The Making of The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

Go Behind The Scenes - How The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Was Made

Nintendo released three video’s today about the making of the latest Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild game for both WiiU and Switch.

They notified yesterday on Twitter that they were about to release three featuring video’s on their Youtube channel about the backgrounds to the new game. Below you will be able to watch these video’s. Along I have written a summary of each video.

The Beginning

They started developing Breath of the Wild in 2013. The goal was to release in either 2015 or 2016, but it became a release together with the Nintendo Switch release on 3rd of March 2017. This however gave them plenty of extra time to make the game as interesting as possible.

With a catchphrase of “Let’s break all conventions of the Zelda series”, they looked at their previous Zelda games of what to break and what to keep. Previously game worlds were small maps that shifted as soon as you came to the end of one, towards the next map. This had more to do with hardware limitations at that time than any design in mind.

2D Breath of the Wild

They created first a 2D Zelda with the new engine to make both designers and developers understand the possibilities (potential) and mechanics of the things they could create with this new game.

Transforming from the 2D game into a 3D game gave a lot of new challenges. For example, cutting a tree down in a 2D game consists of two different images. One of a tree standing up and another of chopped wood. In the 3D version of the game they had to think of what the tree would do after falling down and how that would look like. It had to look realistic to the player at least.

Lightning

They added interesting mechanics as to make the player think twice about whether they should use a metal sword in a thunderstorm or not. It creates the idea that the player should either have a wooden weapon in their inventory in case of a thunderstorm, but in the same way they could use the lightning storm to their advantage by throwing the weapon at the enemy. The lightning storm could potentially go on the weapon and kill the enemy or the enemy might pickup your weapon to fight you and get electrocuted.

Just like in above example, they added more and more mechanics in a similar fashion to the game to let the player use their brain to take advantage of the weather elements and other smart solutions to defeat enemies.

Sheikah Technology

The Jōmon period in Japanese history gave the developers the idea for the Sheikah Technology. The Jomon period in Japanese History is rather unknown to most of the world and therefore it gave also this ancient race with ancient technology feeling in the game.

Multi-lingual

Breath of the Wild has been translated into eight languages, both text and voice. As the new Nintendo Switch is no longer region locked, you could basicly try playing the game in a different language (as long as you can understand that, that is) to experience the game differently. Could be a good tip to those trying to learn a new language. Voice actors are also different for each language.

Video – The Beginning:

Storyline and Characters

In previous Legend of Zelda games, the story was the main element in the game. With the Breath of the Wild open air sandbox style of gameplay, this was no longer possible. Forcing the storyline too much would limit your freedom. So a completely different approach had to be made.

Instead they focused on the characters and built a storyline about them with the own background on each of them. So in the beginning of the story it is all just a giant picture of all the elements and the three main characters (Link, Zelda, Ganon) and all the related characters in all corners of Hyrule.

Link

With Link they started at his personality. From there on they went with his design in concept art.

Zelda

With Zelda instead of coming up with her personality and background story, the design team approached it in two different ways. First of all the planners decided on what kind of person Zelda is like and why she is worth saving for us/Link. They focused on the setting the game should have (saving Zelda). The designers wanted to first figure out what Zelda’s first impression would be like.
So they put a lot of attention to her look and feel and the feeling that you want to know more about what is going with her.
They had most difficulty perfecting the looks and feels of Zelda. Until the very end they kept changing lighting and shadows and eyebrows and eyelashes in the interactions and memory scenes in the game.

Ganon

With Ganon they started to think about how Ganon would fit in the game. Where to put him, his strength, in what way he would take a role during the open air environment gameplay and how he would be like as a final boss.

Enemies

When it comes to designing enemies for the Legend of Zelda games, they always start with Link and a single type of enemy. For each enemy they figure out in what way they will be a threat to Link. They didn’t start on the next enemy before they were happy with the first.

The idea behind the Guardians came from playing the original Legend of Zelda game (1986). The Octorok in that game was looking rather big in comparison to Link and had a lot of difficult movements to deal with and became the basis for the guardian in the new game.

A really funny story on the Bokoblin’s. The Bokoblin’s have a horn they sometimes blow on to call for reinforcements. They initially thought about using a French horn for the sound of it, until a programmer came around with a horn similar to that of the Bokoblin. They tried it out and it fitted very well, so that’s what they used for it.

Video Storyline and Characters:

Open Air Concept

Players who play The Legend of Zelda games are driven by finding secrets and therefore exploring every nook and cranny in the game. In the previous games Skyward Sword and Wind Waker they already felt like implementing open air environment mechanics. In Skyward Sword you had a small jump through the sky (using a bird) to get to areas. In Wind Waker they felt like making the big sea open world, but both console’s hardware limitations and not having a big enough team (money, resources) stopped that in its wake.

In one way they felt they were breaking the classical convention of the Legend of Zelda series by creating a vast world to explore for the player instead of having a linear story with only certain area’s to enter in a linear way.

In another way it felt like going back to its roots as the original The Legend of Zelda game from 1986 already was open world (but in 2D).

World Size

To decide on the size of the world, they thought about what would be an enjoyable size for the player to explore (not too big, not too small). As basis for this, they looked at the map of Nintendo’s head quarters: Kyoto. NB: Kyoto is a 827 square kilometer city with over 1.4 million citizens, so I would call this rather big and an excellent role model for Hyrule.

So they thought about how long a horse would take over that type of distances or how tired one would get from walking from one end to the other end. When it felt right, they went with it.
The world ended up being about 12 times the size of the world in Twilight Princess. Instead of comparing the map to previous games and the scaling thereof, they looked at what would be fun to play and explore in.

Cooking

They decided to have cooking already from the very beginning. They just had to figure out how it would fit in this new open world. With the ability to kill and collect, they had to come up with interesting recipes for all the collected ingredients and the different effects the food could benefit the player.

Combat

In previous games, combat was about the weapon vs the enemy in front of the player. In Breath of the Wild they were able to combine the physics engine and the combat engine together in fun ways. Now it was possible to use objects like a boulder to squash enemies, or pickup items to use against enemies in ways never used before. It opened up for different approaches of combat – not always having to kill enemies the known way but finding alternative underdog ways of doing so. It allows players to explore their own fighting styles for different situations.

Music

They wanted to accentuate ambiance in the game giving a feeling of a big world to explore by using piano. They were worried about using that, because the piano had never been featured as a main instrument in the series before.

Sound Effects

As for sound effects they had to make sure the sounds would be there, but not be overwhelming as it would be something the player would be hearing constantly. They even made a sound effect for the Bokoblin picking their nose. I’d say, you cannot say they didn’t went to the tiny details!

Testing

Reaching each milestone, they all stopped developing and went playing the game. In that way they could thoroughly quality check every aspect of the game they had created up to that milestone. Ofcourse they were limited by time; just playing for an entire week wasn’t an option. At some point though they had to delay development, but they feel this was essential to create a game of this quality.

Video – Open Air Concept

What do you think of Behind the Scenes: The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild?

Enjoy and Game on!

The Game Mistress

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