Island Snapshot

We haven’t done one of these in a while. Here’s what the island looks like currently:

The current puzzle count is 497. (This is lower than last time; last time was an overcount, as we had some temporary duplicates in the world that were being counted mistakenly.)

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  1. Felipe
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Looks incredibly beautiful!

  2. WC
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Somehow, these shots make it look like there’s a lot more walking than previous shots did. I like it. It felt too small before.

    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      When things are less detailed, our minds tend to interpret them as being smaller, due to lack of scale reference. So as we fill out the game, things just start to feel a lot bigger. This is part of the reason we shrunk the island a while back — we realized we had too much space!

    • Jozape
      Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      The horizon shot definitely makes the island look way bigger than from above.

  3. Mark
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jonathan,

    I love the sky in the second shot. Since you usually post shots looking down on the island I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of it before.

    Could you comment on how you are rendering the sky? You can see a lot of depth (height?) in the clouds, and they also look hand painted. If they’re not actually modelled as 3d objects, how do you prevent perspective problems as they pass directly overhead?

    – Mark

    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      Right now the sky is just a plain skybox! I am hoping to do something more than that in the final game.

  4. Aditya
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    From the colorful close-up trees to the sun-lit shades to the bridge half-way to the far-off trees with dark loomy shades to the big cornered hill to the vast water beyond to the white cloudy shapes…… To sum up it will be a very beautiful place to roam about and explore.
    Take as much time as you can to make it as enjoyable as our eyes have pictured it. :)

  5. Joel
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’m really liking these latest images. The added height differentiation and detail are really starting to give the island a sense of place.

    BTW, I’m curious why you include the puzzle count in your snapshot posts? It seems akin to a combat game designer tracking dev progress based on number of enemies you can kill.

    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      It’s just an interesting statistic that marks progress numerically. I agree that it is not super-meaningful.

  6. GoSign
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Are all of the counted puzzles on display panels, or do some of them exist in the same space as the exploration?

  7. Sami
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Awesome shots, as WC said it looks like there’s a lot more space to walk around. I can really see the island shaping into a very interesting place to explore.

  8. Luke
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Looks gorgeous – especially like the 2nd shot, I imagine it’s more representative of the in-game experience. The subtle depth of field blur and atmospheric coloration adds a lot.

  9. Posted December 11, 2012 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    I’m sure this is something you’ll address in a later blog post, but I was curious as to the approach you’re taking with the soundtrack(if any)? Will it be ambient sound only? Mostly? Licensed music, like Braid, or an original soundtrack?

    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      It is mostly ambient sounds (we have quite a lot of these). There may be some surprises beyond that, but we aren’t saying anything about this yet.

  10. Bjorn
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink


    I was wondering if there is a post or if you would like to do a post on the tools you use for creating the graphics for the Island.


    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      It’s pretty straightforward: Maya / 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, ZBrush.

  11. Donnie Darko
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    looks great. i love the art direction. i really love the screenshot that shows a different part of the island.

  12. Eric Blomquist
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I love the near-ground shot – it’s difficult to get a sense of scale in the air. The island definitely looks spatially simple – yet dense in exploration.

  13. Eric Blomquist
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Another quick thought – that mountainside is seemingly high-poly, are these normal or parallax mapped? Or just geo?

  14. Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Jonathan,

    These are beautiful screenshots, and I like seeing the whole development documented this way: it feels the same as watching a real-world construction area. As time passes, you can see the building coming up.

    About the sky, I’m curious (and I apologise if you’ve already been asked this): do you plan to feature weather changes during the game?


  15. Adam
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    I don’t recall if it was there or not before, but the snow on top of the mountain is a gorgeous touch.

  16. M.M
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    The sky looks wonerfull. It is hard to belive it is still in placeholder stage.

  17. Paul
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of my facorite games ever.

    I’ve been following this project as well as the Oculus Rift very closely, and I was wondering… has the Rift been considered for the Witness? It could be a match made in heaven…

  18. ericb
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Dear Jonathan,

    I’m from New zealand (Not that that matters) but I have an urgent question I wanted to know from your point of view, watching a few of your lectures and playing your game really inspired me into game designing. I apologize this question isn’t relevant at all to even this website, but I’m wondering, what is best to do: Apply for a course on game designing, which would probably take 3 years in total, or buy something adobe flash instead and practice on there? I know this question comes across as really uneducated, because it pretty much is, I have no idea where to begin in terms of gaming etc.. I’m not expecting at all like a list of 10 steps or commandments to follow, but just a little advice or guidance from your experience in gaming as a whole. Thankyou and apologies once again. Its very selfish of me to be doing this but I don’t know where else to ask you (probably twitter I shouldve), but it would calm me down a little, Thank you from NZ. BTW this witness game.. my god.. cant wait till it finished!!

    • Jonathan Blow
      Posted December 19, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      It depends on how good the school is, versus how much initiative you have to learn on your own. Most game schools are lousy, and the people teaching at them have no idea what they are talking about, so you are better off not going to them; but a few are okay, and might help provide structure if you are the kind of person who finds that super-useful.

      Keep in mind that most game education programs are new things that colleges and universities are starting because they realize, holy cow, a lot of kids these days want to go to school for video games, so we can get more students this way!!! Correspondingly, they are a waste of the students’ time. This is true even for some more-academic schools that have an okay reputation academically, because academia generally doesn’t have quality standards in the proper way. As long as the professors can publish stuff and journals accept it, it doesn’t matter if it is total crap.

      Back when I learned how to make games there was no such thing as a game school; we learned on our own back then, and I think I did okay at that process. (Though I did go to school for computer science).

      • Eric Bernard
        Posted December 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        Thank you very much for your reply Jonathan,
        I appreciate it a lot. It was very confirming of some thoughts I had. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Best wishes!

  19. Linus Tan
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Jonathan. I realize this is completely off-topic, but since I don’t know any better way to contact you I’ll leave this here.

    “It’s not a game about go save your friends. It’s a game about – doing a lot of picking skins from things, and wait, it’s just a pile of meat – this doesn’t even make sense, yet I’m still doing it instead of saving the friends.” – Jeffrey Yohalem

    This is a quote from a fascinating interview with Far Cry 3’s writer Jeffrey Yohalem, in which he explains how he set out from the outset to create an un-game with Far Cry 3. His methodology is almost the exact antithesis of yours, I think, and therefore I suspect you will find the interview as interesting as I did.

  20. colin
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m consistently impressed by how good you guys are making this game look with such a small team. That horizon shot is gorgeous. I can’t wait to get in there and explore. All the best to everyone on the project!

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