Trinket Studios was at PSX this month to present a fully playable demo of Battle Chef Brigade on PS4, slated for a 2017 release. I had a chance to get hands-on time as well as interview Eric Huang, Co-founder and Artist at the studio. We discussed the art direction, core mechanics and challenges of making a game like Battle Chef Brigade.
For one, I was immediately blown away by the art aesthetic. Some would liken it to Studio Ghibi, Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra. “They’re absolutely right because I love those. I love Miyazaki. I love Avatar,” says Eric. “It’s a lot of studying, watching those things, and obviously a bit of my own style applied to the game.” For the combat and core gameplay, it was an old-school SEGA game that Eric looked to for inspiration. “I am huge fan of a game called Guardian Heroes that was out on Sega Saturn. It’s basically this anime style beat-em-up game. I just really wanted this cool 2D side-scrolling combat.”
So how did the match-3 stuff come into play? For Eric and the team, it was a lot harder than to implement than it appeared. “It may seem like the most obvious marriage, but in order for us to get to the idea of food done in a match-3, it actually took us a year because we tried so many different things.” Minutiae things like a tracking system that involved turning dough into a pizza pie or tart ultimately became “way too cumbersome…and not fun to play,” Eric states. “So finally we decided how we abstract the flavors of our ingredients into elements like fire, water, earth.”
The core mechanics of Battle Chef Brigade intertwine all together, and the progression system looks to take more from MMOs rather than traditional RPGs. “It’s actually a lot more about the gear that you get,” Eric explains. Your difficulty scales as you progress through Mina’s twelve chapter campaign. And fighting monsters to acquire ingredients, the process was fairly simple. “That was very clear to all three of us on the team. Yes, it’s a fantasy game, you are absolutely going out there and kill monsters.”
Being an indie developer based out of Chicago, I asked about what it’s like to create a unique game like Battle Chef Brigade and what was the biggest challenge that arose from it. “Pretty much everything,” laughed Eric. “What made it so difficult is figuring out, what are the actual mechanics, how are you going to cook, how are you going to fight.” Despite all of this, Battle Chef Brigade makes its pitch by taking inspiration from reality cooking competition. “The thing about Master Chef, Top Chef, Chopped, it’s about inventiveness and timed competition. So there wasn’t any game out there we feel that captured this type of tournament feel.”
Having been in production for nearly three years, technology changes and the way people interact with games as well. I asked the team if they felt affected by any of this. “One thing, as we were working on this game, a number of gorgeous 2D side scrolling games have come out and then released,” Eric says. “Even though with all this tech coming out and there’s VR and 4K. I just feel like we haven’t, we still haven’t been seeing many hand-drawn games like this. So I’m happy that it still has its own little niche.”
For Trinket Studios, 2017 seems to be the year that Battle Chef Brigade makes its long awaited debut and with Adult Swim Games stepping in as publisher, specifically in funding and marketing/PR efforts, it appears to be on track for broader recognition in the gaming circles. In many ways, it’s also a big gamble for the team. “I hope that they see that we took this risk of the mashup and marriage of combat and puzzle,” Eric mentions. “There’s more to it than what they might see in some screenshots. I hope they get a hands-on and they enjoy it.”