Trinket Studios' Battle Chef Brigade is probably one of the more mechanically unusual games of 2017. It's a side-scrolling brawler RPG mixed with a match-3 game that's centered around cooking competitions. So essentially, imagine if between rounds of Salt and Sanctuary you had to quickly play rounds of Bejeweled.
That's an insane combo to dream up, and as developer Tom Eastman told us over on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today, it didn't happen overnight. We were lucky enough to talk with him about the game's development process, which you can watch in its entirety up above.
If you're busy cooking up a storm as we speak, we've also taken the time to select a few key takeaways from our conversation down below.
Battle Chef Brigade went through some very weird iterations
As our conversation with Eastman kicked off, he was kind enough to share some of the failed for Battle Chef Brigade from the early days of development.This included a chemistry-like cooking system that Eastman described as fun, but not filled with enough action for them (so someone else should make it).
In addition to the specifics of these prototypes (which Eastman said slowed down development), what's interesting is that Trinket Studios had to throw out actual good ideas because its goal was to create an action-themed cooking game, not just a fun cooking game.
It's a rare case where 'follow the fun' didn't get them what they wanted, and it would eventually take an abstraction of what 'cooking' means in order to produce Battle Chef Brigade.
Narrative design that incorporates game language and systems
Games that try to tell interesting stories often face the problem that game mechanics are inhently weird, involving systems that, when spoken aloud, don't fit into natural dialogue.
That's why it's so interesting that the fantasy world of Battle Chef Brigade does its best to bake its game mechanics into regular dialogue. The premise of the world---that monsters grew so dangerous they had to be hunted and turned into food---is the first bit of information you learn about the game. Everything from specialty bowls to certain button commands has some place in conversation, and the colorful cast of characters do their best to treat these concepts as though they weren't out of the ordinary.
It turns out that, according to Eastman, this was a very deliberate effort on the part of the design team to communicate the many odd concepts that players have to pick up, because there's so much that can slip through the cracks. He notes this wasn't an entirely natural process, because it's not easy to have judges proclaim the value of 'the value of water,' to tell players to focus on matching blue gems, but it ultimately became a useful worldbuilding tool and effective tutorializing method.
The demise of Chicago's larger developers has birthed a thriving local indie scene.
Turning away from the art of making games for a moment, we quizzed Eastman about what it's like making games in Chicago. As it turns out, the prevalence of indie developers is due in part to the demise of EA Chicago, Midway, and Wideload Games, which was the local arm of Disney Interactive.
This topic has been covered by sites like Kotaku, but it's interesting to hear how the change from large companies to smaller ones has affected the talent coming out of the area. In particular, Eastman notes that his cohort Ben Perez sharpened his character design skills while working at Disney, which helped create the unique characters of Battle Chef Brigade.
Given how often we at Gamasutra have to report on studio closures (it's not fun), it's satisfying to know that some good can come after bigger companies close up shop, and help create unique breeds of developers in specific geographical regions.
For more developer interviews, editor roundtables, and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.