Steam’s user-defined tags and a problem

The other day, I talked about Roguelikes and Roguelites and my definition and that there are a lot of different definitions out there, and… that reminded me that I had another topic for today to talk about: Finding games on Steam using Genres.

Genres generally tell you a lot about a game. I love management and base building games… I love roguelike/roguelite games… I love evil/villain protagonists… I search for a new Roguelite to play that may feature some cute pixel art and also chucked in that “Villain Protagonist” and that “Indie” tag as well… the game I found was Skul: The Hero Slayer and I really enjoyed it. Instant-buy. No regrets. Really loving it right now! 

A lot of times, I find games using genres I like and I try to look for interesting titles. Sometimes, I check out Steam’s “Discovery Queue” as well, like today where I found out that Typhoon’s “Journey to the Savage Planet” came out already. That’s a game that I may or may not review eventually… Not too sure yet since it’s made by this guy and since I don’t want to pay him to be able to write about it (that’s a joke btw… I think). 

But most of the times, I use genres to find my games on Steam… and while I say “genres”, I really mean tags. Tags on Steam are user-defined labels that are used to describe the product/game available on the platform. Lots of people use those tags to find games they may or may not like. In my case, Colony Sim, Base Building, Roguelike, Roguelite, RPG, Indie, Management, etc. are all tags that I would use for the sake of finding new games to play.

And while I love that it’s a thing and that users can use those tags to define a game and label it as something to encourage others to find that game… I’m not too sure how to feel about it all, completely. I’d be 100% on-board with it since I found great games through that… if it weren’t for the fact that these are user-defined tags.

As we figured out in the comment section of the Roguelite vs Roguelike post that I linked, a lot of times, definitions, tags and genres are based on players and games get chucked into the genre without the developers playing any part in it. Obviously, developers will have some tags in mind and apply them but if a lot of people think that a game is suddenly a “Colony Sim”, then it will be labelled as that… and when I look at Drake Hollow‘s steam page, I find that Colony Sim tag over there… which in my opinion doesn’t quite apply to the game. A lot of people that search for Colony Sims will expect something along the lines of Oxygen Not Included or RimWorld… but the parts that resemble Colony Sims in Drake Hollow… are the little drakes that you have to take care of. It’s not the same thing, obviously.

And that’s just one of the flaws that Steam has that sometimes lead to some bad events, like in the case of Drake Hollow, where a lot of players ended up sending in bad reviews because the genres are weird. The labels or tags for the game that users defined were misleading people into thinking that this game’s actually a colony sim even though it isn’t necessarily. Other people mentioned “Agriculture”, for instance, which is kind of true but it’s not actually true. I mean, you have Agriculture in the game but it’s not like Drake Hollow is similar to games like Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, or Atomicrops.

Tags can be misleading and some people misuse them. When Drake Hollow launched, people would rate badly and give it a negative review based on the genres/tags that were mentioned there… which is bad. 

And I’m mentioning Drake Hollow so much over here because it’s a great game, in my opinion, and since I noticed on the discord that the developer mentioned it somewhere that people probably confused the genres somehow. It’s not a major dealbreaker for them, though, it’s just a bummer that you have to go through that after the stress of launch and everything.

Alas, a suggestion for Valve: Keep tags user-defined but let Developers approve them first. 

The system probably works similar to that but it can still be rather misleading for users and it can result in bad experiences and reviews for people expecting something else. 

Another example would be Grounded which is tagged as “Horror” and “Cute” in the same way. I hate the spiders a lot in that game… but I don’t see how a game is tagged as “Cute” and as “Horror” at the same time, you know?

It’s a weird system and I just don’t like it really… I’d rather have a system where developers have control over it to a degree… but users still can define them in a way… But I guess that’s going to be hard to implement.

What do you guys think? Do you think that this is an issue? Do you know any games that have some super stupid tags in them? Let me know!

Cheers!

Indietail – Drake Hollow

After my post about Drake Hollow and why I’m so excited and after the interview we did with TMF’s Forrest Dowling,… It finally is time for my review on Drake Hollow. Welcome to yet another Indietail! And I’m excited about this one!

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Exploration, Co-Op, Open World
Release Date: October 1st, 2020
Reviewed on: PC (solo)
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

Drake Hollow is an action village-building game that you can play solo or with your friends. After a breakup, the protagonist is seen dwelling on a rock before a speaking crow approaches them and invites them into a new world where they are needed. Welcome to the Hollow where the Drakes are threatened by various creatures and where familiars roam the lands searching for people like you that can help the Drakes. The Drakes are small little creatures that need food, water and entertainment. They can literally die of boredom as the game emphasizes on multiple occasions. You build your small little village, go out on explorations and defend against the various enemies found in the game.

This gameplay loop of exploring, building and looting is the main aspect of the game. It keeps the game fresh and prevents it from becoming stale. As you find loot, you’re able to craft items, build defence and utility structures, take care of the Drakes and eventually, you’ll get a ten-minute countdown to the next raid that is coming in and needs defending. The Drakes help the player by being absolutely adorable and bringing in some life into the world… and they also gift you items and provide you with various buffs that help you survive, improve your combat capabilities, or influence your efficiency in various regards.

Speaking of combat, it is all relatively simple. You have a melee and a ranged attack on the mouse buttons. You’re able to find weapons and ammunition by looting old buildings and other islands. The fun thing is that anything can and will be a weapon: From a coat rack to a tennis bat to a rake or a weed whacker. I enjoyed finding fun and interesting weapons that could be categorized into heavy and light weapons. The aiming with the ranged weapons felt quite nice and while melee combat isn’t the most complicated, I noticed that you can cancel some of the animations and get more DPS in than usual if you put in some practice. Overall, I enjoyed the combat experience a ton! Especially stuff like jump attacks, combos and the right dodge timing can be more than satisfying – and then different enemy types feature different move sets and counters of sorts.

Where the game really shines though is the exploration part. A purple-ish mist known as the Aether envelops the world of Drake Hollow that damages the player. The world consists of mostly islands that aren’t connected at all. Hence, you’ll have to use craftable crystals to make yourself immune to the mist for a bit to get to the next islands. 

As time goes on, you’ll need other means of travelling where my highlight comes in: Waypoints. You place them down and connect them to supply trucks (with resources that you cannot access in any other way). Once two or more are linked up, you have a rail system of sorts where you grind your way rather speedily from one island to the next. I really enjoyed this part as I always wanted to explore more but then got disrupted by incoming raids, full inventories or dying drakes. 

Drakes tend to “die” of a lot of things. As you progress, you’ll have to take care of the various needs and pay attention to how much water, food and entertainment you produce. Resources around you deplete eventually, so you need to move on to the next set of islands, which is similar to The Flame In The Flood where you move your base/boat from one island to the next with a point-of-no-return mechanic. 

As you move on to the next set of islands, you get to explore and loot more without having to fear about your old buildings getting lost. The Drakes just pack up your base and take it with you to the next set of islands. The next set of islands plays in a different season with different mechanics. In summer, your water production may suffer a lot due to droughts. In Winter you have to build radiators and other buildings to thaw out your Drakes and production facilities. I found these mechanics quite neat but mostly, I loved how the islands change. The usually lush trees turn pink and red and white and lose leaves and the world is covered in a layer of snow when you encounter winter. The way you have to change your playstyle based on the seasons is a very interesting mechanic and I really enjoyed that.

Stronger enemies mean more damage and more danger. What happens when you die? Do you lose any progress when you die? No, not at all. You can revive at your camp and lose some weapon durability but you do not lose any progress. Your drakes don’t really “die”. You can revive them on the neighbouring island, although you will have to nurture them again. You can spirit walk to your dead body and resurrect it there as well. 

It comes to no surprise that I’m loving the overall presentation. I was the most hyped about the Drakes and was not disappointed at all when I saw their animations and behaviours. Follow the Drakes as they roam your small village, eat food, dance on the disco floor, go to sleep or burrow themselves when they get stuck somewhere. The world itself feels lively and features this vibrant style that changes with the seasons and is always stunning to look at. The Drakes have some great interactions with enemies and the player. The soundtrack is at times enigmatic and mysterious, at times adventurous! Overall, I’m loving the presentation, the soundtrack and the art style and I was quite satisfied with how the game turned out in the end.

And yes, of course, there are some issues here and there. When I started playing, the end-game was somewhat frustrating with resources running out, Drakes dying and enemies getting stronger while you felt a bit too weak… but that was mostly my fault as I moved on too fast or as I didn’t level my camp and didn’t unlock enough new facilities or I didn’t manage my camp properly. There are certain issues in the late game that can feel a bit overwhelming in solo, but I’m sure that you’ll do just fine if you play with up to four friends – with someone exploring and people defending and someone tending to the Drakes. For people that didn’t want to end their journey, the “The Molasses Flood” team added an endless mode (Sandbox) without a story but with a raised max camp level, new cosmetics and higher camp levels. The game will get more updates. They just added in filters for the depot to allow to view items by type as well as some other QOL changes.

In the end, the only thing that could be criticised would be the end-game that feels a tad frustrating or rather overwhelming as a solo player. The gameplay loop is satisfying, the combat feels nice, the Drakes are absolutely adorable, and overall, I’m loving this game so far and can’t wait to meddle with sandbox mode and to play it with friends eventually!

You can currently get the game on Xbox Game Pass and Steam. Cross-Saving between Win10 and XboxOne is available and there is Cross-Play available for the Windows Store, the Xbox One and the Game Pass versions of the game… but it doesn’t work for the Steam version as there is no native support for invites or hosting across these networks. The game keeps getting updated and I can highly recommend it! Check it out over here or on Game Pass, the Windows Store or wherever! 

As a side note:
You’re able to grab Drake Hollow on Steam with a 10% launch discount until the 8th of October! If you already own TMF’s “The Flame In The Flood” you also get an additional 15% off, resulting in a 25% discount on the game!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

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!

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!