Witness in Limbo

We have this depth mode in the editor, that I’ve never really used for anything other than taking neat screenshots for fun. It’s been a while since the last post, so I thought it might be cool to share some. It’s difficult to find interesting new screenshots to share lately, since we’ve already shown a lot of the game and don’t want to ruin the exploration when it comes out!

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Polishing the Architecture

In the last few weeks we’ve been adding the final art touches to the island.
Now that we have all the content locked down, Deanna, one of the architects,  is reviewing all the structures we created and make sure they are as correct as possible.
Even though they previously designed the buildings and we implemented them, there have been many revisions and tweaks  for gameplay that caused deviations from the original concepts, and in some cases, we just had to make stuff up with  the best of our knowledge without ever having the Architect Seal Of Approval

Here is an example, a set of stairs added to a roof structure:shot_2015.06.02__time_21_18_n01

 

It looks ok, but looking close up you can see how flimsy the roof attachment is:
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Deanna showed us that it would make more sense to extend the main roof support to accommodate for the stairs:shot_2015.06.03__time_13_36_n01

 

An in the case of the railings, to do a better job showing the assembled pieces, removing the awkward intersections:
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Another example is this stone wall door frame. It lacks any assembly detail for its size, making it feel it was made from one single gigantic piece of stone:
shot_2015.06.02__time_21_21_n04And here is the revised version:
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Another type of issue is how two different surfaces meet. The more detailed the island gets, the more these stand out as incomplete. As an example, the way this wood structure connects with the floor:
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And after the revision:
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Some of this work might seem minute but it really makes the whole environment feel more grounded, adding a lot to the experience!

 

 

Sculpture

As some of you may have noticed in old screenshots, we had a few placeholder statues around the island. I designed these when I joined the project almost four years ago, and a while back Luis sculpted a couple of nice final ones. However, as we were finalizing some areas, we wanted to add even more statues. We realized that Luis would never have the time to sculpt all of them as well as help me finish the rest of the art, so we searched for a sculptor.

We managed to find Andrea Blasich, a most excellent artist skilled at both traditional and 3D sculpture. He is blowing through the statues and continues to wow us with his stuff. He just finished this giant lady sculpted into the mountainside, and it turned out so beautiful, I wanted to share it:

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Island Snapshot

It seems like a good time to do one of these, since the island is pretty much all figured out! We have been wrapping up a lot of big tasks, working on some cool effects, and doing a bit of polishing and bugfixing. While we still have some things to finish, the island is probably not going to visibly change much anymore.

 

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Thekla!

Last Sunday morning was exceptionally beautiful and sunny, and so I decided to spend the day reorganizing the office.

When we moved in two years ago, we just pulled things out of the moving boxes and shoved them here and there so we could get to work as quickly as possible, so the mess was only getting worse. We spend most of our waking lives here, so I thought it was worth a few hours to make it a more pleasant space. I moved some furniture around to create a more convenient place to test the ps4 build, threw out a giant pile of old things, put up some of the decorations we made for the Play Station Experience booth, etc.

I figured I’d put up some pictures, so you guys can see where The Witness is getting finished (because it’s getting finished, yo!):

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You can use Oswin, a.k.a. The Witness Dog, for spatial reference.

Progress!

On Friday we officially reached the Puzzle Complete milestone. This means that all puzzles that will be in the game when it ships are in the game now.

It does *not* mean that the game is done. We still have a lot to do! But it *does* mean that the nature of the work changes and becomes simpler, because we don’t have to be making high-level creative decisions any more. It is now much more about turning the finish-the-game crank (making sure stuff plays well and polishing it up) for anything related to game design, modeling and texturing.

There are a few categories that still need creative decisions (story stuff, the menu system, etc), but for those of you who are awaiting the game’s release, this is pretty good news.

There are currently 677 puzzles in the game. That number might be slightly different when it ships (we might cut a few, for example!)

PlayStation Experience

Last weekend, Jon, Andy and Luis headed to Vegas to show the game to the public for the first time!

We spent over a week play testing,  bug fixing, designing the booth, printing banners, and re-designing the website. It was encouraging to see that the game was already in very good shape and nothing major was broken…getting it ready for the event almost took less effort than getting decent prints of the banners from a print shop.

Here are some images of the booth:

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People loved the game! Even those who came in with doubts ended up playing for long periods of time, and we got all very positive comments. The line in front of the booth was huge, it would have been great to have a bigger area with more PS4s.

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We made some new posters while preparing the booth:

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If you wanted to print your own posters or bookmarks, you can download the huge versions here.

Jon also did a short Twitch stream, it’s on YouTube here.

What we’ve been working on lately.

We built a DirectX11 rendering backend for our engine, which is likely to be the default when running on Windows. Up until now we had been running on DirectX9, which made sense when we thought the game was going to be done a while ago. But these days, DX9 is getting pretty old and busted. So far the DirectX11 version has been very successful; the engine runs much more smoothly, especially on low-end platforms, due to the drastically lowered CPU overhead of draw calls. There’s a little work to do here still — some of our weirder shaders don’t work in DX11 yet and there are a couple of lighting bugs — but this all should be nailed down soon.

We’ve been revising the modeling and texturing for areas near the end of the game. There are some nice treats in store!

We’ve been working on some of the “special effects” in the game, most notably particle effects. Our particle system was old and slow, so we are speeding this up, and then we will make some modifications to help make particle authoring an easier process.

We’ve been making some baseline functionality smoother. For example, so that you don’t need to think about saving your game, The Witness autosaves your progress every minute or so. On a high-end PC, you don’t notice the autosave, but on a low-end PC or on a console (because consoles tend to have different memory access properties than PCs), scanning the world for stuff that needs to be saved can be pretty slow, like, it could take 1/10 of a second, which would result in a hitch in the frame rate happening every minute. So we are hammering on this to make it faster, which should also result in saved game files being smaller, since we’ll be excluding a lot of things that don’t need to be saved.