How To Make A Great British Bake Off Game

The latest series of The Great British Bake Off has come to an end, causing those of us hooked by its cream-filled buns, end-of-the-pier puns, and oddly sincere celebration of the human spirit, to feel as empty inside as an incompletely prepared batch of jam donuts. After a few days spent facing a future free from sugar, gluten, and the strange tension between Paul Hollywood and hosts Mel & Sue, I decided to do something about it. I emailed some game designers and asked them a question: if you were charged with making a computer game of The Great British Bake Off, how would you do it?

The answers are below.

Michael Cook

Games researcher / Procjam organiser

Ok bear with me:

I’d design a game that put you behind the scenes of the show, and let you deal with the challenges of reality TV – sort of The Republia Times crossed with The Movies. You’d watch an episode play out (a lot faster than it does on TV), and events that generate clips would ping on-screen so you’d notice them happening – someone dropped their pie, the posh guy’s put something weird in his dessert, and so on. Then you have to pick what actually makes it into the show – what are you going to cut, what are you going to leave in, how are you going to edit the clips (do you twist the interview about the garlic cake so it’s ridiculous, or intriguingly tense?). Your aim would be to balance the audience’s reaction to the show, making sure you create funny moments without tipping them totally in favour of one contestant, making sure you add drama without revealing who fails too early in an episode.

Robert Yang

Creator of Cobra Club, Rinse and Repeat, Stick Shift / Twitter

I’ve never seen this show, but I do bake a bit myself. What’s weird about home baking is the end, when you suddenly have all this fucking food to get rid of, and it’s going stale with every passing second. Who’s going to eat it, and why? This is the angle that most cooking video games ignore, how does food actually function in society?

So, “Eton Mess” is a puzzle-strategy game about making sure Eton boys eat the “right” kinds of desserts, to cultivate their “taste” and raise their status in society. At first they’ll only eat simple biscuits because they’re like 13 years old, but at some point you’ll ween them onto creme brulee, and eventually 90% cacao dark chocolate truffle tarts flecked with gold. If they eat “childish” or “feminine” desserts then they’ll lose status among older boys, while the trendiest boys will adopt certain diets (gluten-free, vegan, paleo) which you’ll have to account for. Your goal is eventually to train them to forego desserts entirely, in favor of a nice glass of port and a fat cigar. Upon its release, the RPS Wot I Think will applaud the character art and core NPC social simulation systems, but lament that “it all feels a little bit half-baked.”

… oh, wait, you wanted something nice and life-affirming? Hmm ok I can do that:

“Eton Mess” is a family / career / dating sim. You’re a single parent who bakes stuff to nourish their family and shit, but you’re also baking stuff for co-workers and your boss, and baking stuff for potential romantic interests to show that you care. Manage limited time and resources for baking, in an effort to “have it all”… Will you pick up some Jaffa Cakes for your kids at the shop (5 min) so that you have extra time to personally bake your boss a cake for her 40th birthday (70 minutes)? — but by then you’re so rushed for time that you forget your hot date has a nut allergy, and nearly kill them with a walnut toffee cake? Upon its release, the RPS Wot I Think will applaud the character art and core NPC social simulation systems, but lament that “it all feels a little bit half-baked.”

Holly Gramazio

Game designer, co-founder of Matheson Marcault / Twitter

I’m a heartless monster so I don’t watch it, but I understand from the internet that it’s mostly about slightly strained double-entendres, is that right? I imagine there’s a game in that. To start, maybe get a few old baking books from a charity shop, tear all but one of them apart, and give everyone a pile of loose pages and a pair of scissors.

Now open the remaining book to a random page. There it is! A Victoria Sponge, or a Gingerbread Man with Jam, or whatever it might be! Everyone has two minutes to assemble a judicial response to the cake you’ve just revealed – built of words cut out from their own collection of recipes. As long as your response makes sense, you get one point for every separate recipe you’ve used, a bonus two points for finishing fastest, and a bonus point for everyone that laughs at your judgement.

Play as many rounds as there are weeks in the real GBBO. That way there’s some motivation to keep the best words aside and not use up all your STIFF and STUFFED and BUNS and STICKY at one.

Eskil Steenberg

Creator of Love / Twitch / Twitter

How about this:

I think Great British Bake Off would make an excellent expansion to a reality tv management sim. In this sim players get to be the Executive producer in charge of scouting “regular people” and then coaching them to behave the right amount of scandalous. By selectively editing interviews and fabricating conflicts the ratings must be kept high to advance to the next season. Players can earn badges in the form of headlines, and get access to more expensive presenters. The Great British Bake off expansion enables the “Nightmare” mode locking off most of the sex and alcohol related options, as well as the most flamboyant cast options. Players must make the most out of the food porn aspect and try to make a “gate” out of some melted ice cream or miss appropriated custard.

Tom Francis

Creator of Gunpoint and soon Heat Signature / Twitter

For one sublime moment this season, it sounded for all the world as if Sue Perkins had just asked a tent full of people to build her “a shoe mountain in the shape of a nun.” She actually said ‘choux’, the pastry used in eclairs, though in any other context this would not make the instruction appreciably less surreal.

I think blithering batshit nonsense is a promising direction for a videogame adaptation. Let Tamal’s podgy bicycle of lemon and fennel bread lead the wobbling way. In my game you’d play as either immortal filomancer Mary Berry or dagger-haired balrog of scorn Paul Hollywood, and through your earthly agents Mel & Sue, request increasingly elaborate and bizarre constructions of a tent full of bemused AI bakers.

You compose your orders from a large library of adjectives, nouns and foodstuffs, each pre-recorded with varying degrees of hesitance and bewilderment by Mel and Sue.

“Mary would like very much for you to please build for her…
… a horse-drawn cart made from brioche sledgehammers…
… a hospital of smashed crackers…
… an operational Terry Wogan built from shortcrust stoats…
… a burning oil-rig of battenberg on a frangipane sea, livid with toxic flames of turkish delight…”

Your AI denizens fling together richly simulated baking products in an initially random fashion, then run Google Deep Dream algorithms on the mess to isolate and accentuate characteristics that match what their machine intelligences have learnt humans to associate with these words. Or to hallucinate dog noses.

Once their creations are complete, they bring them to you in turn as you walk around and appraise their work – this is a room-scale VR game, I’ve just decided. Once you’ve made up your mind, you express your judgement to the eager robot Ugnes and Alvins by choosing whether to impotently gnaw at their creations with your mouthless virtual head, consuming an amount proportional to your approval, or to smash at it with angry Hollywood hands until it is destroyed to the appropriate degree. Traits of the winning contestant are silently reinforced in the game’s underpinning algorithms, and your least favourite AI is hugged and then instantly killed – by Mel, who regrets that it is her turn this week.

David Galindo

Creator of Cook, Serve, Delicious! and soon Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2

As someone who hasn’t seen the show but loves American cooking reality competitions and is making an action packed cooking game, I’d be sure to pump up the action for a GBBO game, add intense music, flavor it with tons of drama, and make it as difficult as possible.

…I should probably watch the show first though.

* * *

Thanks to all the game developers above who pitched in! Now, you: tell us how you’d make a GBBO game.

41 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Now that’s an article to get you fucking ready for Friday.

    Cheers Graham!

  2. Gordon Shock says:

    British can cook?

    • OoooOoOOooh says:

      Some of them can bake at least.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Only when we don’t go to godawful chain restaurants that some hideous country, don’t know who, forced upon us.

      Seriously, all the worst places to eat in the U.K and the only places bad food is served now are goddamn chains like Weatherspoons (cursed be the black ones name) and other shit like that.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    This probably would have worked better if more of them had watched the show, and fewer of them were trying hard to be as “indie” as possible.

    Points to Tom Francis, though; his sounds like, at least, an interesting toy.

    • slerbal says:

      Yeah this article doesn’t work if the indie developers haven’t seen the show. Especially given how quirkily unique the show is and how totally unlike the usual bitchy/backstabbing “reality shows”. Tom Francis made the only relevant suggestion. Maybe ask a few more UK developers who have watched it?

    • ansionnach says:

      Agreed. His was an entertaining suggestion. To be sporting here’s an idea of my own for others to ridicule (my only contact with the programme is newspaper headlines about people messing with other people’s desserts).

      During a (for some reason) live special of the British Bake Off one of the presenters flips out Network-style. Turns out that they’re not the real presenter, but a Space Alien (possibly called Alain d’Espace) from the Gastromeda Galaxy (he could be a rip-off of that guy from the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). He’s holding the real presenter hostage and lays down a challenge to the nation: unless someone can beat him at a bake-off then the world will be destroyed. The tournament is to be held on M. d’Espace’s island fortress of St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall.

      So, the greatest bakers from across Britain assemble. They’re largely an odd and shady bunch. Who are they and what are their motivations? Can they be trusted to bake above the belt and keep their upper lip nice and British like the main character, Master Bruce Fielding of Hoddesdon-upon-Lea?

      Naturally, the baking is merely a pretext for an argument, the game then switching to either a 2d fighting game, scrolling brawler, isometric 8-way shooter… or graphic adventure, all food-themed. The graphic adventure segment would occur before the final showdown where our hero is sucked into a gingerbread representation of Olde England and challenged to confront himself in some way. This would be where the game gets all pretentious and suggests there may be a deeper meaning… before it just says “Nah, I’m really just a mental game like something from the computer gaming era and was throwing ideas at a wall”.

      Of course, you can select any of the eight characters, but not any of the four alien-controlled hosts. Once they’ve been freed it’s on the the deep-and-meaningful adventuring bit where you go on pointless fetch quests from everyone you’ve rescued since they have ingredients you want but couldn’t be arsed to help you.

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, everyone seems to be missing the point of the Bake Off, what makes it such a joy to watch.. except for Tom Francis, who comes up with a genuinely fun idea.

  4. Jediben says:

    It would be a game with a single button. Pressing that button closed the game and lets you go to do something better.

  5. Premium User Badge

    pertusaria says:

    It’s about playing personalities off each other.

    You get a random assortment of well-written NPC contestants at the beginning of the game. Each has points distributed across several stats, including baking ability, creativity and possibly intelligence or planning or something like that, but they also have attributes like “the posh one” or equivalent, which don’t have levels. Over several levels, you have to give them baking challenges and try to work out who’s who. You can manipulate who wins each level and overall (or possibly you just get to announce the winner), but you lose points with all the other characters if the winner is actually crap at the skills required. If you play favourites too obviously, the others can turn on you and drown you in chocolate mousse, or something. This is less likely to happen if they hate each other, so it’s up to you whether you try to divide and conquer or have one big happy family. When an overall winner is chosen, you get point(s) to allocate to their stats. Contestants come back in random distributions over replays (mixed in with new NPCs), so people who were passed over can remember grudges and people who’ve levelled up will come up with increasingly complex and impractical creations.

    Disclaimer: I also haven’t seen the show, but I really enjoyed the article.

    • Ferno says:

      Bake off has very little personality clashing. Everyone is mostly really nice to each other and often help each other if they have time!

  6. Bakuraptor says:

    I actually think there’s definitely potential for some kind of competitive Warioware-type game (which I generally think there aren’t enough of!) in which you’re given tasks which require a variety of minigame-type exercises to complete; if it was possible to pair that up with some kind of creative decision making over flavours, design, etc., that’d be even better. Compete either online or in local multiplayer against others, and, once complete, along with a score for inventiveness, everyone gets a vote, weakest-link style, for whose cake looks/sounds the best. It’d be even better if you were given spare time between stages to go around and look at/subtly sabotage/undermine your competition (take their ice cream out of the freezer!), but now I’m definitely getting far, far ahead of myself.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lexx87 says:

      Yes!

      Love the Warioware angle.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’d be even better if you were given spare time between stages to go around and look at/subtly sabotage/undermine your competition…

      But that’s fundamentally at odds with what makes the show so pleasant: it’s not dog-eat-dog bitchiness. Contestants are more likely to help each-other when something is going wrong.

      • gunny1993 says:

        And when someone does do something shady they are tsked into oblivion by the disapproving stare of a million peeved brits.

        And then the daily mail says something mildy racist

    • Tacroy says:

      you could do a Dixit but with baked goods sort of thing

  7. Chaz says:

    I’d ignore the show and just take the title and run with that.

    My game would be about two rival warring baking guilds in London, set during the 18th century. Your aim would be to spread your guild’s influence throughout the city whilst eliminating your rivals. It’d be like Assassins Creed, only with more strategy elements and cream buns.

  8. Frosty Grin says:

    No. Baking should not be a game. It’s something you’d rather do in real life – with real-life results. Virtual cakes won’t taste as good as real ones.

  9. Spuzzell says:

    But which publisher do you THINK should make it?

    I’d say whichever kneads the dough.

  10. caff says:

    I’d get the squirrel with the balls dangling down and turn him into a clicker-heroes style testicle mashing game.

  11. Kala says:

    “events that generate clips would ping on-screen so you’d notice them happening – someone dropped their pie, the posh guy’s put something weird in his dessert, and so on. Then you have to pick what actually makes it into the show.”

    THE SQUIRREL WITH THE HUGE BALLS!

    Welp, for mine you’d prolly be a contestant. You could pick or design a character – perhaps with different stats allocated. Maybe specialities in fancy icing, or pastry or whatever. (I dunno. I don’t bake).

    I’m not sure how the process of doing the actual baking would work…? Whether it would all be management style and then they do the actual baking separate to you, whether you could stealth it up and sabotage other people’s efforts – or maybe like a series of timed mini-games, where everything is a tense balanncing act and if you bollocks it up then HALF BURNT AND HALF SOGGY, MOTHERFUCKER.

    Mel & Sue (politely) bark suggestions and comments at you, and responding to them in a timely manner will help (somehow).

    You then get a cutscene where you are JUDGED by “immortal filomancer Mary Berry [and] dagger-haired balrog of scorn Paul Hollywood” where you are found unworthy and never seen again (i.e game over) or progress, with a spiked difficulty, onto the next round.

    (…Or maybe you could go for more of a design-a-cake angle? I’m unsure how you’d score for aesthetic wonderfulness, but you want to be coming up to something close to cake-porn. Maybe other players can rank it. Harshly. In a sort of cake hot-or-not).

    • Kala says:

      Oh! On the last bracketed idea, a friend of mine and me once had an art off-on MS paint in messenger, while another friend judged our efforts against each other (because we were all sad fucks). Design-a-cake could be something like that. Like a 4 player thing, where one person plays Mary Berry, and the others have to produce an appropriate looking cake to her whims. She votes one off each time until only one remains and is declared the winnar.

  12. Timbrelaine says:

    I’m sure cooking/baking could be a great game theme, but baking is a game you can play in your actual kitchen, resulting in actual baked goods.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      It’s not all goods though. There will also be a share of bads.

      • Cederic says:

        My last effort – also my first effort in 12 years – resulted in far too much cake mixture to fit into my oven.

        This turned out to be a good thing. After cocking up the first batch I nailed down the cake size/temperature/time ratio and the rest turned out quite splendid.

        So around 8% bads and lots of wonderful goodness :)

        Oh, and to stay on topic: I like Michael Cook’s idea. As long as it rewards TV shows that are ‘nice’, not ones that are bitchy. Save that for the The Apprentice sequel.

  13. int says:

    This whole thing just feels half-baked to me.

  14. MiniMatt says:

    World of Goo style physics based tower creation game. Leaning Tower of Truffle Souffle. Extra hundreds & thousands on the top for extra points, but will the weight make your three tier gingerbread masterpiece too top heavy?

    That said, I’m kickstartering the sprinkles out of Robert Yang’s idea.

  15. Spacewalk says:

    Whatever you do it would have to use voxels because voxels are the most yummy looking rendering method.

  16. racccoon says:

    Ok lets do this!!

    • racccoon says:

      I’m making jam donuts & gooseberry pie.

      • Cederic says:

        Lies! Everyone knows you can’t make jam doughnuts. It’s impossible to bake something with jam inside like that, they’re clearly conjured using some form of arcane benevolent magic.

  17. BannerThief says:

    Just wanted to chime in as a cultureless American that I desperately want Supersizers brought back. Giles and Sue are the dream team.

  18. LennyLeonardo says:

    Clearly some kind of Surgeon Simulator-style game with rpg progression is the way to go. Perhaps with dialogue trees. Pick the coolest response to Paul’s verbal baiting and your virtual hands are less shaky. Mood bars, stamina, perks.

  19. TechnicalBen says:

    As always the ideas from Tom have me hooked. Oh, and really really hungry for:
    “Mary would like very much for you to please build for her…
    … a horse-drawn cart made from brioche sledgehammers…
    … a hospital of smashed crackers…
    … an operational Terry Wogan built from shortcrust stoats…
    … a burning oil-rig of battenberg on a frangipane sea, livid with toxic flames of turkish delight…”

  20. szech says:

    I think it should be a Freedom Force spin-off.
    The GBBO tent is hit by a blast of mysterious ENERGY X and the cakes become sentient super-powered monsters and go off on a rampage to conquer the world’s baking factories.
    Maybe once you complete the campaign, you can replay as the cakes ;-)

  21. yan spaceman says:

    Can you fill a 3D printer with flour, icing sugar and butter and little coloured sugar bobble things? You see where I’m going?

  22. NotGodot says:

    I’m gonna put it on my imaginary shelf of BBC Micro games too good for this world, along with Richard Coles’ Pro Vicar.