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Firewatch’s secret best feature is shutting down

If you haven’t developed your photos via the Firewatch Fotodome, you probably want to get on that.

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Firewatch Fotodome

If you haven’t developed your photos via the Firewatch Fotodome, you probably want to get on that.

Did you ever try to explain how photography used to work to a modern child?

First, they find it baffling that you couldn’t just use your phone. It’s unbelievable that you couldn’t view or delete your photos once taken. Then the notion of 27-shot, physical film – in a world of unlimited, cloud-based storage – seems completely alien.

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Finally, when you tell them you used to have to go to a pharmacy to collect your photos – and often had to wait a couple of days – it blows their minds. See also: floppy disks, cassette tapes, and good old fashioned rotary telephones.

What you got back, though – that little envelope full of mystery and magic – was something really special. As brilliantly advanced and convenient as the modern photographic process might be, there’s something being lost in translation with the removal of that tactile product.

Firewatch, the first-person mystery adventure game set in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989, is similarly of its time. The game features a typewriter instead of a laptop; walkie talkies in place of mobile phones; a paper map in place of GPS; a Walkman in place of an iPod.

And Firewatch also features a single-use, disposable camera.

Now, if you’re like me and mistakenly thought the camera was a gameplay mechanic for capturing evidence, you might’ve held onto your photos until the end of the game. But what you’re supposed to do – as with all disposable cameras – is use it to capture the world around you. For the world around you is beautiful.

One of Firewatch’s lesser-known features, courtesy of publisher Panic, is the ability to get your in-game photographs developed. In the traditional manner. First, you send off for them, and a little while later, when you’ve almost forgotten about them, they turn up on your doormat in a glossy envelope.

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It’s called Fotodome, and it’s brilliant. The Firewatch crew have taken Fotodome on the road with them, to a number of events, but Panic have also offered the service via mail order.

Sadly, Fotodome is closing its presses next month. On May 20th 2019, or until stocks of the adorable envelopes last, Panic will be shutting down the Fotodome service for good. So if you want to snap some of Firewatch’s wonderful wilderness and get them developed the way we used to, you’d better get on that.

The online hosting for people’s Firewatch snaps, however, will stay online after the closure of Fotodome.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.