23 Observations On 17 Minutes Of Firewatch

'Control, I need to report a giant orange circle taking up space in the sky'

I haven’t been entirely sure what to make of Firewatch [official site], the upcoming great outdoors adventure/exploration title from a mini-supergroup of ex-Double Fine/ Telltale/ Lucasarts/ Klei/ Lionhead devs, because I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. Having just watched a quarter of an hour of it, I still don’t entirely know what it’s going to become, but I really, really like it. It seems to have this laid-back pace and tone and tons of slow-burn character-building while still being very, well, gamey. I really hope that pace and tone can be maintained throughout. Also it looks like somewhere I’d really love to go and live in for a while.

The footage and my own assorted as-they-happened thoughts, including observations on underwear, caves and wedding rings, are below.

  • Orienteering! With a map and a compass and getting vaguely confused and everything.
  • The orange colours are nice. Perpetual sunset, but not in a Michael Bay way.
  • The forest looks foresty, something I’d actually like to hike through.
  • Laid back dialogue. Exasperated rather than heroic characters, just doing their job.
  • Reporting underwear lying on the ground feels simultaneously mundane and filthy.
  • Dialogue offers the choice to be hectoring, playful, anxious as you interact with others.
  • Other characters seem to be kept at a distance or only heard, maybe it doesn’t want to disrupt the fantasy with uncanny faces?
  • You can steal a boombox! The guy throws it in a stream here, but I’ll just bet someone finds a way to carry it with them for the whole game.
  • Seems to have lots of just-because object interactions, a la Gone Home but it’s in this huge outdoor space.
  • The environment is slightly Team Fortress 2y. Not a bad thing. There are quite a few photo-real forests doing the rounds now, so it’s almost refreshing to see something stylised.
  • The main character has kind of a dorky run.
  • Super-minimal UI, with big pressy buttons and words popping up when needed.
  • How strange it is to see a wedding ring on a first-person hand. Has the happened before?
  • Caves! Games are full of caves, but because we don’t yet know what sorts of things are out there or what the character is capable of defending himself against, it’s exciting/scary in this context. Like going into a random cave you find during a hill walk.
  • Lots of comedy sparring/flirting between the two characters. I hope some Will They/Won’t They overtone doesn’t take over entirely. It’s going to be more fun when they’re mildly combative.
  • Ben thinks the main guy is voiced by Harry from Mad Men, but I think he sounds a little too gruff. But I dunno, ACTING.
  • Surprise full-throated karaoke rendition of Africa by Toto!
  • What a nice, starry night sky that is. The great outdoors, the big sky, the great escape we all dream of when it all gets too much.
  • Outside toilets with no apparent drainage system. I’m glad games can’t do smells yet.
  • Lots of rock-climbing and trailfinding, but very low-key. A little like Far Cry 3/4 without the mania.
  • I like that there’s basically a Jobsworth Button – reporting every minor infraction, disturbance or object you stumble across. It’s like the Ubisoft icon-hoovering, but with litter-spotting. There’s a purpose at least, keep this place clean and safe.
  • I really want to spend a couple of weeks living in the protagonist’s little watch tower with the amazing views. No internet, no bills, no nothin’ but the land.
  • Who would throw his typewriter out of the window? Is this a Secret Window thing?

29 Comments

  1. drumcan says:

    Alec, if you’re curious what this kind of life is like, I’d recommend reading Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors. It’s a well-written piece of non-fiction and one of the inspirations for Firewatch.

    • OddJuniper says:

      Also check out Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the Cascades. All three of these beat poets/authors worked at fire lookouts like this back in the 50’s.

    • webs1 says:

      There’s also the short story “Sitting on Top of the World” by TC Boyle with a similar topic.

      Game really looks great. Thanks for the info, Alec.

  2. Electricleash says:

    Looks really interesting and beautiful… BUT… they will DEFINITELY need to sort out the terrible FOV setting! Giving me a headache even watching this video!
    Otherwise intrigued!

  3. GameCat says:

    After reading this post it struck me that Alec didn’t mentioned the current of sweet puns about storm and thunders. Why?

  4. Radiant says:

    What a wonderful looking website.

    • Eiv says:

      First thing I noticed too. Excellent use of parallax scrolling, not something that’s usually used well.

  5. Martel says:

    I don’t know where their game is taking place, but from the things I’ve seen it’s basically Idaho. So Alec, if you wanted to try it out a bit, you can come to Idaho here in the US :) You can even rent a fire watch tower if you feel so inclined link to firelookout.org

    • Donjo says:

      Amazing. Imaginary hiking/firewatch tower holiday is go.

    • hollowroom says:

      It says Wyoming at the start of the video, but I’ll take Idaho.

    • April March says:

      Campo Santo should be offering this as a preorder bonus!

  6. gbrading says:

    The style reminds me of The Incredibles. Very much looking forward to this; Eidolon was a great first-person exploration game so more of that with more character and storytelling will be execellent.

  7. jameskond says:

    Yeah that’s Harry from Mad Men, if we can believe wikipedia: link to en.wikipedia.org

  8. aukondk says:

    We saw most of this section of the game when they did their livestream back in September, and I didn’t notice much difference. I love the feel and style still however and the story is intriguing.

    • Donjo says:

      There’s a good bit more to this one. All I can say is I’m really really REALLY really looking forward to this.

  9. Synesthesia says:

    I feel that the long dark is the sequel to this after you push a button you *really* shouldn’t have to.

  10. Synesthesia says:

    Wow. This thing is beautiful. I want it. When is it out?

  11. lupinewolf says:

    He does sound like Harry from Mad Men. Any guesses on the lady?

  12. thekyshu says:

    Looks very interesting! Can’t wait till the game comes out!

  13. Urthman says:

    On the one hand this is made by people who love Far Cry 2, so I’m thinking, there’s definitely gonna be some propagating fire. On the other hand, this is made by people who loved Bioshock, which managed to make a game set in a leaky underwater city that never flooded, so maybe they’ll leave that rifle hanging on the wall in the third act.

    Campo Santo are also big fans of Miasmata, which is my favorite wandering-around-in-the-woods game.

    And wow do I love the art design. I think The Witness is the only game I’m looking forward to more in terms of just loving the art style. Olly Moss & Jane Ng are a pretty unstoppable combination.

    • Urthman says:

      I’m also loving the fat-fingered, low-key, kind of schlubby protagonist.

  14. pund says:

    Is it me or does it look a bit more cartoony than it used to?
    Anyway, I’m looking forward to this.

  15. raiders5000 says:

    2 – 1 – 3 – 4???

  16. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    This looks quite promising.

  17. buzzmong says:

    I wasn’t expecting much, but have come away quite impressed watching that.