Can I Get A… Blow Reveals His Witness

Locked door, I hate you

Jonathan Blow’s taken his time to openly discuss what he’s up to in the wake of Braid being a runaway hit (some of which’s profits he’s funneled into the Indie Fund, gentleman that he is), but now he’s allowing the world a little peek down his trousers of tomorrow.

While real details remain scarcer than understanding of variable connectivity at Ubisoft HQ, Blow’s followed up his cryptic earlier statement “an exploration-puzzle game on an uninhabited island” with an ongoing development diary intended reveal important things as and when they happen. So far, there’s something slightly confusing but promising-sounding about global illumination rather than dynamic lighting, his own reasoning behind joining The Indie Fund and, AND! a raft of concept art.

The selection of building interiors and Lost-eqsue outdoor locations may not reveal how the game plays (though do play close attention to their captions for a few bonus insights), but they do very strongly imply this isn’t going to be another Mario-twisting platformer as Braid was.

Inter-RPS discussion on this – while the trend for retro-like indie platformers took off because the largely American creators responsible for it grew up with the NES/SNES, coupled with a then-sentiment that the mainstream had abandoned the genre, it was Braid’s break-out success that really opened the floodgates to what arguably became an overdone movement. It was, as Kieron observes, the Sex Pistols of neo-platforming. (Gillen in punk-rock analogy shocker!) That a chap as famously unlikely to rest on his laurels as Blow would want to buck this trend he’s perhaps responsible for is hardly surprising.

The post about the new, and cutting edge-sounding lighting system includes some WIP, mock-up shots (but not to be considered screenshots of the game) that reveal this will be a full 3D environment and the tiny tidbit “areas that have doors or windows that open and close.” It’s safe to say you’ll be doing a lot more than jumping on crying monsters. Whether there’s anything as clever/oddball as the time powers, or if it’s a more direct, but clearly atmospheric, experience remains to be seen. There’s a terrified part of my brain screaming ‘MYST! NO! MYST! NOOOO!’ but I rather suspect that’s an entirely unfounded concern.

One thing’s for sure – it’s a blog to follow closely. Even though the image galleries don’t work in Chrome.


  1. LewieP says:

    I seem to remember him saying a while back that he wanted to make a game that approached dialogue in a different way to how games normally do so.

    • sfury says:

      would be interesting how he does that on “an uninhabited island”, but still there are options…

      (schizophrenic main-character? :D)

  2. Dominic White says:

    Everywhere else on the internet, people are already bringing out the pitchforks and the ‘PRETENTIOUS HACK!’ placards.

    Please, let’s avoid that here. Please?

    • KillahMate says:

      He is neither pretentious nor a hack. An argument could perhaps be made for misogynistic tendencies in his art, but that’s a matter on an entirely different level.

    • DMcCool says:

      I haven’t met the chap personally. As an “internet personality” he seems level-headed if heavily opinionated (this can be a good thing). The only thing I’ve got against the man is how obstruse/self-indulgant the EXTRA level of storytelling in Braid is. But, hey, its his game, right? The players that normally look for ridiculous secrets like that on the whole apprecaited the challenge and the rest of us played the “real” game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      In this thread: Blow asks for “how can I just get a buffer to dump audio to under Linux”, and he gets the attention of professional Linux game porters (the Loki guys—Ryan is responsible for the native Linux Unreal Tournaments and I believe also a major SDL contributor). He’s getting help from the people who have been doing this as their dayjob for years, and helped write the tools to make it happen. And his response? He basically belittles their work and throws his toys out of the pram almost immediately.

      SDL, which Blow considers only appropriate “mini-games”, and not “high-quality” ones? Used by the aformentioned Linux UT ports.

    • jsdn says:

      @LionsPhil …Eh? I went through those comments, and I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. Not level-headed? Maybe sensitive to details, in which the Loki guys basically agree Linux is a mess.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, I read through that and found no dickishness at all. Blow is one of those guys who could say that kittens are cute, and people would claim he hates puppies, though. Anyone remember when he said that Prince of Persia: Sands of Time just used time manipulation as a pretty replacement to extra lives? Completely accurate, but people still managed to read it as a grave insult (despite him stating that it was a great game), and some folks are still bitter about it to this day.

    • Wulf says:


      In all due fairness though (and I just had to say this) all software programming is a mess, just like all hardware is a mess, which is why things tend to break down eventually. It’s human nature. Some people are better at brute-forcing layers of gloss to make something look pretty, but if you were to ever look at that code, you would shriek in horror. The code Microsoft has released has resulted in similar shrieks.

      I still can’t forget the NT source, which basically had people cussing on every other line in comments. Your cheery Windows OS is built on the word ‘Fuck’, a lot of the word ‘Fuck’, repeated many, many times, surrounding nightmare code which came straight from the belly of the beast. Furthermore, this is why some freeware developers are hesitant to go open source (and hey, I understand that, guys), because they cannot make their code just almost clean enough to not cause mass shrieking.

      People might complain about dirty code, but everyone writes it, just as messily, but messy in different sorts of ways. That’s human nature showing itself in our technology. Our Science is filled with probabilities and re-imaginings based on the flawed concept of peer review, our philosophies contain contradictions and questions, and our code is the same. My code would have you clawing your eyes out, I have eccentricities which slip into my code, some of which have even been given nicknames, much to the detriment of my self-confidence.

      But the thing is this: If it works, it doesn’t really matter. If everyone embraced this attitude then we’d have more people providing source with their projects, not just those who feel incredibly confident about it. People do what they do, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be clean to be brilliant.

      (Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with Blow or this article, really. Just that when a comment is brought up about code being messy, I feel the need to explain this.)

  3. RagingLion says:

    Listening to some of his recent talks, though, it sounds like going 3D isn’t Blow making some kind of grand statement about anything. He says he fully expected his next game to be 2D but the concept for The Witness was simply the one that stuck out the most and was the most compelling to him and could apparently only be realised by being set in a 3D landscape, despite that being much harder to create.

    Oh, and I am SUPER-excited about this game from some of the stuff that’s been hinted at thus far. I get the sense that some lofty concepts are going to be looked at by this game.

  4. pimorte says:

    I think Blow needs to take a second look at his penumbra dithering.

  5. WarFalco says:

    Well, I surelly DO hope for a Myst like game. Actually, something more similar to Myst 5 and RealMyst. I’ve been eager to do some 3D World lonely exploring. :)

  6. Steve says:

    Nice Alt text.

  7. Mike says:

    Spyparty has links of a playtester running The Witness.

    link to

  8. Helm says:

    If there’s someone that can do Myst-style exploration but better, it’s J. Blow. I am very interested in seeing where this goes.

  9. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i’m so scared this is going to be similar to the game i’m working on!

  10. Psychopomp says:

    Yay, hard puzzles!
    Yay, nice music!
    Yay, good art design!

    • 12kill4 says:

      Yay, another way I can justify my hobby to pretentious douches at dinner parties!

    • Doctor Nil says:

      @ 12kill4 – Yeah, that’s the truth. I for one could use a team of monkeys working around the clock coming up with more ways to beat down pretentious guests at dinner parties when it comes to video game conversations. Maybe this game will help…

      BTW Is anyone else a little bit more excited about the anticipation, build up, and all out forum brawls that will surround the development of the game than maybe the game itself? Strangely, I think I am.

  11. DMcCool says:

    Happy to see Blow moving away from the whole Mario paradigm (which I wrote about on my, um, blog). While you could call it the three-chord rock of gaming, really I think it has hampered the scene creatively (or is starting too at any rate). Blow’s first game since Braid being radically different (and a success) wil send out great messages, I think.

  12. Ninja Dodo says:

    There were some more tidbits about gameplay in a talk he posted on his Braid blog

    link to (the Firehouse one)

  13. Wulf says:

    Alec’s brain and mine must be reversely wired in regards to adventure games, as upon seeing this, my reaction was pretty much: Myst! Yes! YESSS!

    (Sorry, I had to.)

    This intrigues me, suffice it to say, and it’s the sort of game that would fit thinky, pondersome meanderings.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    So, he goes from making 2D platformers, hideously overdone as noted, to making the kind of “adventures” that Cryo Interactive were loathed for.

    I will never understand why this man is heralded as some kind of indie gaming god.

    • Ozzie says:

      Like Cryo made ever a good Myst-style game… ;)

    • Urthman says:

      What a weird comment. A good game is a good game. The fact that other people have made crappy games in the same genre changes that how?

  15. LimeWarrior says:

    That Jonathan Blow is making a MYSTesque game is probably THE BEST NEWS I’ve heard since portal 2 stuff started cropping up.

  16. Pew says:

    Nightmares of Myst and Dreamcatcher adventure “games”!

  17. LionsPhil says:

    Oi, mods–please don’t silently re-edit my posts. That first statement was a direct reference to the previous claim that he’s “level-headed”, and now my “in this thread” confusingly comes out of nowhere.

    If you want to redact things, fine, you’re hosting, but at least throw in a “[snip – Ed]” to show it’s been bowdlerised.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Or: make your point without calling people names and nobody gets hurt! Except this puppy I’ve got here. That always gets hurt.

    • Wulf says:

      Ahww, puppy love!

      Stop petting it so hard, Alec!

      …Gods this post sounds wrong, so very wrong. Oh well!

  18. Player1 says:

    I just got hooked to the article because it reminded me of this incredibly beautiful song “Witness” from Sofa Surfers… and of course Marvin Gaye…

  19. Urthman says:

    Just want to echo other people and say that if Jonathan Blow could make a game that is to Myst as Braid is to Mario? That would probably be my game of the decade.

  20. Tyler says:

    Hedge Maze, Planetarium, Sculptors Studio… it seems like he’s working with the same themes as Braid… developing his authorial character. A real time, photo realistic Myst as written by Blow would be welcome, let’s just hope it’s more coherent (less autobiographical) than Braid.

    • Wulf says:

      That was the part that bugged me the most, I think. Braid would’ve done a lot better without it being the story of its creator, which did feel a bit wrong. I’ve made the point many times that my Braid would be one with a redesigned character, and a rewritten story. I’m not even sure that there’s anything wrong with the Braid story, but more just the presentation of it, it rubs me the wrong way.

      However, something like Myst is actually perfectly suited to this kind of thing, and as long as it is, indeed, coherent, this could be the game I always wanted Blow to make.

    • Dominic White says:

      I’ve not heard anything about Braid being autobiographical. A lot of people have put forward that theory, but usually alongside such intellectual gems as “The artfag is an emo too, ha!” or “Cool story bro”.

    • Tyler says:

      JB: “At some time in my early twenties I made a deal with myself, that I would let this relentless truth-seeking part of me go inside for a while, so that I would be able to exist and not go crazy; and maybe it could come out sometime in the future, when I would know better how to pursue the truth, and when, maybe, I would be emotionally strong enough to keep going. I think all of this is embodied in the Tim character. The story of rescuing the Princess has a literal interpretation, as well as a metaphorical one; and then there are other small-scale levels of change to the interpretation, too. I don’t intend for any of them to be the sole truth; the story I am trying to tell is something like the quantum superposition of all these things.” -

      He says the princess has a literal interpretation and the rambling BS about truth belies a painful personal experience. So, I think it is indeed somewhat autobiographical, as all art must be. Rather than building a narrative around the princess, maybe Blow can now start from a purer foundation of his adopted themes.

    • Wulf says:


      Exactly my feelings, albeit far more eloquently put. Indeed, that’s why I’m excited about this despite feeling more lukewarm toward Braid’s narrative.

  21. Pantsman says:

    There’s an overjoyed part of my brain screaming ‘MYST! YES! MYST! YESSSS!’ and I rather hope that’s not an entirely unfounded hope.

  22. The Walker says:

    My immediate reaction was “Oh shit! Joe Blow is making Myst without the suck! Yay!”

    • Wulf says:

      What is Myst without — as you say — the suck? Easier puzzles? Less complicated lore/setting?

      Well, I’m hoping this is as good as Myst was, subjective suck/greatness included.

  23. Slam Blam says:

    Tired of the brawls, honestly. Anyone that has listened to a speech of his will notice that Blow comes off far more forgiving than he reads in print.

    I badly want to see this one in motion. Found two art movies

    Apparently it doesn’t contain a lot of interaction meaning that portions of the gameplay are ‘witnessing’ aspects of the island.