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The Welcoming World of Battle Chef Brigade: An Interview with Ben Perez

By all accounts, I should have hated Battle Chef Brigade but it has been the most pleasant game experience I’ve had this year. It combines two genres that I typically hate: brawlers and match 3 puzzlers, in order to simulate something else I tend to hate: competitive cooking shows. I’m generally not fond of the frantic, cut-throat nature of most competitive cooking shows as it overshadows what I love about food—enjoying it with friends. There is, however, one exception: The Great British Baking Show which balances fierce competition with a distinct emphasis on aesthetics and friendship. Battle Chef Brigade artfully maintains a similar balance.

Set in the whimsical and beautifully hand-drawn world of Victusia, which is tragically overrun by monsters, Battle Chef Brigade centers on a group of warrior-cooks who keep the scourge in check. These “battle chefs” slay monsters and then use the meat from these monsters to compete against one another to see who can cook the best dinner. The game centers on Mina Han, an up and coming young chef seeking to rise through the ranks of the Brigade. The game’s gorgeous art, lovely aesthetic, and warm cast of characters make this competitive cooking far more inviting and inclusive than I could have imagined.
I recently had the privilege of chatting with Battle Chef Brigade’s tech lead and programmer, Ben Perez about what makes the game unique and what they hope players gain from their experience with his game:

Tell me a little bit about Battle Chef Brigade. What makes it unique?

At the outset it’s two genres mashed together: it’s a match 3 cooking game combined with a side-scrolling brawler. It also has some light RPG elements for good measure. So I like to say it’s like putting peanut butter and chocolate together. Those are two pretty distinct flavors and if you hadn’t ever tried them together you might not think they go great together but they do.

There are a lot of people, like me, who think of games like Candy Crush Saga when they hear the phrase “Match 3 puzzler” and might be turned off. We think of those types of games as uninteresting time-wasters,but I was surprised by how well those mechanics worked together to add needed tension to that genre.

It is a match 3 at its core but that’s just the base language we’re using. There are plenty of ways that the mechanics get more complicated. As you progress through the game new types of blocks unlock and you have to make multiple dishes in a single round, so you are literally managing multiple match 3 games at once and you are doing so in order to meet the demands of multiple judges. Players can also purchase different pots and ovens that add nuance to the experience. So the match 3 is certainly the base but it’s just the very outer layer of how complex it can get.

And you are always timed so there is that tension of what do I hunt for, how do I fight, and how do manage cooking multiple dishes to please multiple judges within the time frame. It definitely gets tricky.  If you had to narrow it down to one thing, what do you hope players gain from their experience of playing your game?

I hope they enjoy the characters and the universe we’ve built. Obviously, getting across the feeling of cooking has been a huge thing for us and the match 3 base gave us an accessible vehicle for that. We think its a lot of fun but really it comes down to whether players feel like they’re cooking. It seems that they do. What makes a good cooking show is the franticness and hecticness combined with creativity and passion. We’ve managed to combine those elements and produce similar feelings in those who play >Battle Chef Brigade.

There are a million other games you could have made, why Battle Chef Brigade?

The genesis of it was that we were trying to brainstorm, four years ago, what we would make next and we didn’t like any of our ideas.

What did you make before?

We had a mobile title four years ago back when our studio first started called Color Sheep that was also very colorful. That was a long time ago and we decided we didn’t want to make mobile games any more. So at any rate, we sat down, turned on the TV and it was on Food Network and we saw Iron Chef Japan. We were really struck by how cool they made cooking seem and how much focus they put on the contestants that actually do the cooking. A big part of the show was let’s talk about the background of this chef—who they are and what drives them. We saw this and we knew there was a formula for a game that captures something similar. So we set out to make a game about cooking and about chefs and about people.

One last question, why do you make games? What drives you to do what you do?

It’s sort of an evolving feeling I guess, I don’t know that I would have given this answer four years ago. But seeing the audiences that Battle Chef Brigade draws in has sort of changed my feeling about what it is to make games. There was probably a period where I was really enticed by the challenge and the complexity of design but now it’s great seeing so many different types of people come to the game and be attracted to it. For whatever reason, we see lots of couples playing it together, we see families playing together, and that’s not something I ever really thought would be a huge motivator for me but it is now. I’m glad that our game draws in those audiences. I think it’s approachable and that’s important to me.

I can see that. The beautiful aesthetic along with putting these pretty different mechanics together seems like it could work to appeal to people who are comfortable with one genre or mechanic but intimidated by the other. It feels like a very inclusive approach to game design.

Yeah and I think we’ve seen people say exactly that, “I am not really wild about match 3 games but I love cooking or the universe or the anime or the RPG elements, so yeah I’ll buy into this.” And once they get going with it, it’s all part of the same package and they love it.

Executive Editor at Penguin Random House. Author of Know Thy Gamer: A Parent's Guide to Video Games and founder of Love Thy Nerd.

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