Sacred Realms Podcast: Spirit Tracks

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

Whew, finally the podcast got to The Worst Zelda Game. But a flawed game makes for even more interesting discussion, dissecting where it went wrong and why. I spent a lot of time this season discussing the load-bearing train-based overworld, why I thought it was a flawed design, and how that impacted all the rest of the game’s systems.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: The Minish Cap

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

A short season for me, for a shorter game. I appeared in a single episode, which we mostly spent talking about the game and it’s systems as a whole. I think it’s a very well-paced game with possibly the best central hub town in the series! I spent a lot of time talking about how that pacing was achieved, and why I think it works.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Twilight Princess

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

Twilight Princess! A game with nuanced highs and nuanced lows, I I think I talked about it for a good 9 hours over the course of these episodes. A lot of great discussion about Twilight Princess‘s overworld: how I think the Zelda team arrived at this design, why it is among the weaker of the series, and how I think it impacted the design of the next few games. Also probably the most time I’ve spent discussing dungeon designs, because this game’s dungeons are incredible.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Phantom Hourglass

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

Despite not being a game I hold in high esteem – or perhaps because of it – Phantom Hourglass was a fascinating game to analyze and discuss. Over the course of this season of the podcast I discussed my thoughts on what they were trying to achieve, the historical context of 2007, the sea changes happening to the Zelda team, my thoughts on the touch control system, and a lot more.

I also led a bonus episode where I took the group through a mock game design/brainstorming exercise, in the style of ones I have done on the job.

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GamesRadar: 23 game developers explain why Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be talked about for years

I was asked to provide a blurb for this GamesRadar piece, which I was more than happy to do! I wrote about how impressed I was at the Zelda team’s success attempt to find ways for players to see consistent and predictable results from physics gameplay.

23 game developers explain why Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be talked about for years

They only included part of the blurb I provided. Here’s the full thing:

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Tears of the Kingdom

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

This was a truncated season; not a full play of Tears of the Kingdom, but a first impression sort of deal. I appeared shortly after the game came out, so I had a lot of half-formed thoughts about the world design, the depths, the physics and chemistry system, the new build system, and more.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: A Link Between Worlds

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

I appeared in the A Link Between Worlds season to talk a little bit about world design, recount stories about the game’s turbulent development from interviews I’d read, and ramble at length about the art of dungeon design.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: The Wind Waker

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

I appeared in a few of their Wind Waker episodes, where I talked a lot about the evolution of Zelda’s world design!

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Sacred Realms Podcast: The Legend of Zelda & Adventure of Link

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

I appeared in a few episodes of this joint Zelda 1 & Zelda 2 season, to offer my historical perspective on how these games came about, and how they impacted games as a medium and the series’ future. I also subbed in to be a tie-breaking vote in their Zelda 2 rank & recap episode, which looked at the game as a whole to compare it to the rest of the series.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Breath of the Wild

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer who and a Zelda fan.

I appeared in a couple Breath of the Wild episodes, where we delved into topics like open world design and how Eventide Island perfectly encapsulated the full breadth of the new sandbox gameplay that the game brought to the series.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Skyward Sword

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughby discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer and a Zelda fan.

I appeared in a couple Skyward Sword episodes, where we delved into topics like dungeon design, and contrasted Skyward Sword with Breath of the Wild.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Link’s Awakening

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughly discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer who and a Zelda fan.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is quite special to me, and I specifically requested one of these episodes- the Face Shrine! This is the most pivotal moment in the game, where it becomes clear that this isn’t a simple castaway story. I talk about why this moment is so important to the game as a whole, and to me as a player, and we also discuss the design of the Face Shrine dungeon.

They also invited me to join them for Level 7, Eagle’s Tower, one of the most interesting dungeons. It’s the only dungeon that features vertical play, and the only one that drastically changes the state of the dungeon after solving a particular puzzle.

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Sacred Realms Podcast: Ocarina of Time

Sacred Realms is a Zelda retrospective podcast, where hosts Matthew and Lyndon Willoughly discuss the Zelda series as they replay all the games. I’m a frequent guest on the podcast, offering my perspective as both a game designer who and a Zelda fan.

My first guest appearance was to talk about the Water Temple, Ocarina of Time‘s most infamous dungeon. In the main episode we discussed the lead-up to the temple, and the experience of playing through the temple more generally. We also recorded a subscribers only Bonus Episode, where I helped break down Temple’s design in more detail.

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Ocarina’s Image: Freedom in Breath of the Wild

“When I was a child, I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.” – Shigeru Miyamoto, 1993¹

Fifteen years after Ocarina of Time, the Zelda team finally retired its time-worn solutions to the problems of 3D. They shifted their philosophy, drew from the inspiration for the first Legend of Zelda, and rebuilt the beating heart of the franchise from first principles.

Previously we examined the challenges of building the first 3D Zelda, and the tradeoffs that Ocarina made to maintain approachability. These compromises attempted to balance two unsolved problems: decreased readability, and greatly increased complexity. In this final article, we’ll see how Breath of the Wild found new solutions to those problems.

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Ocarina’s Image: Formulas Etched in Stone

Ocarina of Time was a seminal masterpiece. It was a model for how to make a third-person, 3D adventure game that was approachable and ambitious. It broke new ground in camera control, 3D melee combat, 3D level design, and immersive worlds. It maintained a high standard for readability and approachability. It sold 7.6 million copies on the N64 and 11 million altogether. Nothing like it had ever been made before, and it set a high-water mark that wouldn’t be surpassed for years.

And it etched in stone, in gamers’ expectations, and in developer’s minds a blueprint for what a Zelda game was supposed to be. It cemented formulas that Nintendo would follow for fifteen years.

“…Ocarina of Time became the standard for me for home console Legend of Zelda games. The series built up from there and nothing ever got made from scratch. I think subconsciously there was a strongly conservative voice saying, ‘This has to be this way,’ and, ‘If you change it too much, people won’t like it.’” – Eiji Aonuma, 2011 ¹

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