Witness Jon Blow’s The Witness In Motion

By Nathan Grayson on February 21st, 2013 at 1:55 am.

Apparently “PlayStation 4 will be the only console that The Witness is on” when it first launches. Which is a very un-clever way of saying, “and also, it’ll be on PC,” but whatever. We get an actual, factual trailer of Braid creator Jonathan Blow’s latest out of the deal, so Sony’s inhumanly lengthy, droning “pppfffthrp” of a commercial‘s no skin off my nose. But I digress. The Witness, if you’ll remember, is set on an open-world island full of laser puzzles. It also looks exceedingly attractive. I’m not sure what to think about the puzzles themselves, but it’s tough to get a bead on these things when you’re not, you know, solving them. Anyway, trailer ahoy!

While presenting the Myst-like explorer during Sony’s miserable nonference, Blow called it “a game about epiphany” – because Jon Blow, basically. More importantly, he noted that it’ll clock in at around 25 hours, which is quite hefty by modern puzzling standards. Other than that, however, we don’t have a whole lot to go on.

Well, except for Dan’s massive heap of impressions and chit-chat with Blow from many, many moons ago. Obviously, things could have changed quite a lot since then, but – at the time – our absentee Lord of Grills described the island’s tapestry of dreamlike environments and unpredictable puzzles as:

“A game about working your mind hard, becoming aware of the world around you and coming to appreciate how it can be integrated with puzzles about sound, shadows, texture, mathematics, location, light and memory, never knowing what’s going to be relevant to the next puzzle. Like Blow’s Braid, it’s also about the expression of both philosophical concepts and of intriguing, rapidly-changing mechanics, though neither of these are forced on you.”

So it sounds intriguing, but it also certainly has the potential to be just as divisive as Braid’s highly symbolic brand of hop ‘n’ bop – if not more so. That said, while I don’t think Braid was the revolution many people wanted it to be, it certainly made a mark. Overwrought or not, Blow’s visions are unflinching in their confidence, so they land with cannon-ball-like impact. There’s something to be said for that, I think. As for what exactly it is, well, there’s a reason we all argue so much over the guy in the first place.

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81 Comments »

  1. ArtyFishal says:

    I can’t wait! Braid really revitalized puzzle and platform games for me, and this looks to do the same for the surreal adventure.

  2. TsunamiWombat says:

    Idiots actually believe this is a PS4 exclusive now, which is hilarious.

    • TheIronSky says:

      You mean it’s not?!

    • Kambyero says:

      I like how Blow said something like, “How am I going to follow up all those explosions?” and I remembered his dog food comment about mainstream titles. His comments about the compressed nature of the island reminds me of the “apartment block” concept that I personally want in my open-world games.

      • crumbly says:

        I thought that “How am I going to follow up all those explosions?” line was a shitty thing to say, there were three games shown before Blow’s; an action adventure game (by the Jak & Daxter guy?), Killzone, then a racer. Hardly deafening and regardless there’s no call for such petulance especially when the developer is standing right on the sidelines of the HUGE PROMOTIONAL CONFERENCE that you have both been invited to for the express purpose of getting everyone excited for EVERYTHING shown.
        You didn’t see the “Watch Dogs” dev get up after Blow and spout: ‘LOLZ “EPIPHANY” WHAT A QUEER’…

        • Rapzid says:

          Of course. Everything that comes out of his mouth is laden with ego. This appears to be a Myst clone. It could by a very good one, but he talks about how triple A games are all the same and non innovative and “Oh my my, how will I eva follow up ALL those EXPLOOOSIONSSSS”, and then he presents a Myst clone…

          • Reapy says:

            Myst + The fools Errand perhaps? Same with braid, Prince of Persia was there first.

            Still, enjoyable games, and despite my disagreement with his personal philosophies am looking forward to the witness none the less.

          • Acorino says:

            There seems to be quite a bit more to The Witness, but don’t let that get into your way, of course.

          • Kamos says:

            I’ve met Blow “in real life” and he is a pretty cool guy. He has a bunch of crazy ideas that he feels strongly about, and I don’t think he is any more rude than the average anonymous person in the internet going around saying his games are pretentious.

    • Turkey says:

      I’m glad it’s a timed exclusive. Sony jail is the worst.

      • Low Life says:

        I doubt it’s even that, it just won’t be released on the next Xboxy thingie or Wii U.

  3. Hoaxfish says:

    I’m thinking it’ll be more complex than the join-the-dot “puzzles” shown, but I’m wary especially when he was talking about the game being “in your own head”.

  4. TheIronSky says:

    This looks wonderful. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend quite a few hours just mulling over these puzzles much like I did while playing FEZ.

  5. PopeRatzo says:

    I guess…

  6. The Dark One says:

    The art feel reminds me of the Dota 2 map, of all things. It’s got this nice calm look to it that makes it feel like it would be nice to just walk around in.

    • field_studies says:

      It’s an interesting mix. The interiors felt a little more Portal 2 to me, and the exteriors… couldn’t shake that Proteus vibe.

    • vivlo says:

      “Dota 2 map” [...] “nice calm look to it that makes it feel like it would be nice to just walk around in.”
      The irony…

  7. deadly.by.design says:

    Seems a lot like if Myst had been made by Valve’s TF2 team.

  8. pkt-zer0 says:

    The most interesting thing to come out of the PS4 announcement.

  9. darktempalr007 says:

    Never thought I’d hear Mediaeval Baebes in anything ever.

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      maninahat says:

      It’s delightful. I’m so used to hearing mournful bugle playing and generic orchestral action thuds that a gentle song is very much welcome.

  10. Stevostin says:

    I was not hugely impressed by Braid, mainly because some ppl put the expectation too high. But. The guy knows how to do gameplay. Now just above we also have a very beautiful game. So that means it will probably be a very beautiful game with top gameplay. Again, not my own priorities, but this will woks well with a lot of ppl, I guess.

    • Chubzdoomer says:

      That was an interesting read.

    • Wi1son says:

      Good looking game and top gameplay are not your priorities? huh?

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        Harlander says:

        He only cares about how well games serve his true masters.

        Does the numerological coefficient of the game’s dialogue scripts add up to the right number? Will the compiled code properly trigger the lesser awakening of the old ones?

  11. Strangerator says:

    That island is looking good. Great trailer, although I really thought I was at Renn Faire for a second with the music. Not bad mind you, but it seemed like there should have been a guy selling turkey legs.

    Looking forward to spending a lot of head scratching and hopefully contemplative hours on this one.

  12. ts061282 says:

    Let me see if I get this straight:

    1. The Witness looks tops.
    2. RPS doesn’t receive PS4 ad revenue.

    That it?

    • Prime says:

      An odd comment. You know The Witness is still coming to PC too, right?

  13. utharda says:

    SO will I be able to play this at man resolutions? ie greater than 1080p, or will i be limited to mongoloid hardware levels of performance.

  14. Chubzdoomer says:

    This game looks like it’s going to be beautiful and deep. If it is as good as I’m thinking it will be, Blow will have really made a name for himself and proven that he isn’t just a one-hit-wonder following Braid’s massive success.

  15. lordfrikk says:

    Hopefully our girlfriend won’t turn into a bomb this time around!

    • Alexander says:

      It would be a hell of a… blow job. (double pun, I win everything)

  16. noodlecake says:

    Wow. No comments about how insanely pretty this looks. Even if this ends up being the most horrendous game ever it’s a definite buy from me. One of the best looking games I’ve ever seen.

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      basilisk says:

      Yeah, it sure is gorgeous, but on the other hand, Myst-like… eww… Jonathan Blow… double eww.

      I honestly loved Braid until I finished it and read a few interviews with Blow which spoiled the whole thing for me. With The Witness, I feel forewarned enough, and I honestly don’t know if pretty pictures and musics are enough to sway me.

      • The First Door says:

        Allow me to reply with Myst (or in my opinion Uru)-like, yay! Jon Blow, double yay!

      • Acorino says:

        Well, never ever watch a Hitchcock movie then. That man was a psycho!

    • Prime says:

      I’ve been following his DevBlog for a while and I have to say I love the graphical style they’ve picked for this. It’s so colourful and yet still distinctive from just about everything else we’ve ever seen on the PC. Really looking forward to playing it.

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        LTK says:

        Completely agree. The vectorised art style really stands out through the entire video. It looks really pretty every second of it.

  17. Kobest says:

    Hopefully it’s not going to blow.

    (I’m sorry.)

  18. derella says:

    It’s quite beautiful, especially the trees. Not sure about the maze-thing, but I’m sure it’s not nearly as dull as it seems. Right?

    • Acorino says:

      Let’s hope so!

    • Strangerator says:

      The panels are the core mechanic, but to call them “mazes” is inaccurate. You apparently have to use the environments and themes from the areas in which the puzzles are located in order to know what pattern needs to be traced. Things like observing the pattern of shadows on the ground and replicating that pattern on the panel seem really cool.

  19. Toberoth_Syn says:

    Having just about finished and thoroughly enjoyed Antichamber (I recommend it to everyone!) and what with Braid being one of my favourite games ever, I’m rather looking forward to this. For all his perceived egotism and snobbery (a lot of which I’d be tempted to put down to nerdy awkwardness, rather than actually being a jerk), Blow seems like a super smart and passionate developer. Say what you like about Braid, but it’s hard to deny that it’s a carefully crafted experience; I think this will be the same.

    Plus, the graphics are beaut.

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      LTK says:

      Um, you do know that Antichamber is made by Alexander Bruce, right?

      • Toberoth_Syn says:

        Yeah of course, just mentioned it because it’s an abstract first-person puzzler, so it seemed relevant.

        • Josh W says:

          And appeal to the same “I am so confused, wait… I UNDERSTAND this UNIVERSE!” set of preferences.

    • MortalWombat says:

      a lot of which I’d be tempted to put down to nerdy awkwardness, rather than actually being a jerk

      I would say that people react to him in the way they do because he wants games to mature as an art form and art requires effort to digest. The games/gaming industry and audience on the other hand is largely about escapism and their collective peter-pan-syndromes.
      They feel threatened and belittled by Blow.

      It makes me sad because I’m at a point where I have no enthusiasm left for what’s happening in mainstream and even most indie games. Why would I want to play the same kind of games I played 10 years ago over and over again? At some point we have to grow up a little.

      On an unrelated note: I should really try Antichamber!

      • Bhazor says:

        No I hate him because he’s a prick.
        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/the-most-dangerous-gamer/308928/

        I agree with what he says about game design. But again, prick.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          Oh c’mon he’s not a prick, he’s just a kid.
          I think it was accurate- just socially awkward and doesn’t communicate well directly

          • MortalWombat says:

            He is over 40 now and in the interviews and talks that I have seen he is always communicating very elaborately. It is the content that is polarizing because it is often not easy to understand.
            He comes across as an idealist and I think that turns off the cynics as well as those afraid of change.

          • Bhazor says:

            No it isn’t his ideas. It’s the fact he’s a prick.

            There is no way he’s an idealist, he deems anything mainstream as cretinous.

        • Bhazor says:

          From that article
          “Blow made several upgrades to his austere lifestyle. In place of his old Honda, he now drives a $150,000 crimson Tesla Roadster, a low-slung all-electric automotive dynamo that offers a highly realistic simulation of being shot out of a cannon whenever Blow clamps down on the accelerator. And after a yearlong victory lap filled with lectures and laurels, he moved into a spacious hilltop condo that overlooks the eastern half of the city as it slopes down to the sapphire-colored bay.

          Yet aside from his electric car—the virtues of which he extols with messianic zeal—Blow displays total indifference toward the material fruits of wealth.”

          He started a funding body to make daring genre breaking indie games. What did he end up commissioning? A remake of a HL2 mod and a Portal-lite with far less interesting puzzle design.

          And right now after years of insulting people in the mainstream industry he announces a timed console exclusive at a major corporate event. Prick.

        • noodlecake says:

          I agree with the above. He doesn’t seem like a prick at all. Definitely unusual but I could see myself enjoy talking to him. I found the article very interesting! I also agree with him about going to clubs, although if I do get drunk enough I can enjoy the fact that nobody can actually talk to each other. I definitely prefer a good pub!

        • KevinLew says:

          Maybe it’s just me, but saying “prick” non-stop in your posts really doesn’t help your argument. If anything it makes you look like the person you hate so much.

          Also, the Indie Game Fund helped finance Antichamber and Monaco, and both of those games are getting mostly positive feedback.

        • Acorino says:

          I dislike The Atlantic article you linked to, which I fault the author for. Its aim seems to be to elevate Blow into a pantheon of artists. If this is the only thing you read about Blow, then I guess I wouldn’t fault you for thinking bad of him. I think this conversation with a journalist from GameSpot gives much better insight into who Jonathan Blow is.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Looks aww right, way too gamey though. explore environment, play a match 3, it’s basically ‘hacking mini game, the game’.

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    Lambchops says:

    Trailer needs more dubstep.

  22. Radiant says:

    Shout outs to Jonathon Blow’s shirt.

    The one he wore in that ps4 press conference made Graham Norton look like a Hicks from Aliens.

  23. dmoe says:

    Will this make me experience emotions I’ve never experienced before? It sounds really experiencing.

  24. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Looks nice and evokes memories of Myst. Yeah, I’ll probably get this game. I hope it’ll be better than Braid though.

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    golem09 says:

    #1 reason to buy an Oculus.
    I just hope it get’s support.

  26. DickSocrates says:

    Can’t wait for this. Will be annoyed if it’s on PS4 before PC, but I understand his rationale. This guarantees a lot of press coverage and promotion being one of the PS4 launch titles.

    There are quite a few interviews with him out there if you want a better idea about what The Witness is.

  27. Don Reba says:

    I have been reading about Jon’s adventures in creating these graphics for a long time now and am totally amazed to see the result in glorious HD.

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    bear912 says:

    I am pleased by this. Reminds me a lot of Myst, which is a good thing.

  29. MadTinkerer says:

    ” That said, while I don’t think Braid was the revolution many people wanted it to be,”

    I rather disagree. Portal and Braid Xbox came out around the same time, one showing that big companies could still create something mind blowing, and one showing that individual developers could still not only make something for the “big consoles” but make it mind blowing as well. The entire current Indie movement can be traced back to that point in 2007.

    Yes Indie development existed before. I had a PC in the early 90s with access to the Internet (back when the World Wide Web had nothing worthwhile yet and everyone used still used Usenet) too. But by 2007 it had looked like actually doing independent game development for a living, had become impossible. Games needed too many polygons and arts and fuck, now I need to learn how pixel shaders work? What if I just want to make a platform game with a neat gimmick? And then Mr. Blow did. And he made money as well.

    Braid may not be the greatest Indie game ever (for that you need a narrative comprehensible to people whose brains only move forwards in time), but it was right at the beginning of the current revolution, and for that it deserves “props”.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      From what I remember Braid wasn’t the first or the most prominent of this new wave of high-profile indie games, but it was in the initial vanguard. Pretty sure it was May 2008 when it was released.

      Braid (or at least the vague promise of more ‘games like that’) was one of the factors that led me to buy an Xbox over a PS3 when choosing a current-gen console, and my two week old Xbox promptly died the day before Braid was actually released. I’m sure it was symbolic of something.

  30. El Spidro says:

    This looks pretty a-MAZE-ing

  31. Cunning Linguist says:

    Well Braid was one of the stupidest games I ever played, so no high hopes for this one.
    Braid was a great example of what I call “clever-stupid” : trying to be too clever, ending up appearing pretty stupid.

    • Klaus says:

      I thought it was all right, and then someone told me about how the princess represents the atom bomb. And I looked it up and Blow was vague about it and I thought it crossed the line from ‘neat’ (like Wander’s business in Shadow of the Colossus) to ‘Trying-Too-Hard’. I can’t even take it serious anymore.