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

in

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:

My full comment:

One of Tears of the Kingdom’s impressive achievements was making reliable gameplay out of physics.

Physics in games is the simulation of movement and collision. Many games have ragdoll physics for defeated foes, or objects that tumble about, but few action games have manipulation of physics objects as a main gameplay action. Because physics is more than a technical hurdle: it’s a major game design challenge.

In most games it’s vital for players to understand what actions they can take, and what the result of those actions will be. For example: when players want to cut grass, they know that a sword swing can do it, and they know that if they press B their avatar will swing a sword in an arc in front of them. Translating this kind of player intention into predictable results is where physics often stumbles. Physics simulation is chaotic! When you drop an object on a slope, strike it with an attack, or blast it with an explosion, it’s hard to predict where it’ll go.

To make physics gameplay work the Zelda team had to find ways for players to see consistent and predictable results from their actions. And they succeeded! They clearly spent vast effort tweaking their physics so that objects are more likely to go in straight lines, come to a stop, and stay balanced, and less likely to spin on multiple axes – all while feeling believable! They carefully built objects to have flat surfaces at predictable intervals, designing much of their art and architectural style – such as the Zonai structures – so that these objects feel natural. They likely did custom work on each object in the game to define centers of gravity, which surfaces have more friction, and other case-by-case rules to make them act in more predictable ways. It’s an astonishing level of detail, much of it invisible.

Breath of the Wild revolutionized open world game design. I can’t wait to see how the next few years of games are inspired by Tears of the Kingdom!