"What's Cooking?" is a multiplayer asymmetric cooperative game where players must serve hoards of hungry customers in a less than typical kitchen! Ingredients and serving plates come out on two separate conveyor belts, chefs need to grab what's necessary before it's gone. With all the mayhem, communication is key. Players must balance the wants of their customers, the feedback from their fellow chefs (whether they be AI or human), and the speed of the conveyor belts. Ultimately, players must serve all of the customers with as few mistakes as they can manage.
My goal for this aspect of the project was to create a dynamic and engaging tutorial for the game "What's Cooking?" I studied the Jackbox Games tutorials for inspiration. I've always felt like Jackbox Game tutorials have been clear yet entertaining. One of the main factors that I think helps Jackbox Games tutorials is how dynamic the characters and animations are. Oftentimes, the instructions are illustrated for clarity. I tried to replicate this style of explanation in this game.
To me, an important part of making players interested in the game is introducing them to the world's characters. My goal is for players to want to help Chef Doodle, so him and his plight are introduced first. This welcomes players to the game and gives them the motivation to play.
After the introduction, players can join the game by pressing the space bar, the button they have been using to continue the game's dialogue so far. By using a single button to progress the game, it is established that when the space bar is pressed, the player wants to move forward. This pattern will help to establish the player's needs moving forward.
Due to the odd layout of the game's kitchens, it's important to explain to players how the different belts work. The ingredient conveyor belt is explained first as ingredients are integral to making food. The food is shown going from one end of the belt to the other, exactly as it would in game. Different ingredients are utilized to show that the belt can have a variety of items on it.
Next, the dish conveyor is shown. This is an important aspect of the game because the plates are where all finished and in progress dishes go. Unlike ingredients, dishes cannot be removed from the conveyor belt. The food placed on the dishes, however, can be removed whenever the chefs need. However, if chefs can't get their food back onto the plate before it reaches the end of their belt, they'll have to settle for the next plate... If there is one!
CONDITIONS FOR FAILURE
It's important for players to know what happens if they fail to serve one of the meals. This menu explains that players have three lives which decrease if the food they serve does not align with the food on that day's menu. In game, players will be able to reference the menu, although it does lose them time. When players fail to serve a meal, their screen will flash red and a star will be lost, matching this tutorial.
Up until this point, players may be unaware that they will be working within multiple kitchens. To make this clear, it is visualized alongside the different "What's Cooking?" personas. Each player's kitchen is set up the same way, the only difference is that some players come before others in the conveyor belts.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEAMWORK
Some players may have a difficult time understanding what working together across kitchens means. This example with the different chefs shows players how they could feasibly communicate with one another throughout the cooking process. In-game, players are also provided with emotes, such as a burger, a knife, a pan, and more that they can combine together to express themselves. This helps players who may not feel comfortable communicating through voice.
JOINING A LEVEL
When players join the game, signifying they are ready to continue, their animal persona pops out so that players can understand who is ready and who is not. A check mark also appears so that players can easily count how many more players they need to progress.
In-Game Communication System
Since this game involves both AI and human players, effective communication between them is crucial for seamless collaboration. With this in mind, I set out to design a simple and intuitive interface that facilitates clear understanding among players.
I implemented a click-based interaction system, allowing players to easily indicate what task they are currently working on. This information then appears on the screens of other players, enabling them to comprehend each other's actions. Players can click on it again to indicate completion to the entire team. By adopting this approach, I aimed to strike a balance between facilitating efficient communication and minimizing any disruption to the gameplay itself. The interface provides only the most vital information, allowing players to quickly glance at it and plan their next move without losing focus on the game.
In the initial version of this screen, we explored a kitchen-note system to convey urgency through colors. For example, red could mean very urgent. However, after playtesting, we discovered that human players didn't feel the need to communicate urgency explicitly. They simply needed the items without the added complexity. Based on this feedback, we iterated on the prototype to streamline the process, focusing on intuitive item requests. This allowed us to create a gameplay flow that feels natural and effortless, enabling players to concentrate on the game's objectives.
In the second iteration, we made the decision to simplify the urgency system to just two distinct states: a "!" to indicate urgency and a "?" to represent a request for item location. However, during playtesting, we observed that players often used these two communication points in similar ways, resulting in confusion and misinterpretation.
We also explored implementing a spinning wheel mechanism, allowing players to quickly and intuitively indicate the specific food they were referring to. This modification aimed to streamline the communication process and make it faster and more precise. Additionally, we introduced the concept of a map within the game, providing players with a visual representation of their position within the kitchen system.
The main menu screen provides players with the option to join a preexisting kitchen or make their own. To make the process of joining versus creating a new kitchen clear and engaging, I designed two visually appealing illustrations which represent joining and creating. These illustrations serve as interactive buttons, adopting the same pressable style as the other buttons in the menu. By incorporating these visual cues, players can easily distinguish between the options and navigate to the correct place.
To facilitate players creating their own kitchens, I implemented a simple and intuitive process. By allowing players to enter a room name of their choice and select the desired number of players, I aimed to make the creation of new rooms simple and intuitive. The goal was to remove any obstacles or unnecessary complexities, ensuring that players can swiftly establish their own kitchen and dive into the game easily.
Figma File Organization
My goal was to make this file easy to use. Components and variants were grouped so it is easy to replace food components with other food components, chefs with other chefs, and animations with other animations. All assets were exported as sprite sheets and put into a shared Google Drive for developer use.