Zelda: Wind Waker - An Analysis of the Game's Art Direction
An artist takes a very close look at the art direction and technology driving Zelda: Wind Waker.
Wind Waker was released almost a decade ago--can you believe that? You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, of course: the cel-shaded art direction is ageless.
A member of the Polycount forums, Warby, decided to dig into the graphics and give us a glimpse as to how it was made. The results are fascinating.
To start, the cloth simulations are all dynamic, not pre-calculated--neat. This explains why clothes in Wind Waker behave like, well, clothes--that’s rare to find in a game!
Turns out, when you strip Wind Waker down completely...it’s still beautiful. I’d play a Zelda game like this....maybe it would be ‘Zelda in Cyberspace’ or something. I really want a game like this now!
Apparently, Wind Waker is also better at handling grass than PC games? Woah, what?
Make sure to not stare into the sun, though. It’s bad for your eyes...and it makes the renders in the game look kind of awful, too. Same with fire.
And the game sputters around shadows at times. But! The shadows are still rendered dynamically. The shadows are also dictated via textures and colors.
Warby also shows us the details behind two iconic visual elements of Wind Waker: the wave (made with 7 layers of content accomodating different textures, like foam and sand), and the swirl and whirl effect. Both are a testament to Wind Waker’s strong art direction. The whirl in particular reminds me of the “in the cloud” icon so many tech companies use. Maybe they should be giving Nintendo royalties?
Check out the forum post here for a more in-depth breakdown.