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× A place for boardgame traitors.

THE WITNESS

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02 Feb 2016 14:23 #221449 by jeb
THE WITNESS was created by jeb
Jonathan Blow has produced his second game, The Witness, having worked on it since 2009. For some folks (self included), his name brings cachet--and that it's a puzzle game all the more so. For others, his name furrows the brow and rolls eyes, as he basically invented the post-modern pretentious game with his previous effort, Braid.

This isn't a review--the game is basically unreviewable. If you like puzzles and mystery, a la Myst--you've probably already bought the game and are avoiding reading this for fear of spoilers. If you need to shoot stuff, be it goals, aliens, or the other team, then you know there's not a lot here for you and you glossed over this when reading the title. So I am not sure who this is for. Just me, perhaps? Something to capture and look back on in a few weeks when I have finished the game to my satisfaction? Hmm.

"Looking back" is a theme in The Witness. Other themes are circles, lines, their connections and Connections(tm).

The game is as simple as whatever swipey trash is atop the iOS leaderboards (move, look, click and unclick). The game is incredibly complicated and has generated four pages of graph paper notes for me (so far). There's no narrative. The game is rife with deep philosophical ruminations on science and observation. It's a maze game. It's an open world. I streamed the game for a few hours. I had an audience and the chat had 13 comments. I didn't read them. It's an immensely personal game that you want to talk to everyone about but you don't want to hear about from anyone.

I am not sure how I want to talk about this game. I want to encourage you to play it, but you are not me. Maybe what I want is for you to want to play it, so I can feel a kinship with you. But why do I want that?

I ask that folks use Spoiler tags LIBERALLY in this thread. Preface your content with vague descriptors and maybe I will open it. I have figured out a lot of the puzzle grammar and can nudge you along if you have questions. I have seen the end, but I didn't earn it. I haven't had a single spoiler, read a single review, or watched a second of it on stream--you can find the end if you want, it's there.
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02 Feb 2016 14:27 #221450 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic THE WITNESS
Yeah, I'll try to come back here and post about it but right now I am so early I have little to say. I'll be back.

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02 Feb 2016 14:37 #221452 by bfkiller
Replied by bfkiller on topic THE WITNESS
No XBox One version? Boo.

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02 Feb 2016 14:42 #221453 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic THE WITNESS

bfkiller wrote: No XBox One version? Boo.

It's PS4 exclusive for some time. Per gamerant.com/witness-xbox-one-rumor/

For those unfamiliar with The Witness, Jonathan Blow has been working on it since 2008, following the launch of Braid. In The Witness‘ initial development phases Jonathan Blow had planned to release the game on PlayStation 3, but the game’s ambition quickly grew beyond the platform. Blow reached out to Sony about releasing the game on their next console, which led to Sony eventually inviting Blow to their pre-announcement PS4 summit for developers and publishers.

In an interview with Ars Technica, Blow would go on to say how he similarly reached out to Microsoft and was rebuffed. When Blow asked his contact if Microsoft would acknowledge a next-gen Xbox, share its technical specifications, he heard back:

“I have no political path to making something like that happen for an independent developer.”

The rest is, as they say, history.

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02 Feb 2016 15:26 #221462 by iguanaDitty
Replied by iguanaDitty on topic THE WITNESS
So I will burble some words on this game despite not having played it. One thing I find interesting are thoughts I've read elsewhere that unlike puzzle games like Slitherlink (my favorite of all time) and Picross (less meaty but pleasant) where you slowly learn how to think about more and more complicated formulations of the puzzle, in The Witness you are mostly learning how to read the language of the game. This seems different to me in a way that doesn't sound as interesting. I'd be interested in comments about this.

I'm also interested in the games' lack of music and how you feel about that as the game goes on. I often play with no sound but I'm not sure if in a game like this that would be frustratingly empty somehow.

In reality I'm unlikely to play for some time due to reduced brainpower during playing time. So I will live vicariously through you all for awhile.
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02 Feb 2016 15:39 - 02 Feb 2016 15:41 #221463 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic THE WITNESS

iguanaDitty wrote: So I will burble some words on this game despite not having played it. One thing I find interesting are thoughts I've read elsewhere that unlike puzzle games like Slitherlink (my favorite of all time) and Picross (less meaty but pleasant) where you slowly learn how to think about more and more complicated formulations of the puzzle, in The Witness you are mostly learning how to read the language of the game. This seems different to me in a way that doesn't sound as interesting. I'd be interested in comments about this.

I'm also interested in the games' lack of music and how you feel about that as the game goes on. I often play with no sound but I'm not sure if in a game like this that would be frustratingly empty somehow.

In reality I'm unlikely to play for some time due to reduced brainpower during playing time. So I will live vicariously through you all for awhile.

Play SnakeBird, man. It is right up your alley given Slitherlink and Picross. I am also a huge Picross fan--but The Witness is not like that. Yes, the game on its face is about finding and solving maze puzzles. And yes, you develop a grammar for the more complicated ones, but the real magic in the game is when they have no grammar at all. The game is about expanding your puzzle solving laterally and taking in more information than the next Picross puzzle put in front of you. That's the "witnessing" part.

The spoiler below contains some meta information about how puzzles work on a grand scale in the game. Anyone that's played for at least six hours should be OK to see this even if avoiding spoilers, and likely you will have all this info much earlier.
Warning: Spoiler!
Last edit: 02 Feb 2016 15:41 by jeb.
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02 Feb 2016 15:49 - 02 Feb 2016 15:51 #221465 by Michael Barnes
Replied by Michael Barnes on topic THE WITNESS
Well, I guess this is another opportunity to play the heel.

After 150 or so puzzles, I'm ready to turn off The Witness and never look at it again. The thought of another 400, 500 of these puzzles sounds more grueling than fun.

I was pretty enchanted by it at first- it's beautiful, enigmatic and interesting. The way it conveys information and teaches logic is compelling and at least initially rewarding. But between the eye-rolling PROFUNDITY of the audio logs (which should also impress those who nod in agreement at TV commercials that strive to Tell Us What It Means to Be Human while selling us a product) and the moment I realized how dopey and on-the-nose the game's DEEP HIDDEN MEANING was (hint- it's about making connections between things, man!), I started to feel like I was watching a first year philosophy student jerking off over a BF Skinner lecture and telling me that it all means something.

I also hit a point where I realized how odd it was that I was basically playing puzzle mini-games on iPads inside of a console game. WAIT DOES THAT MEAN SOMETHING? Do I have to solve 200 puzzles before I get a crested blazer to reward me for being so smart in making a choice to play this ART game instead of Call of Duty? If I solve all 650, does Johnathan Blow come to my house so we can nod at each other knowingly because we both "get it"?

Braid at least had interesting, dynamic gameplay. The pretentious stuff was laughable, but at least Blow's head wasn't so far up his own ass that he couldn't deliver something that anyone can play and enjoy.

At least Myst (which was not a good game either, regardless of some of the retconning of opinions that has gone on lately) had a sense of purpose, context and direction.

So I started out impressed, but it didn't take too long before I saw through the smoke and mirrors of pseudo-intellectualism and jumped-up academe. I wish I could get my $40 back.

That said, I am really glad Jeb is enjoying this and I will follow this thread to see where he gets with it.
Last edit: 02 Feb 2016 15:51 by Michael Barnes.
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02 Feb 2016 15:50 #221466 by Disgustipater
Replied by Disgustipater on topic THE WITNESS
I'm loving it immensely. I also have a pad of paper next to me. I've even cut out shapes to manipulate. I've taken a bunch of pictures on my phone, some for reference (the Steam screenshot manager isn't the easiet to mess with while in game), and some I've used a drawing app like Skitch to trace lines on the puzzles quickly when it would be more difficult to test theories in-game. I even used Photoshop once to figure out a puzzle.

My intention is to solve most, if not all of the puzzles before triggering the ending.

So far I've only run into one puzzle that I can't seem to figure out even though I should have all the information I need. If you are curious, it's in the temple with the red leaves.

Note: I DO NOT want help, I'm just mentioning where I got stuck.

Warning: Spoiler!


I still have a bunch to do in the mean time, so I'm not stressing it too much.
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02 Feb 2016 16:06 #221468 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic THE WITNESS

Disgustipater wrote: So far I've only run into one puzzle that I can't seem to figure out even though I should have all the information I need. If you are curious, it's in the temple with the red leaves.

Note: I DO NOT want help, I'm just mentioning where I got stuck.

Warning: Spoiler!


I still have a bunch to do in the mean time, so I'm not stressing it too much.

I was stuck in the same place for a long time. I visited the Red Leaf temple (I have been calling it the Japanese Tea Garden) a few times and last night I finally got that one. You will too, just keep at it. I have the same intent. I am going to try and do as many puzzles as I can find.

The spoiler below shows my current "score", which is not the same thing as the number of solved panels.
Warning: Spoiler!


I knew you would hate this game, Barnes. You have an odd dynamic about elitism in games, but it needs to be a very specific kind of elitism or it is Bad and Wrong. I knew this thing would push your buttons in a severe way once I heard the first treatise, (Lao Tzu, I believe), haha! (PM me if you want to see the end content, you will probably throw your PS4 out the window.)
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02 Feb 2016 21:18 #221500 by iguanaDitty
Replied by iguanaDitty on topic THE WITNESS

jeb wrote: The game is about expanding your puzzle solving laterally and taking in more information than the next Picross puzzle put in front of you. That's the "witnessing" part.


Well damn it jeb.
Also I admit I like Lao Tse and James Burton so as long as I know going in not to take the trappings seriously I can just enjoy it for the puzzles.
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02 Feb 2016 21:51 #221506 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic THE WITNESS

iguanaDitty wrote:

jeb wrote: The game is about expanding your puzzle solving laterally and taking in more information than the next Picross puzzle put in front of you. That's the "witnessing" part.


Well damn it jeb.
Also I admit I like Lao Tse and James Burton so as long as I know going in not to take the trappings seriously I can just enjoy it for the puzzles.

I apologize--this reads as much more insulting than I intended. Barnes, he I meant to insult. You are catching reflected glory. I want to stress that it's NOT (just) a game where you walk from panel to panel and solve puzzles and listen to ramblings. Picross is awesome. My daughter and I will fight about who gets to play PICROSS 3D 2 first. But that's a game that is just clicking from puzzle to puzzle and solving them. It passes the time, and scratches the effort --> reward conditioning itch, but it's not the same thing.
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02 Feb 2016 22:17 #221508 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic THE WITNESS
I want to strongly encourage everyone to listen to Jeb---it's easy to encounter puzzles you do not have the vocabulary to solve. You can flail away at them for a long time. Instead of doing that, keep exploring the island for tutorial/simple puzzles that teach you the component mechanics. They do exist, you just have to find the part of the island that has them by wandering around a bit.
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03 Feb 2016 08:26 #221522 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic THE WITNESS
I'm enjoying it a lot. I've had to get a few hints, but nothing too major, and not outright solutions. After finishing Fallout 4 I wanted to play something different as a palate cleanser, and this hit the spot.
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03 Feb 2016 08:53 - 03 Feb 2016 08:55 #221526 by SuperFlySwatter
Replied by SuperFlySwatter on topic THE WITNESS
I wasnt expecting it to be a 3d virtual World, I quite liked the stylised look of Braid. Having said that, I've come to realise that I fucking abhor puzzle games and I keep that in mind whenever something looks a bit fun in the beginning, though the walkthrough video of the first bit they have and Another one I peeked at made it look like the most boring game ever invented, traipsing around drawing lines on patterns to open doors in mazes and hunting round for where the next bit is? Sounds like my worst nightmare. Yeah I guess the stuff you alude to is not really something you get from watching those Quick overview videos, mea culpa. I do feel like I just can't be arsed with it, as I know I will for absolute definite end up frustrated, fed up and then bored of it because these Days I have the patience of a (thing that doesnt have any)

On the other hand I have been quite enjoying 8ball pool on the ipad, yeah, mindless swipe and shoot. Annoyingly its tied up to stupid in game gold coin currency which you need a lot of to play at "higher levels", so you cant actually just elect to buy the app and play without the guidelines and stuff and just enjoy the game, its all about grinding up the levels with gold coins with lines showing you where the balls are going, but without those, the gameplay is quite smooth, Id probably be happy to find a nice pool game that you can just buy, not be fucking bothered with in app purchase spam and pick up and play when you want

sorry Jeb, minor thread derail, but my Heroscape Discovery has reawakened my sense of FUN. Which I know when I see it and feel it. And this isnt it.(for me)
Last edit: 03 Feb 2016 08:55 by SuperFlySwatter.
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03 Feb 2016 11:10 #221554 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic THE WITNESS
It's cool, lala. We're all about the fun here. This ain't your bag--good on you for seeing that before laying out $40 and feeling like Barnes.

I am stuck in the tree house right now and have one more damn panel in the quarry. It's weird--I will get through some tough ones, just rolling on logic and feeling, and then I will just hit a crushing wall on some smaller 3x3 or whatever. I have five or six panels throughout the game now where I am just totally stymied.
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