When Nintendo first started showing footage from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Hyrule’s hero navigated the world with simple vehicles and gliders. I would have never imagined that Link would eventually cruise around in a hot rod that spits flames — and instead of killing the environment with gas emissions, that car goes old-school and simply sets everything on fire. Nor did I imagine I’d see Link flying around on a helicopter made up of wood planks and fans stuck together with magical glue, resulting in a creation that would hardly pass inspection.
And yet, those are exactly the sorts of inventions that fill the Hyrule Engineering Club, a Reddit forum that’s more than 20,000 members strong and constantly growing at an estimated 1,500 members per day. In the posts that fill this subreddit, Link’s got a mech suit that shoots lasers, a Segway, and a Star Wars podracer; you’ll see designs for Bokoblin traps, rechargeable Zonai batteries, and lawnmowers for harvesting Hylian rice. The inventors of the Hyrule Engineering Club are playing 4D chess, while I’m out here still trying to build a large bridge.
The Hyrule Engineering Club was created several days before Tears of the Kingdom’s release date by A.J. Muncill, a pharmacy tech and Twitch streamer. In the days after Tears of the Kingdom’s release, the community grew exponentially as players realized just how flexible the game’s building mechanics were. Hyrule Engineering Club quickly became a place not only for showing off creations, but for engaging in collaboration and collective creativity.
“The community itself is amazing,” Muncill told Polygon. “Every post of a build has a debate of how to make it better in the comments. It is so much fun to see how people come together to help build bigger and better things. The rate of invention is astounding.”
It’s easy to see Tears of the Kingdom or any other single-player game as a solitary experience, the player cooped up and hunched over a Nintendo Switch. That’s definitely still true for some players, but the creativity and experimentation necessary to uncover all the small details of the game almost forced the need for a community; with a game so big and with so many variables, there’s no way for a single person to figure it all out on their own. The big brain of the internet has resulted in discoveries like a rechargeable battery that uses shock emitters, realizing just how useful the Zonai stabilizer is, and so much more.
“It seems every day there’s a new revelation like, Oh! If you put these together, this happens! And you’ll see all these comments from other people going, Wow! I bet you could use this to…” Taylor Roland, a retail worker and inventor of Link’s flaming hot rod and a mobile platform, told Polygon. “After a bit of time you’ll start seeing all the different ways people have used just that one trick to create a whole variety of vehicles and weapons. I think finding a community around your favorite game can be a really fun and social way to get more out of it.”
Hyrule Engineering Club and other similar communities, like the build-and-blueprint repository Zelda Builds, are built on communal knowledge; sharing is essential. Lots of the posts have detailed instructions for building out the device in your own version of Hyrule, as well as ideas on improvement or iteration.
Plus, there are plenty of actual engineers turned Hyrule engineers in these communities, folks who are pulling at the incredible physics of Tears of the Kingdom to make inventions that are helpful, impressive, and downright silly — sometimes all three at the same time. Reddit user Paradox_Guardian, who asked to go by their online handle, is an electrical engineer who credits their background for the “creativity” and “tenacity” to see through problems until the end; it’s a process they’ve used for several of their creations, like the Hylian rice lawnmower and a fan-powered launcher.
“In Breath of the Wild, I learned that if you have some goal in mind, there is almost always a way to make it work,” Paradox_Guardian said. “Sometimes it doesn’t take the form you initially expect, but for almost any problem, you can find a solution. I took this mentality into this game, and I keep it in the back of my head when experimenting.”
The lawnmower took about one hour of tinkering to get working, they said, starting with the real-life equivalent and working from there. The launcher took about three hours of experimentation; it’s a more precise and fast-moving device. The idea for the launcher started after Paradox_Guardian noticed that several objects in the game “take on a certain orientation” when Link picks them up — with a fan, for instance, the back of the fan will always face the camera, they said. The transition to that position is fast, but it’s there, and that movement can be used to shoot Link up into the sky, at least in the launchers they’ve built so far.
“I noticed that when you pick up the object (in my case, a fan), you get a fast, controlled rotation,” Paradox_Guardian said. “For the rest of the trick, it was just a matter of finding the right positioning and jumping at the right time to make the launch work.”
It’s a lot of work to take on, but super satisfying when it goes right — and when it gets celebrated by the community. But not everything goes perfectly, and sometimes that’s where the fun is, too. Paradox_Guardian’s advice is not to give up, even if things go wrong over and over again. And as for the mistakes, revel in them.
“Don’t be afraid to let a dubiously constructed monstrosity rip every now and then,” they added.