Zelda: Breath of the Wild director on breaking series conventions, developing the world, more
Over the past couple of weeks, Famitsu and 4Gamer both conducted interviews with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi. A lot of what was said has been covered extensively in previous interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto and series producer Eiji Aonua, but there were still some noteworthy excerpts. This was also one of the first times that we actually heard from Fujibayashi about the game.
According to Fujibayashi, the developers’ main goal was to break conventions, but they weren’t sure how far they should go to do so. During development, they took a look at what was core to Zelda games, and decided it was the sense of relief you feel after solving a puzzle. So with that as a base, they tried bringing dungeon gameplay to the field, and field gameplay to the dungeons. Puzzles were created with certain solutions in mind, but left open to the possibility of being solved by using other methods. They tried to fix the parts of puzzle-solving people found boring while keeping the interesting parts intact, and changed anything they saw as “standard” to be “nonstandard.”
What they wanted was for people to think outside the box. Players have a multitude of actions available to them, and there are many gimmicks strewn about the field that react to those actions. They call this a “multiplication” of gameplay, and claim it was a key point during the development. One example would be chopping a tree down to create a bridge. Items with easily intuited purposes were intentionally placed around the world for players to learn from, but towards the latter parts of the game, much more fantastic things show up. It’s also possible for animals to be involved in the puzzles.
Zelda games tend to be linear, but that’s not the case this time. Someone would always be finding a new way to do something that they didn’t think would be possible. Testing was done alongside development, and everyone found different ways to accomplish the same goals. Sometimes things they didn’t expect to happen happened, including glitchy behavior, but they left some of them in because they created interesting situations.
Before, if you couldn’t beat something in the game, you’d say you didn’t have the right tool. But that won’t be the case this time. And you won’t always need to be have good action game skills, you can find cowardly ways to solve problems.
The “open-air” style of the game doesn’t play well with narratives. So, to get around that, they made a unique system. Anyone who plays the intro will find a way to enjoy the story naturally. The game speaks for itself. There is enough guidance for players to progress the story, and although it’s vague, following it will get you through. “Quests” are known as “Challenges”, and there are lots of them all over. There will also be “Key Challenges” along the way. They claim it’s better to find the edges of the map yourself, and that the option to fight the final boss at any time was planned right from the start of development.
NPCs out in the world exist without the player’s input. They don’t stop and ask you to do something for them explicitly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. If you pay attention to their actions and talk to them, you might be able to figure out what they want, and then you can head out to see what their problem is for yourself. Or you could ignore them. It’s all up to the players. Villages exist, and hints of shopping are in the trailers. There’s lots of information in footage released overseas, and people can get an idea of things from that.
Bokoblin were seen hunting a boar at the hands-on event. The world has towns, and towns have humans. The world also has monsters and animals. Monsters can attack animals, or be attacked by them. These interactions happen spontaneously, and are fun to watch.
Some bosses just exist out in the world, but some are hidden, mimicking objects. Everyone comes across them at different times, and there’s a chance players will encounter such things without being prepared. One of the testers was losing to a tough boss, having used all of their healing items, when the boss started a wildfire with its attack. The player then threw their food at the fire in a last-ditch effort, and it all became cooked on the spot. They then used it to restore their health and continue the battle.
There are many ways to survive in the snowy mountains. A primitive man would make a bonfire to survive. You can also wear clothing, or use a torch. The torch keeps the fire with you, but you’re unable to use a weapon. Figuring out how to deal with that is an essential part of the game. This “multiplication” of environment and gameplay happens from the beginning of the game until the end, resulting in an enormous amalgamation of everything later on.
There are no weird effects from clothing, everything functions as it looks.
“100 years ago” and the Sheikah tribe are key to the story. The Sheikah mark is used as part of the narrative, and the third trailer has significant information about the narrative relating to that. Zelda’s blue tunic is also important. The races seen in the trailer are all living and breathing out in the field, but it’s up to your imagination whether they’re friend or foe.
Music from older games is kind of mixed into the soundtrack, but not blatantly. The main theme, puzzle-solving jingle, and other series staples have also been given makeovers in order to break from tradition. The sound design is very important as well. Loading times are a bit faster on the switch compared to the Wii U.
There are many amiibo to use, each with different effects. The game can be played without them, but they add to the enjoyment of the adventure.
Massive thanks to Gessenkou and iYakku for their help with this translation!
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