Josh Sawyer is the Creative Director at Obsidian, and for about ten years now I’ve been calling him “the most cursed man in the videogames industry”. This is because Josh Sawyer came to Obsidian through Black Isle, and so has his name attached to things like the cancelled Van Buren prototype of Fallout 3 — no, not the soulless Bethesda one from 2008, the one where all we ever saw of it was a main menu mockup — and Icewind Dale 2, which was mostly notable for sinking without a trace thanks to coming out two months after Neverwinter Nights. His bad luck streak continued at Obsidian: designer on Alpha Protocol, one of the most criminally overlooked games of the last twenty years; director and lead designer on Fallout New Vegas, which was most definitely not overlooked but which infamously led to Obsidian getting screwed out of a bonus payment it would have received had it achieved an overall Metacritic score of 85 (it ended up with 84); and then director on Pillars of Eternity and Pillars of Eternity 2, the latter of which is a genuinely great CRPG but if you want to know how it did commercially you just have to look for Pillars of Eternity 3. Or the lack of it, anyway.
This is why Josh Sawyer is cursed: nearly every single game he has been involved with has been an absolute banger of an RPG, and nearly every single one of them has been considered a commercial failure (or got cancelled). After Pillars 2 flopped I think I would have forgiven him for just stepping back into his general Creative Director role for all of Obsidian1 in between posting reviews of shower UX design on Twitter. But Josh Sawyer is made of sterner stuff than I am, and has instead taken the other road: if every game he makes is doomed to be a commercial failure, then he might as well just make the games he wants to make, commercial viability be damned2. And this is how we’ve ended up with Pentiment, a game with extremely limited commercial appeal for something published by Microsoft, but which is one of the most interesting and engaging games I’ve played this year precisely because of that fact.
- Although he was quick to disavow having much involvement with The Outer Worlds in that role, which you can charitably view as him not wanting to take the credit for another team’s success, but which I see as his attempt to flee the crime scene. ↩
- He still had to get it greenlit, but Game Pass has apparently changed the calculus there for the time being. ↩