Friday, December 29, 2017

A Rarity in the Wild

The more I watch the mini-Reds play Breath of the Wild, the more I'm impressed by the work that went into the game's development.

The level of detail that went into placing the shrines and the Korok Seeds, for instance, took a lot of effort. And that was just a small part of the game itself. Sure, the game suffers from that bane of open world games, the giant impenetrable barrier at the edge of the game world*, as well as the grind that can wear people down, but every last detail that Nintendo's dev staff went into the latest Zelda offering is quite amazing.

Without bugs, no less.

Write that last part down and stare at it for a little while: no bugs.

In an age where bugs in software are pretty much standard fare, Nintendo released a (nearly) bug free game with a gigantic amount of detail into the wild. Compare and contrast with Mass Effect: Andromeda and Assassin's Creed: Unity**, which were so buggy on release they required major updates just to be playable.

What's the difference?

The biggest thing that jumps out at me was that Nintendo decided to delay release of Breath of the Wild until the Switch was announced and released, which had the effect of giving the devs an extra year to hammer everything out. Nintendo also channeled the Blizzard release process in that they released only when they felt the game was ready, which was no small deal given the amount of pressure Nintendo was under for the Switch's launch to be a success.***

Another item Nintendo focused on was the graphics and sound experience. Voice acting in Breath of the Wild was limited primarily to the cutscenes, so that kept some annoying problems related to integrating voice acting into the game**** from cropping up. The graphics were designed to exploit the Wii U first, and were never designed to be truly cutting edge 4K. The artistry that went into Breath of the Wild was more important than the realism and detail, which meant that graphical problems were largely avoided.

Finally, Nintendo knew what they wanted and they had a long time to develop it. Sure, the platform changed during development, but apparently the differences in those platforms were minimal enough that the Zelda team could focus on the actual development and not worry about performing cross system development such as that found with XBox and PS4 (and PC). Like Apple's own development environment, having complete control over the hardware means that you can limit bugs to an exceptional degree.

My hat's off to Nintendo for their exceptional work in Breath of the Wild. It's the sort of game that I'd love to play if the ability to lock the viewing direction into an MMO mode (such as that found in most Western MMOs, such as WoW, SWTOR, or LOTRO) were available. As it is, I'm happy to watch the mini-Reds play. (Well, until I get a headache from the viewing angle changes, that is.)

*But really, there hasn't been an open world RPG or MMO that has created an entire globe, so that's kind of a "meh" problem if you ask me.

**Or, back in the day, Darklands by Microprose.

***Mission accomplished, there. The Switch is, so far, a big success story for Nintendo given the amount of positive press it got as well as the excellent choice in games released for the platform.

****Such as the mouth and visual problems ME:A had on launch, or the problems ArcheAge has with NPCs speaking in Korean in the English version of the game.

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