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Through new eyes: Valve tech convinced Jon Blow to implement The Witness VR support

From left to right: The Witness, The Witness.

He said it in pictures before Christmas; now he’s doing it in words. Braid brain Jon Blow has been sufficiently impressed by Valve’s in-house VR tech to adapt his new first-person puzzle game for magic goggles.

“It isn’t just a matter of the system being very immersive (which it is),” said Blow. “But that it can take video games in general to a new place.”

“Last year I was pessimistic about VR systems in the near future, since the ones I had tried didn’t seem to offer much (certainly not enough to justify wearing a bulky headset all the time and fighting back feelings of Nausea),” Blow wrote on his blog.

Since then, however, he’s had a good look at Valve’s own virtual reality system.

“It is so much better than anything else I had used that I was instantly very excited by it,” said Blow. “Right away I could see games you might design for this system that had been impossible before.”

In late November, Blow and Braid veteran Atman Binstock spent a few days at Valve’s offices – working with Looking Glass legend Doug Church to make a few of The Witness’ scenes playable in VR.

“In theory the whole game is playable on the device, but when you are rendering for VR the performance demands become much higher, because you are rendering two scenes at higher resolution than you might previously have been rendering one scene,” caveats Blow. “So the full game world with all content currently does not run fast enough for this device, but that is the kind of problem that gets solved over time.”

The VR-ready version of The Witness remained a secret until last week’s Steam Dev Days, when Valve’s VR demo went public. It’ll support Valve’s kit, as well as “any similar devices” – the Oculus Rift, for instance.

The Witness seems like a perfect candidate for the Rift and co: slow-moving, detailed, and quite beautiful. D’you think this’ll be how you play it?

Thanks, GamesIndustry.