In a fascinating interview over on Kotaku, Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto recalls his experience on the development of one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, Ocarina of Time. He shares many interesting secrets behind the game’s development, as well as some stories during this time.
Read on to hear about Super Mario 64‘s influence, why the game includes both a young and adult Link, and even a Zelda fan Miyamoto met in a convenience store who urged him to hurry up and return to Kyoto in order to finish the game as soon as possible.
He begins by explaining the transition of 2D to 3D with the introduction of the Nintendo 64, and how SM64 served as the building blocks for creating OoT. Before SM64 was even finished, Yoshioka Koizumi (one of the game’s many directors) was scribbling down ideas for OoT in a notebook whilst developing SM64.
“Back then we didn’t really have a good idea of how strong the 3D visuals were, how strong they would be and what experience they would give,” says Miyamoto. As we were developing Mario 64 we were experimenting with what was possible within that space. We tried to apply what we had learned to the next big franchise for us, which was going to be Zelda. At that time there really was no blueprint for how to create that kind of game in a 3D space. No-one had done it before. There were no rules for us to follow.”
“It was an era where there was a lot of exploration in development, exploration in general. It was quite a bit of fun for us because of the nature of the work.”
He elaborates on his initial idea for OoT to be presented in a first-person perspective, and to include a SM64-style hub.
“There were lots of challenges in trying to show the game from a third person perspective. We had also experimented with moments where the battles were in 3D but parts of the game were on rails.
“We looked at the idea of taking a Mario 64 approach where you have a Mario 64-style castle, the equivalent of that being Hyrule castle, and you explore and encounter the gameplay through that central area.”
Despite Miyamoto’s fascination with the Wild West and horses as a child, adding Epona into the game was not his idea. Director Yoshioka Koizumi is responsible for Link’s noble companion. Miyamoto recalls being astounded by her addition, and that she is the reason why Hyrule Field became the large and vast playable space it is today.
“The horse was a turning point. The moment that we saw you could ride around on a horse in 3D, we instantly realised that we needed a giant field that people could ride through.”
He then moves on to Link, and why the team ultimately decided to include both his younger and adult self as playable.
“We started off creating the more grown up model of Link. After creating that model we then asked, ‘well, what if we were to create a younger Link?’ Then we asked, ‘which one should we go with?’ When we created the younger Link, that’s when we realised we could use both versions of Link and have him grow from being a child to being a grown up.”
Miyamoto explains that there is an interesting parallel to real life in Link’s journey from kid to adult. In the beginning, Hyrule is seen through the eyes of a child, while the world becomes a very different place when he reaches adulthood.
“I wanted to make sure we had something that felt a little bit simpler in terms of the differences between the world that Link experiences as a child, and the world he experiences as an adult. For example you would see how his relationship to the girls in the game would change from when he was a boy and he was an adult. When you were a child certain characters might have been scary. Or the adults who seemed stupid, how did you see them when you were a child? It was about portraying the differences between those two to tell the story of a boy growing up.”
He also recalls a story of a boy he met in a convenience store, who badly wanted Miyamoto to return to Kyoto. He asked him, “Mr. Miyamoto, what are you doing? Why are you here? You’re supposed to be in Kyoto finishing the game.”
“Knowing that even the clerks in convenience stores were waiting for me to finish Zelda? That made me very happy.”
In the final stages of OoT’s development and already in the face of many looming issues, Miyamoto suddenly decided that there weren’t enough Ocarina songs in the game.
“I decided we had to double them,” he laughs mischievously. “It resulted in a big change in gameplay! The team was confused initially, but in the end it was good!”
It was in this late stage of nearing the game’s completion that the team were thoroughly play-testing the game. Because everyone had become so adept at the ins and outs of the game, somehow no one seemed to notice the Water Temple’s difficulty.
“It remains a regret for Eiji Aonuma to this day,” says Miyamoto, “mainly because he continually hears from everyone about how difficult the dungeon was!
“But he continues to insist that the dungeon wasn’t hard,” he laughs, “it was just a pain because you had to keep taking the boots off and then put them back on He says it wasn’t hard, just inconvenient!”
I’d strongly recommend reading the whole feature over on Kotaku, as it is an incredibly interesting read. Did you learn something new about Ocarina of Time?