Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! updates

I took the rare step of buying Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! on its release date at full price because (1) I expected it to be worth it and (2) I intended to play it immediately. That’s a common Steam rule, right? “Don’t buy it for more than $5/75% off unless you are going to play it today”? Yeah, I logged several hours that first night, as promised. I feel like I owe you an update to that edited note of “you may or may not want to wait.”

I found the game playable and enjoyable at launch, with some limits. There have been three updates in the week since the game launched. In addition to bug and stability fixes, it added mouse support to menus, which is probably a sign that it shipped before being quite done. Additions included some rebalancing, more achievements, cloud saves, and decorative options. Nothing huge. The bigger update coming next month will add a sandbox mode and a mode more like the original Cook, Serve, Delicious!, without changing the two modes that currently exist. That seems to be catering to returning players, without wanting to take away from players who like the newer approaches. The big change that I am looking for, customizable keys for ingredients, is also projected for that update.

Without that feature, I am enjoying a subset of the game. I have found areas I will not enjoy without customizable keys. I am playing with a keyboard, and some of the default keys are absurd. The best simple examples come from the dessert restaurant: sprinkles are P on ice cream and S on cannolis, while chocolate sauce is usually C but O cannolis; Taiwanese shaved ice has mango ice (A), mango sauce (also A, on another page), and mango fruit (M, not A, on the third page); Taiwanese shaved ice also does exciting things like abbreviating “jelly” and “boba” differently between ingredients and giving blackberry boba pearls the letter E, which is not even present in the abbreviation used (“Bo.Blk.Bry”). These are whiny details, but there are a lot of whiny details across 180 foods, each of which can have more than a dozen ingredients, and the whole point of the game is to hit these keys quickly and consistently. When your time limit per customer is counted in the seconds, and you need perfect days to unlock medals and new foods, pausing to check that Texas tea is X not T can be enough to lose your gold medal.

That said, I have been enjoying myself. I am avoiding restaurants and foods where I strongly want to rebind keys. I do not need to pursue all the Chef For Hire levels (yet!), and I can pick whatever foods I want in my restaurant. Those levels range from trivially easy chances to learn recipes to ridiculously difficult. That is intentional. One of the design goals of CSD2 is to let the player pick the difficulty. You can get a fairly even difficulty curve going through the Chef For Hire levels and leveling up. The upcoming modes will provide more customization opportunities. If you have ever wanted a game that will let you pick your own degree of difficulty consistently, CSD2 will do that, while delivering the original game’s fun of very hectic cooking and serving (or you can dial down the hecticness).

I will not consider it fully ready until version 1.1, but it is certainly playable and enjoyable now. And then there will be more updates after that.

: Zubon

The Swapper

The Swapper is a puzzle game with the mechanic of creating clones of yourself and swapping between them. You use that mechanic to deal with the expected obstacles like standing on pressure pads and getting around areas that block cloning/swapping. The story deals with a mysterious space station, which is apparently key to saving humanity but mostly abandoned and home to telepathic alien rocks. I assume more of that is explained later. I have been enjoying it so far, and it is apparently not terribly long. The puzzles may or may not stay sane.

This gets a mention mostly for being the greatest existential horror game I have ever seen, just based on the mechanics. The game has falling damage (instant death), but you get around that when rising/falling great distances by creating clones of yourself, swapping with them, and letting clones fall to their deaths. Just keep killing yourself, it’s fine. I want to make a movie reference, but even telling you the movie would be a spoiler. Spoilers allowed in comments, if anyone wants to chat about it. Non-spoiler book reference: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

I have been warned that the achievements are utter BS. They are hidden terminals with nothing to note their existence, where you need to do things like travel through what look like solid walls or make jumps of faith. The game does not even mention their existence, except for numbered, completely unexplained achievements. They also apparently hold some of the story of what is going on with the human race in this setting. If I enjoy the game enough, I might borrow a guide and get to them, or I might just look up what the bonus 10 pages of story are.

: Zubon

Sproggiwood

A cutesy roguelike. Decent but not great.

On Normal difficulty, it is a very short game. You should have little trouble rampaging through the levels, especially if you repeat some levels with the classes you unlock and get the extra gold. It has some amusing mechanics like the magic doors that appear late in the game and whenever you use a Scroll of Wonder. Those get you things like pastel sheep and mirror farmers that throw teleporting pitchforks.

On Savage difficulty, the game is subject to the usual roguelike nonsense where information is hidden and not everything is possible. The difficult is not necessarily unreasonable, but it can become a war of attrition in which the game may not give you any health refills, or where the equipment that will help you get through a level will get you killed against the boss. Savage difficulty does create some truly interesting situations by mixing up what the monsters do, like having exploding monsters fire in all eight cardinal directions instead of just the usual four. Sometimes those interesting abilities become a problem, because you may run into a combination of them that you cannot beat with your class and equipment, or even escape. And because it is a roguelike, that is randomized, and one of the game’s explicit goals is to defeat every level with every class on Savage difficulty.

That constitutes half the achievements in the game. The other half is basically “play through the game on normal difficulty,” plus a couple of oddities.

It is hard to get angry at the usual roguelike nonsense when it is hidden under cuteness. There are still times when randomness is more important than your decisions, but I found that I did not care as much. That led me to asking whether I actually care, and why would I play if I don’t care? And done with Sproggiwood.

: Zubon

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is now available

steam message announcing the release of Cook Serve Delicious 2 If you’ll excuse me, I need to focus intently on my computer for the next day or four. I have a wedding to attend. I might miss it.

ETA: If you are not mad hyped about CSD2, you may want to wait a few days for bumps to get ironed out. The opening note says that a few features were pushed back to make the launch date. There is a bit of clunkiness. Still, CSD2! If it is mostly as good as the first one, it is worth full price.

: Zubon

Gaming Tables

Every time I go to Gen Con, it restores my resolve to buy a gaming table, although that always remains in the “after the next time we move” category. And I haven’t moved in a while. And Geek Chic shut down this summer after their deal on Shark Tank fell through. It’s a shame; I cannot speak to the market for high quality, high margin, low volume, niche market luxury products. Last year’s Gen Con post will direct you to competitors like BoardGamesTables.com and Caroline Game Tables.

Let’s talk about a few new entrants into that space. In honor of last year’s theme of “everything seems to be on Kickstarter,” all three are Kickstarting right now. Crowded market all at once, but “just after Gen Con” is either the best or the worst time to catch tabletop gamers.

  • Transforming Designs had a Game Anywhere Table campaign, now running a sequel campaign for more versions. Their gimmick is the portable nature of the table, which folds up, along with a variety of magnetic add-ons like card holders and “player pockets.” Portability is nice, although I am not sure how often I have needed a portable gaming table. It also has a bit of that folding table feel and is built around an assumption of four players. Much less expensive than the more permanent tables, $400 versus more than $1000. At which point you may have an uncomfortable comparison versus the cost of a non-gaming folding table, which is closer to $20.
  • The Gaddis Gaming TableTopper 2.0 is also a follow-up Kickstarter, this time to a project from two years ago. Their version is also portable and, as the name implies, is a topper to covert existing tables to a gaming space, intended for miniature wargaming. Their new project is for adding customizability and options, like finishes and modular components for larger and smaller gaming spaces. It is made of foam, which helps with the carrying and floating. In case you have ever wanted to do some gaming while swimming. The Kickstarter is already successful, but it seems far less popular than the actual tables, which has a lot of reasons behind it: foam, built for the even more niche wargaming market, not actually a table, rails on only two sides, fewer options, cost comparable to the lower-end Game Anywhere Table.
  • The Table of Ultimate Gaming is a more traditional table and then some. They have fewer options than BoardGameTables.com but are much more competitive on price, capping at $1000 as a Kickstarter price where others start above $1000. They have two sizes, three heights, and a few colors, which must help with keeping down some complexity and cost. They add complexity back in with the sort of modular add-ons that Geek Chic and the Game Anywhere Table have. They have decoration packs in case you want to advertise it as a gaming table rather than disguise it as a standard dining room table. What I found most interesting was modular tables sizes. The sides are removable, so if you want a bigger table (now or later), just get a second table put them together (I am unclear on whether anything would hold them together except gravity and friction). Downside: assembly is required, and the lower surfaces of the table make that apparent. Compare these corners to these ones from BoardGameTables.com. The latter advertises hand-crafting, whereas this advertises laser-cutting. You get a bit more of an Ikea experience here, at a much lower price. Having power outlets in the table is nice for some options. I am unclear on what the “play mat” is made from.

Thoughts? Comments? More information or other recent entrants into the market?
: Zubon

4000 Achievements

steam achievement showcase: 4000 achievements At the end of the year, I will have been on Steam for 10 years. I just earned my 4000th achievements, so I earn about 8 achievements per week. Many of those must come in large lumps, because I do not play Steam games everyday, nor does everything generate achievements. Still, we all have those days when you complete a game and get seven achievements all at once for various options you chose along the way.

You have heard me have strong opinions about achievements in games. I apparently have some experience with them.

: Zubon

“Imagine if Starbucks was run like Steam”

Wilhelm strikes back on the gaming market. Excerpt:

The video game market is overloaded with choices, most of which are uninspired imitations or direct knock-offs of worn-out concepts we’ve seen many times before hidden behind a series of horrible user interfaces that defy people to actually find the gems in the huge steaming stack of dung that is the video game market.

: Zubon

Gen Con 50

Gen Con was this past weekend, its 50th anniversary. It was the largest ever, with 207,979 “turnstile” attendance (about 60,000 people, most of whom went for multiple days). It overflowed into the football stadium next door, and it still completely sold out before the convention started. Those are impressive numbers for a bunch of gamers getting together.

I skipped this year, and Gen Con may be too big for me at this point. That is a lot of people to have crowding into even a large space. Extroverted nerds are exceedingly excited, and cosplayers will have an ever-growing audience.

: Zubon

Lost Cavern

The brawl map of the week for Heroes of the Storm is Lost Cavern, HotS’s version of LoL’s ARAM. In many ways, it solves some of the problems with both HotS and ARAM.

The basic problem of HotS has always been that minigames trump laning and fights. ARAM removes any objectives except team fights in one lane.

ARAM is as random as the name suggests. Lost Cavern lets you pick from three heroes and shows you team comp while you do. Controlled randomness, rather than absolutel chaos. You can still win and lose on team comp, but not utterly and before the game starts.

: Zubon

Rubber Duckie

A friend blogging at The Unit of Caring writes about rubber ducks as the ideal of gaming … if you are a baby. Excerpt:

… the reason we enjoy different media at different ages is that interesting things are things that are the right amount of surprising and comprehensible. … Interesting things are in the sweet spot where they make enough sense you can form expectations and not so much sense that your expectations are wholly sufficient and the follow-through completely predictable.

And to a baby, the most delightful game in the world is ‘throw the duck out of the bathtub; throw the duck back into the bathtub’

She discusses what “the right amount” means to us and to a baby. Please do read for a delightful vignette. “Merlin” is the baby in question; she is not bathing an ancient wizard of inestimable power (or if she is, that is a different person).

: Zubon

The blog name is a reference to this post, discussing a concept better known as “earning to give.”