Our run up to Unique Drops Live had us reaching out to game devs to seek permission to share their games. All of them had already been released and were living in my Steam library, ready to be shared, except one.
Battle Chef Brigade is still in development, and won’t be available to the unwashed masses until some time in 2017. It took quite a bit of wit and charm (read: lots of begging) to get not only permission, but for the team at Trinket Studios to be willing to share their game demo and trust us to share the partially built game with the public. The seeds were sown at PAX earlier this year when we had a chance to speak with Tom Eastman and play the updated demo.
In case you’re not savvy, Battle Chef Brigade is part match 3, part brawler, hand drawn graphics, multiplied by the power of Iron Chef. It has all the components to ensure I was going to write about it, buy it and play it.
All those components also multiply the difficulty of building the game.
When a game tries to cover more than one genre, you end up really making many games at once that just happen to share similar looks and story. While seemingly simple, match 3 games are a puzzler, meaning they will have their own challenges and method of programming. Action games are notoriously difficult to get right - the speed, feel, look, and added complexities like combo systems, are all a difficult alchemy to mix into a coherent - let alone fun - experience.
Why would anyone do this to themselves, and what are the chances that a few guys calling themselves “indie developers” would combine those two problems successfully with Iron Chef in an anime world? I can’t answer that question, but I’m damn happy they did.
As part of Unique Drops Live, Battle Chef Brigade was consistently the one game that gamers and non-gamers alike stopped to ask about, mostly due to the hand drawn graphics. Those who game regularly really loved the mix of genres and creativity. But the game isn’t just a novelty; the two genres that are included here are both extremely complex in their own right, and it really was the development of two games at once. Speaking with Tom about it really gave me the sense of effort and time invested to get to this point.
“(It’s taken) a little over 3 years. Yeah, if you’re making two genres at once, turns out it takes a little longer than if you made one.
The first year and a half was all about making cooking fun. A lot of our goals came from Food Network - on Chopped, the frantic running back and forth to the pantry, shoving things in a dish right before you serve it, and the suspense of the judges; so we wanted to capture all that in an action game, as well as some of the improvisational cooking you see on those shows - it’s not “follow this recipe”, it’s about “figure out with these crazy ingredients how to make a delicious dish. So we spent a year and a half trying to condense cooking down into something that’s action oriented but improvisational and that was a huge challenge. It turns out cooking is pretty darn complicated, and you can’t taste your screen. So the player needs to understand what they’re doing, as well as the computer so they can judge it. You don’t want players to be like “Oh, I made Grandma’s lasagna recipe, except with dragon, and the judges don’t like it - that’s outrageous!”
Once we figured out the cooking system - that was really fun. Then the combat system, the hunting system - it’s been sort of “oh, we’ll figure it out, it’s not going to be a big deal, it’s a small problem,” but to make a really good combat system is a lot of hidden details that we're really fun, as a programmer, to go through. Like, input queuing, input buffering, being able to chain attacks together perfectly, frame by frame, getting it to feel right has been really really fun.”
Even as far as they’ve come, there is still a lot to do:
“Development has been going really well, brought on a bunch more artists to help out, and as you can tell, this game has quite the art style. Painstaking animation.
We’re now in the phase where all the systems have been done, and it's all about gameplay, balance, polish, art, and story. Those are the really exciting parts of development that we’ve finally reached.
(There will be) 4 total playable (chefs) - we will probably have to move some of those to after launch so we can get the game out sooner, but now that we’ve seen how much it takes for each one - in combat, animations, the story - we’ll figure them out and make sure people can start playing sooner.”
With that, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to the Trinket Studios team for sharing the demo with us and allowing us to feature the game. While it’s still a little ways off, I will keep jumping into the demo and playing the daily challenges until the day the full game release graces all of us.