Kitchen Frenzy: the making of a tasty game

Here is the story of the creation of Kitchen Frenzy. I could have done a Post Mortem, but I prefer to tell you chronologically what happened in this beautiful adventure!
Kitchen Frenzy is a game concept that was shaped at the DESS Jeux Vidéo in Angoulème.

Kitchen Frenzy team:
  • Cedric Barthez: Producer, creative director, game designer and animator.
  • Emeric Thoa: Game designer and ergonomist.
  • Alexandre Jully: Game designer
  • Pedro Alessio: 2D and 3D artist
  • Christophe Panattoni: Lead programmer
  • Xavier Collet: Sound designer and music composer
  • Nicolas Magnesse: Programmer

The website:

Team building
It starts at the beginning of January 2004. As soon as we get back to the first courses of the DESS Jeux Vidéo, we decide ("we" if for all the promo) to create groups, for everyone to be able to start working on their projects.
Our group was created in a weird way. Being game designer and having quickly sympathized with another GD, Alexandre, we decided to create a group with Pedro, my room-mate. Afterwards Emeric, Xavier, Nico and Christophe join us a little bit by chance, not knowing where to go. There is also Roger who had invite himself, but he left us almost a month later, more interested by the Western project (a game that took place in the western).

So we started meeting to get to know each other better and think about what we wanted to do. So we did brainstormings and a whole bunch of other stuff around the word "Canicule" that was the imposed subject. The first idea was to make a game happening in a hot environment. Then, quite quickly, we came to think of the shamans, a subject that was very important to Xavier. The GDs went to work and pawned the principle of the pacifist shaman who fights only by taking possession of the shadows of his enemies. The idea was pretty good, the universe interesting, the group almost packed, in short it was nice. I've also made a storyboard that detailed the fighting principle of the game. Then we met our tutor... And he frankly was not inspired. So we questioned ourselves. The discussion with the tutor has especially shown the little interest that some members of the group could have towards this concept. So we took two more weeks of reflection.
Note: Our tutor at that time was Renaud Boclet.

The idea
During these weeks of reflection, we thought of a lot of stupid stuff (for example the concept of the shaman beaver). Then one day I discuss in class with alex and we come to talk about The Little Chief, a Japanese anime that went on TV in the 80s. I had never seen it but I liked the idea of a very delirious duel of cook. Then I discuss later with Emeric and I talk to him about the Little Chief that he remembered. And we start to delirious by imagining a duel where the cooks could send stuff to the face. I had even imagined a first level where they had to shop in a Hypermarket with caddies whose physics would be reproduced. In my mind it was a kind of Mario Kart with caddies. In short, this idea of duel of cook will make its little good way in our minds.

The vote
In early February it is Imagina. We learns among other things that we have a new tutor. Our new tutor is Alexandre Topol, a professor of CNAM. I will not talk much about him later, because we had saw him two or three times in all and for everything. He at least had the merit of letting us work quietly, unlike other tutors who were more invasive than anything else - I will give name a name ;).

Upon returning from Imagina we thought that it was good to choos a concept. So we had a meeting where we each explained the game idea we had during the previous few weeks and then we voted. There was the first idea of the shaman, the idea of a character that strolls on a magical cloud, an idea of a game of sledging and the cooking game idea. Finally we chose the cooking game - Alex, Emeric, Pedro and me having voted for this one in priority. Inwardly I knew that was a strong, simple and truly original concept. But in hindsight I think it is so original and shifted that we would have chosen another project if I had not been in this crazy team. Anyway, there was nothing left to do. We had only the concept of a kitchen contest where cooks could swing stuff in the face.

The work
So we started working on the game design by February 10th. Before arriving at the final concept we went through various game systems. The first was a game based on music and rhythm. The player had to cook his chef in rhythm. The more rhythmic patterns he gets, the more the rhythm increases. This system posed many problems, especially related to the interface. Personally, I did not want a Dance Revolution like interface on the screen. So we abandoned that idea.

One of our first wishes was also to put in place a lot of strategy. The player had to choose the order of preparation and cooking according to the time needed to prepare and cook them. Knowing that the preparation time also dependent on the dexterity of the player. Unfortunately, giving all this information to the players would also have asked for a rather too invasive interface. Yet we had thought of an interface integrated into the 3D environment. In short, we wanted a fun and fairly arcade game, so we got to the current system. The ingredients succeed one another in front of the cook, he must prepare them as soon as possible. Each ingredient offers a different gameplay based on reflex, dexterity, rhythm, etc. On top of that, the cooks earn Mario Kart-like bonuses to slow down his opponent.

There is also another point that was dear to us, is the quality of the dish. We did not want the success of the dish to be based solely on the speed of execution. So we thought about a quality factor for each ingredient. The final score depends on the speed but also on the quality of preparation (make least errors, etc).

From the beginning, the game featured a battle as a cook. And there was a long debate on split screen or not. The gameplay (and me) imposed the split screen.

A little word on the support. It was obvious that we had to make a console game. We did not see this kind of game for computer audience. And obviously it's more fun to play with controllers.

In short, all these gameplay questions were folded at the end of March.

The title
The first title was Kooking. Alex had first named the project of the shaman K Project. K is for the beginning of "Canicule" (heat wave in english). Then I had named the cooking project "Cooking Party", then "Kooking project" by taking up the idea of Alex's K. Then, I think it was Xavier who pointed out that we could play a word game with Kooking ... "Koo King". We had our title! In fact not quite, because Koo means XXX in Brazilian, so we changed with Kook King. We should also thank Gaetan who explained us that we can only make a good word game if both sides are also words. Very exciting, isn't it?

Sea, sex and fun
What is good about DESS is its organization. The first three months are spent in Angoulême (January to March), then the next two months (April and May) we are all scattered everywhere to take the specialty courses. The Game Design and Art specialties go to La Rochelle, the Ergonomics specialties in Poitiers and the Programming and Sound Design specialists go to Paris. Because I had the game design speciality, I needed to go to La Rochelle, a beautiful little town stick to the Atlantic Ocean. You can now imagine how exciting it was to study in La Rochelle during the spring :)

Loss of contact
In short, it falls nevertheless rather badly since we are supposed to go into production at that time, with the programmers on Paris and the artist on La Rochelle. So, it starts to feel bad in team management and project advancement. In fact we all had difficulties on our side to contact us by email. As a result, the less motivated have de-motivated themselves. And I knew it was going to happen that way. But I tried to avoid that by sending a lot of emails to keep motivating everyone and show that I worked on my side. In the end, the core of the team worked as best as possible, and even if we have gone a long way behind, we did advance a little bit on what we had to do.

For my side, I spent the entire month of April completing an advanced version of the game design documentation (with appendices and everything and everything ...). The lead prog did a few tests on Renderware and created a C++ structure for the project. At the end of March I quickly modeled two tables and two cooks for him to code the split screen and camera movements, which he made fingers in the nose, it seems to me ;)

The title (the come back!)
Finally, we changed again. From Kooking we went to Kitchen Chaos and then to Kitchen Frenzy. Chaos, it was too chaotic, frenzy (frantic) it fits a little bit more. And in front of Kook King, Kitchen Frenzy is a title that has a little more soul. We feels that we are going to laugh while playing it.
Note: thanks to Renaud and Clément Merville for help.

Early in May I started freaking out. The artist was seriously late about the modeling of characters (at least two weeks delay on the schedule), and the lead prog expected animated characters to start the game programming. Oh yes, in the meantime, I had made a storyboard for all the mini games to show to the programmer the gameplay and how they were supposed to look like. So I gave a hand and realized over two weeks a lot of testing with the programmer. I modeled two characters that I animated and then I sent them to him, and he tested everything about animation blending. We also wanted the cooks to hold objects in their hands and to change them when we wanted. So we tested all that, finally arriving at the end of May with all these technical issues settled.

In early June, we ended up in Angouleme to complete the demo. That's where we were at that time: The lead prog has arrived with a playable demo version with all the mini-games but with bad characters, bad anims, bad scenery and no interfaces. In short, there was text debug on the screen and we played like that. He had even coded an ai for the computer :)

Xavier had had quite a lot of problems previous two months (computer bugs, etc) and had only composed the music for the menus. It had even come with quite a few sounds. Moreover, he could not work at Angouleme at all because the computers we had was too weak to compose, and he had left most of his stuff on Paris. So he had planned to go back and forth to Paris, to bring back what he had to integrate. And to tell you everything, I do not know how he worked. What I know is that when he fixed a delivery date to him, he held it. So I did not try to understand.

Pedro had not yet completed the modeling of the two characters, and we needed to do the rigging. No scenery or menus had been made. Nevertheless, the game logo was realized.

For my side, I had finished with Alex an almost final version of the game design documentation. Emeric made only some adjustment by the end of june.

Emeric had completed all his ergonomic duties and was ready to work (The ergonomic teacher gave them a lot of work to do).

But I'm sure you say that I had forget someone... Yeah, I forgot the second programmer we had no news for two months. Needless to say, he had done nothing. But the time was not for settling of scores and we started to work.

I will not go into details for the month of June, but we worked in an iterative way with this order:
  • Adding of the final version fo the cookers with a placeholder version of animations and sounds
  • Adding of a first version of the UI
  • Adding of the props (knifes, meat, cabbage, etc)
  • Adding of the scenery and the final version for the animations and music
  • Adding of the camera movements, of the audience and the audience sounds
  • Adding of the menus and a second version of the UI
  • Adding of the gameplay bonuses
  • Debug and tweaking

Regarding the sharing of tasks, I made the anims cooks, the UI, the movement of the camera during the intro, some 3D objects and various little tricks.
Emeric made the menus in flash, colorized the characters and made some adjustments in the documentation.
Alex worked on the trailer's storyboard.
Pedro modeled the characters, the scenery, some 3D objects, drawn the characters of the menu and the crowd. He also realized all the visual of the trailer, and made the editing.
Xavier made the music of the game, the sound effects, the sounds of crowds, and the sound editing of the trailer.
Christophe has programmed everything except sound and menus.
Nico has integrated menus and sounds.

We also spent a lot of time on the playtests (we asked the lead to change the settings almost every day).

Finally, we did not have any big problems during the production. Only a few small technical problems that we were able to resolve quite quickly with the help of other students of the school.

LThe presentation
So, in early July, we presented the trailer and the demo in front of a full amphitheater in the magnificent premises of the Centre National de la Bande Dessiné (National Center of Comic Strip) in Angoulème. In the audience there were mainly teachers, tutors, and professionals but not from the video game industry. Oh yes, there was nevertheless Nicolas Gaume that represented Ubisoft. He was quite nasty with the previous groups (we passed last). So when we passed and came to the moment of "Are there any questions?" We thought it was going to be our party. Well no, he just said "Anyway, congratulations!" And I can tell you that we were very proud. He also invited us to go and show our game at Ubisoft mid-July. Maybe I will tell you later what happened during that meeting with Ubisoft, but for now, the only thing that I can tell you is that our game doesn't interest them that much because they were doing more serious games at that time (Note two years later: it was before the Wii tsunami).

The end?
In conclusion, I would say that we would never have reached a such level of quality regarding the demo if we did not have in the team so much talented people with varied skills.

We were also smart enough to choose a technically not-so-difficult-to-do type of game (no collision management, etc.) and easily demonstrable in 3 min. We were able to focus on the details that make all the differences (camera movements, intro, etc).

The other element to highlight is the motivation of the team. Everyone was motivated because we knew we were going to do something good, fun and original. The motivation of a team is surely the most important thing to take into account during a production! We had the feeling of doing great things, that's what boosted us!

The last step was the website that I realized at the end of august. Now we will try to talk about the game everywhere. Who knows what will happen. Hope is living...

Download the demo and give us your opinion. The computer is perhaps a little too strong, but with some training, you can beat it.

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