Applying good game design to the idea of Chop! Chop!, we thought about what would be going on inside the player's head when they interacted with the game. Nuclear Compost games are always generally designed around a few core concepts: make the player think, allow the player to experiment, and stick to the classic "easy to learn, hard to master".
Thinking your way through a game of Chop! Chop! is not a relaxed vision of a grand strategy. Instead we we did our best to keep the player in a state of non-stop mental flow. To create flow, you need to have the game be at just the right difficulty level - not too boring and not too crazy. The player needs to always feel like they are right on the edge of their ability. This is pretty difficult to do in practice.Chop! Chop! levels start off slowly so that the player can get their head back into the game, and then ramp up to an oscillating pattern of spawning customers. In the early levels, it's possible to serve every customer if you keep on your game. As things get more difficult, it becomes increasingly impossible to actually serve every customer. This is where things get interesting. Once you've hit that point of becoming overwhelmed, you'll have to really focus on which customers are worth serving and which you should just leave alone. It's this state where players will be most in a flow state and where maintaining concentration is vital.
As you play, you'll probably notice there is a distinct spot where you get overwhelmed and the number of mistakes you make begins to skyrocket. You're trying to cook too fast, still in the mindset of trying to serve everyone. Eventually, you'll probably miss someone, and you'll still be overwhelmed. You'll recognize that there's just too much to do all at once, and you'll have to focus. You stop cooking and take a quick assessment of the restaurant conditions, make a decision of who to cook for next, and start at it. For the next few minutes, hopefully you'll enter a nice flow state and cook just as fast as you can.When a level is over, you get to see how many customers you missed, and it gives you a nice goal for the next time you play to try and figure out how to do even better.
The skills required to do well in Chop! Chop! mostly involve concentration, pattern recognition, planning, and experimentation. The mechanics the game provides for you to play with are all meant to make these activities interesting to engage in.
One pretty obvious mechanic in Chop! Chop! is multi-tasking. It's easy enough to cook a single meal for a single customer. But you'll probably notice that the cooking timers are set such that cooking 2 concurrent meals is pretty easy to do, and cooking 3 concurrent meals is more difficult but still possible. That's no accident. We want to encourage the player to have multiple meals going at once to keep their mind jumping around between multiple tasks. Everybody's brain will come up with different tricks for how to remember what to cook next, which food goes to who, and so on.
Another mechanic in Chop! Chop! is the use of hidden information. Customers don't tell you what their order is until they sit down, you don't get a lot of time to react. Smart players will probably recognize that all meals involve the use of a carb and a veggie, but only some require a meat. Well wouldn't you know, carbs take the longest time to cook, followed by veggies, and meats are the quickest. This lets the player prepare the most common ingredients ahead of time and be able to complete a meal in less time.
We encourage experimentation in Chop! Chop! by providing multiple ways of accomplishing the basic tasks needed to complete objectives within the game. The ability to adjust the stoves' cooking temperature is one example. Also the way you can serve meals one ingredient at a time or one whole wok at a time. You can cook meals to order or you can cook up a bunch of ingredients in advance and then use them when they're needed. Each player will probably find their own favorite way of playing the game, and they'll find a challenging experience whatever their playstyle might be.
Getting faster at Chop! Chop! is mostly about making every second and every click count. While any player is going to have their own clicks/second that they can sustain, there are a lot of little tricks to being able to cook multiple meals but use fewer clicks. Also, even in some fairly intense games, there's still downtime where you don't have anything to do at the moment. These moments are built for you to be doing prep work for the next wave of customers. Finding the most productive way to fill in even the smallest gap in cooking for a current customer is another area where people will be able to constantly grow and learn new things.
The restaurant environment also provides some interesting features to note. For example, the stove closest to the ingredient station will often be the most used, since it is the quickest to fill with ingredients. Likewise, the plates closest to that stove are usually the quickest to serve to. It's just one small detail for prioritizing which customers to serve first, but it's fascinating how every detail counts!
We hope you enjoy playing Chop! Chop! Let us know what you think abou the game and what else you'd like to see.