Inspired by Myst, The Witness has the player explore an open world island filled with a number of natural and man-made structures. The player progresses by solving puzzles which are based on interactions with mazespresented on panels around the island. The rules and outcomes of solving the individual mazes are part of the puzzles that the player will have to come to learn themselves through both visual clues around the island and through audio logs that the player can find. Blow aimed to include as little instruction as possible, wanting to have players come to understand the rules of these puzzles for themselves and coming to moments of realization while exploring the island. The final game will have about 650 total puzzles to be solved, though the player is not required to solve them all to finish the game.
Though originally announced in 2009, The Witness has had a lengthy development period. Blow started work on the title in 2008 after a short break from releasing Braid. The financial success of Braid allowed him to hire a larger team to develop the title and maintain his vision of what the final game would be without making any sacrifices. This led to a protracted development period, extending the game’s release from 2011 to 2016, spanning a console generation. Original plans for release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were abandoned because the game’s engine became too demanding, and Blow opted to develop the console version for the PlayStation 4 as Sony was more open towards independent developers.