Born To Be Wild
Breath Of The Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi tells us how Link embraced the open world
Breath Of The WildWil ld director ddirector Hidemaro Fujibayashi Fujibayaashii tells us how Link embraced the open world
Under ordinary circumstances, Hidemaro Fujibayashi (left) could be considered something of an industry veteran. He has, after all, been making games since 1995, when he joined Capcom – and he’s been a level designer, after a fashion, for even longer, having previously been responsible for planning the layouts of haunted houses for theme parks in Japan. Indeed, his ties to The Legend Of Zelda alone stretch back 16 years, to the two Oracle games for Game Boy Color.
However, Nintendo is no ordinary company, and so it is that Fujibayashi finds himself thrust into the spotlight after more than two decades in the wings, as the old guard of Miyamoto, Aonuma, Tezuka et al take a step back. Alongside the likes of Yoshiaki Koizumi, Shinya Takahashi and Splatoon producer Hisashi Nogami, Fujibayashi represents the new face of Nintendo – even if ‘new’ is a bit of a stretch for such long-serving employees. A relatively sprightly 45 years of age, the Breath Of
The Wild director’s first entanglement with Zelda came during development of Oracle Of Ages/Seasons, where he was responsible for collating game concepts from Capcom’s team and reporting back to Miyamoto. His organisational skills must have impressed his superiors, since he was appointed the role of director and co-writer. Fujibayashi conceived the password system that connected the two games for a special ending.
Who better than a man responsible for a link between Links to helm a new Zelda game designed both to span two hardware generations and to bridge the gap between established ideas and brave new horizons? And yet Fujibayashi says it took some time to find a fresh point of focus for Breath Of The Wild. “It didn’t come to me right away as a fully formed idea,” he recalls. “For a long time, I went from idea to idea before I finally reached what I think are the very roots of Breath Of
The Wild’s gameplay: the idea of cliff climbing and paragliding back down, the keyword ‘survival’, and the idea of ‘creativity of combination’ whereby players make use of things that happen when their actions interact with objects placed on the map – for example, lighting wood with fire to create a bonfire. It was this root gameplay that I then submitted.”
For Fujibayashi, Zelda is, first and foremost, a puzzle game. Whether it’s one of the many shrines (self-contained miniature dungeons, essentially) scattered throughout the land, or even a cluster of Bokoblins blocking your path, Breath Of The Wild, like previous entries, is designed around a series of situations that require the player to come up with a hypothesis and then test it out. That has, he says, been central to the appeal of Zelda since the beginning – back when he was part of its audience rather than its creative team. “The look and feel of the game has
“I went from idea to idea before I reached the very roots of Breath Of The Wild”
changed with the times, [but] I don’t think the core gameplay of the series has changed at all compared to that of 30 years ago,” he explains. “I feel that’s because even though the puzzle-solving element of the series changes with the times in how exactly players interact with it, the fun of it – the fun I experienced for the first time myself as a child – is still there in more recent Zelda titles, completely unchanged.”
So long as that core – or ‘rule’, as he calls it – is intact, Fujibayashi believes, then there are no limits to what can surround it. He is, it’s fair to say, an ideas man – keen to stuff as many as he possibly can into each new entry for which he’s responsible. “Whenever we get a new piece of hardware, or a new feature, or a new development environment, I just want to tell people about the ideas I have for getting that same feeling of fun I felt way back into a game, but in a new way,” he says. “What I’ve learned from working on Zelda games is that you will never run out of ideas if you ask yourself what you can mix together with this rule.”
“I don’t think the core gameplay has changed at all compared to 30 years ago”