Obsidian Entertainment veteran Josh Sawyer has opened up about the development of Pentiment, a small narrative-driven RPG he recently directed. He explained why this game wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Game Pass.

Pentiment director Josh Sawyer says it was only possible thanks to Game Pass

Sawyer shared his thoughts during the latest episode of the Waypoint Radio podcast (first spotted by Benji Sales on Twitter), where he discussed the process of pitching Pentiment to Xbox.

He said he is always very skeptical of any new technology or distribution model, because, as a systems designer, he knows that “there are always tradeoffs to everything.” Game Pass wasn’t an exception, but this service became a great opportunity for Sawyer to pitch some of his ideas to Microsoft.

“I never would have proposed making Pentiment without Game Pass,” he said, adding that it just wouldn’t have been possible.

The old mentality of publishers and developers is generally focused on larger teams, larger investments for a higher ROI, and that’s not the point in this environment, in this ecosystem.

Josh Sawyer

studio design director at Obsidian Entertainment

So when you work at a company of over 200 people, it is hard to say “Let me take some of our most experienced developers and work on this thing.” As Sawyer pointed out, in a traditional ecosystem, he wouldn’t even bother doing this because a publisher still wouldn’t pick up a game like Pentment.

That’s why he believes that Game Pass and the whole ecosystem surrounding it is the “only way in which I conceive of [this game] being viable.”

Sawyer also noted that he had to shift his thinking to make Pentiment, because it is drastically different from other games he has worked on in terms of scope and everything else.

My thinking for this title specifically is that it is for a small audience that is into the idea of the game, and as long as this audience is into it, even if it is very small, that’s probably fine. Especially on Game Pass, where people can download it, play it for five minutes, and stop playing it, that’s okay. They didn’t buy the game. That is a very different prospect than asking people to spend $20-50 on something, and they are getting furious and disappointed because some part of it is not what they wanted.

Josh Sawyer

studio design director at Obsidian Entertainment

Pentiment came out on November 15 for PC and Xbox. Set in a medieval world and visually resembling old manuscripts and woodcuts, it is a narrative-driven adventure about a murder investigation spanning 25 years.

The game received positive reviews from critics, getting an average score of 88/100 on Metacritic.

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