The Witness Gets A Gameplay Trailer, Will Launch On Playstation 4

The Witness

Sony’s Playstation 4 event was livestreamed last night, and I watched the whole thing. I saw a lot of things during that conference. Dudes. Explosions. Dudes exploding. A man getting intimate with a virtual car. But as the fog of interplanetary futurewars and anti-government uprisings cleared, I saw something in the distance; beyond the barrage of pissed-off protagonists, tech demos and flashy cutscenes, I saw something fantastic—something beautiful and… puzzling. I saw Jonathan Blow’s shirt.

Just kidding. I saw a trailer for the upcoming open-world puzzle game he’s only been working on for the past three-and-a-half years, and I could not be more excited (I guess his shirt was kinda cool too).

Witness The Witness

The Witness is set on a mysterious island, seemingly abandoned of all but a host of enigmatic puzzles—comparable in a way to the classic Myst. This we already know, but Blow’s appearance during the Sony conference ended up being insightful as much as it was surprising (and I think for most of us, it was very surprising).

Blow is most famous for the critically acclaimed Braid released back in 2008, a 2D puzzle platformer that is required gaming for anyone who believes in the marriage between mechanics and story. Following the same design philosophy with The Witness, Blow expressed his and his team’s desire to communicate ideas through gameplay. Rather than have a collection of arbitrary puzzles and an unrelated narrative, Blow and his team strive to maintain the unity between the two elements.

“Every puzzle has an idea inside it,” Blow stated during his presentation. “We worked very, very hard to communicate in a non-verbal way, the essence of each idea.”

Time and Space

One of the major appeals of the open world game has always been its scale. How massive of a space can be created for the player to explore? The richness of the experiences within that space are often lost in its size. Blow, on the other hand, is focused less on the scale of the island and more on the experiences it has to offer players.

“We’re trying to make the world as compact as possible,” Blow said, “so that you have a very dense experience that makes the best use of your time.” There will be no wasted time, and no wasted space. In fact, their team has actively been working to cut out filler, to ensure that The Witness is as pure of an experience as possible.

Even with all the talk of condensing the game, Blow has confirmed it will be about 25 hours long.

Still, what I’m most curious about are the puzzles. What they are, exactly, is difficult to say. I have not had the chance to demo the game myself, but judging from screenshots and this new trailer, they appear to be based largely around tracing lines across grids. I can’t help but feel there is some connection between exploring the island, mapping your way across its space in the same way you draw lines across these panels. Do these maze-like enigmas reflect a larger maze, perhaps that of the island? Maybe our own minds? The thought process itself?

The Witness will be a timed exclusive upon the launch of the Playstation 4, but will launch simultaneously for PC and iOS as well. Additional platforms may follow. No word on exact release dates yet, but it is slated for sometime this year!

If you aren’t already, you can keep up with The Witness development blog here.

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  • yourmom

    Wonderful aesthetics