The gigantic open-world of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a call for freedom. The freedom of doing pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want to. For some it’s throwing barrels of powder to Bokoblins, for others it’s just helping out hylians. As for Shigeru Miyamoto, he just can’t help but spending his days climbing trees.
In an interview given to Kotaku, BotW Game Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi recalled an anecdote during the development of the game. He had to show to Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma the concept of limitless freedom in Breath of the Wild. And to do so, he showed them the possibility of climbing walls. So he set out a prototype with his team, with a small area of field with trees and Rupees hidden in it. And then began the fun.
“When we first presented this to Mr Miyamoto, he spent about an hour just climbing trees. We left little treats like rupees on the trees, but we also left other things in other places we thought he might go. But he just kept climbing trees. Up and down. And so we got to the point where we go, ‘Do you want to look at other stuff?’ But he just kept on going. Once [he] got out of the Shrine of Resurrection, he spent an hour just within a 25-50 meter radius outside of that cave just climbing trees.”
And that was how Fujibayashi and his team realised that they had created the concept of multiplicative gameplay: the game’s objects, physics and mechanics all worked to enhance one another. So, instead of creating complex chains of actions, the development team focused on core mechanics: climbing, gliding, physics, chemistry, etc. Then, they concentrated on interconnecting them in as many different ways as they could to have nature-like behaviours.
“As you’re climbing trees you use up stamina, and once you run out of stamina, instead of just falling you can input a key and you start dragging down the wall. Even that provides another level of fun… What we realised was instead of trying to make all these new ideas and building them from scratch and adding them, we decided to look at what we have. We realised there are so many ways of playing the game hidden within the world we built.”