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Zelda series steward Eiji Aonuma makes games with memorable, archetypal stories: a hero saves a princess and her kingdom from an evil overlord. But someday, he told MTV Multiplayer, he wants to let players define their own narrative.
"What I really, really want to create, what my ultimate hope or goal is, to create a game without a story--not to say that the story is nonexistent, but it's a story that isn't already created," Aonuma said. "It's a story that the player, in interacting with the space or environment, creates. So, a story that is defined by the player, not one that is already prepared, and a game that just kind of follows that path, if that makes sense."
Aonuma said The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (and The Wind Waker HD) was a special exception to the way Zelda stories generally come together: instead of figuring out a unique gameplay hook first then building the story around it, elements like cel shading, ocean travel, and sunken Hyrule all came together organically.
That's as close as his team's come to narrative-first design.
"If you have a story first, you're kind of tied to that story, and locked into it, and you have to alter gameplay to make sure that the story progresses in a certain way," he said. That means less emphasis on making it fun to play.
"I know that there are many games that were created to fit an existing story, and I don’t know that there are that many that have been very successful at it."