When we last saw the upcoming game from Jonathan Blow this summer, The Witness already looked like an intriguing experience. The way that Blow’s game design interwove puzzles and environmental cues created a hypnotic level of immersion where you had to pay attention to a gameworld like never before.
As a result of updated designs from a partnership with architecture firms FOURM Design and David Fletcher Studio, the look of The Witness‘ world and the resultant immersion will get even deeper. In a new post on the game’s Witness website, Blow talks about updating the aesthetics of The Witness from the blocky placeholder structures previously seen to newer models with real-world architectural details:
If you see the different civilizations that came to this island as embodying different philosophies; and you see the structures they built as representative of the way these philosophies led them to interact with the world; and you see further that when they replaced a site, it represents the rejection of some older worldview that they consider no longer useful, then perhaps you start to get some idea of the amount of backstory that can be encoded into the world, nonverbally.
Further down, Blow explains even more what’s driving the re-envisioning of his project’s look:
Having smart architecture, it seems, really helps this process work, brings it alive. If you build a game where people are supposed to pay attention to details, but the details are wrong or naive or just don’t have much thought put into them, then at some level the game just won’t work. Even if you don’t know the first thing about architecture, you have been in enough buildings in your life that the deeper parts of your brain have distilled plenty of patterns about those buildings. Your brain knows the difference between a real building and a nonsense building that wouldn’t occur in the real world. It can feel the difference in veracity between carefully-thought-out structural details – on the one hand – versus stuff that was just placed by a level designer to look cool.
When I got my hands on The Witness this summer, the incongruity of the game’s landscapes struck me as being on purpose. Were these structures from different dimensions? Were they meant to symbolise different states of consciousness in Blow’s mysterious new adventure game? Now that Blow’s offered some insight as to how interconnected the whole design of The Witness is going to be, it sounds even like it’ll be a singular experience when it comes out… whenever that is.
Architecture in The Witness [The Witness]