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Talking Roguelikes and Survival with The Molasses Flood's Forrest Dowling

by Neal Ronaghan - October 12, 2017, 4:46 am EDT
Total comments: 1

As The Flame in the Flood is moments away from launch on Switch, we caught up with the lead designer.

The Switch has been home to many a new and old indie game over the past few months. Some of the publishers have been new to the Nintendo scene, but the team that helped Forrest Dowling and the team at The Molasses Flood bring over their 2016 game The Flame in the Flood is a Wii U eShop veteran: Curve Digital. Dowling, on the other hand, isn't quite as familiar with the Nintendo landscape, drawing from experience on Bioshock Infinite and Homefront. We caught up with Dowling and asked him about roguelike and survival games on Switch as well as how his heroine Scout might fit into Nintendo worlds.

Nintendo World Report (NWR): The Switch in its indie infancy already has a lot of roguelikes. What separates The Flame in the Flood from other roguelikes?

Forrest Dowling (FD): I think the same thing that differentiates us on other platforms will be the same on the Switch. It’s a really unique experience, we’ve got a campaign, a unique art style and soundtrack, gameplay that isn’t really typical of a lot of rogue likes. I think after standing out on the steam I’m not too worried about standing out in the much smaller pool of games that are on the Switch.

NWR: How was the process of porting the game to Switch? How long did it take and how did the relationship with Nintendo develop?

FD: The Switch port has been entirely handled by Curve Digital, so I couldn’t really say. They were able to do it quite quickly, so I could infer that Unreal Engine support for the Switch is strong.

NWR: The team has background in Bioshock, Halo, and Rock Band. How did experience in those projects influence and affect the shape and design of The Flame in the Flood?

FD: I think all experience leads into the decisions you make at any given moment, so while I don’t think there are a lot of really clear lines between past projects and The Flame in the Flood, there are lots of general learnings and best practices ranging from how to do things technically to why to make decisions from a player experience standpoint. I think the clearest influence was simple that since the whole team has had experience shipping multiple games for years, that we were all able to function at a high level very quickly, and were able to stick to our budget and development plan.

NWR: With roguelikes, barrier to entry can sometimes be an issue. Was that a concern going into development, or was the game more meant for players already familiar with roguelike/survival design? If it was a concern, what did you do to lower the barrier?

FD: Accessibility was definitely a concern to some degree. There are lots of examples these days of games with no tutorial or on ramp, most notably Don’t Starve at the time we were starting. I never wanted to assume that people were familiar with roguelikes or survival games, which is why so much of what you do is based on researching real world survival, rather than cribbing from other titles. I figured someone may not know the ins and outs of punching trees to get wood, but they definitely understand that they need to drink water to stay alive, and that drinking from puddles on the ground is a bad idea.

NWR: The Flame in the Flood was a Kickstarter success story. How was the experience of crowd-funding? Are you looking to do it again in the future?

FD: While we did do well on Kickstarter, we don’t currently have plans to return to that platform in the future, although I’ll never say never. It was great in that it gave us a community of fans from nearly day one, and gave us enough funding to actually bootstrap our company and game.

NWR: If Scout could crossover with any Nintendo franchise/character, what would it be and why?

FD: I think she could make a great NPC encounter in Zelda. I could totally see running into her on a river in Hyrule. Or Mario Kart. She’s driving her raft down the road. Or Dr. Mario… like she’s the patient full of diseases being worked on. Also Aesop should be in Nintendogs.

NWR: If Nintendo asked you to make a game using one of their characters or franchises, what would it be?

FD: That’s tough. I’d probably go with Eternal Darkness or Advance Wars. I really liked both, but they aren’t franchises that people get super crazy about so if I screwed it up I could maybe slink away unnoticed. Mostly I wouldn’t want to be the guy who ruined Mario or something.


ShyGuyOctober 16, 2017

I got this game and I am trying it out. I'm apparently not good at survival games. I need to start over.

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