Open-World Is A Priority For The Legend of Zelda, Says Series Producer

By Ishaan . October 15, 2013 . 9:32am

Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma has once again touched upon some of the changes that Nintendo intend to make to the long-running series in upcoming games. Speaking with Mashable, Aonuma says that one such change is the make the games more “open”.


“I think the most open-world Zelda we’ve had so far has been Wind Waker, just because you were able to sail the ocean and go all over the islands,” Aonuma says. “When creating a game, we look at what is the core, kernel gameplay. You try to construct the game around that, and making that core mechanic the easiest to access.”


He elaborates: “For Skyward Sword, that kind of narrowed, focused world helped us with that, but at the same time it meant you didn’t have that wide-open world to explore. We’ve heard the complaint about lack of openness from a lot of fans. As we’re deciding what the core gameplay mechanic was, we have that open-world desire at the forefront of our minds, and we’re trying to figure out how to incorporate that as well.”


Aonuma says he now has a better idea of what Zelda fans want out of the series, as a result of social media and the Zelda community on Miiverse. “I have a lot more access to what fans are saying and I interact with them more,” he shares. “I think that’s very important, and I also think that’s something I want to do more of.”


Finally, Aonuma briefly mentions what game he’s been playing these days.


Monster Hunter 4,” he replies, when asked. “I was playing it in the lobby this morning. I play with three of my directors every day at lunch.”

  • epy

    Oh good… if he mentioned Skyrim anywhere I was going to explode.

    • While I think comparing the two games is foolish (they’re little alike besides maybe…the “medieval-looking era” they take place in, I guess); the fact is Skyrim absolutely dominated sales-wise and in comparison to Skyward Sword likely hit their radar hard. There’s likely a lot of factors in why Skyrim did so well while Skyward did “ok” (by comparison), but I think it’s worth Nintendo looking into other ways to attract attention to their game and not just sell a title in the “Nintendo way” through nostalgia tactics.

      • epy

        Of course it’s foolish to compare them! It’s also foolish to compare GTA and Metal Gear or Final Fantasy and Skyrim, but you know who keeps mentioning Skyrim or GTA as their inspiration and goal? The developers of Metal Gear and Final Fantasy. Be it Kojima and his new open world Metal Gear with regenerating health and bullet time (which I’m still hoping is all a big troll) and that sad, sad conference held by S-E where they stated their goal was to beat Skyrim just after spending a considerable amount of time talking about how they increased the size of Lightning’s boobs, I’m worried by the fact that the developers of industry defining franchises are losing their identity. It’s like Shadow the Hedgehog all over again.

        That’s why I’m glad he didn’t mention Skyrim.

  • Purists will disagree, but I think if the Zelda series continues on this *strictly traditional* route, then it will eventually kill the series.

    I’m all for change.

    • gerald

      I think this is what kills popular series: “We’ve heard the complaint about lack of openness from a lot of fans.”

      Devs (especially the ones who’ve made hugely successful games) need to just do their own thing without worrying what fans complain about. That’s literally all some fans do, no matter what you give them.

      • Fan criticism can have legitimate concerns and good ideas in mind though.
        For one, I hope to god the dev’s listen when listening to the same-same-same item descriptions pop-up every time I boot up Skyward Sword and pick up wares off the ground that I already have like 50 of.

        Also, there is no way people can convince me they *loved* Skyward Sword’s “Hyrule Mile” that has you visit 3 lands on THREE separate occasions to do something that played, at worst, like an obstacle course (at its best, it was fun to navigate beautiful and unique realms…all 4 of them..)

        Quite frankly, after 25 years of generally…”playing it safe” (lets say) that both the Dev Team and fans would be open to trying something new?

        • Mental

          Really it’s just a mix of both. Devs can input selected fan feedback without putting in anything that might affect the core gameplay or game feel negatively.

        • gerald

          I’ve been gaming since the first Zelda and the series has changed and innovated quite a bit over the years. I don’t know what you mean by 25 years of playing it safe.

          I like what the series has become though, and I like that I sort of know what I’m getting when I play a new one. That’s why I keep coming back. Why fix what isn’t broken? Though, as long as the changes are minor and it still feels like a Zelda game, I’m fine with it.

          • I was typing a lot and gave up. There seems to be two camps, I want change, you don’t wanna fix what isn’t broken. AGREE TO DISAGREE, GOOD SIR.

      • Heisst

        Except the open-ness had been in Zelda since the first game and started dimming since after Wind Waker, Aonuma himself says that Skyward Sword lacks any open-ness of the sort. That’s my biggest complaint about the game actually.

        • Seconded’d

        • PreyMantis

          Twilight Princess and Phantom Hourglass were open worlds. Skyward Sword and Spirit Tracks were the only two that didn’t embraced that.

          • Twilight Princess could BARELY be called open-world.

          • PreyMantis

            Please, clarify.

          • Heisst

            If by open worlds you mean empty areas with almost nothing to do then I guess. Having a big overworld does not mean open world at all. You can’t do almost anything non-plot-related outside of the town in TP either. You can’t venture into new locations or even take a peek at them (like you could in previous games like LA) since you don’t have x item or haven’t gotten to x part of the plot yet.

        • He’s not saying that Zelda games shouldn’t be more open, he’s saying that if the Zelda team does decide to make them more open it shouldn’t be just because that’s what “the fans” demanded.

          • Heisst

            He clearly did not meant that, he explicitly said that devs that make hugely succesful games shouldn’t ever worry about fan complaints. Well guess what, Skyward Sword is one of the worst selling Zelda games.

            The Zelda games WERE open, fans just want a return to form, not a serious out of the blue change.

  • Armane

    I think most people just want an OoT/MM/TP style world without the loading barriers and ugly walls, open world or not.

  • kamiboy

    No Japanese developer worth his salt pays any attention to the western side of things. I salute you Nintendo, one of the salty few still standing with their salty head still held high.

    • Barrylocke89

      I…don’t really care for that statement. There’s nothing inherently wrong with looking to outside sources for inspiration, I think.

      Look at Dragon’s Dogma. That game is clearly western inspired, but Capcom took a blend of their own ideas and mixed it with that base and made a game that, while flawed, was still great.

    • forweg

      I completely agree with this statement, but… I don’t see how it corresponds to the article? Aonuma is basically pushing the “open- world” buzzword, which is a mostly Western-inspired thing, which most of the identitkit Western developers also push.

    • If you’re referring to developers who try to appease Western fans… you’re wrong. Totally wrong, in this case. Every Zelda since Wind Waker has seen Aonuma desperately trying to please Western fans. What he needs is to stop asking what the fans want and start asking what HE wants, because that was the mindset he was in when he made Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker.

    • Naturally. Which is why Dragon’s Quest was inspired by western RPGs of old. (Oh wait, that’s the game that gave birth to the JRPG!)

  • Heisst

    As long as he gets the ”BLOOM = GOOD GRAFIXXX” mentality off his head.

    • Barrylocke89

      I kinda see where the idea of the uberbloom was coming from. Wind Waker is a game that takes place on the high seas, and the bloom does sort of give you the feeling of the sun ever shining on your back. The rational makes sense. The execution was too much for me though.

  • Barrylocke89

    For me the most important thing about the world in a Zelda game is that its filled with content. This is one reason why I feel that the 2D games do overworlds better than the 3d games have so far.

    If you compare games like LttP, MC, and the Oracle games to games like OoT, there’s a LOT more stuff to do in the fields between towns and dungeons and stuff. Mini-caves, random houses, this sort of thing made the world feel alive and not like a time buffer between point A and point B.

    This is also why out of the 2 3D games that I’ve played significantly (OoT and WW), I feel WW did the overworld best. While the Great Sea was a big sheet of blue and may have seemed more dull than the Hyrule Fields, the islands that you could find in each sector meant that there was still quite a bit to do and see, even if the sector didn’t have a “continent” like Windfall Island or Outset Island.

    A great big world to explore is great, but if there’s nothing to do in that great big world besides go to the next town or dungeon, then it’s ultimately pointless.

    • GH56734

      That was the issue with Twilight Princess actually: the Lantern Caves were very good steps toward this, but they were too scarce to actually matter. If the game was a little bit less linear, and there was more variety in the overworld besides bug hunting (like those golden monsters in the Oracle series, I understand they had very severe space limitations), it would have alleviated it a bit.

  • JustThisOne

    “I was playing it in the lobby this morning. I play with three of my directors every day at lunch.”

    Oh jeez. That’s too cool. But also too scary. I … It’d be so embarrassing to die while gaming with your boss or something.

    Anyway, I’m also glad he’s listening to fan feedback. I honestly didn’t even think that developers or industry people in general would pay attention to the Miiverse community. I always thought it was more for the players.

    • Heisst

      They did the same for Earthbound’s Wii-u VC release, checking the Mother miiverse community.

  • Mental

    An open-world isn’t a bad idea, so long as it actually has a fair amount of hidden content to make the world not feel empty. Perhaps throw in a few optional dungeons with optional bosses?

  • Niko Sandwich

    He basically covered everything I wanted, as well as what I felt about SS. Yessssssss….

  • James Enk

    i don’t mind change as long as it fit the LoZ spirit just don’t turn the series into skyrim/gta/whateverothergamepplthingishot pls

  • Thank god. Aonuma finally sounds like he’s on the same page as his fans. Social media has probably benefitted Nintendo more than any other publisher these last few years. It’s kind of surprising how’ve taken took to it like fish to water, after having avoided it for so many years.

  • linkenski

    Aonuma plays MH4 regularily? Good to know Zelda is still in the hands of actual gamers. Games made by gamers! ^^

  • Jirin

    I would love a return to the spirit of Link To The Past. For the newer Zelda games I tend to love the dungeons and dislike everything else. For example, all the cutesy story elements where you’re rescuing annoying kids and being sabotaged by Nickelodeon cartoon-style bullies, all the forced minigames and five hour waits before you even get to a dungeon.

    IMHO, Zelda’s stories are best when they are minimalist and are focused on establishing the setting and giving you goals. For example, I found exploring the Dark World after you had already explored the Light World far more rewarding than anything Zelda has done through dialog and plot turns. So I’d love if Zelda just returned to the spirit of giving you a basic story then dropping you in a world you can explore, where you learn about the world through exploring it rather than through the story.

  • RedShadoww

    Just as long as there’s a lot of content in that open world, I’m fine with it. One of the main reasons why I’m against open world games these days is because they’re almost always dull and don’t have much content. I’d prefer a linear game packed full of content than a dull open world game with barely any.

  • Göran Isacson

    On the one hand, developers listening to valid criticism and what the fans want can be a good thing, but for some reason I read this article and I just feel like… like Aonuma doesn’t have a good idea of his own to go with. It kinda feels like they’re saying they’ll go with the fans wishes when creating a new game, because they don’t have a good, strong idea of their own that they’re confident in. I dunno, something here just makes me feel a bit uneasy.

  • I guess on a core level Skyward Sword wasn’t very open at all, no, but I think what was offputting about it for me was that it felt like it was supposed to be. Every area was huge beyond any real need and I felt like half the game time I had was spent hiking needlessly from one side of some field to another.

    Wind Waker was a bit better about “openness” but also had vast stretches of ocean with nothing really happening between fun little islands. The long stretch of boring conundrum has been haunting Zelda ever since OoT made Hyrule Field a big, open thing, and I think the only major console entry since to avoid it entirely was possibly Majora’s Mask.

    Point is, I’m all for a less linear design, but I don’t feel like the right lessons are being learned here; SS’s linear fashion just really emphasized how big and empty the space was.

  • Ric Vazquez

    If japanese video companies start to westernize their games too much I may lose hope on humanity

  • Ric Vazquez

    Open-world games provide a lot of entertainment and freedom, they are one of the best kind of games

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