Video Games

How Obsidian’s Latest Game is Inspired By a Medieval Theory About God and Worms

Heading into the big game release, some developers want to share tidbits about what inspired their work. Often it’s other games. For some, it’s the tabletop of his campaigns, or movies and television. For Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer, who leads the development of Pentiment, it’s a history book. Specifically, a history book about a strange little man.

Despite an illustrious career working on hits like Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, Sawyer has long been ruminating on historic games.his Reading List Published for Pentiment Enthusiasts Listen to his college days. Developing his Pentiment from that is “like going back to the biggest hits from a tour of early modern Europe in college,” he says.

Here’s a short version, but I highly recommend checking out the full blog post for Sawyer’s notes on each title.

  • “Dürer’s Journey: A Renaissance Artist’s Journey” by Susan Foster and Peter van den Brink
  • “The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century” by Joel F. Harrington
  • “The Return of Martin Guele” by Natalie Simon Davis
  • Richard Wunderli’s Peasant Fire: The Drummers of Niklashausen
  • Carlo Ginsberg, “Cheese and Worms: A Sixteenth-Century Miller’s Universe”
  • “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco

In fact, Sawyer’s reading list has a fun feel to the syllabus based on course preparation on the history and life of 16th-century Europe. But once you get used to both Pentiment and the few pieces it contains, another theme pops up. It’s also a reading list of stories about, in Sawyer’s words, “strange little men.”

ordinary people

Take “Cheese and Worms: A 16th Century Miller’s Universe” for example. It is a micro history that a miller named Menocchio did not stop telling all his neighbors about his theological theories and greatly annoyed them. Among other things, Menocchio seems to have believed that the world was a big blob of cheese and that God was a worm crawling in it. Talking out of his neighbor’s ears about this. One account in the book tells of a neighbor being voiced by Menocchio and his theory about this while leaving a funeral. little man!

Others are similarly angled slice-of-life tales. In the story, he claims to have a vision of the Virgin Mary, which causes a peasant rebellion.

The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in a Turbulent 16th Century is a story based on the diaries of a medieval executioner.

“Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist” is also based on a personal diary, but of a traveling artist. And “The Return of Martín Guerre” is the bizarre story of a young man who disappears from a medieval town for eight years and reappears as a disguised man to reclaim his life with his wife and son. But after a good deal of time passed without a photo, questions began to arise as to whether this was in fact the same man who left eight years ago, or the strange little man who stole the missing man’s life. rice field.

These are the stories that inspired Obsidian’s Pentiment, a game that promises to be chock-full of such mediocre and extraordinary stories. It follows artist Andreas Marat as he tries to prove the innocence of his friends, the Piero brothers, in the murder of a nobleman. Playing Pentiment for yourself, it’s clear that much of the history on his reading list is more than just thematic inspiration. We have already seen much of this history partly played out among the townspeople of Tussing and the various monks and nuns of the nearby monastery when we met through Muller.

It’s all tied together by a story that recalls the last title on the reading list, Umberto Eco’s medieval fiction, The Name of the Rose. It’s a story marked by illicit love affairs, intense scholarly debates about whether God has a sense of humor, and an elusive labyrinth with a dramatic secret at its heart. No, but fans of the book are likely to find many of the same themes and ideas reflected in Pentiment’s own mystery.

record of records

The appeal of Pentiment and its inspiration is the way it invites viewers to examine history through something other than the lofty lens we’re used to seeing through filters. At that point, Sawyer points me in the next direction. In the words of the recently deceased historical novelist Hilary Mantel: “Facts are not true, they are part of it, but information is not knowledge. And history is not the past. History is the way we have evolved to sort out the ignorance of the past.” It’s a record of what’s on record.”

Instead of regular records, Pentiment offers weird little guy records. Unless you’ve taken a lot of college history classes, it’s easy to forget how ordinary people hundreds of years ago weren’t all that different from us. the world worked.

“Ordinary people, the peasants, sometimes had very sophisticated and personal notions of how the world and the metaphysical world worked, and were put under pressure even by religious authorities. “…they would say, ‘Look, I believe this. I don’t want the changelings to take the baby.’ I believe it because it happened and I saw it.’ And they said, ‘I don’t care where the church stands. my sister saw it. Are you going to tell me that what she saw wasn’t real? I’m sorry, but I won’t accept that.'”

Game development inspiration can certainly come from anywhere, but it’s a bit unusual to see a developer post a reading list. It’s far more common to see other games and movies cited. I told Sawyer that, in his experience, such intense crossovers between literature are more frequent than audiences realize. I ask if what was going on behind the scenes was Pentiment, a laser-targeted book geek video game?

After all, it’s mostly the former. But Sawyer hopes his references will inspire other developers to create similar reading lists for curious players.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily unique, but I don’t think it’s a big focus for a lot of people,” he replies. Back to the Lands, Arnold Hendrick, [the lead designer on Darklands]…the Darklands manual included references, and many of his reference books that I have purchased and have on my shelf…I don’t know where he got his info I was able to obtain the source myself and use it for my purposes. his own work.

“All I wanted was if someone finally [Pentiment] It’s like, “Wow, I love this, the history is great.” I want them to have the same opportunity I gave them when I played Darklands. It came from here, here are all the references, just check it out. “

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.

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