Since its first reveal over five years ago, developer Jonathan Blow (previously known for the 2008 indie hit Braid) has been quietly working on the PS4/PC/iOS puzzler follow-up The Witness with the game finally confirming a release for early next year, and from the sounds of it the game may well keep players busy through a good deal of the year.
Speaking in an interview with the PlayStation Blog, Blow gave more details on what to expect from The Witness when it releases in January 2016, with Blow giving an estimate of nearly 100 hours of gameplay content in order to reach a 100% completion in the game, though clearly it seems like Blow’s latest game will pose a challenge to many players.
In particular, Blow addressed that the puzzles in The Witness are expected to be of a far more challenging variety, explaining that though he had to cut content from the game for quality and clarity, there are still plenty of challenges left in the game for players to uncover. Blow explained:
“Usually if I cut things it’s just because I don’t think they’re very good. I’ve cut hundreds of things from the game. Usually I cut them early — I start experimenting with something and decide I don’t like it. But there’s at least one puzzle in the game right now that almost nobody — like 1% of players — will ever be able to figure out.”
In addition to teasing the challenges that players will encounter throughout the puzzles of The Witness, Blow also took to explaining more on the game’s vibrant art direction and its themes:
“The game, thematically, is about clarity. It’s about understanding the world clearly. Conservation of attention is part of the art style. If something grabs your attention, it had better be important. People aren’t used to thinking that way! I had to train the artists for the first couple years they were on the game: ‘That looks really cool, but it doesn’t do anything so it’s not allowed to look that cool. It’s not allowed to grab the stage and take over everyone’s attention; it has to sit back.’”
With his previous title Braid, Blow elaborated that The Witness will similarly introduce a story that’s more about the player’s interpretation of events and the plot compared to more linear experiences, explaining:
“It’s so big and complicated… they can take away what they want, honestly. The design of the game is about giving people the freedom to approach it in their own way. I’ve spoken of some thematic things and what the game is about, and to what degree people get that will differ from person to person, and that’s totally cool. Which types of puzzles people like is going to be different, and that’s totally cool.”
“But I do think there is a certain flavor the game has that will come across to most people most of the time, and that’s pretty interesting. It’s hard for me to verbalize what that is — it’s something about the non-verbal communication and exploring the world freely, and having this experience of epiphany over and over where you go from not understanding to understanding, repeated over and over.”
“I hope most people get some reasonable portion of that and understand that that’s what the game is about, but as a designer you need to understand that people are going to have the experience they’re going to have. Your role as a designer is to give them opportunities; you can’t force people to have an experience, right? It doesn’t work very well. So that’s what I’ve been doing: trying really hard to put a lot of opportunities in the game. You try to design them so they’ll unfold in the best possible way all the time, and that’s a very challenging thing to do. That’s what makes game design interesting to me, is that it’s so challenging.”
As a final note to close out the interview, Blow took to addressing the development of the game given its protracted development cycle and delays, though ultimately felt he and his team have created the best experience with the game possible, detailing:
“It’s the best game that I know how to make right now. It pushed my design skills to the limit, it pushed my organizational skills… it’s a very complicated game with lots of things in it, and they’re not independent things. They all reference each other and work with each other, so you can’t just work on one thing at a time. That’s what I set out to do, but it also makes it very challenging sometimes. But yeah — It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and that’s all you can ask for, right? I hope my next project will also be the best thing I’ve ever done, but for now it’s this.”
The Witness will release for PS4, PC, and iOS on January 26th, 2016.