Deanna Van Buren, who worked with us designing the buildings for The Witness, has a blog posting on Gamasutra about video games seen through the eyes of an architect.
This week we have been working on a new trailer that we hope to release before too long.
It will not only show the game in a further state of visual development than the previous trailer (which is two and a half years old now — wow!), it’ll also show lots of scenes you probably haven’t seen before.
The trailer isn’t done yet, but here are a few stills:
Ignore the debug text in the upper-right (including the frame rate; these were taken on a monitor that’s locked at 30Hz; the game runs much faster on higher-end PCs.) Also, the actual trailer will be produced at much sharper image quality and higher resolution. These are just snippets of the non-final footage we are using to figure out the composition and flow of the trailer.
We are in full bug extermination mode.
A few months ago, only a few of Jon’s friends were playing the game and checking for major problems, but now we have Francis as a game tester, and we have an other guy starting later this month as a tester too. With someone testing the game full time, the bugs are really piling up. This is great because we are getting the game in shape for release, but it’s also wearing us down a bit because it’s non-creative, discouraging work, since for every bug we solve there are usually more that appear on our list.
There are many different kinds of bugs, some really major and a ton of minor things that can be solved fairly quickly. We are finding errors of all sorts, in lightmaps, shadows, collision, grass planting, reflections, mesh placement, modeling, materials, sound, etc. Not to mention a bunch of weird things that sometimes take a while to track down. We also have to check the game in High, Medium and Low quality, because different errors can happen at the different settings.
The biggest bugs involve spoilers, since they are usually finicky and gameplay related, so I can’t share those, but here are some minor ones that wouldn’t generally take too long to fix:
-Here we have a bit of collision randomly hanging out in the desert. If you tried to walk through it, you would be blocked and have no idea why. Things like this were really difficult to find, until Casey added some tools to visualize the collision:
-Sometimes, we just get bugs of areas that look unfinished, or wrong, like this corner over here. Francis is supposed to tell us not only about serious errors, but also notify us about things that generally feel wrong to him as a player. By fixing these areas, we hopefully get rid of some potential immersion breaking moments.
-In this shot, some of the little modular rocks were not receiving any sunlight:
-And here we have two separate bugs, the turret that is getting black lightmaps, and an open rock mesh below:
-This is a shot of the player being able to walk into a rock, and seeing through it:
-This is a pretty one, some error with the clusters of the modular catwalk meshes:
-There are tons of cases where the grass is clipping through things:
-And little lightmap errors that mean there is a back-facing triangle somewhere in the mesh:
-In this area the dynamic lights create some really ugly shadows:
-And finally, the bug that haunted us for at least a year, the giant colorful grass bug. It would happen almost always when replanting grass, and would not disappear until you restarted the game. Insanely large, colorful versions of the grass would appear and wave in the wind, blocking you from doing anything. Still not sure if we ever figured this one out:
These are only a tiny sliver of all the different kinds of things that we run into while testing the game. It’s a huge island and a lot of things can go wrong, so to make sure we ship a great game, we have to do a really thorough job. However, this and some optimization is pretty much all that’s left to do!
And now, here is a bonus a picture of Jon doing something weird with a tape measure taped to a mug:
We have this depth mode in the editor, that I’ve never really used for anything other than taking neat screenshots for fun. It’s been a while since the last post, so I thought it might be cool to share some. It’s difficult to find interesting new screenshots to share lately, since we’ve already shown a lot of the game and don’t want to ruin the exploration when it comes out!
In the last few weeks we’ve been adding the final art touches to the island.
Now that we have all the content locked down, Deanna, one of the architects, is reviewing all the structures we created and make sure they are as correct as possible.
Even though they previously designed the buildings and we implemented them, there have been many revisions and tweaks for gameplay that caused deviations from the original concepts, and in some cases, we just had to make stuff up with the best of our knowledge without ever having the Architect Seal Of Approval™
Another type of issue is how two different surfaces meet. The more detailed the island gets, the more these stand out as incomplete. As an example, the way this wood structure connects with the floor:
Some of this work might seem minute but it really makes the whole environment feel more grounded, adding a lot to the experience!
As some of you may have noticed in old screenshots, we had a few placeholder statues around the island. I designed these when I joined the project almost four years ago, and a while back Luis sculpted a couple of nice final ones. However, as we were finalizing some areas, we wanted to add even more statues. We realized that Luis would never have the time to sculpt all of them as well as help me finish the rest of the art, so we searched for a sculptor.
We managed to find Andrea Blasich, a most excellent artist skilled at both traditional and 3D sculpture. He is blowing through the statues and continues to wow us with his stuff. He just finished this giant lady sculpted into the mountainside, and it turned out so beautiful, I wanted to share it:
It seems like a good time to do one of these, since the island is pretty much all figured out! We have been wrapping up a lot of big tasks, working on some cool effects, and doing a bit of polishing and bugfixing. While we still have some things to finish, the island is probably not going to visibly change much anymore.
Last Sunday morning was exceptionally beautiful and sunny, and so I decided to spend the day reorganizing the office.
When we moved in two years ago, we just pulled things out of the moving boxes and shoved them here and there so we could get to work as quickly as possible, so the mess was only getting worse. We spend most of our waking lives here, so I thought it was worth a few hours to make it a more pleasant space. I moved some furniture around to create a more convenient place to test the ps4 build, threw out a giant pile of old things, put up some of the decorations we made for the Play Station Experience booth, etc.
I figured I’d put up some pictures, so you guys can see where The Witness is getting finished (because it’s getting finished, yo!):
You can use Oswin, a.k.a. The Witness Dog, for spatial reference.
On Friday we officially reached the Puzzle Complete milestone. This means that all puzzles that will be in the game when it ships are in the game now.
It does *not* mean that the game is done. We still have a lot to do! But it *does* mean that the nature of the work changes and becomes simpler, because we don’t have to be making high-level creative decisions any more. It is now much more about turning the finish-the-game crank (making sure stuff plays well and polishing it up) for anything related to game design, modeling and texturing.
There are a few categories that still need creative decisions (story stuff, the menu system, etc), but for those of you who are awaiting the game’s release, this is pretty good news.
There are currently 677 puzzles in the game. That number might be slightly different when it ships (we might cut a few, for example!)