Six Years Later, The Witness Gets A Release Date

The Witness [official site] always sounds to me like a Lynda La Plante two-part drama which would air on ITV and feature foreboding music and chilling crime. Braid creator J.Blo thinks differently and has now presented a taster of his brightly-coloured, six years in the making puzzle island in the form of a launch date trailer.

Video and thoughts below:

1. Jonathan Blow believes in really punchy wisteria. Perhaps he liked Desperate Housewives. Is this his tribute?

2. The puzzles themselves have a really mobile gamey aesthetic. That’s not a value judgement, I just didn’t realise I had a mental category marked “things that a mobile puzzle game probably looks like on some elemental level”.

3. It feels like there are maybe elements of games like The Talos Principle (I am saying this because I saw lasers) but far more strongly I’m getting a sense of one of those Usborne puzzle books. Is that reference too British? The books would follow kids on these daring adventures in these cool locations and every double page would have a puzzle for you to solve before you could advance. The Usborne books had loads of people in usually but I’m definitely getting a similar vibe from this.

4. I do like the look of the water. Can I just borrow the game engine and go for a swim?

5. But seriously that is some intense wisteria.

6. Actually, y’know what, I really like a lot of the environmental shots. The autumn one particularly.

7. RPS chatroom is keen on the music. It’s by Zoe Keating and you can find her here.

8. The game will arrive on the 0126th of 2016. Or 26 January, 2016. The way it’s written made me start thinking about numbers and Usborne-style puzzles so I got a bit caught up in that for a while. If it was using the octal system, 0126 translates to decimal as 86, so it could also be 6 August or 8 June. WHO KNOWS. If this were a real Usborne book there would be a hint in the back in mirror writing.

49 Comments

  1. mouton says:

    Sounds like a game about Mad Max: Fury Road. The screens are confusing, tho, where are the bald screaming maniacs.

  2. Vandelay says:

    Hmm… I was looking forward to this, but that did seem to be a lot of uninteresting drawing a maze puzzles. It would be like a trailer for The Talos Principle that had half of it just featuring the annoying tile puzzles. Hopefully those puzzles are equally as insignificant to the game as the tile puzzles are to Talos.

    Besides that though, I like the aesthetics and really dig the music (listening to it now while I type. Thanks for the link!) I would like to know a little more about what kind of puzzles this will entail before I get too excited though.

    • Jalan says:

      It was nice to put the URL for the music in the article, since I guess it’s easily missed unless viewing the trailer on YouTube and reading the video description provided by Blow that also has it mentioned.

  3. Phantom_Renegade says:

    That looks gorgeous and yet…off. I can see why you would think mobile game. I’m getting a distinct Godus vibe, but that looked awful. Is it possible for a game to look both great and bad at the same time? It’s like something is either missing, or should be missing…I can’t put my finger on it.

    Gameplay on the other hand just looks boring. Really easy maze puzzles done by a floating camera? Pass.

    • Jenks says:

      Maybe it looks off because everything is so crystal clear, and you would expect to see a lot more myst.

    • Christian Knudsen says:

      From what I’ve heard and seen of the game, the puzzles aren’t merely about solving mazes. The mazes are just a means of inputting a solution that’s hidden as part of the environment or some particular logic you’ll have to figure out by exploring. So I doubt you’ll be spending most of your time staring at mazes.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Even the self-contained, introductory puzzles do get pretty clever by the end. In this particular trailer, the one that puzzles me is the one at 0:22, with the purple and orange stars. Though maybe that’s not actually supposed to be self-contained, and you need extra environmental clues to solve it.

      Anyway, one example of an environmental puzzle is when you’re walking along a maze, and you’re supposed to determine the correct path based on the sound of your footsteps. No clues indicating that this is what you’re supposed to do – you just have to pay attention.

      I’m quite curious what 600-something puzzles built with that mindset look like.

  4. Rumpelstilskin says:

    0126 is just an attempt at an anagram, I guess. JB must have have been hard pressed coming up with a clever date within the time frame.

    • Merus says:

      Well, 26th January is Australia Day, and picking a day associated with an island with so many intermingled climates clearly has thematic resonance.

    • dorobo says:

      In the middle of the winter after all the shitty triple A releases are long been dropped under the christmas trees this will be so good.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    Can’t wait. Braid was such a before and after moment in gaming to me. A lot of love has gone into this, the dev blogs are pretty nice reads.

  6. Freud says:

    A myst buy.

  7. rustybroomhandle says:

    Somewhere out there is a reviewer hoping this will suck so they could refer to it as “The Witless”

  8. Guy Montag says:

    Speaking of, I always hoped there’d be digital versions of the old Usborne puzzle adventures at some point. At least something like Project Aon did for the Lone Wolf books, if not figuring out how to game-ify them. I enjoyed them quite a bit when I was small, and find it a shame that they seem to have disappeared entirely.

    • Jackablade says:

      At some point Tinman are going to run out of Fighting Fantasies to digitise. Granted they’re probably 5% of the way through so far, but they’ll probably get there eventually. Perhaps they’ll move on to the Usborne books and we can all get back to not turning the page yet.

  9. Lars Westergren says:

    That’s some mighty nice visuals.

    I certaintly hope there will be more puzzles than the “2d maze”stuff they’ve been showing, but I’ll buy it either way. As Synesthesia said, Braid was just that good.

    • Urthman says:

      My experience of Braid was expecting it to be a pretty Mario clone followed by a continuous series of thinking “Oh I see what this is and what kind of puzzles it’s going to have” and then being surprised by the game adding yet another layer of inventive twists.

      I’d be astonished if the puzzles in this game are just a bunch of stuff we’ve already seen in mobile games bolted onto a pretty environment.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        Agreed.

        I thought it looked like the corridors had the same topology as the 2d puzzle there a couple of times in the video, for instance.

  10. ChrisGWaine says:

    In contrast to the people who think there ought to be more it, I think the concept of that line drawing mechanic being the consistent way the game affords the player input to the game is very strong.

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    Neurotic says:

    9. Without having seen the byline, I knew it was Phillipa’s work when I got to 3. :D

    • dorobo says:

      I thought talos principle was taking from this not the other way around or maybe it’s just ideas floating in the air? I believe it will be great and it seems there are no actual textures used.

  12. Jackson_wxyz says:

    As long as we’re talking about Jonathan Blow, did y’all know that Braid has mods? I was a huge fan of Braid for years without ever realizing that there is a whole level creator built into the PC version, and some of the fan mods out there are actually really fantastic! It’s hard to track them down, but ModDB lists a few of the best ones: link to moddb.com

    • Llewyn says:

      Braid – thanks I think to Penny Arcade – was a significant factor in my choosing Xbox over Playstation back in 200x. Needless to say I subsequently bought it on PC as well, but have never noticed there was an editor.

      I’m not sure what to make of The Witness any more. I was excited about it from the first reports onwards but then at some point in the last year seem to have forgotten all about it. Today’s article actually came as a real surprise, largely followed by antipathy.

      Perhaps that’s not a bad thing though; excessive excitement often leads to disappointment.

  13. Foolish Wizard says:

    The problem with this game is that the trailers simply can’t convey what the puzzles are like.

    I remember reading a couple years ago that the environments were the actual puzzles and each had its own rules and so on, the little maze mechanisms being only a way of presenting the solution.

    Sounds interesting to me but from this trailer it’s easy to think that the game is about walking around a nice place and then solving boring mazes.

    • theslap says:

      I think a lot of people are seeing it this way (according to the comments above). Then again, people saw Braid as a platformer and were delightfully surprised that it is in fact a puzzle game. I believe that this game will surprise us as well. I have a load of respect for J.Blo and I’m sure he will not disappoint. So excited for this title!

    • faircall says:

      This is a good point, and furthermore the trailer doesn’t hint at what the themes of the game are. It’s just a guess, but I think the The Witness is a reference to the meditation practice of cultivating the witness-consciousness. Jon has repeatedly said the game had to be in 3d, so I think it’s interesting (and probably relevant) that the player sees 2d puzzles projected on screens in a 3d environment. And then there seems to be 3d versions of those puzzles, which we are playing as two dimensional images projected onto our screens. If the game can provide that sensation of a shifting in perspective it would be pretty cool.

      • Shazbut says:

        It’s just a guess, but I think the The Witness is a reference to the meditation practice of cultivating the witness-consciousness.

        Very interesting! That would be a ballsy move, given the potential obtuseness of that. Would this be the first game ever to explore that thematically I wonder. I can’t think of another example

        • faircall says:

          I didn’t spot this myself, but it seems like there was something more hidden in the trailer (maybe in support of the witness-consciousness idea): link to imgur.com

  14. Zantium says:

    Braid was a beautifully crafted game, aesthetically at least The Witness looks like it could follow. I’ve been following this one for a while so it’ll certainly be on my wishlist when it launches.

  15. cyphercolt says:

    It’s difficult to make a trailer for a puzzle game as they don’t want to spoil anything either, the maze puzzles are the easiest thing for them to show as everyone knows the game has them already. I really hope that I’m right and there’s a huge variety of different types of puzzles throughout the game.

  16. Zyx says:

    Wait a minute. Jonathan Blow’s next game after Braid? I thought that was what The Talos Principle was!

  17. Jay Load says:

    I may be the only person here who doesn’t “get” or like Braid. I keep trying it after someone waxes lyrical only to find it’s clever but rather frustrating, and a touch on the wanky side as well with the “deep” melancholy narrative elements.

    Still, I’ve been following The Witness for most of that six years. Fascinating watching it come together and sounds like the kind of game I’m going to absolutely adore. Myst is deeply under-appreciated in these parts and any game that offers a similar experience is a must-buy for me.

    • phlebas says:

      Just imagine the level of excitement for those of us who love Myst AND Braid!

    • Josh Grams says:

      I feel like Braid tends to polarize people, so I suspect only the people on one side of that divide are posting here. Personally I found it disappointing: the art was ugly and the visual effects made my eyes hurt, the psychobabble storyline was just lame, and the puzzle design was very broad and shallow (there was a new item or technique for almost every puzzle, and often they were never seen again) where I prefer narrow and deep (e.g. things like The Swapper, or like slitherlink in more conventional paper-and-pencil puzzles), where a simple ruleset leads to deep interesting stuff happening.

      Not that Braid was *bad*, it was a reasonably well-done game, but I’ve always felt that it was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and hence did rather better than it really deserved. I found it interesting watching that video on Youtube where he talks about Braid for an hour: almost everything he said made sense, but at the same time I remember disliking a lot of the levels precisely because they *totally* failed to do (for me) the very thing he said he was trying to accomplish…but then he also implied that he did essentially no playtesting, so in that case it’s pretty impressive how well he did.

  18. Gap Gen says:

    “Cantaloupe.”

  19. BooleanBob says:

    USBORNE PUZZLE BOOKS FTW

    • Gus the Crocodile says:

      “Is that reference too British?” I can say it worked wonders for me here in Australia. I think I had a few Agent Arthur ones, and something called Codename Quicksilver. Really loved these books, and I’d entirely forgotten they existed until this post. Thanks Pip. :)

    • phlebas says:

      Yes! Definitely a formative influence for me, along with their Spy/Detective ones and of course the BASIC programming series.

  20. gbrading says:

    Myst Buy!