Working on The Witness, Part 5

Casey Muratori has made a new posting about the work he has done on The Witness:

Working on The Witness, Part 5

In this one he talks about how to distribute grass. Legally.

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The Art of “The Witness” – GDC 2014

Last week was the Game Developers Conference (GDC) here in San Francisco and we were invited to talk about the art  of “The Witness”.
I decided to shift the talk from any technical aspect, since there are already plenty of those, and tried to focus instead on our thought process, what were the decisions we took that led us to the current art style.

If you are interested you can take a look at the slides PDF here:

Unfortunately the PDF merges animated slides so there is some content that you won’t be able to see and you are missing the actual talk but it should be available in a few weeks at the GDC Vault!


*UPDATE – The talk is now available at the GDC Vault, you can  check it here:


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Marsh Update

The marsh had been left unresolved for a long time, so we decided to tear it apart and finish it as a team. Eric updated the main structures, Alex adjusted the catwalks, Luis took care of all the lowest structures, and I handled the vegetation and general colors. Color was a big challenge in getting the area to look nice, since it is a marsh research facility with lots of crazy colored algae pools…there was a high risk of making it look like a clown exploded on it. With some careful color choices, attention to every detail and blocking in the views on a step by step basis, however, I think we managed to avoid that risk and succeeded in creating a pleasant, colorful area:








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Hey look, Oculus support *plus* Steam Controller support.

IMG_20140204_181225[1] IMG_20140204_181352[1]

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Hey look, Steam controller support:


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Last Minute Area




Around Christmas time, Jon surprised us with a bunch of new slab buildings full of puzzles in the center of the island.

Previously, there were only some empty ruins here, so the whole area was redesigned by the architects to accommodate the new puzzles. I attacked it first, about 3 weeks ago, adding a couple of puzzles myself and starting to model the three buildings on the right. Now, the entire art team is working on it. Luis is taking care of the entire left portion, which is still mostly low ruins, Eric is tackling the tower in the middle, and Alex is working on the building behind the tower, with the orange box sticking out of it. There is still one slab building up for grabs, but it’s coming together very quickly for such a huge area!

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What that VR post was about

Last November I made a somewhat-mysterious posting which some people speculated was hinting at stereoscopic rendering in The Witness. Indeed it was, and Now It Can Be Told.

Last year I was pessimistic about VR systems in the near future, since the ones I had tried didn’t seem to offer much (certainly not enough to justify wearing a bulky headset all the time and fighting back feelings of nausea).

But I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at Valve’s virtual reality system. It is so much better than anything else I had used that I was instantly very excited by it. Right away I could see games you might design for this system that had been impossible before; so it isn’t just a matter of the system being very immersive (which it is) but that it can take video games in general to a new place.

We worked with Valve to get support for the system in The Witness, and that’s where those screenshots come from (but when I took the shots, an HMD was not plugged in, and as a result what you see is a dummy calibration that does not correspond to any useful image-warping; the screenshot was really more about just being happy about the stereo display capability.) In late November I spent a few days at Valve’s offices working with Atman Binstock and Doug Church to adapt the HMD’s input system more thoroughly for The Witness and to build a few scenes that are playable on the device.

(In theory the whole game is playable on the device, but when you are rendering for VR the performance demands become much higher, because you are rendering two scenes at higher resolution than you might previously have been rendering one scene. So the full game world with all content currently does not run fast enough for this device, but that is the kind of problem that gets solved over time).

We had to keep this under wraps, though, because Valve’s system was not announced. But this month at Steam Dev Days they revealed details of the system.

For more details on the Valve system, Lee Vermeulen wrote up a nice post of his impressions:

So, we will be supporting this device (and any similar devices) with The Witness. But I am really looking forward to see what gets designed specifically for devices like this.

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It’s been a while since we did an Island Snapshot

… so here one is.




Luis has been doing a lot of work lately on the mountain and especially the stuff at the top.

Other folks have been doing a bunch of work on things that are not as obvious in this picture!

Current puzzle count: 595

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What could it mean??




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A Trip to New York and Some Huge Artwork

The PS4 launched last week and, though I still barely believe my luck, I got the chance to accompany Jon to the launch event in New York! As it turned out, I was a bit too shy to help him out too much with the questions, but it was still an invaluable experience for someone who has never before been to anything like this event.

The interviews happened somewhat randomly. A whole floor of the Standard Hotel was dedicated to indie games that would appear on the PS4, and the press wandered around, peeking into rooms and sitting down to play the games when they were available. I snapped a picture of the room where The Witness was shown:


We spent two days showing the game to many journalists. They usually played from the beginning for a while, then Jon took them on a guided tour of an area where the puzzles were starting to get a little crazy, explaining the thought process behind them. It was so great to finally see the game being played! Everyone seemed to love it, too!

During the nights, we were invited to a few events. Sony took the indie developers out for dinner, where I met Shuhei Yoshida, and chatted with the guys from Secret Ponchos about goldsmithing and tattoos. It was a good opportunity to get to know the other developers, and a nice gesture by Sony. The next night there was also a bigger, louder party in the penthouse of a tall building, to which local developers were invited as well. It was so full we could barely move, so I just stood around trying to piece together conversation through the incessant club music.

By Wednesday we were done with the interviews and I had some time to explore New York and feel totally lazy while Jon got some programming and design done in a cafe. I ended up spending most of the day in the MoMA, where there just happened to be a special Magritte exhibition going. Love Magritte! Oh, and I also got to see Sleep No More, which was a really amazing experience!

The most unbelievable part of the trip for me, however, was seeing our artwork displayed on the side of the 17 story hotel. It was difficult to decipher right up close, since it was displayed on huge sheets of LED lights, but it was wonderful to be right there to see it happen! We took a few pictures but they turned out very blurry, so here are some taken by Kevin Geisler:

2 3 1

Only Alex’s windmill and my autumn forest and orchard made it onto the building, but I thought I would include all the original images we submitted, since we put some effort into getting them together. These are pretty high res, in case you guys want to print your own posters or crop them down and make some wallpapers:

Witness_windmill Witness_autumn Witness_MountainTree Witness_Beach Witness_keep Witness_Ruins Witness_entry Witness_orchard

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