If you’re Nintendo and you need a bunch of non-playable characters (NPCs) for your soon-to-be smash-hit Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, what do you do? Apparently, you may use your Mii creation tool to generate them. Twitter user and self-proclaimed Mii expert Alice (@HEYimHeroic) has discovered that some of the minor characters in the game’s world (shopkeepers, townsfolk, etc.), are based on Mii characters, and Miis are able to be brought directly into the game — albeit with a fair amount of effort.
As with all systems like this, there are edge cases and caveats
It’s been speculated before that Breath of the Wild’s NPCs were somehow related to Miis (especially after the discovery that their game files were labeled as UMiis), but Alice’s discovery reveals that Miis can be directly mapped into the game, with only a few exceptions.
These characters in Breath of the Wild aren’t exactly Miis, as you can tell by just looking at a picture of them. UMii files have many of the same attributes as Mii files, and the game interprets those into the characters that you can see in game. The consequence of this is that it’s relatively straightforward to convert a Mii into a UMii, as they have basically the same attributes. This will result in your Mii being brought to life in the game and in the game’s art style.
If you want to actually get your Mii into Breath of the Wild, you’ll need a modded Wii U or Switch (though that may have been obvious). The process involves extracting and editing an existing game character’s .bumii file to match the values your Mii has, then visiting them in the game. Apparently, the Zelda Modding Discord is reasonably active if you really want to dig into the system, and Alice credits it for helping them test out their hypothesis.
If that all seems like a lot of work or you don’t want to mod your console, Alice has mentioned that they’re taking commissions, though it seems like they’ve gotten a lot of requests already. Those, by the way, have gone exactly as expected.
There are many characters in the game that aren’t created this way. Main characters like Link, Zelda, Mipha, and pretty much anyone who’s a major part of the story are going to be made the traditional way, as custom 3D models.
Let the fact that some Breath of the Wild characters are basically heavily skinned Miis with some extra modifications be a lesson: you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to get a system that works. If there’s something you’ve already put a lot of work into, as Nintendo seems to have done with the Mii system, think about other ways that system could be used. This isn’t just good game design; it’s good life advice — though hopefully your results won’t be as terrifying as the Breath of the Wild-ified Miis sometimes are.