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Trying to make a complex, albeit fun cooking videogame

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Let me start by saying that I've been a professional chef and an avid hardcore gamer (from RPGs, RTS, to e-sports), aside from a professional Game Des/Dev for the last few years. 

Every single cooking game is too arcadey, even if kinda fun (common examples: Cooking Mana, Overcooked, Cook Serve Delicious...). Would like to create a game where the recipes are followed a bit closer, with proper chemistry in place, and different stats for food (saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and umami) and many other aspects, like proper usage of utensils.

I tend to go far too realistic, and testers find it either not engaging or just "too realistic" ("why play a game, if I can do the same in real life?" is a common response). 

This is why I'm here: would like to get your insights as what you would expect from a more realistic, less arcadey cooking game, where you can not only have fun, but learn real recipes? Don't be afraid of diagrams, bullet points or walls of text; any way you find useful to express yourself.

Thanks!

 

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I would not go that way myself, if you want real cooking (wich is fun), you have to create a really complex application, or to script one by one each recipt as a interactive minigame (you could problably find many common code among each minigame but those are all separed). You for sure don't want to keep into account real chemistry, because you'll need massive computing power (however you can get inspiration for most commond results, like over heating brea in oven make it become burned).

Those games you mentioned are fun and most important are viable to program as games. They took significative elements from real cooking, but nothing more, though if you are determined you could make a game in your way and that would be fun, but I warn you that will be really hard and frustrating.

what kind of gameplay you are searching for?

- realistic simulation? basically a interactive video
- hard-core hand-eye coordination? cook what required in a certain time

- causal gaming? do recipes without any real challenge but the pleasure to see something created

- perfection? (swipe in a certain direction at a certain speed)
- economic? (buy upgrades and make income from selling food)

Personally I'm ultra bored by those cooking games, there are some different but mostly they are clones of each other. I hope you could really innovate the gender!:)

 

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Hi Dar, thanks for your post. Let me answer:

 

what kind of gameplay you are searching for?

- realistic simulation? basically a interactive video

Too extreme


- hard-core hand-eye coordination? cook what required in a certain time

Cooking is a lot about gut feeling, and rarely about quick movements

 

- causal gaming? do recipes without any real challenge but the pleasure to see something created

Can have both. But I feel that I should make hard recipes, hard. There is no way someone can do a beef wellington right after the tutorial

 

- perfection? (swipe in a certain direction at a certain speed)

Quite important, but don't want to be anal about it


- economic? (buy upgrades and make income from selling food)

Absolutely! Start in a student kitchen, buy new and better tools, end up in Ramsey's, Puck's or Oliver's home kitchen

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I play cooking games but I wouldn't be interested in a realistic one.  The Cake Mania series is probably my favorite, though I also like the Papa Louie series and for multiplayer, Overcooked is hilarious.

 

The reward for real cooking is getting to taste what you made, while the concerns are the money, prep time, and clean-up time you put into making the food, along with the fact that different people have different senses of taste and a recipe someone else liked may not taste good to me at all.  Pretty much none of this can or should be emulated in a video game about cooking, so it's necessary to find a different way to make the game feel rewarding and challenging.

 

Edit: One semi-realistic thing that might be kind of interesting is if the game spawns random ingredients and you have to randomly combine them to try to discover recipes.  You would only get points each time you discover a new recipe or make a significant variation on an existing one (e.g. you already know apple pie but you make cherry pie).  But it would be important NOT to have realistic aging/spoilage of amassed ingredients.

 

Few more thoughts:  In a game you can't have the taste of food as a reward.  You can have the look of food, particularly in games which allow you to create ornamental cakes, and similar to fashion games which allow you to design your own articles of clothing or color combinations.  You can invent a stat benefit or collect-the-set mechanic for the player's character like in an RPG.  You can have the profit of selling the food to customers like in a tycoon game, probably coupled with climbing the tech tree of kitchen appliances by spending that profit on new hardware, both types of rewarding the player with a feeling of progress.  Or you can go for an educational game and the player's reward would be learning actual cooking techniques and recipes they can try in their own kitchen.  Which of these are you interested in?  You can combine several but probably not all of them.

Edited by sunandshadow

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I was thinking of something like this the other day, for a different style of game but it still might be useful for you.

 

Recipe schema have a target range of flavors, with the goal dependent on the customer.  (Like occasionally customers will have preferences for more or less of a kind of flavor, have dietary restrictions, or be adventurous or old-fashioned.  Not all the time, but enough to keep the player adapting and improvising.)

 

There's a lot of freedom of substitution.  Like you're going for a fish dish that needs a sour note, and the recipe calls for lemon juice, but you can also use lime juice, vinegar, tamarind paste, amchur powder, etc.  (That's the educational aspect I personally would go for, where the player learns things like that they can invent a new recipe by substituting a tsp of amchur for 2 tbsp of lemon juice, or that mushrooms, tomato paste, and miso are vegetarian options for boosting umami.)

 

Each ingredient also has a range of quality, which is partially random.  (In the sense that you don't necessarily know the quality of the portion that you add to the dish.  Things that tend to be of homogeneous quality, where tasting a bit is a good indicator of the quality of the whole, might be a consistent and known 4.  But other things like berries might go from 1 to 5 and you can't always predict by tasting one berry.)  The quality of a dish is the quality of its worst ingredient.  You can purchase more reliably good ingredients if you're willing to pay more, and maybe there are different supply companies whose reputations you can learn over time.

 

So there's an element of strategic gambling involved.  You can't have stores of every kind of ingredient such that every customer can be reliably satisfied at top quality.  You can eventually approach that, but especially starting out you have to cut some corners.  You might find that this latest shipment of lemons has some bad lemons, and just accept that and gamble that most dishes will still turn out ok, or leave out the lemon and take a mild penalty for that recipe, or experiment with substitutions.  

 

(Anyway, this probably sounds like a complex restaurant-manager game, but the idea was originally for something more like a deck-builder card game, where almost everything about ingredients was abstracted away, except for combination rules and the probability distribution of quality.)

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To add to the commentary already posted here, I've noticed that a lot of qualms people have with cooking games, or even simulation games in general is that everyone has their own way of doing things and will generally lose interest if there is only one or a few ways to do a certain thing that goes against the way they know.

 

You said you were a chef so I'm sure you have recipes you do so naturally that you don't even question what you're doing. But other people will have a different way of making that same dish, so if they are forced to put together the dish in your way, instead of theirs they'll feel rebellious, even resentful that they couldn't do it their way.

 

To do a game the way you are describing I think it should be posed as a mock game-show type video game wherein, you make a dish and have to serve it to a panel of judges to get a score. This way the player will already have the stakes and objective of the game clearly presented to them. You'd start by taking classic dishes and then compiling variations of ways it can be made based off of surveys not from chefs, but from ordinary people and commercially sold cook books. Then, give the player all the tools to make the dish the way they are used to and have the judge score their dish based on how the dish was put together. If you add in the fact that judges have different tastes then they'll find that sometimes the way they make it is right, and other times there were things they could do to make it better! This will immediately give incentive to a player to experiment with ingredients and before they know they are fully immersed in your cooking game.

Edited by DoomedGaming

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What people here have said.  I think trying to explore the flavor can backfire since you can't really taste what you cook in the game.  What I would like to see, however, is the educational aspects around cooking, baking, and ingredients.  I can see this being useful to teach kids about cooking and baking without putting them in danger of fire.

 

For example, maybe put real science behind the right oven temperature and the amount of flour and yeast you put in to produce a nice bread.  Maybe a step by step instructions of baking baguettes.  Maybe show different ways of cutting vegetables, e.g julienne cuts.  Proper way to cook bacons.  You just have to keep it fun and educational, and don't be too crazy on the realism part.

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The dream of owning one's own restaurant or the like is not uncommon. However, most don't actually have the funds, skill, or management ability to do so. A properly created game allows the consumer to live that fantasy through the game. I'm just spitballing my thoughts in this lost in case any of it can help you.

In my mind I'm able to see the designing of three different ways to make the game not so cookie cutter.

1. Let it play more like the game "Let's Create! Pottery", where the player can make what they want, when they want, and how they want. The product is evaluated at the end using a special formula and coins are awarded accordingly. For your game, this would mean taking into account different flavor a and how they function together. The coins could then be put toward cooking tools, other spices, or over base recipes for them to begin experimenting with.

2. A more elaborate and complex Cooking Mania type game. I'm going with a made up setting here. Players take the role of a head chef at an exclusive restaraunt. Customers will randomly select recipes they want made and it is up to the chef to fill it to their specifications. This allows for deviations from the basic recipe as not everyone has the same tastes. Coins won can be spend similar to #1. (Cooking possibly more akin to how the old Pottermore lotion minigame played)

3. Restaraunt Story meets Cooking Mania, and your realistic cooking. Players can choose Restaraunt themes and mak their own menus. Customers come and randomly order from the menu, prompting the player to fill them. This would most likely have a more casual, repeat feeling as they get used to certain recipes. However, there are 2 good ways to spice it up. The first is to allow players to edit their menu, keeping them interested in new recipes. The second is to have some customers deviate slightly in their order, thus forcing the player to tweak the recipe. It could be as simple as leaving the salsa off the meat or complex as needing a gluten free crust for their pizza, prompting the player to learn another recipe. Coins can be spent on restaraunt upgrades, power ups in the form of staff members, and more ingredients and/or recipes.


Judging by what you're looking for, the first too seem the closest. Number one lets you create what you want how you want. Learn recipes and then see if you can improve it. Number two puts you in the chef's shoes and can have you making specific recipes for specific people. Perform under stress, les casual but more challenging.

Hope this helps!
~Oove

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Many thanks for all your replies, they were extremely helpful. They all serve in improving the concept. As soon as I have a handful of different prototypes nailed down, I'll post them here. Hopefully you can provide your thoughts.

 

Oove, based off your three explanations, I think it would be a mix between 1 and 3. Early game more 1, lategame more like 3. More thought required, of course.

 

Thanks again!

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If you're interested in cooking mistakes, I have an idea.
Each step in a recipe list can have different ways to make a mistake.
In the end product, the 'mistakes' are shown, such as overcooked, too salty, too much water, etc (the image may look different, or perhaps the taste 'verdict' would be given)
This would mean you'd need to have n different possibilities for end products, n being number or steps x (each individual step's possible problem(s) +1).
Making mistakes carry over into other steps may be hard but would also add realism.

One positive to this is that you can reuse recipe steps, maybe with different variables. Maybe a database of different possible recipe steps.
'chopping' could be a step, with type of meat and optimal meat size as parameters. The 'game' portion would use the information in this class to run, and when done would get the problem (or no problem) which would be used in the end product (and maybe used as an additional input in another step).

It's a bit complicated but sort of standardizes everything.

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