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!

Indietail – The Flame In The Flood

For my first review on this Indie Game Blog, I’m presenting you The Flame In The Flood (Trailer/Shop) – one of my favourite games – where the protagonist Scout goes on an adventure with her dog Aesop/Daisy to find the whereabouts of the humans that escaped after the Great Flooding. To do that, they travel on a great river with their tiny raft and scavenge, forage, craft and survive on little islands full of dangers that nature has prepared for them. It was developed by The Molasses Flood whose developers previously worked on titles like Bioshock and Halo 2.

Before you can set out for an adventure, you’ll have to choose one of two modes to play: The campaign and the endless-mode. While the campaign consists of you playing through ten procedurally generated areas to reveal the mystery of the missing humans, you’ll have to try to survive on an endless river in the endless-mode (duh.) while the difficulty is raised the farther you travel. When you die in the campaign, you’re able to either restart your journey or revive at the last checkpoint you reached – in the endless-mode however death is permanent which adds the rogue-like-ish feel to the game and has a certain thrill to it since all your boat-upgrades, collected and crafted items will be lost forever then! 

The menu shows the skeleton of the previousplayer and the dog that has been left behind.

After choosing the mode, you’re able to set the difficulty. There’s the “Traveler” difficulty that is recommended to newer players with checkpoints and a normal abundance of resources and the “Survivalist” difficulty that is recommended for experienced players with permadeath, fewer supplies, and stats that diminish at an increased rate. On top of that, you can tick an option that allows your pet dog’s inventory to persist through runs that decide whether or not you wanna go for a rogue-like or a rogue-lite experience. In the end, you can choose between Daisy and Aesop, your canine followers that will accompany you through your run.


Now that your journey begins, you’re playing through a small tutorial that shows you the most important information needed to survive via signs that can be found across a camping ground. Those signs show you information regarding your inventory, crafting, stats, and dangers. After that, you’re pretty much left alone and although it’s the tutorial, you’re not safe yet since your stats diminish per second. Those stats include hunger, thirst, temperature, and fatigue. If any of them reach zero, Scout will die. To prevent that from happening you’ll have to collect materials in the starting area and the little islands that you encounter on your adventure. The game consists of two types of levels: The river and the islands. While you’re able to walk on the islands, search for loot and hunt for food, you’ll have to manoeuvre your raft across the river and head for different islands that contain different loot. This, however, is easier said than done since the currents are often so strong that there’s no returning after you’re going into one direction. Most often the game isn’t forgiving you for ignoring one island or choosing one over the other. You’re usually left with little to no time to think before your raft steers into one direction, so you have to make quick decisions:

Do you visit the church to have a higher chance to find clothing, alcohol (for the medical purposes of course!) and some decent housing or do you maybe go to the docking station to upgrade your raft or repair the damage done to it by previous mistakes? Sometimes you’ll have to even think about steering near cars and other objects that may damage your raft but contain loot that may be needed later.

The river is a one-way road and there are many objects that you have to manoeuvre around to not risk sinking! The wild river is accompanied by a great soundtrack that not only makes it fun to steer through the river but also calms you down in times of quick decisionmaking and storms. 


The island levels aren’t a lot safer though since you’re often awaited by wild animals and since death seemingly has his hots for you. In the early levels, you’ll encounter wild boars that are defending their territory, later you’ll also encounter even more vicious creatures like poisonous snakes, fierce wolves, and even threatening bears! Even when you don’t encounter wild enemies, death seems to be omnipresent: You may walk into fire ants, get sick or walk into poison ivy. Bites can end up in threatening sicknesses, catching a cold may result in death and having a broken leg hinders you from running away. All these debuffs have to be treated with craftable ailments, medicines, and bandages. However, resources are scarce in this post-apocalyptic world. While the learning curve is certainly steep, it isn’t insurmountable! After quite a few runs you’re able to understand priorities and improve your decisionmaking quite a lot.

The river at dawn is beautiful, even when wild currents are awaiting you!

As previously mentioned The Flame in the Flood is a game of choices. These choices are a part of the survival-experience and contribute to the feeling of never feeling safe. You’re not able to settle down on an island or build a base with farms and such like other games like Don’t Starve or The Forest. The only thing that comes anywhere near the word “base” is your raft that you can upgrade for more storage room, a stove or other things that help you survive. Without any upgrades your raft only has a limited storage room, the same goes for your dog’s and your own backpack. You sometimes have to abandon useful resources only because of the missing storage. 

What do I leave behind? May I need these resources later? May I find these on some island along the way? Will I come across another camping ground or even another church? 

me, while struggling with leaving behind recources

You may ask yourself these questions but since no run is like the other, you’ll always have to count on your own instinct and the luck that you may get a fruitful scavenge later on. Since you can’t sort your inventory with a sort function, you may as well not see that some of your items could’ve been stacked. There are also items that may expire like food and herbs. Sometimes you may not even find the needed materials for the next upgrade. These things and features can be frustrating but after quite a lot of trial and error, you’re able to survive for quite some time. Using your acquired loot you’re able to build traps and weapons to catch rabbits or trap boars to receive meat and hyde. Crafting new tools allows you to craft even more items.

Some of the features like expired food or certain other mechanics may also be used in other ways. Meat can be crafted into a poisoned bait to kill some of the predators that lurk in the shadows and sometimes you can also simply eat it, get sick but then immediately treat the sickness (although that’s more of a last resort). Interactions and mechanics like these make the game quite a lot of fun! It may be described as a true survival game where you’re holding onto the last bit of hope and fight your way to the goal of the game!

Your canine companion is also a great help since he not only carries his own inventory but also is able to point at collectable resources and nearby dangers. If you don’t deactivate it, you can also plan out your next run and make it easier for you to survive early on by putting materials, tools and other items into its pouch, which would make it a rogue-lite-game.

Not only has the player to fight with inventory-management but also with the previously mentioned stats. Every stat has a different way to tend to it. You need food, clean water, warmth and rest – and the latter also influences the rest of the stats since by sleeping you’re not only passing time but also getting hungrier and thirstier, the longer you sleep. This mechanic is nice when you want to wait out a storm but sometimes puts you into a dilemma: Do you pass time until the storm is over but get hungrier or do you risk a cold and continue your journey? Again, there are choices!

The fireplace not only restores your warmth but also acts as a safe-zone against the creatures of the night.

As for the presentation, the game’s overwhelmingly beautiful. The art style is astonishing and the river is able to convince you of the beauty of nature. Between biomes, there’s a fluid transition, just like with the different times of the day. Dusk and dawn are probably my favourite times to be on the river while the night shows you the dangers of nature with red eyes and approaching storms. It sometimes seems like a double-edged sword that you can enjoy these small moments of peace on the river at daytime and feel scared at night or when it’s getting stormy. The environment is truly enigmatic and influences your experience positively. On the islands you sometimes alarm crows when walking near them which then alarms boars and other dangers, so you always have to watch out for those. There’s also red eyes at night staring at you from the dark, proving that the abyss stares back when you look into the abyss. However, I feel like the main focus of the presentation laid on the river since that is also the main part of your adventure. The Molasses Flood could have tuned up the island-environment a bit more to make even those levels a bit more atmospheric in my opinion but it doesn’t bug you all that much while playing – it certainly didn’t bug me.

Another strength of the game is the soundtrack that is brought to you by songwriter and singer Chuck Ragan and further strengthens the game’s adventure-feel. It’s fun to hear his voice while manoeuvring through currents and steering forward into the unknown, although it sometimes changes abruptly and even may leave you alone with nature and the sound of the river. It sometimes also occurs that the soundtrack switches to another song when changing biomes which I didn’t like all that much but for the most part the soundtrack transitioned fluently.

While playing the game I tested out both the controller and the mouse and keyboard configurations and I must say that I prefer the controller. The controller makes this game a lot easier since you’re able to use the D-Pad to use your most important items on the spot without having to open your inventory, select the item and then use it after a few steps. By you using the left trigger you can switch between useables, meds and placeables which improves the pace of the game by quite a lot.

Two wild kids that have been left behind.

Another thing that I noticed was the fact that the camera sometimes gets in the way of you which leads to you sometimes running into fire ants without noticing at all. While you are able to tilt the camera a bit with the right joystick, it still could have been improved a bit here with a free camera.

Summary

I’d say The Flame in the Flood is a great game that presents you not only a beautiful presentation and a great soundtrack but also quite a few mechanics that make your journey(s) enjoyable for at least 15 hours or even more if you’re a completionist and want to meet all the NPCs or if you’re a hardcore gamer and want to challenge the odds even more by competing for the longest journey in the leaderboards. Once you get over the steep learning curve you’re able to enjoy the game even more even with small bugs that you may encounter every now and then or the fact that you can’t sort through your inventory unlike in other games. There’s also the fact that the endless-mode and the campaign don’t really differ all that much except for the finality of the latter. Most of the information that you need to proceed is available only through signs that can be found every now and then but you can also miss useful information by just steering to another island which is another minus-point for the game. But to counter that you also have a quest-system that rewards you for crafting certain necessary items which act as some sort of mini-goal to work on, even in endless-mode. There’s also bits and pieces of side-stories that can be found sporadically through quilts and NPCs which also may be missed, although it adds a bit of replay value to the game. For the completionists, there are 36 achievements but other than that you’re probably going to run out of stuff to do once you’ve seen everything at least once.

Scout and Daisy at night

At last, I’d say that the game is an interesting survival-experience with a steep learning curve, a great presentation and a lot of fun for fans of the genre and newcomers. While it has a few flaws, the good points that speak for the game are clearly overwhelming, which is why I’m recommending this game to you. If this game sparked your interest, you can get yourself The Flame In The Flood for PC, PS4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch.

Anyways, cheerio!