iPad video update #1

Andy's got the iPad port far enough along that you can sort of play the game now. Here's a short video:

There are some basic hacks going on; for example, right now, we are not drawing the real sky; it's just solid blue. Also, right now we are just loading this starting area, but it should not be long before we can load the whole game (Salvador wrote the streaming system a while back and we have been testing it extensively on the PC, so for the iPad it should Just Work. Famous last words.) Also, as you can see, the panel-tracing controls could use some work.

When we can wander around the island generally, I'll post another video update!


  1. Looks good. What version of iPad is this in the video?

    • That’s an iPad 4. But I wouldn’t draw any visuals / performance inference from that. The port is very early.

    • I’m aiming at iPad 2 and iPad Mini for minimum spec (don’t quote me, no promises etc.) but obviously we want to get it on as many devices as is feasible without degrading the gameplay experience.

      As Jon mentioned, in this video the streaming system isn’t enabled, not to mention a lot of those textures aren’t fully compressed, so it doesn’t fit into RAM on a 2 just yet.

      If we hit that, maybe we’ll try it on the more recent iPhone models too, and see if it makes sense on the small screen.

      • Thanks for the info, that’s all I wanted to hear. I figured iPad 1’s are impossible. This thing barely runs Safari. I will be buying a PS4, but it may be cool to check out the game in a different format later.

      • From what I’ve heard, the iPad 3 poses a more difficult performance target than the 2 due to its increased resolution and tends to run slower in some cases. Have you guys found that to be a problem with The Witness?

        • Higher resolution is not a big deal; you just render to a lower-resolution offscreen buffer and upscale (which is standard practice if you do any kind of post FX anyway).

  2. Seeing the reflection of JoBlow wipe his nose there made my day.

  3. Ok, so if you touch the panel then you walk up to it and are auto docked into that puzzle. What if you want to pull away from the panel?
    Or for walking, is there a way to sidestep?

    Apologies in advance. These questions likely do not respect how difficult implementation of touch controls are.

    • Yes – the ability to strafe is implemented already (drag with two fingers) and you could use it to pull back from the panel or to sidestep, Jon just doesn’t use it in this video. All the touchscreen movement code still needs some serious work, but what we have right now is handy to get around while I work on the engine.

      • Wow. That actually sounds like an accessible control system that would appeal to alot of people. I don’t know how often this gets said to you guys, but this game could have a very wide audience on the ipad.

  4. Very cool. Did you have iPad / tablet in mind from the start? Seems like a natural fit with the puzzle style.

  5. I’ll get it for PS4 and iPad!!! So happy C: 

  6. I used to think iPad would be the premiere platform to play The Witness on, but now I’m not so sure.

    I’m sure it’s great for the maze puzzles, but I didn’t factor in how clunky the world navigation and exploration would be.

    Might stick to a mouse and keyboard for this one.

    So excited to see how far this game has come.

    • It is not necessarily clunky. Right now we have it tuned so that it tracks your finger exactly: if you put your finger on some feature in the scene, and move it, the feature will move to the new place where your finger is.

      It feels pretty natural. But if we decide that turning takes too long, we can just amplify the turning so that it no longer tracks exactly. That might feel better. It might not. We don’t know since things are still pretty early.

      • Stephen Cakebread

        Rather than amplify the motion, have you tried adding scroll inertia to the horizontal rotation? Being able to start the view spinning with a swipe, then stop it with a touch would definitely help the turn 180 case; (although might make you feel less like a person wandering about, and more like a disembodied viewpoint!)

        • Haven’t tried this. It is an interesting idea though I wonder how it changes the feel.

          • I know it definitely feels good for scrolling, so it shoild feel similar. It allows for the 1:1 motion on small things, but you can swipe-swipe-swipe and gain some serious momentum. Definitely try it because it is a fun, responsive, and juicy interaction.

  7. My first reaction to the controls was ‘That’s backwards!’ After watching the whole video, I was okay with them, though. Any thoughts on possibly having alternate control schemes for those who just can’t accept them?

    • It’s ‘backwards’ if you think of a virtual joystick or FPS mouse, but it’s ‘forwards’ if you think of scrolling a web page or photo. The latter seemed like a more consistent fit for the device.

      The first thing I tried was a virtual mouse and it just felt weird.

  8. Integration with the new PC touch screens would seriously put this in the running for best PC game ever. I’ll still play it on every format. Keep up the great work!

  9. What have been the major challenges (so far) in doing a port for such a low spec system?

    • The biggest, most obvious, and probably least interesting challenge is fitting into available memory, and I expect that to continue throughout the project. The iPad 2 has 512MB (I was going to say “just” 512MB, but then I remembered that’s as much as a PS3 main RAM+ VRAM, which is kind of crazy good) but the OS is the gatekeeper of how much you get; if you’ve ever had an iOS app just disappear and dump you back to the home screen, that’s very likely due to it not being able to adequately respond to a memory warning from the OS. So streaming, texture compression, simplified models, and simpler shaders (and therefore smaller vertex formats) are our friends here. Again, we don’t want to take any of this to a point where it compromises the experience though. As with so many things, balance is key. There’s your videogame-programming Zen for the day :)

      In the more “that’s an interesting thing to work on” arena there’s how we reduce/convert our shaders (I think I promised a blog post on that a while ago, I should probably do it), how we rethink our HDR implementation for non-floating point formats, and optimising various core systems for the ARM + NEON architecture.

      There’s a *lot* to do!

      • I should also mention a nice side effect of all this. The art team are of course authoring all the models and textures at a very high fidelity level for the PS4 and gaming-spec PC market. A lot of this optimisation and scaling work we’re doing for iOS devices can filter back up to the PC version for people who want to play on a machine at the lower-end of the performance range (put The Witness on your laptop, pretend to be working during that boring sales meetings…)

  10. I presume you’re planning to release on Android tablets (e.g. Nexus) as well? I believe its hardware specs are even if not better.

  11. From the sound of things, it looks like a, what — GDC14 debut with the release for that Christmas 2014 holiday season?

    That in the ballpark?

    • I sure hope not.

      • I remember Jon being frustrated when he was approaching 3 years on “another massive project.” Two years later… I’m sure he doesn’t like to think about how long it has taken, it can be a negative thing, making things feel too daunting. Better to just focus on quality and not worry about time for as long as you possibly can. Keep your head down and just stay working.

        I hope you all can launch this year, or spring 2014 at the latest.

  12. Looks great! Keep up the great work everyone!


  13. This is a little out of the blue but what do the white boxes around comments mean?

  14. I’m glad to hear Christmas 2014 is NOT the goal.

    But that movement scheme — the touch-to-move thing alá Unreal Engine3″ for iOS:
    is that gonna be finalized or will navigation methods have several options?
    Like, for example, just moving your left thumb to walk & using your right thumb to look around.
    I’m really used to that navscheme: anything else’d take me out of the game’s reverie
    because I’ll be too irritated at something that is super easy to implement, but,
    for whatever reason, hardly ever gets done the right way.

    I ask because there’s all the hullaballoo about “Year Walk”.
    Have you seen *thier* movement scheme?
    You you have to double-touch [not double-tap] the screen & pull down
    over & over & over again just to make forward progress.

    I was so disgusted, I skipped out on getting it entirely.
    Which is too bad, ’cause it looks like it’s a surefire iGOTY candidate that I’ll never know about ….
    And I don’t want that to happen with “The Witness”, because it looks too damned lush-ous to miss out on! lol

    • I think that virtual joysticks, as you describe, are generally a bad control scheme. I have no plans to put those in the game. Sorry if you like them.

      I agree that Year Walk’s scheme is a bit unwieldy. But if that is enough to completely turn you off a game, it may be your loss, at least a little bit.

  15. If this is the version that’s going to be ported onto WiiU, will it also only use exclusively touch-screen controls?
    Also, congratulations on the port. It’s amazing to see the game in action.

  16. I don’t have an iPad, but I will very soon have an Oculus Rift.

    Are you going to be Rift-compatible?

  17. I’m scared of the Oculus Rift!

    I wonder what the dev team would consider the “best” platform for their game.

    Some albums are “vinyl” albums for me, and others are “CD” albums.

  18. Similar to Myst, is there a plan to support a quick walk mode that will support quickly navigating through terrain that already has been visited?

  19. Ahmet Sezgin Duran

    Looks great. I hope I can play it on Linux with my Logitech F710. (couldn’t play Braid with that.)

  20. I’ve been enjoying the quotes on the main page. Any recommended reading to get ready for the tone/spirit/philosophy of The Witness?

  21. I don’t know anything about the game beyond what has been shown on this blog but the pictures made me think of “The Invention of Morel”.

  22. Since you’re also making this game accessible to iPad users, would it be possible for you to make this game accessible to Mac users?

  23. This is already looking amazing!

    Here’s a little tip: check out Lili on the App Store, it’s one of the few 3D games ever made for an iDevice where the controls actually feel great. Natural scrolling (with a bit of momentum) also is a great fit.

  24. This looks absolutely tremendous. I can’t wait to play. I don’t usually look into a game’s release date… it’s kind of like, “I’ll get around to playing that sometime.” But this game is like a new Radiohead album or something. Mr. Blow is an artist, and will be remembered as one. Trust the goddamn artist, people. :)

  25. Ugh!!! I check this blog daily and there hasn’t been a new post in what seems like forever! It’s cool though, because I know that means you’re getting some hardcore work done!

  26. On the thread where you were clarifying your comments about PS4 exclusivity you mentioned that when you have the game running on iOS that a WiiU port would be easier. Watching the video it seems like the GamePad touch screen would work identically to how you are constructing the interface for the iPad, plus you will still have the analog sticks and buttons to work with for functionality. Any thoughts?

    I would still be very interested in conducting a brief interview with you for our site about this project.

    • The Wii U just is not high on our priority list. We have a number of other platforms that we are targeting first; we can only do so many, being a small team. Once those platforms are clear, we will assess whether a Wii U port makes sense, but that assessment will be a long time in the future. I don’t think it is super-likely, though.

      • That is truly unfortunate to hear. The genre of The Witness fits in extremely well with the typical Wii U owner. Many of us grew up on the Myst series and are always on the look out for something that is similar. From my viewpoint, which means nothing, it seems that The Witness would fit in better with Wii U owners than the PS4 crowd that tends to favor FPS.

        In either case, I’m sure the title will do well. But I do seriously hope you don’t summarily dismiss the Wii U. I truly believe there is a large fan base waiting for you there.

  27. As I was watching the video I thought it would be cool to move the iPad about to change the view direction if I chose–like some of the starfinder apps. It might be quicker to use the accelerometer than the touchpad for some of the movement choices. Maybe that’s what you meant by virtual mouse.

    By the way, Braid was just great. Thanks!

  28. I’d love to see the gyro and compass used to look around, and tapping anywhere on the lower half of the screen to walk as an option. Then the fingers would be freed up for gestures and drawing on the puzzle panels, that is a much more engaging experience IMHO…

    Not unlike the 360 Panorama app, or the panoramas over at http://occipital.com/

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