Cake Bash – the 4 player sugary sweet smackdown bake ’em up – is out right now. So, is there a better time to have a chat with High Tea Frog’s Laura Hutton about all things Cake Bash? I think you’ll find there is not.
Laura is the Technical Artist and Director on Cake Bash and she took the time out from a busy schedule to discuss bakery bad asses, zero-G crumbs and a love of puns.
TSA: I’d like to know a little more about High Tea Frog. You guys left Ubisoft to create your own games, what led to that decision?
Laura Hutton: For our last few years at Ubisoft we were part of a small team making games like Grow Home, which has to be the closest you can get to indie development at a giant AAA studio. We worked really well as a team and had big roles in these projects, so thought it might be worth giving things a try on our own.
Being part of huge teams beforehand and working on these little games near the end was a great experience and we wouldn’t change anything! But now we can make whatever we want, which just happens to be cake.
TSA: What was the decision process behind Cake Bash becoming your first game? How did the idea for a video game that’s kind of Fight Club for sweet treats come about?
Laura: We made a bunch of prototypes before starting this one, but after just a week we already had the cake characters, the flappy drawn to life arms and funny faces which got angry when you punched someone. The game has evolved so much since then, but we knew after just a few days that we were onto something because it was already making us laugh.
TSA: How have you adapted to creating a game during the challenging time of a Covid-19 world that we find ourselves in?
Laura: The two of us usually work together in a small office, but we decided to work from home just before official lockdown was announced in the UK. It’s been different, and there’s been some issues we’ve had to overcome that we weren’t expecting, but we’re really proud to have still finished everything on time despite the circumstances. One benefit of our tiny team is that we didn’t have an army to organise remotely!
Our programmer, Clement, had to set up dev kits for the three different consoles at his house, and platforms are (quite rightly) strict in how they must be kept secure at all times. Luckily the people behind the decisions were really approachable and understanding, but his living room was covered in cables for months and looked a bit like Neo’s room from The Matrix!
TSA: Party games have to walk a thin line between making a crazy chaotic experience and balancing that with clear, simple and intuitive gameplay. How did you approach this?
Laura: We were inspired by the old classics like Pokémon Stadium and Mario Party, where the controls are simple but the gameplay is really fun, even if you lose! We tried to keep a good balance between the chaos of the bash modes where it’s a giant free-for-all, and the minigames which are more competitive and skill based without violent interruptions from the other cakes. The control schemes for each minigame are simple, usually only two inputs, but the bash modes are more complex, with dash, throw, combo punch and megabash. You only have to learn one set of buttons for all five of our bash modes though, and there’s a playable tutorial which we hope helps!
We also have full screen tutorials before every game mode to help people digest the different controls and win conditions, and we even added unique 2D animations to keep them interesting!
TSA: One aspect that really impressed me was the between rounds challenge of needing to invest coins into buying sweets to decorate your cake with. This neat addition has allowed players in my family who aren’t as experienced in playing video games to still be able to win. They can use their brains to choose the right decorations, and this can make all the difference between winning a round or losing it. Can you tell me more about the idea process behind including this element?
Laura: Thanks so much! Not many people have played Get Tasty yet as it isn’t available in the demo, so it’s great for us to hear it’s working well and that you all had fun with it. We thought the toppings and adventure through the bakery were good ways to tie all of our games together while sticking to our cake theme, and we wanted to steer clear of the classic board progression with dice.
A huge challenge of multiplayer games is trying to find something which is balanced and fair with comeback opportunities, but not too much to annoy whoever is winning. We went through so many design iterations trying to figure out the best way and finally settled on the combos and the capsule machine. Remembering what you’ve already bought becomes a meta game, especially in the chaos of the shop, and getting something good out of the capsule machine when someone else gets a bit of cheese is always funny.
TSA: The cast of bakery bad asses is wonderful. There’s mauling muffins, dangerous doughnuts and ferocious fondant fancies – just to mention a few. How did you go about selecting the sweet treats that would be included in the game? Was the selection process based around a tastiness metric?
Laura: We should use “bakery bad asses” somewhere, it’s flantastic. The main decider for those cakes was actually their silhouette. Even though you can choose different skins, which we call flavours, I wanted them to be instantly recognisable. For instance Fancy is a cube, Minni is a cylinder, Slice is a triangle and so on.
But yes, another factor was my lifetime of very important research, eating treats from real world bakeries! I’d definitely rank these seven cakes as some of the best, who doesn’t enjoy a donut?
TSA: Will there be additional characters made available in future updates or DLC? I’m longing to unleash my inner cake fury playing as a flapjack.
LHLaura I’d love to add more characters later, we have some fun ideas but nothing confirmed yet. We got some excellent fan art of a character called Stax who is a stack of pancakes, which I was very fond of, and angel cake has to be one of my favourites. I’d have to think about how to make different flavours though, maybe other loaf cakes like madeira and fruit? Only time will tell.
TSA: In addition to the battling, there’s a terrific variety of game modes on offer here, my absolute favourite being the high-speed marshmallow toasting. Were there any ideas that you felt were too crazy and couldn’t be included? Or was everything and anything fair game?
Laura: Oh nice, campfire is my favourite too! It’s epic when you get a perfect scoring marshmallow in the high heat.
We’ve always been about quality over quantity – we could likely have made more game modes but they wouldn’t have been as polished. One prototype that I liked personally was inspired by What’s the Time Mr Wolf, but after a couple of weeks we couldn’t make it fun, so we chucked it in the bin and made Wasp Attack instead.
The only real constraint for us was that it needed to be a real life scenario, and somewhere you might expect to see a cake. Anything in space wouldn’t work with all those zero-G crumbs, but a kid’s space themed birthday party was a perfect fit. I always jump at the opportunity to sneak in a terrible pun, and for Birthday it was “In space, no-one can eat whipped cream”… still makes me laugh now.
Thank you to Laura for taking the time out to discuss all things Cake Bash. Cake Bash is out today on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia, with a Nintendo Switch release planned for later this year. Keep an eye out for our review later this afternoon.