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CULINARY COALITION

Role: Game/Level Designer
Engine: Unity
Team Size: 15
Studio: Leaf Eater 
Platforms: PC (Itch.io)
Development time: 8 months

Culinary Coalition is a top down cooking-themed bullet hell. You play as a young man in a chef costume who was mistaken by aliens for a real chef and abducted on Halloween night.

Culinary Coalition was a second year university group project which I collaboratively designed all of the mechanics for with another designer. You can find all of my contributions further below.

Taken prisoner in a space arena, you must dash, dodge and deep fry your way through this deadly cooking game show to please the alien food critics. Creating food combo's while dodging bullet patterns.

 

The game was featured on an arcade cabinet by the Falmouth Games team at the G7 Summit event, located at Cornwall House. The game was also present at EGX 2021.

 
 
 
 Contributions to the project
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  • Lead the design of all game mechanics and levels in collaboration with another designer with input from the whole team. (Systems, Bullet patterns, Movement).

  • Created detailed design documentation.

  • Scripted improvements to game features in C#. (Game feel)

  • Balanced numerous variables in engine, such as player speed or bullet pattern count, to provide the most fun and balanced experience.

  • Guided the direction of Art and Audio departments to enhance the experience for players.

  • Balanced difficulty between normal and hard modes for 2 levels.

  • Created the level select system.

  • Designed the UI layout, implemented  prototype functionality.

  • Aided the organisation of playtest sessions.

  • Helped establish and maintain communication between programming, art and audio departments.

  • Assisted in bug fixing numerous features of the project.

Project Overview

A bullet hell where you don't shoot back, cooking is the focus

We wanted the game to appeal to players new to the bullet hell genre, we felt like moving the focus away from shooting a target would ease players into the flow of dodging increasingly intense bullet patterns. This was done by locking progression within the bullet patterns themselves, as players have to weave between bullets to grab ingredients to cook in the oven.

Cooking enough food fills a satisfaction meter for the food judge. Fill this three times and you've beaten the level. Each phase introduces new bullet patterns, creating new and exciting gameplay scenarios.

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Surprise and engage players through a variety of bullet patterns

In order to communicate a fun and light hearted experience, many of the patterns are comedic, or surprising. This is an alien world after all, and players should be excited to face it's unique challenges. Variety increases engagement, we decided one way to provide variety was through bullet patterns.

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An exciting game show where 4 planets gather to find the galaxies best chef!

Culinary Coalition is a set in a collection of planets. The player plays the game in a space arena, where a deadly game show takes place. We concepted 4 planets which had their own distinct food cultures and geography. For example the healthy watermelon planet of "Lysus" has a healthy eating culture, whereas the dessert deserts of "Cremon" enjoy all things sweet. Each planet affected the foods you would cook, as well as the design of the space arena and it's challenges.

Each planet hosts an event at the space arena, where their leader acts as a food critic to the chef competing in the game show. The player has to please these critics through cooking bullet hell gameplay, where they must cook food to push through 3 phases of attacks

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Design Intentions

Changing the way bullet hell games are played through cooking​

The core design goal for Culinary Coalition was to make a bullet hell which encourages players to behave in a more active and daring playstyle, compared to the safer, passive shooting mindset that the genre normally follows.

 

To achieve this, the core of the gameplay involves players seeking progression within the bullet patterns, as the ingredients needed for progression spawn among the bullets. This means players learn patterns with a new purpose, to extract goods instead of only dodging.

 

​Progression is found by navigating within the patterns themselves, not by shooting an enemy. To add a layer of meaningful choice, we tied healing to the ingredients as well, giving ingredients a dual purpose design.

 

This creates a new way to progress through bullet hell levels.

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Each Level has unique bullet patterns, foods and boss pattern

We designed the game so that players have to weave in and out of bullets towards a specific target, this being the food ingredients. We did this to discourage the tactic of hugging the back wall holding the shoot button the whole encounter which is found in many bullet hell games. 

 

Players can either cook the ingredients to achieve progression, or they can eat the ingredient to heal. This choice gets harder as the player can heal an additional amount for eating cooked ingredients. Do you sacrifice your hard earned progression to stay alive? Or do you risk it all to beat the level faster?

Creating a charming universe full of fascinating characters and cultures.

Creating a charming game with a light-hearted tone was a design goal from the very start. The villager inhabitants were designed as oven mitts who's colours and patterns represent a specific planet, similar to sports teams. Adding a crowd of these villagers made the game feel more lively and exciting.

The player faces off against a food judge who at the end of each phase taunts the player through dialogue. We designed each judge to feel like they belong on their respective planets. The Greasopolis judge for example, is a robot salesman, which suits the fast food culture the planet is made of.

Greasopolis Judge
Greasopolis Judge

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Adonis - Lysus Judge
Adonis - Lysus Judge

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Announcer who runs the show
Announcer who runs the show

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Greasopolis Judge
Greasopolis Judge

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Mechanics Overview

A visual overview of all the game mechanics I designed for the game. Players go through the loop of:

  • Collecting ingredient.

  • Cooking, eating or binning based on the ingredient type. 

  • Serving cooked ingredients fills the satisfaction bar. 

  • Combinations of foods fill it faster.

  • When the satisfaction bar is full, you progress to the next phase.

  • Repeat loop 3 times until you beat the level.

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Game Mechanics

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PG_COOKING.png
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Other player verbs

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Documentation Examples

A handful of sections from the documentation we created for the game. This includes a progression chart, bullet patterns, level layouts and mechanic breakdowns.

Prototype Examples

A slideshow of the development journey of the game, from prototype to final build. The design of the game evolved over 8 months. Frequent playtesting events on discord allowed me to monitor player behaviour and collect playtest survey data. This data and observations were collected, and informed our future sprint goals. Each image below is a snapshot of a milestone of development.

1 - Initial Prototype
1 - Initial Prototype

The initial prototype. Players had to collect 3 ingredients and once they had collected 3, they would advance to the next round. Progression is displayed as peas on the UI here. UI implementation and presentation is still very WIP as we needed to test different ways to presenting important player information, such as health.

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2- First lighting test
2- First lighting test

Lighting and a refined blockout shape altered gameplay by creating confusing shadows. These shadows would distract players during playtesting. In future builds, we would turn off shadow casting for bullets to reduce confusion and the business of the scene. One benefit to the new lighting, is that it helped to establish early atmosphere.

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5 - Final
5 - Final

The final product has polished art assets for the UI and environment. One design change of note is the bullet colour. The bullets gained a white appearance alongside a =subtle electric particle effect. Making the bullets standout from most backdrops, This helped players to differentiate the bullets from the ingredients, in addition to the new models for the ingredients.

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1 - Initial Prototype
1 - Initial Prototype

The initial prototype. Players had to collect 3 ingredients and once they had collected 3, they would advance to the next round. Progression is displayed as peas on the UI here. UI implementation and presentation is still very WIP as we needed to test different ways to presenting important player information, such as health.

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Reflection
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As a second year university team project, this game was a fantastic learning experience for me. One big takeaway from the year was a refined understanding of scope management. As a game designer, I was able to practice the skill of decision making during project planning. Poor decisions which I were responsible for where key learning opportunities that sharpened my design instincts. For future projects I will be able to use my new knowledge and practice of scope management to plan projects more efficiently. I'm proud of this project, and it was a key turning point in my journey as a game designer. 

What went well
  • The world and premise of the game is well suited to the gameplay. The cooking sci-fi theme permeates throughout many aspects of the game (UI, Gameplay, Audio).

  • The two levels in the demo are visually distinct and have varied bullet pattern challenges.

  • Gameplay feedback is clear and satisfying. Screen shake, screen pausing, slowdown, audio, and UI elements all contribute to a tactile experience.

What could be improved
  • The narrative present has no conclusion, there was no cohesive progression towards an ending.

  • Levels don't fully take advantage of their settings through unique level mechanics, these would truly distinguish the levels from one another. (Eg. Ice world having a slippy floor). This is a missed opportunity as it would create new gameplay scenarios and would further aid surprising players.​

  • Scope of the project for the time we had could of been managed better, the amount of cut features was quite large. The final scope was achievable, however we should have reached that scope sooner.

Other Team member Credits
  • Joe Brown - Narrative & World
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameDevJosephB

  • Jamie Carnell - Music & Sound FX, Production
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/zynthfulAudio

  • Cole Gilbert - Programming
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/NotARestoDruid

  • Emily Howell - 3D & Concept Environment Art
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmilyHowDev
    Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/emilykate

  • Sasha Kuznetsova - 3D & Concept Character & Environment Art
    Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/aksanchetta
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/kxznetsovadev

  • Thomas Neill - Animation
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlomaAnimated

  • Nathan Oladipo - Design, 2D Art
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/pecanrockin

  • Luke Pearn - Design

  • Amelia Pegrum - Concept Environment Art
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/velatair/

  • Edward Peters - Programming
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/Edward_Verdant

  • Eddie Pocock - 3D Environment Art, Main Menu Art

  • Lewis Reynolds - 3D Environment Art
    Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/lewisreynoldsgamearts

  • Luke Ryan - Programming
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/LukeRyan589281

  • Oskars Samovics - 3D & Concept Character Art, UI Art
    Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/selachi_art

Visit the Itch.io Page to play the game
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