The Witness is a game of individual maze puzzles but, more than this, it's a game of how the puzzles connect with one another and with the world they inhabit.
Creator Jonathan Blow has set out to create a game that welcomes players seeking to interact with its secrets but which does not give itself up too readily. The puzzles are line-mazes which the player must complete, albeit without restricting the player to a linear path.
"I want to build a structure where you start out knowing nothing," Blow told Polygon. "You gradually know some more things and by the end of the game you potentially know a lot, based on how you engaged with the game, but there is still space. It's not one of those things where it tells you every last detail and who thought what. There's room for you to fill in the gaps."
As players travel around the game's island world, they solve puzzles presented on panels. The panels are often integrated into the environment. How the puzzle is approached and viewed is itself a puzzle. The mazes are sometimes abstracts for the environment that surrounds the player.
"Sometimes the environment tells you [the answer] but to even figure that out, you have to understand the smaller puzzle that the answer is in the environment. So it's layered," he said. "The game becomes about all the ways you can have an interaction that gives you the answer to a puzzle or that gives you a clue, and it turns out to be a lot of ways."
The puzzles are the language of the game. "As you do these panels you get a more concrete idea of what you are doing," said Blow. "They ask, 'hey can you solve these?' but also it communicates meaning to you and by the time you solve them you get a nuanced idea which helps you with harder puzzles."
The game is currently controlled using traditional buttons, but Blow said he is looking at making use of the DualShock 4's touchpad. "On the PC you can use a mouse and touchpad so we're going to at least experiment. I don't know how that feels for this game yet. It might be too touchy or it might be too small a surface but we'll try that out."
The Witness has been announced as a limited-time console exclusive for PlayStation 4, and is also being released for Windows PC and iOS. It's due out in early 2014.