There has been worry and speculation on the internet about the PS4 exclusivity that we announced during the press conference, so here are some details to help answer those questions.
Our deal with Sony is a limited-time exclusivity that applies to competing console platforms. Basically it is that you will see the game on the PlayStation 4 for a while before you will see it on the Wii U or the rumored next Microsoft console. (We haven't been disclosed on Microsoft's next console, so I don't know anything about that platform besides the rumors that are on the internet).
This exclusivity does not prevent us from being on the PC or iOS at launch, for example.
People have been speculating that we got paid for PS4 exclusivity, but that is not the case. There was no money involved.
The real situation is that, because we are a small developer, we only have the ability to launch on a small number of platforms at once. We liked the idea of being on a console, and originally we thought we might be on the PS3 or Xbox 360, but eventually we decided not to target either of those, due to the relatively low system specs and the work required to do the ports. After some more time went by, and our release date drifted further into the future, we realized that the next-generation console launch time might be a good time to release the game. (For a while we were hoping to be out substantially earlier than the next consoles, e.g. right now, so we didn't start thinking seriously about this until recently).
To launch a high-spec version of the game on a console, it came down to a choice between the next Microsoft console or the next Sony console. There were people at Sony who really liked the game and were keeping in touch with us about it, and so we naturally started going to their PS4 developer events, got a dev kit, and started playing with it. I don't have good communication with anyone at Microsoft right now, but all our technical people like the PS4 specs a lot more than the leaked Durango specs, and we like the positioning of the PS4 (it's about games) more than what we perceive Microsoft's positioning is going to be.
So we just found ourselves doing a PS4 port. And once we are doing that, it is not practical for us also to think about another console port. We were going to be a de facto console exclusive for Sony no matter what. As I mentioned, there are people at Sony who are very interested in The Witness, so they somehow percolated up through the ranks the idea of showing the game in the launch show.
Of course, Sony wants that show to point out things that are going to be exclusive or special to their console. If we are in their show, but next week we turn around and announce "we changed our mind, we are exclusive on Durango forever," that would be a bit weird. So to be in the show we signed a timed exclusivity for competing consoles. But this was just a formalization of something that was already going to be the case. We like the PS4 and we like the people at Sony we are working with, so it was an easy choice to make the agreement.
Exact timing of our release on launch platforms has yet to be figured out. It just depends on how much we can do and when; we'll know more as we get much closer to the game being done.
Thanks for the clarification. I assumed this was the case, but it’s nice to know for sure. It’s also nice to know approximately when the game should come out.
You couldn’t be more clear and transparent! :)
Also, I’m a long time Nintendo fan and console owner. I flirted with the idea of owning a PS3 for a while, but with all these Call of Duty variations being the front line of PS games in recent years (and innovative games like Little Big Planet being the exception), it didn’t happen. In that context, I found it surprisingly refreshing to see Sony not only supporting but highlighting a high profile indie dev such as you guys in a console announcement event! It certainly increases my chances of going for a PS4. Damn, I already feel awful for not being able to play Journey!
Anyway, congrats on being on the announcement, Jon, it’s no small feat!
I noticed that you guys are taking some heat over the PS4 exclusivity because of the ‘low-spec’ line of thought used to not target the PS3 or X360. And the criticism is that you’re already targeting a relatively low-spec iOS device; and the PS3 or X360 will continue to have a bigger user base for a while than the PS4. Obviously more went into those decision than just specs (like difficulty in porting, and maybe the opportunity to showcase The Witness at the Sony event). I was just wondering if you had anything to add to this that might clarify things further.
The situations are just different. iOS users expect their devices to be low-spec machines compared to big computers, so if you deliver them a game that does not look as good as the PC version, that is totally fine.
360/PS3 users have a different expectation (or at least they did, prior to next-gen consoles being announced). If you deliver them something that does not look really good, it will be looked upon badly. But for a small team to make a 3D game look competitive on those platforms requires a lot more work than we have to spare.
Also: as I have commented here before, to be on iOS we just have to do one hard thing: port successfully to a low-spec machine. To be on the 360 or PS3, we have to do two hard things: port to the machine *and* pass through an arduous cert process that, depending on particulars, may also interfere with the game and its aesthetics in a way we don’t really want to do.
On the PS4, we’ve removed the low-spec pain, so we are once again down to one hard thing, approximately. (Well the port is not trivial in this case either, but we know when we do it that we will get a good-fidelity version of the game at the end, so we like it more.)
Johnathan, Do you know if the PS4 will have a certification phase for the games like the 360/PS3 or is the PS4 online store will be more like Apple’s (more loose, free, easier)?
Also, How easy will it be to port for the PS4 compared to other easy to port platforms. Is the architecture really as nice, friendly and simple as they said?
The game looks amazing. If The Witness is a PS4 launch title it will be a day 1 purchase for me even though I have a PC that can most likely handle running it.
Then why buy it on PS4
I hope you’re not delaying the PC release until the PS4 comes out. :(
“This exclusivity does not prevent us from being on the PC or iOS at launch, for example”
This is exactly my question. The game looks ready to launch on PC.
I’m also very curious about this, and that’s something that the blog post neglected to mention. Will the game’s release across all platforms coincide with PS4 release? Or, if the game is ready before PS4 comes out, will the PC and iOS versions be released?
Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan! I had assumed the exclusivity would mean a release delay for the PC version, and I’m very happy to hear that isn’t the case. I also greatly appreciate your transparency.
That you were asked to make a presentation at the PS4 launch announcement with only a time-limited console exclusivity agreement is a great sign for the industry and for PC gaming!
(Oh, and I didn’t watch the trailer… I’d like to be as surprised by the game as possible when I first play it. It must be very difficult to balance preserving the experience with promotion…)
Thanks for the confirmation. I figured the situation was something like this, but it’ll be good to be able to link worried PC players to this blog post as I try to ease their concerns.
Very glad to read this :)
I won’t buy a PS4 as old fidelity to Pc gaming and I’m really interested in your next works.
My only hope is that you’ll put the same interest in Pc version, avoiding a bad porting or a lack of interaction with Pc’s community.
I’m following “The Witness” since he started and, now that I know it won’t be a PS4 exclusive, I’ll follow you till the end!
Good work :D
>This exclusivity does not prevent us from being on the PC or iOS at launch, for example.
It seems I owe you an honest to God apology then. Whether you accept it – is another matter altogether, but, for all it’s worth, I am truly, genuinely sorry. I misunderstood the statement about “console exclusivity”, reacted rashly – and, well, said some things that should not have been said. I was in the wrong – and I apologize for that.
Do you guys have a good idea of the work it’ll take to port it? I’m curious as to what the PS4 architecture is like for devs, since the PS3 had such notoriously weird architecture.
It is much more straightforward to develop for than the PS3. Our biggest challenge as a cross-platform developer is figuring out how to build shaders that we don’t have to rewrite everywhere.
Will it be ported to Linux (Ubuntu) as well, for the initial PC release? Perhaps through Steam?
Would be happy to see that, seems like a cool game!
About a Linux port, it is too early to know. We’ll see. I haven’t even managed to get Braid working on Steam Linux yet (mostly just due to being busy on The Witness).
As with anything else, it depends on whether enough people are going to play a Linux port. Humble Bundle was really good for Braid, so presuming that Humble Bundle is still going, that by itself is a reasonable case for at least strongly considering Linux support.
In general, though (outside of things like Humble Bundle), Linux users haven’t really been buying games. Maybe this will change over time with Steam natively on Linux. Don’t know.
I’ve been using Linux more and more these days, though, and I’d love to have more games I can play under what is rapidly becoming my favorite platform. I also have a Windows partition, and the truth is, I’ll be buying the Steam version whether there’s a Linux port or not. But if you want to know how many people would play/appreciate a Linux version, consider me a +1.
Please port this to Linux! Linux gamers might be a minority right now, but things are already changing. First the Humble Bundles, and now Valve’s support for Linux as the platform they’ll be using for their console. Just their console would increase the number of people who will demand a “linux” port of games in the future, and hence a linux port now would be good strategy to hedge against the future.
I have to say, a linux port would be great, I have to disagree that people on linux haven’t been buying games outside of the humble bundle, look at steam. They really have been. Then there’s the matter of ‘Where do us Linux users purchase games from?’ there isn’t many places, so we are forced to use Windows to play the games.
I am not alone in being very picky with what games I’m buying, if it doesn’t have a Linux port, the chances are I’m not going to buy it, and no, I’m not even going to buy it on the pretence that there might be a linux port. I don’t wish to spend money on games that do not support the platform in which I have chosen to run.
Braid is a fantastic game, and I’m really looking forward to it being in Steam, I have not seen much information about the Witness, but if you put the effort into this as you did braid, it’s going to be a wonderful game and I really look forward to playing it. On Linux.
“In general, though (outside of things like Humble Bundle), Linux users haven’t really been buying games. Maybe this will change over time with Steam natively on Linux. Don’t know.”
Because Linux users had no opportunities to buy games. The only source over the last few years for more or less newer games has been the Humble Bundles.
Yeah, Johnathan, I think you are misinformed about that. Many Linux users are happy to pay for apps/games that are polished and work better than an open source implementation. The reason you say we don’t really do this, is because there aren’t many cases where this exists yet.
As far as buying on Steam. You really should read this: http://www.reddit.com/r/linux_gaming/comments/190zap/steam_linux_dev_asks_what_kind_of_stats_do_you/
Basically, in his findings, Linux is a much more viable market than OSX and downloads were at least 2x that of OSX.
Oh, and I’d love to play the Witness. I’ll pick that up if/when a version becomes available for Linux.
The reason Linux people aren’t buying games is because there aren’t games for Linux. I will purchase The Witness without hesitation if it is released on Linux (and only if it’s released on Linux).
+1 for Linux. I’ve been expecting your game since it was announced for PS4 but have now moved on to PC. I’d hate to have such a great game that’s bond to a non-free operating system.
+1 for Linux. I would love to buy this game, but I do not run Windows.
Thanks so much for clearing this up, Johnathan. It was bitterly disappointing to see The Unfinished Swan announced as a PS3 exclusive after so many years of waiting for it, and my heart dropped when I saw this article headline pop up in Google Reader, thinking this beautiful game was going to be off-limits, too. Glad to hear it’s not the case.
I don’t think you would say one way or another, but I have a hunch that Adam Boyes had something to do with you being up on that stage.
Did Sony have any input on your prepared statements? Were you even working from a prompter? I loved what you said, but some of it was an indirect slap to some of the other titles shown at the conference. People who know you know that you speak your mind, but for Sony to let you just get up there and say “this game is going to be awesome because it’s not derivative crap stuffed with filler gameplay *cough*like-half-of-the-stuff-you’re-seeing-tonight*cough*
ANother thing I doubt you can comment on: you’ve had reservations in the past not only about the cert process, but the patching process for games on these closed platforms. If you can comment on it: has Sony demonstrated or indicated substantially their plans on easing not only the cert process, but also the patching and content addition process?
Thanks for any insight you can sure,
A curious fan.
I wrote everything I said on stage. I pre-submitted it to Sony so that they could get the show set up, but they expressed no desire to edit it.
There was a prompter, but I just glanced at it a few times, so I wasn’t really speaking from it. A short speech like that is not hard to remember.
About the cert and patching process, I only know as much as anyone else knows: Sony has made remarks that they want this to be better. In an interview from a couple of days ago, the official statement was made that they want cert/gatekeeping to be somewhere between PS3 and iOS. That is a pretty wide range, so who knows where it will end up. I would not expect them to go totally open/uncurated, though.
If the “low specs” of the 360 and PS3 were unacceptable, what does that mean for the Wii U? Would it be too much to expect a port of The Witness with comparable graphics?
What are your current thoughts on a potential port to Wii U? specifically wether or not the time spent on it will be met with enough sales to be worth doing. Although I appreciate that this is dependent on Wii U sales, but by the time the ps4 version will have been released, which it will assumedly have to be before work would begin on the hypothetical Wii U port, Wii U sales hopefully should have progressed enough for you to make a clear call on this)
We just have to see. Once we have done iOS, a Wii U port would be somewhat easier… we just need to see if enough people own the console and are buying games on it at that time.
Thanks for the answer, it’s nice to see you’re keeping your options open and not ruling anything out, also, do you think the Wii U will lend anything to them game? From what I saw in the trailer the circuit based puzzles would be a fit for the touchscreen, but aside from that do you think you could use anything the Wii U offers to improve or even just make use of in this game or future projects?
Apart from wether it would be a sales succes.
I do think the Wii U gamepad and the Witness might really add to each other.
How long does the exclusivity last? Because I believe that if Durango gets to be as good (or better) than PS3 then it would be great to have a port. Also, PS4 is 32-bits while Durango is rumoured to be 64-bits.
Where have you heard that? Bits have got nothing to do with how games look, play and feel, it’s simply how the proccesor addresses memory. 32-bit has a memory limit of about 4GB of Ram, the PS4 has 8 so i’m pretty sure its 64-bits.
But again, this isnt the bit-wars anymore, bits mean nothing. :)
You literally have no clue what you’re talking about.
Thank you for the clarification – I think a lot of us were led a bit astray by some bad reporting. I should have read up a little more first, it seems.
I’m still a bit surprised that exclusivity is a thing that matters much – it really seemed like the industry was moving away from that stuff. Looking forward to seeing The Witness on PC though, so I guess it’s not a problem for me.
Just think – I bought a PS3 specifically to play The Last Guardian.
Now I’ll buy a PS4 specifically to play The Witness.
The difference is – The Witness might actually get released.
Are you going to use the extra power of A6 iOS devices to deliver better graphics than previous generations?
I have a feeling that releasing the game with the PS4 is going to make the Wtiness a much more ubiquitous game than Braid was…
Given that, I really hope you’ll continue to interact with your fans in the same manner.
I, and I’m sure many others, really appreciate the Q & A format of the blog posts you make, and I hope they continue, even after the Witness is released.
You inspire a lot of people and it would suck if that ‘connected’ feeling was lost.
Just to give another perspective to this interesting comments section:
I was anticipating the game (following the blog very regularly), but did not want to buy a new laptop to run it. (as it looks like it’d require an expensive laptop).
I will however unquestionably be buying a PS4 – and I am so thrilled that I don’t have to think about how I will get to play this, now it’s headed to a platform that I had already accounted for financially this year.
Just serendipity for me really.
The Ps4-Reveal was the first time I heard about this game. It was very good for you too have been there. I read the hole blog and know I can`t wait to play the game. :-D
I will definitely buy the game on PC and will probably have to buy a new one to be able to play it. But that seems totally worth it.
I would even double-dip full price for a Wii U version if done right. The gamepad and the nintendo library of games seems so match up so well with The Witness. Maybe you could get a publishing deal with Nintendo for there console, outsource it or even both. I dont know if that is possible. :-D
I just hope for a great Wii U version.^^
The Witness just went up to be my most anticipated game. Please take your time and make it perfect.
Hi Jonathan ,
Thanks for your clear and candid response.
How hard was it deciding how to make your trailer interesting without being too spoilery? Will the solutions of the final release vary from what was shown?
Personally I tried to view the trailer broadly without scrutinizing any one thing for fear of spoiling it for myself.
I hope by “iOS” you mean iPad!
Thank you for the info. The Witness looks like a great time. Epiphanies happen in puzzle games, but to build one focused on creating them is exciting. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as an epiphany that works. I’m really looking forward to all your future work.
If released on Wii U, I would buy it up. Indie devs have had great success according to WayForward and the developers of Trine 2. I’m sure people would buy this game too if it has good value.
I get the explanation about 360/PS3 expectations, but what about 3DS? With an iOS version, would it be easy to port that over to the eShop? I heard that certifications for Nintendo systems are extremely lax + very cheap. So I’m sure it would be easier than going through Microsoft.
3DS is probably just too destructive a port. We would have to totally devastate the game to put it on there, and it’s not worth it.
My limited experience with Lot Check (Nintendo’s release certification) is that they were slightly harder to work with and more stringent than Microsoft or Sony (SCEA were by far the easiest). This was back in the GCN days so things may have changed.
If you think the 360/PS3 is ‘low spec’ for the game to handle why bother with the Wii U – being that it seems like it’s actually around that specification? Why do you think people will bother buying it on the Wii U if the best version, graphically, is on a more powerful machine. Aren’t you being ..contradictory in such aspect of console owners being too picky in relation to iOSs’?
No. The reason is, as I said, that Wii U owners do not necessarily expect that to be a high-spec machine.
Alright. I think that’s true and fair enough being that those getting a WiiU do know already know what they are getting anyway…But just one last thing, Do you currently have access to Wii U’s DevKit [or have worked with one before] to justify and support this claim?
You don’t need a devkit to perform market research or compare graphical resolution/processing power across systems.
The fact that the same brilliant people who make hi-def games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 aren’t doing so on the Wii U should tell you enough.
Every word you said have lost its credibility especially if you are speak from a developer’s perspective, and evenly more unprofessional. Your second paragraph, I do not get at all. I don’t even know where that fits in.
Let me paraphrase:
It’s foolish to assume that the same people who make games for the Xbox 360 and PS3 decided to make their Wii U games low-tech “just because”.
It’s a low-tech system and the user base (Wii –> Wii U converts) don’t expect anything else.
I do expect it to run without slowdowns and a stable frame-rate on the Wii U.^^
To be honest I only really care about the PC release, but this was still pretty interesting. I do hope that the PC version is ready before, or at the same time, as the PS4 release.
Now THIS is the kind of transparency and dialog I love to see in the games industry. I want more companies to take the time to explain why they do what they do.
GUys, anyone asking about the wii U version should just givve it up. He has already made it clear about its negativity about the WiiU ealier last year in a an interivew and doesn’t think it will be successful.
“I don’t understand why Nintendo thinks that the Wii U will be successful. I’m not betting on that,”
Full Interview here: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/03/12/the-witness-is-jon-blows-second-shot-at-all-or-nothing/
So …yea. Don’t waste your time on any question or answers for the Wii U version and I don’t think he has changed where he stands on it at the moment either. So people, Move on to the other consoles in regards.
But didn’t he state in this clarification about the timed exclusivity that ” you will see the game on the PlayStation 4 for a while before you will see it on the Wii U” and in replying to some comments here Jonathan never said what you are saying. As far as your link, I support his right to change his mind if he sees fit.
Personally, as a Wii U owner, I would be very interested in this game and I hope there is a serious look by the development team at porting it. I’m not sure I understand why sales of the Wii U would be a factor if you are willing to go exclusive to a console that has sold zero units thus far. What happens if Sony releases a price of $900 for the console? Now you are tied for a time to a console that few people can afford. I don’t think that will happen, but I’m just illustrating that if you are comfortable with limiting your game to a console where there are so many unanswered questions, then really it shouldn’t be that big of an issue.
I hope Jonathan comments to set me straight if he indeed feels there is no chance “The Witness” will come to the Wii U. It would be sad news, but at least I would know from the source and I could put the contradictory news reports out of my mind.
There is definitely a risk in going with a console that hasn’t launched yet. Maybe nobody will buy it (though I think there is a low probability of this). Maybe the online store will just be hard to find and buy games on (there is a higher probability of this).
Ultimately, though, as developers we make some guesses about where things are going to go. When the Wii U was first being shown behind closed doors, I didn’t see why the general luxury-device-buying public would get excited about a machine that has a touchscreen controller (since so many people already have touchscreen devices they can carry with them on the bus and wherever, and the specs of which are lower than the Wii U but high enough). So far this view seems to have held; apart from early-adopter enthusiasts, sales of the console seem to be very low. (A lot of people don’t even understand that it is a new console, due to naming/marketing confusions). However, sometimes we get surprised and these things change. We just have to see.
With the PS4, we just have to see, but I think it has the potential to be very popular.
Jonathan, I am a contributing writer at the site indicated. Would you be willing to accept an email interview to help raise awareness of your upcoming game? If so, please drop me a line at the email I provided for posting a comment.
funny, you seem to be a bit more optimistic about the Ps4, and not the WiiU.
If you would have stated exactly thesame way you are feeling about the PS4 – to wait and see what happens, instead of jumping into almost conclusion of how successful it will be then perhaps the view of things might have been a bit …rather a whole lot different, albeit as a developer I believe the system you are targeting should also meet the requirements of your project – hardware wise, but then again I also do think that relying too much on how powerful a machine can be without taking into consideration the asking price is also a bit off especially in the state of economy. Having a powerful hardware does not always translate to a [huge] success. PSP, Gamecube, Xbox, PS3, Vita in contrast to their relative competitions. Either way we shall see how things will turn out. Good luck on the project.
I might just have to buy a PS4 to play The Witness!
How bizarre you aren’t on speaking terms with Microsoft by the way. One would think they’re really happy with you, as Braid more or less put XBLA on the map for a lot of people. I guess it says a lot about them that they didn’t keep the relationship warm to allow another success in the future on their platform.
I said a lot of blunt things in public, about how they treat developers, that they were unhappy with.
Doesn’t mean you didn’t speak the truth, since almost every other XBLA developer shared your views.
Well it’s their loss really. If they want developers to create games for their platform, they better treat them better. I just can’t believe they’re so cold towards you while you made them a lot of money and publicity.
It’s weird that this hatred amongst developers doesn’t really translate to the public. I think most gamers don’t have that many issues with Microsoft at all and in general think quite positively about the Xbox. Yet, a lot of especially small time developers seem to loathe them.
It’s especially weird that on iOS, the situation seems almost reversed. There’s a lot of outcry about Apple being too strict towards developers, but it’s really mostly amongst users that this complaint is heard. I think the average iOS developer likes Apple just fine. Maybe “like” is not the right word, but I do get the feeling most developers really appreciate Apple’s ecosystem and are in general very happy with their infrastructure, the way payments and refunds are handled etc. Sure there’s the occasional mishap, but it seems to be mostly the general public, not so much the developers, who have the most problems with them.
I used to think very positively about the xbox as well, but them Microsoft changed that by treating me pretty badly (and then treating other indie developers, including friends of mine, really horribly).
Maybe that will change over time as new people filter into positions of authority. I don’t know. (But I hope so!)
What ever helps you sleep. The next MS console will most likely be much more affordable than the PS4 and I will be holding out for the MS console for this reason. Therefore I’ll not be buying your console version. As an indie I would hope you’d see that consumer money matters. Hopefully it sees a steam release or I’ll not see your game.
You have no idea how much either console will cost, and we have already announced that we are on Steam.
Also … this is a tangent, but it’s the only substantial response that I have to your comment: money isn’t a real thing; it is a fiction used to manipulate people into doing work.
It is unfortunate that money is so unevenly distributed, such that a lot of poor people are needy for no good reason, and the money mechanism helps us feel like there is an excuse for this and it’s not our fault. So this fiction can do significant damage (but then it also probably does a lot of good, since a lot of people won’t work unless you trick them into working).
Just keep in mind that the whole thing is just a big trick. It becomes a trap if you identify too closely with it. If you think of yourself as a consumer and say things like “consumer money matters”, maybe you are caught in the trap. Yes, due to limited supply of this fictitious substance, we need to carefully budget sometimes. It can cause real practical difficulties not to do so. But if you forget that the substance is imaginary, and get all indignant about some minor thing, it’s just weird. It’s inappropriate. One might wake up one day and find that a lot of one’s identity is tightly bound up with this thing that is seen not to really exist; and when that happens, what does one do?
Buy a boat! And die before you feel the crisis!
Or, like, a multi-level garage for your fleet of cars.
I tried to think of something good to say in response, but Joe here basically says all I can in response to perhaps Jon’s most ill-advised rant yet. :) I kid, I kid. Everything Jon said is totally true.
Still, I want to remind Jonathan and the rest of the team toiling away on The Witness that there are a lot of us who really are grateful and proud that you would work so hard on something that will undoubtedly be many times more beneficial to us when we play it than it will ever be to any of you. (certainly financially) It’s painful to see people who don’t have the slightest concept of how hard you are all working to make something great _for them_ just pass you off as greedy and selfish.
As far as money goes, I know that whatever meager price this game will require will be an absolute steal. I would pay $100 for this game gladly, and I hope you aren’t too humble to deny me the option to tip more than you will ask. Braid literally changed my life as well as the way I think about games. And that’s priceless.
Alright, I know it sounds corny and dumb. But the reason the Internet is so negative is that people don’t want to sound corny and dumb.
With a comment like this, is it a wonder that you’re one of the few people coming up with truly expressive game concepts in the console space? It’s seems to me that placing primacy on the annualization financial returns through IP is the very thing that is leading this industry toward a generalized stagnation — money, money, money.
Also, it seems so odd to me that people would immediately assume your PS4 exclusivity was a cash grab when you consider the things you’ve said in the past about mainstream developing, the unethical design of WoW, etc.
The only thing that makes me a bit sad (not annoyed or angry, just sad) is that I intend to play on PC, and I assume that a PC release might get shifted back a bit in order to maintain parity with the PS4. Allowing you to launch PC at the same time is one thing, but releasing The Witness on PC before before the PS4 seems a bit unlikely.
It’s been too long since Braid and way too long since Myst and Riven, which this game seems to be something of a spiritual successor to.
Money makes things easy. The alternative is keeping promises.
Who does that, anyways?
One might wake up one day and find that a lot of one’s identity is tightly bound up with [some] thing that is seen not to really exist; and when that happens, what does one do?
I have a sneaking suspicion this statement is a paraphrase of an important theme in The Witness.
I have a question about the ‘audiologs’ in the game. I’ve been checking out interviews, and heard you compare them to BioShock. One of the irritating things about audiologs in games is there accessibility. Some games place them as a physical objection which you can actually walk away from, and the audio level drops, or stops once you reach a trigger point, which is horrible, because it locks you to a location. Some games, such as BioShock allow them to be played at the time, and you can freely walk away from where you collected them, but they’re automatically interrupted by any automated audio message. It has a convoluted menu for regaining them, but at that point you’re already on to the next thing. I can’t imagine The Witness having any sort of formal menu/item management system, it’s not very elegant design, but the idea of being tied to a physical location seems contradictory to the theme of player freedom, and encouraging exploration. How’s it handled in the game? The books in Braid were interesting because you always had a good sense of where they were, you could go back and revisit them very quickly, but I imagine that’s not quite as viable in a larger 3D environment.
A little aside question, the puzzles are performed with the standard sticks on the PS4 I’m hoping? I’m sure Sony will push all sorts of horrible design decisions with the new touch pad feature that will dog early games, I hope The Witness will not be amongst them. It took a couple of years for people to grow out of the Sixaxis controls, and the Vita is still burdened by interfaces welcoming terrible design.
Don’t worry about the practical aspects of audiologs; worry about their inclusion.
I think the practical implementation of the audiologs in Bioshock is far less important than the narrative implications of such an inclusion. In Bioshock, the audiologs play against the typical game trope of saving the day. In the logs, you hear people murdering people, which is bad. After that, you murder people…which is good?
In Bioshock, the issue is not whether or not they’re cut off…. It’s a fundamental disjunction with what you’re doing. To be wholly critical, Braid found an inelegant but useful way around this. While the things you are doing play heavily into the narrative (most, most eviably, which is why I love it), the prose/poem sections maintain a space separate. They feed into the narrative, but I have to guess that lack of narrative/gameplay hybridity still rubs Jon (or at least other indie auteurs) a bit raw.
This is where games like Passage and Everyday the Same Dream do well. But those games are severly limited in their interface in order to foster “interactive metaphor.”
The higher the level of user interface, the harder it becomes to map those onto meaningful aspects of the user’s empirical world.
To bring it back to audiologs…what are they?
Twofold: They are info dumps, in every case.
But they are also a chance to incorporate what you’re doing into the narrative of the game (assuming you’ve chose to make a narrative game [i.e. not basic Tetris or something like it]).
A criticism of Braid would be that it didn’t do this perfectly…maybe even not that well. It’s very segmented. The wandering around the house and the general tone of the game, however, do a lot to ameliorate this disjunction, in the case of Braid.
I think audiologs are chance to incorporate a story in to what you are doing very elegantly, especially considering a 3D environment.
BioShock’s story does run counter to your actions, but I don’t feel that the audiologs are in anyway responsible for that. They’re also not really about hearing people be murdered, they’re about being let in on the moral downfall of the society, actively trying to lower the value of life in Rapture, so you shouldn’t feel bad about killing the splicers. I don’t know the contents of the audiologs in The Witness, they may well serve a similar purpose, I would imagine they do, in that they’ll probably allude to early events in the islands life, and inform your current actions, they just need to not contradict the value of those actions. The contradiction of BioShock, to me anyway, was it’s commentary on game design completely falls apart when you’re finally given supposed freedom, the game doesn’t actually offer any greater control. If Would You Kindly? is an rationale for presenting a restrictive world, once it occurs, and you’re free, you shouldn’t be limited to that same world.
In Braid, while your actions relate closely to the story, your actual influence is almost in complete opposition to the story, your powers are all related to consequence free actions, while working through the greater consequence of your character’s previous (or yet to come) actions. The books were separated from the game in a sense, but to get them in small collections, not interspersed throughout puzzles seemed to be more effective. If it’s ultimately because Blow wasn’t wholly confident people would want to read that stuff, and so made it easy to skip it all, the result is still that it’s much easier for the player to go back and access the material. I would imagine at first a lot of players don’t really care about the books, then once there are much bolder indications the game may have story value to the player, they could go back and see that stuff much more effectively than they will for audiologs in The Witness.
I’m not against the use of audiologs, I’m just against a use that will be jarring. As much as I think something like Dear Esther is beautiful, the second you trigger a log while currently listening to one, so it cuts off, the second that atmosphere is completely shattered. The Witness isn’t just atmosphere, like Dear Esther, so that wouldn’t be as crippling in The Witness I imagine, but it’d still suck.
Ack! All great points you make! I wish I had more time for an elaborate response. I like your points about the second half of the game diminishing the work of the first half (Bioshock).
I’m gonna be nosy and stick in the middle of this conversation. I can’t word this properly but I’ll try to explain. Where are the books in Braid? You are out side your house near a bridge, then you go into your house, your living room and kitchen and then… You’re on/inside clouds? What’s going on, what happened? I was in my house and then walking on clouds and then I can go back in time?
Why the writings in Braid work perfectly and are (dare I say) flawless; is because they are the game. They are not contradicting but they serve many functions that help chain or “braid” everyother hting together so everything is related. The writings not only foreshadow buck tell and describe what has happened and what will happen. A circle of time perhaps, bound to be relived over and over again? Why Braid didn’t have end credits or intro antimations/movies ??
Capcha: Feet Mazda
“To be wholly critical, Braid found an inelegant but useful way around this…
… the prose/poem sections maintain a space separate. They feed into the narrative, but I have to guess that lack of narrative/gameplay hybridity still rubs Jon (or at least other indie auteurs) a bit raw.”
I don’t agree that it’s inelegant and it certainly does not rub me the wrong way. It is exactly what I wanted to make. It was conceived as separate but intertwining. Think about it like the relationship between illustrations and text in an old-timey illustrated book. (But different.)
I don’t believe that there is some kind of ideal form of a game, or that narrative has to somehow be woven into gameplay to be acceptable, or that it has to be told via cutscenes, or that stopping to read is bad. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but that is totally fine by me.
Really it is a question of taste.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to speak for you — was just guessing. I also didn’t mean to assail what you attempted to make, per se. I think it works in Braid; I guess I was just debating (with myself?) the relative merits of having a totalizing obsession with weaving narrative into gameplay. I love a lot of games, including Braid, that have portions of the narrative segmented out. I also like the storybook comparison. It seems apt, given the way the game references elements of a Super Mario Bros./has an illustrated, painterly look, etc. — the way the game deals with the ideas of nostalgia, reimagined/misinterpreted histories, and the fantasy of “going back.”
I guess I just found the way that the mechanics feed into the narrative/themes of Braid somewhat miraculous, so I tend to focus on that….
I really liked the disjointedness of the narrative with respect to the gameplay (disjointedness might be too harsh a word). In me, it seemed to really cement the ‘points’ of the game; when I realized something about the game while playing the it, and then re-discovered the same thing upon reading the text, the things I discovered were really driven home.
As a late comer to the Braid phenomenon, I must say I was VERY excited to see you at the PS4 unveiling. Both the console and The Witness are day one purchases for me.
Here’s a tangent thought… Do you think there’s any way to nudge the game development community toward creating better tools for game creation?
If games keep selling en masse for $60 a pop, plus the cost of DLC, game developers (okay – big-time publishers) can continue to afford creating them at that price.
As an avid Braid player via XBLA, and a follower of the Witness from the first moment I heard of it, I just have to say that I *hope* it will make it to XBLA at some point. I can always play it on PC, but currently 95% of my gaming is on Xbox. Just because Microsoft have been jerks doesn’t mean the players should be punished…
Its been fascinating following the development details on this blog.
Ever since Braid blew my mind and I found out about the The Witness, I have been following its development with great excitement. Braid has the honor of being the only game I ever called out of work to finish. And as much as I was hooked by the puzzles and sense of “epiphany” associated with solving them, it was the mood and poetic symbolism that really drew me in. I was astonished by the ending and spent a fair amount of time reading people’s reactions to it and theories about it, something I’ve rarely done for a video game (Limbo being one other recent example).
I am far from a “fangirl” and see that different systems have different strengths and weaknesses, but I have always favored Sony. Why? The answer is simple: the games. As far back as the PS1–and even further back to the Sega Genesis–I was drawn to the games that took risks with different atmospheres, stories, and themes than the blockbuster mainstream titles (not that I have not enjoyed those as well). Games like Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis), Oddworld (PS1), Shadow of the Colossus (PS2), and Journey (PS3), have given me the opportunity to experience feelings that many mainstream titles don’t: awe, mystery, melancholy, contemplation. Even the first Tomb Raider offered more by the way of mystery and silence than shooting and blowing things up. And these games played with pretty profound subjects: the nature of time (Ecco), environmentalism and social justice (Oddworld), the psychological impact of taking life (Shadow), and the nature of life itself (Journey). While Sony has far from had an exclusive on this sort of title, I feel they have created more of a space for it than any of the other platforms. So for all of the other cool things that were announced at the PS4 conference, I was amazed and thrilled with the announcement about the Witness–not just because of my particular excitement for this game, but what it says about Sony’s ongoing support of indie and left-of-mainstream titles.
I have never been one to settle for less with video games than I do in other genres of entertainment. I think games actually have the capacity to impact us more deeply on an existential level than films or even literature. The stories the authors want to tell interact with the story you make as you make decisions in the game and it connects you deeply to that world and your actions in it. “Your”–it plays on and with the sense of self. And because of that, there is the capacity to have an insight about a world and one’s self even in the confines of a virtual world. Then it gets even trickier as you question what makes a “virtual” world more “virtual” than the “real world.” Have we not created our “real” world out of our desires, fantasies, and hopes, just as much as we have our fictional worlds? Games have long played on the moral aspect of whether the player chooses a “good” or “bad” action, but I think games can–and already are–exploring more sophisticated territory than this. Quieter, more mystical sensibilities, prone to existential questioning, are harder to find in games. Yet I have confidence that I will find games that allow me to enter that quiet and eerie inner space with a Sony console. I’ll be excited to play The Witness on the PS4, or iOS, as I have faith that there will be something emotionally and existentially powerful about this game, and hopefully others that will follow.
I have no doubt there are fans of Braid, and The Witness, at Sony, but I’d have been very cynical about Sony’s courting of the game. It’s the highest profile indie game in development, and Blow has been a vocal opponent of certain XBLA requirements. Sony have also just lost their TGC exclusivity contract, meaning their highest profile source of ‘indie’ games is over. If no one at Sony liked Braid or The Witness, they’d still be idiotic not to try to get the game.
It’s cool that Sony decided to give the game time at the announcement, but it also seemed so obvious, and I don’t see that it’s an indication of intent for Sony at all.
This might be a little off-topic, but I just have to ask.
Will Shira Kammen be a part of the soundtrack to “The Witness”? The music played by her in “Braid” is absolutely excellent, and ever since I heard the soundtrack for the first time 3 years ago I’ve loved the songs “Downstream” and “Lullaby Set”.
The song in the trailer for “The Witness” really gave me flashbacks to “Braid”, so I wondered if Shira Kammen will return to “The Witness”.
From the looks of this post: http://the-witness.net/news/2013/02/the-witness-audio-1000-subtle-layers/
it doesn’t look like the is going to be much of any ‘soundtrack’ music in the game. That being said, I’m especially looking forward to the audio of this game!
I think it is really a wise decision to launch on PS4. Sure, there won’t be many PS4’s in the beginning, but there also won’t be many games to choose from, so it balances out so well. Not that Witness couldn’t beat the competition, but it will have to compete many less titles. I bought Resistance 1 just because there weren’t anything else to play on my PS3 when it launched.
I hope Witness sells like hotcakes.
It really is nobody’s business if you were paid for the PS4 exclusivity or not…seriously you have a right to make money just like anyone else. You owe no explanations to anyone regarding this.
Ehh, I am not some kind of objectivist or defensive capitalist or something. Sure, we don’t *have* to tell people anything, but the spirit of this blog is about open communication about what is going on. That is what makes it nice.
Any “remote play” function with ps vita will be available for “the witness” ?
Looks Sony is trying hard to get indie developers’ attention for the little device .. And time might be just right for a “braid” port as well ( :
What do you think?
Any chance we’ll get an Android port? I mean, android is everywhere and the community is starved for quality games.
Big fan by the way, please keep the good work.
Just came here wondering that very same thing /sigh