Documentaries show Nintendo dug deep into Zelda's world for 'Breath of the Wild'

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is far different than any other game that preceded it in the series, with an open world, deep arsenal of weapons, and even voice acting. That Breath of the Wild shakes up the very core of the Zelda series was no accident. In fact, it was the foundation on which the game was built.

In the first of three “making of ” documentaries posted on Nintendo’s YouTube channel, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi revealed that the development team had planned to re-examine the “conventions” of the Zelda series, including the design of its world and various gameplay mechanics, from the very beginning. The team even started with a 2D prototype game.

“Specifically, our process was to think of all kinds of different mechanics, and to try to distinguish between the unchanging, universal traits of the Zelda franchise and things that had simply become conventions of the series,” Fujibayashi said.

Multiple smaller play areas were implemented back in the original The Legend of Zelda simply because the technology at the time didn’t allow for a more open structure. Other series staples, like the Master Sword and villain Ganon, still remained in the game, but early design concepts for Breath of the Wild showed a remarkably different beast.

“Some of our younger designers came up with very unique suggestions,” said art director Satoru Takizawa. “Like the idea that UFOs could invade from space and abduct cattle.”

“The planners started by thinking about what kind of person Zelda is, and why she’s in a position that makes us want to save her”

Though the more ridiculous ideas didn’t stick around, Nintendo used this period of experimentation to build on emergent gameplay moments, such as learning how the game’s lightning could damage enemies, or how Link could mix his “stasis” ability with objects in the world.

This “emergence” idea, as well as the distillation of series conventions, also applied to the game’s story and characters, which producer Eiji Aonuma said, in a second video, was a result of switching to the open-world setting in Breath of the Wild. This was most evident with Zelda herself, who the development staff re-examined while designing.

“The planners started by thinking about what kind of person Zelda is, and why she’s in a position that makes us want to save her,” said Fijibayashi.

The designers, however, wanted to make sure players could instantly recognize Zelda with familiar characteristics, and when the two sides were able to reach a compromise, the character seen in-game was created.

The Guardians — the terrifying, spider-like creatures roaming Hyrule — were also created with inspiration from past games. The Octorok enemy, specifically, was a base for their design, in large part because of their size and terrifying noises.

The original The Legend of Zelda was a source of inspiration for more than just character designs. Though Breath of the Wild is drastically different from other games in the series, its emphasis on open-ended exploration does bear some resemblance to the original game. The world itself was inspired by the geography of Nintendo’s home of Kyoto, and Fujibayashi took the time to gauge how large the world should be based on how long it would take before Link would get tired traversing it.

“In the end, the world ended up being approximately 12 times the size of Twilight Princess, he said. “So rather than compare it to previous Zelda games, when we decided on matters of scope and scale, we experimented to decide what would be fun to play.”

This design philosophy appears to have also worked its way into the game’s combat, which puts a large emphasis on manipulating the open world to your benefit, like when Link rolls a boulder toward enemies or steers them into the path of a bomb.

All the experimentation and iteration has certainly paid off. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games Nintendo has released in years, and an early game of the year contender. It’s available for the Switch and Wii U consoles. For more on the game’s development, check out the videos posted above.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Tricked-out e-scooters and bike lights that lock

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Gaming

The best Nintendo Switch games, from Breath of the Wild to Rocket League

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.
Deals

Walmart cuts prices on Nintendo Switch games with Memorial Day sale

With savings on high-caliber Nintendo Switch games, the Walmart Memorial Day sale is a great time to pick up something new to play. There are even a few deals on accessories to beef up your console.
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for May 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Buying Guides

The best PlayStation 4 exclusives you can get right now

The PlayStation 4's game library and an incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

Microsoft Project xCloud will support all current and future Xbox One games

Microsoft's Project xCloud video game streaming service will support all current and future Xbox titles. This includes more than 3,500 games for the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, and more than 1,900 future games for the Xbox One.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer moves to Epic Games, Fortnite esports

Nate Nanzer, the founding commissioner of the Overwatch League, will be leaving his post to join Epic Games and oversee competitive Fortnite. Nanzer will be inheriting a robust esports scene, but one besieged by cheating.
Gaming

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night DLC stirs controversy for Kickstarter backers

The post-launch DLC for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has been revealed. The $10 Iga's Back Pack DLC that will allow players to earn the Swordwhip weapon, however, has stirred controversy among the game's Kickstarter backers.
Gaming

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will focus on troubling, realistic emotions

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is reportedly the title for this year's entry in the series. The game is also said to draw inspiration from the controversial No Russian level of 2009's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Deals

Dell drops huge savings on XPS and Alienware gaming laptops for Memorial Day

We've seen a lot of different Memorial Day sales come down the pipeline this week, but some of the best so far have been from Dell. With big discounts on XPS and Alienware gaming laptops, now is a great time to pick up a new computer for…
Gaming

Dauntless hits 5 million players in first week; Phoenix Labs tries to keep up

Dauntless suffered from matchmaking problems and server issues in its first days after launch. Things have started getting better for the Monster Hunter: World challenger though, as the game surpassed 5 million players in its first week.