Feature: How do you follow up on a game that many have called a masterpiece? By continuing to push the boundaries of what a game can do – and Braid creator Jonathan Blow plans on doing just that with THE WITNESS.
Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is described as an exploration-puzzle game on the official site. But if Blow’s last game Braid taught us anything, it’s that it’s pointless to place labels on some things. The Witness might focus on puzzles and exploration, but Blow hopes to accomplish much more.
It places you on a mysterious, uninhabited island. You know nothing about where or who you are, or what it is that you have allegedly witnessed. By exploring the island, you find out more about your surroundings, and about your past.
If so far The Witness sounds like a mixture of Myst and Dear Esther, you’d be right: both the divisive adventure classic and the recent indie Hebridean stroll were inspirations.
“The idea of being alone on an island with mysterious constructions draws directly from Myst,” he says when I speak to him about his upcoming game. “Dear Esther is definitely an inspiration, but not directly – we’re not patterning anything in The Witness after it, but it serves as a really nice example of what can be done in that kind of walk-through-a-3D-scene-with-narration format.”
But the purpose of the game and your role within it form a unique experience. There is no inventory system and your interaction with the game consists of exploration and solving minimalistic but challenging puzzles. “The interactivity is, in a certain sense, confined to something that is simple and straightforward,” says Blow.
Panels scattered around the island are key to unlocking snippets of the story. Each panel contains a puzzle that can be solved with a single line. Just how to draw the line is something you have to figure out by observing your surroundings. According to Blow’s The Witness blog, the current puzzle count is 450.