Masters of open world game design.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an utter masterpiece, a monument to game design, and a paradigm shift in open world games. A lot of this is owed to just how well constructed and meticulously crafted the game’s massive world is- Nintendo are the masters of level design, and in Breath of the Wild, they applied their talents to a full scale world.
Speaking at the annual Computer Entertainment Developers Conference (Japan’s version of GDC) over a staggering eight panels, Nintendo explained just how they constructed the wonder that is the game’s world, and the simple techniques and tricks they used to guide the player into exploring, exploiting human psychology at its most basic.
The result? An ingenious utilization of triangles. By using structures that are triangular in shape (at least at a rudimentary level), Nintendo achieved many things at once- guiding the player’s eye to the tip of the triangle, obscuring things from view, gradually revealing as the player traversed the geography, making the topography irregular, and so on.
During play testing, they also discovered that players would often ignore entire areas of the map entirely. As a result, they ended up subtly placing markers and areas of interest in those points too, to ensure the player would be guided everywhere.
This, alongside the game’s excellent use of vantage points, convinces me that Nintendo has a handle on utilizing open worlds as a game design element (rather than window dressing for a game that otherwise does nothing with it) like no other developer can. I can’t wait to see how they evolve their approach further in the next Zelda game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available exclusively on Wii U and Nintendo Switch.