Crumbs! Dev Blog #5 - Cooperatives
In anticipation of the Kickstarter launch of Crumbs! The Sandwich Filler Game, its designer (Jon) and publisher (Scott) will be discussing the process of designing and developing a game from concept to creation! This week, developing the cooperative mode for Crumbs:
Jon: Maybe it’s just me and the people I have played with but I find cooperative games a bit Marmite; I either love ‘em or hate ‘em (actually hate is far too strong a word but then I couldn’t use the Marmite analogy!). So I am absolutely over the moon with how the co-op has turned out and how much I love it!
Initially, Crumbs! was designed as a solo game with a co-op mode that was mechanically almost identical with types of actions split between players and the additional twist being it’s so busy you can’t talk to each other whilst making sandwiches. The two main things that immediately popped up were -
1 - People preferred just playing it solo as a group ie: discussing and working out how to win.
2 - The imbalance between the actions meant that one player typically had more to do or got more of those delicious mini-endorphin hits from completing sandwiches.
Scott, who has far more co-op experience than myself (including currently designing a “bigger” co-op game) suggested some changes and spent some time developing and playtesting new co-op rules. When I met up with Scott to test the new ruleset, I was a bit blown away by just how good it was. It felt like a very different experience although the tweaks to the base game were minimal. And it was hard!. Maybe it was because Scott and I seem to work well as a team (I’ll read this when it’s published to see him disagreeing 😅 (No disagreements there! - Scott)) or maybe because each player has their own order cards, but there was loads of interaction without the “Alpha Gamer” issue that can come with some co-op games.
As the core rules exist - namely a sandwich must be made every 5 turns or less, the biggest difficulty now was going to be how to ensure that both players have an equal amount of sandwiches/finish at the same time so that those combos needed for the “bigger” sandwiches are always possible right up until the last order. But how could that be achieved without it being a confusing faff to setup or janky and too different to the core game?!…
Scott: Some solo games also make great multiplayer games. Some make great co-op games. And some are best left as solo games! Despite my desire to expand Crumbs! beyond 'just' a single-player game, I was only willing to if it was good enough to exist on its own merit. In addition to the initial co-op mode that Jon mentioned we also discussed a competitive mode, but we agreed that whilst they offered more ways to play, they didn't offer a new experience.
We did find however that Crumbs! lent itself more towards cooperative play, so after further exploration I began testing a cooperative version that used all the existing components as the solo game with the same tight (if not tighter) gameplay, and an exciting new twist to elevate the cooperative nature of the game. But how does it work?
I wanted to emulate the frantic communication and teamwork found in the video game Overcooked (a real-time co-op cooking puzzle game). To that end I split the Ingredient Cards equally between the two players (three sets of fillings each and half the bread) and gave each player an Order Card from their ingredients. Each player can only assemble sandwiches using the ingredients they have access to, but may pass an ingredient to their colleague as part of an action (instead of placing a second card on another sandwich) or as their entire action!
This required planning and discussion between both players to ensure they had the right ingredients at the right time so they could both serve a sandwich at the end of their five actions. But it turned out, it was too hard! Bread was a scarce commodity and fillings ran out quicker than players could restock. So with a few tweaks, we were able to make it a less punishing experience:
Bread was now shared between players and was restocked for free after serving a sandwich.
The Pantry (discard pile) was also shared and players could restock any fillings back into their counter.
When redesigning the order cards (see our previous blog entry) I also made sure that each pair of identical fillings equaled the same number of sandwiches so that co-op games weren't left with one player needing to complete more sandwiches than the other. With these changes, the cooperative game reached a point without excessive setup changes and additional, but offering a shorter and more intense experience that players have responded well to!
In our next entry, developing Crumbs!' aesthetic and art style!
Public playtesting is still taking place for Crumbs!, to get early access join our newsletter: