For a lot of modern gamers the first (or second, depending on how you look at it) generation games are a bit difficult to get into. Due to extreme limitations both graphically and design-wise and the sheer newness of the medium, the older games left a lot of solving up to the player.
The original Legend of Zelda, for instance, features a large overworld which is mostly open to be traversed right from the moment the game starts, allowing you to visit nearly any dungeon right from the get go. The dungeon design itself was also quite a bit different back then, with many branching paths, walls needing to be bombed through with nothing indicating that fact graphically, walls that had to be walked through also with no graphical indication, many dead ends… the game excelled at making you feel like an adventurer discovering all of this on your own.
Gamasutra article writer Mike Stout breaks down some of the dungeons in Zelda to discover what makes them so successful and what modern game designers can learn from this early, great game. He does get one thing wrong, however, in assuming that the infamous “Eastmost peninsula is the secret” is referring to something within the first dungeon when it really seems to be referring to the eastern peninsula on the overworld where you can walk through the rock wall. You can read his article here.
Have you tried your hand at game design? Have you looked to the masters of the games of old for guidance? Or do you just really love the original Zelda? Let us know in the comments below!