Role: Systems Game Designer
Team Size: 15
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. 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. 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
Other Contributions include:
Balanced difficulty between normal and hard modes for 2 levels.
Scripted gameplay feedback (screen shake, slowdown, UI animations, camera transitions).
UI layout design.
Aided the organisation of playtest sessions.
Key communicator between all specialisms (programming, art and audio especially).
Changing the way bullet hell games are played
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. 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.
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?
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 forces players to learn patterns with a new purpose, to extract goods instead of only dodging.
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.
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, therefore we wanted to provide it through bullet patterns.
Cook food combos to increase judge satisfaction
Combos are intended to allow players to discover ways to improve their play. Learning set combinations of food generates combos which are satisfying for players to uncover and utilise. Especially as they give players a large point bonus! We made sure the crowd celebrated with an animation, audio cheer and confetti, as well as some light screenshake to really sell the satisfaction of pulling combos off.
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 little narrative present has no conclusion, or 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.