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Zelda director wants to make a game without a pre-defined story

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."

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15 comments

  • db1331 - September 13, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    How about making a game without some dipshit sidekick that pauses the action every fucking minute to tell you some shit you already know? How about making a game for your fans that have already beaten over a dozen Zelda games and don't need someone to tell them that walls with cracks can be blown open, or to pick up hearts when your health is low?
  • Shinn - September 12, 2013 9:16 p.m.

    So Link would be you in other words. You wouldn't be just playing as Link.
  • shawksta - September 12, 2013 3:24 p.m.

    It seems he just cant figure out how to build said idea, but when does he'll go at it. The way he explains it is in knowing some of these types exist but he wants to go MORE deeper. Fable and other choice based games for example lets you go your own way of decisions but the story is ultimatlely the same, Aunoma wants to the story itself to bend to the players will. Whatever it is he wants, lets hope in the future he'll figure it out, at least its more understrandable on complications compared to Miyamoto not wanting to make another F-Zero because he "cant think of a new idea for it" excuse
  • Desann - September 12, 2013 2:26 p.m.

    People make their own stories all the time, especially in games like Grand Theft Auto. Every game's multiplayer, even in games like Halo or Call of Duty, is its own emergent story with heroes and villains, victories and defeats. That sort of thing is already being done, and really isn't anything new. What does this big idea translate into, specifically? Player decisions that affect the story, like in Mass Effect? I don't know; maybe he's saying he wants NPCs to improv with you while you ad-lib a story by smashing pots. But then we have games like LIttleBigPlanet and Project Spark that let you create whatever story you want: they have nothing pre-defined. It just seems like he's trying to be existential and philosophical, waxing poetic about some brilliant, grand, intangible, cosmic idea, but it's not. It's already being done. If he wants to make the next Zelda with no story but what we make for ourselves, that's fine, but he doesn't have to act like no game has ever let people make their own stories before. And I'll add that I love narratives in games. Without a good story, games feel really pointless to me. I've fallen out of love for Zelda already, but if his next big idea is to strip away an authored story and leave it up to me, I have even less interest.
  • JarkayColt - September 12, 2013 1:43 p.m.

    That quote at the bottom; he's probably talking about movie tie-ins, lawls. But what he suggests sounds cool, just, wouldn't it be next to impossible to make? Because even if you intend to create an open-ended story, surely you have to program in all the potential scenarios that could unfold, and therefore you'll still have a bunch of predetermined endpoints based on all the available parameters. In other words, how could it be any different to current games that offer multiple endings based on player choices or actions, or just choose-your-own-adventures in general? There has to be certain things that are allowed or disallowed by the game and narrative progression. I mean the only way this would work is if tech becomes so advanced that the game can just make up its own story as it goes along...but then it would still have to generate that based on preprogrammed behaviours, and surely it couldn't just "invent" content on the spot. Yeah, it's all hypothetical, but HOW would it work?
  • BladedFalcon - September 12, 2013 1:39 p.m.

    "Zelda director wants to make a game without a pre-defined story" Then just effing go ahead and do it? Lord knows that Nintendo desperately needs new ideas and IPs... And if Nintendo won't go for it... Go to Kickstarter? bending to your corporate overlord isn't a must anymore these days...
  • shawksta - September 12, 2013 3:29 p.m.

    Thats not what he meant. Just because he stated something he wants to do doesnt mean its because he couldnt or is pressured. Reading the way he speaks, he himself knows explaining it is confusing, its not simply a choice based game but something more deeper. Lets hope he can push his idea into a new IP, that would be great.
  • BladedFalcon - September 12, 2013 6:06 p.m.

    I know that's not what he said. But it's also obvious that creating a new IP isn't likely going to happen for him. I can bet your ass that every head honcho that calls the shots would rather he churned Zelda games for the rest of his career.
  • shawksta - September 12, 2013 10:58 p.m.

    To be fair, thats pretty much how Nintendo works. When they get a new idea, they dont think it suddenly earns new IP rights, and they dont think thats how new IP's should be created. Rather, they see if any of their existing IP's can take advantage of said new concept, otherwise then if a new idea is too outsidish, then they make a new IP. There are a few instances of this, most used so far, Kirby. He gets through a lot of crazy things, and everyone can agree that Kirby's Epic Yarn wouldve been better off a new IP. But apparently the original project had King Fluff but him similarities to Kirby were what pushed it, the same reason Miyamoto suggested that Dinosaur Planet should be switched and changed into Fox instead, for better or for worse.
  • BladedFalcon - September 13, 2013 12:14 p.m.

    For the worse, I'd say. I mean, honestly, i think Star Fox adventures wasn't GREAT, but it wasn't a bad game either. But everyone hates it because it has the name of a brand that fundamentally has nothing in common with. Had they let the game remain as Dinosaur planet, I'm pretty sure it would have gone way better for everyone involved. And see, now Nintendo is FINALLY starting to pay for their reluctance to create new IPs... they are running out of IPs to save their consoles...
  • shawksta - September 13, 2013 1:49 p.m.

    That's true, but really,, its reluctant to think suddenly new IP's are gonna do anything. We've been through this before, its the production value of effort that determines if a new IP will matter as well as the genre not the sake of having a new IP, otherwise there are tons of New IP's that are low budget and such. Look at Pikmin, its Mario and Zelda's little sibling but its still considered a Niche series for what it is. Miyamoto got lucky Nintendogs because it was easy to appeal to everyone but that bite him in the ass with Wii Music, which was also made by the Galaxy team btw. He knew it was for a toy than a game. And I can tell you right now that if Miyamoto's new IP isn't a high budget modern genre game, its going right in the same depths of Pikmin to only be appreciated for being a good game and not really sell. I have doubts like how Pushmo being little game still managed to be E-shop champion but the concern is still there.
  • BladedFalcon - September 13, 2013 3:42 p.m.

    Stop kidding yourself. Pikmin isn't a niche franchise because it's a new IP. Pikmin is a niche franchise because of the type of game it is. It's an RTS in which instead of managing epic wars you're instead managing little plant people and throwing it at animals and insects. Doesn't matter if it's a new IP or not, an idea like that was NEVER going to become mainstream. And even then, it's just a matter of how you present a new IP on even a so called "niche" genre. FOr all intents and purposes, X-Com was a new Ip when it came out last year, so was dishonored, and both are games settled in what is considered to be "niche" and yet both sold spectacularly. Nintendo undeniably has a ton of talent in their teams, but in an effort to keep their already established franchises relevant, they are keeping any new, worthwhile spark of creativity stiffled. Yes, creating new IPs are tricky, but when you get a ht? it hits BIG time. Just look at the big new IPs of this generation, Assasin's Creed, Mass Effect, Gears of War. They were all risks, but now they are all household names. And Nintendo has been missing out of that kind of thing for almost 15 years now, why? because they haven't had the balls to get really creative and give new ideas a real chance.
  • shawksta - September 13, 2013 6:35 p.m.

    Your right but to be fair, the games you just listed owe it to the Western Appeal that got them popular. Something we both know Nintendo won't do other than Zelda and Fire Emblem. Hopefully things will work out better and they end up as you said or better yet make another Mature but E-T rates game, but its gonna be tough. Oh and that's what I meant with Pikmin, "For what it is" gameplay wise, I didn't mean it as a New IP, sorry for not being clear on that.
  • shawksta - September 13, 2013 6:46 p.m.

    Actually no I take that back, sure they owe it to the Western appeal but that doesn't mean it has to be Western appeal to be popular. That's was my initial thought on my comment.
  • slimjim441 - September 12, 2013 1:36 p.m.

    One day, Aonuma-san. One day.

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