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!

2 Comments

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I still need to get the hang of interviews and stuff. In the past, I’ve done shorter ones but they were weirder as well, so that was quite interesting… this time around the interview questions were more “professional” I guess, so that’s a lot better, but I still need to figure out whether or not it was the right length or how I can improve on that, especially as I want to continue the trend of posting about new upcoming Indie Games and interviews and stuff. 🙂

      And yeah, the bug was hilarious. I’d love to see more bugs like that in the future, hahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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