Jonathan Blow Puzzles Through The Witness Gameplay Video
The Witness manages to teach players its mechanics without resorting to boring tutorials.
Games have had a lot of time to grow over the past couple decades, and that presents a problem for game designers: you never know if the player is coming from a rich background of gaming, or completely new to the medium. Most games solve this issue with tedious, extensive tutorials to explain the game mechanics in clear terms, much to the ire of practiced gamers. Fortunately, Jonathan Blow's The Witness is not "most games." Blow walks through some early gameplay in a new video to demonstrate the game's learning stages, featuring a distinct lack of hand-holding.
The Witness is an exploration-based puzzle game, with its core mechanic involving maze-like puzzle panels with several twists. The game world is big, and often you'll have many routes open for you to explore, if you know how to solve their puzzles. However, the game won't tell you how - if you come across a difficult puzzle, you may need to seek out less complex variants to figure out what its rules are, before coming back when you've mastered it.
"In traditional adventure games," Blow explains, "you have key-and-door puzzles where you have to go find a key and open a door. This is the same thing, where I need a key to open this door, but the key is only knowledge. The key is only 'Do I understand what all these things mean?'"
The Witness is headed to PC and PS4 sometime in mid-2014.
It is a basic concept, but I can appreciate games that have some faith in the player's autonomy. Still, I think the majority of games, even if they have tutorials, still give the player cues they unconsciously pick up on. Maybe the player has to be taught to shoot things in a FPS like Metroid Prime, but soon enough they're blasting all sorts of things to see if they get a reaction. Like, doors? Super tempting to shoot. You don't need a text box to pop up and say 'shoot door.' And lots of parkour games like Assassin's Creed give you an example of traversable terrain (like a box), and the player generalizes that mechanic to rooftops, tree branches, windowsills, etc. A tutorial can still be a convenient springboard for more complicated mechanics that cannot be learned from the get-go, but I don't think it's unreasonable for even complicated mechanics to be steadily learned from a combination of the basic ones like in The Witness. At least, I'm hoping there will be more and more complicated ones. I'm not sure how puzzles can be generalized beyond more puzzles. Also I'm wondering whether or not the environment of the game is merely a vessel for the puzzle-solving.
This is just good design. Even super mario had design choices like this.
Now, if these puzzles were to be a sort of meta-tutorial; something more along the lines of probing you on how to think about more action-oriented mechanics work, consider ears perked (and perhaps +5 interest in getting a PS4, even).
But if it's just puzzles and doors? Meh. Well, nothing wrong with just puzzles focus (that is sort of John Blow's thing), but why the first-person perspective, and the large world, if most of your thought will be on these tiny panels? Even just expanding puzzles to the world's scale seems...lacking.
I already see holes in my own suspicion, so I still hold out hope for this.
Looks relatively fascinating.
Always good to see a new take on tutorials.
As another person said, I'm a bit leery of the concept, but I get the feeling the game is much more than just maze puzzles and pretty trees...
Really looking forward to this one. I love puzzle games. I also love open worlds. This is both. Please don't release it too much later. Eager to get my hands on it.
I wasn't a big fan of Braid (mainly because it's a platformer and over-hyped) so I've not really cared for Jonathan Blow stuff, but this is giving me the same vibe as Antichamber. What makes puzzle games successful is that "Ah ha!" moment. Interaction with the world is just basic enough that cause and effect is pretty clear, so you can play the entire game without your brain ever being interrupted by hand holding. In Antichamber I felt confused a lot (i.e. constantly) but I never actually felt lost. It was always clear that if I just payed more attention and occasionally experimented I could figure things out; there was never a moment where something could only be solved by pure guess work. The Witness so far looks exactly like that. I'll have to add this to the list 'Indie Games I'd Never Thought I'd Buy.'
So Blow is remaking Myst for people who don't know what Myst is.
Cool, I guess.
+1 to "Approval for learning game mechanics by practice and intuition rather than by explanation".
+1 to "Concern that The Witness will consist entirely of sliding dot puzzles."