Interview:Mashable October 14th 2013

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Mashable October 14th 2013


October 14, 2013





Aonuma addresses a variety of topics surrounding The Wind Waker HD , A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule Historia, linearity, and more.



Mashable: Can you share your history with the Legend of Zelda franchise?
Aonuma: It all started about 17 years ago when Ocarina of Time was being developed. I was in a different department from Shigeru Miyamoto, and Mr. Miyamoto asked me to come on board and help out a bit, so that was my first interaction with Zelda, and I worked on dungeon design. Right after that I stayed on and worked on Majora's Mask, and right after that I went to Wind Waker. The games just kept coming, and it was very difficult and very trying. I [was] kind of getting worn out, and that's when they decided to make me a producer.
Mashable: How do the roles differ?
Aonuma: At the time when when Mr. Miyamoto asked me to switch over to producer role, I also did not really understand what that meant. Now that I've done it for a while, the difference is, as producer, your main job — 80% of it — is to come up with that initial guiding principal, what is this game going to be? You decide that initial vision, basically, then the staff will do the rest of the work. The other 20% is making sure the staff don't go off on some crazy direction, and being mindful if something will sell or not.

I think the director's job is a lot harder. After the producer [creates] that initial vision, they take that initial idea and make it actually happen.
Mashable: So that meant you directed Wind Waker, then returned to the game 10 years later as a producer. What was that like?
Aonuma: I was really able to fulfill that role as a producer precisely because so much time had passed. If I had gone back to look at Wind Waker only five years later, I would have still been too close to the project. Now that 10 years have passed, as a producer I can objectively look at the game and keep a cool head because I'm not as close to the project anymore.
Mashable: Wind Waker had such a controversial art style when it came out, but now fans have kind of embraced it. How do you feel about that?
Aonuma: That art style in the Gamecube version is based on anime I watched as a kid, and I kind of expected there to be a big division between people liking it and people hating it. I personally liked it. I think now it's in HD, it raises it up a level.

I think part of the reason the art style is accepted now is that in-between we've had Phantom Hourglass, Minish Cap (the DS handheld titles), using that same art style — the Toon Link — and those have been played by female gamers and younger gamers that maybe don't have consoles, so the audience has expanded.
Mashable: Zelda has some of the most passionate fans. What is your relationship with them like?
Aonuma: When we were exploring ways to make fans happy, we created the Hyrule Historia. That summarizes all the games and the story so far. I didn't edit it myself, but tons of people who worked on it were fans of the games themselves.

I think with the Zelda series there are things in the games I'm trying to express, but there are also things the fans are expecting. The fans are expecting so much, but at the same time, like with Hyrule Historia, they are also more involved now.

With A Link Between Worlds, many of the staff who made that are people who played A Link to the Past and are fans of that game. More and more, fans of the Zelda series are involved with the series, and making it what it is.

I also have to think a lot more about what fans want more than before because of the Internet and social media. I have a lot more access to what fans are saying and I interact with them more. I think that's very important, and I also think that's something I want to do more of.

For that specific reason, we made Miiverse Zelda communities, and I hope people continue to post on there because I'm reading it every day.
Mashable: Is it hard to balance what fans want, especially if they may not want change, with wanting to make changes to the series?
Aonuma: Obviously it's very hard to have that balance. If I made a Zelda game that was exactly what the fans wanted, there wouldn't be any surprise to it. People might enjoy the game because they would have gotten what they wanted, but there wouldn't be anything beyond that.

Even I know exactly what the fans want, I think it's important to mix that with what I want to do. I take what the fans are expecting and what I want to do and mix the two together, and then kind of present it to fans and say, "What do you think of this?"
Mashable: Can you tell us anything about the Wii U Zelda game?
Aonuma: I'll say more at E3 2014.
Mashable: What inspired you to make some of the more dramatic changes to mechanics in A Link Between Worlds?
Aonuma: Now we have this rental system, where people can rent the items. I got involved with a hobby because I rented something so I could try it out. If I had seen people doing this hobby around me and hadn't had that rental experience, I wouldn't have gotten so involved in it. But being able to rent something and try it out allowed me to get very deeply involved with this hobby.

I thought that would be kind of interesting to have in a Zelda game. What if you could just rent things and try them out right in the beginning? Normally in a Zelda game you have to wait and find things locked deep inside a dungeon. That of course is fun too, but I think part of the fun of a Zelda game is finding out what these items are good for, what they are useful for. So when you started the game and you could rent all these items, that might be really, really cool.

The other main thing, along with the item rental system and the order of dungeons, is this idea of linearity versus non-linearity. Recently Zelda games have been very linear, and the idea of being able to do things in any order is something that only games can achieve. When you watch a cartoon or a movie, you watch from beginning to the end and you have the story. If a game only tells a story linearly, it's not really using that full potential of the game. If a game only tells a story linearly, it's not really using that full potential of the game. The main thing we wanted to accomplish with A Link Between Worlds was to have that non-linear style.
Mashable: Does that mean cut scenes can't be tied to starting or finishing a dungeon?
Aonuma: What we had to do was have multiple versions of cut scenes that could play based on what dungeons you'd completed, and obviously that was much more difficult.
Mashable: It sounds like A Link Between Worlds and the upcoming Wii U Zelda are going to break a lot of conventions in the franchise. What other conventions do you think need to be shaken up?
Aonuma: First of all, just because I maybe want something to change doesn't mean it actually will change. I think things like the settings for the characters [could be changed]. For example, we have Zelda, it's the Legend of Zelda, but it's not necessarily Princess Zelda. You have all these characters that keep coming up over and over that have the same basic template and I think that changing that could lead to some really interesting gameplay as well.
Mashable: Tetra was almost that in Wind Waker.
Aonuma: That was something I came up with. Eventually she's revealed to be the princess, but I wanted to introduce her not as the princess, and not even with the name Zelda. I think being free with things and playing with a lot of stuff, but at the end it's still a Zelda game, is something I'm really very interested in experimenting with.
Mashable: Are there any other features of A Link Between Worlds you're really excited about?
Aonuma: I think it's a cool balance between that 2D, old gameplay — with the added 3D effects — and the new ability to merge into the wall and it turns into a side view.

A funny a story about that. Because the top view was done so well, and it has that great, classic Zelda feel, when I'm playing it I will sometimes forget about the mergability. So I'll be sitting there playing, and I'll say "I can't get through this part!" Someone on my staff will then say "Mr. Aonuma. You can merge into walls." I think a lot of other people playing will have the experience of getting locked into the 2D and forgetting that.
Mashable: Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker were very open worlds, while Skyward Sword was very closed. Is there a chance we'll see that openness again?
Aonuma: I think the most open-world Zelda we've had so far has been Wind Waker, just because you were able to sail the ocean and go all over the islands. When creating a game, we look at what is the core, kernel gameplay. You try to construct the game around that, and making that core mechanic the easiest to access.

For Skyward Sword, that kind of narrowed, focused world helped us with that, but at the same time it meant you didn't have that wide-open world to explore. We've heard the complaint about lack of openness from a lot of fans. As we're deciding what the core gameplay mechanic was, we have that open-world desire at the forefront of our minds, and we're trying to figure out how to incorporate that as well.
Mashable: Do you get time to play any other games, and if so, which ones?
Aonuma: Monster Hunter 4. I was playing it in the lobby this morning. I play with three of my directors every day at lunch.