Island Update, with bonus map

It's time for another island update:

As you'll notice, we are starting to work on that big mountain that is closest to the camera. (Finally!) This is still an early concept; it will change a lot.

Ignacio recently implemented a clean way to print an overhead map of the island, in flat colors, which is probably useful for marking things up:

On the modeling side, Eric has been refining an area that's far from the camera in these shots (you'll see some screenshots of the interior soon). Luis has been working on the style of our outdoor scenes; we have interesting problems that involve maintaining a visual style that is good for gameplay while also creating images that are most striking. Orsi has been working on refinements to a few particular areas, particularly, adding some deeper puzzle complexity to the area with the tall trees (off to the right in the screenshot image).

Until recently I had been bothered by some unanswered questions regarding the endgame. There were things I wanted to do that didn't fit together and that felt clumsy. But thankfully, after taking a relaxing weekend where I barely worked on the game at all, on Monday solutions to most of these problems just popped into my head. So that's cool.

There are still some questions about the gameplay but I think the biggest ones are now nailed down. Over the next couple of weeks I will be implementing the remaining parts of this endgame.

Tech-wise, Andy is pretty far along with the OpenGL renderer, which will help us hit other platforms, and Salvador has tied up the basics of asset streaming and is doing some rendering optimization stuff. Ignacio is refining the LOD system in addition to many miscellaneous tasks.


  1. I am really looking forward to this game…haven’t had a good puzzle game since Myst and The 7th Guest/The 11th Hour. Seems like everything these days is either epic fantasy role-playing or shoot ’em up action…neither of which I like. Thanks for spending so much time and energy making a game for the rest of us :)

  2. I may have asked this of you before, but since you are doing interior as well, I’m curious if you are using light distribution besides point and spot lights. Architects often use IES files to model more realistic distributions of light but I don’t see them in games much.

    Since the direct lighting is dynamic maybe this would be too slow. I guess point and spot lights would be enough but these other types of distributions look really cool. Anyway, maybe seeing the rendering will answer this, thanks.

    • The reason you don’t see non-point-lights often in games is because it is a lot harder to do that when it comes to rendering math, and good luck trying to do shadows with that.

      It’s something you will start to see more as time goes on.

  3. Looking gorgeous. Can’t wait to play.

  4. The cave looks like the passion façade of the holy family church in Barcelona. :)

    Can’t wait to see where this game can bring us…

  5. I’m especially thrilled to here that you’ve made a breakthrough on the endgame. The fact that you’ve been able to work on so much of the story and puzzling inherent in the game without having a clear picture of the endgame (for so long) raises tantalizing questions about the content of the game.

    • I’ve always known generally what the endgame was going to be, and how it would fit into the game as a whole. The specific issues solved here were more about how to design the exact puzzles involved, how to fit them into the world in a way that does not seem forced, etc.

  6. Jon,
    Always a pleasure to see a new island update! The overhead map reveals a number of interesting features of the island! In particular, I’ve noticed the single leafless tree to the right of the huge desert. Can’t wait to see what its story is…
    Recently I’ve been designing my first puzzle game, using the methodology you’ve outlined in your talks “Designing to Reveal the Nature of the Universe” and “Truth in Game Design”. The process is going very well, and I’ve already stumbled across some interesting truths. It’s true what you’ve said, that if you let the universe answer the questions for you, you are left with a much more sublime and interesting experience. Thank you for the inspiring talks!

    Keep up the great work!

  7. An opengl renderer eh? Do I sense a native Linux version?

  8. Looks pretty amazing. I really hope this ends up being as good as Braid (I cried at the end, just wonderful). I haven’t played a good exploration/adventure game for a while. I can feel the plain and mysterious feeling just by looking at the pictures, kinda reminds me of the original Lego Bionicle series. I really believe in this game and hope it gets the atmosphere right. Best wishes from Finland!

  9. Nice – really looking forward to exploring the island. I was a fan of Myst and other adventure games, really interested to see how you’ve rethought some of those mechanics.

    Was curious, do the island progress shots incorporate LOD simplification, or do they show the full geometry?

    • These progress shots are mostly simplified geometry. In actual gameplay the camera would never pull out this far.

  10. This fascinating island has certainly seen a lot of change over the course of development! Do you have any possible release window to share yet?

  11. (I asked this question in the previous post, but – just my luck – this post was posted very shortly after, so I’m asking again, if you don’t mind.)

    Hey hey, Jonathan! Glad to see that all is going awesomely with The Witness, and I really cannot wait to finally get my teeth into it :D.

    I have a question: Jon, have you ever considered doing a lecture/assembly about the value of more interesting, thought-provoking games for an audience of children at all? Seeing as they are essentially the ‘next generation’ of gamers, it would be very interesting to see exactly what is on their minds amidst their disillusionment that Call of Duty and FIFA are the epitome of video games, and the fact that you’re quite possibly the only person that would ever give them the opportunity to show them what is outside the box (because, let’s face it, the aforementioned titles are never going to do that for them) would be really valuable to them, I reckon.

    Is this something that you have ever considered?




    • Why can’t children play Braid or The Witness?
      Say that The Witness ends up having bad words in some of the logs or videos like Braid…
      They are very much games for everyone. Children/next gen gamers ??? What ever/my ass why can’t kids play this and other games? They don’t go by age!
      Unless you want some Disney shite or just plain asinine, inane and infantile shite…
      And what would be the point of Jonathan wasting time when he could make more
      interesting shit?

      Because that’s what it sounds like. It sounds like you want infantile stuff but kids can learn from alot of broader from Braid and TW

      …also, yes! I just answer a question that was not 4 me! sue me :P

      • (In reply to ‘justin’.)

        Firstly, the question wasn’t even directed at you. Secondly, you have COMPLETELY misunderstood and manipulated the question in the first place, and so your response is completely invalid. My question was in regards to the possibility of Jonathan giving a speech about the value of deeper, more thought-provoking games to children, much like the way he does talks for adults; in no way was I insinuating that neither Braid nor The Witness would ever be suitable for children for whatever reason. Heck, my six year-old niece has played (and pretty much completed) Braid, and she thought it was awesome. Granted, she didn’t quite ‘get’ the deeper meaning of the game, but she still fully understood the base regardless, and she doesn’t desire Disney shovelware.

        And, judging by your overzealous use of swear-words, you’re clearly annoyed about something in the first place, and taking it out on someone asking a perfectly valid question really isn’t a good idea. Channel that anger into how passionate you are about the games, however, and that would be just awesome!



  12. What’s your thoughts on Unity?

  13. I noticed a post on your Twitter saying you were supposed to have an interview with someone but you wanted them to connect on here. I am admittedly NOT that person and running the risk of getting completely shot down due to capitalizing on that post, but is there any chance you’d do an interview for a site at which a number of other people and I stream games?

    We average around 300-500 viewers depending on the night. I’ve streamed Braid before and it was very well received by our viewers. If it gives us any more credibility, we recently did an interview with Edmund McMillen, which was very enjoyable. As a very big fan of Braid and someone who is slated to stream The Witness when it comes out, it would be fantastic to get an interview with you.

  14. Sorry, should’ve given more detail to my question…

    I’m like, very new to video game development (started learning C++ two months ago, started learning Unity like two weeks ago), and Unity is extremely inviting for new game developers like myself. But what I’m wondering is that, in the long run is it a good idea to keep going with Unity or go back to the basics of programming and try to build up from there?

    I know this is probably not the best place to ask, but you seem to be very active in the comments on this site and I’d really like to get your input. I played Braid a LOT and found it very inspiring, and I’m really looking forward to The Witness.

    Thanks for your time,

    • It is my very strong opinion that in the long run you want to have full control over all your code, which something like Unity does not give you.

      However, if you have just started, you are very far from the long run so it is maybe not so important. What you want to do first is get good at making games, so use whatever method seems helpful to do that.

  15. Alright, I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks so much for the pointers. Good luck with The Witness–I’m sure it will be fantastic.

  16. I haven’t felt this way since Myst.

    Good luck; I can’t wait.


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