The Island Today


The Witness: Island Snapshot

We are starting to tinker around with the sky (this one is way too dark). Also, moving around a bunch of locations and adding some new ones.

I'm doing a couple of weeks' worth of serious map organization / reorganization in order to get the game to a point where we can playtest it at pretty much any time, and whoever sits down to play will have a reasonable experience. The game was in this kind of shape back in January, but we had to do a lot of work on game internals in order to get things where they needed to be, interactivity-wise, for the mid-stage of development. Now that most of that stuff is done, it's time to put the world/content back in playable shape; from there, new stuff can be added in a way that continuously fills out the world. Once I feel like the world is "full enough" we can leave the preproduction phase and start going into production (which is where we start caring about what the graphics look like, start seriously doing voice recordings, etc).

One area I've been working on for the past few days is the start of the game. It is meant to be a semi-guided experience that clues the player into what the game is about. (If you remember the beginning of Braid, it's something like that.) You may have seen the interior of the house (the white building on the left) in earlier blog posts:


The Witness: Area just outside the house

The area just outside the house is a constrained path, but very soon the player exits this area and can freely roam an open world.

Most open-world games want to impress you with the hugeness of the world, and the corollary to that is that you spend a lot of time walking / riding / driving between places. The Witness takes the opposite philosophy: it wants the world to be as high-density as possible, just packed full of interesting things. As the island develops, we will be placing areas as close to each other as we can, within constraints. (Braid had a similar high-density philosophy -- though it manifested in a different way -- and many people appreciated that).

10 Comments:

  1. i loved that in Braid. the most amount of content in the least amount of time. this “high-density philosophy” makes the game feel packed with alot of content. Braid was 3 hours lond but you could play 15 minutes and feel satisfaction. p.s. is there a way i or a person outside your team could be a tester?

  2. “Most open-world games want to impress you with the hugeness of the world, and the corollary to that is that you spend a lot of time walking / riding / driving between places. The Witness takes the opposite philosophy: it wants the world to be as high-density as possible, just packed full of interesting things. As the island develops, we will be placing areas as close to each other as we can, within constraints. ”

    Thank you, that’s shaping up as something I’d love to play. Also I like the idea that you have this place you can roam freely, enjoy the view, solve a puzzle or two at your own pace – without something chasing or fighting you (there won’t be something like that, right? please?) or constraining you in any other way.

  3. Voice recordings?

    Isn’t the island supposed to be uninhabited?

    Soo… You find audio/video recordings, or is there some sort of narrator?

    (or maybe a-la Myst hmm was it IV? Where when you found books, you could read them with voice-overs).

    I’m still very curious to see how this will differentiate itself from the Myst series (including the evolutions of the last few offerings) gameplay-wise.

  4. Maybe that’s what makes everyone think of Myst – it and its followers seem to share that “density” philosophy, though probably out of necessity – they didn’t have any room left on the CDs to put anything extra in.

    Anyway, does anyone actually know what The Witness is about? Old school puzzles? Playing with some interesting game play mechanic, like the time in Braid? Hms hms hms.

  5. I bet Jon Blow knows what it is about. But he’s not telling. :\

    Anyway if I end up liking it as much as Braid, I don’t mind waiting a bit more for the big reveal.

  6. Well, one thing Jon mentioned in one of his lectures is that there are touch panel puzzles in the game. He really didn’t give much more info than that, but he seemed really excited about them, so I’m pretty pumped.

  7. Touch panel? Like gestures?… Hate to compare it to myst again, but like in Myst V? (you had a tablet where you drew things on it and stuff happened).

  8. Exploring game spaces > exploring map spaces

    Density was my idea, but you can have it if you like :)
    (All right, I stole it from a small game my friend syn9 made called Prompt Critical. More developers need to think of their game play’s utility function.)

  9. I really hope the player can just explore the island and enjoy its beauty. If the world is made to seem at all alive, I would love to simply park my view next to the centre lake (in the shade of a slowly creaking windmill) and watch the wind blow in the reeds, or ripple over the water.

    This is the form of simple beauty I feel needs to be put into a fully realized 3D game. If there’s anyone to agree with me, I should expect it to be yourself.

  10. I think this is one of the reasons I love college: it’s an incredibly high-density environment, in every sense (incl. a densely interconnected social graph).

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