The Molasses Flood is the indie team behind the popular action-adventure game Drake Hollow. The game gained steady popularity after being released for Steam and Xbox One in 2020. It was also included in Microsoft’s streaming service Xbox Game Pass, which meant many gamers had the chance to try it out. We here at VeryAli Gaming were lucky enough to get an interview with Forrest Dowling, their creative director. So, without further ado, here’s what he had to say!
Forrest explained that the studio is named after a historical event that happened in Boston, where they’re based. Back in 1919, a storage tank filled with millions of gallons of molasses burst open. This caused a wave of thick molasses to spread through the city, destroying buildings, and coating the streets. Rumour has it that to this day, the scent of molasses can still be smelled on hot summer days. Forrest and his team are from Boston, and the story was part of their local history. They decided it would be a great name for their studio, and so The Molasses Flood was born!
Will Drake Hollow Be Coming To Other Platforms?
Forrest told us how they’d worked with Microsoft before with their previous game, and that they had a good relationship. When it came to choosing which console to be available for, Xbox had been the obvious choice. As they’re a small team, they could only support so many platforms, and so they wanted to prioritise just getting the game out there. The main deciding factor had been Xbox Game Pass. Forrest said how it was such a fantastic service, and so being able to reach an audience through that would be ideal.
The Molasses Flood are regularly putting out patches and updates for Drake Hollow. Forrest said that they wouldn’t rule out becoming available for Switch and Playstation in the future, but right now there are no immediate plans. The focus is still very much on perfecting Drake Hollow, and making it into the best possible experience for the fans.
In my opinion, one of the coolest things about Drake Hollow is how it applies features from a range of genres. While it’s an action-adventure game at its core, it also has elements like crafting, base-building, and looking after creatures. Forrest told us how the game developed organically. The original plan was to make another survival game, except this time, the focus would be on helping someone else survive (the drakes). The game took a little over 3 years to develop, and during that time they came up with new features. The initial plan hadn’t been very rigid, and so they’d had lots of room for creativity and growth. The Molasses Flood had actually delayed the game a couple of times from their planned launch date, as they wanted to adjust certain features. Forrest and his team are clearly very passionate about Drake Hollow, and wanted it to be perfect.
As you can probably tell by the name of the game, the drakes play an important part in Drake Hollow. They are adorable magical creatures that you can find in the wild, and they grant you certain abilities that can help with different aspects of the game. You can also evolve them using colourful stones that you find when exploring the world. Each drake is associated with a particular stone type, so you need to collect plenty in order to evolve them. When you find a drake, they are buried underground, and you only find out their details when they pop up. Forrest explained that certain abilities are fixed with a particular stone type. When you find the drake, the attributes are random-rolled, but the ability and stone type will always match. The names are randomly assigned though, and are not fixed to any other attribute. Forrest admitted that the name generator isn’t very advanced, and it’s common to get duplicate names in your base.
Drake Hollow has various customisation items that can be found throughout the world. This is one of the features I love, and so I was wondering whether The Molasses Flood would consider making seasonal items. I was very embarrassed to realise that they’d actually done that for Christmas 2020 (I’d been busy and hadn’t had a chance to play the game over the festive season). Forrest told me how they’d had ugly sweaters available, as well as snowman and gingerbread outfits. I was very jealous as those sounded awesome, so I asked if they’d do it again this Christmas, to which Forrest answered a very cryptic “we’ll see”.
Drake Hollow works as both a single player and multiplayer game. In multiplayer mode, you can invite friends to join you in your world, and fight the enemies together. I was curious whether it was difficult to strike a balance in the combat difficulty. How did they make it challenging in multiplayer without being too difficult in single player mode? Forrest explained that instead of messing around with the enemy attack and defence stats, they instead focused on numbers. In multiplayer mode, players would encounter more enemies, and they’d spawn more frequently. It’s an elegant solution that keeps the game fun regardless of the number of players.
Obviously with Drake Hollow being a huge success, fans are curious as to what’s next for The Molasses Flood. Forrest confirmed that they are indeed working on a new title, but right now it’s in very early development. He said that the team is split down the middle, with half the team working on support for Drake Hollow, and the other half working on the new game. I tried to press for clues, but Forrest was tight lipped! All he would say is that it “treads some familiar ground” and he thinks it’s “what fans want to see”. That all sounds very promising, if a little vague. Perhaps we’ll be getting a mix of both Drake Hollow and their previous game, The Flame In The Flood? Maybe a survival game with exploration and crafting elements? We’ll have to wait and see!
As I mentioned, Drake Hollow is an amalgamation of many genres, and so I wanted to know which games had inspired them. Forrest said that they drew from a lot of games, whilst still keeping their own original concepts. He told us how there were elements from all sorts of games. Caring for the drakes reminded him of how you take care of creatures in Pokémon. He also drew from village management sims such as Oxygen Not Included, but he wanted a less technical system. They also looked at builder games, such as Cities: Skylines which is one of Forrest’s personal favourites. All the games are very different to Drake Hollow, but The Molasses Flood focused on particular parts. Using all the different elements, they were able to create a truly unique title that gives an exciting gaming experience.
Forrest’s Personal Journey
It was fascinating learning more about the process behind Drake Hollow’s development, but I wanted to know more about Forrest. I asked him about which games had made him want to be a developer, and he was only too happy to share. He said that the big ones for him had been Deus Ex and Unreal Tournament. He’d played a lot of games as a kid, but had drifted away as a teenager. Deus Ex had been the game to bring back his interest, and Forrest described how he’d been blown away by it. He was amazed by how it told a real story, and how there was so much leeway for the character to choose their own path, and solve problems in their own manner. He also got into Unreal Tournament, and spent many hours building maps using their level editor.
He’d previously worked with Irrational Games, making triple A games like Bioshock: Infinite. However, when the studio closed, he was left out of work and had a choice to make. There were no studios hiring in Boston, so he’d either have to move, or start his own. There were lots of other talented developers out of work, many of whom he’d already worked with, and he made his decision. They came together, and The Molasses Flood was born. Forrest said that he sometimes misses the resources of working in a larger studio, but he has no regrets. Being part of his own indie studio has been incredible, and he’s never looked back.
Watch The Interview!
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about Drake Hollow and the team behind it. If so, you can watch the full interview here:
Melika, aka MelikaJ93, is an online content creator and writer, currently working at Very Ali Gaming. An avid gamer, she is a huge fan of many genres, especially platformers, rpgs, and indie games. Her all time favourite game series is Spyro, but there are so many others that could be mentioned. On top of all her other endeavours, Melika streams on Twitch 3 times a week, so check out her channel for a fun gaming experience!