From the studio founded by Braid-creator Jonathan Blow, Thekla Inc.’s The Witness is perhaps the most widely talked-about of upcoming indie games, and with good reason. It’s a gorgeous, first-person puzzle-adventure game based on the idea of revitalizing the first-person puzzle-adventure genre created by the famous Myst and of “that click,” Blow’s way of describing the moment at which a discovery is made and the joy that comes with that.
Aesthetically—as you can see from the image to the left—The Witness is beautiful, but unlike most modern games, that beauty does not stem from intense detail or any amount of complexity. In a recent post on the game’s development blog, Thekla artist Eric Anderson explains that one of The Witness‘s primary aesthetic goals is “to build a game world without unnecessary visual clutter,” so the “visual noise” created by high-res textures and most of the other common visual enhancements employed by modern developers is absolutely essential to avoid.
Anderson says that, “since most game engines and art techniques are so often all about adding extra levels of noise,” creating an art style with the intention of reduced visual clutter was quite a “riddle.” Thankfully, as The Witness‘s incredible beauty indicates, that riddle has been solved through a process which involves removing the realistic grime and detail of a structure or object while still maintaining its aesthetic “essence.”
In the example given, Anderson describes how he took his reference image of a complex cliff face, broke it down to its core, and then sculpted a simplified 3D-model based upon it. The results are stunning. Anderson was able to create an aesthetically pleasing model which managed to invoke the feeling of a cliff face without all the visual clutter of the real thing:
When viewed through the lens of actual game screenshots, the effect becomes even more tremendous. Take a gander at this beautiful screenshot of some lakeside steppes, and head over to The Witness‘ development blog post “On the Rocks” to see more of these wonderful stone screenshots.
In the past, Jonathan Blow has described great visuals as “your first line of communication with your potential audience,” a team’s way of showing that they put a lot of effort into their game and that it’s worth their audience’s time. Assuming that’s the case with The Witness, then we’ll certainly be in for something great when it launches next year on PC, PlayStation 4, iOS.
Source: The Witness Development Blog