Linearism Is Alive and Well
This article written by The Missing Link
However, despite the fact that this practically serves as the ultimate disproof of every timeline ever, there are some that see it for a lot of fancy smoke and mirrors. (In many ways, they are surprisingly correct on this issue!) You see, it’s the fundamental nature of the timeliner to want to uncover the truth. Even I feel this need deep down. There’s something in our DNA that wants to uncover, to analyze, to extract, to connect, and to build. It this regard, we’re all engineers of a sort. Consider that some people like to take apart VCRs, see how they work, and then put them back together (hopefully once again into working order!); we’re just like that... except with the Zelda canon instead of VCRs. And so it’s not surprising that timeliners don’t like the fact that the Laws put a stopper on the goal to find the timeline. It runs counter to our DNA to not reverse engineer it. And so what did they go and do? Well, the clever ones... they went and found a workaround to the Laws.
Yes, I must admit, there has always been one sole saving grace to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. (No, it’s not 42. You try telling people that the timeline is “42” and they’ll hang you from the rafters.) The Third Law of Timelinedynamics says that you need something outside the flawed and imperfect Zelda canon to find the timeline, and thankfully for most, there is such a thing. Which is why timeline enthusiasts have decided to fall back upon developer intent to save the timeline. You see, on a rather semi-infrequent basis, Nintendo drags Miyamoto and Aonuma out for some interview with some game reviewing agency that actually gives a care about the whole timeline business (I still can’t figure out how “media” actually cares about such stuff, but, who am I to judge!?), and even more semi-infrequently do they actually reply with some useful tidbit about how everything is pieced together. And they make some rather vague allusions to how some game takes place “100 years” (Have you ever noticed that it’s always “100 years”? I’m getting rather suspicious about this just being a ploy to simply appease us...) after this other game, yadda yadda, stuff, and then Miyamoto and Aonuma hightail it out of there before anyone can think to hold them hostage until they finally divulge details about the next, next Zelda game that everyone is already suspecting to be in the works.
But no one seems to mind that they dodged the big question. We had the chance to have this ever so brief peek at the Golden Land! Quick everybody, to the Zelda Club tree house! (Oh wait, we’re not allowed to talk about Zelda Club!) We must scoff at those disbelievers and readjust our timelines accordingly! Oh glory be, there is science timeline to be done!
Now, I’ve had the privilege of being able to make videogames for the past three years of my life. My opinions about how games are made has changed remarkably from this experience. I’m sure you’ve all had those infuriating questions of “why did so-and-so decide to do this such-and-such stupid idea?” I now have rough ideas as to why. Those times where you ask, “Why don’t the developers communicate with us more?” I’ve felt the frustrations... except from the other side of the fence. And those press releases? Well, let’s just say I can smell PR’s involvement in something from a good 20 miles away. (I mean, anything that requires blowing into the DS’ microphone as controller input... am I right?) And so every time I hear Miyamoto or Aonuma speak about how the games are ordered (and how Nintendo is going to make us smile), thoughts of sugarplums dance in my head. Okay, so I lie; it’s not really that, but I do begin to wonder exactly when in the grand processes that little detail was decided... and more importantly how it was all of that came about.
So while researching this article, I found a hilarious tidbit from Aonuma regarding Four Swords Adventures. In it, he mentioned, before FSA’s release, that “the GBA Four Swords Zelda is what we’re thinking as the oldest tale in the Zelda timeline...[with FSA] being a sequel to that.” However, as it turns out, that plan never really panned out, and after FSA’s release, Aonuma sheepishly admitted that, during FSA’s development, “we changed the story around quite a bit... [changing it] all the way up until the very end.”
If I had heard this three years ago, I might have been surprised; today, I’m laughing to myself because I know how true those words are. The only constant in developing a title is that it constantly changes and evolves in order to account for a significant number of factors. Is this game too similar to another game we’ve made? Too different? Is it going to stand out amongst its competitors? Is it possible to add this feature to the schedule? This isn’t working out; can we cut it? What demographic are we targeting? Is the game too simple? Too complicated? Too unbalanced? Too difficult? Is it fun from start to finish? Is the storyline compelling? Is it believable? On and on the questions go, and here’s a shocking secret about making games: Not every issue gets resolved. There’s always a few “bugs”—whether they be program crashes, spelling mistakes, leaps of faith in storytelling, and simple violations of common sense—that either slip through the cracks or simply aren’t important enough to get taken care of in those last all-important days before the game goes gold. Games are shipped “imperfectly,” and so not only is the game never quite what you initially thought it was going to be, the game never quite ends up to be what you hoped it would become.
This is, in essence, the Developer’s Dilemma
. Do you sacrifice gameplay for story? Do you sacrifice story for expanding our audience? Do you sacrifice your audience for gameplay? Sacrifices—in other words, cuts—always have to be made; where do you make them in order to make them as painless as possible? Where do you make them in order to make the game as fun as possible? And as a result of this, I’m going to remove that last pillar of the timeline hierarchy. The standard workaround for the failures of canon is about to be blown away. You ready for this? Because this one’s a doozy.
The Theory of Timeline Relativity
: The developers cannot save the timeline.
Please, before you rush down to the comments section, let me tell you what this isn’t saying. I’m not saying that developers cannot possibly establish strong continuities between games. I think it’s quite clear that the Metroid series, despite being passed from developer to developer, has told a very compelling storyline over its entire series (disregarding the deus ex machina of starting over from scratch every time).
However, in the case of the Zelda timeline, we are officially up to 15 Zelda games, and the best Nintendo has been able to clarify the order of everything is to piece a measly six of them into some sort of continuity. The rest of the timeline is so scattered and so disjoint (thereby creating the need for the prior four Laws of Timelinedynamics) that Nintendo is in far too deep in order to ever fully make sense of all the small details now. If they could have saved the timeline, they would have done so already. At any point in this process, they could have already decreed by fiat precisely what the timeline actually is. (Actually, NoA tried to do this once, but that timeline was ironically met with derision and mockery.) However, given either Nintendo’s inability or lack of desire to do so, they have all but admitted that a perfect continuity has been either cut from their grand schedule or has been put on the backburner indefinitely. (This isn’t to say that they don’t have any ideas at all about how it all works, mind, just that they probably haven’t resolved every last plot problem themselves and are just waiting for a new game that just makes those nasty bits work.)