“I think the most important thing is not the systems as they are, it’s how they can be perfected.”
Two of the most acclaimed games this year are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Both of these games are viewed as open world gaming perfection, with Horizon perfecting the existing open world game style, and Breath of the Wild introducing a new paradigm to the genre. However, it’s an open secret that in getting to where these games are, they borrowed a lot from an unlikely pioneer of the genre that does not often get its due.
I am talking about Ubisoft- while its open world games are often criticized for the excess and bloat that has come to be associated with them, there can be little denying that the DNA of its games can be found in both Horizon, and Zelda– something that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot himself noted in an interview published on the latest EDGE magazine (issue #311).
“It’s interesting, because The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took a lot of things that existed in Far Cry and other Ubisoft games, but did them perfectly,” he said. “I think the most important thing is not the systems as they are, it’s how they can be perfected; how they can give the player the best experience possible.
“The same system can be in two games, and not be seen as the same thing. The job, really, is to make sure that you have a certain number of possibilities and that you are able to combine them in such a way that provides a great experience. When systems are similar, it’s because developers have not been able to take full advantage of what those systems could bring.
“When a system is really good at providing fun, the team knows that that will work – and at the end of the day what counts is the experience. But we are taking more and more time on our games so that they are very different from one another. That has always been the objective. But if you look at many of the games that are being launched – even the last Sony game, Horizon: Zero Dawn – again, they took some of the same systems that we have. Because, in the industry, we always look at other games and other publishers. A game is very complex, so it helps us to provide a good experience.”
In the end, he is right, of course, and all games end up borrowing from each other- it’s how they synthesize their elements together to make a unique blend that makes them truly stand out (and which is why Breath of the Wild, in spite of being so familiar, feels so new). Hopefully, the success of these two games spurs Ubisoft into being more ambitious with its own open world games, too.