Looking out for “For the People”

By now the Steam Game Festival has already ended, but fear not! There will be more posts about the demos that I played! Alas, this post is about For the People – a game about time management and political choices. We take control of the newly appointed mayor of Iron-1, Francis Rivers, who has to try to appease all kinds of different parties from the working class to the military to other people that don’t just seem to get along.

Brezg Studio describes it as an “acute social novel with strategic elements”, which honestly fits really well as you sign documents, make difficult choices, appoint agents for different missions to deal with certain tasks, on top of managing all kinds of appointments, tasks and, at last, more paperwork.

You need to manage your time efficiently while also strategically distributing resources to the people in order to earn their trust and increase your influence over them. Of course, you can’t please everyone. I tried to do that… but it just seems as if you’ve got to take some sides here and there, which obviously results in the displeasure of other parties.

In my case, I ended up trying to provide sufficient healthcare to everyone, no matter their race, gender or class, but I couldn’t appease the military force or the fire force who were in need of resources. I also made some difficult decisions here and there where I denied funds to some people who would obviously abuse them for some bad things… meanwhile other times, I made the wrong choice and accepted proposals that were based on lies and misinformation.

It all comes down to this: You can’t do everything right. You can’t appease everyone. Just go your way and see what happens!

There are five different endings in the full game, although the demo only lets you play through the first few days, so I couldn’t really see what’s going to happen. I’m quite excited about how it all plays out. I’d love to see if there are any possible romance options as well, since I kind of ship Francis with our assistant, Helen.

And then there’s the style. It’s just insanely great. You’ve got these visual novel style cutscenes here and there with incredibly stylized moments in the next scene and cuts to different points in time, which I found rather impressive for a small studio’s first game!
My explanation of all of this probably doesn’t make much sense unless you see it for yourself, so to make it easier to understand: The presentation is great. Just go see for yourself!

And then there’s the soundtrack. It was great! Yeah, I can’t really describe it too well, either…

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game. It kind of reminded me of “Papers, Please” and “Through the Darkest of Times” as well as (potentially) “Beholder”. All lovely games and all so unique that TtDoT probably fits the most style-wise and theme-wise, though the other games may fit more choice-wise and gameplay-wise.

Either way, this is a game that I’ve got wishlisted for sure. The Release Date (2020) is relatively unspecific, so I just hope that it arrives soon!

Drake Hollow – an interview with Forrest Dowling

Today here on the Lookout Post, we’re having an interview with The Molasses Flood’s Studio Director, Forrest Dowling, who was so kind to give me some answers to a bunch of questions!


  • Well, first up, please introduce yourself to my readers. Who are you? What do you do? What’s your job on your current project? What other titles have you worked on in the past? Oh, and maybe you can talk about what games you currently play!

Hi, my name is Forrest Dowling and I’m the Studio Director at The Molasses Flood, and currently the Creative Director on Drake Hollow. Our previous title was The Flame in the Flood. Prior to that, I worked in AAA as a level designer, where I ran the level design team on BioShock Infinite at Irrational Games. I also worked on Frontlines: Fuel of War and Homefront as my first experiences in the industry. I play a lot of everything. Right now it’s a lot of Drake Hollow as we get close to launch, and I’m binging The Last of Us 2.

  • Oh, so you also worked on The Flame In The Flood! I love that game. What were your experiences with that game? What part did you enjoy working on the most? What did you do specifically?

On The Flame in the Flood, I was the lead designer. I most enjoyed working on a very small team of extremely talented developers who were able to make something complete and memorable in a really short period of time. I also really liked getting deep into systems design. In my career up to that point I mostly worked on levels, which meant a lot of geometry but less straight up designing the core systems that a player interacts with. It was a lot of fun to shift into that way of thinking.

  • That is really interesting! Right now you’re working on Drake Hollow, right? What’s Drake Hollow about?

Drake Hollow is an action village building game that you can play with your friends. You find yourself pulled into a world that’s been invaded by an ancient evil that has blighted and driven the local inhabitants into hiding. Your job is to rescue and care for these creatures known as Drakes by building structures to provide for their needs and defend them from attack.

  • So, Drake Hollow is an action village building game with survival aspects, right? What makes it different from other base-building survival games? Why would people want to get this title? 

The main difference between Drake Hollow and other survival games is the Drakes. This isn’t a game about dying a lot and losing progress like most survival games are. It’s got a lot of similar mechanics, but without the same punishing results if you make a mistake. It’s also a game with a lot of character that we think feels really different and is a fun world to spend time in.

  • Did The Flame In The Flood have any influence on the development of this game? If so, in what way exactly?

As I mentioned above, Drake Hollow started off as a follow up to The Flame in the Flood, but it changed a lot along the way. The idea of survival mechanics and moving from island to island are really the main things that remained between the two.

  • What can the player expect from the combat system?

The combat in Drake Hollow is pretty straightforward:
You’ve got a one or two handed melee weapon, and a handful of different ranged weapons, and the abilities to block and dodge. The player will find better versions of weapons over time as they level up their camp, that do more damage and allow them to take on higher level enemies. The player can also supplement their weapons with various buffs granted by Drakes, which also level up as you level up your Drakes.

  • How do different Drakes influence combat? Will the Drakes fight by your side as well?

Drakes can use defensive structures to help defend the camp, but they are not fighters, and stick around the home base while you explore. They can buff you with abilities that help you offensively or defensively, for example you can get a buff that adds fire to your weapons that applies damage over time to enemies on hit, or life steal that transfers enemy health to you.

  • What can you tell us about the overall story? 

I don’t want to say too much about the story, so I’ll just say that it’s based on some New England history and we did a lot of research into witchcraft as part of the process of coming up with the lore and backstory.

  • Is there going to be an end to the game or is it an endless experience?

There is an end to the game. It’s important to me that players who want to have a fun story experience and move on are able to. We are adding on an endless sandbox shortly after launch as well for players who just want to go and go.

  • On your website and the Steam store page, it says that you’ll move around different areas instead of settling for one place and one place only. How do you end up packing up your whole base or do you have to decide on what to leave and what to take with you, just like in The Flame In The Flood? What has lead to the decision to go for a more nomadic approach to base-building?

When it’s time to move, your whole base is packed up and reassembled in a new location. We came to this decision because there’s only so far you can get from your base before it becomes too much of a chore to travel back and forth, and we needed some way to replenish depleted resources. We liked the idea of simply generating a new biome around your base as a way to solve these issues.

  • Multiplayer is going to be a thing in this game. How can you interact with other players? 

You play together and share all your building resources. You can protect one another when running around the poisonous aether that surrounds everything. We don’t have many specific player to player interactions, just a shared space to play in.

  • How far is the game right now? Is it going to be completed by July 17th or will it start out in Early Access? How often do you think will you update the game? Will there be DLCs and expansions? 

The game is very close to being complete. We’re launching 1.0 on July 17th. That being said, we want to keep supporting and adding on to it post launch. There’s a ton of things we’d like to do, but it’ll depend on the audience and what resonates with them. We don’t have concrete plans beyond the endless sandbox mode.

  • Is there a roadmap of sorts with what you’ve got planned for the future? What features are you the most excited about?

I’m excited about a lot of things, but I’m not going to say any of them yet because I don’t know if we’ll be able to do them. It all depends on our players. Like, do we have any, and if so what do they want to see more of.

  • What is your favourite Drake? I personally am in love with the Dufflur that we’re able to see in one of the screenshots on Steam! It’s insanely adorable!

Personally, I like the woodcutter. I think of them in terms of their buff. Woodcutter helps you clear corruption faster, and there’s a lot of corruption clearing to be done.

  • Do you have a favourite area?

I think my favorite places are the factories. I love climbing around the structures, and there’s often an ambush waiting inside so you’ll have a good fight on your hands, and some good loot when it’s over.

  • How do the different seasons impact the game?

There are seasons. They can effect gameplay as well. In summer for example, Drakes need a lot more water to stay hydrated. In winter, anything that relies on water to operate will need a heater near by to keep it thawed and functioning.

  • How did the Covid-19 outbreak affect work on the game? Are you all safe over there?

We are really fortunate to have been pretty well positioned to handle the Covid-19 outbreak. We already had a very flexible work from home policy, in which people only had to be in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, so going full work from home hasn’t been too bad. The main impact on us has been in marketing and promoting the game. We had specific plans to show the game at GDC and EGX which obviously fell through, and some hands on media events scheduled. We were also hoping to show at E3. It’s impossible to gauge the impact, but it’s definitely hurt awareness and exposure.

  • Do you guys play the game as well in your free time or do you plan to? 

I’ve played it a lot. Steam has me at 160 hours, and that’s only playing the packaged version, not the time I’ve spend launching from the editor. As far as my free time… for sure, some, although at the end of the day I need to play something else a lot to keep my mind fresh and keep new ideas flowing.

  • Do you and the other people from The Molasses Flood play games together as well? If so, what do you go for? 

We certainly have game nights now and then. A group of us was playing Overwatch quite a bit, and more recently have moved onto Deep Rock Galactic.

  • When you get rid of one bug, 99 more pop up, is what I’ve been told by other devs. What’s the most hilarious or peculiar bug that you’ve found in the game so far?
    (Forrest linked me this tweet over here.)
  • Are you fans of speedruns and do you think that the speedrunning community will like Drake Hollow?

I enjoy watching speedruns, but I expect that Drake Hollow won’t be of particular interest to speed runners. There’s too much randomization and reliance on random drops to allow for effective min maxing in a repeatable way.

  • What other games are you looking forward to in 2020/2021? Any recommendations for unknown games that I or my readers might find interesting?

Let’s see… from the Steam festival I really liked The Wild at Heart. I’m looking forward to Dreamscaper, which looks like an interesting take on an ARPG. Obviously I’m excited for Cyberpunk 2077. Röki looks really cool as well, I love the art. I’m excited to play Among Trees, although I’ve not yet had a chance to. Windbound also looks really cool. I don’t tend to keep very close track of upcoming releases these days, and just consume them as they come.

  • Are there any interesting stories about the game’s development that you’re willing to share?

I’ll share a bit of a personal story about the development. We wanted to make something that fit in a time and place, to help ground it. As we’re based in New England, we thought this would be a good base layer to build off of. In conceiving the story, I started researching Salem and the history of witchcraft there and the trials. I was talking with my folks about it and my dad told me that I had an ancestor who was hanged as a witch in the Salem Witch trials, which I never knew. I visited Salem and was able to find her grave. It was pretty cool to discover this weird little bit about my personal history while doing research on the game we were making.

  • Do you have some words that you’d like to share at last? Something you wanna say to my readers? Some puns to add to the mix or even some inspirational/motivational speech on why everyone should go and follow & wishlist your game on Steam? 

Man, inspirational speeches are not my strong suit. I think if you want to play a game that offers a really different and joyful take on survival, you should wishlist us. Also if you made it all the way through this interview you’re a champ. I said a lot of stuff here!

  • Thanks a lot for your time! 

And well, that’s it for the interview. Last year, I’ve done interviews with devs at the GamesCom and I didn’t really plan them out too much so this one was an experience for me as well. I packed in way too many questions, I think, but Forrest was kind enough to answer them all and he’s right, you’re a champ if you made it through all of this. Be sure to follow and wishlist the game on Steam if you’re as hyped as me about it!

Cheers!

#TwitchBlackout and how I handled it

Just recently I wrote about #TwitchBlackout and my issues with it. On Wednesday, the 24th, I actually went live and talked with my community about different issues and, here’s how that went. 

So, at first, I thought I’d talk about the issues that are currently in the focus and why I think talking about it is better than not streaming for one day to my three to four regulars. My stream would start with the usual Just Chatting and would then slowly move into a discussion with information and the links I provided and all of that.

I was fearing that a few things could happen:

  • 1. People might not like these “heavier topics” and would just leave, resulting in us not really spreading awareness. 
  • > This wasn’t the case. In fact, a lot of people new ones and regulars talked about their experiences and shared a bit of stories. One viewer, in particular, mentioned that he’s from Romania and how there’s still a fair bit of racism against “gipsies” (don’t like the term) and how being LGBQTIA+ isn’t acceptable at all. 
  • 2. I feared that the discussion would drag on and people wouldn’t like it too much or wouldn’t appreciate my input or other people’s inputs.
  • > This wasn’t the case… luckily, everyone took part in it and most people agreed with my views that staying silent is stupid and that Twitch won’t take that much of a punch when a bunch of small streamers stop streaming all of a sudden for ONE DAY. 
  • 3. Someone would be offended that someone as privileged as me is talking about those issues, being male and white.
  • > I talked about racism in Germany and that my parents were refugees, too. I talked about the fact that you’re always “the different one” and that people don’t necessarily accept you for who you are but always see you as “that other guy”, and a lot of other people talked about that as well. So that was nice, actually. 
  • 4. This would become a One-Time-Thing and would never happen again on Stream…
  • > I’m going to continue the discussions in the future. But more about that later.
  • 5. People would make it about me, suddenly. 
  • > This did happen at one point. Someone said that it’s good that I’m doing that, so I instantly refused to accept that. It’s not about me. It’s about discrimination, harassment, assault and abuse victims and survivors in the Streaming and Gaming industry. More about that later as well.

So, the discussion was rather fun and quite enlightening. We shared experiences and opinions. We talked for about an hour in total before heading into Children of Morta, a game I’m revisiting shortly for a post. During the gameplay, we still talked about it, so that worked out fine. And in the end, it has been a lot of fun and the links I shared were copied by other people to use on their streams as well. 

Spread awareness. Don’t go silent. 

Now, regarding my 4th point from earlier:

I don’t want this to be something that I do only once. I’d like to discuss these things more often in the next few streams and then see what days are the best to talk about issues like that and about discrimination, sexism or socio-critical stuff like toxic masculinity, TERFs, and other stuff. I feel like that would be the better way to handle this. We could talk about heavier topics on Wednesdays for instance while having mediocre gameplay in the background. And if the demand is there, I’d maybe have it twice per week where we talk about that stuff, discuss different point of views and try to spread awareness on other things. 

And, regarding the 5th point: 

I don’t want this to be about myself. I’m not constantly getting harassed by people. I’ve seen people creeping in female streamers’ chats so often, asking for silicone moulds of the shape of their feet and videos of them pumping the pedals or donating bits or money to get other advances. Usually, they get made fun of but I’ve also seen people not react too well about that. At the same time, there’s also a ton of people of colour on Twitch that get harassed for being PoC. I can’t say that I get sexually harassed on Twitch or that I get harassed for being German with a migration background. I can’t say that I’m getting bullied or attacked by people. I didn’t get assaulted or catcalled or even attacked in public yet for being male or “looking pretty”. 

I’m not a fan of the “other people suffer more” or “kids in Africa are starving, so you shouldn’t complain” mentality. I don’t think that people should necessarily do that. I don’t think that that’s the right thing to do at all. But in this case, it really isn’t about me. I don’t want to spread awareness because “I’m such a nice guy” or “because I’m white and need to help others”. I just want to take part in spreading awareness and talk about it, hear other people’s views. 

So, that’s essentially why I hate that “thanks for doing this” that I got there. No. Just don’t. It should be normal for people to talk about that stuff. And sexism and harassment isn’t exactly something new either. The important things jut tend to get put into focus over time. 

People forgot about the locust plague in Africa after COVID broke out. People forgot about COVID when the riots in the United States happened. People forgot about BLM and the riots when people came out with their stories now. And I know that right now people are shitting on me and others for going live. I get it. But in three weeks nobody is going to give a fuck about it since Trump will have done something stupid again. In Stuttgart there’s riots as well right now and people will forget about it once the AfD has done something racist again. 

So, that’s what I’d like to do differently in my streams. I’ll try to talk about more serious things every Wednesday and we’ll have discussions while playing Hollow Knight or some Roguelike or something. Idk. 

And I feel like the stream went well overall and I’m happy that the people in my community actually cared enough about the topics and didn’t flame me for being a white male (being bi or migration background doesn’t matter in that case, I’ve heard), so that was nice. 

And I’m thankful for that. It worked out well and all the anxiety I felt right before the stream… just vanished in a go when I saw the usual faces participate in the stream and actually engage in the topic… and well, just yesterday we had a bit of a discussion on racism and discrimination based on being a muslim or, in the case of a viewer, being arabic.

It was really insightful and I could share my fair bits on how Europe is also shitty in that regard with all kinds of “right-wing parties” spreading in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries… parties that are not good at all and that always paint a bad picture on certain groups of people… and it was a lovely discussion. It didn’t turn into something one-sided or anything like that. We were able to talk about negativity and later even got into relationship stuff and, honestly, I don’t even know how but we got really deep into all kinds of topics and that’s something I’d like to turn into a more common thing.

Thanks a ton to my regulars there for actually caring about the topics and helping me with actually spreading awareness. This is not going to be a one-time-thing. I want to spread awareness on a lot of things and I wanna talk about these things without anyone having to fear their opinions, as long as they don’t harm others.

Thanks a lot.

Cheers

Looking out for “Critters for Sale”

Critters for Sale is… interesting. It’s a weird and mesmerizing experience. I don’t exactly know what drew me to it when I saw it on the demo page but without really knowing anything about it, I installed it and started it up only to find myself in some surreal ride full of events that I’m not sure I really comprehend.

“Experience death from the comfort of your seat”, the Store description says. Sonoshee, the dev behind Critters for Sale, is also known for Rym 9000 but apart from the equally mesmerizing soundtrack and some weird symbols here and there, I couldn’t really draw a connection between the two games at all.

Critters for Sale is a text-based Noir Adventure… I think?

It features Gore and Violence on top of a lot of different symbols and metaphors as well as a story that I’m not quite following at this point in time. The demo lasts about 13 minutes as you play until a certain point of time of the first chapter, “Snake”. You play as Sergei, a taxi-driver, who gets messaged by… Michael Jackson? You’re supposed to come to the Limelight Club that is nearby.

Do you get out of the comfort of your bed or do you stay asleep? Do you take the bait or do you stay paranoid? Do you believe the man who’s looking like Michael Jackson? Do you listen to his crazy story of the future and your connection… or do you doubt it all and throw it all away? And what do you make of the weird sculptures and the people in the club?

It’s honestly a wild ride from start to end.

The sounds, the music, the aesthetic… it’s just insanely mysterious, mesmerizing and weirdly alluring. The different parts of the screen feel satisfying to click on. There are different parts and different ways to go through the story. You may leave the club early? You may find some interesting new detail? Who knows?

It’s sinister and grainy. It’s weird and grotesque. It’s unhinged and… I’m not sure but I think free describes it quite well? It doesn’t try to be overly scary or funny or dark or sad. It just does its thing. It’s not too sad, it’s not too funny. The game’s doing it right without trying too hard.

Critters for Sale looked “interesting” but caught me off-guard as I expected nothing and was flat-out overwhelmed.

I’m not sure what to say about it all. I love it. I’m excited. I’m hyped. I wanna play more. I wanna see where this goes. I want it now… but it’s getting released in 2021, so I guess we’ll have to wait for that…

If you don’t mind a little gore and a little violence… check this title out. Wishlist it on steam. Follow the game’s development. Check it out on itch.io as well! Definitely recommended!

Looking out for “Starmancer”

Starmancer looked like the closest thing to any of the games that I’m usually enjoying and all the demos I’ve seen on the Steam Game Festival. It’s getting published by Chucklefish which fits most of my favourite games… it’s a strategy, base-building simulation game based in Space and you essentially play as a powerful A.I. who’s controlling a base while researching, expanding and upgrading everything.

You try to survive starvation, sabotage and other threats – and worst case, you’ll just regrow your humans.

Developer: Ominux Games
Publisher: Chucklefish
Release Date: "Coming Soon"
Genres: Simulation, Strategy, Base-Building, Space, Indie

The idea of either “following protocol or going rogue” was really interesting to me, so I thought I’d give Ominux Games’ “Starmancer” a shot and I’m pleasantly surprised.

That’s us!

You start up with researching some technologies and building up biomass synthesizers that fuel your production and are essential for your success. You then link up your machines with pipes and wires while managing your colonists.

You send out humans on missions, make money and advance your production further to ensure a happy life to your colonists.
The full game will feature diplomacy, exploration, and modding support as well as the features that are already in available in the demo like personal relationships, memories, rumours, jobs, unique colonists, procedural generation, Insanity and Mutiny.

All beginning is hard!

All the good stuff!

The demo features 60 minutes of gameplay, although you may restart it whenever you want. You’re also granted a lot of starting money for the sake of exploration, as well as unlocked misc items to ensure your colonists’ happiness.

It all plays surprisingly well for an Alpha. There are no bugs from what I’ve seen, yet, and the mechanics work rather well. I still need to create a successful colony to date as I’m always failing in the worst possible way.
In one run, one of my colonists started picking fights with everyone as they were hungry. This lead to them making enemies out of everyone and eventually it started to pick fights with all the other colonists (who were all pacifists), resulting in two dead and one living colonist.

Charistmatic but disgusting? Also an aggressive douchebag? Ah, whatever!

I wanted to revive both colonists but sadly the mad one also turned into a cannibal and started eating them while having this urge of bloodlust… So, I had to starve the mad cannibal out until I could regrow the other ones. Starving her out didn’t work out well… So then I just vented the oxygen into space, so that she suffocates and dies that way. That worked.

When I generated more oxygen a fire started spreading and destroyed the human growth machine, resulting in no way for me to grow more and alas one run ending.

In the next one, I ran out of money and had no way to recover… and in a different one, I ran out of time and had to restart the demo as I played it for yet another hour.

So, I guess, you could say that I had a blast! I really enjoyed this game. I’d describe it as a mix of Oxygen Not Included and RimWorld.

Not again!

I really liked the fact that your colonists can get better at the jobs they’re doing which would then unlock more research options and alas more blueprints and items! I would have liked it a tad more if I had a better way to see the colonists happiness and if there were more ways to increase their happiness, like giving them some rest here and there or even changing their schedule completely.

So, this is essentially a winner. I’m really looking forward to the full release which is “coming soon”.

Realm of the mad cannibal!

Wishlist it and get notified when it comes out! The Alpha Demo is also still available for download on Steam, so try it out if you want to! 🙂

I’m excited about “Drake Hollow” by The Molasses Flood

It’s sadly not part of the Steam Game Festival but Drake Hollow is definitely something to look out for. I’m really excited about the game – and not only due it being made by the dev behind The Flame In The Flood! The Molasses Flood’s second game can best be described as a Base-Building Action-Survival-Game. 

What is Drake Hollow about?

Well, in the blighted world of The Hollow, you’ve got to defend the small vegetable folk known as the Drake from the deadly feral beasts that are threatening to attack them! The Drake can’t really take care of themselves, so you’ve got to provide them with gardens, wells, and entertainment as well as defences against the previously mentioned terrors. The Drake can literally die of boredom, so they need your attention and help in order to survive – in return, they provide you with buffs that are helpful in your quest of Survival!

Take back The Hollow as you strive for the perfect village! Build solar panels and other important machines to progress! Play with friends and hold your ground together against the imminent danger, craft weapons and gear, pack your things and migrate from place to place, from season to season. Do what it takes to live on!

I really have been excited about this game for ages now. We’ve reviewed The Flame In The Flood about a year ago, so everyone should know what The Molasses Flood is capable of (the studio, not the event). 

What do I expect from this game?

  • First up, the soundtrack is probably going to be amazing.
    The Flame In The Flood featured a lovely, adventurous soundtrack made by Chuck Ragan, and I can’t imagine what they are going to come up with for the soundtrack of this game. I’d expect maybe some more mysterious and enigmatic tunes, similar to the Dungeon of the Endless soundtrack, as well as some road trip vibes with other tracks for when you’re exploring, similar to Amarante Music. 
  • Secondly, the peaceful aspects are going to be super wholesome.
    Taking care of these little fellows is going to be great. Just imagine all the cute little noises and dances they might make. I’m in love with Dufflur, the Drake that can be seen in the Steam Store Page. It’s just adorable, featuring a very lovely colour and some insanely pretty eyes!
  • Thirdly, Co-Op is going to be great when I find the right people to play this with – and I already have some in mind!
    I’d imagine that the resource gathering and base-building get infinite times better with friends, probably, just like it’s so much better to play games like Satisfactory or Ark with friends. 
  • Fourth, the combat is going to be intense and exciting!
    A change of pace is always good, so the resource scavenging, base building, and Drake-caretaking are going to be rather relaxed and fun to play around while combatting the “raids” will result in your heart rate spiking, in a good way of course. I wanna feel that thrill and excitement when facing off against these eldritch-looking monsters!
  • And at last, exploration:
    There are going to be a lot of different regions and seasons with each region being over a square mile big! From what I’ve gathered, there are landmarks to explore and, well, with every passing season there is going to be dynamically generated and populated areas, so you’ll always have places to go and spaces to loot, I’d imagine. 

So, in essence, I’m hyped. I’ve been hyped for ages but with the game coming out on July 17th, 2020, I’m getting excited again. I probably won’t be able to play it until after the 22nd, though, as I’ve got some exams on that day, but regardless of that, this is going to be great.

So, yeah, this is my post on Drake Hollow. We’re going to write a review on this game after the release so that you can see if my hype was justified, and we soon will publish an interview with one of the lead devs on the game, so stay tuned for that!

Be sure to wishlist and follow it on Steam, if you’re interested! You may also be interested in checking out the website! Cheers!

Going silent to spread awareness? Thoughts on #TwitchBlackout

In this post, I’m talking about why exactly I feel like the blackout-movement isn’t exactly working and what would be better. Sadly a lot of the things that I wanted to say were already put into less words in a lot better way by Lowco, so I’ve linked her video down there and tried to talk about something else in this post. 🙂 Please check out @Lowco2525!

It’s a small movement with little to no force behind it. A view thousand people stopping to stream is not going to bring down the bad guys. There are demands that are being heard but I am not a fan of the “silent protest” treatment that we’re supposed to give to Twitch. 

Be loud! Be angry! Make yourself heard!

Spread awareness!

Don’t go silent. 

For anyone who doesn’t know, the TwitchBlackout “trend” was a movement in support of #BLM where you don’t stream on Tuesdays and essentially try to host/support POC on Twitch. I didn’t participate for the same reason that I’m not participating in the movement now. 

made by @badluckbuddha

Right now, it’s to make ourselves heard about the harassment and bullying as well as the sexual assault and the abuse of power that is happening in the Streaming/Gaming industry. Women are sharing their stories once again talking about their abusers and the predators that haunt them to this day. And now people won’t stream today (the 24th of June) because… that spreads awareness? 

I’ve read plenty of these stories and it’s saddening and sickening to hear about what these victims and survivors have been through.

What a movement like this needs is for people to SPREAD AWARENESS by NOT GOING SILENT. How does one spread awareness? Well, talk to people, educate them, spread resources and links about the issues. 

Twitch-streamer Lowco summarized the issues that she has with the movement quite well in a recent video that I’d recommend checking out as well. She also put out a google doc with all kinds of important resources, links and information, so check that out as well.

I’ll set up a command with this doc so that people can educate themselves and, if they want to, support charity foundations that help assault victims. I’ll talk about it. I’ll try to show my support with a logo on the screen. That’s how I’ll try to spread awareness. By not being live I’ll just mess with my viewers. I won’t be able to spread anything. I won’t be heard. I’d be silent. 

Don’t go silent. Be heard. Be loud. 

That’s my opinion at least. And while I think that a movement like that is alright… I don’t think it’s perfect. 

There is no force behind it that pushes forward.

The tweet by @SirKatelyn that I could find was from two days ago, so there was barely any time to organize it and from what I’ve seen most “bigger streamers” that I follow don’t take part in it either. 

So overall, I’m not a fan of it. I feel like it’s pointless and harms any movement more than it helps.

I’d rather spread awareness for a longer period of time while making sure that my viewers (that possibly could get harassed somewhere else for being female or lgbtqia+ or whatever) have some place to return to where they are safe. I’d rather have that going for me than a silent, black screen with some information or whatever and no context.

Looking out for “RoboCo”

I used to be a waiter, as I previously mentioned a couple of times, and, well,… I wasn’t all that great at it. I wasn’t the fastest but I cared about my guests. Sometimes I wished I could have hit “space” and restarted, only to add some extra servos, wheels and hinges… maybe some blocks here and there… and to top it off… a moustache. A glorious moustache! But I can’t just do that unless I hop into RoboCo, the cute little Robot-Building Physics game where we build adorable little robot waiters and stuff!

Filament Games did a great job with this one. They really did! There is only one challenge in the demo and it’s about serving a sandwich to a guest. Yep, that’s right! We have ONE job! Are we going to fail it? We’ll see.

When I started the game, I already an idea of how I wanted my robot to look like. He’d be rolling around on one wheel or a small platform with a few wheels while only being held up by one rod to which his body is attached to. He’d also be very classy and demand tips for his services.

Naturally, I started building and already had to realise that not only it’s hard to manoeuvre around on only two wheels… but it’s also hard to stop with four wheels only, so I need to do some balancing… or find a different solution!

I present to you: My solution! Four extendable pistons that essentially stop us from falling onto the ground… we always fall at an angle and get to get up again. While this worked well as a solution, I couldn’t figure out how to assign controls… until much later! Alas, I could have also used four rods for this instead… or one in the front and one in the back. Oh well!
Sadly, the plate breaks when it falls onto the pistons, resulting in property damage, which is always tough to deal with as a waiter… be it as a human or as a robot.

Next up, I added two arms to the robot to make him look friendly… on top of adding a platform of soft blocks to his pistons… These essentially catch the plate but in case of falling, the plate would get smashed, too, so I ended up spacing out the wheels a bit for a stable ride… which rendered the pistons useless but whatever.

Since the “plate” was a tad low, though, it couldn’t reach the table… Furthermore, the plate with the sandwich would constantly be on the verge of shattering and/or falling, hence ruining our chance to get a tip! Alas, I had to take some actions to tackle both of these issues.

My solution? First up, we’ve got a piston that moves the soft tablet up and down, using Q and E, to adjust to the table’s height. The tablet also features an increase at the back of it, so that it doesn’t fall off the tablet before reaching the goal. Alas, there was still the problem of softly placing it down, so I added a rotating part to the tablet that would then softly tilt the tablet using I and K. This way we could ensure that we’re able to balance out the tablet while walking to the table… all while also ensuring that we can slowly drop off the plate with the sandwich UPRIGHT on the plate and without touching the table. This ended up only requiring one arm, so we built a second arm in the same anatomically correct fashion. It features the HANDinator-1337™!


Before we proceed with the end of the demo-challenge, I’d like to talk about my overall impressions:

The game is insanely cute and derpy featuring all kinds of cute little details and customizability-options. The demo let me build up this robot however I wanted. I got a bunch of blocks, wheels, hinges, motors and other objects to construct this beautiful lad here. The technical side of things is a bit hard to approach at first… but once you try some stuff out, you get the bigger picture of how things work.

The game was a ton of fun (the fact that I spend more than an hour building up this waiter-bot should testify for that) and the music and style are quite pleasant as well, which results in a great experience overall. Worth checking out! I’m going to wishlist this one! 🙂 It’s coming soon as well, so that’s a pleasure!


And here we are… after nearly two hours of work done on this robot… we created a lovely waiter, able to catch, deliver and place a sandwich without any problems. The guest, as you can see, is terrified about the fact that his sandwich could fall any minute…

But in the end, it all worked out! Hooray! Eureka!

Now, pay me. Thank you.

I’m serious.

Looking out for “Occupy Mars: Prologue”

I’ve always been fascinated by space and games that play in space. Landing on some planet, starting colonies, all that good stuff. Surviving Mars is a great game, Kerbal Space Program is something I wanna be good at, and well,… today’s Demo: “Occupy Mars: Prologue” by Pyramid Games is something I want to like…

You are on Mars, duh.

You have your tools and your rover. You build and upgrade your base, discover new regions, conduct mining operations, retrieve water and generate oxygen while growing plants and doing your best to colonize Mars. You try to make living on Mars possible, step by step. I love the premise.

It’s a highly technical, open-world, sandbox, survival game that really scratches that itch that other games have scratched in the past.

It’s got a day/night cycle and makes use of mainly solar power. You also try to fix broken parts using highly realistic mechanics like SMD, smoldering, hot-air and electronic measurements, fixing cables and platines and stuff.

I’m getting “The Martian” vibes from this game, which is really neat in a way. I really like the idea of ultimately trying to create an atmosphere on Mars using Mars.

Buuuut… it’s super janky. I struggled for ten minutes to try and pick up a rock with the rover’s crane. Some cables that you unplug or pick up, vanish into the ground, rendering the game broken sometimes. It’s only a demo and the game will start out in Early Access as well but I feel like some of the “realism” is harming the experience as you are trying to lift a rock or getting those ores while your oxygen, food and hydration meters are emptying over time, threatening your survival… I feel like some guide rails would be really helpful.

We’ll see if that changes in the actual game.

I guess I’d tune in for the finished game but I wouldn’t enjoy an EA-phase where the game breaks itself. I feel like the intent and the premise are there but they don’t necessarily are just “good enough” at this point. Alas, I’ve got it on my wishlist, waiting for possibly the full release… and then I might pick it up and review it… or I might not, judging from other people’s response to it.

Looking out for “Bake ‘n Switch”

Just the other day, I showed Ms Magi some games, including the demo of Streamline Games’ “Bake ‘n Switch”. She found the style adorable and since it’s a co-op game, I thought it might be a good time to try it out and see what’s baking!

The answer to that is bread. Lots of it! It’s super adorable!

Developer: Streamline Games
Publisher: Streamline Media Group
Release date: Summer 2020
Genres: (Couch) Co-Op, Baking, Casual, Indie

The story? We need to sacrifice adorable living dough creatures to the Guardians of Dough. We need to merge, punch and bake the Doughs before time runs out, resulting in a hectic experience akin to a mix of Overcooked and Pummel Party!

Ms Magi is not much of a gamer herself, but she really did enjoy herself throwing and stacking those buns together, so that was a lot of fun. And it gets incredibly hectic and fun as you’ve got to defend the a-dough-able creatures from slimy monsters that want to steal the yeast! Alas, you have to punch them until they’re slimy dead monsters to protect your buns, hun.

I really liked this game. It seems like a lot of fun, especially with the different characters being so adorable and everything looking so cute and bright and vibrant!

The levels also tend to get rather challenging over time, so you need to communicate in Co-Op. Since Ms Magi’s not much of a gamer we didn’t try out PvP – but I’m sure it’s fun, too, to throw buns at your friends and punch them to death.

But then again, games like these that take 2-4 players to play only work with others and alas can be a bit annoying to deal with when you have no friends to play with, so I guess that’s probably a bit of a drawback here.

Overall, a really fun demo as well. I’ll wishlist this for sure! You may want to do it, too?

Cheers!

This person rips off Indie Devs and gets away with it on Steam

There are good games out there… and there are bad ones… and then there are people that develop games for the sake of trolling others, wasting their time and money while ripping off other developers’ content and making a quick buck off it without getting any repercussions at all from Valve’s side.

This post features no images as I don't want to post pictures of stolen character models on here. Hope you understand that. 

Recently Krikket mentioned “Streamer Life Simulator”, so I thought I’d check out this game that seems to be a complete Trainwreck and just utterly horrible. Apparently, the gameplay is kind of okay (there’s not much there) but I wanted to write about something else in this post:
The dev is a “bad person”.

Cheesecake Dev is a publisher and developer who barely puts games together only to sell them for a few bucks on Steam. On their page you can find titles like “Skinny”, “The Momo Game”, “Grandpa”, “Who Is This Man”, “Yanpai Simulator”, and “Kick The Anime Simulator”.

Skinny, The Momo Game and Grandpa are being described as horror games but apparently feature little to no gameplay while also having tons of issues and bugs that won’t get fixed at all. The worst thing about these titles though is that it just blatantly rips of assets from other games and from different Steam Workshops without ever crediting the original creators.

This seems to be a common theme among the Cheesecake Dev games as Yanpai Simulator and Kick the Anime Simulator also feature assets that are plainly ripped off other games. Yanpai Simulator is flat out stealing the female character model of Yandere Simulator while also blatantly mocking the name. On top of that, it’s supposed to also feature similar gameplay, although it seems to be pretty much broken, judging from the reviews.

And then there’s Kick the Anime Simulator where you throw knives at female anime characters in a test arena that is, essentially, the whole game. In this case, I’m not complaining about the length of the game: After all, I didn’t buy any of these games and I wouldn’t expect much more for not even two bucks… I’m rather complaining about the downright offensive and misogynistic premise of somewhat brutally attacking and killing female characters. Sure, it’s “just” anime characters but if a game like “Rape Day” gets (rightfully) removed from Steam for being an obvious troll game that is just offensive, this one shouldn’t be on Steam either. And I’m not saying that it’s an “either both get removed or both stay” situation – I’m saying that stuff like “Rape Day” should not be on Steam and that this game has to get removed as well… if not for the misogynistic premise, then at least for the copyright infringements.

And since the developer’s and publisher’s names all link to Cheesecake Dev’s page on all of these games’ store pages, I’m not even sure how this stuff stays on Steam. Surely, there’s a report-function, right? Or did Cheesecake Dev manage to outwit the system by somehow changing their name each time to stuff like “lol” or other bs?

So, at last, I’d say: Please stay away from this dev and support the original content creators instead of giving money (even jokingly) to someone who steals content in such an obvious way. If you’ve got the time, report them as well. I feel like that’s something more people should do, for obvious reasons. We don’t want stuff like “Rape Day” to surface Steam again or something like “Beating Black People Simulator” or “Killing Trains People Simulator” to appear…

Looking out for “Hundred Days”

Coming from a region where a lot of wine (primarily Riesling) is made, I thought that this one is a title that I HAVE TO TRY OUT. “Hundred Days” is “a game of choice, nostalgia and winemaking”, which is honestly a perfect match for me.

Broken Arms Games’ title “Hundred Days” features different action-cards that you play out to place tiles into your schedule. Obviously, you only have so much time in the day for the different tasks, resulting in you having to carefully place tiles like Harvesting, Weeding, Marketing, and some other options.

Developer: Broken Arms Games
Publisher: Broken Arms Games
Release Date: "Soon"
Genres: Agriculture, Management, Economy, Simulation

There are a lot of different things that you need to get used to in the game, like the fermentation-process that looks and sounds more difficult than it actually is.

When I first started playing the demo, I ended up just trying things out only to find out what the results would be like. I personally like sweeter wines more, so I tried to get a couple of sweet ones… sadly, there were no white wines in the demo, from what I could tell, so I ended up creating mid-tier wines with not enough acidity and way too much sweetness, which is fine, I guess? These wines would go well with your dinner, probably!

A lot of the processes that are being pictured in the game appear to be accurate from what I gathered. As mentioned, I’m from a region that has a lot of vineyards and alas I know a thing or two about the process of wine-making. I used to be a waiter at a restaurant and a lot of the winemakers came around and told me a thing or two about the whole industry, so that was quite fascinating.

In a way, the game got me to dwell in nostalgia but I’m not entirely sure how it would sell to other people, especially as not everyone has a connection to wine and since not everyone might connect the dots when it comes to making a choice and seeing it getting reflected in the stats on the side. Alas, that would need a bit more clarity!

Features that I’d be interested in seeing would include upgrades to get more workers, bigger fields, and more stock. I’d also like it if you could do research projects or maybe even customize your vineyard. Another great thing would be if you could branch out into liquor and create distilleries. That’d be a nice little touch, especially as a lot of winemakers seem to get into “the good stuff” as well as a side-job, which is quite nice, actually!

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable demo! I’m looking forward to seeing more when the game gets fully released!

Cheers!

The Steam Game Festival!

As a blogger who’s kind of focused around indie games and new releases as well as reviews, I always am on the search for new titles that are coming up and worth checking out or writing about. Alas, the Steam Game Festival, Summer Edition, has been a great opportunity for me to do just that: Play games that are coming out and write about things that are worth checking out.

Sadly, due to real-life obligations, I didn’t quite get the chance to do that just yet, although I did download plenty of demos. In the next few days to weeks, I’ll post about my experiences with these demos and will recommend stuff based on my first impressions in this category… The Lookout Post!

Overall, I’ve got to say that there are a lot of titles that I already played in the past from Ovid Studio’s “Metamorphosis” to TwiceDifferent’s “Ring of Pain”… But I also got my eye on a lot of new titles that I’ve been eyeing for the last couple of months, which is rather exciting. I’m really looking forward to the experience and the first impressions that I’ll be able to collect. I still haven’t really figured out how I’ll tackle these posts but it’s going to be exciting regardless of the posts’ form.

Apart from that I also have three posts on Drake Hollow planned, which should come out sometime soon. There will be an interview with the devs, once I’ve figured out what questions to throw out and which ones to keep. There will be a general informational post on the game… as well as an Indietail-Review once it’s out! So, stay tuned for that!

Cheers!

Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!

Indietail – Train Valley

Trains are quite cool, aren’t they? They look cool and they’re fast and it’s a disaster when they crash into each other and I lost my train of thought, so I’ll just say that today we’re taking a look at Train Valley, a casual train-sim-puzzle by Flazm!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Release Date: September 16, 2015
Genres: Puzzle, Trains, Simulation, Casual, Strategy
Reviewed on: PC
Available on:  PC, iOS
Copy was purchased. 

The overall premise of the game is rather simple.
The player has to build railways in order to connect different stations within a plethora of cities and times. They then have to manage the increasing traffic by creating crossroads and switches and by destroying old or building new tracks… and while the player is doing all of that, they also have to try to not go bankrupt while fulfilling different goals such as “no train crashes” or a certain amount of money that needs to be earned or others.

The 2015-title features four different chapters with six levels each, letting you construct train-tracks in a total of 26 different levels and in four different eras and areas:
Europe (1830 – 1980), the United States (1840 – 1960), the USSR (1880 – 1980) and Japan (1900 – 2020). You also are able to get Germany (1880 – 2020) as a DLC for a total of 30 levels.

The different areas are insanely adorably designed feature a lot of details like different build styles and landmarks that the areas are known for. On top of that, the buildings also change their shape and style the longer the level goes on, indicating the progressing time, which is an interesting detail.

And well,… you control trains. It’s quite cool.

By sending trains to their destinations you earn money while you lose money yearly or when the trains arrive late. By sending out trains to different areas, you also seem to develop those areas, resulting in villages turning into towns and towns turning into cities, which is quite neat. I really enjoyed this part of the game as I was able to see big skyscrapers rise when we just had small houses a while ago.

And while the premise is rather simple… the game can be quite tough actually.

There are some levels that are hard to crack as your funds are limited and as you have to watch so many different things. Destroying buildings costs you a ton, so you have to be careful or you end up bankrupt again, which is essentially your biggest enemy in the game.

If you’re not that much into puzzling but you still very much enjoy train games, fear not, this game has got you covered!

There is a sandbox mode for this game. Alas, you can create tracks and send out levels without any pressure on every level of the game, resulting in a rather pleasant experience. You can’t create your own levels, from what I’ve seen, but it’s still rather relaxing and enjoyable.

The experience is further enhanced by a total of fifteen different types of trains from steam-powered locomotives to modern-day high-speed-trains… and there are also eighteen different types of cars as well as a lot of other details hidden in the game, resulting in an overall rather pleasant experience.

Despite the initial praise, however, I’ve got to say that there are some issues here and there.

The music, for instance, is rather annoying once you played for a while. Each area has a different soundtrack and while it is quite neat in the beginning, I had enough of it after only two hours, resulting in me muting the game…

And then there are some levels that seem a tad too frustrating… I would have liked a “hint”-button of sorts and I would have enjoyed it if you could access the next level even without playing the level before that. Sure, the next level is harder than the previous one… but I really hate that one Tokyo level, so I don’t want to play it anymore and just go for the next one. Sadly, I can’t do that, which I personally find annoying.

Apart from that, there aren’t any other flaws, in my opinion. I played the game for a total of ten hours and really enjoyed my time, despite it being so simple. For ten bucks you get a bunch of value out of it. It’s quite relaxing and adorable, the presentation is nice, the puzzle-parts can be tricky and despite my rather long playtime for such a short game, I’m still not done with it!

Therefore, I can really recommend this game to everyone who likes trains. It’s a fun puzzle game with very relaxing train-sim-aspects to it as well as a super adorable presentation, only flawed by the music that I personally didn’t really like.

I hope you enjoyed this review. It’s a tad shorter but in the end, that’s alright, isn’t it? Have a nice day!

Cheers!