Landscape color studies

Now that the gameplay is further along, we are starting to think more seriously about how the game is going to look. Shape and color are very important thematically; one idea that's been floating around for a while is that different locations on the island would have very different color palettes associated with them, and that this would help cement the locations' individual personalities. (This is not in principle a new idea; games often do this kind of thing, but I think the way we do it will make it special).

Shannon did a few color studies by taking screenshots of the game world as it stands today, then painting over them to build scenes with different palettes. Here's what he came up with:

I think it looks quite nice. Don't assume much based on the painterly style of these images; they were intentionally done at a low level of detail, so that we could quickly get a feel for the colors. We don't know yet exactly what the rendering style of the game will be in the end (but that is something we will start working on soon!)


  1. Looks great, it’s hard to imagine that sort of style in a complete 3d world though. Are you planning to use cartoon like shaders and lighting in the game to achieve the ‘painted’ effect? Or is this just to decide on the right color set

  2. Vinicius Bruno

    Man, this kind of visual exploration in effects/shader looks promising. Do you will show something about the process to do it? Btw, awesome concepts.

  3. dumb question: so, the game will look as a paint? that’s awesome.

  4. no wait! i’m preparing a surprise animation for the Witness but im using the place holder graphics! i just need a few more weeks!

    + i don’t like cel-shading … and only 3 pictures? :c

    it looks very nice though, hopefully the rendering style is more realistic, trying to look like the real world than cartoonish or artistic…

    and still anxiously waiting for gameplay details… thats what really matters to me

  5. I definitely prefer when open-world games divide up the area with different palletes and art styles. Bethesda did so in Morrowind, but then didn’t do so in Oblivion. The result was a game world that, in my opinion, felt generic, as if you could travel from one end of the province to the other and feel like you spent the whole time in the same forest. I ended up using the fast travel options far more often in that game…

    I am curious what you could do with this concept to “make it special”.

  6. Wow I love the colors in these images. I cannot really explain why I like these images, but by saying they look very rich and the colors really work nice together. I love how you did this in Braid; and it is good to see that the environments and their make-up serve a purpose in the game.

  7. I’m liking the desert palette best, but the lush green could be nice if the moss and such were really thick. Hell, the autumnal one is great, too, though…

  8. The game will probably not look like paint, as I was trying to say in the posting. This was more about colors. As for what it will actually look like… We will have to see!

  9. I’m a beginner photoshopper and gamer, and I think that looks amazing. ^_^

    I can’t wait. :D

  10. yes!! thats looks amazing! so many games these days go for such depressing, dark and gritty looks. i think theyre so uninspiring. glad to see a fully alive and dream like world, it looks so awesome

    can i just say i hope you handle the dark parts of the island well (if there are any) i dont know about anyone else but i thought the last levels of Braid (the time bubble one) felt a bit cold and i didnt enjoy those levels as much

    cant wait for more news and pics :)

  11. A painterly style would be perfect. TF2 and SF4 are some of the best looking games out there without being hyper-realistic – It’s the modern alternative to the imagination inspiring 8bit era, and it ages really well. No need for cellshading, but some high-contrast shading goes a long way.

  12. It looks great. I love the way the shadows in the forest use the complementary violet to contrast the green. Good technique for shading illustrations, but never seen in a game!
    I really like the autumnal colors of the first one too. The second one has more realistic shades, the red/orange ones on the ground are nice, but I found it far less immerse. The sky may not have to be blue?
    Can’t wait to see what will follow!

  13. You know, I think I want to make that second one my desktop wallpaper for a while… :)

  14. Won’t lightmapping make this sort of localized coloring a challenge though?

    I’m assuming everything will be baked with the same environment settings and light, so even if different colors are used for materials in the end they are going to have a more unified look (which of course is both good and bad, depending on what you want).

    Or are you going to do some sort of post process color correction that is going to vary depending on where the player is? (which, could also be tricky, since if you are in an open area, buildings faraway are going to look like they have different colors, than from close by).

  15. > As for what it will actually look like�
    Mirrors Edge, huh? :) Kidding, but nice contrast and colors are rare in nowadays. Look at this horrible yellowish-rusty palette:

  16. Looks really nice, I think colour theming can create an immense amount of atmospheric and psychological character for locations in games, (as can audio, another often-overlooked element). The mockups remind me of both Eskils ‘Love’ and some of Daniel Docius work. Personally I like the look of games with ‘post process’ style, it sort of stops the automatic competition/comparison with who has the best texture resolutions or the most parallax mapping etc.

  17. Just wanted to pipe in saying I’m really digging the colors and tones in these images. I think many games ignore the importance of good color usage and I’m glad you guys are focusing exclusively on this with these concept illustrations. Looking forward to how this is going to result in 3d!

    I’m kinda curious how you guys are going to handle the transition of ambient color from a technical standpoint. I see each of these images has a slightly different ambient color and am wondering if you are going to use lightmaps for this effect or if not than what? It’s probably too early to tell, though.

  18. Jason Rohrer’s new game is out on Steam!

    + omg, i can’t believe you guys, painterly style would suck! only Braid could pull that off!
    i hope the Witness is realistic looking yet stylized to look very fantasy like. like a dream or something… like in Braid, thats exactly what Braid did!

    i hope the game ends up being sort of speculative fiction, like Braid. it was based on the real world and events that make human beings great (playing with time to create the atom bomb) but besides being realistic it was also sci-fi and fantasy theme… my guess is that the Witness will be like that touching on another subject that makes human beings great (either religion or going to space)

  19. The first image looks wonderful to me! Both in terms of the style and in the interesting puzzle that looks present there.

    Are you going to talk a bit more about the kind of puzzles and the game mechanics in exploring and solving them? I’d like to know more about the game and how it works. :)

  20. Artwork looks great! You should really consider a painted rendering style, something like quelsolaar’s love.

  21. Wow! I think it is a good choice to use very bright colours!

  22. I hope you keep the autumn color scheme from the first picture in some part of the game; it looks fantastic. As far as the art style goes I hope you go for a realistic approach – using extremely high-res textures. This seems like one of those games that doesn’t need to be 60 fps (or even 30); although you may be limited by consoles in this respect. The PS3 has the equivalent of a 7800 nvidia card correct? That’s now 3 generations behind by my count. This is why other games have to sacrifice things like texture resolution (Crysis 2) in order to run on consoles.

  23. Jon

    This looks great.

    You and your artists should be really proud.

    All the best

  24. Im looking forward to this new gaming experience, but I do have a question. Jonathan, from what I’ve seen in images and read from different sources, is this going to be a game similar to Myst? I dont really mean in story, but in the fact that your alone, on an island, and need to solve challenging puzzles?

  25. Once again a very nice post! I love the painted-over screenshots. I’d really love to see a fully rendered/painted screenshot next update, but that’s up to you.

  26. I like them, vibrant, nice, relaxing really.
    I think I prefer the first two but then I like warmer pallets.

  27. @ Rob:

    I have this question too! i thought the Witness was going to be point n click… well it obviously isn’t. In Totilo’s video we see this is not the case but im worried the game will be like Heavy Rain or worse L.A. Noire. i know Jonathan would never do that but what if the game is not… what i call “real” game like Braid. where you can interact with everything.

    It sets me on edge! like why the fuck can’t i go trough the trees? why can’t i go to the water or why does the water kill me? why can’t i jump or run? why m’i so slow? is nor like a *real* game. not like “go every where do everything” but something like what Braid did. no cut scenes or what ever but pure game play. that’s a real game!

    like, i heard L.A., Noire has a button to skip game play sections so that you get to the real game: cut scene after cut scene after cut scene and you are not bother by the half assed interactivity. its just like Heavy Rain, an interactive movie, lol!!!!

    that’s what im afraid of! i trust jonathan and i know that whatever he choses it will be perfect! but still i hope its nothing like Myst (reading books, and just walking and clicking on stuff) and be more like Braid (reading books of cool speculative stuff and full interactivity where you controll and see and do everything)

    i would be suprised if L.A noire had that “skip game play” button. lol

    so yeah! i hope the Witness will be really interactive, like Braid and not like other adventure games like Myst or Monkey Island Or Dark Fall Lost Souls. b/c i don’t know about you guys, but now in the modern ege if i see a box in the world i expect to be able to pic it up and trow it and interact with it. if i see water in the environment shouldn’t i expect to be able to swim? i still im not in the point of “if there is trees i want to clim them” b/c not alot of games do that. but that would be cool…. also painterly sucks! go for realistic!

    • i hope the Witness will be really interactive, like Braid and not like other adventure games like Myst or Monkey Island Or Dark Fall Lost Souls. b/c i donâ��t know about you guys, but now in the modern ege if i see a box in the world i expect to be able to pic it up and trow it and interact with it. if i see water in the environment shouldnâ��t i expect to be ableto swim? i still im not in the point of â��if there is trees i want to clim themâ�� b/c not alot of games do that. but that would be coolâ�¦. also painterlysucks! go for realistic!

      Wow, reminds me of this:

      The statement that Myst is “just reading books and walking around clicking on stuff” is quite inaccurate of what Myst is actually like. Unfortunately, there is no shaking off the Myst likeness whenever “island” and “puzzles” are mentioned in the single sentence, though we’ve seen enough of the game in videos and screens to know what’s different already. That does require having adequate familiarity with Myst (like kn0wing there are several worlds, and the types of puzzles that Myst and Riven seemed to favor, recognition (and this is biased) of a disconnect between the abstract puzzles and vacant environments).

      Why would you expect to throw boxes in any game? Doesn’t the aesthetic design of the game have more to do with how the objects are perceived within the game? Were you annoyed that you couldn’t push some of the boxes? Or interact with the cannons in an active way? I was pretty happy I couldn’t swim in Limbo, since the water-rising puzzle or two were really quite fun.

      It’s strange that you’ve aimed these preemptive criticisms at the designer of Braid. Let the man fail at something first.

  28. Heh.

    I hate to disappoint, but there’s no throwing boxes in this game, neither is there any swimming in water. It is not trying to be a Simulate an Immersive World kind of game.

    Rather, the game sets up a scheme where interactivity is as simple as possible (nope, there is not even any concept of jumping!) in order to make the game dynamics very clear and tight. That way, confusion relating to puzzles is drastically reduced (“do I have to jump at the right time to solve this? Do I have to throw a box and hit this lever with it while standing on the other side of this gap?” Well, since there is no jumping or box-throwing, there is no confusion about these things).

    There are different kinds of games. In some games, throwing boxes is just great, but in this one, it is other things that are just great.

  29. wast up with it blood!!1! this ur voy just1n! lok lok nigguh wat i waz tryin 2 say was…

    lol, no. just kidding, im not gona do the soulja boy. im just kind of like i dont know what the game is… and im just so excited. like i said i trust jonathan and what ever he does will make the game perfect but i understand what you mean. is like when you talk to your little brother about Planescape Torment and he talks about Hale 5 or whatever. Myst is a very excellent game *I* didn’t like it but i know what it is and i respect it, just like i know and respect great literature but i have never read a book b/c of a mental disorder but you are right i should not have made any sort of negative statement towards that loved game and i guess beign somewhat young and used to modern games i just think differently but it was stupid to expect to swim just b/c there is a lake in the game, the game is not about that. i understand and i should’t have doubts on jonathan! he has made the best game ever!

    i almost passed all of Myst i was doing great! then came the puzzle in the rocket for the selenitic age… here sound, make sound and i just could get it right, i watch tutorials and walktroughs b/c of that puzzlebut after a week of trying i gave up. i wish i could finish.. i would like to know how it ends. BUT TO PLAY IT SO DONT TELL ME!

  30. @Jonathan Blow:

    yeah, i wasn’t worried. i was just curious!
    in Braid you can’t get inside the cannon and shot yourself out of it. there is no co-op partner like Bloopi to make solving puzzles “fun”. but the game doesn’t need it, it’s its own thing not every game is GTA or whatever

    i just don’t know what The Witness is and i am curious!

  31. Adam Gorcowski

    Bloopi’s my favorite thing in Braid and one of my favorite things in life. If I didn’t love him so much, he’d probably be dead right now.

  32. @Jonathan Blow

    That’s pretty cool the way you’re thinking about the puzzles. Reducing confusion by reducing certain actions, which is great ’cause what I found when I played portal 2, at times there was something going on in my head I don’t know what, but it caused me to solve puzzles the way they were never meant to be. I think it was just the ability to jump that caused me to think in some puzzles that if I were to shoot a portal near me and then one near the exit, jumping through would cause me to land directly at the exit; surprisingly it worked. Later I investigated and found out that that was not initially intended by the game designer. It’s just that the use of the jumping action allowed for such things to happen; however jumping in portal 2 is a vital action so yeah they should’ve designed their puzzles a bit better.

    @ justin

    If check the date, that should be enough of a clue to tell you something about Bloopie. I’m sorry I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or joking or whatever.


    Secrets of Braid that I (and possibly some of you guys) never knew about:

    scroll down and you’ll see.

    When I played the game, I read all the stuff but then later on I just thought it was like a mental thing where the character was going crazy which for me at that time was a good enough explanation. Now I know that the witness should have something really cool behind the scenes.

  33. *sigh* Those screens are utterly astounding :).


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