Shmuplations has been providing translations of rare interviews from the past, and the latest is a 1992 interview with Miyamoto on Zelda: Link To The Past.
Miyamoto: We did include alternate paths/solutions for players that are easier, though. Originally, the system in Zelda we envisioned was more open-ended: for example, if there was a rock blocking your way, you could safely ignore it and keep playing: there was always another way around. I wanted something that players could get so lost in, it would take them a whole year to finish.
—Wow, a whole year—but the payoff for that struggle would be enormous, no doubt.
Miyamoto: The problem with making an “open-ended” version of Zelda like that was the messaging and plotline. If you ignore structure like that, then the plotline can quickly get screwy and NPC messages start to not make sense. Programming in enough logic to handle all the different possibilities probably would have required about 150% more memory than we had.
—I would love to play an “unstructured” version of Zelda someday, though. “The Legend of Zelda: Hard Type” (laughs). Were any ideas carried over from that early concept?
Miyamoto: Yeah, being able to destroy walls with bombs.
—Right, where the walls show little cracks…
Miyamoto: Actually, even if they don’t have cracks, there’s still a way to figure out the wall is breakable. When you hit the walls with your sword, they normally make a “ting ting” sound, but walls that can be broken make a hollow sound. From the perspective of the player, when they go around hitting all the walls and find one that makes a different sound, I think it’s more satisfying that way.
—It feels like treasure-hunting or something.
Miyamoto: But, of course, there’s also the problem of how much longer that will result in people playing. Concerned, I balanced the joy players would get from hunting around and at long last discovering a breakable wall and the thought of how long that would realistically take, and, in the end, opted for putting in visible cracks on the walls that can be destroyed.
—Were there other ideas you had for Link to the Past which had to be cut due to the 8MBit limitation?
Miyamoto: Yeah, a lot! But you can’t just throw every good idea you have into a game. The idea has to connect up with something else in the game, and there needs to be consistency between the ideas. There was a ton more we wanted to do, though!
—What kind of ideas did you have?
Miyamoto: One idea was with the lantern: if you used it on a grassy area, it would cause a huge brushfire. If you cut a little circle of grass around you, you could safely stand there in the middle of it!