The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is almost here, but before the game officially launches, Nintendo has decided to give fans a a little tidbit of information as to how Breath of the Wild was developed. According to BOTW game developer, Hidemaro Fujibayashi during a GDC 2017 panel, he described that the team used a 2D prototype, which looks a lot like the original Legend of Zelda, in order to test gameplay mechanics and to get a grasp on how new concepts introduced in Breath of the Wild would work. He claimed that having this retro styled 2D prototype allowed Breath of the Wild to remain close to the series' origins, and that it also helped the developers brainstorm ideas for the open-world gameplay. Technical Director Takyhiro Dohta is credited with creating the prototype, which you can see in the video above.
I wanted to create a game where the user could truly experience freedom in this play field, and a sense of adventure again and again, as they freely navigate through it. When I started to think this way, the NES Zelda came to mind. Every time the screen scrolled, there was a new discovery to be made.
When the players have diverse actions, items, and choices, an active game was created, where a user can freely create solutions. Through this simple, primitive experimentation, we made the call of what to change and what not to change to complete the game design.