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Why Tears of the Kingdom is worse without item duplication

Enlarge / Finally, Link has enough diamonds to bling out every single one of his teeth.

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

For a few weeks now, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom players have been able to use a surprising number of glitches to endlessly duplicate items, materials, weapons, and more to their heart’s content. But the endless item party officially comes to an end today, with data miners reporting that the new ver. 1.1.2 game update fixes these unintended endless item glitches (you can still stock up your inventory before installing the update, by all accounts).

While Nintendo lumps this fix under “several issues [that] have been addressed to improve the gameplay experience,” I’m reluctant to call this an improvement at all. On the contrary, I think Nintendo should embrace this “glitch” and make secret codes for infinite items (and money and health, etc.) an integral, intentional option for players who just want to tinker with the game’s amazing creation engine.

I just wanna build

Tears of the Kingdom is, at its heart, a game about building. The game’s Ultrahand and Fusion abilities are designed to unlock the player’s creativity and encourage a child-like sense of experimentation and wonder. There are countless videos of players using Link’s new powers to build incredible machines, weapons, and wild tools in ways the developers likely never expected.

When I watch videos like this, though, I can’t help but think of the unseen grind those creators had to endure gathering the basic abilities and materials often needed for their elaborate construction projects.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are important game design reasons for making players scrounge and fight for limited resources in the game. The slow rollout of various abilities, weapons, Zonai devices, and more helps players slowly learn about the game’s systems. Those carefully parceled resources also create an incredibly satisfying gameplay loop, giving players countless mini-obstacles to overcome and making each new accomplishment in the game’s expansive world feel “earned.”

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But sometimes you don’t want to “earn” your fun. Sometimes you want to skip all that carefully designed gameplay drudgery and just play around with the game like it’s a big box of Lego blocks. Sometimes you just want to fly around Hyrule in a jet-powered rocket plane without spending 15 minutes gathering rocket-plane building materials. Sometimes you just want to use an overpowered weapon to tear through enemies like tissue paper, just because you can.

Letting Tears of the Kingdom players indulge in those desires when they want would make it a better game and would in no way ruin the game as it exists currently.

A sandbox history

Plenty of developers in gaming’s short history have understood and indulged players’ desire to skip the “intended” gameplay drudgery to just tinker around in a game’s sandbox. SimCity 2000, for example, let players use codes to get functionally infinite funding for metropolis construction. Grand Theft Auto 3‘s secret codes let players get as many weapons, money, and health as they wanted. Doom‘s secret codes let players clip through walls in “god mode” to their heart’s content. Debug modes in games like Sonic the Hedgehog let players use level design tools intended for the developers.

The existence of these secret codes (which weren’t that “secret” after they routinely filled up entire sections of ’90s video game magazines) didn’t ruin the “intended” design of these games; players who wanted the “true” game experience could and did easily ignore them. Nor did use of these codes delude anyone who used them into thinking that they had “beat the game” in any real sense of the word; players who use cheats know that they’re just indulging in some silly fun in the game’s world.

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Enlarge / “God mode” isn’t the most challenging way to play Doom, but sometimes it’s the most fun…
id Software

What these codes did do is let players more fully and easily explore these games and their underlying simulations. Codes like these allow curious players to quickly and easily poke and prod the game, gaining a deeper understanding of the designs and the underlying engines in the process. Sometimes this meant using a code to overcome a difficult challenge that was cutting off access to some unseen section of the game. More often, though, using these codes was just a way to have fun experimenting with what’s possible when you push a game to its limits.

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Some might argue that the mere existence of an official Tears of the Kingdom item duplication code would tempt players to use it as an easy way out of difficult situations. But I tend to trust players to know what they want out of a single-player adventure like this. Players who want to engage the game on the terms set by the developers will simply ignore the code and challenge themselves (just as they’ve ignored the item duplication glitch so far). Those who just want to play around, on the other hand, can skip the grind and quickly build Ultrahand devices to their heart’s content.

Having that option won’t ruin Tears of the Kingdom any more than the existence of Minecraft‘s “creative” mode ruins the challenge and threat of the game’s “survival” mode. With Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo has already made what is essentially the ultimate Legend of Zelda sandbox. Introducing an optional sandbox mode for players who want to quickly and fully explore that world can only make the game even more engaging.