The Witness

This parody of The Witness is more accurate than you might think

Be warned, this article contains mild spoilers for the end of The Witness.


Most of the people I know who have been playing The Witness since it came out a week ago have been doing so in the graces of midnight—”it’s an ideal late night game,” is the consensus. While loved ones are tucked up in bed, you can be quiet with The Witness, as it is quiet with you. There’s no music, no maddening rapid button-pressing, nothing to yelp at as it jumps out at you. And the mix of serene exploration and chewy puzzle-solving lends itself to caressing eyelids determinedly toward the ‘rest’ position. I manage about two hours of playtime before I have no choice but to go to bed otherwise I’ll be accidentally waking up on the couch the next morning.

What I’m saying is, at this rate, it’s going to take me a bloody long time to complete The Witness. Two hours, maximum, a day? And this is a game that’s supposed to take at least 40 hours (maybe more, maybe less) to finish, and possibly up to 100 hours to do absolutely everything it has to offer? Doing the math, I can see why some people may choose to push the long commitment of The Witness aside and entertain other ways to occupy their time. But the slight problem with this may be that a lot of people are playing it and talking about it all around you. And that eats away at you. In such a scenario, what you need is an abbreviated version of The Witness, and it just so happens to be that there is one. Well, sorta.

The Witness

Australian game maker Ian MacLarty has created his own version of The Witness using his virtual world creation tool Vertex Meadow. What this tool does is render 2D images as 3D terrain. “With it you can create detailed and unusual 3D environments to explore using a 2D paint-program-like interface,” reads the description. You can also link multiple terrains together too, creating a larger experience with different moods through each transition.

For his game, MacLarty took a screenshot of The Witness and turned it into an explorable 3D space. By virtue of using the exact palette of the 100-hour long The Witness, this much shorter version of the game resembles its island as if you’re seeing it through beer goggles. None of the topography is the same and there are no sounds at all, but the warm bucolic glow of the place lives on through the colors.

Then comes the punchline

Despite all of the jagged grassy mountains begging to be explored in MacLarty’s The Witness, he gives us a path to follow, leading us up to a summit. There are no puzzles to stop you along the way, no doors sternly blocking your progress, nothing but you and this path (and the surrounding scenery). Then comes the punchline. When you reach the edge of the summit you get an on-screen prompt to “see ending.” Press the button and you’re redirected to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on YouTube. Yep, MacLarty is Rickrolling people like it’s 2008 all over again.

But, actually, that wizened internet meme in place of The Witness‘ actual ending isn’t irrelevant. I should warn you that this is where the mild spoiler comes in. And it’s mild because, as I’ve made clear, I haven’t finished The Witness and can’t possibly spoil it for you right now. But I know someone who has and who remarked previously that not many are going to like the ending. “That is definitely how a lot of people will feel about the ending,” they say about MacLarty’s Rickroll ending in reference to The Witness‘ actual ending. So, er, now you know not to expect too much from the end of The Witness, I guess. It certainly brings into question the value of putting in all those hours into the game, huh? I’m still going for it anyway but, well, now I guess I’ve reduced any expectation I did have to nil. Apply the “Enjoy the journey and not the destination” mentality to the game, and any other relevant truism that you have stuck to your fridge by way of glossy magnet.

You can play MacLarty’s version of The Witness in your browser.