Out tomorrow, Firewatch could be this year's Monument Valley – an indie game catapulted to mainstream success by a mixture of lovely low-poly graphics and distinctly different gameplay. There the comparison ends. Firewatch is for computers and consoles – not phones and tablets – it's first-person with exploration and tasks to complete, and it has a complex narrative that builds and builds (if pre-release reviews are to be believed).
Firewatch has been art-directed by British illustrator Olly Moss, best known for creating geometric posters for the likes of The Dark Knight Rises, the Oscars and the digital editions of JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels.
As you can see from the screenshots we've collected here and the trailer (above), Olly's pared-down style gives the landscape of a largely empty wilderness a melancholy feel that perfectly matches the story. In Firewatch, the player is Henry – who has taken a job as a fire lookout in an isolated part of Yellowstone Natural Park after a tragedy. From here, you explore the environment as guided by your supervisor Delilah – and much of the game's story is driven by the relationship between the two, and the mystery they discover together (while being permenantly separated and only communicating only through walkie-talkies).
Olly's artworks were used as concept art for the game's location and story, "conveying mostly mood and general spatial vibe," according to a Q&A on developer Campo Santo's blog. The development team then used these to model scenes for "greybox passes", rough grayscale renderings of the landscapes. Olly then painted over these renders to establish lighting and texture.
The devs then extracted textures from these paintings, and set-up lighting to match – and interactive elements were added.
From here the process repeated three to six more times, with Olly painting on stills from the emerging game to ask for adjustments to texture, geometry and lighting.
Olly created a series of posters to promote the game when it was first launched in May 2014.
These posters have also made their way into the game.
Firewatch was created in the Unity game engine. Most of the 3D modelling was done in Maya, with some organic models sculpted in ZBrush. Textures were created in Photoshop.