Part of the reason that Jonathan Blow's Braid became such a cult hit was its soundtrack. Those that haven't experienced it or need a refresher can find it over on YouTube, for the sake of reference. So surely, one would expect Blow's next game, The Witness, to feature a soundtrack comparable to that one. Well, not exactly. According to Blow, The Witness will not feature in-game music at all, mostly because of the very nature of what type of game it is.
"The Witness is a game about being perceptive: noticing subtleties in the puzzles you find, noticing details in the world around you," Blow stated on The Witness website. "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. It'd be like a layer of insulation that you have to hear through in order to be more present in the world."
Rather than use a traditional soundtrack, Blow is focusing more on ambient sound and hoping players will use it for a more immersive experience. Just don't look for the expected sounds of nature.
"Instead, we put a great deal of care into the sounds of the world around you, in a way that maximizes immersion in the game," Blow continued. "This is made trickier by the game's setting: you are alone on this island, and there are not even any other animals. There are no birds in the trees! In everyday life if we imagine the sound of nature, we'll think of some elements that have no place on the island: a forest naturally has the sounds of birds, plains with smaller shrubbery will have crickets, a marsh will have the sounds of many insects. There's none of that in this game because in this game you are really alone, and it has forced us to be very creative with the audio in order to ensure things have depth and texture to them. This work is being done by Wabi Sabi Sound, who did the sound for the very atmospheric Dead Space series, and more recently some smaller, artier games like Ori and the Blind Forest.
The Witness is set to help ring in the new year with a January 26 release date. For more on how the game's audio is expected to work, check out the video below.