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The Witness on PS4: Conversations with Creators

Jonathan Blow's Avatar + Posted by Jonathan Blow on May 23, 2013 // President, Thekla, Inc.

It’s been a few months since our last post on PlayStation.Blog, so I think it’s a nice time to let people know how the game is coming along.

If you haven’t heard about The Witness, it is a game about exploration and puzzle-solving in an open world. Here’s our trailer:

The open-world aspect of the design is important; it means you have freedom in terms of where you go and what puzzles you choose to approach right now. At any time you can just stop what you’re doing, turn around and go somewhere else, and the game world has plenty of new things to show you.

The Witness on PS4

It’s interesting to try and design a puzzle game this way. Puzzle games are usually linear, because the designers want to make sure you have solved a puzzle before going on to a more difficult one. But in The Witness we have a broader idea about what makes puzzles interesting, and this lets us be versatile in designing the flow of gameplay. We build systems of puzzles with flexibility to allow for player freedom, so you can follow the natural flow of your own curiosity.

More flippantly, we are trying to reverse the trend illustrated by this old chestnut:

The Witness on PS4: FPS Map Design Then and Now

Building an open world is a challenge for a small team like ours, though, especially in a game that is as detail-oriented as this. We care about the placement of every object, the way every location looks from every other location, and how a location frames the puzzles that live inside. We’re very busy refining these details for the game’s release.

The Witness on PS4

I’ve written about The Witness previously on PlayStation.Blog.

If you want to follow general development progress, check out our blog for The Witness. It’s more than just news and updates, on it we often get into deep discussions of artistic decisions and technical work. And you can also follow @witnessgame on Twitter.

We are looking forward to delivering you the best game we can make, and we are working hard at this every day.

The Witness on PS4

//Add Your Own

80 Comments   6 Replies

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1

+ Gorvi on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:02 am said:

Can we expect the game around launch? It looks great, by the way.


2

+ MaestroX on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:03 am said:

looks amazing. extremely interested


3

+ xFuzylilManPeach on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:05 am said:

Couldn’t agree more w/ #2.


4

+ kingdoug87 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:08 am said:

You have a buyer right here.


5

+ DigitalReveller on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:09 am said:

I second #3.


6

+ EuphoniusJunk on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:10 am said:

Looks great Jonathan. Reminds me somewhat of Riven, but in a modern setting.
Really looking forward to playing!


7

+ MakoSOLIDER on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:12 am said:

I third #5


8

+ DrApollo on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:15 am said:

Game looks like a blast!


9

+ nYcFrEeWiLL82 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:15 am said:

BORING..ALL THIS HIGH TECH GRAPHICS TO WALK THROUGH DOORS..NO THANK YOU..YOU GUYS CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS..SERIOUSLY..IF I WANTED TO GO TROUGH DOORS ID JUST PLAY PORTAL..AT LEAST THEY HAVE A GUN..:P #JustMyOpinion


10

+ D-Squad3 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:15 am said:

Greatness awaits and I will be a witness.


11

+ chubigans on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:20 am said:

Looks awesome! Can’t wait to buy.


12

+ Gadirok on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:24 am said:

Don’t listen to nYcFrEeWill82, hes probably the kind of guy looking forward to collarduty and wants to give his dog an xbone.

This game looks great, and when you strive for something unique it pays off. I’m glad the Witness is one of those games that pushes for its own thing. In a industry thats saturated with yearly releases of FPSs and sports titles that are stagnant and reluctant to change, the industry would never move forward.

Releases like The Witness, Journey, Tokyo Jungle, Pixeljunk, Super Meat Boy, Bastion and others are things that should be encouraged over more FPS.

And independent developers are a blessing.


13

+ barker09 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:32 am said:

Loveeeeeeeeeeeee the art direction. Ps4 launch title? Hope so.


14

+ lisatsunami on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:32 am said:

The developer interview was very different from most I’ve watched. I liked that.

After watching the trailer, I am now sure I will get this game. Looks like a new experience, something pretty rare in games. I really like the pops of color, especially the pinks and purples. That will look so gorgeous with my PS4 playing on my giant Bravia.


15

+ thunderbear on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:42 am said:

Why are you so concerned with how other games are developed? I noticed your comment on the PS4 reveal too “how do you follow all those exposions” as if having explosions in your game makes your game “lesser” of a game than your high brow game. I enjoy lots of today’s games and I also enjoy very intelectually challenging games. I wish you would focus on your own game and not trounce the state of other games. If your game is as unique and amazing as you say it is, it will find its audience. And people can still like other modern games and not be stupid because of it. Your diagram of modern games is an insult to many quality modern developers.


16

+ OverTaker on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:43 am said:

Looks like a low definition Mist game, with all the power of the ps4 this is what you came up with?

I don’t mean to be belittling to all the hard work you have put into the game but I have to think you should have put this on the ps3 or vita.

From what I can see in the video this is like putting salt on a birds tail and thinking that will stop it from flying away.

Solve puzzle move on solve puzzle move on rinse and repeat.


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 23rd, 2013 at 12:45 pm said:

    Aren’t most shooter games “shoot guy, shoot guy, move on, rinse and repeat”?

    I didn’t realize that solving a puzzle is somehow a less worthwhile activity than shooting a guy!


17

+ NYPUNK88 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:49 am said:

This..this, I can’t wait to play this! Sony keep supporting developers like Jonathan Blow and make sure you keep bringing these unique and interesting games like The Witness to your platforms. Thanks!


18

+ Nooterman on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:50 am said:

These videos seem really cool, and this type of stuff is what gets kids and young adults interested in games in a cool educational way. Hope to see more of these.

Braid wasn’t my cup of tea, but this certainly seems really interesting. New footage looks nice, look at all those colors and proper cloud effects! No silly gritty filters at all, just a nice simple and clean art style. Something really missing from a lot of today’s games. I’m glad Sony and you guys understand that.


19

+ Berae on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:50 am said:

It looks pretty interesting! Just waiting for June 10th so I can pre order my ps4


20

+ Berae on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:52 am said:

I hope tho the puzzles are worth it, it seems lately that puzzle games take your hand too much. I hope it is difficult when it has to be and need you to think a bit.


21

+ four24twenty on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:54 am said:

Looks like “Myst” on PC for a generation that may have missed it.


22

+ Xcaligamer1 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:54 am said:

his game impressed me on the ps4 announcement stream. still imrpesses me. hope i’s available at launch


23

+ Xcaligamer1 on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:54 am said:

*this*


24

+ boxmyth on May 23rd, 2013 at 10:20 am said:

I love that FPS Map Design. It’s so true, and the main reason I no longer bother with FPS games, save for the occasional gem like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.


25

+ BossmanCCrowder1 on May 23rd, 2013 at 10:36 am said:

I love Braid, and I will be here to purchase this when it releases.


26

+ toology01 on May 23rd, 2013 at 10:56 am said:

Thanks Jonathan, day one purchase for me on the PS4! Thank you for considering PlayStation first for your new game. It really does seem like PlayStation is the place to be for Indies.


27

+ snakeeyes211 on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:04 am said:

This game looks extremely promising and I will gladly buy it on release day :-)


28

+ supermoc10 on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:05 am said:

I fourth 7th.


29

+ naDOOFUS on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:13 am said:

Neat


30

+ snakeeyes211 on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:13 am said:

And I hope you make a lot of money people like yourself that make creative games like this do deserve it :-)


31

+ busanfaa on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:21 am said:

Its looks diferent and very interesting and I’m happy it’s coming for PS4. It’s getting me encouraged to get one.


32

+ stephenchan on May 23rd, 2013 at 12:03 pm said:

Really enjoyed Braid and went into it not know what to expect at all, which is something I don’t do too often because (I would usually research a little about a game before playing it) based on simply how interesting it looked from an artistic point of view and only being aware of a ‘rewind’ mechanic. I feel the same about The Witness, and if everything you are saying is true in that you’re putting all your creativity and drive into this game, it’s obviously going to be really special.


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 23rd, 2013 at 12:48 pm said:

    Thanks! We are working hard on the game and making it the best we can.


33

+ KwietStorm on May 23rd, 2013 at 12:24 pm said:

Is The Witness anything like Myst?


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 23rd, 2013 at 12:47 pm said:

    The game is definitely inspired by Myst, in terms of the setting and the mood. But when it comes to the gameplay we are pretty different. I always thought there was a lot of potential in first-person adventure games, and that potential never got explored when the genre died.

    So part of what we are doing with The Witness is going back to that, and saying, knowing what we know now, post-2010, about how to design a good game, what if we went back to this older genre and applied this design knowledge (and applied modern technology!)


34

+ LordDeff07 on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:26 pm said:

This is beyond exciting. Keep it up!!


35

+ Brandon_2535 on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:26 pm said:

First off, game looks incredible! I’m excited to play it. Thank you for making unique and interesting games such as this one. They really are much more than a breath of fresh air. Keep them coming!

Is this game going to be a full retail title or is this something that will appear on the PlayStation Store? Also, will it be available at launch on the PS4 or shortly after launch?


36

+ OneMoreVillain on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:28 pm said:

Well like all puzzle games It is impossible to know how well the game is created until we see it’s logic in action.

You can add fancy tech and pretty worlds, but if the puzzles don’t make sense it will be a definite pass. Here’s hoping you guys know exactly what you are doing.


37

+ spaceyam on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:34 pm said:

#16 OverTaker: Why do you say that? You don’t know how complex the game will be. It might be very difficult to execute somewhere else! Don’t say that all you want from a new console is exclusively games with realistic graphics, there is so much more that can be done even if the game looks bad. Now, that being said, The Witness is the best looking game I’ve seen in a while, not just technically but artistically too! Way better looking than the new Killzone or Wacthdogs.

Also, to Jonathan Blow: You’re a handsome man :3 (add me on PSN)


38

+ mobius5 on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:36 pm said:

The Witness seems like the perfect game to feature stereoscopic 3D. Any chance that’ll be a feature? I’d love to play this on my 3D headset.


39

+ eroots on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:37 pm said:

Looks amazing, I love the look and art direction! Looking forward to trying the gameplay.


40

+ AVFCTH0MAS on May 23rd, 2013 at 2:01 pm said:

I am looking forward to playing this game when it releases on PS4 and hope it is released sometime around the consoles release… This game looks to offer something that you did not really see much on the PS3 a good old classic puzzle game. Who dosent enjoy having to use your brain to solve puzzles?

1 question are the puzzles in the game the exact same for everyone or are they randomly generated at the time for example in the top video the maze code you showed is it the exact same for everyone or is it randomized since that would be epic.


41

+ dinkin-flicka on May 23rd, 2013 at 2:19 pm said:

Looks like a fun and challenging game and a great reveal during the PS4 show. The first thing I thought of when I saw the island was Myst.


42

+ Ryumoau on May 23rd, 2013 at 2:30 pm said:

God, could this guy be anymore pretentious? I had little interest in this game after the PS4 reveal and reading this article has made me even less.


43

+ corto1976 on May 23rd, 2013 at 2:49 pm said:

Braid was one of two games, the other being Journey, of this last 10 years that I used to “evangelize” family and friends on video games. Not to put too much pressure on you Jonathan, but I expect you to blow (sorry hehe) us away again. Also, can’t wait to listen to The Witness. I bought Braid’s soundtrack and it’s is on my permanent on the go playlist since the.


44

+ okunoin9 on May 23rd, 2013 at 4:12 pm said:

Hi Jonathan! Could you perhaps tell us a little bit about the audio used in the game? The visual style is clearly something you’re putting a lot of focus on, and I feel as though audio would definitely help to develop the overall experience of the game. We saw with games such as Journey that the audio can be used to reflect precisely what the player is doing on-screen, and the ways they interact with the environment, is this something that you’ll be doing with The Witness? Similarly, will you be employing the use of different music to help bring the world to life? The music in the reveal trailer is very nice, is that an original piece?


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 24th, 2013 at 9:33 am said:

    The Witness is about exploring an environment, so we designed the audio around that: it is all environmental sounds, and the sounds of objects moving or of your own footsteps (back last November we realized we had 1150 footstep sound effects; there are more than that now, I am not sure of the exact number!)

    So there isn’t a soundtrack to the game, as such. Instead we carefully sculpt the environmental sounds to create different moods in different areas.


45

+ BlindMango on May 23rd, 2013 at 4:22 pm said:

I love the conversations with creators series and I CANNOT WAIT for The Witness! This game looks like such a breath of fresh air, something very much new


46

+ Erlaxis on May 23rd, 2013 at 4:47 pm said:

Everything I see or read about The Witness is really interesting. Right now is my most anticipated PS4 game. =)


47

+ plaztiksyke on May 23rd, 2013 at 5:20 pm said:

Fantastic. I keep hoping that realMYST will make it onto PS3 (and/or Vita) since it was recently re-released for iPad, and my husband and I loved both Myst 3 and 4 on our old Xbox, but The Witness looks like it will definitely scratch my itch.

Couple of questions:
-are the audio assets 24-bit/losslessly compressed on PS4?

-I assume the game is 1080p native, but will you be targeting 30fps and more light rays, shaders, etc? or 60fps with potentially less detail?

-will we be able to use the Move or the DualShock 4′s touchpad to solve puzzles? might be a great way to enable a kind of co-op play — one person moves with dualshock/navigation, one person solves with Move :)


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 24th, 2013 at 9:35 am said:

    We haven’t worked out the final details of how we are going to compress the various assets like graphics and sound on the PS4. (We’ve got it working a certain way now, but we might change it for release, so who knows!)

    For stuff like resolution versus effect quality, those are also tradeoffs that we would probably decide on at the very end of development. I like it when games have high frame rates, so usually I would push for that. But on the other hand, The Witness is not an action game, so maybe frame rate is less important. Hard to say; I think we would have to try it out and see how it feels.


48

+ TitleOne on May 23rd, 2013 at 5:45 pm said:

LOL. Anything that annoys dunce is a good thing.

Too pretentious? Go back to playing COD of something if this is too pretentious for you.

Notice how its just you and one other person here who doesnt like this. Guess we know this game isn’t aimed to the dumb as a rock audience.

Sounds like a breath of fresh air to me, really looking forward to this. Not sure why some people act as if its an attack to their livelihood, its just a game! Don’t like it, don’t play it!


49

+ wwwdotjames on May 23rd, 2013 at 5:51 pm said:

PLEASE FIX THE PINBALL ARCADE DOWNLOAD ERROR!!!


50

+ vonhammer on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:05 pm said:

Lol, I was going to write about how that map image is a problem, and how I would like to make games. I ended up writhing about animal instincts and Monarch Butterfly’s :) (It’s late in UK, and cider doesn’t help)

Game looks good, and look forward to trying it :)


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