Firewatch Adding Free Audio Tour, Free Roam Mode

You may think Firewatch [official site], the utterly spectacular first-person adventure from Campo Santo, may not be the most obvious choice for free DLC. But rather than meddling with the original game, Campo are adding a new mode called Audio Tour, a commentary mode in the form of a scavenger hunt! And later this year, the much-requested free-roaming mode will come our way. We’ve spoken to Campo Santo’s Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin about the new bits and pieces, along with new screenshots and the first look at the new trailer.

When we heard early word of today’s DLC announcement, we immediately assumed it would be a new romancing option for Delilah. “Yes, we’re calling it ‘our Mass Effect 3′”, said Campo co-top-man, Vanaman, before quickly correcting himself. In fact, it’s to be The Firewatch Audio Tour, in which protagonist Henry picks up and dons a Walkman and headphones before starting his adventure, and then makes his way through the original plot with the addition of over 100 tape cassette kiosks to the woodlands to find. On these tapes will be anecdotes and recollections from the development team on how the game came to be, the encounters you’re experiencing, and the choices they made.

Regarding just a straight director’s commentary style overlay, Vanaman says, “Easy peasy, those have been done before.” Instead, Campo studio director Rodkin came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt, a way to make the new content something the player has to seek from the wilds of Wyoming. They’re not all there at once – you still play through the narrative of the game, so new kiosks will appear as days progress. “Each tape tells you what you’re going to learn about, and your map has a checklist of all the tapes that exist in the world on that day of the game.”

And it’s not just audio. Vanaman continues, “Furthermore, we’ve hidden a bunch of “how we make the game” set pieces throughout the world. Here is [a gif of] one about how we animate Henry and another about how we concept out a scene:

Free Roam mode is still a while away, but Rodkin tells us exists because “it’s one a lot of people asked for”. This mode will remove the narrative of the game, and instead give Henry all the equipment he gathers right at the start, and lets players just explore the space at their leisure. It shall, indeed, genuinely be a ‘walking simulator’. “There’s a type of person who really likes the world of Firewatch and the “virtual hiking”/sightseeing/tourism aspect of exploring it,” Rodkin tells us, “and wanted to be able to live in it for a little while, poke around at their own pace without having to feel the pressure of the story. It seemed like we had all the tools ready to make a mode just for them so we did!”

Of course, Firewatch presents its world in static moments, the time of day advancing as the player moves forward through the days of the story. But rather than pick a moment and have players live in it, they’re going further. Rodkin explains, “We took all the times of day used across the game and reworked them as a proper constantly progressing time of day system. So there’s now a running day/night cycle where the sun goes down and comes up on its own, crickets come out at night, birdsong in the morning, etc.”

With the traversal equipment from the start, it allows people to experience what Rodkin calls “a normal day in Henry’s life”. Except he won’t have the radio for this mode, but instead the Walkman again, this time to let him listen to the soundtrack on demand as he wanders.

I wondered whether these new additions to what is an essentially closed loop of a game was because Campo Santo weren’t ready to move on from the world they’d spent so long creating, a frustration that they wanted to spend longer there. But Vanaman says it was otherwise. “We talked about this a lot – our feelings about moving on. We weren’t really frustrated by the closed nature of the story because we felt we could do more in the world of Firewatch if we wanted to. We talked about it a lot as a team. In the end, this super-robust commentary mode is less of a “not ready to give it up,” (we are ready and are moving on to new stuff) and more just a snowballing of ideas. It started as a really basic thing and then became this scavenger hunt with a tour theme and set pieces. That was just excitement.”

And it seems a lot of the motivation behind delivering such an expansive and detailed audio commentary is born of the nature of the character of the team. “We felt like we had a lot to say about the game,” says Vananman. “That was the driving force behind the audio tour, nothing else. And not like ‘our thoughts about the story,’ but ‘we should tell the story of how me made this bizarre thing.’ The personalities at the studio are such that we felt like it would be entertaining for owners of the game and that’s sort of the bar of doing something: are we inspired to spend our very limited time on something and do we think it’s entertaining?” But, he concedes, “Also, a few months ago we weren’t really ready to jump into a new game and this was a way to keep playing with our tools, which we wanted to do! You get good at making a game right about the time you ship it.”

We’ll let you know the release date for the Firewatch Audio Tour as soon as it’s announced. Free Roam mode will be a few weeks further down the line.


  1. DinoSteak says:

    Lol getting actual content out of Campo Santo is getting to be like getting blood from a stone. I enjoyed Firewatch but move on fellas I mean we barely got 3 hours of gameplay after you teased the game for a 1+ years and now we’re going back for micro-seconds? If the whole thing was an Early Access release I’d be the first to congratulate you on finishing your game with this release…Fantastic art direction though.

    • jonnychimpo says:

      Indeed. I saw some reviews that were talking about 6 hours of gameplay. I did it in under 3 and that was only because I got stuck in the boys fort halfway through looking for a way out. What were they doing for the other three hours?

      Pretty sure I didn’t miss anything either

      • John Walker says:

        Seriously? It’s a game about calmly exploring, pottering around, looking for every detail, enjoying the views, watching the sun in the sky. Finishing it in three hours means you were terrible at playing it, not that it was too short.

        • jonnychimpo says:

          I did a bit of that, which was appropriate in the first half, but then I though i’d play it how Henry would approach it. And while a potential nutter is on the loose I didn’t think he’d hang around admiring the sunsets too much

        • scannerbarkly says:

          Did John just politely tell someone to “get good”?

        • ACE454 says:

          Indeed, my first playthrough was 7 hours and I enjoyed every microsecond of it.

        • Railway Rifle says:

          “I bet I can get through this museum in ten minutes!”

        • Aitrus says:

          To me it felt like it wanted to be a tightly paced movie more than calm exploration game, but I didn’t have a problem with that. (3 hours)

      • airknots says:

        Just checked my Steam, mine says I finished it in around 5 hours. It felt longer than that though. I really enjoyed those 5 hours though, and my wife loved watching my playthrough too.

    • John Walker says:

      I’ll be fascinated how you’ll listen to over a hundred audio commentaries in a microsecond. Please share your incredible technology with the world.

      • Gormongous says:

        Everyone knows that audio commentaries aren’t real content because, uh… video games.

      • crowleyhammer says:

        I didn’t read it as microseconds of time more as in going back for a second helping of content that is a micro amount. micro-seconds?

  2. Urthman says:

    Given that a significant chunk of the Campo Santo team (Remo, Rodkin, and Vanaman) regularly put out a pretty great game podcast (Idle Thumbs), I’m really excited about the audio tour. I’d been hoping the Idle Thumbs crew might someday do a podcast telling stories about making the game, but this sounds even better.

  3. scannerbarkly says:

    I’d really love it if they popped in a free camera so you can take some proper screenshots. It’s a lovely looking game they have put together.

  4. TR`Ben says:

    Great! I’d love to listen to commentaries. The game is brilliant and if the devs have something else to tell – i’m all ears.
    Free roam is good news as well.

  5. jonahcutter says:

    I came away from Firewatch thinking the “there’s a killer on the loose” narrative was the worst part of an otherwise excellent game. Forced and unnecessary.

    I would of preferred just spending a summer wandering the park, dealing with more mundane tasks like skinny dippers and litterbugs. Lost hikers, flat tires and the like. All while the characters muse about their lives and their relationship plays out. Ramping up to the increasingly dry summer and corresponding increase in tension over potential fires. “Firewatch”… after all.

    And then a final forest fire as the big action climax near the end.

    Frre roam mode seems part way there. Unfortunately without any actual gameplay or interaction to create immersion in the beautiful landscape. A guided tour through their creation. Not actual immersion in it.

  6. Beefsurgeon says:

    Mmm. Hey, it’s kind of the end of summer right now. Much as I’d like to wait for the additional content, it feels like the most seasonally appropriate time to give this a second playthrough is right now.

  7. InfamousPotato says:

    Yesterday, I replayed 30 Flights of Loving, and and then found out it had a commentary mode (complete with a tiny museum of its art assets). I’m glad that the developers at Campo Santo are doing something similar, as I’d really love to get some insight into how they designed Firewatch. The animation videos look especially interesting.

  8. Premium User Badge

    alison says:

    I am so excited about the prospect of a walking sim version of Firewatch. With changing weather too! Eep!

  9. SingularityParadigm says:

    Now if we can just get a stereoscopic VR optimized rendering mode. I want to be *in* those gorgeous environments for free roam.

  10. Donjo says:

    YES. Can’t wait for this. A brilliant reason to play through again.

  11. Warp15 says:

    Excited about free roam.