Nintendo Reveals Tears of the Kingdom's Single Biggest Problem and How It Was Solved

When I first saw the gameplay trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I was blown away by its physics-driven world. Anything can be glued together, from simple wooden barrels to seemingly immovable stone pillars. But what I didn’t know was that this seemingly endless freedom came with its fair share of challenges for the developers.

Physics and Multiplicative Gameplay


Nintendo Reveals Tears of the Kingdom's Single Biggest Problem and ...

In a recent panel at GDC, Nintendo finally lifted the veil on some of the obstacles they faced in creating Tears of the Kingdom’s physics-driven world. Senior Director Takuhiro Dohta, Sound Programmer Junya Osada, and Physics Programmer Takahiro Takayama gave attendees an inside look at their design philosophy and the technical hurdles they overcame.

The core idea behind Tears of the Kingdom, as well as its predecessor Breath of the Wild, is “multiplicative gameplay.” The developers aimed to create a world where actions and objects interact in countless ways, empowering players with unprecedented creative freedom. This concept was pushed even further in Tears of the Kingdom, leading to the introduction of Link’s Ultrahand ability.

The Challenge of a Physics-Driven World

However, allowing players to stick multiple objects to each other was no easy feat. “When I first saw the prototype, I was excited that this was going to be a great game,” said Takayama. “But this was going to be very, very difficult. I said to myself, ‘Are we really doing this?'”

The team’s vision was twofold: to create a fully physics-driven world and to ensure that unique interactions would occur organically, without the need for dedicated implementation. This meant removing all non-physics items from the game, including gates, which originally functioned as obstacles but were later made physics-driven.

Surprising Discoveries

The developers faced numerous glitches during development. For instance, throwing a stone onto a cart and horse caused them to fly into the air. But these setbacks also led to unexpected discoveries. In one Shrine, a puzzle originally required weighing down a switch with a block of ice. However, with the new gate technology, players could bypass the switch altogether, revealing unintended solutions.

The developers emphasized that their goal was not simply to create something fun, but to foster a system that would spontaneously generate fun experiences. This approach extended to all aspects of the game, from creating a system for object movement to designing a sound system that interacts with the environment in complex ways.

Complex Sound Design and Vehicles

The sound design in Tears of the Kingdom is equally impressive. Using voxel information, the game’s sound system determines how sound interacts with the environment, creating realistic effects that change depending on the materials and surroundings.

The game’s vehicles are also a testament to the developers’ ingenuity. Complex objects like wagons were designed first and foremost based on physics, leaving artists to craft the aesthetics around them. A testing room ensured that all objects functioned seamlessly.

Conclusion

Tears of the Kingdom’s physics-driven world is a testament to the developers’ ambition and technical prowess. The game’s numerous accolades, including IGN’s Best Game of 2023, are a testament to its innovative gameplay and immersive world. As players continue to explore Hyrule, they will undoubtedly uncover new and exciting ways to interact with its environment, thanks to the tireless efforts of Nintendo’s development team.

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