ByCassie Benter, writer at
Breaker of Games, Mother of Bug Finding. Co-creator of AdventureJam. Twitter: @FenderBenter
Cassie Benter

The opening scene we experienced in the first trailer for The Witness was of a record player (see above image) which played a simple, yet beautiful melody throughout the trailer. In the recent release date trailer, we heard a different piece of music play - this time a bit more upbeat, but still as beautiful.

Neither of these things should be particularly surprising - we hear music in game trailers all the time! What is strange, however, is that despite hearing music in the released trailers, we will not be hearing any in the final product!

Missed the new trailer? Check it out here!

Jonathan Blow (developer of The Witness, Braid) recently published a blog post discussing some of the things that we could expect to see in The Witness. Blow expressed that every now and then he'd receive a question from someone who really enjoyed the music in Braid, and wondered what the soundtrack in The Witness would be like. Blow told us that the answer to the question is that there is "(almost) no music" in the game.

"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. It’d be like a layer of insulation that you have to hear through in order to be more present in the world."

If there's not a soundtrack, what can we expect?

I could drool over this game all day, but that would be embarrassing.
I could drool over this game all day, but that would be embarrassing.

Blow continued to say that Thekla Inc. (the team developing and publishing The Witness) has put a tremendous amount of effort into the sounds of the world around us, in hopes of immersing us into the game as much as possible. This proved difficult for the team, as you are on an abandoned island - no humans, no animals... not even birds resting 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."
I can't wait to explore this abandoned island!
I can't wait to explore this abandoned island!

Although I was initially quite worried about The Witness not featuring its own soundtrack, I was immediately at ease when I heard of Wabi Sabi Sound designing the ambient sounds we would be hearing. Dead Space is a pretty widely appreciated franchise, and I hear constant, deserving praises for Ori and the Blind Forest's sound design.

All that said, Blow didn't leave us hanging with thoughts of what we may expect! He was gracious enough to leave us with a little treat - an example of what we can expect to hear while playing The Witness. They're calling it a "long screenshot," which is a birds-eye view that pans from one end of the island to the other. Check it out!

Have a listen to The Witness' sound design below!

Quiet, subtle, daring to be explored - all of these things easily describe how well the sound design fits with the game's overall aesthetic. As much as a soundtrack would have been loved, I can understand and respect Thekla's decision to exclude it. It's hard to miss something you never truly knew - especially when the replacement is everything that it needs to be! Keep on keepin' on, Thekla!

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