Joshua Eric "Josh" Sawyer is a video game designer active in the role playing game genre. After Chris Avellone left Interplay Entertainment, Sawyer became the lead designer of Van Buren (the canceled Fallout 3 by Black Isle Studios) before he himself left in November 2003. At Obsidian Entertainment, he was the lead designer and project director of Fallout: New Vegas, a standalone game based on Fallout 3's engine and gameplay.
Sawyer grew up in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and earned a BA degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. In addition to being a history major, Josh participated in the theater (including mounting a production of Assassins). After Lawrence, Sawyer moved to California.
Black Isle Studios (1999-2003)
Starting as a web designer at Black Isle Studios, he quickly worked his way up the ladder to an associate designer position and then lead designer on Icewind Dale II.
While at Black Isle, he was known for coming up with the "Ex-Presidents" project naming system. When Interplay closed down Black Isle Studios, many team members ended up at Obsidian Entertainment, which would eventually come to include J.E. Sawyer.
He was the lead designer of Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound (codenamed Jefferson) before it was canceled due to Interplay losing all rights to the Dungeons & Dragons license. He then moved on to Black Isle's Fallout 3 project, codenamed Van Buren, which used the same engine, as the lead technical designer. After Chris Avellone left Interplay, Sawyer became the lead designer of Van Buren. In November 2003, it was reported by Tor Thorsen of GameSpot that he had abruptly quit his role as lead designer of Van Buren to pursue other projects.
Midway Home Entertainment (2003-2005)
After the cancellation of Van Buren, Sawyer left Black Isle and joined Midway Home Entertainment to work on Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. On July 19, 2005, GameSpot announced that he had left Midway. He was preceded in that move by game designer John Romero, who left work on the Gauntlet remake in June 2005.
Obsidian Entertainment (2005-present)
In 2005, Sawyer was employed by Obsidian Entertainment to work on Neverwinter Nights 2. Sawyer was the project director and lead designer of Aliens: Crucible, the canceled role-playing game based on the Alien film franchise. He was the project director and lead designer on Fallout: New Vegas, which was released in October 2010. He also wrote and performed several songs for Fallout: New Vegas: "Cobwebs and Rainbows," "Home on the Wastes," "New Vegas Valley," and "Streets of New Reno." Sawyer was made the project director and lead designer on Pillars of Eternity, a role-playing game inspired by classic computer role-playing games from the late 1990s.
On December 29, 2011, Sawyer released his personal mod, JSawyer, on his blogspot Diogenes Lamp. The mod fixed some major oversights made by the developers with statistics such as karma values and what weapons certain perks effect as well as making Fallout: New Vegas, in general, harder.
Subsequent projects include the landmark Pillars of Eternity and its sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, released to critical acclaim.
|March 1999||November 2003||Black Isle Studios||Lead Designer|
|November 2003||July 2005||Midway Home Entertainment||Lead Designer|
|July 2005||Present||Obsidian Entertainment||Design Director|
|2003||Van Buren||Lead Designer|
|2010||Fallout: New Vegas||Lead Designer|
|2010||Dead Money||Weapon Design|
|2011||Honest Hearts||Project Director|
|2011||Old World Blues||Weapon Design|
|2011||Lonesome Road||Weapon Design|
|2011||Gun Runners' Arsenal||Project Director|
|1999||Planescape: Torment||Web Master|
|2002||Icewind Dale II||Lead Designer|
|2004||J.E. Sawyer's Fallout RPG||Creator|
|2006||Neverwinter Nights 2||Design Lead|
|2007||Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer||Additional Design|
|2010||Alpha Protocol||Additional Design|
|2015||Pillars of Eternity||Lead Designer|
|2015||Pillars of Eternity: The White March||Lead Designer|
|2018||Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire||Project Director|
|2019||The Outer Worlds||Design Director|
Joshua Sawyer's online usernames include J.E. Sawyer or JESawyer, as well as rope kid, Orpheus, or baby goat.
Behind the scenes
- While at Black Isle Studios, Sawyer mentioned that he would like to make a Fallout: Resource Wars spin-off.
- Sawyer often listened to Moya while writing for New Vegas.
- Sawyer met some of the celebrity voice actors in Fallout: New Vegas, including Zachary Levi, Matthew Perry, and Kris Kristofferson, as well as Felicia Day (though only briefly).
- "I thought I could organize freedom. How Scandinavian of me.," article by J.E. Sawyer at RPG Codex; 2002
- "Bethesda Blog: Inside the Vault - Josh Sawyer," interview on Bethesda's website; 2010
- "Do (Say) The Right Thing: Choice Architecture, Player Expression, and Narrative Design in Fallout: New Vegas," GDC presentation; 2012
- "Reputation Overload - The Evolution of RPG Reputation Mechanics," livestreamed presentation; 2020
- Are you secretly Treyster or Gabriel on the Bethesda Fallout forums? They seem akin to your talking style/view points.
Joshua Sawyer: "I'm not secretly anyone. Online, I usually J.E. Sawyer or JESawyer as my username, but occasionally rope kid, Orpheus, or baby goat."
(Joshua Sawyer on Formspring)
- RPGDot interview with J.E. Sawyer: RPGDot: If you could do any game, regardless of money and developing time, what would it be?
J.E. Sawyer: "An adventure game based off of Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth children's book. I'd also like to make a rules-light Delta Green RPG, a light-future Earth adventure/RPG with strong art deco and art nouveau visual themes, and a pre-Fallout "Resource Wars" game set in collapsing Europe (during the U.K.'s invasions of the Middle East)."
- Joshua Sawyer on Something Awful Forums
- Fallout: New Vegas 10th Anniversary Charity Stream (reference starts at 4:51:20)
Joshua Sawyer: "'Did I get to meet any of the celebrity guest voice actors?' Yeah, I got to meet... uh, Zach Levi, I got to meet Matthew Perry, I got to meet Kris Kristofferson. I think maybe that was about it? I didn't meet Michael Dorn. I think I may have briefly met Felicia Day at the Fallout: New Vegas party, like the launch party in Vegas, but not for any extensive period of time."
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