A GEARVR RETRO REVIEW
Cybercook Taster, a cooking game from the developers Starship, is currently only a demo at this point, but oh, what an experience it offers right from the start! One can definitely see the potential of this kind of amazing training game that teaches just as awesomely as it entertains.
I don’t think a lot of you see this in the app store and suddenly think “I’ve got to try this right now!” but man if so, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a game that opens the door to your imagination about where else VR might take us down the road beyond look-gaze shooters and video apps, of which there are a plethora.
But there is only one instructional cooking game, and this here is the cat’s meow.
Cybercook Taster is not some kiddy-style cooking game, either. It’s fun for adults. The Full Version promises to teach you how to cook from beginning to end (from cleaning your veggies to slicing meats properly). And from the short video at this demo’s end, it looks to have a diverse-range of yummy dishes you can try out.
Plus, at every step of getting your cook on, it promises to entertain you. It offers cooking techniques, like how best to prepare culinary ingredients, washing your vegetables, taking care of your cutting utensils, and how to best organize your assets before cooking one delicious meal.
It then shows you the step order to cook each dish in, and when to add whichever ingredient is needed along the way. That’s amazing! One thing I didn’t know about cooking until this app taught me is that certain ingredients go in only at the end, just before you finish, while others go in at the beginning.
I had no idea all these years! I’ve been cooking pretty well by just tossing everything in at the same time and making due, not realizing I lacked this fundamental technique. Now I realize there is more to cooking than tossing things in the skillet and firing up the burner.
In a mere demo, I have already learned so much. Imagine what the Full App could do for you!
The app begins by guiding you through a tutorial given by a lovely woman’s voice who sounds like she knows a lot about cooking. You have an iPad in front of you and step by step instructions are spoken from it telling you exactly what to do at every turn. It really couldn’t be simpler.
The kitchen is really well modeled, the food is detailed and well textured. The stereoscopic effect in this app is really deep and you also get a nice view of the city, a view so good, in fact, it makes you wish you could move around a bit more and see the kitchen and the view out of the high-rise you’re in from different angles.
Currently, the demo only offers to teach you one dish: spicy shrimp-mushroom noodles, but the run through is good enough to let me know at a glance that this is one app I’ll surely be getting when it finally gets released.
I say “finally” because this game has been in development a long time; moreover, it was one of the first demos I ever saw for GearVR back about nine months ago, and the graphics were already good enough then to make you literally salivate in VR. Nine month’s a long time to wait for something you care about, so I guess I know how expectant mothers must feel, a little bit.
This is one game you can almost sink your teeth into, as the sizzling sound effects and colorfully-spiced foods will make you slobber all over yourself as you play it.
During the cooking process, you’ll learn to toss the skillet in order to flip the ingredients rather than using your spatula to do it safely. I guess “risk” is yet another spice for making food taste good. You must also zoom in (see below) to take a look at your meal close up to ensure items are cooking properly. You won’t know if you don’t look, but this takes proper timing because in extreme-close up mode, you can no longer see your cooking guide.
If you linger too long enjoying the look of your frying food stuffs, you could miss your “add window” and end up under cooking some things while burning others. You have to juggle a lot of things at all times. Do you have the mental energy, skill, and memorization power to juggle all of this? If so, you could be the next Top Chef … in VR.
The game engine for this title is very well developed to keep you on the edge of your seat having fun the whole cooking session. There are so many things that could go wrong that it’s a wonder you can complete any meal, let alone cook one well enough to take home the prize. It takes practice practice practice.
I had to cook the spicy-noodle dish at least 6 times before I could finally memorize the steps and know which ingredients to add in order to ensure preparation of a final product worthy of mention here. I got the high score, but it took a lot of work and mental preparation.
So this is a game that not only teaches, not only entertains, but also has the potential to expand your mind like a brain trainer. And the skills you learn are totally transferable to the real world. Now just hear that. That’s amazing. You can do something in cyberspace that TRANSFORMS THE REAL WORLD FOR THE BETTER! I don’t know if there is another title out there with the potential to lay down the same claim.
The cooking you learn in your lifetime is never just for yourself, but for your friends and family too, so the better you cook, the more everyone around you benefits! I think this app has the potential to break open the floodgates of human potential, as VR CEO’s begin one day tackling more educational titles like this one. And they’ll know what to do to make it fun, because Starship (this title’s developer) already leads the way.
This is one company that really listens to its target audience and caters their apps to the wishes of their fans. You will often see updates from Starship’s titles with your ideas being acted upon. So any feedback you give them will be heard, and there’s at least a chance that it might be included in some future update.
Quick Question to my audience (if any ha): were you aware that Starship is the same developer who created the phenomenally-successful vTime chat application for GearVR? vTime is yet another app Starship has really poured their hearts into, curiously releasing it even before Cybercook Taster.
So that leads me to connect some rather powerful dots, and once I’d imagined this, it was impossible to un-think it. It literally overwhelmed my brain, this idea. And that idea was this: merging vTime with Cybercook Taster. This would provide a social dining/cooking experiential layer to their already popular vTime chat application! So … then I went through the entire concept as a mental exercise and here are the results….
SUGGESTIONS FOR STARSHIP:
- What could be more fun than cooking with friends? Since you already have vTime working, why not create a bridging protocol in both apps that senses when they are both installed? If we’ve bought Cybercook Taster and have vTime installed, vTime will include the Cybercook-“Kitchen” level (with full game play) … but it will also let up to 3 friends join in the fun? Of course, they all need the cooking app, too! The game would let the friends do the washing and preparing of the foods in their own competitions. One friend washes some veggies while the other dices some meat. Then they switch. The one who scores the highest on each challenge is the one whose vegetables and prepared meats go into the cook’s recipe. The third man does the table plating, setting the table for when the meal is completed. The 4th person is the cook. He chooses the meal at the beginning and that tells persons 1 & 2 what meats and vegetables to prepare for their mini-games. And he cooks the meal with the completed vegetables. During this time, everyone has an open microphone as usual, but the game noises are running in the background, so you can hear meat sizzling in the pan. It should use positional audio, so even if you’re the 3rd person, the table setter, you can still hear the food cooking from across the kitchen and hear everyone talking from their true positions in that kitchen/living-room space.
- Let us move around the environment before jumping right in the cooking. Maybe we have to walk over to the coat rack by the windows and hang our coat up, giving us a close-up view of the apartment and the city outside. This would help us to establish the Virtual space and enjoy the freedom to look around just like in vTime. But while we’re up, why not look around some more? Can we open the fridge and look at the items in there? Can we open the drawers and see the forks and knives and spoons, glasses, plates, and things we will use when we sit down for dinner later? Can we look in the dishwasher for missing plates we’ll need?
- Let us have an actual dinner so we can chat while we’re eating. Let us eat the food, each bite taking 5-10 seconds before we can take another bite. While chewing, we can’t talk, our mic gets cut. But if we don’t eat our food, we can’t score the food either. So we have to balance chatting with eating. For those who have nothing to say, eating will also cover over their silence, from a role playing perspective. I would hope the animations look convincing. Food gets picked up, transferred to our mouth and vanishes, presumably to get chewed within. It takes eating at least 30% worth of each entree before our avatar will know how the food tastes. We will get from this knowing a range of sentences we can say to the cook depending on our avatar’s enjoyment of that particular food. Let’s say the cook has chosen Pot Roast. And he didn’t cook it well … it was only 2 stars in the actual game’s decision tree. In your dialogue tree there might be one insensitive comment, one nice comment, one funny comment, and all comments are appropriate to not liking the Pot Roast very much. You must choose one of the comments and proceed on to “tasting” the next dish. If the avatar loves Pot Roast, he might think it tastes better than the others do but still not the best because it was cooked so poorly. So then … how will the avatar know what the food tastes like?
Let us set up our avatars in way more depth in vTime if Cybercook is also installed! We can go into vTime Settings and it will have a new option “Configure Avatar For Cybercook Taster”…. And in that menu, it asks us a number of questions based on Starship’s database of food items in Cybercook Taster. For example, it asks “Which 3 foods do you hate the most?” and shows a list of all entrees. You choose three foods your avatar hates. Then it asks your favorite ones, too. Then it asks you each ingredient, how much you like them raw, how much you like them cooked? If finds out if you like things sweeter, or saltier, if you like spicy foods or non-spicy ones. So there is a score for raw items vs. cooked items, salt vs sweet, sour vs bland, etc. This helps Starship develop an algorithm for food enjoyment based on a mix of those properties. Some avatars might end up liking under cooked food more than over cooked food. While some may only like perfectly balanced cooking. Then when the host (the cook) for that session chooses his recipe, the actual players can’t affect the outcome based on their own personal motivations. All of the outcomes are based on the avatar profile they created in advance. They can’t lie and say the food is utterly delicious if they think it’s atrocious. Your avatar tastes the food that’s been cooked and determines the enjoyment level based on the profile. But each player is given a range of colorful expressions to back out of saying the direct truth if the dish is terrible. However in time, the cook will begin to know what those colorful expressions actually mean, and it could really stimulate the real conversations people have about the this fake-VR food. The decision tree is also based on how well the cook actually scored against the Cybercook Database as per the actual game. If the food was five stars, cooked the absolute best it could be, the only way your avatar would say it was bad would be if they picked that dish as one of their least favorites. Then it would only be natural for them not to like it.
I think merging vTime with Cybercook could offer the most intriguing VR application yet created. What Palmer Lucky and Carmack dubbed the “VR Killer App that has yet to be borne.” Can you imagine being able to socialize with people while trying your best to entertain them with a yummy dish, but not quite being able to cook it right under their watchful eye, all of the colorful conversation which might ensue?
You could talk about anything, of course, but I would hazard a guess that half of each conversation would be about the vTime and Cybercook apps themselves, and how they pulled something like this off? Or it could be about how much fun the game is, how every person has something important and fun to DO.
Or you might talk about VR in general. But WHAT you talk about isn’t nearly as important as the mere fact that you CAN TALK. That you are sitting at a dinner table, eating Virtual food that you all helped virtually cook. The fact that you are chatting across vTime in yet another cool locale … this time, one programmed with deep immersive game play and the amazing stereoscopic graphics that Starship seems more capable of pulling off at this this time than many other companies.
FINAL LINGERING QUESTIONS:
I would really like to know why Starship delayed Cybercook Taster in order to put vTime out first. If someone would like to respond to this article, I would be happy to continue this article with their comments and explain to a hungry audience ready to take on cool educational titles like Cybercook Taster just what the hold up is here.
Is Cybercook Taster really that difficult to create and balance? Was vTime more of a priority, and if so, WHY? I would certainly love to support Starship by paying for Cybercook Taster. But vTime is offered for free, so why then release that one first? Why not release the app that can make you money first and then use that income to build vTime later? What, really, is the story here?
It’s a curious thing and I hope I can get the answers for my readership. Until then, go now and download Cybercook Taster and … give it a taste. You’ll wonder why you’ve overlooked this title for so long!
Categories: Retro Reviews