When creating Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi turned to his hometown to inspire the direction that the fantastical world would take.
“When I first started looking at this game, I had Link in an empty game field and I would just walk around and try to map out and get a feel for the distance and where landmarks should be,” Fujibayashi explained to The Verge.
“What helped me with this was my hometown, Kyoto. I took a map of Kyoto and overlaid it on the game world, and I tried to imagine going to places that I know in Kyoto. I’d think ‘It takes this much time to get from point A to point B, so how does that translate to the game?’ And that’s how we started mapping out the world in Breath of the Wild.”
As players travel across Hyrule, it soon becomes clear that the world is filled enemy camps, Shrines, stables and villages to encounter in your continued exploration. That structure once enhanced the comparison between Hyrule and Kyoto that the development team began to envision.
“One thing that made it really easy is that there are so many tourist spots in Kyoto,” art director Satoru Takizawa added. “You have all of these famous temples and shrines and whatnot. If I’m going from famous spot A to famous spot B and it takes me this long, it made it really easy to envision how that would translate to the game map.”
Kyoto and its surroundings soon became a good talking point for the team, likening the distances between places in-game to landmarks situated around Japan’s former capital.
“When we were talking to the staff and saying, for example, the distance from this point to the next tower is just like the distance from these points in Kyoto, it made the conversation go a lot smoother and faster,” Fujibayashi closed. “Whether it’s walking to a certain place or riding my motorcycle or driving a car, I’ve done those things in real life in Kyoto, so I know about how much time it will take.”
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now available exclusively on Nintendo Switch and Wii U worldwide.