Eurogamer has an interview up with Zelda Producer Eiji Aonuma. They asked him about the game’s development, the physics engine and more.
When did your ideas for Breath of the Wild become finalised, how long ago did development begin? And how long ago did the Switch version begin development, too?
Aonuma: In terms of the development of Breath of the Wild, I started thinking about it after Skyward Sword was finished.
With Skyward Sword, the way the game world was set out, the areas a player could explore were actually reasonably limited – you would land from the sky into an area, and then explore that area, but the areas themselves weren’t really connected. A lot of people who played the game said to me that they wished they were able to explore the areas between the areas, the gaps between the areas. So that idea of having a large open connected world was in my mind as soon as Skyward Sword was finished, really. And then the Wii U hardware made realising that idea a possibility.
Of course, to actually create that huge open world which you could seamlessly explore, we needed to develop a system for creating that. And actually, just developing the system and tools to create the world, took about a year.
And regarding the Nintendo Switch version, it was spring last year when we made a firm decision to also release on that platform. Obviously that required some adjustments to the development process and changes to be made, and to continue developing the Wii U version alongside Nintendo Switch, that was spring last year.
Playing the game last week, the controls felt great on Switch. The Sheikah Slate looks a bit like the Hyrule version of the Wii U GamePad, and looks like it could be controlled in that way – was that the intention?
Aonuma: Yes, initially that’s true – we kind of pictured the Sheikah Slate as being reminiscent of a Wii U GamePad, but also to be honest with you I think the Sheikah Slate’s size and appearance resembles a Nintendo Switch quite strongly. So we think that comparison works for both versions of the game, and we’re happy with it.
And the fact we didn’t have to change the appearance of the Sheikah Slate in game… we were very grateful for that.
Did you ever consider only releasing Breath of the Wild on Switch, or was it important for fans of Wii U to still have the game released on that console?
Aonuma: No, we never considered not releasing the Wii U version, and changing development solely to Nintendo Switch – that was never on the cards. As I mentioned, this title started development as a Wii U title, so first and foremost we started it on Wii U. After we also decided to develop for Nintendo Switch… if we’d gone more in that direction, using Nintendo Switch console’s other features that Wii U doesn’t have, we felt that a gap might have opened up in terms of the experience between both platforms.
With Nintendo Switch we’re really happy with that functionality of being able to take it wherever you go, but beyond that we really wanted the gameplay experience to be the same, and for Wii U fans to be able to experience the same game people who play it on Switch will be able to experience.
It sounds like a major undertaking and development – it’s a massive game you’re releasing across two different platforms. I’d love to know the challenges of creating such a big game and making sure that it was done in time for the launch of Nintendo Switch.
Aonuma: Yes, this was a development process where on numerous occasions we’ve had to say, “Sorry, we need more time”, and because the process was so long there were actually a lot of problems that got naturally resolved over time.
One of the major problems we faced on a game of this size was actually coordinating everything, and by that I mean creating this huge open world by lots of development staff. Each individual person might be working on just one part of that world, but if they’re working without a broader context, within isolation, then they might think, “I’m creating this particular area or feature or object”, but if they don’t know how that fits into the broader world and context of the game, things won’t tie together very well.
We had to make sure everyone was communicating as much as possible, and everyone had an idea of that broader world, but we really had to make sure all the development staff could play the game as much as possible. That takes a long time for a game of this size as you can imagine. So we had to take time throughout the development period to really play the game and make sure that this cohesion was maintained.
Another example of a challenge we faced was the physics engine. We wanted a consistent physics engine throughout the world that worked in a logical and realistic way. Actually implementing that was sometimes more complicated than it seemed. [For example], one day I picked up the latest build of the game and went to an area, and saw that all the objects that were supposed to be in that area weren’t there. I was quite surprised and confused, and I realised after asking the programmer, the reason the objects weren’t there was because the wind in-game had blown them all away.
That’s the kind of challenge we faced, making the physics engine realistic, but not to the extent that it would negatively impact things – striking a balance between realism and having it work within the game world.
I really think the implementation of this physics engine is a major development for the Zelda series. The way the physics engine underpins everything in the world really offers up a lot of new possibilities. For instance, in Breath of the Wild you might have a puzzle where making use of the physics, there’ll be various ways you can solve that puzzle. That really opens up a lot of possibilities so there’s not just one way to progress in the game or just one way to solve a puzzle.
*inb4 whining by people that the Wii U version held the game back from 1080p60 even though that was never going to happen*
Also, that quote about the physics engine is great lol. They should have random parts where the wind will blow a bolder over a cliff or knock a tree down.
There’s plenty more to read (including a comment about the idiots calling Zelda weak for crying in the trailer), so check out the full interview at Eurogamer.
Also, here’s another reminder about our Breath of the Wild (and Super Mario Maker) giveaway on our forum.