Please make sure to check out the full interview. There’s so much in there, and I could only cover so much. I pulled what I felt to be the most interesting tidbits. Check out the full interview here and have a look at the other design docs as well!
Coming from an interview with Eiji Aonuma…
On wanting to move away from the Zelda franchise and finding it hard to work with Miyamoto
I told Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto that I didn’t want to be the director anymore. This thought sprung up right after “LOZ:TWW” was finished and we were in Europe for its promotion; I was tired of the heavy workload, and I was not comfortable conducting promotional interviews with Mr. Miyamoto. Mr. Miyamoto points out every mistake that I made in front of the reporters!
For example, the most frequently asked question from the reporters is about that “Zelda-ness (What makes a game a Zelda game)” It’s a hard question to answer, even for us. Even Mr. Miyamoto is inconsistent with his answers; In one interview he answered, “Zelda games are unique”, and then in another he suggested, “Zelda games demonstrate growth.” I’m like, “which one is it?” (laughs) So I would talk about that “Zelda-ness” just as Mr. Miyamoto would describe, only to be interrupted by Mr. Miyamoto himself disagreeing with me saying, “No, that’s different,” in front of all the reporters!
But still, hearing Mr. Miyamoto’s comments, I started thinking about the meaning and came up with vague ideas about “what it takes to be Zelda.” Of course, we should not get caught up in Mr. Miyamoto’s comments because it changes depending on time and place, as he said.
…But Mr. Miyamoto convinced me to stay and I went back to be the producer of “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (LOZTP) “. So it was necessary for me to join in the middle of the work, but I also realized that there were many ingredients to make an exciting game. So I started to think, “If I handle things properly, I think I could make a really interesting game.” Then, I wanted to be a director again.(laughs)
On struggling to find a new path for the Zelda franchise with Breath of the Wild
This product was made after announcing that we would fix the cliche in the “LOZ” and with the encouragement from Mr. Satoru Iwata[*] before he passed away. But still, it was hard to find the right answer for the problem. We questioned everything we saw and spent days undergoing trial and error. Well, you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t until you try it. So we had a situation that was a repeat of “Why don’t we try a system that recovers a heart as time goes by. It’s the trend!” “Well, it doesn’t work. I knew it.”
We think about what would work every day and the engineer plays the game without losing his composure and checks out the fun point of the game. Looking back, I think it could be an anachronism, but I think it was the best way to show our appreciation for being given four years of development time, if you calculate from the announcement of production.
On adding in the Havok engine for physics and how it impacted puzzles
Actually, we could achieve it because we were able to build a solid and reliable relationship with the engineers and the staff members at Havok. It is the result that we achieve because we adjusted it thoroughly after going through a number of discussions and meetings with the engineers in the workplace. Even the members of Havok were surprised and were saying, “We can do this with Havok?”
What we found out is that no matter how good the Physics Engine was, you couldn’t make a puzzle that kept filing up like you do in this “LOZ,” if you are obsessed with Physics Engine. In order to make a “LOZ” puzzle, you need to control the Physics Engine, instead of letting it control things.
On creating puzzles for Ocarina of Time’s dungeons
So if we think about when it was that solving puzzles became the key element of the game. It is probably from “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LOZOOT)”.
The reason is because I was in charge of designing every dungeon in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LOZOOT)”. At that time, I thought I wanted to make puzzles in the game. It was not like Mr. Miyamoto asked me to make it or it was decided that LOZ was a game with puzzles and battles.
I was told to “think about dungeons,” but was never told “to think about puzzles.” So what was the reason that we did? It was done because I love surprising people and I also like puzzles. So I thought, ‘It would be fun if the dungeons were full of puzzles.
So, I made it clear for the player to see the entrance of the room where the boss is as he walks into the dungeon. You can say I put baits. The player cannot get in right away, but he has to go around and try to climb up the wall before he finally gets into the dungeon. So when he makes that far, he is allowed to come back to the entrance, even though the game is over while he is playing.
But the products after that were imitations of the dungeons in “LOZOOT” but I didn’t feel like I had to change things. There were still many interesting ways to play the game, so I thought that was enough. But this time, I was trying to change things based on the idea that it was not okay to just go on with the old style.
On the approach Breath of the Wild takes to dungeons/puzzles
We thought if the vision of exploring the Open World gets mixed with the vision of looking into the dungeon, it would be inevitable to lose the balance in the game.
So, in this game, once the player goes into the shrine, there are one or two simple puzzles to solve. When the puzzle is solved, the player can obtain an item. And then he can move on with his journey in the Open World. By letting the player experience the feeling of achievement whenever he solves the puzzle, the player can move on to the next expedition with satisfaction. That is the “joy of finding” process in this game that we want to share with others.
On the cycle of collecting weapons/weapons breaking being a key component in Breath of the Wild
Well, I guess that it is a cycle that allows the player to keep playing in such a big world without getting bored.
The reason for the “taking away weapons from the enemy and the weapons gets demolished…” part is repeated is to use it for the cycle. Also, the player has the goal of fighting off the enemies on the plain, instead of just avoiding them.
Further, the player can add to the skills and the know-how as he fights off the enemies. Now, he knows what he wants to do as he organizes things in his head. Once he knows what he wants, he can focus on the game even more. We thought that making this cycle was the key element for the game with vast world.
However, these cycles were made based on our regrets that they weren’t expressed well in the previous LOZ.
On his opinion of Minecraft
The biggest plus of “MC” is that it is open to everybody. When you start, you would say “Wow, this is really simple.” Then it gets complicated as you play along. As you go on, you want to try new things as well and you get absorbed. My son was very happy when he obtained the “Red Stone” and he tries different things as he realizes there are things that he can do on his own.
On returning to the original Legend of Zelda and Miyamoto’s development approach for Breath of the Wild
Yes. So, when Mr. Miyamoto was making the initial “LOZ,” he made a space on the graph paper and then filled it up when he had good ideas. In a way, he was playing with his own idea and developed his ideas spontaneously as he came up with ideas, such as “it would be fun to have enemies here,” or “we need to get rid of this thing.”
This is actually the same kind of method that we used to make a borderless world. It was not intentional, but as we were facing a game that starts in the open world, I think we went back to the old method that Mr. Miyamoto used for the initial “LOZ.”
Aonuma on never playing games as a child, his first video game, and not knowing what games Nintendo made
Actually, I never played a game when I was young. When I landed a job in Nintendo, I asked my girlfriend at that time, “What is a TV game?” And she lent me DQ1.
So, one of the interviewers who interviewed me on the recommendation of Mr. Kotabe was Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto. At the time of the interview, I showed him the artwork that I did during university, and Mr. Miyamoto liked them. That’s how I joined Nintendo in 1998.
I thought I would be located in product package design or something like that. But I was placed in a game manufacturing department. I knew nothing about the game, so I had to ask my girlfriend what games Nintendo had made. But I didn’t even clear the “Mario” that I borrowed her and she was making fun of me saying, “You have slow reflexes.”
And then she gave me “DQ” and this time she made sure I played it right. I stayed up all night to play it and she kept by my side the whole time, coaching me like, “You need to go south five steps” and “Now go to the east four steps”.
On the stress of making Majora’s Mask
I did my best to finish it within a year after I was done with “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LOZOOT)”. And I went out of my mind in the whole time. The atmosphere that we could set a higher goal because we have done a good job with “”The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LOZOOT)” was the driving force for making that game. I still think we were lucky that we could actually achieve our goal even though we started off unprepared.
I heard that hardcore players love “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (LOZMM)” more, so it’s kind of ironic for me. To be honest with you, I could only get an approval for development because I made a game of that size back then. If you ask me [to make] that kind of game again, I can’t do it.
On having the whole dev team play Breath of the Wild during development to squash bugs
…our first priority with this production was to make sure that all the members of the development department would play the game. In the period of four years, I think everybody convened and played the game at least 10 times.
In the early stage of development, it took about a day to play it, but at the end, it took about a week to see the whole image. When that happens, you want to just eliminate the process, but you can’t. The rule was that everybody plays it and we stuck to it till the end.
On having his views challenged for Breath of the Wild
As I get older, there are times I feel the generation gap with young people. It’s when I want to stick to the old way that I’m comfortable with. So I think I should try to have a flexible view on the world and I should leave the job when it becomes impossible to do so.
But it was not like that. There were only people who challenged my views. So I had to wait for the problem to be solved. I knew it had no meaning to make the game unless it was changed and I decided to take time to make a totally different “LOZ.” Although that was my idea, I was going to try the game with small number of people. Then I realized I had 300 staff members and I couldn’t give up now. So I was determined to complete the game. That’s the truth.(laughs)
On a goal of surpassing Miyamoto and gamers seeing Miyamoto as a God
I think that Mr. Miyamoto is a great man, but someday I want to surpass him.
Well, because I’m working with him in the same building. I heard there are people overseas who worship Mr. Miyamoto like God, but I’m not like that. And I think I’ll exceed him some day. That hasn’t happened yet, though. But I don’t think he is a divine being. He is somebody you can catch up with. That’s why we end up trying.
On finding someone to eventually take over for him
But, I want to find my own successor to hand over the baton. I don’t want anybody else to tell me that what to do. (laughs)
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