The Witness, Jonathan Blow’s long awaited follow-up to critical and commercial indie success Braid, is out on January 26. It brings with it just over seven years of development time and a style that harks back to the games of yesteryear – one without hand-holding, where success is hinged on your ability to suss things out on your own.
The puzzles found in The Witness, reckons Blow, are intuitive and not arbitrary like those found in other games.
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In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Blow discussed opportunity and expectation with regards to his latest venture. He naturally hopes for a financial return having sunk quite so many years on his much-anticipated follow up to Braid – without Braid’s success The Witness wouldn’t exist after all, however that money is now spent – but Blow maintains he’s most interested in translating the ideas that live in his head into living, breathing, creative things.
An extension of this mantra is how he designs puzzles. “Some puzzle designers like to design for ‘aha’ moments where the player gets stuck, then they figure it out, and then the player feels really smart,” says Blow. “That irritates me. Part of the idea behind The Witness is that puzzles are not arbitrary. There are real ideas behind every single one. When you figure out the puzzle, you clearly see some relationship that happens in reality, or space, or time, or something like that.
“And you see very clearly how that relates to the current situation. It’s not an arbitrary ‘aha’ that makes the player feel smart: the player really understands this thing, and they are smart. I’m not tricking you into feeling smart, you are getting to exercise your natural intelligence.”
I adored Braid when it released in 2008 and I’ve dived back in on a couple of occasions since, whereupon I’ve enjoyed it just as much. I’m very much looking forward to trialling The Witness’ puzzles, yet I’m equally as excited to get lost roaming around in its gorgeous world.