A name that some of us may not be that familiar with, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, is the director for Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. In an interview with Famitsu he explains some of the thinking behind the game in terms of gameplay, its mechanics and how he wants players to tackle its many challenges. He even mentions how using the shrines to teleport to and from points on the map will help to fast-travel.
You can read the full interview below:
The release date was finally announced March 3rd. It has been a long time for a new Zelda game on home console since Skyward Sword(2011/118)
F: Yeah. It has been 5 years.
Has the game been totally completed.
F: Sure. We are ready for shipping.
The game has to be ready for sale almost right after it’s been completed. How did it feel?
F: It’s very satisfied that lots of my ideas could be realized in the game. I am also very excited that players can finally play this game.
Let’s change another subject. Tell us about the concept of BoTW this time.
F: Generally, the key point is “to review everything that we take for granted in LoZ”. This is what Mr. Eiji Aonuma talked about in many places. This time I could explain this as the director. We prepared some consoles for players to experience gameplay. They were allowed to try lots of actions on the field. This is what LoZ series are about, allowing players to do various actions such as throwing, swinging, and pushing. This time however we added lots of gimmicks on the field corresponding to those actions. We called the kind of combination ” the multiplication of playing”, which is also the motif of this game. For example, when you see a location where you won’t be able to get by any means. The process for you to think and try every mean to get there is sort of an application of “multiplication of playing”.
In the gameplay, we can see a cliff appeared early in the game. You can also fell big trees to make a bridge to get through the cliff.
F: Yes. You can do that.
It feels like there are many solutions rather than one.
F: There may have been a “single road” to the LoZ games so far. But this time there will be a lot of solutions for one question. Including some we didn’t even imagine during the development. Every time one solution was discovered, it surprised even the developers that you could do it this way.
I see. So, the experiences of gameplay and the information sharing to others will be different from each individual.
F: During development, the staff often developed the game and at the same time test it. Even when we were doing the same scene test play, the the conversations were different. “I did it this way.” “What? I did it that way!” So many times after knowing the way others did it, it felt like “Oh! I didn’t came up with that. And this is the part I would like you all to experience.
The concept “to review everything that we take for granted in LoZ”. How did you judge how much it should be reviewed? After all, it would disappoint fans if too much of what we knew about Zelda were changed.
F: In fact we were exploring the borderline while developing the game. Through thinking about “what is a Zelda game should be”, we were able to define a Zelda game to be a game with moments when you engage a dungeon, a question, the surrounding of unknown puzzles, and also the surprising moments when you finally solve them. After keeping those basic elements, we started some conversations such as: “Can’t we play the way we used to play in the dungeons now on the field?” Or on the contrary: “It might also be interesting if we play the way we used to play on the field in the dungeons?” This is a kind of multiplication of playing I mentioned before. Players could get through a puzzle by method 1, method 2 or change method 3 into method 4, even completely different method A or B. It naturally differed a lot from other Zelda games. We just simply tried to change the “I am getting tired of another routine of Zelda” experiences. We considered why we’re getting tired meanwhile thinking about how to make puzzles more interesting in another way. And these thoughts became part of the multiplication of playing experiences. I didn’t set principles of changing. I just tried to convince the staff that it’s possible for us to change the concept that “if we change something, it wouldn’t be Zelda anymore”.
It seems that you not only changed the routines, but also got rid of the old frame of Zelda games.
F: Yes, you can say that we want to break the frame. With this idea, we have to create something different.
Speaking of reviewing everything that we take for granted in LoZ, we can find such changes in Zelda games these years. For example, the stamina gauge apeared in Skyward Sword, and in Triforce 2 the items management didn’t shown in numbers but gauges as well as in BoTW. This must also be the result of reviewing everything that we take for granted.
F: Of course, the know-how of the system which we have adopted so far has also been accumulated, we also know the advantages and disadvantages of each system, so there are also parts that I have referred to.
I see. This time players are allowed to reach anywhere in the scenery. Are there ends in the map?
F: That is the best part of it. I think that it is better to actually play it and check whether there are ends or not.
The map of the game is so enormous that there should be a lot of places to explore. Would it be very time-consuming.
F: You can ride horses and there are shrines for teleporting. But you are not able to teleport with a shrine before activating it.
Can we just walk by foot through the whole game?
F: Of course. As the map is very wide. There are mountains, valleys and some places you just can’t bypass. There are also places where are easy to arrive but horrible on the way back. This time whenever you pick a destination, you will face the choices such as “should I bypass it or climb over it?” No matter which way you take, you can get through it with skills that Link has learned. Once you choose to climb over it, the stamina will be very important. There have to be placed for you to rest and recover the stamina on the way climbing. Or you might think that this way seems impossible, I should take another way. You have to arrange the route by yourself. And with hang gliding, some places might be hard to get to, but easy to return. It’s just like in real life. If you tried to get to somewhere, you had to think about it before you act.
It seems that you would like players to think in different ways.
F: That’s right. Zelda series might give people an impression of difficulty and maniac in the past. But I give you an example of the ax you can get early in the game. Axes are often used as weapons in games. However after considering what they are for in the first place, not only Japanese but everyone in the world can figure out what to do with them. What players figure out should be similar all over the world.
Daily life ideas are useful in the game. By cooking and eating a meal, you can recover the heart and increase the stamina gauge.
F: The system of heart and stamina could be enhanced with food, and sometimes clothes. Or you can deal with it somehow by your actions.
In the past, if players weren’t able to defeat specific enemies, they might think ” I must not of gotten the necessary item yet.” However it won’t be that way in this game, right?
F: Right. Such enemies could be defeated in various methods. Players who are not good at actions now can explore different methods to defeat them, and might even be able to knock them down cowardly.
I am curious about what is the coward way. But in order to realize all the different methods, it must’ve took lots of time on development. Did any unexpected bugs or something occur during the test?
F: They did happen. But they also created some interesting results in some cases, that we even allowed them to be part of the game rather than correcting them.