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Aonuma:  Zelda: Majora's Mask  Made In One Year After Miyamoto's Challenge
Aonuma: Zelda: Majora's Mask Made In One Year After Miyamoto's Challenge
December 4, 2009 | By Chris Remo

December 4, 2009 | By Chris Remo
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After development on 1998's acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time wrapped, then-dungeon designer Eiji Aonuma was less than thrilled about moving on to the derivative spinoff of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest, which used the original Ocarina's plot and structure but revised its dungeons.

In response to Aonuma's reluctance -- driven in large part by Aonuma's realization that, as the developer primarily responsible for the game's dungeons, he would bear the lion's share of work -- Ocarina director and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto offered an ultimatum: If Aonuma could lead a team to create a new Zelda game in a single year, they wouldn't have to deal with developing a new so-called "flip-side" spinoff game.

"So you're saying The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was the result of your team picking up the gauntlet he'd thrown down?" Nintendo president Satoru Iwata asked Aonuma in the latest edition of the internal "Iwata Asks" interview series.

"Yes. That was the deal," Aonuma replied. "We were supposed to make its sequel in a year."

"At first, we had absolutely no idea what sort of thing we were supposed to make, and we just kept expanding our plans," he admitted.

During the concept phase, perhaps as an extension of the its own compressed development cycle, the team kept coming back to the idea of a short, replayable game system.

"The 'Three-Day System,' the idea of a compact world to be played over and over again, came down from Miyamoto-san and one other director, [Yoshiaki] Koizumi-san," Aonuma recalled. "We added that to the mix, and then, finally, we saw the full substance of a The Legend of Zelda game we could make in one year."

Majora's Mask ended up fully developed and shipped to store shelves a mere 18 months after its predecessor was released. Its gameplay centered around a Groundhog Day-like mechanic by which the player could continuously replay the same period of time again and again, making progress while the NPCs' memories were repeatedly reset.

In retrospect, Iwata noted, that development attitude of developing a smaller, denser game world rather than a massive, sprawling environment in the vein of Ocarina of Time, inadvertently pointed the way to an emerging development style.

"I feel as though, back then, we were given a glimpse of the concept that 'Deep, compact play is one form of the games of the future.' In that sense, as a product, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was a big turning point for Nintendo," the executive mused.

"That said, I had no idea it was the result of an argument," he added.


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Comments


Cordero W
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You know, I give them props for confessing this. A lot of characters were re-used from Ocarina of Time, aka why the development could be done in a single year with all the resources basically being re-used. However, I give Aonuma props for making it be integrated into the game's story of an "alternate world" rather than be sloppily put together. The three-day time concept was a concept you didn't see much use of, and most time-warping features either sped up or slowed down time.

Toby Hazes
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"In retrospect, Iwata noted, that development attitude of developing a smaller, denser game world rather than a massive, sprawling environment in the vein of Ocarina of Time,"



This is why I always liked Majora better than Ocarina. It's more cosy, deep, personal, versus grand, open, epic



But I had no idea it was actually a 'rush job' and born out of time constraints =p

Ken Masters
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By "Deep, compact play is one form of the games of the future.", Aonuma didn't mean that Majora's Mask was smaller than Ocarina of Time in terms of scope. Because in fact, Majora's Mask has far more massive and sprawling environment than Ocarina of Time for sure.



But Majora's Mask is Aonuma's magnum opus. He's yet to top it. I have to play Twilight Princess again to really be sure, but Majora's Mask was just a beautiful game.

Dale Broadbent
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Majora's Mask was a quirky, fun game that did not have a "rushed" appearance (except for the intro movie, which did seem unfinished). It's gameplay remains unique in my experience - I have yet to see another game use such a "groundhog day" technique. And the fact they re-used a lot of assets from the first game... that is perfectly fine. I think the idea of giving the player more content through the re-use of existing content is a smart one (if the first game did well, though). It's amazing what you can do with existing assets - how much money and time you can save without the player ever being the wiser, or, at least not caring.

Rayco Santana
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Im playing it right now on the Gamecube (collector´s edition disk) and I must say I prefer ocarina of time better, especially I hate how enemies re-spawn every 3 seconds (literally).

Toby Hazes
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@ Ken: then what does the compact part mean?



"During the concept phase, perhaps as an extension of the its own compressed development cycle, the team kept coming back to the idea of a short, replayable game system."



I guess whether or not Majora actually was bigger in measurement, I get from this that they designed with a "think small" attitude, which echoed through in how the environments, characters, narrative felt.

Ken Masters
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@ Toby:



Majora's Mask was a bigger game in terms of size and scope than Ocarina of Time without a doubt - Termina Field is much bigger than OoT's Hyrule Field, Snowhead dwarfs Death Mountain, the Great Bay is far more expansive than Lake Hylia, etc. I encourage anyone to boot the two games up again and see for yourselves.



When Aonuma says "compact", he's definitely not talking in terms of in-game square mileage. Majora's Mask required the extra 4MB of the N64 Expansion Pak in order to have more expansive environments, texture memory, and better AI to keep track of all the NPCs.



It's really hard to interpret what Aonuma means by that since he doesn't define it himself. But I know what he's NOT talking about, and that is the overall size of the game world!

Fábio Bernardon
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When he says compact I believe he means in terms of dungeons. While Ocarina had 8 main dungeons (plus some small ones), Majora's Mask had only 4 main ones and some small ones. The size of the environments is not what is more troublesome in Zelda games, but the complexity of its dungeons.

Bryson Whiteman
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In addition to a lot more dungeons, Ocarina of Time has present time and the future. So every setting in Ocarina of Time has 2 versions.


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