The Witness pinged the press and public’s radar the instant it was unveiled. Seven years of secrecy comes to an end on January 26, 2016, but until we see the full genius of Jonathan Blow and his team, blog posts should hold the admirers at bay. Did you know, for example, that The Witness contains “(almost) no music”?
The Witness is a game about being perceptive: noticing subtleties in the puzzles you find, noticing details in the world around you. If we slather on a layer of music that is just arbitrarily playing, and not really coming from the world, then we’re adding a layer of stuff that works against the game.
A lack of orchestral scores seems sensible on a deserted isle. Omitting nature’s innate melodies, however, will take time to wrap one’s head around. “You are alone on this island, and there are not even any other animals. There are no birds in the trees!” Jonathan affirms. “It has forced us to be very creative with the audio in order to ensure things have depth and texture to them.”
If any crew could manage that arduous task, Wabi Sabi Sound can. You might recognize their work from Total War: Rome II, BioShock 2, or Dead Space 2, specifically the gurgles and growls of the necromorphs. Readers could blame Wabi Sabi for their nightmares, or take the edge off with the video above. The “Long Screenshot” trailer demonstrates how an absent soundtrack and ambient effects suit the scenery. Not a bad change from the relentless seasonal shooters or action titles.
The Witness will include voice work, but Jonathan and Thekla Inc. intend to cut their deadline close. Recording starts today despite the two months until launch, and third parties still need to translate the game’s subtitles into Italian, French, German, Polish, Japanese, Chinese, and a dozen more.
Not surprisingly, The Witness features English voice acting only. As Jonathan puts it, “It is hard enough making sure acting is good in just *one* language.” How will subtitles fare with foreign audiences? Will the text distract from the perplexing narrative? We’ll find out one way or another this January.