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The Story Behind The Breath Of The Wild 8-Bit Prototype
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild” took the series in a new direction with its open world and physics systems. Development took years of planning, and to experiment with potential features, devs created a 2D prototype version of "Breath of the Wild," which was shown off in 2017 at the Game Developers Conference by game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi.
During the talk, Fujibayashi said that it might look like the original "Zelda," but pointed out a blue Link, a Korok leaf, and a log — all things that true "Zelda" fans know aren't in the NES game — but the prototype was inspired by the open-world progression in the NES game. Its simple but open-ended approach did a great job of encouraging players to figure things out on their own.
When designing challenges, Fujibayashi wanted the players to be able to interact with the world around them to solve puzzles that he said all followed the same principle: "There was only one rule: there was a situation, and a goal — could you reach it?" The 2D prototype allowed the game’s physics mechanics to be tested in a simpler format to see if they felt right.
Fujibayashi showed audience members a comparison of "Breath of the Wild" mechanics like lighting bushes on fire, chopping and pushing logs, and how water affects floating objects. "Through this kind of simple, primitive experimentation, we made the call of what to change and what not to change to complete the basic game design," Fujibayashi said.