The Burger Game - Dev Blog #002 : The Patties
In The Burger Game, there is a lot more management than meets the eye. Having been employed as grill chef myself, I took a great deal of inspiration and reference from my experiences and converted each aspect of skill into a game mechanic. While smashing and cooking patties may seem easy, it becomes more complex when you consider not only the limited grill space, but also that there are two sides to each patty.
The first and most obvious resource to implement was time itself. Because the patties would take time to cook, it required foresight and strategy from the player to ensure they did not fall behind on their orders. However, simply putting the patties on the grill wasn't nearly as engaging as intended.
When looking back at my experience, there was an emphasis on grilling both sides of the patties and being ready to flip the patties when one side is cooked. To replicate this, I implemented two independent cooking timers per patty- one to represent each side. While both sides did not need to be fully cooked, the patty required a minimum degree of being cooked on each side before checking if the total sum of both sides met a secondary degree of being cooked. If the patty met both of these requirements, it was ready to serve.
One of the strategies I learned at my place of employment was to predict orders before they came. This helped keep up with ticket times and prevent bottle-necking. The only downside to this was that if we dropped to many patties, they would go to waste. However, in a game where orders are constantly coming in, there is no such thing as wasted patties. In order to prevent players from having the entire grill filled at all times, I allowed for patties to become burnt so that if the player over-drops too many patties, they will eventually need to be dispose of the unused patties. This both controls the environment, and punishes the player with more tasks if they decide to play recklessly.
Limited Grill Space
By limiting the amount of space available, there is another layer of management in which the player must systematically place and supervise each of their cooking patties. In the workplace, we managed this by dividing the grill into sections and grouping our patties based on how long they've been cooking for. While players initially complained that they had difficulty reaching the patties they intended to, they inevitably developed similar strategies to those we had been taught in real life. Once the player understood that this was a mechanic in itself, they were able to use these systematic approaches to their enhance their play-style.
Visual Effects and Signifiers
Though players are encouraged to keep track of their patties, it would simply be too overloading on their short-term memory to keep track of every patty on the grill and each of their respective cooking timers. To assist the player, I added visual effects to represent the different states as well as when a patty is ready to be flipped. The first indicators the player will notice is that as the patties cook on one side, they will slowly begin to sizzle as blood rises to the top of the patty. Because this happens gradually, it is up to the player to decide if the patty is bloody enough is ready to be be flipped. Once the patty is flipped, the sizzling and blood is reset to indicate that the other side is now being cooked.
When both sides are cooked and the patty is ready, the patty will change to have a somewhat golden glow to it, indicating that is no longer raw and bloody, but is now juicy, cooked and ready to be served. If the patty is not served in time and continues to cook, the glow- and the patty itself- will turn black to indicate that it is now burnt and must be thrown out.
Because the game increases in difficulty over time, I wanted to do more than simply adding more patties to the orders, as this would eventually hit a wall due to the limited grill space. Instead I decided to add cheeseburger orders to add an extra step to the process. Adding cheese to the patties is not a hard task, but when orders are piling up and the player is in a hurry, this new obstacle adds a layer of tediousness to keep the player on their toes. Because cheeseburgers are tedious, I chose to make them occur much less frequently than the standard hamburger orders. No matter the difficulty, cheeseburgers will never appear during their first shift. Upon starting the second shift however, the very first order they receive will always be a cheeseburger. This is meant to teach the player that cheeseburgers exist, as well as give them time to process this newly discovered mechanic.