BitSummit 10 Developer Q&A: Cuisineer dishes up dungeon-crawling and restaurant sim action
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan's longest-running independent game dev festival, BitSummit, reconvened this August in Kyoto. A special deputized deployment of VGG staff attended the weekend-long event and reported back with exclusive Q&As with developers in Japan's pioneering indie game dev scene. Check back in with us to explore an exciting batch of upcoming games in VGG's BitSummit 10 coverage.
Today, we're peeking inside the oven door to see how Cuisineer is cookin'! Read on for an exclusive conversation with the developers of this half-sim, half-hack-and-slash dungeon crawler: A game for foodies that's sure to delight!
Half rogue-lite dungeon crawler, half restaurant simulator, Cuisineer takes players down into the depths of randomized dungeons to find ingredients, which they'll later cook up and serve in a restaurant. Leaning hard into a cute aesthetic, the game by BattleBrew Productions has a very characteristic art style on display in both its characters and the extremely tantalizing illustrations of the food that they create. Rather than have the two sides of the game be completely divorced from one another, the main character Pom uses food- and cooking-based attacks in her dungeon crawls, be it slashing with paring knives or smashing enemies with a frying pan.
Cuisineer was among the nominees for Bitsummit's International Award, awarded to the game from an international developer that exemplifies overall excellence.
A member of the BattleBrew staff, Shawn Toh, spoke with us at their booth at Bitsummit, sharing some insight into the game.
VGG: “Please introduce yourself and the game we’re talking about today.”
Toh: “I’m Shawn Toh from BattleBrew Productions. We are a studio of about ten people from Singapore. The game we have is called Cuisineer, that’s like Cuisine and Musketeer ... So that kind of tells you what the game is about. In this game, you venture down into dungeons, get your ingredients, come right back up, and then run your restaurant. Use the money you earn to get better gear, rinse, and repeat. Some folks have compared it to Moonlighter and Recettear. That’s not a bad thing for us; they are an inspiration. It’s similar to that, but it’s a restaurant instead."
VGG: “What would you say would differentiate yourself from that?”
Toh: “It’s quite a bit. I wouldn’t say that we’re here to reinvent the wheel, we’re here to cook you a nice meal you’ll enjoy. If you like steak, we’re not here to give you nano food or molecular cooking. We’re here to give you a good steak, but maybe with like a different sauce. So for us, we really liked the combat feel of even unrelated games like Dead Cells and Hades. Both are inspirations, both for the meta and snappiness of the combat. We wanted to make something that we could be proud of combat-wise, because we love those kinds of games. The other half of it came about because of the pandemic.
So Singapore has been in and out of lockdowns over the past two years. Nobody is happy about that, but it’s necessary. One thing as a studio that we realized was honestly, we were really lonely. How do Singaporeans bond? It’s over food. We couldn’t even go out with friends to eat, you couldn’t go out with your family to eat, you can’t travel, obviously. So we are foodies: Let’s make a game about food.”
VGG: “So how in depth would you say the combat part is and how in depth is the cooking part?”
Toh: “Let’s talk about the combat first. It’s hard to quote numbers, because this is all abstract, but I think we are like 65% combat and 35% cooking. So the combat is obviously a lot more stressful, you want tight controls and all that. We want a variety in enemies, we wanted you to have different weapon loadouts and everything.
So other games have their element systems or whatever, we have five tastes and two temperatures: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Umami, and Bitter, and Toasty and Icey. That kind of corresponds back to: Toasty is fire and Icey is ice, right? Bitter is your poison analog, so if you wanted to run a DoT build, damage over time, then you stack bitter and toasty. Umami is shielding and reflecting, so if you want a more defensive build with more debuffs, maybe Umami and Sweet. So Sweet is a weakener and makes enemies take more damage and deal less damage. If you put it that way, we looked at inspiration of different games like Diablo, Dead Cells, Hades. We took some of the more random elements of those games — which are great, by the way — but we wanted a little bit more control in a more classic RPG shell, and put it on your gear instead.
In contrast to that, the kitchen side is more chill. As an example, we found that you having to serve the customers in addition to cooking proved very stressful. In general, most of the customers serve themselves. That being said, there’s still variety there. There’s lunch rush and dinner rush, you’ll meet dine and dashers…we’ll give you ways to work around that, but in general: restaurant more chill than combat.”
VGG: “What would you say is the thing that you like the most about your game?”
Toh: “That’s really tough. That’s almost an unfair question, because it’s like asking which kid you like the most … The Smackerel. It’s a one-handed weapon: You smack someone with a fish. You can wield salt and pepper shakers as fist-type weapons…but the Smackerel is, I think, it’s emblematic. It’s goofy enough.”
VGG: “You mentioned your inspirations arose in the pandemic, but what made you go in this direction?”
Toh: “There’s no real answer there except that we wanted to make a game that we’d be proud of. So the pandemic hasn’t been kind to indie devs. A lot of things got disrupted. Cash was really tight at one point, and then we asked ourselves as a studio: If this was the last game that we were going to make, what were we going to make? So we took what we loved and decided to run with it.”
VGG: “If there was anything audiences could do to help you out, what would it be?”
Toh: “Wishlist would be nice. Basically, if you like the game, or you like any aspect of the game, just let your friends know. And then if you want to see something in the game, I’m not going to promise it because we still have a schedule to go on and there’s this thing called feature creep, but it’d be nice to know what you like about the game and what you wish to see in it. That would help. I think … people have no idea that we exist or this exists.”