PAX 2010: The Witness

By: Derek Yu

On: September 7th, 2010

Those of you who went to PAX last weekend may have inadvertently missed out on a chance to play Jonathan Blow’s next game, The Witness, which sat quietly at an unmarked table next to two other indie games: Chris Hecker’s Spy Party and Andy Schatz’s Monaco.

According to Jon:

I had several reasons for wanting to show the game this way. Firstly: At a show full of companies trying to capture your attention and sell you things, I wanted to do something that is subtle, and a surprise — if you notice it, and decide to investigate, you find something unexpected.

Also, I wanted people to be able to play the game for as long as they want, not feeling pressured to stop playing because of a huge line of antsy people waiting behind them.

Stephen Totilo, who recognized it for what it was and took the above footage, did a nice write-up of his experience, saying “this is a game for the patient, the un-flustered and the observant”. Apparently so!

  • rinkuhero

    the fairness thing relates to just how many posts jon blow has had about his games, not denying individual posts about him. it's the proportion. there's probably been about 30-50 posts featuring jon blow in this blog; i.e. is he really 30-50 times as important to cover as a developer who has had only 1 post here? braid is great, but is it that great?

  • rinkuhero

    this is a fair point, but the way news filters up makes indie game blogs very important, actually. for instance, i covered 'dungeon' by mr podunkian and cactus in this blog. immediately after, wired covered dungeon, largely paraphrasing my post about it. so i do think that the bigger blogs get their indie game news from the smaller indie game blogs, absolutely. so in that sense we're very important.

    so yes i do think jon blow is successful partially because he's covered in indie game blogs so much; he possibly wouldn't be covered in the larger blogs if he weren't covered here first. possibly he would have, it's impossible to know.

    but for many indie game developers, they achieve success because of coverage in the indie game blogs: minecraft is a similar example. minecraft didn't become really popular until valve posted a blog post about them, however if minecraft weren't covered in the indie game blogs chances are valve never would have heard of it.

    and i agree with your last part, yes. as you may know, i made immortal defense permanently 'pay what you want' (which as an aside wasn't really covered in the indie game blogs), i wish more indie developers would do that, i think it's an important step in changing the economic model of games.

  • xot

    I'm pretty sure the touch-panel maze motif is the main mechanic. It's unclear how it is being explored, even looking at the video. He talks a bit about The Witness in the talk he gave at Champlain College last February. That part of the talk starts at around 15:45, but the whole talk is well worth your time. Really fresh ideas about approaching game design.

  • cactus

    The level design of Braid is that great, yes.

  • Dodger



    “I could believe that you don't feel this way, but judging from a lot of the comments I've read on TIGS over the years, I don't think this is universally true. People do hate things because they are popular. In fact, I hate Justin Bieber because he can get laid more than me and he's only 8 and a half years old.”

    When you put it like that, hate really isn't such a negative thing.

    However, if Jon gets laid as much as Bieber simply by developing his games, then the hate is warranted. ;-)

    Seriously though, that's a completely fair comment and I think you're right. I don't believe that we should hate, but I agree that from what I've read (here and elsewhere regarding things of people and popularity) people just love to hate. It's not even necessarily real hate, in a lot of cases it sounds more like negative feelings for someone who has done better, or tried harder, or even achieved more. The things that everybody really wants but when they don't actually get it they don't want anyone else to have that either. Kind of a shitty attitude humans bare toward one another. Not to make a sweeping generalization or anything, but when someone does get mentioned through some sort of grape vine there always seem to be numerous people hating, possibly because the talk going around is about someone aside from themselves. Perhaps it's part of our selfish and self-centered nature, one of the habits I think we can afford to lose though.

  • Mike Boxleiter

    its not that nobody noticed he was any better than average, it was that new yorkers are so accustomed to street and subway performers that they just dont pay any attention anymore.

  • rinkuhero

    i agree that braid is probably 30x better in level design than the average game maker game, but i'd still rather see 30 posts about 30 different games than 30 posts about braid; it doesn't give me any more appreciation of braid to have it crowd out other games

  • Anthony Flack

    Looks nice, but it's not really going to be all about solving little mazes is it? I don't want to solve little mazes.

  • anthonyflack

    Also, people need to do their regular bitching-about-Jon-Blow comment thread. If you don't post regular news about Jon Blow, they'll bitch about him in other people's news.

  • jonschubbe

    some people didn't know about the game so they posted it on the website who gives a shit