Survival games have become a major theme among indie developers the past few years. These games have showcased creative ideas and art while garnering quite the fanbase. The grittiness, tone, and micromanaging seem to attract people that want something a bit more simple in design and execution, however end up being larger on the grand scale of gaming. The Flame in the Flood was a survival game released on PC and Xbox One in 2016 as developers from many different backgrounds worked together on this project. We were able to reach out to the Forrest Dowling, Creative Director at Molasses Flood, to ask a few questions leading up to the game’s release on PlayStation 4 later this month.
How did a group of people from various backgrounds come up with the idea for a game like The Flame in the Flood?
The idea for The Flame in the Flood came from a few different starting ideas. As a designer, I was interested in the idea of a pared down survival game that focused directly on the sort of real world survival know-how that someone would need to use to live in the wilderness, as opposed to survival as a complication in a fantasy setting. Scott Sinclair (Sinc), our art director, was very interested initially in the idea of exploring tiny worlds, driving a character around small spaces. These two ideas combined and became the seed from which we grew the game. The river came from there, which led to the setting, the tone, and the music. Apart from those ideas, we also wanted to try something very different than what we have done previously. Most of us worked on big budget shooters and first person games, with teams of a hundred people or more. We wanted to try doing something that we could do with a very small team, and trying to revisit the sorts of games we made in the past just wasn’t viable for a small team.
Where did the influence for the game’s art stem from?
The game art came from a lot of places. One of my initial conversations with Sinc was about making a game that allowed his personal style from his own painting and illustration work to come alive in a game setting. We also looked at a ton of various aesthetic influences, from paper craft to the work of Wes Anderson to the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, as well as a ton of reference material from the American South.
What is your vision of the type of experience that you want players to have while playing through the game?
My goal for the experience of playing The Flame in the Flood was to create an experience that has the sorts of highs and lows of a survival narrative, but in a largely unpredictable way. My hope is that people experience a sense of mastery over the game as they play, after learning and overcoming the ins and outs of survival. I wanted to capture the sort of moment to moment reflex joy of dealing with the immediate threat of rapids, coupled with the longer term joy of being rewarded for careful planning and decisions making.
The Flame in the Flood is described as a rogue-like survival game. What type of adversities will one see along their journey?
All the obstacles the player faces are based on real world threats that someone may encounter in the wilderness. Wolves, snakes, wild boars, that sort of thing. Additionally, the environment provides a constant challenge: cold nights, rain, and rapids. I suppose the biggest adversary throughout the game is yourself, your need to stay fed, hydrated, rested, and warm.
A dog is your companion in this game. What does this partner offer in the The Flame in the Flood?
Your companion dog calls out threats and supplies, but most importantly offers more inventory space. If you die while playing at the higher difficulty setting, you will return to the start of the game, however if your dog was carrying supplies you will start your next run with those. In addition to the mechanical benefit, we thought that it would help soften the feeling of loneliness of being lost in the wilderness if your dog could be at your side throughout.
Chuck Ragan from the punk group Hot Water Music is featured on the soundtrack. How did he become involved with the project?
Chuck and Sinc go way back. Sinc did all the cover art for Hot Water Music throughout the years, and they knew each other when HWM was just getting off the ground. Early on, once we were talking about a southern river journey, I assembled a bunch of music that I thought would be a good fit for the game, and Sinc suggested that we get in touch with Chuck. He loved the concept, and everything took off from there.
The Flame in the Flood saw success on KickStarter and was released on Steam in 2016. Will the PS4 version offer anything different?
The PS4 version is the fully updated version, with a lot of fixes and tweaks that we added since launching the game on PC. Additionally, we added a director’s commentary option, with a bunch of conversations between myself and the other folks on the team about making the game. The PS4 version also comes with avatars and a dynamic theme.
What makes The Flame in the Flood stand out from other similar games in the survival genre?
I think the main difference between TFITF and other survival games is that we’re very focused on the journey. A lot of survival games are really focused on building a base or homestead of some sort, planting crops, making a home. Because we focused on real world survival, we focused more on always moving forward, trying to get somewhere. I think that’s the biggest difference.