Hello, GameMaker community! I am currently working on the design for my new game. This is another Zelda-like game, just like my previous title. (Read more here). As I am researching and considering some key elements of this game, I wanted to get some input from other developers on the primary aspects of the design. This is very general: I am interested in any input you have on the topic so that I can get new ideas and refine my project goals. I will start with a few specific questions and my answers. I want to start a conversation regarding the design of Zelda-style games. What defines a Zelda game? This is a question--perhaps--concerning genre, because I don't think a Zelda game is quite the same as other action-adventure or puzzle games. I am looking for the key design elements that create the experience of a Zelda game. Here is what I have working at the moment (completely my opinion), once I am more confident in this definition I may write a blog post about it. A Zelda game is primarily defined by the way that key items interact with the two main aspects of the gameplay: exploration and puzzle-solving (dungeons). Game progress is tied to the key items (bombs, boomerang, hookshot, etc). (This is not emphasized as much in open-world Zelda games, like BotW/LBW, however any progression that exists is still usually tied to obtaining new items). Key items are required to traverse the explorable space. Progress in exploration is tied to obtaining key items, as new items allow you to explore new areas. This is the same design as is used in Metroidvanias, and so I would say that Zelda has Metroidvania world design, however Zelda games often have a much more linear structure than a Metroidvania like Hollow Knight does. Key items are required to solve puzzles. These puzzles are especially prominent in the dungeons, and are the aspect which somewhat separate Zelda games from Metroidvanias. (In some ways, I might consider calling a Zelda game a puzzle-Metroidvania). One of my friends suggested then that the Metroid Prime series might be like a sci-fi Zelda and I would tend to agree, though I haven’t played those games. How to design key items? Based on my definition above, it seems apparent that the design of the key items in a Zelda style game is critical. (I could be completely off-base though, let me know!) In regards to key items I have a few questions. What are your favorite Zelda items? We can learn a lot from what is already well designed. My favorite Zelda item is the double-clawshot in TP because it is really fun to use, and has a lot of uses throughout the game. I also like the Dominion Rod (also TP) because of its unique function, but it isn’t utilized much outside of the one area. Some Zelda items are good because they are just fun to use, and others are good because they have good purpose or have well-designed puzzled. (Both is the best if possible!) How can key items work together? This isn’t featured much in Zelda, so let me explain with an example from The Last Librarian. In my game, the bomb and the boomerang each have their own function, but the boomerang is also able to lift and move the bomb across gaps. This leads to more interesting puzzles as you are required to combine your abilities for new functions. Any other ideas about ways to design items that work together like this? I seem to recall Ittle Dew did this, but I haven’t played it myself. What other elements aid the design? Besides my definition, there are other key elements that are important to get right for a Zelda game, even though I’d suggest they aren’t required for the genre. Here are some of them and my brief thoughts on each. Combat. All Zelda games feature combat. I would suggest that combat in a Zelda game is primarily used as dressing to improve the exploration and puzzle solving, and to provide diversity in the gameplay. Notably, many Zelda enemies (especially bosses) require particular key items to efficiently defeat. Soft progression. While I argue that hard game progression is usually tied to key items, there are other techniques used to encourage particular order of progression, especially in more open-world Zelda games. These include making more challenging areas further into the game, story progression, and by clearly explaining one valid path to the player, while leaving alternatives obscure. (New puzzle mechanics are introduced that must be learned, aside from just new key items). Story? Story is usually not emphasized in Zelda games, but that is not an aspect of the genre. I’d like to see Zelda games focus on story more, and that is what I did myself in The Last Librarian. I argue that the story does improve the experience, but maybe it should just be kept simple? Anyways, that’s a lot. Please do let me know what you think are key elements to designing a Zelda game. Especially regarding ways you might improve on the Zelda formula. TLDR: Tell me your ideas about how to design Zelda like games.