When Miyamoto First Played Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, He Wouldn't Stop Climbing Trees

Nintendo creative maestro Shigeru Miyamoto is a genius. He's generally considered to be the greatest game developer of all time. And, just like you and me, all he wants to do is climb trees.

Here's a fun story from deep inside Nintendo, a company that doesn't often speak openly about their development process. When Nintendo was first conceptualizing the next big Zelda game, Miyamoto and Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma asked the directors to describe Breath of the Wild's main theme. What, they asked, could you do in this new Zelda?

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild: The Kotaku Review

Early in The Legend of Zelda. Breath of the Wild, I discovered a puzzle shrine containing a small maze. Inside that maze was a little ball. The goal, I realised, was to manoeuvre the ball out of the maze and slide it into a nearby funnel. To do this, I'd have to rotate my Nintendo Switch controller, using motion controls to turn the maze around and let gravity move the ball through each corridor. One wrong move and the ball would fall out, forcing me to start again.

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Zelda: Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi decided to get a little ambitious.

"My response to Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Aonuma was: You can do everything," Fujibayashi told me during an interview last week in San Francisco, speaking through a translator.

"But I had to sell it to them," he said. "How we're going to make this happen. And I felt like the best way to convey this idea to them was to show them that you could climb walls."

Fujibayashi and his team built a prototype of Breath of the Wild. They put together a starting area with a small field and a handful of trees, then stuck rupees all across the world, hiding them in places that the development team thought Miyamoto and Aonuma might explore. Then Fujibayashi presented their demo to the two Nintendo elder statesmen.

"We put rupees at the top of the tree to let them know that this is something we're taking into account, but I didn't tell them," Fujibayashi said. "All I did was say, 'Here, play the game.' So the first thing [Miyamoto] did was start climbing, and he climbed the tree, and once he was able to do that and see that he can go anywhere within this small field, he got how this game will play out and that's how I presented it to him."

Then they watched and waited. And watched. And waited.

"When we first presented this to Mr. Miyamoto, he spent about an hour just climbing trees," Fujibayashi said. "We left little treats like rupees on the trees, but we also left other things in other places we thought he might go. But he just kept climbing trees. Up and down. And so we got to the point where we go, 'Do you want to look at other stuff?' But he just kept on going. Once [he] got out of the Shrine of Resurrection, he spent an hour just within a 25-50 meter radius outside of that cave just climbing trees."

It was then that Fujibayashi and his team realised they'd made something special — a game where the act of climbing could be just as fun as riding horses and slashing monsters. From there, they designed around a concept that they called "multiplicative gameplay," referring to the way in which Breath of the Wild's various objects and mechanics work to enhance one another.

Instead of adding a bunch of new gimmicks and ideas, they picked a few core mechanics — climbing, gliding, magnetic force — and tried to use them in as many ways as possible.

"As you're climbing trees you use up stamina, and once you run out of stamina, instead of just falling you can input a key and you start dragging down the wall," Fujibayashi said. "Even that provides another level of fun... What we realised was instead of trying to make all these new ideas and building them from scratch and adding them, we decided to look at what we have. We realised there are so many ways of playing the game hidden within the world we built."


    Have to admit, i was very skeptical of the games 10/10 reviews.

    But then i started climbing too, and realized how much powerful the climbing aspect was over something like assassins creed(I only played up until black flag so forgive me if they made the climbing better). I could literally go anywhere provided my stamina allowed it, and even then i could find ways to get back my stamina and continue doing crazy stuff.

    Also the scale of the world. From the screenshots and graphics it all just looked meh. But actually playing it, and feeling the distance between your boots and that tower you see yonder. My god. The scale of the game is truly immense. I thought Horizon, GTAV and Witcher 3 had immersive worlds, but i found myself truly wrapped in all the nice little touches Nintendo did in Zelda. A simple slippery surface when it rains, a light gust of wind sending smoky trails of cold across a mountain, the rustling of the grass.

    But to be the honest, the plateau really felt like a chore until i actually got the paraglider and started exploring the real world. Loving this game.

      I think the plateau was a good training ground, complete with a mini boss. Gave you a bunch of powers and forced you to climb, cook etc. Planning on going back there to pick up several things I saw but didn't full realise I could get until I'd left.

        Yeh i can see why they did that.

        I think i was just bummed that the guy wouldn't give me my paraglider and sent me on another 3 tasks. :P

    Climbing is pretty good. I like that weather/slipperiness matters. I've been half way up a mountain side when a storm has rolled in and I've had to quit then comeback on a nicer day.

    Climbing all day, I even put all my points into stamina so I can climb more.
    Also, about that ball puzzle mentioned from the review. On my third try the ball was moving too fast towards a hole in the wall and I panicked and flipped the controller too fast. Flipped the ball into the air and it landed near the end of the maze puzzle, I was so happy.

    I'm not surprised, the climbing got my attention too.

    Once you realise the standard looking impassable walls aren't a barrier, you begin to notice the subtle vertical pathways.

    For me it was the tutorial shrine in the mini maze filled with damaged guardians, I snuck through half, then realised I could leap the walls and skip the maze itself without feeling broken.

    I for one am looking forward to Mark's analysis of the climbing in this game. And still waiting for his thoughts on The Climb actually, unless I missed them :P

    It's honestly the stand out point of the open world aspect of this game. I've played many open world titles, and they're all limited in some way - invisible boundaries, 'You're out of bounds, turn back or we'll kill you!' mechanics, gated areas, etc. But Zelda, you can literally go anywhere, whenever you want - it's just a matter of whether you've got the stamina to get there. It's such a simple change, but it feels like such a revelation. It feels truly free.

    It's hilarious to me that the first game that's really nailed the open world aspect is a Nintendo title. I really thought it'd be one of the other major developers that'd get it right first. Still haven't had the time to really go to town on it, I'm in 'FarCry mode' atm - chasing down shrines and towers to map the world out.

    The only thing that's annoying me in the game is the breaking weapons - that's starting to get to me. I want a weapon that doesn't break after 10 hits on a mob. But, a minor quibble. The rest of the game has been brilliant thus far.

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