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Breath of the Wild’s brilliant game design, explained

All the tiny development stories you’re dying to know

Nintendo via Polygon

The team behind The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild went in-depth on the game’s development during Japan’s annual Computer Entertainment Developers Conference (CEDEC) last month, but tidbits from the presentation are finally making their way on . But Capcom production manager Matt Walker, who translated a Japanese writeup of the talk to share with English-speaking fans, didn’t stop there. Instead, he’s compiled an entire thread full of details on how Nintendo managed to make one of the year’s most exciting, expansive titles.

Here’s one of the cooler notes from the design-heavy presentation: Breath of the Wild used something called the “triangle rule,” which refers to using triangular structures in the game’s world to give players a pair of primary objectives, as well as a compelling experience.

“Using triangles carries out 2 objectives,” according to Walker’s summary. “[It] gives players a choice as to whether to go straight over the triangle, or around, and it obscures the player’s view, so designers can utilize them to surprise players [and] make them wonder what they’ll find on the other side.”

The same is true with rectangular shapes in the overworld. An image from the game’s development shows how these appear in Breath of the Wild, which makes it clear just how much of the game’s terrain can be boiled down geometrically:

As for how this translates to creating objectives for the player, this image gives a good example:

A combination of rectangles and triangles obscure a tower that Link needs to travel to. He’s motivated to head in the tower’s direction because of the perfectly positioned hill, along with the bridge to the area that is hidden behind it.

Playing with the visibility of key areas was also an important part of crafting Breath of the Wild’s sense of “infinite play,” explains Walker’s translation. Different objective points vary in size and distance, so that players can both head in whichever direction they want and not feeling immediately compelled to visit every key area.

“The objective order changes depending on how the player likes to play,” the designers explained. If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, you know this to be totally true — almost no one completes the game’s Divine Beast quests in the same order, let alone shrines or other important puzzles.

The whole thread is worth a read for anyone interested in just what good game design looks like. It’s always nice to be reminded of how wonderful Breath of the Wild is, after all.