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Food-battling strategy game ponders the ethics of culinary combat

The mind behind Steam cooking turn-based strategy game GladiEATers tells PCGamesN about early access plans, the ethics of combat, and the potential of cheese.

GladiEATers - a chef wearing a yellow apron dashes forward, cracking an egg in her hands

Pretty much anyone can boil an egg, and at a stretch you might even be able to whisk one up and fry it into a delicious omelette. But what happens when you send that omelette into battle against a three-layered cake? That’s one of many questions posed by GladiEATers – so PCGamesN caught up with the mind behind this upcoming turn-based strategy game at WASD 2023 to ask him about Steam Early Access plans, the ethics of culinary combat, and the unquestionable potential of cheese.

The concept of GladiEATers is pretty simple – you cook up various foods and then send them to fight your opponent’s creations. You can bash out simple foods like boiled eggs quickly, or take time to cook something fancier (and stronger in battle) like a three-layered cake. It’s a simple but delightful concept that developer Oliver Georgallis from Milk Bubbles Games came up with on a long drive.

“It was complete silence that was broken by, ‘Tommy, I’ve got this idea okay?’” Upon telling his friend, the response all but confirmed the idea in Georgallis’s head: “It could be called GladiEATers.” He loved the name so much that ‘Tommy’ still holds a small stake in the game just for those naming rights. “I love puns – a lot of things in the game are named after puns,” Georgallis tells us on the WASD show floor.

“The team pulls me back on that a lot,” he muses, “For example, there’s only one combat chef in the game that can speak in puns, because everyone else said, alright Oliver, all the others need to speak normally.” Georgallis says the team wants the characters to feel varied and interesting, however, and each has their own specific dietary preferences, such as one who’s a raw paleo vegan.

“That’s never really a point of humour, you know – no-one ever makes fun of someone for what they eat, or how they dress, or anything like that. That’s really important to us as well. So just real people, basically, that’s what we designed the characters after.” As a trained chef, Georgallis says, “Food is so relatable – I don’t need to explain to anyone what a fried egg is, you know, they just know. And I think that’s a sort of jumping-off point for building character or a creature.”

GladiEATers - creatures made out of the tomato and egg dish Shakshouka

Some foods might be a little less familiar to some, however – Ratatouille is fairly widely known at this point thanks to the Disney film of the same name, but what about the tomato and egg dish Shakshouka? “So few people know what that is – I would love for someone to make Shakshouka in the game and then figure out how to make it in real life and find out it’s super easy and super tasty.”

Roughly 50 creatures across three categories of eggs, pastry, and vegetables are currently available in-game, but there’s plenty of potential for new foods to arrive down the line. “Cheese – I mean, once we add cheese to the game… that’s cheesy vegetables, cheesy omelettes, cheese on bread, pizza, I mean the whole floodgates open, right?” That means even just one new ingredient creates a whole world of possibilities. “I mean, that’s kind of how cooking works,” Georgallis concludes.

One question is burning on our lips, however. If this food is alive, brought into being by a mysterious force known as the ‘CAL particle’ that turns inanimate calories into food, what are the ethical ramifications of sending it into battle? “It’s interesting that, because you said ‘send it off to die,’ right? This is definitely a conversation we want to develop in the story,” Georgallis teases.

“There are definitely going to be characters that question the ethics of fighting with these creatures, getting attached to them and seeing them die kind of hurts. And then if it comes back to life, is it the same thing? So there are questions that we want to develop later on in the story.” It’s certainly a unique spin on the ethics of cooking that we haven’t seen addressed quite in this way before.

GladiEATers - several food items face off against one another in battle. A move selection menu is shown at the bottom of the screen.

GladiEATers is currently planned to launch via Steam Early Access by the end of the year, with plans to introduce multiplayer modes including both co-operative play and competitive multiplayer in the future. For now, you can add it to your wishlist if you’re interested.

In the meantime, check out more of the best cooking games if you’re feeling peckish, or some other great strategy games for those of you who love the more tactical side of proceedings.

Interview conducted by Nat Smith at WASD 2023.