Interview: Tom Eastman From Trinket Studios

Tom EastmanCombine ridiculously good looking concept art, an interesting blend of combat and cooking game mechanics, and just a dash of salt and you’ll get Trinket Studio’s freshly announced game Battle Chef Brigade. We recently caught up with President Tom Eastman to discuss the game and his experiences when starting a new indie studio after breaking away from his AAA roots.

Andy: So you’re about to make the leap from $1 mobile apps to fully fledged commercial PC development. Nervous?

Tom: The biggest change is that Battle Chef Brigade will take more than two months to make! There’s a lot involved in a larger game that we got to gloss over with our mobile games. We’ve had to get some help, particularly for art, sound, and music. Those changes come with a lot of challenges, of course, but it’s also really fun to let ourselves run a little wilder. We’re thrilled to be able to make multiple dollars per sale instead of pocket change. So, I’d say we’re both excited and only slightly nervous. We’ve worked on much larger projects before, especially at Wideload/Disney, so we’re not out of our depth yet!

Andy: If nothing else, having money to eat has got to be a bonus.

Tom: Absolutely!

Andy: Prior to starting work on Battle Chef Brigade, you guys published two mobile games – Colour Sheep and Orion’s Forge. Did you learn any valuable lessons from your first attempts at indie development?

Tom: Definitely. We started Trinket after having worked together for years at Wideload, but it still took some time to settle into a good workflow that respects everyone’s distinct styles. Our mobile games let us work through those issues quickly while still releasing games. On top of that, we actually started with the intention of releasing three mobile games. The third was codenamed ‘Accidents’ and ended poorly. We ended up designing ourselves into a corner, namely the Physics-Based Rube Goldberg Puzzle Corner of Doom, which taught us a bunch of lessons. Most importantly, we learned to work towards our strengths, which has gone a long way towards molding Battle Chef Brigade‘s design.

Andy: Something I’ve always wondered when I see developers from big studio teams break off and go ‘indie’. How are you finding all the extra jobs surrounding your own project? Has it been difficult to accommodate for all those extra tasks like social media and marketing now you’re flying solo?

Tom: It’s been both frustrating and educational. Accounting and legal issues are particularly bothersome and nearly always orthogonal to the game’s needs. Marketing, on the other hand, has been primarily enjoyable. Learning to talk about our games and honing our message are great general-purpose skills, for instance. None of us had Twitter accounts before Trinket, so the world of social media was scary at first. Now, however, I love getting to know people all across the globe who are also working hard on great games. Interacting with fans has been especially rewarding. It’s really too bad that development at large studios is kept so far from players.

Battle Chef Brigade

Andy: Now cooking features pretty heavily in Battle Chef Brigade. I mean the game focuses on making the best meals from what you kill and prepare afterwards, right? It’s not a common theme to frame in a game, and most people are going to instantly think of Cooking Mama as a comparison. Do you think there’s a need to distance yourself from these ‘cooking sim’ games, and if so how do you think you’ll manage to do that?

Tom: We set a goal for ourselves to bring “Fantasy Iron Chef” to life. Iron Chef, along with nearly all cooking shows, focuses on creative cooking. Most cooking games, however, focus on player execution of by-the-book pre-determined recipes. Instead of dictating what dish to make, we want to leave as much as possible up to the player.

Of course, the choices that chefs make, particularly when targeting specific taste and texture combinations, are really complicated and often based on decades of experience. We’ve spent a huge amount of time prototyping different potential solutions to that issue. Fantasy ingredients are part of our solution, since we have more room to specify how they work. At the least, players will have a lot less intuition about dragon tail than pork chops.

Andy: So, don’t hold out any hopes for a Cooking Mama cameo then?

Tom: Probably not. We do love the personalities of real life chefs, though, and hope to incorporate some of their quirks in our chefs. Cooking Mama is pretty quirky, so perhaps we’ll find a way to slip in a joke or two.

Andy: Please tell me there’s going to be a Gordon Ramsey character somewhere…

Tom: We’ll see! He’s definitely one of our favourite chefs.

Andy: Can you walk me through a typical… match? Round? How do you see the game play out? Can we expect a storyline and campaign to push players through a series of culinary challenges to become the best?

Tom: We’re still playing around with the possibilities, but right now a round starts in the Pantry Arena. There you’ll find yourself surrounded by monsters to slay for their ingredients. The monsters, of course, will try to prevent that. The opposing chef is also battling for ingredients.

Once you’ve collected enough ingredients, the next phase is the Kitchen. There you’ll be able to grab ingredients from the ones you’ve collected and start processing them at the various tables available. The default tables include stations for chopping, boiling, sautéing, baking, and plating. Of course, you can use other tools, like bowls, rolling pins, or pasta cutters to transform your dishes further. Those can help you make dough and eventually a pie, for instance. Eventually, you’ll want to have created multiple edible dishes to serve to the judges!

Mina Chop Gif Mina Eat Gif 

Andy: This format sounds like it would slot very well alongside a multiplayer mode. Is there any notion to look into doing something like this later down the line? I can easily see tense bake-offs happening amongst players.

Tom: It sure does! For now, though, as a team of just three, we’re focusing on single-player format against an AI chef. We see the potential and hopefully either a Kickstarter or big launch will allow us to add multiplayer support. There are other cool options that provide some of that competitive fun, at least, like Spelunky’s daily challenges.

Andy: Are you aiming to fund this project entirely by yourselves, or do you foresee a crowd funding/early access decision to be made later down the line?

Tom: We’ll definitely need additional funding to keep Trinket going as our full-time jobs, so Kickstarter and/or Early Access are very likely. We think BCB is intriguing enough to raise at least some money on Kickstarter. Our original plan was to launch the Kickstarter during PAX East in April, but we decided to postpone it and focus on the demo instead.

It’s clear the guys at Trinket Studios are pouring all of their creative juices into Battle Chef Brigade, and judging by the quality of concept art and ideas being thrown around I’m eager to see how this game evolves. If like me, you want to keep tabs on the development of the game, or if you just want to watch more of these awesome eating gifs, be sure to stalk their dev blog.

© 2014, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author:Andy Moore

Andy can usually be found screaming obscenities at whatever game happens to be in front of him at the time, usually because he can't make that final double jump past the laser ghost alien centaurs. When he isn't gaming, he's usually thinking about it. Well, Gaming or alcohol. Catch him on his Twitter handle @MrAndypanda

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply