PS4 The Witness on PS4: “The biggest, most intricate world ever built for a puzzle game”

Martok

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It has been a while since we made a post on the PlayStation Blog, so I thought I would give an update about what we are working on.

The Witness takes place on an island full of puzzles. The island is an open world; you can go anywhere you want, and the game does not try to force you into a linear path. For the past couple of years, we have had the island mostly built in a gameplay sense, and we were trying it out, moving things around, developing location concepts, tweaking puzzles. At this point, most of that stuff is figured out, so we are now going through all the areas of the island and detailing them.

What we learned in this process is that the island is in fact very big, for a place where you carefully visit every location during gameplay! Correspondingly, for a small independent team like ours, detailing this huge space is a lot of work!


Just the other week, we played through the game from start to finish, to get a fresh perspective and to see everything that is here (because when you are working on a small piece of a game for a long time, it becomes very easy to get tunnel vision and to see only that small piece).

Originally I had meant to design an eight-hour game, but The Witness is more like 25-40 hours depending on how much you play (some of the game is optional!). I suspect this is the biggest and most intricate world ever built for a puzzle game (someone get a consultant from the Guinness Book to verify that!)


On the tech side, we are working on making the game run with a smooth and solid frame rate, and making the graphics look as nice as possible, and ensuring that the streaming system loads things quickly. We wrote our own engine for this game, so on the one hand, it means we get to do a lot of work; but on the other hand, it means we have precise control and can tweak it carefully until it is the highest-quality experience we can deliver.

We look forward to giving you an excellent game!


Source: EU PlayStation Blog
 

Jkrohn1

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Reminds me of myst
 

Martok

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Hands-on with The Witness on PS4

Shortly after I heard the phrase “PlayStation 4” for the very first time, I received a blog post, a batch of screenshots and a trailer for a game called The Witness, from legendary game designer, Jonathan Blow. This was my first exposure to the impending next generation of video games.

My excitement for The Witness may, admittedly, be amplified by my sentimental nature (it is the first PS4 game I ever laid eyes on, after all). After getting a chance to play it at an event last week, however, I’m relieved to know that my excitement is justified.


Jonathan Blow helped to bring mainstream attention to the indie game development movement with his 2008 classic, Braid, which famously twisted the minds of gamers worldwide into knots. As such, it should be expected that the challenges you’ll face in The Witness will put your mental capacity to the test. Thankfully, you won’t jump straight into the mind-numbing brain-twisters — The Witness is designed in such a way that you’ll be gradually introduced to new concepts that will allow you to solve progressively more complex puzzles.

It’s especially impressive that The Witness conveys such a welcoming, coherent sense of progression in what is ultimately an open-ended, non-linear game. You’re given no direction when you set foot on the island — go forth and explore!


If you watched the debut trailer for The Witness (embedded above), you already know this one’s a looker. The art direction is purposefully simplistic, allowing for a world that manages to be abstract, but believable. As you wander across this island, you’ll traverse a surprising number of different environments: you’ll move from lush, green trees to a barren desert, or look across a river to see a field of cherry blossom trees in the distance. Get adventurous, and you might find yourself climbing a snowy mountain with a view of the whole island below.

It should be noted that during all this exploration, and all these drastic climate changes, never once did I encounter a loading screen. Turn on The Witness, and get lost in its simple (yet beautiful), relaxing (but sometimes maddening) world.


Controls in The Witness are straightforward: Move and look with DualShock 4′s refined analog sticks, hold L1 or L2 to run, hit X to go into what I took to calling “draw mode” (pressing Circle takes you back out), wherein you’ll interact with the game’s myriad puzzles. Interestingly, you can enter draw mode anywhere — in the bit of the game I played, I never got a “Press X to Puzzle” prompt.

The puzzles themselves usually take on the form of some sort of maze. When you first engage with one, a small light pulses to indicate where to begin drawing. After you start following a path (navigating with either analog stick), another light will pulse to show you where you want to end up. At first, you’ll just need to get from Point A to Point B. As you get further along, your objectives will start to become less clear. Eventually, you might find yourself staring blankly at the screen, feeling helpless and slightly frustrated. Stick with it, though! Once the solution “clicks,” the feeling of clarity and accomplishment is incomparable.


Despite the lack of music or dialogue, sound design in The Witness is taken quite seriously. The sound of the player’s footsteps changes depending on the environment — dirt sounds different than grass sounds different than snow sounds different than stone, and so on. It sounds silly, but I found myself paying extra close attention to see if I could hear a repeated footstep sound effect (spoiler: I couldn’t).

All these elements — the soothing visuals, intricate sound design, and smart puzzle progression — coalesce to form an ambitious, yet accessible follow-up to one of the indie community’s most respected entries.

The Witness comes to PS4 in the first half of 2014.

Source: EU PlayStation Blog
 

Martok

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The Witness on PS4: A progress report
Find out how Jonathan Blow’s ambitious new puzzle adventure is coming along

The Witness is a game where you explore an abandoned island and solve puzzles. We’ve been working on this game for a long time (it’s been over five years since I began working on it, myself! The rest of the team joined at various times after that). We don’t know the release date yet; it is still officially “when it’s done”, but these days “when it’s done” is getting closer and closer. The Witness is an ambitious game with a lot of things for us to get right, and getting it right takes time; I don’t want to rush the game out at the cost of quality.



Here are some of the things we’ve been working on lately:

Design
All the gameplay along the “main line” of the game — the stuff you would expect to do from the beginning to the end of a standard playthrough — is done. But, this is a game that has a lot of extra things for players who are really into the game and want more; we are still designing some of those extras.

Modeling and texturing
The game has a lot of different locations and it’s very important that they all receive the same degree of care. Most of the island where The Witness takes place is fully modeled at this point, but there are a few very important locations that are still in a draft stage, and several others that could use another pass of detail.





Frame rate optimisations
At release on the PS4, we are planning to render at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Right now we meet this target in many areas of the game, but not everywhere. But with more old-fashioned hard work we should be.

Level-of-detail management and streaming
For example, making sure that it doesn’t take too long to stream in new parts of the world as you move. When we do stream in higher-detail versions of far-away geometry, we don’t want the graphics to pop, so we’ve recently implemented a smooth blend between LOD levels. The Witness is an open-world game with no loading screens; the feeling of just walking around and looking at things is very important. We work hard to make this happen as smoothly as possible.
“The Witness is an open-world game with no loading screens”

Audio
Since the game is so much about a sense of place, the audio design is crucial. Right now there are 1.2 gigabytes of sound (much of it compressed!) in the game, which represents over 40% the game’s data.

This last statement about the audio made me curious about what our data looks like, so here are some numbers on how much data is in The Witness. (These are all the size of files in the game as it would be shipped, not the source files!)

  • Texture Maps: 1196 files, 446MB
  • Meshes: 4588 files, 507MB
  • Sounds: 2435 files, 1.2GB
  • Animations: 197 files, 0.6MB
  • Entities: 1 file, 4.3MB
  • Lightmaps (these are auto-generated): 17916 files, 453MB
Total (including other files not listed here): 39387 files, 2.7GB

It’s a lot of work, but we are now in the downhill stretch of the race and looking forward to tying the game up completely. We’ll have more updates for you before too long!

Source: EU PlayStation Blog
 

Slaine

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Really looking forward to this. It looks absolutely gorgeous.
 

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This game is awesome. Anybody played it yet? I can copy my thoughts on the game here in case it encourages a few to give it a go :-

OK so for my early impressions. Loving it. The look and feel is amazing and the puzzles are really rather clever considering they are all based on that simple maze concept.

I am not going to say too much as the whole point of this game is figuring out what you are supposed to do. If you are predisposed to using guides, YouTube, hints or cheats to get past tricky bits and hoovering up the trophies then don't even bother trying this game. All this game has is tricky bits and some of them are going to be cunning. If you are not prepared to work through it yourself then don't even start. Just like Limbo in that regard but oh so different gameplay.

Having said all that I will climb down off my high horse and say that I don't know if I am going to be able to finish this game. I will give it a good go but the complexity is ramping up at quite a rate. Different areas have different kinds of solutions and after completing one area and getting my first trophy I had a mad dash about the environment to get the lay of the land. I came across random puzzles that don't make a lot of sense, so either I haven't found something yet or I am not able to figure out what to do. There is interaction between areas so I am hoping that it is just finding the right order and things should become clearer. Most of the puzzles you need to do in some kind of order before you can progress. I didn't watch a lot of the Giant Bomb review so maybe you guys already know this, the little bit I did watch hinted at it.

I ended up going to bed felling a little ill
so the camera motion does not suit me somehow. I can't put my finger on it as it is not anything to do with Battlefront Bobbing or dropping frame rate. It's more like how I felt playing The Unfinished Swan but nowhere near as bad. If the movement I see doesn't match my input then my head starts complaining and I am a little sensitive to that. I wish I wasn't. I think this was me moving around all the areas fast that did this though and hopefully will be fine today. I did find something useful in looking around though!

Great game. I love the novelty of it and at how clever the puzzles are given the simple concept. 10/10 in that regard. Look and feel is excellent but the movement and paths are not realistic at all compared with other open world games, but then again that is not the point. It actually has more of a Nintendo feel. If the puzzles are fair then I am going to love this game and will probably give it quite a high rating.
 

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Almost bought it yesterday however i've got a ton of VR stuff to learn & build over Feb and yet to finish the Talos Principle, so it'll have to wait. Hopefully a price drop will happen too. But yes, I will be picking this up at some point & for the record, I think it looks worth the 30 squid, i'm just bit short at the mo.
 

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Yep I think this could well end up being on sale at some point. I bought a £50 PSN card on cdkeys and got an extra 5% off by liking them (again!) on FB. So I got the game for less than £24 that way and have £20 left towards my PSN+ sub which is up soon. This is a 20+ hours game and I can't think of a better way to spend £24 right now.

A mate has suggested that I try the Talos Principle a couple of times now as he knows what I like. He mentioned it again when I was raving about The Witness. I'll have a look for posts on here about Talos as I am pretty sure I am going to get that as well.
 

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It's a quality puzzler too. :)
 

Funar

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Did anybody try this game yet? This is probably going to be one of my all time favourites. I haven't finished it yet but I am well on the way and enjoying it immensely. Such a novel game and quite a challenge in places.
 

zoob

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Did anybody try this game yet? This is probably going to be one of my all time favourites. I haven't finished it yet but I am well on the way and enjoying it immensely. Such a novel game and quite a challenge in places.
Not yet. Been too busy blowing my pennies on RL. Definitely on the list though. :)
 

Slaine

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Did anybody try this game yet? This is probably going to be one of my all time favourites. I haven't finished it yet but I am well on the way and enjoying it immensely. Such a novel game and quite a challenge in places.
Definitely want this, but not at the price Sony want for it. I'll pay £15ish for it.
 

zoob

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Was it Sony or Blow setting that charge though? Thought it was 30 across the board.
 

Slaine

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Was it Sony or Blow setting that charge though? Thought it was 30 across the board.
Whoever it was, after getting 3rd degree burns by paying £20 for Wander, which is just the worst game ever, theres no way I'll pay £20 for any PSN game ever, unless they release a demo first. But don't quote me on that in June when No Mans Sky is released.:oops: :lol:
Thing is, I just got Battlefield Hardline for £11, so £30 for an Indie game seems really steep.
 

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Anyone played this yet? I gave it a crack last night. I’m quite enjoying it, but it made me feel sick (I get motion sickness, but usually unless it’s a VR game, I never actually feel sick gaming. Well I did with Wipeout on a 3D TV, but anyway...). I’m not quite sure why this game made me feel ill, must be the way you move about. There isn’t really a cursor/HUD/3rd person type view to fix on.
Anyway, I got stuck as well so switched it off. Will give it another go and see if I can “get” a few more puzzles before feeling sick again!
 

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not sure about motion sickness but it did make make feel stupid when I just couldn't work out the puzzles later in the game.
 

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Yeah, I really enjoyed it and got quite into before something else shiny distracted me - Talos Principle perhaps?!
 

NVranya

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Just tried it this weekend, and not experiencing it myself.
But I did find you are not alone, and at some point they added a patch with options to alleviate the problem.
Have you tried them?


but it did make make feel stupid when I just couldn't work out the puzzles later in the game.
Haha, I'm also at some "ehm... wtf do I do now?" puzzles.... :oops:
 
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