Breathing in the Wild: Zelda was a youtube video series of essay-like episodes that discussed different aspects of the game text Zelda: Breath of the Wild in light of artistic approach and game design. Unpacking the uniqueness of the games artistic design was a challenge that required research into the designers themselves, design structures and other techniques.
A structuralist lens informed the framework as aspects such as the games narrative, plot and graphics are studied. This is the main analytical underpinning used, however some aspects of the post-structuralist approach are applied from research of the designers behind the game. Game narrative was analysed to discover how the design fitted into the plot or vice versa, whether this was consistent throughout different aspects of the game such as landscapes, maps etc. Conclusively, a psychoanalysis of Link, the protagonist, was performed to better understand how emotional character design was presented within the game; acknowledging the historic progress of the Zelda series to truly reach appreciation for Link in Breath of the Wild (Botw).
Breathing in the Wild was a series created to fulfill my passions and interests in game design/art. I decided to explore this research and the in-game beauty of Zelda through videos as I could play the game myself and find examples of encapsulated beauty and the strategies I discover; showing them on video. My target audience for this project was young aspiring game designers and zelda fandoms. I believed my project could be used by these aspiring designers as examples of what they would research and how they can find examples of the related discoveries in game. Not only is my project an academic artistic visual, but a place of admiration for the Zelda fandom.
This game has been strategically designed through geometric patterns such as triangles and rectangles to create depth in the world of Hyrule; alluding a sort of ‘infinite’ landmass (Frank, 2017). The triangular game design strategy forces players to explore more as they choose to travel around the structure or up the angle (Frank, 2017). Botw has an open-world map design similar to other game texts(Lambie, 2017), “An open world is a nonlinear virtual world in which the player has the agency to roam freely and tackle objectives in the order they choose.” (Vidqvist, 2019).Quintessential criterias of ‘Ubisoft’ such as ‘ubisoft towers’ embed the map design as beacons of information that reveal more of the map (Battery, 2019).The innovation of Botw design resulted from making infrastructures and mountains into additional ‘paths’ as opposed to walls (Vidqvist, 2019) supporting the adventurous approach of the game. Shrines are carefully designed pockets of gameplay for tutorialisation which are required for game progression, ancient architecture decorated with luminance, constellations and crystals (Majmuder, 2020).
The artistic significance of Zelda’s game design was reinforced by what was known as ‘formative experiences’, detailed by the art director Takizawa (Lloyd, 2019). Creating ‘formative experiences’ in otherwise cartoonish designs of the game was key to producing a memorable impression in game art.These experiences were utilised in village designing whereby houses felt ‘lived in’ not vacant (Lloyd, 2019). Character design centred around micro-expressions and exaggerated body language to capture a realism within the abstraction, “Rather than realistic portrayals, emotions are often exaggerated, staged with respect to other characters in the scene, and expressed through their actions.” (Smith & Carrette, 2019). Historically, Links purpose was mapped out like Mario’s (Herfs, 2019) however in Botw Link is able to explore why he is so affiliated to save Zelda in accompaniment with the Players; uncovering what occurred in Hyrule 100 years ago together.
Feedback Loop And Trajectory
I was given feedback from my pitch and beta to find a game media text that Botw may have influenced in game design. The game I found was Genshin Impact. The Genshin Impacts vs Botw debate seems to be controversial ground that may have damaged my video’s appeal if I had included them. Comparatively, I took on other feedback such as a tab dedicated to my project on my website for easier location. I believe that creating a broader access to the videos would be the next step toward a successful trajectory of showcasing game design studies.
Breathing in the Wild uncovered ‘formative experiences’ as the secret to the Botw game art uniqueness. The game’s innovation derived from the expansive atmosphere of Hyrule’s map design with features such as climbing any structure in front of them. Geometric designs such as triangular and rectangular strategies to create depth. Formative experiences are also repurposed in light of character design whereby micro-expressions and exaggerated body language exudes emotional expression. Overall, Breathing in the Wild as a video series was beneficial in uncovering design strategies to game art, but could benefit with more exposure to a broader audience.
- Battery.T (2019) Meaningful Geography in Breath of the Wild Tom Battery.
- Frank.A (2017) Breath of the Wild’s brilliant game design, explained Polygon.
- Herfs.L (2019) Dreams of the Japanese Self in the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Leiden University.
- Lambie.R (2017) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Design Philosophy That Makes it a Classic Den of Geek.
- Lloyd.R (2019) Design Philosophies Behind Breath of the Wild’s World Revealed in New Developer Interview Zelda Dungeon.
- Majmuder.K (2020) Shrine Design in Zelda: Breath of the Wild UX Collective.
- Smith.G & Carrette.J (2019) Design Foundations for Emotional Game Characters Eludamous, Journal for Computer Game Culture.
- Vidqvist.J (2019) Open-World Game Design: Case Study: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Business Information Systems Game Production.