Suck at Cooking? This Relaxing XBox Game Will Teach You How to Cook 100 Filipino Recipes
Last year, independent game studio Chikon Club delighted Filipinos with their mini-game Putahe ng Ina Mo. Now they’re back with Soup Pot, a game that lets you experiment with 100 Filipino recipes. It’s slated for release in August 2021, and will be available to play on Xbox Series X|S and Steam.
The game has all the features Putahe ng Ina Mo players loved: mouthwatering 3D graphics, ingredients calling out their names in cute voices when they’re picked up, and supportive or snarky comments from viewers as you live stream your cooking. Unlike most cooking games, Soup Pot doesn’t have a fail state—the point is to simply enjoy cooking. You can follow the recipe or get creative and tweak things here and there, just like with real cooking. You can even plate the finished product however you want. Prepare well-loved dishes like champorado, pan de sal, kare-kare, adobo, and Bicol Express. After the game is launched, Chikon Club is planning on adding Korean and Japanese kitchens and recipes, as well.
The game’s soundtrack includes a wide variety of genres, and you may occasionally hear a neighbor belting out karaoke as you cook. Another true-to-life aspect of the game is its social media platform Cookbook. While the game has no fail state, you’ll certainly get roasted by nosy titos and titas if your dish isn’t up to scratch. But if you do well, you’ll gain more followers and in-game currency called stars. You can then exchange your stars for ingredients on Cookbook’s marketplace. If you’re happy with the dishes you’ve made, you can take pictures and post them on Cookbook, too. Beware the fake news posts and trolls, though.
We got in touch with Chikon Club technical director Gwen Foster and art director Trina Pagtakhan to ask them a few questions about the game.
What are some of the Filipino recipes we can look forward to?
Gwen Foster (GF): One of the first things we did was work with chefs to build and design the recipes. We have a lot of ulam, street food, and regional food. Some of the things we can say now are halo-halo, mais con yelo, scramble, Betamax, and bananaque. We have a couple of kakanin, puto, and kutsinta, but I don’t know how Spanish-speaking countries will react to puto.
Trina Pagtakhan (TP): I’m most excited for the street food we have, especially Betamax. Chicken or pork blood isn’t something you really see in cooking games, so that’s something unique to look forward to!
Were you already thinking of Soup Pot when you made and released Putahe ng Ina Mo?
GF: When we make small games like Putahe ng Ina Mo and Naga, it was always with a bigger game in mind. We usually do the small games to see how people will respond to it before dipping in. Putahe ng Ina Mo really resonated with a lot of people and we have been very privileged that [email protected] supports us to develop Soup Pot, as very few games locally have received platform support.
TP: Yes! Like Gwen said, we wanted to test the waters first to see how much support we’d get for the game. Originally, it was just going to be a normal cooking game—but we had so much fun developing it that it transformed into a somewhat meme-y game!
Did the response to Putahe ng Ina Mo influence the way you developed Soup Pot in any way?
GF: The core of the game has stayed the same. But from Putahe ng Ina Mo, we were surprised that people really liked the comments. So we built the downtime filler, or the things that players do outside of cooking or the breaks in between core game-mechanic sessions, to be a stripped-down social media. People also reached out to make the game accessible through audio. Some people loved the ingredients saying their names and some people requested for a settings option to turn it off. So a lot of the things that people said with Putahe ng Ina Mo, we took to heart and worked on with Soup Pot.
TP: Yes, so many people complained about not having gabi (taro) in Putahe ng Ina Mo! Now we’re going to give them the freedom to make their own sinigang, since each household makes it differently (like chicken sinigang)!
About there being no fail state, does this mean that you can't burn things unlike in Putahe ng Ina Mo?
GF: Things can still get burnt, as it’s needed in some recipes, but it’s not as unforgiving where you feel like an absolute failure with all the black smoke from Putahe ng Ina Mo. We decided early on that we wanted people to focus on cooking as a mechanic and have fun with it. Growing up, I was taught to not fear failure. The recipes are still hard to do well, like Putahe ng Ina Mo, but we’ve removed the barrier so that people can also learn about recipes or prepare things the way they want.
There are games where you have to score really well before you can progress, which makes people repeat the levels and at times discourages the experience. This is not the case with Soup Pot. You just have to try them once, and then you can focus on the recipes you enjoy the most. We wanted people to really enjoy cooking. And since it’s a game, you don’t really have to eat the food if it doesn’t taste good, haha!
TP: Yes, you can still burn food. Yes, you might be able to burn the kitchen. We won’t treat it as a failure though—we’ll treat them as “happy little accidents.”
We heard that there will be fake news and trolls, and saw an oyster sauce label with the reference to the PhilHealth scandal too. How did you get the idea to incorporate these political undertones in the game?
GF: When we built the social media we also thought about its effect on society, and we wanted to show it, but in satire.
We worked with Nonoy Espina, Jonathan de Santos, and Noel Pascual to develop a news feed that mimicked real life and also told the timeline of the pandemic we experienced. Everything is political, but politics isn’t everything. And the thing that was most important to us was the relationships that you build, and the relationships you maintain—especially in such an isolating life experience such as the pandemic.
TP: Being in charge of some of the models in the game, I wanted to add in a little bit of humor in the packaging while I was doing it. At the time, the PhilHealth scandal became a sort of meme in social media (where people just randomly remind you of the 15 billion pesos that were missing), so I decided to put it in the food packaging for the oyster sauce, hehehe!
Can the player respond to the titos, titas, and trolls when they get roasted?
GF: They can only like and block the comments, haha! We saw it with streamers playing Putahe ng Ina Mo, so we’d love to see people stream the game in real life and react to the comments while playing, but that’s wishful thinking.
TP: Nope! In real life, we’re expected to just keep it all inside even though our titas constantly tell us that we “got so much fatter.” We can angry react though (or better yet, block). *wink*
We love the idea that someone will randomly sing karaoke while you’re cooking. When you include Korean and Japanese kitchens and recipes, will they be singing in Japanese or Korean too?
GF: We’ve been referencing personal experiences in Korea and Japan. So it won’t be karaoke that you’d hear in the Japanese and Korean kitchen.
TP: We have something else planned for them, but it’s still a secret!
If we wanted to recreate modern Filipino dishes like Sentro 1771's Corned Beef Sinigang or Manam's Watermelon Sinigang, would that be possible in the game?
GF: The marketplace has a lot of ingredients that you can add in, and you can use the existing recipes as base. You can always access additional ingredients in the inventory and cook however you want. We do have corned beef and you can add that in sinigang if you want. But I think we don’t have watermelon in the marketplace. Trina?
TP: Yeah, we don’t have watermelon right now since we don’t have any recipe that uses it! We have pineapple though, so maybe...pineapple sinigang?
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