Let’s Interview: The Dev Team for BoTW Second Wind!
When it comes to the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, one of the game’s biggest flaws is the lack of variety found throughout the game. The enemies are very limited, and mostly consist of Bokoblins, Moblins and Lizalfos. The shrines are fairly limited, with unique ones matched in number by copy and paste combat trials and blessing shrines.
And overall, the game has clearly taken a quantity over quality approach in certain areas. It’s still an amazing title and a revolutionary change to the Zelda formula, but it misses the mark in a few other areas because of that.
However, where there’s room for improvement in a Nintendo game, the fans will always step in to provide it. And today’s interview, is with a team behind a mod that’s doing just that for BoTW.
Named The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Second Wind, this mod aims to improve on everything the original game lacked, and make both the gameplay and Hyrule itself significantly more varied in the process. There are new creatures, enemies and bosses, some of which are unique to specific regions. There are new weapons and armour sets to fill in gaps in the game.
And there are many more advanced features beyond that too. Indeed, with things like hand to hand combat, a crafting system and even a whole new village to explore, the game is clearly doing everything BoTW probably should have done to begin with. It’s a truly revolutionary project, and one which looks like the most ambitious Zelda mod in the last decade as a result.
So in today’s interview, we’re gonna learn about all it, and see what inspired the dev team to put so much effort into this amazing mod! You ready? Let’s go!
So, first things first, who are you? Who are the people behind the Second Wind mod?
Hello, I’m CEObrainz, the founder and lead developer of the Second Wind project. Working with me is Gray, who is our Lead Artist and Lylah who acts as our lead writer.
Currently our team has an additional 13 active artists, 4 more developers, 2 writers and a QA member. Each person provides their own unique flair to the project and if you wish to learn about each one a bit more please check out our Credits page on the SW Wiki which has individual links to each users’ profiles.
How did you guys learn about Breath of the Wild? Did you buy it on launch day?
I’ve been following the development of this game from the time crazy rumours were being spread that the game would include a forest dungeon the size of Hyrule Field. I bought the game as soon as it was released and have been tinkering with it since.
I’ve been following the development of the game since that very first Zelda Wii U trailer with Aonuma going “This is the new world of Zelda”. It was one of most awe-inspiring things ever for a kid like me back then and when the game came out, I was nearing the age of 18. I got the game as a birthday present though as I wanted to wait for reviews, videos and such of the game to be out. I was also slightly scared of getting a Switch that would be beeping like mad, like those first launch week Switches.
I think the first time I’ve learned about this game was when I saw (a few months after its release) the story trailer, in the Nintendo Switch presentation – I was just getting into the Zelda series, and after finishing Twilight Princess, I was curious to know more about the newest entry. I didn’t get it on launch day since I wasn’t really aware of it at that time I believe, but it was only a matter of a few months – Super Mario Odyssey’s launch gave me enough incentive to purchase a Switch, so I thought I had to give this one a go too, especially considering how curious I grew about the sheer freedom within the gameplay, the dynamic physics and the open-air exploration…
And why did you decide to work on a mod for the game anyhow?
Breath of the Wild is a great game with a lot of fantastic features, it provides a solid foundation with its mechanics, environmental system and expandability. I certainly enjoyed my first playthrough but I still felt the game needed a few more experiences that weren’t so “open”. Whilst it wasn’t possible to do everything we can now when it first released, I was still interested in figuring out how the game worked and what I could do with it.
While I appreciate the game to some extent today, the more I played it back in 2017, the more I hated it as the game sacrificed nearly everything that I love about Zelda (dungeons, varied enemy variety, sidequests that aren’t just MMO fetch and kill quests, a sense of reward for doing and/or working towards anything in the game) all for the sake of the freedom it provides. The exploration and core gameplay is some of the best in the entire series in my opinion but the exploration couldn’t happen without sacrificing much of the heart and soul of Zelda. With Second Wind, I wanted to help contribute to the project by bringing back more of the old Zelda magic in some way.
I’ve always loved making fanmade content related to things I’ve enjoyed, and most particularly when it comes to games; and after the first look trailer of the sequel to Breath of the Wild, I wanted to get more serious with that and started making fanmade soundtracks and concept ideas for it. At some point they got noticed by the Second Wind team, and through that project I got introduced to the world of Breath of the Wild modding.
How did each of you get involved in the project? What drove you to become part of the Second Wind team?
I initially learned of this mod while trying to find new things to do while streaming on Twitch. I played through some of the early stages of the mod and joined their Discord server soon after.
From there, I started learning more and more about the mod to the point where I was able to help new users that came asking for help. At that point, I approached CEObrainz about potentially joining their team as QA, as I have real life experience in the video game industry in this domain.
I was searching for Sonic Adventure DX mods on Gamebanana until I discovered a peculiar sight: A Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild mod tab. And while I expected texture reskins of things, nothing could prepare me for mods that outright change gameplay and add new content such as Survival of the Wild, Relics of the Past or Second Wind. When I saw Second Wind’s roadmap and feature list, I was utterly blown away and super hyped as I pondered to myself “Could this be the mod to finally fix BotW’s shortcomings”? So I hit CEObrainz up in Discord DM’s as I wanted to be a part of this project since I felt like my skill level at the time was enough to contribute.
CEObrainz contacted me on Discord one day after listening to some of the fanmade Zelda tracks I did, and, along with a brief explanation of the project, proposed to me that I help on making original soundtracks for the Second Wind mod. While I was a bit scared to not be up to the task, I was impressed by Second Wind’s scope and uniqueness, which made me want to contribute to the project. From experience I noticed how substantial music and SFX were in giving game elements their own impact/atmosphere, which, in return, mattered for improving the gameplay itself; plus, it was also a precious opportunity to improve further on music-making and sound design, as I knew these tracks would have to “fit along” nicely with the rest of the game’s OST. All in all, I felt like this would be a nice positive-sum game, and it was thrilling to take part in a creative community project, so I accepted, and I’m glad I did!
Where did the name come from? Why Second Wind?
Second Wind initially started as a community update for Breath of the Wild. It was to feature a few minor bug fixes, some rebalance changes and a few additional perks such as the ability to dye any armour or upgrade the DLC clothing. Some time during the development of this, we learned how to add quests and come up with cool interesting events. At that moment tons of unrealised ideas suddenly became possible and quickly our project started getting larger than intended. It no longer felt like a community update but rather an expansion to the game. During this time, Lylah came up with the name Second Wind, designed the logo we used and we have been continually developing it ever since.
Regardless, it’s a very ambitious project, with all kinds of new enemies, species, items and locations. What inspired you to go that far with the mod?
The variety of content types we add can be attributed to all the discoveries made during development of the project. Learning how to add new recipes led to a food expansion, figuring out how to create texture variants of animals and spawn them led to the animal expansion and so on. With each bit of content we added we wanted to make sure there was a way to highlight it without going overboard, as such many of the quests we add help to make all the small additions still feel like they were part of the overall plan.
Were you ever unsure if your plans could be achieved here?
Honestly, there are still worries that some of the stuff we want to do won’t be achieved. We’re in need of a lot more help from more devs to help implement content to artists who can create all sorts of environments and models. In addition we’re still waiting for advancements in the modding community. Currently we’re still unable to add additional sounds and tracks to the game or create navmesh (AI pathing) in areas where we place a lot of new structures. Some of these things are being addressed as we speak but until we’re able to them we’re still finding ways to work around our limitations.
Currently, I definitely feel like we’re facing a brick wall. We can’t add custom sound or music but we can replace existing sounds and music which is not the same. Baking collisions and generating navmesh is something we can’t really do either. AI editing sort of exists but the tool to use it has issues preventing even basic usability. Everything else can be done but these drawbacks are quite significant and currently a major limit on what we in SW can do.
Let’s talk about new items now. How do you decide what weapons and armour sets to add to the game?
The weapons and armors we add all have some sort of meaning behind them. Whether it’s additional items found within the world of hyrule or content that ties specifically to quests we’ve added. We try to ensure that nothing we add is too similar to existing content. An example is the Stal Axe; not only is it a one-handed Axe but it’s designed to only be obtained from Stal creatures, has a high damage output but has very low durability. Another example is the sleepwear set; this works in a similar way to the stealth set but if the user was to wear the entire set whilst sleeping something special might happen.
Do you have to think carefully about balancing them? Seems too easy to make new content overpowered…
When it comes to the bosses we’ve added in Labours of the Hero one may easily find that they seem overpowered at first but they’ve all been designed with a weakness in mind. Take the Talus Lord as an example; one of its arms has a flame effect and the other freezes you. The environment around it is constantly raining with a high chance of getting electrocuted from lightning. This certainly sounds like a frightening prospect, however Rubber Armour and the Thunder Helm can help bypass this last point. In addition if you have access to the Goron Blacksmith there’s a Goron Bow that’s specifically useful against Talus enemies. Revali’s Gale is also very useful in this fight.
What are your favourite added items here? Any new weapons or armour sets you really like?
I’ve become a really big fan of the Sleepwear set. It may not be practical in combat, but Link will certainly be the cosiest Hero in Hyrule.
I’m in love with the Goron Bow. It’s a bow made by our appointed Goron Blacksmith that uses Blunt Arrows instead of the usual arrow types that Link has at his disposal.
I like the Stal weapons a lot. They look really sleek and fearsome and fit Breath of the Wild’s graphical style perfectly. Same goes for the Goron Bow.
As a big fan of the crafting mechanism, I find it neat to have special items added for it, such as iron, steel, and so on. It gives more use to the gathering of vanilla items such as flint (which, past a certain point, just starts building up in the inventory, so to me it feels better from a gameplay standpoint to give them a long-lasting use, since items crafted using it can then be used for making weapons). As for weapons, the stal weapons give me Twilight Princess/Skyward Sword vibes which I really like. There are also some other weapons in the works I enjoy for the extra worldbuilding they add.
Onto new enemies and species now. How hard is it to add these to a BoTW mod?
Depending on how unique the new addition is will determine how hard it is to add. At a very simplistic level, adding a new enemy is at the same level of difficulty as adding a new weapon, armour or even NPC. BotW is designed in such a way that adding a new version/variant can be done relatively quickly.
Is it possible to add entirely new attacks and behaviour to an enemy or species? Most new enemies in BoTW mods tend to be based on existing ones…
Attacks and Behaviours are attributed to the AI. The AI in BotW is something we only have partial access to. As to not get too technical; the game has a higher level view where any particular object has its AI defined in a baiprog file. This file lists all the functions and actions the object can perform. These are also linked to each other in a logical way, for example when an enemy dies the AI that deals with a death reaction will point to a death animation before it deletes the entity with a delete action. What we can’t do is change what these functions and actions do as they are hardcoded in the game code which is slowly being decompiled.
Are there any plans to include Age of Calamity enemies in the mod? Like elemental variations or Malice enemies?
There are no plans to add any other Age of Calamity enemies to Second Wind. However, if an opportunity arises where we think it would fit within the scope of our project we’ll certainly take it into consideration.
How about the bosses? Sooga is already in, is there a chance we’ll see Astor or Harbinger Ganon as well?
Haha. We’ll see.
What about stuff from the BoTW beta? Creating a Champion has lots of interesting designs that never made it into the finished game…
A few things in there may have inspired ideas we’re looking into but at the same time we have our own vision that we’re working on.
Either way, one thing BoTW really needs is variety, with more species in each part of the map. Do you plan to add more unique enemies and species in each area to rectify that?
By the time we’re finished with Second Wind, there will certainly be a bit more variety in the types of enemies you encounter. Some will only appear in certain locations whereas others will be a lot more common.
There are also a lot of new locations in the game too, including an entire new town. How hard is it to add things like that?
I mentioned it before, but the major hurdle we have to cross is the inability to generate navmesh. Currently when we add a new structure, an NPC or enemy in that location won’t recognize that the new elements have been placed there and will attempt to navigate the area like they don’t exist. However because the new parts do have collisions you’ll mostly see them walking into a wall… which is admittedly amusing at times.
At the same time being unable to merge new collisions with the overworld is tough for new areas such as Ordon Village. Many players who visit this area will experience a Panic Blood Moon. This happens because usually the entire world and its objects are part of much larger collision files. The new content we add is treated like an external object (think of a box of treasure chest). So when you have the overworld collision clashing with the collision of all these external objects (some of which clip into each other) the game is forced to do a lot of physics related calculations which in turn triggers a blood moon. Interestingly enough the Switch version of the game is capable of handling this which we believe is due to it being designed for 64 bit architecture.
And how many other areas do you think the mod will add?
We have quite a few new areas planned, but these are best kept as secrets since we don’t want to spoil too much.
Another thing that Second Wind changed were shrine interiors, making them more distinct as a result. How do you design shrine interiors to stand out more?
Normie’s Progress is the designer behind the Shrine Overhaul. There’s several approaches he has taken that are used to help change the experience, this includes developing an aesthetic related to the area and theme of the shrine as well as attempting to enhance the mechanics and ideas related to the original shrine. There are some instances where this is not possible, however shrine changes are designed to invoke the feeling of mini-dungeons from prior games and are meant to be a fresh experience for those who have already beaten all the original variations. In addition we have introduced a few new enemy variants and build up on underutilised mechanics to develop interesting puzzles.
Do you plan to do anything about the endless number of blessing and combat shrines? Like adding some more unique twists to them?
Blessing Shrines won’t be heavily changed, the only real difference players will experience is the change in decor as well as the treasure chest not always being in an obvious to locate spot. Combat Shrines are still being developed at this current moment in time and we have a few ideas we’re experimenting with.
Are new shrines being added to the game in any form?
Aside from the shrine that acts as the hub for Labours of the Hero we have no current plans to add any additional shrines.
Still, what are some of your favourite changes in Second Wind?
Second Wind doesn’t really change all that much, we focus primarily on adding new content and only change things when it’s necessary. The major exception being the Shrine Overhaul. I believe this is one of the most well recognised aspects of Second Wind and would certainly call it my favourite change.
The shrine changes, by far. The new Sheikah architecture is unique and wonderful on it’s own but when it’s used for 124 areas in the game, that’s when it really starts to feel like the game copy and pastes content. The Shrine overhaul not only tries to remedy the look of the shrines but even redoes some of the puzzles, especially the Gyro shrines with them being turned into proper mini dungeons! A cute thing (that also exists as a separate mod) is the overhaul to the Ancient Mask quest which rewards Majora’s Mask. It’s not even a quest as much as it’s a trophy for buying the DLC, a very unbalanced trophy too since you get it so close to the plateau. What we’ve done is we’ve turned it into an actual treasure with a quest and a fun surprise at the end, thus giving the player a rewarding feeling as you’ve now actually worked towards obtaining Majora’s Mask as opposed to it just being given to you.
One of the first things I’ve been mind-blown about was the shrine overhaul. During my first gameplay of Breath of the Wild, even though I enjoyed a lot the blend of futuristic and antic styles in shrines, I was a bit disappointed that things such as a wider range of ambient lighting or even atmospheric cohesion (like putting rocks and scorching heat in a shrine located at Death Mountain to make it feel as if it was actually under there) weren’t used (Although I assume this was mainly due to schedule shortenings considering how such addings were present in the DLCs). When I saw the work of Normie’s Progress on the newly-reworked shrines, I was nicely surprised to see how much lively shrines felt with changes similar to the ones found in the Trials of the Sword, such as golden lighting, varying temperatures, or natural elements like rock, vines, water or trees, things that made shrines really feel like actual mini-dungeons integrated within Hyrule’s underground. Another big change I love has to be the crafting mechanism and the inclusion of new recipes. To me, it allows for giving more power over item balancing, as some of the underused items can get bonus long-term uses. Of course it is not an easy thing to balance considering the sheer intrications of Breath of the Wild’s compendium of materials, but to me it’s a huge game changer on that side. I could keep on going and mention the adding of a whole new town, quests and even attack types…I’m really impressed by all of what this mod offers.
And are there any interesting new mechanics, items, characters, etc that you’re extra excited for?
There’s too many to mention here. I think the Martial Arts expansion will be one of the bigger things we add that will generate a lot of excitement.
The new enemies that will come out later down the line such as the Skulltula or Iron Knuckle are things I personally really look forward to because these are enemies that are much more unique compared to what currently exists in BotW. The Martial Arts expansion is also a super radical addition to the game that I hope people will enjoy.
From the few glimpses I’ve had of the planned content coming in the near future (can’t say too much about the later stuff hehe), I’d globally say that the completion of the new “Knight of Ordon” main quest and all the stuff cascading from it (such as martial arts, the new Ordon town, the new characters and extra purposes given to existing ones – there’s just so much I love about it, it’s basically another Tarrey-Town-ey quest but with a different twist to it!)… It is something I’m really looking forward to.
Do you have an end goal for this game? Is there a special ending/finale for this mod?
Second Wind is split into two parts; The Ancient Trials and The Ancient Island (name tbd). I do have a few cool visuals in mind for the final ending but only time will tell if we do it.
Are you worried that Nintendo may try and shut down the game?
Historically mods have mostly gone under the radar. The few exceptions include those that monetize their content or include things that don’t reflect well on the ideas and values that Nintendo try to put forth. With Second Wind we’re not attempting to do any of those things, we’re just creating a fun fan-made expansion for a game we enjoy playing.
What do you think about Waikuteru’s campaign about that? Is it a good or bad thing for the modding scene?
It should be noted that the Second Wind team is unrelated to this campaign nor do we support it. It is also worth noting that as of this writing, the campaign mentioned is not believed to be active.
I think it sends the wrong message. There’s a lot of circumstances that lead to the policy decisions that Nintendo makes, some of which are based on things such as Japanese Law (which I’m in no position to comment on). Many in various modding communities see it as a potentially harmful act and although it would be nice for Nintendo to have a platform which enables fan-made creations I’m more than aware of how unrealistic it is at this current moment in time.
Assuming the mod is finished as expected, do you have any other plans set for afterwards?
I plan on starting my second playthrough of BotW with our installed. Though by that time we may have our hands on the sequel to Breath of the Wild, so I’m certain I’ll be enjoying that too.
I’m planning on continuing what Second Wind started in terms of custom enemies. Though there’s a project created by one of our own that’s similar to this, what I aim to do is go that extra mile by utilizing custom animations, custom audio as well as custom AI; all of which is either extremely hard to implement (custom animations, custom AI) or outright impossible to implement currently (custom audio). This is to ensure that new enemies actually feel new. There’s a few other ideas too but it’s too early to share them, haha.
For now, I could hardly say what I’ll be working on at that time, especially Zelda-wise, but I have plans for the afterwards. With both Second Wind’s soundtrack finished and the sequel being released by then (probably for a while at that point), I’ll be fully moving onto other projects, some of them also being about music-making and sound design but not exclusively! I won’t mention too much here as I don’t think it’s relevant but there’s enough on that list for a few decades of work.
Finally, what advice would you give a new game developer/modder and why?
Take it slow, learn how to do simple things such as editing stats, adding a new weapon or adding new text. Learn how all the files interact with each other, check out the ZeldaMods wiki for information and the Gamebanana community for tutorials. And more so than anything else, have fun whilst doing it.
For any aspiring 3d artists: Start with something small, like editing an armor or weapon. It may sound boring if you have any large ideas but trust me, this will get you going with the fundamentals as well as learning the file formats of models and textures and how it works. Once you’ve exported what you wanna work on then I’d start with maybe playing around with the scale of something or moving vertices around. Changing the colors is also a good way to start, especially since weapons and armors look fairly simple compared to things like boxes or rubble. Make sure not to take on too much at once for if you do, you will burn yourself out quickly. Take it from me.
Regarding music-making for games in general: if you’re getting started with composition, mixing, mastering and sound design, my first advice is to not jump straight into making an Official Sound Track (OST for short) for a game, as this would likely either make you redo most of them over time, possibly over and over before you manage to reach a stable level of quality, or put a ceiling on the tracks’ quality, preventing you from efficiently developing your music-making skills; both of these can drain time, energy, motivation and more, so it’s important to let yourself some time to actively develop these skills (by making fanmade tracks for existing/hypothetical games for example) before tackling a challenge such as a game’s OST, which is no task to underestimate.
During that preparatory period (and even after), the essential is to explore, play around with all the stuff you have at your disposal for creating music. Get inspiration from tracks of games you’ve enjoyed, and try figuring out the techniques they used to shape a particular ambience.
You can make a musical sketchbook with drafts of various ambiences, and for each one try to discover new things, especially when it comes to mixing and mastering, such as getting more familiar with EQ, panning, compression, automation, etc. – many helpful resources exist on the Internet, and depending on what you want to do, you may refer to some rather than others, but blending various methods is also a good idea for improving your creator’s palette.
Finally, listening is key: try to imagine your music accompanying the context you were aiming for; then add, change or remove things to get closer to the desired result. Don’t hesitate to take some time off and come back to it later with fresher ears and mind. There’s no need for it to be perfect; what matters is that it “feels” like the atmosphere it has been made for.
Breath of the Wild has a very eclectic original soundtrack, and you can learn a ton from it; an exercise I’d recommend for anyone interested in making an OST is to make an atmospheric track similar to the “Freezing Cold”, “Intense Heat” and “Scorching Heat” ones, with a focus of your choice, as it’s an excellent way to balance experimentation with composition, and to get more familiar with sound design, mixing and mastering, with the simple guideline of it having to feel fitting with both the other field themes and the focus you chose as the atmospheric lead of your track (i. e. If you chose “Fog” as the main element, your track should make you feel surrounded with fog – by association you can drag techniques from the Labyrinth theme in Breath of the Wild as it is used in the Lost Woods, in which fog is omnipresent. The possibilities are practically endless, so don’t hesitate to be adventurous!).
Starting off with something small will help a lot in the long run. Diving head first into modding can be confusing if you don’t know where to start, so keep a clear goal in mind. There will be plenty of trial and error, but with that comes experience in learning an engine’s quirks. Always be patient with yourself, even if it feels like you’re struggling to get something to work. Keep digging and researching!
Once you start to feel comfortable, you’ll be learning about the game in an entirely new way. Even if you’ve played to a complete save file, modding allows for a new perspective or even appreciation of a game. You never know what exciting discoveries lurk within the code!
Thanks guys! That’s a lot of advice for amateur game creators, especially on the music side of things.
But it’s useful nonetheless, and we definitely feel it’s going to help would be game devs and musicians get used to both Switch game development and modding. Perhaps it’ll even bring more people into the community too, and help you make Second Wind even better. Or provide the groundwork for Breath of the Wild to get a fan scene on par with the Super Mario World, Super Mario 64 or Super Mario 64 DS ones.
Regardless, if you want to learn more about Second Wind in particular, check out the links in the list below…
Then discuss your thoughts on the game and interview in the comments below, or on our Discord server today!