From the launch of the original Cook Serve Delicious over a decade ago, David Galindo and Vertigo Gaming have been working on the franchise through different entries, platforms, ports, and more. Today, the team releases Cook Serve Forever on PC as an early access title, and I’ve been chatting with David about a plethora of topics leading up to today’s launch. Having played and enjoyed most of the series through every console and PC release, I’ve been excited for Cook Serve Forever and also for potentially seeing the series make its way back to mobile. This interview will cover difficulty tuning, how the team worked on this game during a pandemic, potential mobile ports for the series, and more.
TouchArcade: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Vertigo Gaming.
David Galindo: I’ve been making games for over 20 years now, though I didn’t really hit it big until Cook, Serve, Delicious was released in 2012. Since then we’ve grown our small team to six full time and twelve freelance employees! I used to do literally everything when making a game, so it’s been such a great pleasure to continually hand off parts of the game to other people that are far more talented than me.
TA: The original Cook Serve Delicious is now more than a decade old. It still feels weird to say that, but how has it been for you, working on this series for so long across four games, multiple ports, console versions, mobile versions, and more?
DG: I’ve had all kinds of emotions toward the series. I think if you were to ask me this once a month in the last few years I’d have a different answer. Interestingly, I had something come up that opened the door to potentially selling the entire IP, and the more I thought about it the sadder I got. I felt like we had built up our little franchise into something quite big, something that most indies find to be difficult if not impossible. The opportunity ended up not working out so I didn’t get to choose what to do, but by that point it was a bit of a relief, and I think it made me realize that I still love this series so much.
TA: Cook Serve Delicious was ported to mobile but not console. Cook Serve Delicious 2 and 3 were brought to consoles but not mobile. Are there any plans to revisit Cook Serve Delicious for modern mobile devices or bring it to consoles? I still think the original is worth playing and revisit it on my iPad Pro.
DG: I definitely want to return to mobile! That’s absolutely something that I want to do in the near future- I felt like Cook Serve Delicious 2 and 3 are too complex for the small screen, so whatever we do it has to be unique and original and not just a simple update for the old game. I am curious what the market is like for premium single purchase games because that’s the only way I’d do it. I just don’t have the energy to make an ad supported or consumable DLC game. Cook Serve Delicious 1 is barely supported by phones as it is thanks to its age. I think the Android port is officially unsupported by the newest Android OS. So yeah, I definitely want to return to that sometime.
TA: How do you and the team approach each new game in terms of keeping things fresh?
DG: Oddly enough I don’t really think of it in terms of “how do I keep things fresh” but rather “how do I change things up with this new game so I’m not horribly bored making it for the next two years?” Because if I’m bored with the fundamental mechanics, the audience will be too. If I were to do a sequel that just had new foods and little changes, I think that’d be very boring and clinical to make.
TA: I wasn’t familiar with Ore no Ryouri until I read about how you made two fan games based on it that led to Cook Serve Delicious being born. Tell us a little bit about how Ore no Ryouri led to today’s Cook Serve Delicious.
DG: I played the demo in a PlayStation 1 Underground demo disc back in the day as part of their Import section. I loved it so much and was fascinated by the way you could make food in that game. And so it just kind of led to us making our own spin on it.
TA: Have you had a chance to talk to the creators of Ore no Ryouri since?
DG: I don’t actually know too much about the game other than the demo I played! I kind of prefer it that way- I feel we’re in a place now where the games are very different from each other and I like doing my own thing. So I’m not sure who the creators are or what they’ve been up to since. I hope they’re doing well!
TA: When we covered Cook Serve Delicious 3, it felt like the best step forward for the franchise. How has the response to it been?
DG: Thank you! That game was one where I felt like I had nothing to lose. In fact that’s the entire premise that the game was built around- I’m going to go absolutely nuts and make this wild game, and if people hate it, then that means I can move on from the series. And if people love it, then it’s a great way to end the series. And as it turns out people loved it and the series isn’t ending after all- or at least, the spinoffs will continue!
TA: Cook Serve Delicious 3 built and improved over 2. Cook Serve Forever based on the demo is another nice step up and a lot more ambitious than I expected. Were there any ideas you had for prior games that couldn’t be implemented then, but are in Cook Serve Forever?
DG: With Forever we are just starting with a completely blank slate, which is both extremely exciting and terrifying at the same time. We toyed with the idea of a story in Cook Serve Delicious 3 but the game’s structure didn’t really support any kind of delivery system for story- you’d watch a two minute cutscene and then play about three hours of gameplay before you would see the next one. So it’s exciting to create a game built from the ground up to be able to tell a story. I think within the first thirty minutes of Forever you’ll realize just what exactly this game is trying to do.
TA: While I love the gameplay, the visuals and music are definitely highlights of the Cook Serve Delicious games. The soundtrack for 3 in particular is sublime. How has it been working with Jonathan Geer for so many years?
DG: He’s been absolutely incredible. We’re at a point now where I think we understand each other’s tastes and style. Way back when we were first starting, I’d send him dozens of references and examples and lots of feedback. Now I literally just say “hey can you do our soundtrack for Forever? It should sound like music from a radio, not necessarily gameplay driven. Feel free to go for full vocal lyrics.” and he sends me some of the best music I’ve ever heard. I’ve said this before but I’m absolutely not joking when I say I strive to make our games live up to the incredible music. It’s a tall order.
TA: What sort of difficulty should players of prior games expect in Cook Serve Forever? Are there accessibility options?
DG: This is a full difficulty reset. Cook Serve Delicious 3 in particular was so incredibly difficult that our metrics showed players falling off the game pretty quickly before they even got out of the first zone. That’s pretty normal usually, but the percentage was higher than normal.
The difficulty ramp here is much more gradual. I think in the first chunk you play in Early Access it’s about a low to medium difficulty, but it will ramp up the further in you get. And there will be ways to modify the difficulty to make it harder with more rewards if that’s what you want too.
TA: Have you done any special optimization for Steam Deck? I’m hoping to play Cook Serve Forever on Steam Deck from the start.
DG: We’re making sure the UI fits the Deck well and it’ll definitely be a great place to play the game right at launch! We want to go for Verified so expect more updates over Early Access to get to full Steam Deck Verified status!
TA: How has the team at Vertigo Gaming grown over the years?
DG: Generally I work with freelance people for years before realizing I don’t want them to leave and hire them full time (laughs). My goal is to hire two or so full time artists and then just roll with our team for the years to come. I don’t have any ambitions to have a 10+ full time staff because it gets riskier with each hire and as a good indie dev friend told me, you have to decide whether you want to coast with what you have and have security for the rest of your life, or risk it all to go bigger. Cook Serve Forever is the biggest risk we’ve ever taken as we’ve hired four full time people since we started making it. I don’t plan on taking more risk. I want to get back to sleeping soundly at night.
TA: How was it working on Cook Serve Forever during a pandemic without in person events for so long?
DG: It’s more difficult than I thought. We were always a remote company but would always get together for conferences like PAX. And of course the pandemic shut all that down.
Most of the team met up last year in LA to do some voiceover recording sessions all week and then we celebrated by going to Disneyland and having a great time. It was one of the highlights of my life. I love everyone on our team and to be able to share that experience was incredible. I’m hoping Forever does well enough so we can do a similar trip in the future!
TA: Over the years, you’ve brought your games to multiple platforms and storefronts. Which one has been the easiest to work for on the storefront side and also on the hardware side?
DG: This sounds like a total cop-out, and it definitely is that but I will say the engine we use, Game Maker, allows us to port to any platform extremely easily. We can have builds running on all three major consoles in literally a week (before adding specific SDKs for each system and such, of course). Getting the game to run on those platforms is extremely simple, but the hard part is certification and making sure you support everything that is necessary, and so on. Each has their own quirks. I will say my least favorite is mobile, if only because you have to support so many screens and such a low amount of memory. But I’m still looking forward to getting back to it, as it’s still one of my favorite places to play games. I’m hopelessly addicted to Marvel Snap at the moment, gah!
Thanks to David Galindo and Vertigo Gaming for their time here.