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The Witness

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Number None Inc.

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'The Witness' (ALL) Development Update - New Screens

by Rainier on May 14, 2014 @ 4:14 p.m. PDT

Number None Inc. is working on a new puzzle-exploration game that is philosophical, quiet, and places a heavy emphasis on the way things look, and will be a refreshing project for those who value nuance.

The Witness is a game where you explore a mysterious island and solve puzzles. Thematically, it’s a game about epiphany, that leap your mind makes when you instantly go from confusion to understanding.

The Witness takes place in an open world, so that you can go wherever you want.

For a puzzle game, this is nice, because it means the developers can include real puzzles that challenge and surprise you. In a linear game, if you get stuck on a puzzle, you are usually just stuck unless you look up the answer; this is why many linear games shy away from puzzles with non-obvious solutions. In The Witness, we can make puzzles as difficult or as subtle as we want, because if you are stuck in an area, you can simply go somewhere else.

Some puzzles in The Witness are hard, but some are easy. However, even the easy puzzles are interesting, because every puzzle has a little bit of communication wrapped inside it. So when you work through a bunch of puzzles in the game, you have also experienced a flow of ideas, presented to you at a high density.


The Witness is an ambitious game with a lot of things for us to get right, and getting it right takes time; I don’t want to rush the game out at the cost of quality.

Here are some of the things we’ve been working on lately:

Design. All the gameplay along the “main line” of the game — the stuff you would expect to do from the beginning to the end of a standard playthrough — is done. But, this is a game that has a lot of extra things for players who are really into the game and want more; we’re still designing some of those extras.

Modeling and texturing. The Witness has a lot of different locations, and it’s very important that they all receive the same degree of care. Most of the island where The Witness takes place is fully modeled at this point, but there are a few important locations that are still in a draft stage, and several others that could use another pass of detail.

Frame rate optimizations. At launch on PS4, we’re planning to render at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Right now we meet this target in many areas of the game, but not everywhere. But with more old-fashioned hard work, we should be.

Level-of-detail management and streaming. For example, making sure that it doesn’t take too long to stream in new parts of the world as you move. When we do stream in higher-detail versions of far-away geometry, we don’t want the graphics to pop, so we’ve recently implemented a smooth blend between LOD levels. The Witness is an open-world game with no loading screens; the feeling of just walking around and looking at things is very important. We work hard to make this happen as smoothly as possible.

Audio. Since The Witness is so much about a sense of place, the audio design is crucial. Right now there are 1.2 gigabytes of sound (Much of it compressed!) in the game, which represents over 40% the game’s data.

This last statement about the audio made me curious about what our data looks like, so here are some numbers on how much data is in The Witness. (These are all the size of files in the game as it would be shipped, not the source files!)

Texture Maps: 1,196 files, 446MB
Meshes: 4,588 files, 507MB
Sounds: 2,435 files, 1.2GB
Animations: 197 files, 0.6MB
Entities: 1 file, 4.3MB
Lightmaps (these are auto-generated): 17,916 files, 453MB
Total (including other files not listed here): 39,387 files, 2.7GB

It’s a lot of work, but we are now in the downhill stretch of the race and looking forward to tying the game up completely. We’ll have more updates for you before too long!



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