Quebec-based studio Ludia created two video games based on television shows at essentially the same time, but they couldn’t have been more different. One was based on the squeaky clean and family-friendly game show The Price is Right; the other, Hell’s Kitchen, an edgy reality cooking show starring British bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay.
According to Ludia, the foul-mouthed Ramsay, known as much for his liberal use of the f-word as his multiple Michelin stars, and his show Hell’s Kitchen, where a series of chefs work under Ramsay’s demanding standards for the prize of getting to run one of his restaurants, seemed like a strong brand to make into a video game.
"Our vision was to push the envelope of the cooking/time management genre by creating a game that incorporates both cooking and dining room elements, so the Hell’s Kitchen TV show format fit that mandate perfectly," said Alex Thabet, president of Ludia. "Also, from the get-go the show had a dedicated, growing audience that we could leverage."
"Last but certainly not least, Gordon Ramsay is a talented, world-class Chef who possesses a very distinct personality that we could build a story-line around."
According to Thabet, Ludia set out to make Hell’s Kitchen unique by dividing the action up between the kitchen and the dining area of the restaurant, along with adding some innovative cooking mechanics in the kitchen.
"What most people will notice right away, however," Thabet continued, "is that the game has quite a different look and feel than fans of cooking/time management games typically come across. It’s much more realistic and edgy."
The game is so edgy, in fact, that two versions of it were made. In one, Ramsay’s language is censored so that "you donkey!" is the strongest epithet you’ll ever hear him say. There’s also an uncensored version where Ramsay holds back none of his trademark blue language.
"Having both censored and uncensored versions is something we planned from the beginning of the development cycle," said Thabet. "It was more a result of anticipating what different players would want, not what our portal partners would demand."
Casual games are usually relatively stress free experiences (at least when compared to other genres like first-person shooters or survival horror games), but Hell’s Kitchen turns up the heat on purpose – literally – in order to recreate the tension-filled environment of the TV show.
Each mistake players make in the kitchen causes a scowling Ramsay to hurl a choice insult or two at them as his impatience meter – represented by a flaming pillar – slowly rises. If too many dishes go up in flames and too many customers get upset, he’ll shut down the kitchen in a rage.
"Innovation is never an easy or smooth path," Thabet said when asked how easily the game’s development cycle progressed.
"We came up with a few different iterations of gameplay and tested them out with both players and trusted partners before arriving at the fun and original version of Hell’s Kitchen we have today," Thabet said. "It was definitely not easy to arrive at the right mix, but we got there in the end."
One thing’s for certain: Gordon Ramsay picked up some new fans during the development process.
"Listening to the full-length recordings from Gordon’s voice-over sessions is highly entertaining. He’s quick-witted, very funny, and doesn’t hold back what the thinks," said Thabet.
According to Thabet, members of Hell’s Kitchen‘s development team were already fans of Gordon Ramsay prior to production, but they became more rabid admirers as the development progressed.
“‘Let’s go, yes!?’ became our office catch-phrase and battle cry for quite some time!"