Interview with Erik Johnson, Vertigo Gaming Inc. Production Manager (Cook Serve Delicious 3!)

Interview with Erik Johnson, Vertigo Gaming Inc. Production Manager (Cook Serve Delicious 3!)

GamerNation: First off, congratulations on your upcoming release of Cook, Serve Delicious! 3. For those that don’t know, how about telling us what’s new and improved in this game?
Erik Johnson: Thanks! There are some major changes in the series for CSD3 compared to to the first two games. You’re no longer stationary in a restaurant, but instead in a food truck campaigning (in nearly every sense of the word) across a bitter and wacky USA a couple of decades or so down the road from present day. This lore wasn’t created out of thin air for the third installment, it builds off of what was established in the first two games and specifically the in-game emails of CSD2. The big change for 3 in terms of story is that we put all of it upfront for players to encounter more passively, versus the previous installment where one would have to be actively seeking out this information.

In terms of gameplay CSD and CSD2 players will find the gameplay of CSD3 both strange and familiar — the mechanics of creating dishes largely remains unchanged from what it had evolved into by the second game. What’s different this time around is how the orders come in and how you must prepare ahead of time to avoid issues at your next stop. CSD3 levels typically lead you through routes of 3-5 stops with hungry customers waiting rather impatiently for their orders (which players know a bit ahead of time).

GN: How quickly did the team decide on the setting being a food truck? Was there other options that were considered but not chosen?
EJ: It didn’t take us too long at all, as a team we agreed that a third installment had to be a departure at least in some significant ways from the previous installments for its existence to have any merit. By the time we were completely finished with CSD2, David (Galindo, creator of the CSD series) was understandably pretty tired of working on the series and I’m fairly certain we wouldn’t have made a third game if it didn’t both metaphorically and actually get out on the open road.
There was one other idea long ago about taking CSD into the 3D space (CSD!3D?) after the second one, but (mercifully) that plan never panned out as we began to put together the design of what turned out to be the proper third title in the series (which had originally been dubbed CSD Foodtruck). 

GN: In CSD2, campaign progression allowed you to unlock pieces to customize your restaurant, however they were only visible changes and didn’t effect gameplay at all. Is there a similar unlock system in CSD3?
EJ: You’ll be able to earn cosmetic trinkets to display in your food truck as you see fit, as well as upgrade your food truck with dozens of gameplay-affecting modules. And of course you’ll be able to use your earnings from driving routes to expand your food catalog with 200+ foods.

GN: How do you feel that your game benefited from being tested in Steam Early Access? Did you also consider entering the Game Preview Program on Xbox?
EJ: It’s been big for us. CSD2’s initial launch went about as poorly as it could have from our perspective in terms of user experience. Negative Steam reviews were coming in at an alarming pace and we (and really mainly David) had to spin our wheels for a god 8-10 weeks after launch to steer it back on course. Which did occur, but not at all an optimal situation for anyone involved. Coming off of that, Early Access made all the sense in the world. Like, why didn’t we think to do that with CSD2?
Getting to work with our community on this level has been, to me, one of the key factors in why the game quickly grew its reputation as a solid, polished title for the Early Access crowd to get behind. And why we are feeling good about things heading into 1.0 next month.

GN: Recently I wish researching how to make your own game and I noticed that Cook Serve Delicious is among the notable titles that were created using GameMaker Studio. Can you tell me why the team decided to create the game using that program instead of Unreal Engine or other options?EJ: GameMaker was David’s preferred game engine of choice heading into the development of the original CSD, and it made sense to continue on with it through the series to this point. David would be the first to admit that he’s not a programmer by trade, thus GameMaker appealed to him as at the time of CSD’s development he was a solo designer/outfit and wanted to be able to make games on his own.

GN: Seamless drop in and drop out local co-op play was a very important feature in my enjoyment of CSD2. Has the team ever thought about implementing having online co-op as a possibility?
EJ: We definitely have. Ultimately it comes down to the significant cost of implementing that feature across 4+ platforms. The series would have to consistently produce a level of revenue that we just haven’t encountered to this point. A move like that at this point would be risking the company’s ability to stay a company moving forward, so it’s not likely to be something we look into unless the game seriously outperforms our expectations

GN: One of the hardest things in CSD2 was getting a perfect service without making a mistake. When my friend and I were playing the campaign you could just FEEL the moment you made a mistake and knew it instantly. At that time, we wondered…if you know you make a mistake why not have the option to remake the item so you can save a perfect service. Has that ever been considered?
EJ: These are all opinions of course, but from our perspective making perfect orders despite the pressure a player is under is the point of the game. Like a typing test, if you go to fast or rush and make a mistake, you (typically) have to live with it. It does make for a funny picture in your head though when you think about having to serve raw hot dogs and all that haha.

GN: With the official release on the horizon, is there any content that simply didn’t make the cut? Any possibility of a DLC later down the line? 
EJ: All the content we’ve packed in during Early Access has been pretty much everything on the table! We might look to add some localizations and perhaps an intermediate mode between standard and chill where you could earn bronze medals for perfect runs or something along those lines. Otherwise we’re really happy with how the campaign turned out and I think that’s likely where we’ll leave the game and trilogy — though we’re open to revisiting the series at some point in the future!

GN: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Congratulations again on the release of Cook Serve Delicious 3! Really looking forward to playing it on Xbox One!
EJ: Cheers!

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