11 Ocarina of Time details, lost to… time?

1. Zelda games are about the relationship between Zelda, Link and Ganon

This may seem to be obvious, but think about it.  Zelda games have this epic feel to them, but that’s not what the games are about.  Miyamoto explains about his ideas for more games using those characters:  “Even though the setting was different each time, the characters you knew and loved would come out and perform. Well, the Mario games are set up like that. It would be much easier if we could use any setting in The Legend of Zelda while preserving the essential relationship between Link, Ganon and Zelda.  The stories in The Legend of Zelda may not match up as the series progresses,” he said. “We actually expend a lot of time trying to make them match up, though. It would make things a lot easier if the players said, ‘Oh, that doesn’t really matter.'”

2. Z-targeting came from a sword-fighting show in  Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Iwata explains: “They saw a sword-fighting show, and Koizumi-san noticed how even when one person was fighting against many, his opponents would attack in order, and that proved useful in making battles against multiple opponents. And Osawa-san was watching a show with a kusarigama (sickle-and-chain) and came up with the idea of establishing an invisible kusarigama in between Link and opponents.”

So, you move around in an arc with reference to your opponent, like locked circle-strafing, swing around and attack from behind.  A mechanic that has been shamelessly copied by game after game, because of how well it works.  Look in the background of any martial arts movie fight, and there will be dozens of men dancing around menacingly, just waiting for their turn to get a ladder to the forehead.

3. The reason for real-time rendering of cutscenes was because Miyamoto wanted to be able to change things to the last minute.

He became frustrated with those who were handling the movies telling him that they couldn’t be changed, when he envisioned something that would make the game more fun, but wouldn’t fit in with the pre-rendered cinematics. ‘Pre-rendered movies and the way I make games just don’t mix.’

4. 1990’s crime drama series ‘Twin Peaks’ was a source of inspiration.

The odd and suspicious characters that appeared around the main character was where Miyamoto wanted to go with the storytelling, not to actually tell the story as much as just to have them appear around them.  What role they played and how they portrayed the main character, an FBI agent, was the important part.  A bit of an odd thing to say for a game that many of us think about as a story arc experience.  It sounds like Miyamoto had a bit of a haphazard approach to it, but it really feels like they were learning a lot as they were working.

5. The villages were changed to have lots of slopes, just so it feels better when you fly a chicken

This seems like an incredibly odd design decision to make, but it shows that they were really thinking about the change to 3D space.  Miyamoto felt that everything clicked with the flying and just felt more fun in 3D, so he changed the villages to be more 3D.  They had tried it out on the Super Famicom, but it just didn’t  feel the same.  This lead to more geographical changes in Ocarina of Time, which I think we can all agree was part of the fun of exploring.

6. Autojump was created so you could dive into the waterfall

On his day off, Miyamoto thought up the autojump mechanic, as the Mario team was all set to give Link a jump button.  The idea was to give the dive a Caribbean position, hands first and diving in.  If you jumped in, feet first and hands up, you’d just be a person falling and would loose a lot of the feel of plummeting swiftly.  It allowed much greater control over the landing position after a jump as well.  Another decision that lead to many things, which is a theme that keeps popping up the more you dig into the development of Ocarina of Time.

7. Princess Peach was going to get an eviction notice

Being unsure of the actual capabilities of the system and what they could actually get out of it, Miyamoto first thought that the only real setting would be in Ganon’s castle. “I thought about putting in all kinds of adventures into the different rooms, like making a dark meadow or an ocean—like in Princess Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64.”  The concern was large areas like Hyrule field, which wasn’t going to exist at all.  You can get a glimpse of that in the Forest Temple boss battle, where you fight Phantom Ganon after he rides a horse out of a picture. That was Miyamoto saying early in production “at least it will look like this”

8. Epona wouldn’t have anywhere to run

Due to the same fears of the technological abilities of the Nintendo 64, Hyrule Field was originally taken out of the game.  A large open area just seemed like too much for the system to handle.  “Making a broad landform that you could ride a horse across weighed down the processing, so we took it out for a while. And after a while I returned to work with the production team and launched a huge campaign to regain the grassland!”

9. Lon Lon wouldn’t Last

Lon Lon Ranch is one of those iconic locations that are much beloved by fans of the game.  Miyamoto wanted the exit of Epona to be a dramatic scene, breaking out.  “At first, I imagined a scene in which Ingo, in a frenzy, sets the ranch on fire, so Epona jumps against a backdrop of flames, but then someone said, ‘What about when Link comes back to the ranch later?’ So I gave that up,” he said.

10. Why not just use a mower?

Some game features are included as a bit of an afterthought or with a completely different intention, and are latched on to by fans.  Cutting the grass is a great example of something that the fans loved.  “When you change something from 2D to 3D, though, you discover a lot of things, like certain things become no fun anymore,” he said. “For example, cutting the grass was something that first appeared in The Legend of Zelda series with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. When we made it, it was surprisingly fun. Some people started talking about how this was a video game that you cut grass using Spin Attack! But when we went to bring that element of cutting grass into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, it was like we were under orders to do so.”

11. Seriously, the signs too?

Part of the feedback on the grass being fun to cut, was that it wouldn’t make much sense if you couldn’t cut the signs down as well. The world needed to have a bit more of a logical feel to it, so the immersion would be greater. However,  “When I said that the signs should cut diagonally when Link swings diagonally, everyone froze up and said, ‘We can’t check exactly where they cut it!’ Even with the Nintendo 64 system, that would be impossible.”

The solution was a hexagonal pattern.  “Then you could cut the signs from different directions, but then when a piece flew off and landed in the pond, since we hadn’t taken care of collision detection when it hit against water, it would just fall to the bottom with a clack,” he said. “Generally, you would just decide not to put a sign by the water, but Morita-san made it so the piece would float on the water. Yeah. Morita-san made that because he was certain the players would love it. Then we just wanted to put more signs by the water!”

I love the idea that game changes were made, because they got excited about a piece of sign floating down the water.

There are more interesting nuggets hidden in the interviews with Miyamoto and others, and if you’re interested in how games get made by visionaries, it’s worth the read.  It was a vast uncharted world in games, the third dimension.  Hopefully we can see that same level of innovation and creative joy when we start playing the next wave of 3DS titles.  Here’s hoping!



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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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