Chatting sweet desserts with Cake Bash’s game director

Xbox One

Even though some may disagree, games are meant to be fun, and for many that is where party games really do come to the fore. Over recent years the food themed Overcooked! series has been the go-to for anyone looking to combine fun with party rules, but now there’s a new challenger for the crown, that of Cake Bash – and honestly, we love it, as our review shows. We sat down with Clement Capart, programmer and director at High Tea Frog in an attempt to understand how the madness behind the big cake fight became reality.

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Sell it to us… why should gamers be interested in Cake Bash on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Google Stadia?

Oh that’s a tough first question! I’m better at making games than selling them (that’s why we work with Coatsink for that!). I’ll give it a try:

It’s a 4 players party game where you fight to be the tastiest cake. Everyone loves cake, so everyone should love Cake Bash! 

You can play with friends locally and online, or play with other people on the internet and it’s available to play on almost everything! 

We’re getting good reviews and people seem to be really enjoying it, so I think we made a good game and you should try it. We’re really proud of achieving this amount of content with such a tiny team, and we think it’s fun! 

How did the actual premise of Cake Bash come about? I mean, cakes, fighting? It’s not something we think of on a daily basis. 

A couple years ago, we were working on different prototypes to figure out what we would like to make next, but nothing was really standing out at the time. In a morning meeting, our animator suggested “What about a game where you are a doughnut and have to punch other doughnuts?” and it made us want to try right away. After having our first doughnut model and animations (not as good as the final one!) in a prototype quickly brought together, we felt like we already had something which would make people laugh, so we went for it!

It changed a lot since then and hasn’t got much in common with what we wanted to make on that very first day, but I think it only got better!

Much of the fun of Cake Bash is found in the variety of cakes included. How did you settle on the ones that have been put in place? Were there any that you would love to have included but didn’t for one reason or another?

The cakes are the stars of the show indeed! We love many cakes so it wasn’t easy to pick. Also as I am sure you have your own ideas yourself, most people who tried the game early had their favourite cakes that they wanted in the game, so we got many suggestions. 

There were some we loved but didn’t include (yet?) like Stax the stack of Pancakes. The daughter of one of our friends drew a cool concept art of it early during the development of the game, that was our first fan-art!

Though it’s not only about tastiness and popularity! In addition to being able to make beautiful things, Laura, our artist, has a good eye for how her work is going to have an impact on gameplay – and to be honest, that is an invaluable skill. She only picked cakes with really distinctive shapes: Ringo is a circle, Slice is a triangle, Minni is a cylinder, etc…

It makes it easier for players to know who they are and not get mixed up with their opponents’ characters.

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Similarly, each of the cakes – and their sub-cakes – come with inventive names. How did these come about and did any (even more) unusual ones miss the cut?

We wanted the names to be short, sweet and memorable, so we made sure the default flavours were five letters and two syllables maximum. The Fondant Fancies (Fancy, Brancy, Pancy and Clyde) are inspired by the ghosts from Pac Man, but that’s quite an obscure reference! Most of them just rhyme or fit with the flavour they represent, like Slice-T who is matcha tea flavoured.

Could you possibly talk us through the various arenas, the hazards and the weaponry? How did all these come together?

In Cake Bash we have 5 bash modes where you fight each other with different objectives, like breaking the most fortune cookies or throwing the most fruit into a pie. These modes are playable in 5 different arenas with their unique theme. One of our favourites is the Beach for instance where nasty hermit crabs will attack you and you have to avoid getting hit by rogue beach balls. Each of our arenas has its unique hazards and weapons but they are all made to be intuitive to use and you should easily find your bearings even if it’s your first time in an arena.

We actually planned for Cake Bash to only have one bash mode and a few maps when we started working on it, so it grew quite a lot! We made most of the arenas first and when we decided to work on adding new bash modes, we made sure that they would all work in the different locations and be different enough from each other to be fun when you play multiple matches in a row.

We also have 8 unique mini-games, and the main way to play the game called ‘Get Tasty’ where you play matches alternating bash modes and mini-games while buying toppings for your cake in between. Your goal is to have the most valuable toppings by the end of all the matches!

We’ve been ‘splattered by The Pigeon’ more times than we care to remember. How did this rather unique environmental hazard initially play out and evolve to where it is today?

When we started designing the different arenas, we wanted each of them to have a theme and unique hazards to go with it. It made a lot of sense to us to involve a greedy bird in the Patio map. We love pigeons and think they are a really underrated (and funny) bird.

We quickly brainstormed to list what pigeons do that we could use and it became clear that it had to peck the cakes, and poop all over the arena.

The pigeon itself is by far the most complex character of the game, technically. Birds are amazing but quite difficult to reproduce nicely in a game!

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Another major part of the draw of Cake Bash is the sheer simplicity in the controls, whether that be in the bashing, or in the delicate nature of the mini-games. Was this always the intention? Did more complex ideas get tested?

Yes, from the very beginning, it was important to us for the game to be easy to play for anyone. We love seeing really young children try the game and sometimes beat their older brother or sister, or seeing parents join a match with their kids and tell us that it’s the first time they got a chance to share their kids hobby with them. It may not sound like much, but making games that bring families closer together means a lot to us!

We tried quite a few things for the bash modes, yes. At first players could actually lift other cakes and throw them in the same way you can do it with the truffles or salt and pepper shakers. The concept was fun but to make that work we needed some rules. You could only do it when someone was stunned, and to give enough time for players to do it, the stun effect was longer. Not only it was difficult to convey easily, but forcing the players to be inactive longer when stunned made the game less fun.

Something interesting when designing multiplayer games is that you have to make sure that if you add something fun for a player, it’s not going to make it less fun for the others, and we felt that this mechanic wasn’t worth it, so we removed it.

And how did you settle on the 8 mini-game snacks that have been included? 

We had a long list of mini-game concepts that we were interested in. Most of the time only a few words or a cake pun we liked. “At your own whisk” for instance is one we didn’t keep, or “Gateau Royale” which became Fork Knife. We also had a list of self-imposed constraints that we wanted to keep. For instance, you had to always be able to see the characters, we didn’t want button mashing and we wanted them to not have fighting in opposition to the bash modes.

Our team is really good at prototyping things fast and trying rather than talking for too long. So we usually take a concept, make a first version of it and see what we think of that. It then goes through a few iterations with what we think could make it better, and if we end up with something we like, we develop it further. If we feel like it’s not good enough, we stop and start something else.

Other than for identification reasons, there isn’t any real reason to choose one cake over another. Did you play with the ideas of having various skills attached to each cake type? Perhaps a French Fancy being more powerful in the attack, yet a Donut would be faster at moving?

We had this suggested by quite a few players in early development and weirdly enough we never tried. It would add complexity which in turn can add strategy and fun but it could also add difficulty and strengths imbalance. We didn’t want players to have to pick a cake because it seems stronger on paper rather than because they like it.

I guess we are shallow but we prefer if people pick their cake based only on how they look (and taste)!

I still think the idea of them having different abilities or stats is interesting, and Cake Bash could have been good too with that, but we decided not to go that way and to keep the game simpler.

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Cake Bash is most definitely most fun with friends, but you’ve more than catered for the solo player with the inclusion of AI bashers. Was there a reason you didn’t add specific difficulty levels to the AI?

It’s not a design decision but only a production reason unfortunately. 

Being a tiny team makes it so that we have to pick what we want to dedicate more time to. 

We decided quite early that we wanted bots (before even considering online!) so that players who don’t have a friend or family party to play with could still enjoy the game. Since Cake Bash is made of multiple game rules and mini-games, bots have to be designed for each of them, there is no one-size-fits-all option, so it took quite a while to get to a level we thought was good. 

However, when we had to prioritise features, we decided to cut the bots difficulty levels to be able to spend more time on other things. We instead balanced them to a level we feel is challenging for new players, so that players can learn from them, but intermediate/easy for experienced players so that they can see how much progress they’ve made.

Do you have any plans for a Cake Bash 2? Or will you be looking to enhance the original with any further DLC? More cakes and arenas perhaps?

At the moment we are focusing on getting the Switch version ready for players, and patching the game on all platforms to fix the bugs that have been reported by players or add quality of life features requested. After that, we’ll try to enjoy a nice break from cakes and bashing before looking into additions to the game, though we already have some ideas, we can’t confirm additional content at this time.

And finally, what is your favourite cake for a bit of bashing… and why!?

I love Ringeaux, he’s one of Ringo’s alternate flavours. He’s French, like me and happens to also be my favourite cake to eat, the Paris-Brest. Honestly, I love all of them and I tend to pick a different one every time I play!

And, finally, finally – is a Viennese Whirl a cake? Discuss! 😉

No, to me if it crunches when you chew it is not a cake but a biscuit! Though we don’t discriminate in Cake Bash and we are happy to consider any cake, pastry or biscuit to find the tastiest one!

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Massive thanks go out to Clement at High Frog Tea for taking the time to answer our questions, and to those at the publishing team of Coatsink for setting things up. If you wish to play Cake Bash for yourself you should be found heading to the Xbox Store where it is currently available for £16.74. You’ll also find the game available on PS4, PC and Google Stadia.

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