Of all the myriad of real-life professions to make a simulator about, firefighting is up there on the list in terms of potential excitement. We got everything from tractor and trains to goat simulators, but we all can agree that fighting fire and rescuing people is a tad more exciting than pushing buttons.
At gamescom 2017, I had the opportunity to check out a quick tech demo by the guys behind Firefighting Simulator, Chronos Unterhaltungssoftware (that’s “Entertainment Software” in German). Due out in Spring of 2018, the product did not have a playable build yet. Instead, I was presented with a real-time simulation that included some of the game systems, such as fire spread, object behaviour, and basic animations.
The demo starts inside the double ceiling front room of a typical American suburban house. Stairs on the wall directly in front of the door lead up to the first floor, while a couch lays near a window to the right of the entrance. Controlling a firefighter stand-in character in third person, the developers guide him around the room explaining what we’re about to see.
Arguably, fire is the one thing that can make or break a firefighter game. Unrealistic or nonsensical blaze mechanics can quickly kill suspension of disbelief, and turn a daring life or death situation into a ridiculous experience. Because of that, Chronos has spent a long time perfecting the way flames behave and spread, in order to accurately depict the unpredictable and dangerous element that can so quickly and tragically get out of control.
In order to show us the voxel fire volumes, the developers use a firefighter ironically equipped with a flame-spitting gun instead of a water-spewing hose. As they set fire to the bottom of the wooden stairs, we see the blaze damage the steps as it creeps steadily upwards towards the middle of the structure. The accelerated simulation quickly consumes the whole staircase in flames, and the engulfed woodwork soon starts to fall apart, steps giving way and breaking into several pieces.
At this point, development director Gregor H. Max Koch explains how the team actually approached real firefighters in order to potentially use the game as a training simulator. In real life drills, houses need to be burned down and constantly rebuilt in different layouts to avoid memorisation -- an extremely expensive proposition, both in time and money. According to the real firefighters, using a software would be a lot preferable.
The professionals liked the idea so much, that they actually wanted the game to be a bit more realistic -- things like smoke machines, heated rooms, and smell were all things Chronos couldn't realistically do, as they're making a game and not a professional simulation. However, the title does have all that in a less tactile manner. Realistic fire, heat, and smoke simulation are all planned to be in the game, even interacting with environments and reacting to different extinguishing methods and tools.
If you want to take a look at the kind of detail Firefighting Simulator is going for, you can download its free showroom on Steam right now. It features the mighty Rosenbauer T-Rex truck in all its high-res glory for your perusal, and it should give you an idea of how the devs approach is.
Firefighting Simulator is out in 2018, on Steam.