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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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51

+ nolo451 on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:12 pm said:

Definitely looking forward to this. Its something totally different than what I am used to playing and willing to give ti a try.

Bravo for taking the path less traveled by and changing it up a little.


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+ MKPACK on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:34 pm said:

It looks very promising. I sure hope this is also playable on the Vita. I love the handheld platform for puzzlers. It still isn’t clear how PS4 games will work on Vita.

I would also love to see Braid on Vita. Please make it happen.


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+ MKPACK on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:39 pm said:

Is there any reason this game needs the next gen platform? Could we also get a version for the PS3?


    Jonathan Blow's Avatar

     

    + Jonathan Blow on May 24th, 2013 at 9:38 am said:

    Our models have a lot of triangles in them, and having all these trees everywhere all the time takes a lot of fill rate. Also, rendering an open world with an unlimited view distance (no fog) can be technically challenging. We don’t have plans to put the game on current-gen platforms because we would have to cut it down quite a lot to fit it there.


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+ Bloodios on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:40 pm said:

Once we’ve solved every single puzzle in the game, will more difficult challenges be available for download (it doesn’t have to be free.) Also, will there be any plan for long term support like being able to generate our own puzzle, submit, have the community play it out rate its difficulty level?


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+ Bloodios on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:43 pm said:

*have the community play and rate its difficulty level

I really need that Edit button now…


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+ Aceun on May 23rd, 2013 at 7:02 pm said:

It’s remarkable how many PS4 games I’ve been overlooking only to see these dev diaries and leave not only wanting to play, but inspired by the passion of the devs as they bring\ these games to life. It’s so refreshing going into a console generation where developers are excited to be making games.

I’d take that any day over the next big cash cow. I want varied, fun, and engaging experiences. That will always come from creators who genuinely want to create that.


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+ TJF588 on May 23rd, 2013 at 7:10 pm said:

Of what bits and pieces of the PS4 reveal I got, this, far as game footage went, was what caught my attention.

Since I’m too bleary-eyed to read through regular comments, I went through the red ones. For what it’s worth, FPSes do seem to offer more dynamism about approaching its gameplay challenges than a puzzle game (even puzzles that have timed aspects or free-moving parts just won’t be quite as hectic for response, particularly against good player-controlled opposition), but reading the breakdown of “do token thing, do token thing, rinse, repeat” brought to mind when I chatted with a COD-loving friend (he plays other stuff, but mostly blockbusters, I think, including the Arkham games and Human Revolution), and I brought up about strategy games (I’ve severe trepidation about trying clicky-clicky RTSes; so many units over so big a map… @_@’), and he attested that FPSes involve strategy. While that’s true in a way (knowing a map, coordinating with a team), that doesn’t make them strategy games.


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+ TJF588 on May 23rd, 2013 at 7:11 pm said:

Anyway, dunno how to wrap that into The Witness better, but it is what’s drawing me to the PS4 as of this day-and-date. I’m sure more will catch my eye, but a colorful, vast, puzzle-filled game that’s not overwhelming me with grandeur (of gameplay, locale, or options/variations). That makes it sound like I expect the game to be simple, but no, just to not be taxing on my nerves. As said, I could just drop a puzzle and go looking elsewhere as I please. I like that. Knytt Underground’s kinda doing that, except I get jarateed at nailing its brand of puzzles. Compelled to do so, though. Love that it doesn’t operate off character upgrades like most Metroidvania-type dealies. Guess The Witness has that appeal, too: You’re only as held back as your capabilities on the real-world side of the controller.


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+ Boxster17 on May 23rd, 2013 at 7:25 pm said:

While I knew nothing about this game prior to the PS4 reveal back in February, after hearing you describe it there on stage is when you first planted that seed if you will. While I didn’t fully understand how it worked at the time I was certainly intrigued by the idea.

The more I seem to learn about it the more excited I’ve become for it’s release. I love puzzle games as they often seem few and far between these days considering how much else is out there and always find them quite refreshing. Eagerly anticipating this now and it will surely be keeping my eye on it’s release for PS4.


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+ PrimeroIncognito on May 23rd, 2013 at 8:24 pm said:

@ Goofus (#42)

If you really had such little interest in the game, why did you click on the article?

I guess you just have an interest in being a jackass all the time.


61

+ TitleOne on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:22 pm said:

@ Primero.

I’m telling you, this guy isn’t right in the head or desperately wants attention. Notice how the only time he has something to say is when he criticizes a game or practice.

When I read something on here that doesn’t interest me or I don’t think I would like, I don’t have a sudden urge to post, “man, this game is so lame, have less interest in it now.”

I just don’t say anything about it at all—something his parents clearly did not do a good job of instilling in him.

and even here, with Blow deviating from the norm and going out on a limb to do something different with a novel idea—this guy like clockwork of course has something negative to say. Definition of a troll.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say he is a xbox fanboy who loves to spout his BS on here. Sad thing to do I know, but wouldn’t surprise me in the least. That’s how pathetic he looks.


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+ PrimeroIncognito on May 23rd, 2013 at 10:28 pm said:

@ TitleOne on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:22 pm said: “When I read something on here that doesn’t interest me or I don’t think I would like, I don’t have a sudden urge to post, ‘man, this game is so lame, have less interest in it now.’
I just don’t say anything about it at all.”

Naturally. I think most people are like this. If we aren’t interested in something, we ignore it.

Honestly, I don’t think he even likes video games since he either hates them at first sight, or hates them after playing them (based on his own posts), and hates the industry. My guess as to why he’s even here is that deep down he’s confused about himself and he’s foolishly trying to fit in somewhere he doesn’t really belong. Goofus has pulled the wool over his own eyes. It really is quite peculiar. When will he snap out it? Who knows…


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+ GhostMachine1 on May 23rd, 2013 at 11:16 pm said:

Will there be a demo? Looks promising.


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+ dragon_frost on May 24th, 2013 at 4:02 am said:

Dear,

Jonathan Blow

What about playstation move & vita integration can’t you find creative,intuitive & fun ways to use of them in the witness?

P.S..I just want to get the most from products,services,content etc.. like any other gamer out there!

Kind Regards,

Michael


65

+ so-knee on May 24th, 2013 at 5:57 am said:

nice graphics.


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+ BryanDaGimp on May 24th, 2013 at 6:24 am said:

This world that has been developed looks like it could be chock full of secrets. I’m hoping that The Witness will garner the same sort of community think tank problem solving that Fez did a while back. Very very excited for this release.


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+ jahonius80 on May 24th, 2013 at 7:25 am said:

Not everybody loves summer blockbuster movies, big-name rock band concerts and maybe a BigMac.

The same goes for games.

It may be understandable that some are disappointed by certain medium for consumption, but it is not understandable when they start lashing out at people who have put a lot of effort in bringing you something unique. It is very difficult to find innovation in games these days, and Mr. Blow among other indie game developers are cannot be considered to be “the little guys” any more, because their primary goal, like the Greatness himself spoke in this video, is NOT about making quick buck.

These are the people who can ‘stick it up to the big man’ in gaming industry, and that notion alone is attractive for audiences like me.

More support for indie games on Playstation? Yes, please.


68

+ cadelaoBR on May 24th, 2013 at 10:05 am said:

What about pinball arcade download error?


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+ FRott on May 24th, 2013 at 11:20 am said:

Jonathan, I don’t know how you’ve tapped into what I really want in gaming, but please, don’t stop. I’m a huge FPS fan, but I also prefer the more laid-back thinking approach. This hits the right spot, and you have my approval. Day one purchase.


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+ RE_Player on May 24th, 2013 at 11:25 am said:

That FPS map design graphic simultaneously makes me sad for how current shooters and action games are going but also super excited for The Witness.

This is my most anticipated PS4 game for sure. On the surface it looks amazing and I can’t help but feel there is something more underneath.


71

+ JROD0823 on May 24th, 2013 at 12:25 pm said:

This looks to be a day one purchase for me.

Congratulations for following your own ambitions instead of trying to be like many of the other developers out there that are beating their heads against the proverbial wall trying their best to appeal to the plague of adhd “dudebros” that unfortunately occupy a large portion of the gaming community today.


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+ JROD0823 on May 24th, 2013 at 12:28 pm said:

I meant to complete my thought by saying that I applaud you, Mr. Blow, for catering to gamers that don’t only care about killstreaks and pwning noobs online.


73

+ Kedaro on May 24th, 2013 at 5:06 pm said:

@ Jonathan Blow

You are a great inspiration to me, keep up the excellent work, Everything you’ve made has forced gamers to think to overcome the challenges in front of them, Creating situations for great opportunities like the puzzles I see here, It’s an art-form for you isn’t it? I hope to work with someone like you one day, You make us other indies proud. I’m currently learning coding(various types), and unity, and psmobile sdk. I’m more of a design/arts side of things kinda’ guy, but I can identify what’s important, and what’s not. We need more people in this industry that look past the obvious cash cow to try to create art.


74

+ Kedaro on May 24th, 2013 at 5:11 pm said:

btw add me, we’ll play something sometime.


75

+ Ashlotte1 on May 25th, 2013 at 4:21 am said:

I honestly can’t wait for this game, it shall be my first PS4 game..and lol at the comment saying this game will be boring when Call Of Duty is the same game ever year.


76

+ Shane_O on May 25th, 2013 at 8:42 am said:

The Witness looks amazing to me! I am looking forward to playing(experiencing?) this the day it’s released. I am glad that Sony is embracing independent development and self-publishing so that developers such as yourself can reach out and explore different areas of gaming that most other publishers, and even some developers, are afraid to. This is a huge win for people like myself and for devs like you!

P.S.
On a side note, I play all kinds of games, shooters, RPG’s, puzzle games and I don’t understand some of the criticisms from some of the blog readers about this game. I personally feel that there are too many FPS games that are mindless, twitchy and are too dependent on the same old formulas to facilitate an adequate amount of problem solving and experimentation that more games need. That being said, I do enjoy an occasional Battlefield 3 marathon very much.


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+ IcedDice777 on May 25th, 2013 at 7:22 pm said:

@ #9

Thank you for your always constructive criticism. You’re borderline obnoxious with your always ALL CAPs posts. It tells us… You either have a bad keyboard that needs to be fixed or that you’re immature.

Anyways…Jonathan Blow’s contributions to the hobby by creating unique games doesn’t go unnoticed. I’m looking forward to this game. My .02


78

+ Shahrukahn on May 26th, 2013 at 12:43 am said:

Well Mr. Blow, you have me intrigued. I thought you’re presentation at the Feb. reveal conference was great, and I look forward to buying and playing your game on the PS4. Ever thought about a fpps (first person puzzle solver)?


79

+ passivefamiliar on May 26th, 2013 at 3:13 am said:

well. this looks, different and new. but not to be negative, what IS it…im just missing something here. the only puzzle it shows really is a linemap like you find on the back of cereal boxes. those seem to activate interesting things, but this looks more like a single digit $ game for a 7 year old than anything else.

please, no hate. im not being rude here. im just not seeing something, im ASKING because im curious. sony seems to be backing this pretty heavily, so there must be something to it. i’ll not pass up info i see, im open to new things and anxious to see more. bring on the ps4 im loving the wide range of games we are already seeing. there is something for everyone and alot of new things coming our way. cant wait!


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+ Dasssh564 on June 10th, 2013 at 11:56 pm said:

Sony please don’t make us have to pay 5$ a month for ps+ just to play online some parents won’t let kids get 5$ a month since money is hard to get know.


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