Have you ever played a game and wondered, “Does this feel like Zelda?” Only last week we described the great Eastward as “much like a 2D Zelda game” and a PC / Xbox game. Door of death — Sister site PureXbox says2021 GOTY Candidate“When the 10/10 score was awarded in July — Caused a similar reaction in the reviewer.. It’s an impact across all platforms and isn’t surprising because of the extraordinary history and fame of the Nintendo series.

But what exactly does the game mean when it says “like Zelda”? This question is reminiscent of a famous quote from a judge trying to summarize what constitutes obscenity in the 1960s trial.I know it when I see it“. It’s easy to say, “This game feels like Zelda,” but it’s hard to try to define why.

task [of finding a ‘formula’] Complicated by the fact that Zelda’s games have changed significantly over the last 35 years

But for game designers looking to build on Zelda’s success, it’s imperative to understand exactly what constitutes Zelda’s formula.So we talked Acid nerveDesigners behind Death Door like Zelda, Mark Foster and David Fen, want to understand what makes Zelda’s game feel exactly like Zelda’s game.

The task is complicated by the dramatic changes in Zelda games from top-down 2D to 3D roaming over the last 35 years, with a bit of side-scrolling (Hello, The Adventure of Link). Next is the Breath of the Wild. “There is an argument on the Steam forums for our game that someone said,’This isn’t like Zelda, you can’t cook food or climb things,'” Mark said. say. “They are working on it in terms of what the Breath of the Wild is known as the Zelda game.”

But perhaps there are some common elements that connect all these games together. let’s see.

Breath of the Wild differs from previous Zelda titles in that it lacks traditional dungeons.
Breath of the Wild differs from previous Zelda titles in that it lacks traditional dungeons. (image: Moby Games)

Zelda Material # 1: Dungeon

Unless you count the shrines, you’re already struggling to fit in the Breath of the Wild. However, it is no exaggeration to say that dungeons form an important part of traditional Zelda recipes. “Except for the Breath of the Wild, everything else follows the same kind of structure, and I think there’s a separation between this world and the dungeon. That’s a big part of that,” says David.

Zelda Material # 2: Items to help you explore further

Whether it’s a boomerang or a hook shot, you’ll need certain items to overcome certain obstacles and open up the world of Hyrule. You may not always find these items in the dungeon, but using them is essential to making progress. According to David, Acid Nerve wasn’t initially working on a game like Zelda. The changes occurred while considering the structure and progression of Death’s Door and eventually linked to a unique item. “I think that’s a very useful reference point for Zelda.”

In Zelda's game, certain items that require a hammer to progress, such as
In Zelda’s game, certain items that require a hammer to progress, such as “Link to the Past,” open up more space. (image: Moby Games)

Zelda Ingredients # 3: Teasing and Rewarding Level Design

When I’m in the dungeon, I see a treasure chest on the shelf, but I can’t get there. Its teasing level structure is an integral part of Zelda’s game and is a subsequent reward that may be stolen later if you grab the right item or find a hidden route. Correcting this level of structure was essential when they were working on Death’s Door, says David. “It was a very big focus for us, and that’s what we spent a lot of time on. I probably spent about 80% of my time on level design, because that’s how If you want to create a level and find all the secrets, it’s a huge task to ensure a deeper search for a satisfying level. “

Zelda Material # 4: Boss who need certain items to defeat them

In most Zelda games, the boss acts as a kind of tutorial on how to use the items you just acquired in the dungeon. Mark says this is intended to be mimicked by Acidnerb at Deathdoor. The frog boss directly referred to King Dodongo, who threw a bomb into his mouth and stunned him. However, Acid Nerve deviated slightly from the formula by allowing all bosses to be defeated with just a sword. Some items simply provide an easier way to defeat them. “So, with care, that’s what you discover, but without it you can still survive the battle.”

Zelda Material # 5: Weird (and sometimes anxious) characters

The Legend of Zelda games are full of memorable people, from the diva Marin to the middle-aged man fairy Tingle. “One of my favorite characters is the Happy Mask Salesman,” says Mark. “When the camera cuts, just as he animated with a frozen frame. [back to him] He is in a different position. Mark believes that Zelda’s general tone was certainly an inspiration for the characters in the Door of Death “at the subconscious level.” The pothead certainly reminds us of some of Hyrule’s strangers.

Happy mask salesman
Image: Nintendo

Zelda Ingredients # 6: Short Dialogue

In Zelda games, characters generally don’t say much. Instead, the design does the hard work of characterization. “Every element of character design pays great attention to detail,” says David. “Even with few phrases. This is a very focused way to create a character without a huge script.” Acid Nerve uses a similar approach with Death’s Door to minimize dialogue. I suppressed it. “We really wanted to keep that pace, so we didn’t get overwhelmed by having too much text on the screen at one time. I think that’s what Zelda is good at.”

Zelda Material # 7: Simple and Crunchy Sword Combat

Link starts and ends each game with a sword, keeping the battle incredibly simple. Normally, you just tap to swing your sword and hold down the button with a charge attack, but combat always feels satisfying, crisp and responsive. Deathdoor has a simple one-button sword fight as well, and Mark says he has poured a huge amount of money to get it right from the beginning of development.

Zelda Ingredient # 8: Polish All Surfaces

“If you add more, the old one will break and you will have to come back and polish it again.”

A crappy, awkward game can be fun, but to make something really feel like a Zelda game, Nintendo needs to hone it. Mark says he was constantly polishing the death door every time he added a new element, but that was an endless process. “When I add something I add, the old one breaks and I have to go back and polish it again.” As David outlined, the finishing touches also took a long time. “I finished the whole game about six months before it was actually released, and from that point on, I had a big list of everything I wanted to polish.”

Zelda Ingredients # 9: Unique Quests and Collectibles

Common fetch quests are not available in Zelda games. “I think Zelda is really good at customizing all the content in the game,” says David. “You always have this big collection, but it feels like every item you find is a satisfying discovery.” Mark says that when it comes to collector’s items, the format it tried to reflect on Deathdoor. I explain that. “If you’re going to get someone to do so much work, you need to at least reward them.”

Like Zelda's game, Deathdoor favors more stylized graphics and avoids realistic details.
Like Zelda’s game, Deathdoor favors more stylized graphics and avoids realistic details.

Zelda Ingredients # 10: Stylized Graphics

Each Zelda game looks a little different, but with photorealistic graphics, Zelda isn’t Zelda. Death’s Door follows a similar approach of avoiding too much realism. “We’re not focusing on realistic details,” says David. “It’s not super cartoonish, but it’s stylized and we focus on the color scheme of each area.”

Zelda Ingredients # 11: Accessibility

David explains: We always know that we can make progress without ruining our journey, losing items, or making the wrong builds. No matter how long it takes between play sessions, or if you don’t remember complex controls and plots, you can easily get your hands on a Zelda game and get stuck. “It’s definitely comfortable.”

Zelda Ingredient # 12: No Level Up

In general, there is no level up in Zelda games. The only real level building is done by collecting hearts. This is one area where Death’s Door deviates slightly from the formula, says David. A little longer. “Still, level crushing is definitely not a feature of Deathdoor-and crushing certainly has no place in the Zelda title.