Breath Of The Wild Director Talks Difficulty
"They fall, they learn," is a good mantra to have.
One thing that likely surprised many who've tried their hands at the fabulous new Zelda title, Breath of the Wild, is how challenging it can prove to be. Over the years, the Zelda series has moved away from the difficult nature of its original titles and onto a more, shall we say, relaxed balance. With Breath of the Wild, any turn you take could be your death. Wander into an enemy encampment unprepared? Dead. Try to climb a mountain too big for your current stamina? Finito. Wearing the wrong gear during a thunderstorm? RiP.
Speaking to Verge, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi notes that said difficulty is an important part of the experience. During testing, they found that players would often fall from towers while trying to climb them, but rather than take the safe route and simply make the towers easier, they decided instead to use it to prepare players for the world around them. “There’s actually kind of a fun to be had from falling and dying," says Fujibayashi. "You learn to be careful and to be cautious. And we felt that that gave a lot of players the emotional preparedness to take on the rest of the world. So we ultimately decided that we should let them die.” The art director, Satoru Takizawa, then chimes in with, "They fall, they learn."
Getting the balance just right on a game of this size with this level of freedom proved to be no easy task, as you might guess. Luckily, they had a handy tool they used to monitor testers while playing. "It shows how many hearts people have, or where people have died, or what path they’re taking," explains Fujibayashi. "And it’s kind of on this one singular timeline so that you can see in real time where people are struggling, where people are really dying a lot, what path they’re taking. So we took all of that into consideration as we tried to balance the game out.”
It was E3 of last year when they knew they had made the right decision. Watching people from all over try the game in public and get such enjoyment out of their limited time assured the creators that they were on the right track. How right they were.