Interview:Nintendo Power Podcast December 21st 2017
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Nintendo Power Podcast December 21st 2017
Slate: I'm joined by two people who know quite a bit about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. First, I'd like to welcome the game's producer, Mr Eiji Aonuma. Thank you for being on the show.
Slate: And next, the game's director, Mr Hidemaro Fujibayashi. Thank you for coming.
Chris Slate: At this point, a lot of players have spent a lot of time with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so I'd like to go behind the scenes a little bit, and find out how the development team came up with some of the game's features, characters, and other things. There may be some minor spoilers here but we're not going to give away anything big, any big spoiler points or the final boss fight or anything like that. Now to get started, first I'd like to ask what it's been like for the development team to see the game get such a positive response from players and critics.
Fujibayashi: So, first things first, I am just very happy that Breath of the Wild is positively viewed by players, and as a developer it's the best thing we could ask for.
Aonuma: So obviously we've been working on the Zelda series for a long time, but with this game, what we tried to do was break up a lot of the long-standing conventions of the series, and so we had questions like, 'how will fans react to that?' and 'will we be able to attract new fans?', and it was very scary because perhaps people would have hated the game. But in the end, we managed to garner a lot of support, and seeing that support is absolutely amazing.
Slate: Starting with some of those new things, I’d like to start with these new versions of Link and Zelda, both from the way they look to the role that they play in the game. They’re quite a bit different from what we’ve seen before, and I was hoping to find out where those ideas came from for them this time and what the goals were with these characters.
Fujibayashi: As for Link, we wanted to make Link look a lot cooler in design than Skyward Sword. But also we wanted everybody to be able to relate to Link, to be able to like him no matter what kind of forum. So, we designed him that way. As for Zelda, we kind of portrayed her more like a sister-like figure, not necessarily in age, but just kind of as a woman that’s a little bit older or mature.
Aonuma: Actually, I think the first time we really solidified the Link design for this title, or we started to solidify it, was when we first showed a trailer for the then-not-yet-titled Breath of the Wild; it was just a new Zelda game. But you had that moment where he’s facing off against the Guardian, and he jumps off the horse, and he pulls the arrow back and shoots it. And he has an expression on his face that’s kind of troubled; it’s kind of sad. We initially were going to have him have more of a triumphant look on his face, and we thought that really doesn’t fit this Link. He should look more kind of consternated, I suppose. When we figured out that, “Oh, that’s the face he has to have,” a lot of other things for this Link, and his design, and who he should be really started to fall into place.
Fujibayashi: Link is not just a character that portrays justice, but we also wanted to incorporate that he has history in the past, he has something of a dark side to him. So we didn’t want to just portray him as a go-getter. We wanted to have him have kind of a secretive past.
Slate: And so did all of that, the idea of the tragic past, and what happened 100 years ago, and that extra weight on Link’s shoulders really come about from the work that was done on that original teaser trailer?
Aonuma: In terms of the specific story beats and the setting, we had had that planned and figured out then. It was more a matter of, since he has that in his background, how do we need to make him look? So it was more the setting influencing his design. At that time, we already had the story beats and the story ideas of Link being someone who’s waking up from the past, doesn’t know who he is. And coupled with that, having him be someone who is this kind of go-getter who’s thinking, “Oh yeah! Let’s go do this. Let’s get this taken care of,” wouldn’t really fit with that background and that story idea. So, it was really the relationship of the story beats and the story ideas we already had with his design that ended up influencing the design, and we ended up with the Link that we have.
Slate: Continuing this theme of new changes for Link, obviously his actions in the game expanded quite a bit this time, most notably he's now able to climb anything in sight, and he also can soar with the Paraglider, and I was wondering: what stage of development did those ideas come about, and what were the original inspirations for those and the goals for those abilities.
Fujibayashi: So when we think about the Zelda series we first think about Link's actions, and so when you ask at what part we started thinking about it, it would be from the beginning, and that's when we start considering Link climbing and paragliding. So since this game has an open air and the world is so open, we wanted to make sure that when the player controls Link, they could press the forward control stick and can move forward constantly, so we had that in mind while we were designing. So when we were making prototypes, first we had Link go into the wall and then jump over anything and it just didn't feel right, so then we thought, 'hey, why don't we just make Link climb?', and also when he climbed up the walls or mountains, he would also try to climb down, but we also though that didn't really feel right, so then we had him just jump down, and that's how we decided on doing that action.
Aonuma: So in terms of those actions of being able to climb walls and then glide to places with the Paraglider, those are kind of actions that already existed and Mr. Fujibayashi had already created for the previous title, Skyward Sword, but they were separate actions in terms of how the game's system worked, and what we really wanted to go for here was just something where if the player is out in the world and they push the control stick forward for movement they just go, they can just forever, they can just climb something up and then they can jump off and sail with the Paraglider; they never have to stop moving, and it just becomes one consistent movement, so it was those two things, disparate things coming together to become one flowing movement, and me watching from the producer angle I didn't quite understand it, but I was able to see that Mr Fujibayashi had done this thing in a previous title, he tried it once, and he still felt that there was something there that was worth revisiting, and for him to come back to this title, and then succeed in this way by refining what he tried before, I think it owes a lot to what we did on previous titles.
Slate: So, this is the first time where Link’s weapons could actually break, and you couldn’t re-use them endlessly. Of course, there were many, many more weapons in this game. And I wonder what the goal was with this new mechanic and how the idea came about.
Fujibayashi: When we were thinking about weapons, we considered that this world is a big, open field, and we wanted players to go on an adventure. We actually called it a term “gravity,” as to pulling players into that world. We were thinking, especially because it’s a big world, if we let players just do whatever they wanted, they wouldn’t really know what to do. So, one of the things we thought about is, for example, if we place an enemy that dropped a certain weapon, then the player would feel like they want to go defeat that enemy. Because if it was really, truly free and players could do whatever, they would probably just avoid it. So instead, they would be more inclined to go defeat that enemy, and once they defeat it, they would get a certain weapon. And that was scattered all over the world. So, that was one thing we considered doing, thinking about weapons.
Aonuma: In terms of making Zelda titles, figuring out how to make combat fun has always been a huge challenge. How do we let players do what they want in combat? How do we make it fun? Just pressing a button to swing a sword has the right reactive feel, but it’s also very simple. So we thought about ideas like, “Alright, well, what if you have to do more complicated button inputs to do different attacks?” or things like that. But it just sort of became too complicated and actually not very fun. So when we came up with the idea of weapons breaking, you know, if you have this nice weapon, but you know it’s going to break after a certain number of uses, you have to start thinking about, “When am I going to use it? What enemies am I going to use it on?” And that was really the way that we were able to make the simple action of swinging a sword in this game a bit more strategic, a bit more fun, a bit more in-depth, even though you’re just pressing a button to swing a sword. I think that this has always been a big challenge in Zelda titles, how to make enemy combat fun. And I think you can see, throughout the history of the Zelda titles, how we ended up here is a conglomeration of all these little, different challenges that we’ve overcome over the years of developing the different titles.
Slate: And along with the wide variety of weapons, there’s also a wide variety of armor, which are different types of costumes essentially. In previous Zelda games, Link always had one or maybe a few set looks. I believe in past games it was possible to change your outfit or maybe the color of your outfit, but this is much more than that. I wonder what was the inspiration for that change. And I’d also like to ask if each of you have a favorite costume in the game.
Fujibayashi: When we were thinking about clothing, we thought about the cycle of the game and how there should be new findings in the world. Also, another thing to consider was how to adapt to the world. Because the world consists of areas that were cold or hot, we thought that clothing would be a good way to adjust to that. Also, one of the things that we did want to make sure was that it was not just one way to get to a certain area. For example if it was the cold area, we want to make sure that there were different ways to adapt to that climate. For example, players could use food or they could use clothes. And by doing that, there were just many ways to adapt to that. Also, we thought many looks would be fun for players to get to choose from. So when we were thinking of clothing, that’s how we thought about it. My favorite outfit is the Hyrule Soldier’s outfit. My reasoning is that it looks cool.
Aonuma: Mine actually is the Goron Armor. I think it’s probably my favorite because it’s so cumbersome. There’s all these really cool-looking outfits and armor in the game, and then there’s this thing that looks like you’re wearing a bunch of metal on your body. But I really like the way that it impacts how you play the game, and it kinda looks difficult to walk and move around in. So, I feel like the impact of it is really cool.
Slate: The fact that in lots of previous Zelda games, well, all of them really, there’s always very memorable characters that you meet along the way. In this game, however, there’s some very special characters in the Champions. And I was wondering what the inspirations were for these individual Champions, and how they were created, and also, to follow up on the last question, if you have a favorite Champion as well.
Fujibayashi: When we were thinking about Champions, we were thinking about the scenario. First we thought Hyrule doesn’t consist of just the Hyrule people; it’s with other races. So when we were thinking about a big enemy like the Calamity, we thought perhaps Hyrule and these other races work together, and perhaps the leaders of those races would represent and work together with Zelda, representing Hyrule, and Link as the Hero. We thought that concept and that storyline would be a beautiful way to illustrate this game. So, especially when we’re thinking about the races, we thought maybe Gorons are strong. How would they be at this point in Hyrule? How about the Gerudo chief? That’s how we drew our inspiration and that’s how the Champions were born.
Aonuma: Obviously in the Zelda series, you always have Link as the main character, and that’s who you control. But he’s going on this huge adventure, and it’s kind of lonely if he’s by himself; he doesn’t have anyone to help him. So, when we’re making the games, we always think, “Who’s going to help Link? Who’s going to be his friend?” Back, actually, when I was directing Zelda titles, I had this idea that there would be four different strong warriors or knights in Hyrule. And I actually thought about calling them the “Hyrule Four.” It’s been interesting to see that we sort of ended up in this game having that same idea come about. I didn’t talk about that with Mr. Fujibayashi at any point. It just kind of naturally happened. It’s funny, people working on the Zelda titles, we’re all sometimes thinking about the same things.
Slate: And do either of you have a favorite Champion? Or is it too hard to pick?
Fujibayashi: If I had to pick, I’ve been saying Urbosa. It’s because she’s strong, she’s kind and beautiful. She meets that trifecta, and considering that, she’s my favorite.
Aonuma: For me, my favorite was Urbosa as well. But now that the second DLC is out, I think, based on what happens in that story, I actually like Mipha the best now, based on what you learn in that DLC, how she ended up as the symbol that she is within the game. I think if people play it, they’ll understand, but yeah, she’s my favorite now.