‘The Witness’ Dev Says Game’s Voiced Moments Are ‘Pieces For Introspection’

The Witness
The Witness developer Jonathan Blow encourages players to endlessly wander in his world. The Witness

Jonathan Blow, the mastermind behind indie-game hit Braid, spent seven years developing his latest game, The Witness. Blow’s no-hand-holding approach to game development carries over to his newest game. This time players will encounter voiced characters during the game, but don’t expect any helpful hints or easy answers or simple story structure. Blow spoke with iDigitalTimes about this decision, and many more, that went into developing The Witness.

When Blow announced voice actors Ashley Johnson, Phil LaMarr, Matthew Waterson, and Terra Deva had lent their talents to The Witness in a PlayStation Blog on Jan. 14. He warned players the voiced moments weren’t a part of a linear story, which caused some confusion. Blow explained he always knew he wanted voiced moments in the game but didn’t want them to be cohesive or dramatic.

“The plan to have voice was an idea since the beginning, it just took a while of development before we were really ready to put that in,” Blow said. “They’re not doing that much character acting. There’s a little bit of traditional acting but a lot of what they read is- I don’t even know what to what to call it- let’s call it library recordings. Pieces for introspection. They’re not drama most of the time.”

The process of casting voice actors was foreign to Blow. His audio team took the lead in the search for the right people for The Witness, and ended up landing big names like Johnson and LaMarr. Players might recognize Johnson from her work on Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and LaMarr from Futurama .

“The [casting] process was interesting. I’d never worked with voice actors before. Our audio [team] hooked me up with some people at the Warner Bros Games Studio and those guys are good at making stuff happen,” Blow said. “I went down there and they’d picked out like 80 people and we sent them on auditions and kept refining it. We eventually came down to these four people.”

It’s been a long seven years for The Witness. Many gamers want to know why Blow’s team took so much time developing the game, but it wasn’t until recently Blow even thought about hiring the voice characters because there was so much more on his list to accomplish first.

“When there’s a project that’s that complicated during the last month or two is when you really have to nail down all the details and get them right. And the pile of details to get right are just immense because it’s been such a long project and it’s been stacking up for years. It’s kind of amazing we actually got the game done on time,” Blow said.

The Witness will be released to the PlayStation 4 and PC on Jan. 26.

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