Spoiler warning: This article spoils a small detail about the finale of Nier: Automata.
It's a cloudy day in San Francisco, and perhaps fittingly, Nier: Automata director Yoko Taro and PlatinumGames game designer Takahisa Taura descended upon this year's Game Developer's Conference to talk about (or, as per the long-winded panel title "A Fun Time in Which Some No-Good Game Developers May or May Not Discuss How We Made Nier: Automata," not talk about) the creation of last year's surprise JRPG hit Nier: Automata.
Taro appeared in semi-expected fashion, with a half-helmet of the character Emil shielding his face. Immediately as the talk started, Taro urged the audience sitting on the right and left sides of the crowded room to ignore that they could still see the sides of his face. (Photographs were also not allowed of anything but the slideshow screens during the talk.) After a heavy helping about the ins and outs of designing Nier: Automata's combat from Taura, Taro took the stage to hurriedly talk about how Nier: Automata attained giving players "freedom." And some of that freedom came in lifting directly from an all-time classic: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Taro noted that while both the Nier games often get called open world games, Taro imagines them as similar in structure to The Legend of Zelda series. This similarity isn't a coincidence either. "I'm gonna be honest, if you look at Nier's map, it's basically like I copied Ocarina of Time," Taro told the packed room. For Nier: Automata, Taro allegedly doubled down on the process, once again opting for a map that was similar to Ocarina of Time's, saying that it's more of a "perfect path" sort of game with trails and open areas than an "open world" game.
It wasn't the only idea that Taro admits to "stealing" either. At the end of Nier: Automata, players are encouraged to send messages to other players using premade choices. "This genius idea is not mine," Taro said. "I stole this too." Taro cites an old vending machine campaign called the called the Coca-Cola Small World Machine, wherein Coca-Cola deployed two vending machines to Pakistan and India in an effort to promote "cultural understanding" between the two countries.
With this finale in-game moment, Taro hoped that even while being inspired by a gimmicky Coca-Cola campaign, that he hopes that people who played Nier: Automata got the chance to think about someone they don't know from a faraway country, because they were unified by the game itself and its experience. "Even if [gamers think about other gamers] just for a little bit, that would make me extremely happy," Taro said. "And secretly that's all I hope for."