LARAMIE — Two former Wyoming residents have created a video game that centers around a park ranger stationed in a watchtower in the Shoshone National Forest wilderness, with plot and dialogue based on real places within the state.
"Firewatch" is the first video game to be released by a small game developer in San Francisco called Campo Santo. The game is the creation of designer and programmer Nels Anderson and designer and writer Sean Vanaman. They hope to release it in mid-2015.
Anderson was born and raised in Jackson. Vanaman spent some of his youth in Cody.
Their experience includes work on big-name video games like "The Walking Dead" and "Mark of the Ninja."
Vanaman said his time in Wyoming inspired "Firewatch."
"I like to be alone a lot, and Wyoming's a really good place for that. You can just go five minutes from your house, or sometimes just right outside your front door depending on where you live and be, like, really by yourself," Vanaman said. "And that's the feeling that I think has been sort of internalized in a lot of my work maybe. I mean it's something I feel I always bring to it, I'm always pulling from it."
"Firewatch" is what's called a first-person exploratory adventure game with a focus on plot and dialogue. What sets it apart from many video games is that there are no aliens, zombies, or monsters.
"The game is basically about the relationship between two people set in the Wyoming back country. The game is not about challenge or defeating enemies," Vanaman said. "It's about learning to be the person that you are and forced to make dialogue decisions in conversations with someone you're getting to know. But at the same time, you'll be uncovering a mystery."
The mystery unfolds as the protagonist maintains radio contact with his supervisor. Based on those conversations and decisions, the player dictates the direction of the game's plot.
And Vanaman and Anderson want the game to feel as tangible as possible. From the books sitting in the lookout's bookshelf, to the foliage and geology, the game will transport players to smack dab in the middle of Wyoming.
"People are from real places in Wyoming in a real time and talk about how there's a rodeo every night in the summer in Cody, what it's like when there's traffic between Jackson and the Tetons — road construction, I should say," Vanaman said.
"Firewatch" initially will be available for computer platforms.