The director of ‘Pentiment’ wants you to know how his characters ate



The murder mystery is a plot device that is quite similar to how you find out about the story anyway. Was it conscious?

Yeah, absolutely. In every game other than the one I’ve worked on, the violence and combat mechanics are really central. There are lots of levels and party management, and things that intentionally take your brain to a different place. With narrative adventure, it’s really all about character interactions. So how you interact with people, the choices you make, the consequences of those choices.

Let’s talk about the art style of the game, which is this mix of medieval manuscripts and early printed woodcuts.

Absolutely. Again, this is a period of transition. So it’s not that the manuscripts are no longer being produced, but they are being produced in smaller and smaller numbers. They were no longer generally produced by monasteries. They were made by trade guilds, like the Guild of Saint Luke, or individual artists like Andreas. Historically, Albrecht Dürer is probably the most famous example. Thus, print takes over, manuscripts disappear, literacy increases.

But with that, there’s also an infusion across Europe of all sorts of books on all sorts of things. One of the craziest examples of this period is the Malleus MaleficarumWhere witches hammer, which is a witch-hunting manual. It was condemned by the church, but people were obsessed with it, because it talked about demons and the fact that women were all witches, or had a great propensity for it. And so there was this heightened fear and danger of this stuff spreading.

Sounds familiar.

But more specifically, when it comes to art, artistic creation is sort of at the center of many elements of the story. We’re trying to tie that into how the characters and the world are rendered. We therefore use the woodcut style a lot for the representation of our environments.

Our artistic director, Hannah Kennedy, did a lot of work on the Nuremberg Chronicle, which is a large collection. It’s even hard to describe; the books are really weird at this time, because they are everywhere. But there were lots of illustrations of cities, many of which were reused and had no relation to the city itself. But we use examples of that as perspective for how we build our environments.

And bring the characters to life too?

Our characters, the older characters in particular, are rendered in a brighter style. So they are painted and as they get older they actually lose paint chips in the game, so you will see them wear out. And then our younger characters are all printed or made in that style. So it looks like a dark black outline filled with color, which is a different approach.

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