The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is massive. Not only can you traverse a sprawling land map, you can also fly up into the sky or dive deep underground. A new ability called Ascend is crucial to helping Link get around in the Breath of the Wild sequel, allowing the hero of time to quickly teleport out of deep caves or up to floating islands. And the game’s developers say this ability began as debug cheat code to help them during production.
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“When I was exploring the caves, I would get to the destination where I was trying to get to, and once I checked it out, I would just use the debug code to get to the top,” Tears of the Kingdom director, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, told Polygon in a recent interview. “And I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is something that can be usable in the game’.”
Producer Eiji Aonuma agreed that it was a pain traveling back and forth, so they decided to try to build the cheat code into the game itself. “To be blunt and honest, cheating can be fun. So that’s why we decided to drop it in there,” Fujibayashi said.
Aonuma echoed that sentiment in another interview with Game Informer. “When you think about people…cheating is fun! They like it!” he said. “Finding that shortcut is enjoyable. People will look for an easy way to do something if they can avoid struggling. We want to make sure that is something that stayed in this game.”
He juxtaposed this aspect of Tears of the Kingdom with past Zelda games where puzzles had only one solution. “That’s kind of the past way of developing games,” he told Game Informer. “Now, I’m happy that we’ve arrived at this method where we’re giving people lots of options, and there are many answers to a single problem, and all of them can potentially be correct.”
But while cheats like these can make things more fun and easier for players, they can also make it harder for the developers. Aonuma told Polygon that incorporating the Ascend ability meant making sure that there weren’t any places where players could use it and accidently find themselves trapped in some random part of the map or break the game altogether.
“We need to make sure there aren’t locations where you’ll pass through the roof and find nothing there because of some data-loading issue or something like that,” he said. So while giving people cheats like this is fun, it takes a lot of time to implement. This is one issue that enjoying this type of gameplay myself may have put into the development process.”
Fortunately, the development team managed to make Ascend not only work in Tears of the Kingdom, but made it into one of the most satisfying shortcuts in a modern Zelda game. And unlike the other exploits players may end up discovering, we don’t ever have to worry about it getting patched out.