Super Bunny Hop on The Witness

What do you think of this?

This actually really pissed me off. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m on the final area, and I’ve taken far less time than he has. I did all the work in my head with no accompanying notes and almost no hints. throughout the video he attempts solutions that I can tell are wrong, probably selected on purpose to convey his dissatisfaction with the game.

The thing I disliked about Braid was that the puzzles were too easy, and when they were tricky to figure out, it was because they relied on an interaction of the mechanics that was difficult to extrapolate from the earlier puzzles. I have a similar issue with Portal’s puzzles where the thing is playtested so hard that all the corners are carefully sanded down to prevent people from getting stuck.

The Witness was a big step up from Braid in my mind as a puzzle game because it introduces base concepts, then expects you to solve for them in a larger problem set, where the possibility space is big enough to make brute force prohibitively expensive.

Then it combines concepts, like two per area, areas needing to be a certain shape and excluding colors, plus connecting circuits and correcting 1 mistake, and because you know all the simpler rules you can figure out the trick to making this one whole puzzle work. Then there’s a bunch of observational puzzles and it’s like, yeah I can look at the environment or make this thing line up in perspective, give me a real one.

Part of what pisses me off is the way he criticizes it for not having more mechanics relating to the manipulation of simulated space. I thought it was an oddity frankly that jon blow decided to make an island at all, but frankly it’s neat to have nonlinear connections between areas and puzzles. I just wish sprint was faster and you could fall off more cliffs and the like.

Blow is trying to do something really elementary here with game design, with using basic abstract symbols for game rules. He managed to create a ruleset with these simple things that has a massive combinational complexity, then he leveraged it to make a massive fucking number of pretty good and difficult puzzles that almost always have good simple demonstrations of the base mechanics.

SBH whining that he’s not making use of the medium is ignorant, especially given portal 2 removed all the realtime execution components, and could probably be formatted to be solved like a crossword puzzle too. There’s no other game on paper, or otherwise, with rules like this, to my knowledge, and it being digital allows the system to check your answer against the correct one without revealing it to you in the process. Not to mention it allows multiple correct answers when applicable.

Demanding there at least be some sort of narrative thing to justify it is like the ultimate insult here. If you don’t like the game for what the game is, you don’t need this additional narrative thing to try to justify its existence to you, give up! Go back to puzzle games made specifically to coax you through any point you might get stuck or need to think.

13 thoughts on “Super Bunny Hop on The Witness

  1. your new friend May 18, 2016 / 10:48 am

    “This actually really pissed me off. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m on the final area, and I’ve taken far less time than he has. I did all the work in my head with no accompanying notes and almost no hints.”–Kruger_effect


    • Chris Wagar May 18, 2016 / 11:01 am

      Can I just say that I’d expect something better from someone attempting to be anything resembling an expert?


      • treeghettox May 19, 2016 / 5:32 am

        Finally have some mixed opinions on your writing.

        First off, I totally agree with your comment here: if you write or talk about or make videos about video games professionally (let alone actually develop them) it is your occupational DUTY to be good at and knowledgeable about games. Period. Unfortunately, in reality, most game personalities are shockingly, pathetically, embarrassingly bad at games, and unbelievably ignorant of history.

        SBH is bad at games, but most of the time he achieves an acceptable level of competency. He can beat all the Souls games, he plays competitive multiplayer games sometimes, and he can appreciate bullet-hell shooters. Compared to his peers, he displays an amazing (although still insufficient) level of knowledge of actual game mechanics rather than his “experience.” He’s the best big-name personality in this regard, but if you’re actually good at games it’s painfully and immediately obvious that BH… kinda blows at games. This is my only real problem with him, and of course it isn’t endemic to him, but it’s a big problem. I don’t believe his gaming skills are sufficient to talk about gameplay mechanics with enough authority to take him seriously a lot of the time.

        I don’t take his criticisms about puzzle gimmicks not being conveyed well enough or whatever seriously. I attribute that to him being shitty at puzzle games (he admits it in the video at least.) That being said, I think he was spot-on about the rest of this game.

        So, you said it was retarded he criticized the game for not making use of its medium, but your supporting arguments are fairly weak. So what if it’s not a direct rip-off of an existing game? His point still stands that this “video game” could easily be ported to Paper. When somebody makes an extremely story-focused game with almost no interactivity, it’s fair to ask: “Well, why is it a game, then? Why isn’t it a book or a movie?” In the same way, if a “video game” can be effectively conveyed on paper with minor inconvenience (looking at the answer card is not a big deal) then you gotta ask: “Why is this a video game? Why isn’t this just on paper?”

        – The game checks your answers (accomplished via the answer on the back of the puzzle card)
        – It doesn’t reveal the answer in the process (fair point)
        – Multiple correct answers when applicable (multiple answers on the back of the card)

        On the same token, what’s the point of The Witness’s walking sections? There’s no meaningful interactivity or anything. It’s fair to ask “hey, why don’t you utilize this part of the game to have some puzzles?” Otherwise, why isn’t it just a menu select? You seem to be excusing laziness and failure to capitalize on an opportunity for variety as focus.

        Now, here’s a point neither of you touched on that I’d like to bring up. The Witness has been under development since 2008. Fucking 2008! That is an embarrassing amount of time to work on a “video game” that doesn’t innovate the medium in any significant way and boils down to a bunch of 2D logical puzzles. Don’t you agree that development time and costs need to be factored into a game’s review? If Jon Blow cut out the needless 3D bullshit, he could have made this game in a year. If he really cared about puzzles, why didn’t he? Obviously I can’t get an answer out of him, so I’ll grill you: If it’s all about the puzzles, why are the walking sections in the game? What do they add? They sure drive the development time and cost up astronomically. So why are they there? What do they add to the interactivity? How do they justify the exponential increase in dev effort?

        It took 8 years to make the puzzles in The Witness. Do you think that those puzzles are so fucking good that they legitimize that amount of development time? Are they so fantastic that they excuse the lack of creativity, personality, and variety that plague the rest of the game? Obviously, I think it’s a sad joke. The Witness has solid logical puzzle mechanics. So did Kwirk in 1989 on the Game Boy. Is The Witness 27 years worth of advancements better than Kwirk? I would say no, it’s a sad embarrassment.


        • Chris Wagar May 19, 2016 / 6:34 am

          That’s fair, I don’t get everything right. It’s good to have critical readers who can help me figure things out.

          I appreciate that you agree that critics should be qualified. I don’t know if you’re a previous reader or not, but I’d recommend an older article I wrote on the matter as well, I think it’s admirable at least how SBH is able to overcome his deficiencies as a player in many of his reviews, sans this one, through good insight. Makes reviews like this one painful though.

          Yes, I think the fact that it is able to check without revealing the correct answer is a big deal by itself and justifies it being a video game, even if not one with simulated space, but just a simple flash game or the like. You need an impartial judge for that type of thing, which having it on a card can’t accomplish.

          Having multiple answers isn’t practical for having it on a card, because some of these puzzles theoretically have a very large number of correct answers, larger than the designer actually accounted for.

          “What’s the point of The Witness’s walking sections? There’s no meaningful interactivity or anything.”

          I said above that I wish sprint was faster. I agree that there isn’t much meaningful activity in walking from place to place, however after playing the game myself, I think it was an appropriate choice to have the whole thing take place in simulated space instead of just a level select menu. By having simulated space, they can structure a nonlinear puzzle progression format where you can visit all these places, have all these puzzles open to be solved, lock off some places behind puzzles that you can solve once you understand the rules learned from other areas. These are harder to present without the use of space and give a more interesting path of progression than if all these things were simply presented at once. Furthermore, many puzzles make use of perspective (boathouse and ruins), and some even of the ground the player walks on, requiring players to simultaneously find their way across a space without inputting an invalid answer (such as those in the castle, or the final area). They didn’t completely waste their use of simulated space.

          Is the island a bit too big? Yeah. Do platforms move too slow? Yeah. Would a faster sprint help solve these problems? Yeah.

          “Don’t you agree that development time and costs need to be factored into a game’s review?”
          Development time, no. I think that a game shouldn’t have the factors of its creation brought into account when judging it. I think in 10 years from now, that development time won’t matter. All we have from the point the game releases is just the game itself.

          Cost, partially. I think it should be considered independently. A great game might be overpriced, a horrible game might be cheap, and vice versa. The Witness is absolutely overpriced. However again, I think that the game itself should be judged independently of the amount charged for it and allow people to come to their own conclusions about whether the price matches its value.

          I’ll level with you, when I saw his game, I thought it was funny. I thought it was really funny that he decided to go so far as to make a whole 3d world for a game just about drawing lines. I still think it’s funny.

          I don’t think they add significantly to the interactivity of the game. I think it was a marketing move. I think he’s trying to instill that the game is worth $40. Rather than release what’s effectively a cheap flash game, I think he’s trying to lull people into accepting his brand of puzzles and achieve a higher number of sales than he’d accomplish otherwise, offsetting the development cost, and promoting his views about how games should be constructed in the form of a game. That’s the type of guy I think Jon Blow is from the interviews I’ve seen of him.

          He’s noted in his development talks that he’s not an artist. Have you seen him play his original version of Braid? His remark was something along the lines of, “I’m not an artist, but this game needs to look good, so I hired one.” (I’m paraphrasing tremendously here). I think he recognizes that good visuals sell. It’s like wearing a suit to a job interview. You’re down a lot of money on the suit, but you hope to make a lot more back from getting hired.

          “It took 8 years to make the puzzles in The Witness. Do you think that those puzzles are so fucking good that they legitimize that amount of development time? Are they so fantastic that they excuse the lack of creativity, personality, and variety that plague the rest of the game?”

          No, but they’re pretty nice, and I’d say the game overall is a good game. Not an amazing game, it has its faults, but pretty good. It’s not worth its price tag, but it has a value higher than the average game, and in my opinion, higher than Braid.

          The other thing you may have missed, and I personally didn’t comment on it, is that in the environment there are a massive number of puzzles hidden in the form of lines that can be drawn when viewed at the correct angle. Personally I don’t think these puzzles were very interesting, but other people like them, and they certainly do make use of the environment in a way that’s more significant than merely looking pretty.


          • treeghettox May 19, 2016 / 8:13 am

            Sorry if that was a bit strong. I clearly have very strong negative opinions towards JB. I strongly feel that development time AND effort matter when considering a title’s quality, but this is a very subjective area and it seems pointless to argue it further.

            Anyway, SBH just released a doozy of a video: Dark Souls level design. Any interest in an in-depth critique of a critique like your articles on MM’s DS videos? Would like to read.


            • Chris Wagar May 19, 2016 / 8:31 am

              I think that considering development time in that way is just a way of getting mad at the creator rather than judging the final product. I don’t think it’s “fair” to consider whether the creators had an opportunity to create a good product and blew it, or whether they were hit with setbacks in the production process. I think we can only judge the final product by the thing itself. If they were hit with setbacks, it doesn’t matter whether that’s fair or not to them (using fair in a different sense than I just did a second ago). I don’t think we should forgive a game for that. Similarly I don’t think we should hold a game responsible for poor use of development time or money. We can lament that they missed an opportunity to do better that they were reasonably afforded, but I don’t think we should judge the game based on that. Of course this sense of fairness is really unfair to developers who get hit with setbacks, but I think it’s the only reasonable standard for learning from games.

              As for the SBH video, I already did it hours ago. Has less detail than I would have liked maybe, but I didn’t want to stretch it out into multiple asks. This is the type of thing I like to see. Even if he’s not the best, and said that souls games are bad at multi-enemy encounters (which I’m frankly really sick of hearing since MM started that meme), he’s still capable of providing insightful commentary because he’s a clever guy. So good stuff there.


              • treeghettox May 20, 2016 / 1:10 am

                Again, this is getting real subjective so neither of us are going to make any meaningful headway here. That being said, here’s something more objective: a game’s length, polish, variety of features, content, etc. are a function the amount of money and man-hours put into it. Considering that, I think it’s really unfair to disregard that and hold all games to the same standards (in that regard, at least.) We already forgive smaller games for lesser aesthetics, smaller scopes, and lack of polish compared to AAA monsters — shouldn’t it work the other way and shouldn’t we have much higher standards for games that had more resources put into them? Is your argument that from a player’s perspective they don’t give a shit? Or is it more that this should be a criticism of the developer rather than the game itself?

                I liked most of the SBH video, but I’m really surprised that he (and a lot of other people, apparently) like Dark Souls III. I was constantly slapping my face while playing that game because the references to earlier games are so numerous, ubiquitous, and shameless. It seems like the levels were designed explicitly with casual players in mind because the hazards are unbelievably mild and the enemy placements very rarely deviate from a sparse number of melee enemies and a few archers. I felt that Souls has finally gone way too far up its own ass. For example, in DS1 there was an elevator that you jump out of prematurely for a secret. DS2 had a couple of those. Now, in DS3, EVERY goddamn elevator has that. Something that was once a one-shot secret has now become a series mainstay. When comparing III to other games in the series, I can’t find anything good to say about it except that it’s the newest one. Also, please keep in mind I never really use multiplayer features so anything related to PvP doesn’t factor into my thoughts here.

                Souls is supposed to surprise and scare and challenge you. If you’ve played the earlier games, 3 is a snooze-fest and kind of an embarrassment for how brazenly From Software is retreading ground.


                • Chris Wagar May 20, 2016 / 1:45 am

                  I don’t forgive smaller games for having less resources, and a part of the reason is that I don’t judge games based on aesthetics or polish (which helps make my assessments more fair).

                  Something you mentioned was, “Is The Witness 27 years worth of advancements better than Kwirk?” This begs a question: Is any game 27 years more advanced than what we had 27 years ago? Graphically, yes. The field of graphics has improved tremendously, however I don’t think game design has advanced considerably since then.

                  I think if we judge old games from the NES era up to now, that we’d arrive at a relatively level playing field, similar to if we judged paintings or films from old eras up to now. If you look at the field of animation, a lot of the best animated films and cartoons of all time are from the 1940s. Despite almost a century of advancement, 2d animation has had a rather consistent set of skills involved which prevents people from transcending above the rest of animated features. I think game design as a discipline is founded on a similar principle, however the development of the medium has been impeded by not recognizing this core principle.

                  I don’t think players should give a shit whether it’s a big budget AAA game or not. I don’t think large budgets significantly affect the ability to deliver a competent game, rather I think it affects the ability to deliver certain types of games competently. Shoestring indie devs are typically more limited to 2D games. Though very good games can certainly be developed on limited budgets, such as those developed by Platinum Games (or clover games before them), who never have particularly big sales successes or particularly large budgets. Games that require large numbers of high detail graphics across many levels are the most expensive to produce. AAA markets have pushed each other into an arms race over a production style that is extremely expensive in an attempt to force out competitors, which is part of why all the middle of the industry developers either went broke trying to keep up or were bought out by bigger companies.

                  Old games were developed on extremely cheap budgets. This allowed companies to produce massive numbers of games easily, which was the downfall of the Atari, but the success of the NES (which limited the number of games that could actually be published, so only successes among these massive numbers of games actually went to market).

                  I hold them to the same standards because my standards don’t favor either style of development. Street Fighter 2 is more complex than your average AAA shooter, and it’s from 1991. Of course money affects development regardless of what scale you operate on, but it’s usually possible to achieve a great game regardless of your budget.

                  The failure to adequately utilize resources is certainly something a company can be blamed for, but the quality of the games is going to be the same regardless. I don’t think you can judge a game based on anything but what’s in front of you.


                • Chris Wagar May 20, 2016 / 2:18 am

                  I liked Dark Souls III.

                  I don’t really mind the references one way or the other. I don’t think your example is even a good one. So what if every elevator has something hidden? That’s kind of a gimmick in the first place. I don’t tend to judge gimmicks positively or negatively. The elevator thing is kind of just there. It doesn’t affect much of the rest of the experience, and even if it isn’t a huge secret surprise like the trip back to the asylum was in the original, that type of thing fades with time and replays.

                  I maintain that a clone of a good game is still a good game in its own right. Dark Souls 3 did everything correct that its predecessors did in the core gameplay, so I am fine with it as a game. The first half is certainly easy, but I found it got harder as I got to the catacombs of carthus, along with cathedral of the deep, and became much harder at irithyl. There were certainly interesting enemy placements, with ambushes, combinations of challenging enemies that work together, and setups where you’re forced in between multiple tricky enemies that are hard to separate, especially starting at irithyl. Many of the newer enemies were tricky to fight even 1 on 1, they refined a lot of their designs to make enemies more difficult to trivialize. The bosses were generally solid. Pontiff Sulyvahn was a highlight, as was Champion Gundyr, Nameless King, and Lothric.

                  The biggest issue with Dark Souls 3 was the world design, which was more linear with fewer branches than ever, and that there was less content in total than the previous games. However individual areas had a low number of bonfires and made regular use of shortcuts after reaching the areas beyond the road of sacrifices.

                  Despite what you said, you were frequently met with more than 3 adversaries at different parts of the game, not necessarily all of the same type either, and the assistance wasn’t always from archers, but frequently types that had a mix of melee and ranged attacks, or charge attacks.

                  There were a lot of improvements to the core system (chargeable R2s, jumping attacks from run, better lock-on system, better balancing between stats, weapon arts, mix and match estus flasks, smoother flask upgrades, 2 handed weapon sets, more varied and balanced rings) and there are a number of secrets that even I missed.

                  I don’t really care if the system is old or familiar by this point, it’s more content of a type that I like. They could release another one and I’d be fine with that.


                  • treeghettox May 25, 2016 / 4:38 am

                    Don’t get me wrong — within the scope of video games (especially modern ones) Dark Souls III is a great game. But within the scope of the Souls franchise, DS III is a painfully derivative, disappointingly casualized, and ultimately regressive game.

                    My point about the elevator is that there’s nothing new in this game. The elevator thing is supposed to be a secret and a surprise. It should have been a one-off secret. Now that it’s completely standardized, it’s no longer a secret or a surprise but an expectation. Every single moment in Dark Souls III that is supposed to be surprising is painfully trite if you’ve played at least two of the earlier games, let alone all of them. Besides seeing a few interesting enemies I didn’t expect (tree-wielding gator giants, fist-faced hippo) my playthrough of DS III was completely devoid of memorable moments that I didn’t expect.

                    The problem is that From Software is terrified of clowning on the player anymore. They know people will bitch to high-heavens about “gotcha” moments like traps or actually good ambushes so there are fewer and fewer with each Souls game. Demon’s Souls had nasty traps and places you could fall off and die like every ten feet. Dark Souls I and II had significantly less traps, but it still had a lot of opportunities to fall off and die. Dark Souls III almost never even has the risk of falling off shit. Even the traps that make you fall often don’t even kill you. You know how in the prison that one guy pops out of the cell and pushes you down to the second floor? You barely take any fall damage, there aren’t even that many enemies nearby, and you can easily get back up in like two minutes. There’s a room where you chase crystal lizards and there’s a hole in the floor, but if you fall down the hole you barely take fall damage and there’s a tiny shitty ambush. Souls has been getting softer and softer over time.

                    Also, most things in DS III that are rip-offs of earlier shit are far worse than the originals. In Demon’s Souls, the Tower of Latria was a huge prison with many levels, a giant swamp area, and a significant tower area at the end. The shitty prison in DS III is miniscule by comparison and leads to a generic cave. Great. Oh, and they basically color-swapped Anor Londo and made the enemy placements way easier. Lame.

                    I love Souls. I find it hard to conceptualize a Souls game that would be so bad I wouldn’t play it. I enjoyed DS III more than most any other non-Souls modern game in the last few years. But it is without a shadow of a doubt the shittiest Souls in my book.


                    • Chris Wagar May 26, 2016 / 1:44 am

                      Well here’s what I think, the silver knights in DS3’s Anor Londo were way harder than they were in the original game.

                      At this point I don’t really care if it’s “painfully trite”; I just like that the enemies are tougher and have to be fought more fairly than ever.

                      Call me boring, but I’m fine with consistent sustained innovation over surprise.


      • adamtm May 19, 2016 / 2:45 pm

        I dont know man, does a sports commentator need to be necessarily really good at the sport hes commenting on?

        Chris the dunning kruger effect goes both ways.
        Maybe you’re just really good ok?
        Not everyone can be Chris Wagar.

        I didnt see the video in question here, maybe he is really incompetent to the point where its misleading. Then again we dont have a median here to call “normal”.

        Just a thought.


        • Chris Wagar May 19, 2016 / 7:16 pm

          In the case of Smash Bros, or Street Fighter, I’ve never seen a good commentator who wasn’t themselves good at the game. Being good at a video game is a bit different than being good at a sport. It’s more about understanding the systems than physical fitness. The video above makes it very clear that SBH does not understand the systems, leading to him making statements on the game that I’d consider inaccurate.

          Also, I’m pretty sure he’s below the average given the video above.


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