, in the end, the process of cross-platform development wasn’t as difficult as we thought it’d be. It actually went quite smoothly.

In terms of changes and alterations, they were all done in order to ensure the Switch and Wii U versions are offering the same experience. I can definitely say that the two games are the same, and there’s absolutely nothing missing in the Wii U version. What I will say, though, is that one small difference is that the loading times are quicker on the Switch. I’m sure that people who play it on that platform, particularly in handheld mode, will be very happy with those shorter loading times.

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