Submit a news tip

Zelda: Breath of the Wild team on dev approach, difficulty, speedrunners, concept art, Shrines, bugs, and more

Posted on March 11, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch, Wii U

The Verge recently chatted with Zelda: Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, art director Satoru Takizawa, and technical director Takuhiro Dohta. Tons of topics were discussed in the new interview. Among them include how the team approached development, the game’s difficulty, speedrunning, the crazy concept, designing Shrines, and making the experience as bug free as possible.

We’ve rounded up notable excerpts from the interview below. You can read the full discussion on The Verge here.

On what couldn’t be changed about Zelda…

Fujibayashi: One thing that I knew we didn’t want to change was the aspect of discovery and exploration, and the joy that you get from discovering something new. There’s also the idea of puzzle solving. You think about it, you try some ideas, and when you’re finally able to solve a puzzle, that joy and sense of accomplishment is something that I think speaks really truly to the Zelda franchise. And I wanted to make sure that that was still intact in the game.

On whether the lack of direction was a difficult concept to pitch to the producers…

Fujibayashi: When you talk about Zelda, there are people like [series creator Shigeru Miyamoto] and Mr. Aonuma, who have a lot of ideas, and have a lot of involvement with the series. And they’ve been part of the development all along. We’ve been making Zelda games together. So in that sense, when it came to changing Zelda, what we wanted to change and our perspective aligned. And so when we tried to explain to them that we wanted to make this kind of Zelda, one that doesn’t have one set path, I think we all had the same vision of what that would look like when it came to fruition.

On whether there was any concern that the game would be too difficult…

Fujibayashi: No actually, not particularly. I really think that comes from two things. One, is the experience that we’ve gained from working on Zelda these past few years. And then also we did a lot of monitor testing and playtesting. And the data we got from those monitor tests confirmed that this was the way we wanted to go.

There’s one other interesting piece of information. There’s a development tool that we use that takes all of the data from this monitor test, and it centralizes it in one location so that you can see that data in real time. It shows how many hearts people have, or where people have died, or what path they’re taking. And it’s kind of on this one singular timeline so that you can see in real time where people are struggling, where people are really dying a lot, what path they’re taking. So we took all of that into consideration as we tried to balance the game out.

On whether they’re excited about what will happen when speedrunners pick this up and see what they can do with it…

Fujibayashi: We’re all looking forward to it, very much so. We’re really excited to see people who are able to figure out things we weren’t able to figure out. Because we made the game so that, even though you can do things that we weren’t expecting, it’s not a bug, it’s all part of the game mechanics and game logic. And once we decided to make it so that you could basically go to Hyrule castle after seeing it from the beginning of the game, we immediately thought, “Oh, we’re going to have to wait and see if someone actually figures out a way to do this.”

On what had the biggest influence on the team…

Fujibayashi: In terms of impact, that one thing would probably be wall climbing. When we thought about making an open-world game, and a game that really focuses on freedom, we had to overcome the challenge of walls. Because those walls are usually places where you can’t go, you can’t pass. We had to change that into a place where you could engage with the game. That was what we needed to think about.

On top of that, there were a lot of other challenges that we needed to overcome. When you have this big field, you have to fill it with lots of gameplay and fun. There are all of these challenges, and when we started thinking of the challenge of overcoming walls along with the rest of the challenges we were facing, we were able to come up with this unifying answer to that problem.

What that answer was, was when you’re actually climbing a mountain or a wall or whatever, when you’re at the base of the mountain and you look up, you want to know what’s at the top. When you think of that, you have to think of how you’re going to get up there. You have to think of certain paths so that you can make it up without becoming too tired. And there’s also the idea of using food or medicine to make it up there.

So when you think about that, then you have to think about creating a method to create that food or medicine. So you go to hunting and gathering. And then you fill the field with lots of ingredients and lots of animals. So it started to create this overall game cycle where you prepare yourself for the climb, then you climb and you come to this reward. And it ended up solving a lot of the challenges that we were confronted with, and created this idea of a game cycle.


On how different working on Breath of the Wild was compared to Skyward Sword and other Zelda games…

Fujibayashi: From a planning perspective, you look at Skyward Sword and it’s kind of an extension of the Zelda conventions that we’d established in the past. So it was easy to explain what the concept was to the rest of the team. However, with this one it’s a completely new idea, and we’re trying to show the staff, to explain to the staff, something that hasn’t existed before. That was a challenge and was difficult to do.

Dohta: Working on Breath of the Wild was, for me, the first Zelda that I was involved with from the beginning. I was programming lead on Wind Waker HD, and so in that experience I was able to get some knowledge from people who had worked on the series about the way Zelda had been made up until this point. But I was a bit more of an observer of that previous process, and I brought that experience into making Breath of the Wild from the ground up.

Takizawa: For the artwork, I think the most straightforward answer is the ridiculous amount of volume compared to previous titles. Our creation process didn’t actually change. It was more “Okay, now how do we handle this demand for this high volume, and how do we create stuff that’s — as our art slogan became — refreshing and full-flavored.” I remember having a lot of discussions about that theme.

On some of the crazy concept art ideas shown at the GDC presentation…

Takizawa: The examples we showed yesterday — biker Link, and tracksuit Link — even the people who came up with these ideas weren’t really doing it with the idea that these were going to be implemented in the game. It was more of a way for them to rethink the conventions of the series and expand that creative thinking. It was almost like a creative exercise in which they said, “Do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter how crazy,” and it really opened them up to new expressions.

You can take the example that we showed with a UFO and space invasion. If you take that idea, and sort of layer it over Breath of the Wild, you can perhaps envision the ancient civilization in Breath of the Wild having some sort of giant ship that Ganon is controlling, and from that shooting out the guardians and populating the game world. It’s a technique for us to come up with new ideas.

On how Breath of the Wild doesn’t have many bugs despite being open world…

Dohta: There’s two points I’d like to underscore. Once we realized we wanted to go about filling the world, or linking the world, with a set of rules, as opposed to filling the world with a number of handmade objects, I think one of the positive effects we got was that the world was kind of stabilized by those rules. And that cut down on a number of bugs.

There was another point that we developed during our QA process. We came up with a number of scripts that would basically allow the game to be played automatically, and allow Link to run through various parts of the game automatically. And as that was happening, on the QA side of things, if a bug did appear I’d suddenly get a flood of emails about it. That was one tool that we found to be really handy.

On the design process for Shrines…

Fujibayashi: Actually it didn’t take as many resources as you’d think it would. One reason is that we have puzzles that are based on physics and chemistry. Initially we knew that we would have to make more than 100 shrines to make it work, but instead of trying to create a specific puzzle for each of these 100 shrines, we used the physics and chemistry engines, the rules that were already in the game, and then mass-produced these puzzles.

On whether making the game has made Nintendo more open to trying new ideas and going in new directions…

Fujibayashi: This time around, the world we’ve built, just has a lot of potential, and a lot of engagement and fun to be had. So after we fully develop the game there’s still new ideas. And so that doesn’t mean that maybe at this moment we want to come up with something completely different. We want to explore more of the potential that this gameplay has.

On whether the idea of expanding Breath of the Wild with DLC changed the way they view the game…

Fujibayashi: Yes, but in the sense that we want to be able to provide new and more expansive ways to play and engage with this current game. It’s easy to keep adding new stuff, but we have a lot of ideas on how we can expand the experience of making this game.

Leave a Reply
Manage Cookie Settings