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How the team behind The Legend of Zelda makes physics feel like magic


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom yes an extraordinary gamepraised for being able to improve and iterate breath of the wildWithin weeks of the game’s release, it is written with all kinds of breathless praise One wonders how Nintendo is able to create a game that seems to transcend the technical capabilities of the seven-year-old Switch hardware.

For developers, This game looks like magicBut in a speech at the 2024 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo said that this is not magic, but a unique and well-executed development strategy that still looks amazing.

In conversation, Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta tears of kingdomexplaining that the game has two main driving principles: “vast and seamless Hyrule” and “multiplicative gameplay.”

The first one is relatively simple.”We want players to be able to see things in the distance and have players go there,” Dota said. The idea was born out of breath of the wild, facing new challenges in seamlessly connecting the sky, ground and underground.We can see how this integration works tears of kingdom Link’s free fall pose as he descends from the sky to the surface, and then descends between the surface and underground. This action ties together the three different worlds of Hyrule.

Link free-falls from the sky to the ground and from the ground to the ground.
Image: Nintendo

However, Dohta warns that creating a large, interconnected world doesn’t mean it will be interesting in and of itself. The fun, he explains, comes from the second principle: multiplication gameplay.

Dohta defines multiplicative gameplay as a system by which players combine actions and objects to create their own gameplay. Dohta explained that the developers didn’t want to create fun through discretely designed real-time game events, but instead wanted to create a system that “makes fun happen.”

The seeds of this “make fun happen” system first appeared in breath of the wild There’s also the Octopus Balloon, a monster piece that Link can attach to heavy objects to make them float in the air. tears of kingdomThe developers later expanded on this idea by gluing various objects together, resulting in “fuse” and “overhand” abilities – abilities that let Link combine objects to build weapons, items, and structures.

But in order for the multiplication game to truly work, every interactive object in Hyrule must behave in a specific and predictable way. This requires Takahiro Takayama, tears of kingdom’s physics programmer, describes it as “a world driven entirely by physics.”

The first problem that arises is what Gao Shan calls a conflict between physically driven objects and rigid body objects. A rigid body object is an object for which each of its properties (mass, speed, weight, etc.) is specifically designed, regardless of its appearance.exist tears of kingdomDuring the development of Hyrule, various gear mechanisms in Hyrule were rigid objects. At the same time, the properties of physics-based objects are controlled by physics; the large metal boxes scattered across the Sky Islands above Hyrule are one example.

Takayama explained that while rigid objects are easy to make, they can create all kinds of problems when they are mixed with physically driven objects. Just like matter and antimatter, when physically driven objects interact with rigid objects, the world falls apart. One example involves rigid body gears passing through a metal box inserted between them. The solution to this problem is simple. “Everything, without exception, is physics-driven and necessary to make the multiplication game a reality,” Takayama said.

Since everything is physics-driven, every interactive object in Hyrule works the way players expect it to – metal boxes now prevent gears from turning.

Hyrule then became “a world where players can express their creativity without having to do anything.” [fear of] “This is a world where anything can happen, depending on the player’s imagination,” Takayama said.

Takayama said having everything driven by physics eliminates the need for what he calls a “dedicated implementation.” This will involve creating a program for each function and interaction. Without a physics-driven system, each of Link’s actions would require its own custom program to function. If the developers wanted Link to drive a certain vehicle, they would need to create a dedicated program to manage the vehicle.

While making every object physically driven in Hyrule was technically challenging, it alleviated the need to create so many specialized routines during the development cycle.

“Instead of creating a vehicle program, we created a system that can build a vehicle,” Takayama explained.

There is no program for vehicles, but rather programs that allow vehicles to be built.
Image: Nintendo

The difference may seem subtle, but that subtlety is where all the “magic” lies tears of kingdom When a developer frightened tears of kingdomBridge Physics, wondering how they could program a bridge to function properly without malfunctioning, the fact is that they made systems that controlled every single component of the bridge: its slats, links, and even the interactions with various forces, such as wheels. Even the game’s music uses this modular approach. Junya Osada, tears of kingdom’s sound designer explained that the game’s carriage sounds did not come from his team going out to record carriage sounds.

“There was no sound of carriages, just wheels and chains and creaking joints,” Osada said.

These systems are beneficial Types of emerging gameplay This makes tears of kingdom Such a special game. Players will be able to use them in ways the developers themselves never thought of.

One example of these systems is the humble portable Pot Zonai device. breath of the wild, cooking was done in dedicated locations, but with the portable pot, Link can now cook anywhere. Because everything, including cooking ingredients, was physics-driven, the developers faced a problem: If Link decided to cook on the side of a mountain, all of his ingredients would slide out of the pot.

Through specialized implementation, the pot will simply cook no matter where it is placed, without the need for anything else. However, the Multiplication Game concept ensures that no matter where the pot is placed, the cooking surface is oriented horizontally so your soup doesn’t overflow. Giving the pot a greater purpose beyond cooking, it can be used as a ball joint, allowing for all kinds of wacky creations.

Nintendo’s tears of kingdom The team explains that the game’s success is based on the idea that players should have their own fun with a powerful physics system that applies to every object in the game.But the conversation also brought up another self-evident reason that contributed to tears of kingdom Shortlisted for 2023 Game of the Year: Nintendo retains talent.

in an industry Average career length is measured in single digits, every speaker has worked for Nintendo for at least 10 years. This retention is an important factor in Nintendo’s continued success. Institutional knowledge is preserved and teams are able to work together more easily with limited disruption from turnover.Although Nintendo By no means a perfect companywhich seems to understand that the best way to get good games is to hire and retain good talent.

“Working with game designers and artists who understand the vision,” Dota said, “is crucial to bringing this vast world to life.”



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