Good morning to all you fancy people!
I feel like it is time to look back at everything I improved in Doppel Diner during this semester and sum it up into sound points.
Even though it is still a work in progress, DD has already come a long path from being just a whim I got a summer ago into a thought-through concept with an *almost working* build. As this year began, I was contemplating adding more narrative into the game but decided to focus on the visuals and interface this time, which aligned perfectly with my 2D Art for Games class.
The diner interior and cooking space layout (that got the JoyArt environment art nomination!) changed a couple of times. First, just because everything looked too chaotic, I moved the ingredients from packages to containers. Then, I “opened” the saucepan and toaster, because those were not registering as functional by players. I changed the positions of the plates, as it is more natural to go from left to right, and they were too close to the rubbish bin, then moved the drinks to where they are usually in real diners. Finally, I made it possible to return dishes to their initial spots instead of throwing them away! Those changes helped to make the game more smooth to play, minimize unnecessary mouse movements and help focus the players’ attention.
My biggest insight was to try other cooking games and realize that they all feature a step-by-step process, which goes like this: raw ingredient — frying pen — plate — guest. Thinking, I divided my own screen to feel and play it through: you grab a pot and put it on the stove, then add raw ingredients, then put it on the plate, and then all toppings go on top. Kerblam!
I decided that I would expand it even further and add a second screen with the guest seating area. My inspiration for that is an old Wii game, “Hell’s Kitchen,” where you both wait on tables and cook. For now, it is the basis for my future roadmap. I am currently developing a unique Guest Transfer System™, with helpful circle-styled request boxes at each table. In short, the guest will arrive and sit, and then you wait for them to ask for cleaning, a chit-chat, or food. Their order will then be presented as a soft-cornered rectangle order ticket in the middle of your cooking screen. It would expand based on the number of dishes and the existence of a drink in the order. A pattern on the background will help to understand in which pan to cook the ingredient. Circles with numbers indicate the table and have a timer that will tell how long the guest is waiting.
My biggest challenge was to keep showing this constantly changing and imperfect prototype to the world. Nevertheless, I managed to present “Doppel Diner” at least once per month at the festivals, which also informed my need to make it more appealing. The feedback I got from players of different ages, including the youngest ones at RPI Game Fest, made me overthink some aspects of gameplay. Also, with experience, I made a list of merch/materials that are a must for offline events, namely:
business cards with not just my name to connect, but also a project description and QR code for people to remember the context
one-sheets with the most important info about the game (I especially used to have a lot of trouble with people misunderstanding its connection to bipolar disorder)
elevated table that I just steal from my desk so that it is easier for people to play and also indicates they don't need to use a keyboard
stickers! I just printed them, and they are already really popular, and a great way for people to engage in conversation about the game far after the festivals
slightly unnecessary, but if you have this service in uni, I suggest laser-cutting an NFC tag on a wooden plate just because it draws attention and has a game's logo
So, that pretty much sums up the whole semester! I have lots of programming, narrative, and redesign plans for this summer, and will keep you updated on those. I hope that you enjoy your holidays and have a wonderful time!