Cooking Mechanics for an RPG

Hey I’m in the works of making a rpg game where you play as a chef who has to eat a lot (I’ll make a follow up post about the project once I get more stuff done for it). And I have a good idea about the mechanics about it. RPG turn based combat, optional bosses you can encounter, plus more I share later. The one problem I’m facing is the cooking part. Not really in terms of equipment, but the mechanics behind it. Here’s a list of mechanics I’d like to try and add but may be scrapped.

  • have a recipe system that makes cooking easier
  • have ingredients that can provide buffs/health when consumed
  • food poisoning chance that will do a debuff to you
  • ingredient preperation: where you get the raw food items needed plus any inedible stuff (like scales that can be turned into armor)
  • actual cooking of food where you need to insure it doesn’t burn. For example two timers, one green for how Cooked it is and a red one for Burning. Once the green timer is filled, all that remains is a red timer.
  • Time limit on how much food can be cooked per Cooking Session (may scrap time limit but will keep # of cooking sessions)
  • merging two or more dishes into one, like Fried Meat and Veg + Rice = Stir Fry. This will provided additional bonuses as well as increasing its hunger value
  • upgrading equipment where you increase the time limit, how many items can be cooking at a time

Ultimately, I want to create a cooking system that rewards creativity while also not being too repetitive. My moto for game design is “I wouldn’t make a game that I wouldn’t enjoy playing”, so I want to hear what you guys have to say cause you may have a better idea of what is more enjoyable.

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First thing that comes to mind when I think creative but deceptively simple cooking mechanics is Potioncraft. It’s got a neat system where you use ingredients and dilution to make a path across what’s basically potion map, but since all that matters is where you end you can use a ton of different combinations to make the same thing depending on what ingredients you have on hand.
I feel like something like that would lend itself pretty well to regular cooking, especially since you can make different main flavors in different directions according to what components work well (i.e. sweet things tend to go on the left of the map, and stuff like sugar and honey mostly go left).

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I like the idea of a cooking style game. What engine were you going to use?

Depending on what engine you have in mind, I have an idea for quite a few of these

Something that could help is to define the scope of the cooking by being a specific chef. “Chef” is a fairly nebulous term whereas roles like “sushi chef”, “pastry chef”, “sandwich artist” “grill master” etc can give an indication of what sort of foods they can be making and can simplify proceedings or lend itself to gameplay.

Imagine if the character was a sushi chef and used tile laying of ingredients to make combinations of sushi. Or if the game focused on juggling the cooking times of various meats.

Specialisation could be the answer!

Ok breaking it down.

Not going to lie, that is a cool idea. But I don’t think it’ll work for this project. It feels a little weird just throwing random ingredients together that lead somewhere on a map. It works perfectly for potioncraft, but I don’t see it working for this. Maybe if it was made very specifically, but idk.

I’m planning on using Godot, mainly for two reasons. One, I am not good with coding and I heard from a pal that this is somewhat easy to use. Two, unity is in a bit of hot water right now.

That is something I did not think about. And frankly it would work into what I have in mind for the game, where you could choose a “class” for every run in the game and there would be benefits to one class or another. I’d just like to figure out exactly how recipes work in game as I initially thought they’d just be a collectable item that carries over in each run, but not so sure now.

In my mind, each dish starts off with 5 blank spots for ingredients and you fill those spots as you see fit, and I’m going to make it not tedious in this process, like instead of buying ingredients for batter/dough and making it, you just buy the dough and it works for stuff like homemade pasta or cake (regardless of how many pastry chefs I enrage).
Plus with the dish combos, you press a button to combine meals and only works for certain combos (I don’t wanna be cruel if someone decides that fruit salad belongs in/with veggie soup)
I did have some minor inspiration from the Cooking Mama franchise where you prep ingredients for each food item and you eventually make it, but I don’t want it to be tedious as you gain new ingredients throughout a run and will cook eventually.
Lastly, here’s my original take on the cooking phase of cooking. It basically was a timed event where you have to churn out as much food as possible before you loose the fuel for that cooking session (fuel regenerates, so no worry about buying more). As well as that, the mini game would have the Chef utilize two attributes called Might and Speed (DnD’s Strength and Dexterity for a better understanding), where Might would help stir the ingredients faster with higher amount and Speed would be how fast you could move from one cooking spot to another. Was this a bad concept?

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Ah godot… I haven’t quite done much with it…. So I’m afraid I won’t be able to provide as much help as I’d like.

The act of cooking can be interpreted in a number of ways, with different games ranging from the simulation approach, where ingredient preparation and managing timers on multiple workstations is the key, to more abstract and arcade styles that can focus more on ingredient combos and the like.

As such, there’s no real right or wrong approach to take here; only ideas that pan out to be more or less fun given the context of your game. The key thing to keep in mind though would be: what focus or emphasis would be fun for the player that also best utilises the game’s format (ie, its genre or the platform being used).

If you are able to prototype an idea and get people testing it, that would be invaluable!

One thing I want hop in here and stress really quick is the need for a cooking system to have sufficient QoL. Far too often I come across cooking systems that are too cumbersome or time consuming to bother using. After all, why would I take minutes and multiple menus cook food that gives me a minor benefit when I can just get the pre-made food and save myself the time?

QoL is generally something that I think people need to keep in mind. I’ve just noticed it a lot more with cooking systems. If the system is too cumbersome to use, people just won’t bother with it.

A few general things worth keeping in mind on the QoL stuff:

Time is a big one. creating the food shouldn’t take up pointless time the player could spend playing the rest of your game. Generally, I think food should be able to be created quickly so long as the player has the resources and or skill to make the food. This can be done through each meal being created very quickly, or better yet making food in bulk. The point here is not to waste the players time, making the act of cooking more tedious than it’s worth.

I’ve also noticed that some cooking systems can get really cumbersome. A specific inventory tab for ingredients can do wonders for this. Finding ingredients should also be efficient, otherwise people won’t bother looking for them. Having some ingredients be hard/complicated to get is fine so long as the reward for the difficulty is worth it.

just some things to keep in mind. I’m not going to say my examples are the only way of doing things, but I think this sort of thing is just as important as designing the broader aspects of the system. Bad QoL can really bring down a promising system.

I get what you’re saying but we do have to be careful not to pass on opinion as diktat as any direction taken by a game is down to the creator’s vision in what they hope to achieve in their game and the experience they want to convey.
Nothing wrong with expressing likes and dislikes based on one’s own experiences, but again we have to be mindful not to treat these as objective statements (which to be fair to you you had disclaimed in this instance).

@SWAlexa This only serves to highlight the importance of a working model, for two reasons:

  1. It’s far easier to provide informed critique and assess a working model when one can tangibly see what works, what is fun etc.

  2. It puts your vision out there, grounding aspects as to what you want to see in your game. Without this, any discussion is mere speculation - a guessing game played against the thoughts locked away in one’s head.

Whilst I respect that you have outlined a solid idea, there’s no escaping the fact that there have been other previous ideas that has fallen through. The reality is that all thoughts on paper are largely ephemeral and subject to mercurial whims so until you actually commit to them, they don’t hold a lot of weight. Better to take the idea and start producing something with it, even if it’s completely bare-bones as it will give you a foothold as to how to proceed.

Hey @AlexKay I appreciate the concern. But I do want to be careful with the cooking section as I want it to be an integral part of the gameplay loop. If I make it too repetitive and tedious, it could hurt the person’s enjoyment of that. Ultimately for now, the best way to find out how good or bad a system it could be is to make it reality. It’ll be a short demo where you can cook with lets say 20 ingredients and a few specialty cookware.
And I am planning on adding some pre-cooked stuff but will not have much of the benefits of food you cook. They might provide some health and hunger but will not be able to provide buffs. For now though, I wont be worrying about buffs just yet.

But to explain the concept I have in mind in more detail is a three phases (plus a feeding phase that will also showcase how food poisoning would work. plus beeg belly :wink: ). The three phases are Ingredient Chop Up, Dish Preperation, and Cooking.

Ingredient Chop Up will give the player all the raw ingredients from the stuff they forage and kill in game (part of the loot in game is cooking ingredients from monsters) and how you cut them up. Plus, this is where you can spice up food item before Dish Prep, like Salting a Steak or putting Sugar on Sliced Berries. Additionally. you will have a few different knives and tools to help with this process, which will provide different results based on what you use. Like you can Grind Up some Monster Meat or A Butcher Knife to make Monster Steaks, and they will provide different stats like Mince Monster Meat will loose some of the benefits it could provide or Monster Steaks can have a minor Food Poisoning chance.

Next is Dish Prep where you take all the Ingredients in hand and put them together into a pan. This is where most of the experimentation would come into play, as you mix different ingredients together. This is also where Recipes come into play, where you can click on a certain recipe and the game will automatically add the ingredients to make it work and what pan would be best. You can switch out some ingredients in the 5 panels and click a ‘Create Dish’ button to finish it up. And taking some minor inspiration from you Alex, some dishes would be automatically made such as Sushi, Fruit Salad or any food that doesn’t require cooking. And one final thing I’ll add to any uncooked dish is a cook time and burn time estimate, so you can plan out your cooking session so you can worry about more easily burnable food.

Lastly is the Cooking Phase where you need to manage a Cook-Tron 3000 w/ regenerating Fuel Source (so you dont gotta buy fuel) and cook up as many dishes as possible during the 3 minute time limit. And in the settings before cooking, you can change how many stations there are and increase/decrease the time limit to try different things. Once you hit a ‘Start Cooking’ button, the timer will begin and you have to manage cooking. To start cooking dishes, you’d click-n-drag them to a station and begin to cooking. Like I mentioned and showed earlier, there’ll be two timers; A Cook Timer and Burn Timer. Burn timers appear when you aren’t at a station and are removed when you move there. Moving from station to station takes a few seconds at most. Once the Cook timer is filled, a burn timer will appear if you aren’t there and the food will be automatically removed when you arrive to the station. Once the time limit is up, any uncooked food will be discarded and any partially cooked food will have a food poison chance relative to the amount it cooked (higher time, less likely for FP).

Then the Feeding phase will just showcase how food poisoning would work (similar to how Darkest Dungeon deals w/ status effects) and show some art of the main character getting fat (done by me :slight_smile: )

I hope that explanation helps with what I’m aiming for and apologies for its lengthy wording, but besides what I’ve shared here, the best way to really know how good the game would work is to make this mechanic a functional demo. If the mechanic is too complicated, it will probably be simplified further but I want to try something cool here. Thanks for reading

EDIT: Will not include spicing with the demo! Those will provide minor buff in the full game but not necessary for the demo.

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No matter the creator’s vision, I think these sorts of things are important to consider. Of course, it’s possible that a person might make a system that works well by chance, but I don’t think it’s best to hope it just works out that way. I think it’s best to consider these ideas carefully. One must be careful of how they execute on their vision, or else they might end up betraying it.

That said, again, nothing I mentioned was ever intended to be must-dos. They’re more suggestions. There’s never a one correct way of doing things, but a multitude of possible solutions for any given problem in a creative medium. My post was simply a conversation starter to get people thinking on those factors, because I often see people consider them as an afterthought despite how impactful they often are on a player’s experience.