FireWatch is a first-person adventure game from 2016 developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic. It was released on February 9, 2016 for Linux as well as most other major platforms.
The game follows Henry, a volunteer worker who looks out for fires in the aftermath of the forest fires in the Yellowstone National Park in 1988. One month after his first day at work, strange things start happening to both Henry and his superior Delilah – who are connected to mysterious circumstances.
Henry interacts with Delilah via a walkie-talkie that the player selects in the communication options. Henry’s conversation with Delilah determines how the relationship develops. The game’s environment was constructed by Jane Ng and was based on a painting by director Olly Moss. Game design has taken inspiration from advertising signs from the National Park Service and New Deal era, as well as explorations conducted on-site in Yosemite National Park.
The game generally received positive reviews where its story, characters, dialogue, gameplay and art style were praised but where the end less so. Firewatch won the Best 3D Visual Experience award at the Unity Awards 2016 and Best Indie Game at the 2016 Golden Joystick Awards. In September 2016, the game had sold in nearly a million copies. A movie based on the game is being developed by Campo Santo and the production company Good Universe.
Plot (mostly spoiler-free)
Firewatch takes place in Wyoming’s wilderness in 1989. The player controls Henry (voice by Rich Sommer), who gets a job as forest guard and is stationed in his own viewing tower in Shoshone National Forest. By exploring the surrounding environment, Henry discovers clues about mysterious conditions in the vicinity that are related to the crawling of his tower that occurred while on a routine patrol, and someone that occasionally seems to observe him remotely.
Henry’s only form of communication is a walkie-talkie that enables contact between him and his boss, Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones). The player can choose from a number of dialogue options to interact with her when new interactive objects or environments are explored, or refrain from responding. The player’s choice affects the relationship character with Delilah. As history develops, new areas are opened for the player. The game also includes a day and night 24-hour cycle, but time only changes if the player manages to complete all the goals set for that time period.
- Campo Santo, based in San Francisco, was founded by Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, formerly involved in Telltale Games games’ The Walking Dead, Nels Anderson, chief designer of Mark of the Ninja, and illustrator Olly Moss.
- The music was composed by Chris Remo who was also involved in several other parts of the game.
- Firewatch uses the Unity game engine.
- The development of Firewatch began with a simple painting by Moss. Jane Ng at Campo Santo was commissioned to translate Moss’s works into 3D environments while maintaining his stylized, basic artistic vision. Moss, who was previously mainly known for his graphic design, joined Vanaman and Rodkin and founded Campo Santo after spending many years working on the periphery of game development. In the creation of the aforementioned painting, Moss imitated posters from the National Park Service from the New Deal era in both color and iconography styles.
- The interaction with the walkie-talkie in Firewatch is inspired by the player’s relationship with Atlas in BioShock , as well as the dialogue system from The Walking Dead. The development team went on a camping trip to Yosemite National Park to get inspiration for the game.
- The game is also partly inspired by Vanamans and Anderson’s experiences during the upbringing in rural Wyoming.
- Firewatch is a first person game played from Henry’s perspective, with Delilah talking only through the walkie-talkie. The choice of game layouts was made when developers hoped to avoid lip sync and minimize the amount of animation required, which was expensive due to limited resources and staffing. According to Anderson, it would be impossible for the developers to add it to the game.
- The game was announced in March 2014 with a preliminary release date 2015 . At the Game Developers Conference, the company held a public gaming test alongside the main building and Jane Ng, game artist, hosted a panel discussing the game’s design and aesthetics under the name The Art of Firewatch.
Firewatch received positive response. On Metacritic it scored of 82/100 based on 32 reviews. This was based on the PC version, but the Linux version has also received mostly positive response, after a couple of initial hickups.
Linux System Requirements
Firewatch officially runs on Ubuntu 14.04/Mint 17 or later and the minimum system requirements include an Intel Core i3 running at 2 GHz or “AMD equivalent”. The game equires libsdl2-2.0-0 and comes with a 64-bit binary only.
- System: Ubuntu 14.04, Mint 17
- Processor: Intel Core i3 2.00 GHz or AMD equivalent
- Memory: 6 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 450 or higher with 1GB Memory
- Storage: 4 GB