"I wanted to create a game world that conveyed the same feeling you get when you are exploring a new city for the first time. How fun would it be, I thought, if I could make the player identify with the main character in the game and get completely lost and immersed in that world?"
- Shigeru Miyamoto, speaking about his goals for the original NES game The Legend of Zelda in an interview published in 1989.
Last week, some of the leads on Nintendo's latest Zelda game came to GDC to talk about how they'd forged the latest game in the series, Breath of the Wild, by studying the original game and the essence of what made it great.
Given that Breath of the Wild seems to be enjoying more public acclaim than any Zelda game in recent memory, now seems like a good time for devs to look back at what the development team on the original game was trying to accomplish, courtesy of a 1989 Japanese-language interview with Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto that was recently translated into English and published by Shmuplations.
Most notably (and as excerpted in the above quote), Miyamoto describes the original Legend of Zelda, released in 1986, as an attempt to evoke "the same feeling you get when you are exploring a new city for the first time."
When the interviewer suggested Zelda had gone a long way towards popularizing the RPG genre, which to that point was dominated by turn-based games like Wizardry (and, by the time of the interview, Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, which debuted shortly after Zelda), Miyamoto said the notion of a "real-time" RPG-like had been on his mind for some time.
"The idea of a game in real-time, also, was something I’d been thinking about for awhile, but with such limited memory, it turned out to be a huge challenge to create enough satisfying content for players," Miyamoto said. "Since Zelda was released, I think the market has seen an increase in mean-spirited, petty games, and I still feel that sense of responsibility."
While this interview is nearly three decades old, it's interesting to look back and see Miyamoto mulling over how to make games that make players feel "completely lost and immersed" in a way that seems much akin to the design goals of modern open-world games like Skyrim, Horizon: Zero Dawn....and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The full interview covers more than just Zelda -- Miyamoto describes his ideal video game, for example, and speaks to the size and speed of Nintendo's game dev teams in the '80s -- and is well worth reading in full over on Shmuplations.