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Category: Flipline Rewind

Flipline Rewind: Unfinished Sarge Game

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By , May 8, 2019 10:29 am

Hey Everyone!

To celebrate OnionFest, we have an extra-special Flipline Rewind for all of you!

It was January 2007 when we decided to start work on a sequel/spin-off of Papa Louie: When Pizzas Attack! We wanted to focus on Papa Louie’s main antagonist, Sergeant Crushida Pepper. We now simply refer to him as Sarge.

We wanted the player to see things from the perspective of Sarge immediately after the biggest defeat of his career by Papa Louie. Sarge was demoted in the Onion Army and put on recruitment duty by the Army General.

In order to rise through the ranks and bring glory back to his name, Sarge needed to rebuild the Onion Army one recruit at a time.

This puzzle-platformer was going to be structured around picking up and throwing things. He would recruit new onions by pulling them out of the ground, and use them in battle by tossing them around. Along his journey, he would come across a wide variety of onions. One such group of onions were Rocket Onions. You may have seen them in a past holiday post. Fun fact: our customer, Boomer, was created based off of our old designs for the Rocket Onion.

Some old friends and fresh enemies were to also set to make appearances in the game. Radley Madish was originally created for this game, and was to be the mad scientist who created Rocket Onions.  Ever wonder why Jellybacks seem a little out-of-place in our games? That’s because they were designed for Sarge’s game, and at the time, we had planned out a world that wasn’t entirely made up of food-based baddies.

At the time, Flash games were still at their infancy and they were still a few years from reaching their peek. During that time, many companies and portals were experimenting with different ways to monetize Flash games. While ad-revenue was just starting to pick up for Flash games, the emerging concept of Microtrans for free games were being beta tested in the form of Kongregate’s Kreds and Mochi Media’s Mochi-Coins.

By the end of planning, we had decided on an episodic style for the game. As Papa Louie’s ad revenue was not sustainable at the time, we decided that Sarge’s game would be divided into many Episodes. Each episode would then have three chapters. The first chapter was free, while the remaining two would be unlocked by our favorite salesman, Big Pauly. He would sell you a key to unlock the rest of the map via a small in-game purchase.

Being episodic, the gameplay would be very story and character driven. Lots of NPCs and story based goals for each of the levels. Looking back at the plans, it sounds like a pretty fun game.

So What Happened??

Well, after an intense round of development that lasted a few months, we had a working demo of the game engine. Unfortunately we had bills to pay, so we had to get back to work doing not-so-fun stuff like making websites for consulting firms. Papa Louie: When Pizzas Attack, although very popular, was not bringing in enough money on ad revenue alone. In order to make this Sarge game a reality, we needed to find funding for it.

We were also worried that by the time we could finish a game of this size, people would forget about the world of Papa Louie. So we started brainstorming about a different game, that we could feasibly create, and give our small fan base something to do until the next big game. That game would eventually become Papa’s Pizzeria!

In the meantime, we pitched the Sarge game to several companies. One of those companies was Kongregate. They were looking for games to fund as part of their Premium Development Program. After a quick phone pitch about the Sarge game, we understood that they needed something much larger that incorporated multiplayer and a more robust micro-payment system. We were a little down that the Sarge game would be put on the back burner, but the idea of landing a game on Kongregate’s Premium Development Program was a dream scenario. So we ended up pitching them several other games that would better fit into the program. One of them was a large, island hopping adventure game, and the other game which ended up getting green-lit was Remnants of Skystone.

With Remnants of Skystone, we were able to build off of the platformer engine that we created for the Sarge game. We even incorporated enemies and mission ideas from Sarge’s game, albeit in a much more edgy/grittier fashion. Wrangling cute cow-like Mooners back to their mother became guiding explosive Embermites to their targets, and fuzzy Slender-Foots became creepy Stiltskins, just to name a few.

Papa Louie 2 & 3 were also based off of Sarge’s game engine, and revisited a lot of characters, animations, and game ideas from that original planning session of Sarge’s game.

Ultimately, we would spend the next three years working on Remnants of Skystone. After that game was released and sadly proved to be unsustainable, we had to quickly find other ways to pay the bills. Unfortunately, at that time, making Sarge’s game without funding was just way too risky. But for a game that was never fully realized, it has had a lasting impression throughout our entire gaming career.

 

 

Flipline Rewind: Jacksmith

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By , April 6, 2016 9:17 am

Introduction

At the inception of Papa’s Burgeria, we came to the realization that we could go well beyond pizza with our hands-on style of gameplay.

On that very day, we quickly scrawled down on our whiteboard the basic core structure of what makes a Papa’s game work. While doing that we quickly discussed, “Whoa, wouldn’t it be cool if you made weapons instead of food”. Not knowing where to go with the idea, we wrote “sword crafting” on the whiteboard and left it at that.

Several years and 5 Gamerias later, we wanted to try something brand-new. Although our Papa’s games were immensely popular within the casual games arena, they never quite caught on with the “core” gaming crowd. We would always see our Gamerias getting low ratings on sites geared towards fighting and RPG games, and understandably so. When you’re all about shooting hordes of zombies, a game simulating food preparation was probably not your immediate idea of a good time.

So we decided to challenge ourselves: We would make a game using the main concepts of a Gameria which would somehow appeal to both the “core” and the “casual” gamer. We immediately looked up on our whiteboard, and in that little unerased corner we noticed our years-old note mentioning “sword crafting”.

From there, ideas started pouring out…

What Went Right

1: A World of Warriors and Weapons

We started with a rough idea about the game taking place in Medieval times, where you would be playing as a blacksmith. To bridge the gap between core and casual players, we decided to leave ordinary humans out of the picture and use animals for our entire cast of characters, focusing on the animals that would be found in Europe during the Middle Ages. At one point we even had an idea that you were a field mouse riding on top of a turtle, but we decided to go with larger animals instead.

At first, we thought the whole game would be structured around building swords. However, as we started fleshing things out, we quickly realized we would need a variety of weapons to craft. Soon we “hammered” out our final list of weapon types: Swords, Bows and Arrows, Maces, Pikes, Axes, and Shields.

2. Battles and Bombs

Throughout the course of the brainstorming session, we realized how anticlimactic it would be to make all these weapons for warriors, then call it a day and close up shop. That worked for the Papa’s games, because nobody wants to sit and watch Wally eat an entire anchovy pizza. But in this game, players would know that all the real action was taking place beyond your blacksmith shop, so we decided that the player would need to come along for the ride and see how the weapons held up.

This is when things really started to diverge from the Papa’s formula. Story ideas started flowing, where the Blacksmith was rallying the troops, and he was slowly moving down the road to the final battle. The stationary blacksmith shop soon became a traveling wagon in the distance as the troops battled in the foreground. Seeing your weapons in action would be exciting, but we decided that the player would need something to do during this time so it didn’t just seem like an extended cinematic interlude. Initially, we thought simply picking up loot that the baddies dropped would suffice. After a few tests, we realized that there needed to be something to tie the player in with the action. That’s when we came up with adding a cannon to the wagon, which could use a variety of cannonballs, each with distinct properties that could either help fight baddies or power up your party.

After we planned how the battles would work, we started to flesh out what the player’s progression would be like in the game. We started with the core concept of how progression works in Papa’s games, where you always make forward progress based on how well you perform your tasks, and you never move backwards or get overly penalized for how poorly you play. We learned in Steak and Jake that it was very frustrating to have your progress reset after making one mistake, so we try to keep this lesson in mind for all of our extended-length games. But in Jacksmith, how would a player know if they did exceptionally well crafting weapons? That’s when we decided to add a treasure chest at the farthest point of the battle trail for each day. If you crafted great weapons and used the cannon just right, you could reach these goals, but if you didn’t you would still be that much closer to your next level-up and unlockable item.

So the next problem was what to put in those treasure chests besides just a bunch of loot and gems. As we worked on how weapons would be designed, we soon figured out what would work as a great reward for these chests.

3. Open-Ended Orders

While planning how players would design each weapon order, a problem soon arose when we realized that a player’s inventory of parts and ores would always be changing. Warriors wouldn’t be able to have specific weapons to order, since you might be all out of silver ore or that cool diamond arrowhead. That’s when we came up with the idea of open-ended orders for each weapon. Each animal would have a weapon of choice, and when they came to your shop, they would simply ask for that type of weapon. It would be up to the player to craft the best one for the situation.

We were then faced with another question: Why would you decide to use one part over another when crafting a sword? We decided to give elemental properties to each part and style of weapon, and in turn, elemental properties to different enemies so that strategy became priority in crafting the weapons. Of course, for players to develop a strategy on how to defeat that day’s enemies, they would need to actually know what kind of baddies would be along their path that day. We decided to add a blacksmith apprentice who could scout out the trail before the start and report back to Jacksmith, and that’s where Scout was created. He’d still need to tag along with you and the warriors so he’d be available to help the next day, so we decided he could man the cannon as well.

Now that we had elemental parts and open-ended orders, we had a perfect idea for what could be in the treasure chests: Epic Weapon designs! Since orders were open, we thought it would be cool that if you made a very specific type of sword, using all of the right parts, it would give your warriors extra stat boosts in the next battle. This would also lead to another layer of strategy, where the player might save up certain parts or ores for later instead of using them right away, in hopes of unleashing an Epic Weapon when it would really help in an upcoming battle.

What Went Wrong

1. Elemental Enemy Overload

Enemies were initially just monstrous versions of all the warriors, but when we needed elemental baddies, we decided that each enemy would have a unique visual style for each of the 8 elements. We started on the shield-wielding Woolcrest, with each variation redesigned to match each element. For the wind element it became a Woolwind with feathers and a beak, while for the water element it became a Riverhoof with fins and gills. This proved to be far too labor intensive, and with 72 more elementals to create, we had to resort to simply changing their colors, and even that took a while.

2. Too Much Time Outside

Early on, when the battle sequence was more of a leisurely hands-off experience, we thought we needed to avoid a landscape constantly looping as the battle moved down the road. A great deal of time was spent making randomly-generated backdrops that were different throughout the entire trail. However, once we incorporated the cannon into the mix, we realized that the player was more concerned about the state of their troops, the cannon refills, and picking up loot to notice if they saw that rock in the same location two screens back.

3. Overbooked

One last thing that went wrong was simply the fact that we were not prepared to handle a second highly popular game franchise. Because of this, we were unable to make a timely sequel which would have kept the franchise’s momentum moving at full speed.

 

Conclusion

Jacksmith was born out of a self-imposed challenge that we could make a game that both “core” and “casual” gamers would enjoy, one that would be highly-rated among fans of the Papa’s games as well as with those who love strategic, battle-fueled games across other sites.

In the end, Jacksmith was a success! The majority of our fanbase fell in love with the game, and it was highly rated across all gaming portals both core and casual. To that degree, we underestimated the success that Jacksmith would have, and we were unable to put our entire focus into a timely sequel that would have surely kept the Jacksmith franchise moving forward. But fortunately, almost 4 years later, Jacksmith is still a relevant Flash game that is being played by hundreds of thousands of people each week!

 

Play Jacksmith!

 

 

 

Flipline Rewind: Papa’s Freezeria

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By , January 26, 2016 9:41 am

Introduction

The date was August 5, 2011 when Papa’s Freezeria launched on Flipline.com. It had been over a year since our huge MMO game Remnants of Skystone had launched and quickly failed. We were frantically working on games during this period, doing everything we could to keep Flipline afloat. During this small window of time, we managed to launch seven Flash games including Papa’s Freezeria.

Work on Papa’s Freezeria started immediately after the successful launch of Papa’s Taco Mia! Once it was completed, we started looking for someone to sponsor the game before it was released. Around this time, large gaming portals would sponsor your game by giving you upfront money in exchange for their links and branding to appear in the game. This also usually included some period of exclusivity, where the game would only appear on the sponsor’s website before being available anywhere else.

We were lucky enough to have Armor Games sponsor Papa’s Freezeria, who had also sponsored our platformer “Steak and Jake” the previous year.

What Went Right

1: Sundaes + Concretes

The idea for an ice cream based Gameria actually arose while brainstorming Papa’s Burgeria, though we made Papa’s Taco Mia next instead because we were still uncertain how ice cream would work. But with fresh eyes, we came up with the idea of combining two tasty ice cream treats: the sundae and the concrete. For those not familiar, a concrete is a treat in the US that is like a milk-less milkshake, blended with larger toppings, and eaten with a spoon.

Concretes are great, but when put into the context of a game, it’s just mixing a few ingredients and blending. We decided to add an additional step where you are placing toppings on top of the concrete like a traditional ice cream sundae. From that idea, we created a perfect “blend” of sundaes and concretes that made the gameplay more entertaining, and the orders even more tasty and unique.

2. Customizable Lobby

Papa’s Freezeria’s big addition was the customizable lobby. Our previous Gamerias did have furniture, but the lobbies were pre-designed, and you were simply unlocking the hidden furniture.
The problem with that system was the limited amount of furniture that could be brought. Once again, people found themselves late in the game, with tons of tips and nothing to spend them on.

Now that the lobby was customizable, we could design a huge catalogue of decorations to put in the shop. Players could then pick and choose what furniture and posters they wanted to display. This ended up being a hit, and people were posting pictures, showing off their own unique lobbies in their games.

 

What Went Wrong

1. Working on the Build Station

This was by far the trickiest station to figure out. We spent a lot of time, testing different mechanics to get the blendable ingredients in the cup. At first, all the mixables and syrups were laid out on the screen, and you had to manually pick them up and squirt them into the cup. Initially we had a very complicated portioning system, where the larger the cup size was, the more scoops you had to put in. It was tedious, confusing, and was too similar to the Topping Station.

We decided to scrap everything and speed up the process with the use of push-button machines. We added moving meters so that you had to time the button press in order to get the perfect portion of ingredients. And as a bonus, if you timed it just right, you would get extra tips from the machine.

This added a unique and fun gameplay experience for the Build Station while speeding up the overall build time.

Early Prototype of the Build Station with Taco Mia place-holders. At one point we thought it would be fun to draw on the cups.

2. Hackers + Exclusivity

When Papa’s Freezeria successfully found a sponsor, we created a special version of the game that would be featured on their site. As was common at the time, the sponsor would have the game exclusively on their site for a while before other websites could show it. After this exclusivity period was over, we would release a second version of the game (called the “viral version”) that could be spread across the other major gaming sites and could be played anywhere. This viral version would also feature MochiAds in the game, which was an ad system we used at the time and was our primary source of income.

Of course we didn’t want the sponsor’s version of the game spreading across the internet early, so we programmed the game to only work on the sponsor’s website. If someone tried to copy this game onto another website it just wouldn’t work, and they would have to wait until we released the “viral version” if they wanted a copy for their website.

Unfortunately, as soon as the game launched on our sponsor’s site, a Chinese gaming site stole the game and hacked into it. They removed our site-locking code, so that the game would now work on any website (including their own) instead of being exclusive. This version immediately went viral, and spread across the internet. Even worse, we realized that while the hackers were removing our site-locking code, they also removed all of the MochiAds that would normally be shown in the game. We made Papa’s Freezeria with the intent that the ads in the viral version of the game would help pay for the time spent making it, and help pay towards us making other games.

We were devastated. Within a day, the game was on thousands of sites illegally, and we were losing out on all the ad revenue we desperately needed to make. During this time we worked like crazy to contact each and every site owner, and inform them that they had an illegal version of the game and they needed to wait until August 5th to get a copy of the viral version. Some sites were really cooperative and removed it, but a good majority simply ignored us.

 

Conclusion

Papa’s Freezeria turned out to be a fan-favorite Gameria. It was our first foray into sweet foods, and proved to be immensely popular. However, the launch of Papa’s Freezeria was disastrous thanks to the hackers, with tons of lost revenue and tons of stress. The launching of a game is the most critical part of game development, and Papa’s Freezeria’s taught us a lot.

Papa’s Freezeria was the last time we looked for a sponsor (Cactus McCoy 2 sponsorship was already set up, even though the game launched later). After our experience with Papa’s Freezeria, we decided the whole process was far too risky for us. We wanted our future games to be released virally from the start, so the official game with ads could be spread immediately instead of giving hackers an opportunity to exploit a site-locked version, and cut us out of the equation.

For the next Gameria release of Papa’s Pancakeria, we decided to go it alone and self-sponsor the game. At the time, this idea seemed crazy to other developers (and sponsors), but it ended up being the single best move we have ever made. When we started self-sponsoring, our website traffic grew exponentially, and the ads on our website were finally able to cover our development costs. This was huge because we were able to be truly independent. We didn’t have to worry about finding interested sponsors, or make adver-games for other companies. Now we could focus on creating the games we love to make and our fans love to play!

 

Play Papa’s Freezeria!

 

 

 

Flipline Rewind: Steak and Jake Post-Mortem

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By , December 18, 2014 3:11 pm

 

Introduction

Since the release of our casual game Rock Garden, we had been interested in ways to combine casual gameplay with more traditional video game genres, especially with the platforming gameplay seen in our earlier Papa Louie game. We went through a lot of different ways to make that happen, and eventually focused on the color-based gameplay we see in Steak and Jake, where the matches you make in the puzzle affect what you can do in the platforming world. There were a lot of challenges we overcame in making a game of this style, and some unforeseen stumbles were made along the way as we developed the game and saw it release to the public.

 

What Went Right

Balance Between Puzzle and Platforming

When we started designing the game, we knew we wanted the gameplay split into two sections: A platforming section where you’re guiding a character through the level, and a puzzle area where your actions would help the character in the platforming level. It took a while for us to figure out exactly how to combine these two elements, and what form the puzzle portion of the game would take. Some early versions of the game had a match-3 style of puzzle where you would slide rows and columns to make matches, and an alternate version where you would slide blocks around the screen like in our game Rock Garden.

We quickly realized that if you had to spend too long interacting with the puzzle, it was hard to keep up with the action in the platforming level, and the puzzle aspect of the game was just getting in the way. Rather than simplify the platforming part of the game, we decided to reduce the puzzle down to a simple matching-bubble style of puzzle. This way you could quickly glance down and see if there were any matches, and with a single click would be ready to interact with the main platforming game again. Having this simple mechanic for matching colors let players focus on the platforming experience and deciding how best to use their color matches.

 


 

Packed with Tons of Variety

We wanted to keep presenting the player with new things in each level, so we created many different challenges and special levels that would appear as you continue to play. Some levels have you defending Steak from multicolored Milk Bandits that require multiple hits to stop, and other levels have bosses attacking in helicopters which throw dangerous mines in your path. Players will occasionally race against the rival Cocoa Cow to the finish, and other times will be collecting balloons along the path or guiding a troop of Cookie Scouts to the barn. Along with these races and challenges, we also created dozens of areas and enemies that would automatically appear the further you get into the game. Within the levels themselves we also created a tons of objects that Steak and Jake can interact with, including stretchy worm bridges, moving platforms, springboards, and the ever-present blocks and ramps.



 

Platformer with Endless Play

Rather than having a set amount of levels or puzzles, we set out to create a platformer that could continue indefinitely by generating new levels on its own. The game combines a number of pre-made trail sections to build each level, and keeps things fresh by including boss battles, races, and other challenges in these generated trails. New content is revealed over the course of over 170 trails, so there’s always something new around the corner. The game will continue to generate new levels after this point as well, so players can continue playing as long as they like.



 

Created a System of Reusable Trails

To allow for the endless levels in the game, we first had to create a large number of individual “chunks” of levels that could be connected and remixed to create the trails. We developed a level editor to design these sections, which would automatically be reskinned with new tiles and new enemies based on whichever area it was used in. Every section was designed a certain way so that its endpoints would match up with the next room, and so Steak wouldn’t get stuck when a trail was generated. Some sections would also allow for branching paths at different heights which would connect to other similar sections — so even if you’re seen that same level chunk before, you may be on the top half instead of the bottom half. Though some levels (like Cookie Scout and Milk Race levels) were laid out by hand, most of the rest of the game is generated from all of the reusable parts.

 

What Went Wrong

Harsh Difficulty Level

As we were developing the game and playing levels over and over, we eventually reached a point where we had gotten so good at keeping up with the color-matching and platforming that it didn’t feel challenging anymore. Feeling that the game had gotten too easy, we kept adding more and more enemies and obstacles to the game, so you had to really pay attention and move quickly to keep Steak out of harm’s way. At the time we didn’t realize that we had tailored the difficulty for ourselves as now-expert players, but after it was released we quickly found out the game was very difficult for beginning players. If we had done further playtesting with other new players we may have caught this issue earlier, but after the game was released and spread virally it was unfortunately too late to do much about this harsh difficulty.


 

Restarting Trail is a Heavy Penalty

Another issue with the game’s difficulty is when Steak fails in a level and has to restart the entire trail from the beginning. Since the game is structured with roughly 6-minute trails, if you miss an enemy or bump into a wall right at the very end of the trail, you’re forced to repeat the entire 6-minute trail all over again, which became very frustrating for players. This could have been improved with some sort of checkpoint system, or multiple “lives” where it could restart Steak back on a safe section of the path, though unfortunately the game wasn’t designed with this in mind. In our newer platformers such as Cactus McCoy 2 and Papa Louie 2 we’ve added checkpoints to help with this issue.

 

Lulls in the Action

Despite filling the trails with enemies and obstacles to increase the difficulty, there were still times where there was nothing for Steak or Jake to do at the moment, aside from just watching Steak plod along at his constant pace until the screen reveals something new to do. Originally, we only had the speed-boosting speedometer available during the Milk Race levels in the game, and during the rest of the game you were stuck at the same slow pace. Thankfully before the game was released we decided to keep the speedometer in the game full-time to help with these lulls in the action, which did improve the pacing quite a bit.

 

Disconnect between Visuals and Gameplay

After working on Remnants of Skystone with its dark and gritty art direction, we wanted to create something at the opposite end of the spectrum which was bright and playful. We did achieve this look in the game, with its cartoonish characters and saturated colors, but with the difficulty level spiking in the game we ended up in a situation where the visuals no longer matched the gameplay. At first glance, one may expect this colorful game to be easy to casually play (especially for a younger crowd), only to be caught off-guard by the harsh difficulty.

 

Time Spent on Unseen Content

Unfortunately with the difficulty level of the game, many players may not stick around to keep playing and seeing everything included in the game. As the game continues we introduce a ton of new areas and enemy designs, though frustrated players may miss out on seeing all of this content unless they stick with the game. All 60 of the Challenges and Milk Races were also carefully crafted, and players will need to keep playing for quite a while to experience all of these levels. When we later decided to create a Halloween-themed spin-off of the game, we were able to adapt some of the Cookie Scout levels into “Midnight March” so players could get another way to experience them.



 

Conclusion

In the end, Steak and Jake turned out to be a bright and colorful platformer which incorporates puzzle gameplay in a way we hadn’t seen before. Though there were missteps along the way, we were able to create a new type of hybrid game with a great amount of gameplay and challenges, as long as you can survive the difficulty!

Play Steak and Jake!

 

 

 

Flipline Rewind: Papa’s Pizzeria Post-Mortem

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By , May 1, 2014 10:31 am

Introduction

After finishing our first proper game “Papa Louie” in 2006, we wanted to use the same characters and universe that we established in that game and branch out into making other types of games. Instead of focusing on Papa Louie, we were curious what would be happening at the pizzeria while he was off on his adventures, and imagined that “Delivery Boy” Roy would get promoted and have to run the pizzeria all by himself. We had multiple options of how we could turn this into a game, but we were interested in if we could somehow create hands-on gameplay of carefully building pizzas, and blend that with a time-management game where you would have to keep juggling different tasks at the same time.

The final product ended up defining an entire series of games for us, and there were a handful of reasons why the game worked well and was popular with its fans. There were also a variety of problems that impacted the gameplay or made things too confusing for players, which we’ve tried to fix in later games in the series.

What Went Right

1. Hands-on Gameplay

Even though Roy started as a delivery boy, we wanted him to step into the kitchen and run the entire pizzeria for this new game, and we needed a way for players to help Roy in his new job. Instead of one-click operations like other time-management games, we decided each part of the game would involve hands-on gameplay that would grade you on how you perform each task. We focused on ways to turn each task into mouse-based actions that involved either some degree of skill (like dragging a dotted line at just the right angle for cutting the pizza) or some amount of planning and arrangement (like placing the correct amount of toppings on the correct section of the pizza.)

This type of hands-on pizza crafting was unique to Papa’s Pizzeria when it was released, and offered an experience that just wasn’t found in other restaurant games.

2. Balancing Realism and Gameplay

It was the first time we had faced the challenge of designing a “restaurant game”, and we had to find the right balance between those two elements — keeping the hands-on nature of food prep in a restaurant feeling realistic, but also sacrificing realism when needed so it was still fun to play as a game.

We knew we wanted multitasking and the hectic feeling that brings, and we wanted the player to be involved in each step as much as possible. We’re always disappointed with food games where you click a button and a pizza is automatically topped with pepperoni perfectly, so we knew that individually placing each item was going to be a part of the game. Instead of order tickets magically appearing, we intentionally designed the game where Roy has to stop and take a customer’s order and wait for them to say what they want, while the clock is still running and pizzas are still cooking (and possibly burning unattended). That was a very real part of working solo in a pizzeria which made multitasking a challenge — both in real-life and in the game — and we thought it tied in well with our focus on time-management.

Along the way we had to take some liberties to make certain tasks more interesting or make things flow better as a game. Nobody orders a specific number of pepperoni on a specific quarter of a pizza in real-life, but this helped players understand how many toppings they should be using in that station, and challenged them to arrange the items just right. This extreme pickiness became a theme in all of the future Gamerias, with customers always being very particular about what they’re ordering. We also made some changes to the oven (real pizzas take much longer to cook of course) and with how many ways customers could ask for their pizza to be cooked. Most pizzerias can do regular and well-done pizzas at best, but the other time options added some more variety and more challenge to the oven, so players would have to keep an eye on tickets to know when each was ready. Also, most people wouldn’t stand around all day in the lobby waiting for their food to cook!

We constantly have to find just the right amount of realism in our Gamerias and know when to make changes for gameplay, but Papa’s Pizzeria proved we were on the right track and gave us a good idea of how to approach this in future games.

3. Unique Customers and Orders

When we looked at other restaurant games, most had only a few graphics for the customers who visit the shop, so the restaurant would soon be filled with clones of the same three characters over and over. We’ve always been interested in developing unique characters, so we decided to go the extra mile with Papa’s Pizzeria and create an entire cast of customers who would visit.

We wanted players to connect with each customer as an individual character, so we started with giving each person a unique look and name, and had the game keep track of everyone who visits in a customer file rolodex. We also made certain to include and expand upon all the pixelated customers who appeared in Papa Louie. Instead of having customers order a random meal, we gave each customer a unique pizza that they always ordered as their favorite. Players could get used to these orders, and recognize and remember them as the customers come in and keep asking for the same thing, helping players make a stronger connection with these characters.

In later games we would sometimes remove some characters when we introduced new customers, but we’d often get complaints from players that their favorite customer was missing from a certain game. We now include the full lineup of customers in all of the newest Gamerias, so when players really get attached to a certain character, they can look forward to being reunited and serving them again in the next game.

4. Embraced Multitasking

Most food games have you prepare one meal at a time, going through each step before moving on to the next and finishing the order. With Papa’s Pizzeria, we wanted to bring an element of realism to the restaurant, where one worker all by himself wouldn’t have the luxury of only doing one thing at a time. Roy would need to multitask to be able to handle topping, baking, cutting, and serving as the orders start piling up. We were confident we could make this work in a food game, offering up a challenge to players without getting unbearably frustrating. Seven years later, this element of multitasking is still one of the hallmarks of the Gameria series.

5. Releasing as a Web Game

After working on “Rock Garden” as a paid downloadable casual game, we originally thought we would do the same for Papa’s Pizzeria, where players would buy the game and play it on their desktops. There were a handful of popular time-management games as paid downloads at the time, and the casual download market was much larger than it is now.

After having some success with “Papa Louie” as a web game and earning money from ad revenue, we decided to change our plans and try making Papa’s Pizzeria playable on the web and see if the same model would work for a time-management restaurant game. The game quickly became very popular once it was released, easily finding an audience since anyone could play it for free. In the end this was definitely the right decision for the game, and we were able to reach a wider fan-base (and earn more from ad revenue) than we could have done if it was a downloadable game.

What Went Wrong

1. Confusing Ticket System

In Papa’s Pizzeria, we thought of the side panel as the main interface for dealing with orders. You would need to drag a ticket onto that panel for buttons to appear in each station, and when you clicked the button to serve an order it would automatically serve it to whomever’s ticket was sitting on the side panel at that moment.

We didn’t explain the specifics of this during training, and while you’re busy multitasking on multiple orders it’s easy to mix up tickets and have the wrong ticket on the panel when you click to serve the pizza. Players would end up serving pizzas to the wrong customers, and didn’t realize why it was happening. We cleared this up in later Gamerias, but the system in Papa’s Pizzeria was much too confusing for players.

2. Multiple Topping Confusion

One of the most common questions from players was what to do when a customer orders two pizzas. At first we didn’t understand why this would even be a question, since customers never order two pizzas at once! We eventually realized why players were confused: We never explained that multiple toppings on a ticket should all go on the same pizza.

During training, the first two orders only dealt with pepperoni as a single topping, so some players expected all pizzas to only have one topping. When customers started ordering multiple toppings, they thought each topping was supposed to go on its own separate pizza, and they didn’t understand what to do with those orders. We thought it was obvious that everything would go on the same pizza, but since training didn’t prepare them for this we could see why it could be confusing for some people. We learned our lesson from this, and in all of the later Gamerias, we make sure that training covers what to do with multiple ingredients.

3. Waited Too Long for a Followup

We released Papa’s Pizzeria in August of 2007, and within a few months we noticed how popular the game had become both on our site and across the web. Around the same time, we had started on our large-scale MMO “Remnants of Skystone” for Kongregate, and with the scale and scope of that game we needed to work on it full-time until it was completed. We ended up working on Skystone for over two and a half years, and throughout that development period we didn’t have time to release any other games. Even though we knew that Papa’s Pizzeria was popular and that fans would love a sequel or spin-off, there was nothing we could do until our schedule was finally open again in 2010. When we finally released Papa’s Burgeria in late 2010, we were thrilled to find out the fans were still there, though we wished we could have followed up with a sequel earlier instead of having a three-year gap between the games.

4. Using Money for your Score

Instead of earning points for each meal served, we decided that customers would give Roy tips based on how well he had done. As Roy earned more tips, he would gradually level up and unlock more customers for the restaurant. This worked fine as a leveling system, but all of the focus on earning money made players disappointed that they couldn’t actually spend this money on anything in the game. Starting with Papa’s Burgeria, we added a separate tally of points that would determine leveling up, and added an in-game shop where players could spend their hard-earned tips on upgrades and lobby decorations. In newer games we’ve also added clothing that can be purchased with the players’ earned tips.

5. Not Enough Features

Beyond unlocking new customers and building pizzas, there weren’t a lot of additional features for players in Papa’s Pizzeria. At the time we weren’t even sure if players would be interested in a restaurant sim game, so we kept things simple and focused on the food preparation in the game. Since the release of Papa’s Pizzeria we’ve gradually added more and more features to each of the sequels, where players can now customize their experience with clothing and lobby decorations, play mini-games, design their own workers, unlock new ingredients, and celebrate holidays with unlockable ingredients and decorations. Papa’s Pizzeria feels a bit lacking today without all of these features, but it provided a great starting point to build on for the rest of the series.

Conclusion

Papa’s Pizzeria was the first in our series of restaurant games, and it helped define our unique brand of time-management games blended with hands-on food preparation. The gameplay and design proved to be popular and built a large fanbase craving more games in the series, and focusing on unique customers helped set us apart from other restaurant games. We learned from our mistakes in the first game to make the user interaction much clearer in the sequels, and by combining the original’s winning formula with an array of new features, we’ve built a series of games that are still enjoyed by millions today.

 

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