Bear & Breakfast - Cooking Redesign

Redesigning the cooking mechanic in Bear & Breakfast

Project summary

Bear & Breakfast is a charming management sim made from the the Romanian indie studio Gummy Cat. It’s clear that the low-stress sim games have a place in our hearts and Bear & Breakfast delivered a truly adorable, exciting and impressive game.

That being said. During this project I focused on the structure and gameplay of the cooking mechanic. This is because during my own play-through I experienced the most friction during this phase. I knew I had to investigate this more. As I truly enjoyed the game and wished to be fully invested in all of its pieces.

I will show my player research findings, complete with a new UI and layout. Improving the experience of the in-game task, and minimising the chance of game abandonment.



Navigation and controls go hand in hand. So for this project I’m looking at navigation and input, specifically on the port to Nintendo Switch. This game was designed as a desktop-first experience, which leaves improvements hidden at first glance.


Sizing, colours and legibility will all be taken into account in this project as to improve the accessibility. I’ll also investigate the cognitive load that the game requires of it’s users. Looking to require less controller input from players but keeping all the fun!

Tedium versus fun

The task of cooking is expected to be repeated many many times throughout the game. This being said, the frequent errors, mis-clicks and feeling stuck, stand directly in the way of users enjoyment of cooking in the game. Re-balancing is needed to find a medium between smooth, fast and fun.

The solution

Investigate current experience

I started off by taking a new look at the game. This time with a structure in mind. I decided to evaluate the experience from my own perspective first, as to air out my own thoughts.

Currently this is the experience in short: While playing you are upgrading and improving your own franchise of bed & Breakfast’s around the map. At each new location you unlock new features that add a challenge or mechanic that you’ll have to learn, manage and master.

In this case study I’m looking at the cooking mechanic which is discovered at the third B&B location. First you learn how to build the necessary kitchen appliances and kitchen itself. Then we learn about picking and buying ingredients. Shortly after that we learn our first recipe.

The screen below is what a player might see when opening this interface. Granted this photo is taken from my own play-through and doesn’t represent what it could look like for another user playing for the first time.

I kicked things off with an heuristic evaluation using the Nielsen Norman Group’s 10 heuristic principles, adapted for for video games. This acted as a guide and support system for me to organise and realise my own thoughts and feelings.

Some things I’d highlight from these insights is my struggle with navigating the menus. To move from the recipes to my inventory I intuitively move the left stick. This doesn’t work, on screen there are buttons that indicate that I’ll have to use the direction arrows to select what menu I’d like to interact with.

I saw this as a big point of friction, combined with the small text and icon size causing eye-strain even when played on tv. I had several times “rage-quit” because I could never fully master these controls.


I continued research by conducting in-person observations, interviews and play-testing. By meeting face to face I could not only ask about their previous (if any) knowledge of Bear & Breakfast or other casual management sim games, I could also observe them playing the game and have them freely summarise the experience to me afterwards.

In total there were 3 interviewees, I’ll summarise the participants below.

Young professional, Software Developer - Little to no previous game genre experience

- Perspective of a new player with no previous casual management sim game experience
- Passionate and frequent consumer of video games of other genres

Young professional, Architect - Avid video game player and consumer

- Speak from the perspective of a person who’s just started their own novice project within game development
- Critical and keen eye when dissecting the entertainment he engages with

University Student, Degree of candidate in Film Studies

- Often and enthusiastically plays casual management sim games, but not this title.
- Give insights from a users perspective that plays similar titles on the Nintendo Switch

The combination of freely speaking and then transitioning to hands-on experience with the cooking mechanic in the game greatly served me in my research. I transcribed insights from the session afterwards and started to collect individual insights.


I used the Atomic research model to distill insights from my interview facts. I gathered 8 common themes and ideas and wrote them down as to create opportunities from these fact-based insights. The Distilled insights where as follows: 

By using the atomic model I could turn these insights into opportunities I wanted to explore in the next stage. These would be defined as actionable designs or questions for me to explore.


From here I wanted to turn words into reality. With ammunition gathered from my research I started sketching out how these ideas could be realised. I had some earlier sketches of a more top-down layout that would be reminiscent of games like cooking mama. But I had to re-centre myself back to not re-design the games intended design too much. Rather I wanted to focus on the intricacies of the current experience and mechanics.
I knew I had to tackle the navigation issues. To put it plainly there was previously too many menus on screen that need the players attention and required independent navigation, this is the core of what caused the direction-pad to be used as a menu selector. Now For this experience to be adapted to console we need to simplify. In my case I decided on separating the experience into 2 screens. One to be dedicated for recipes and the other for cooking.

I’ve also removed the need to place the ingredients once by one in the interface. Instead I’ve opted for matching the cooking method card to the correct ingredient. Keeping the right amount of challenge.
I created wireframes in Figma to further solidify the concept. This is also where I’d decide the sizing of all elements and organise the clustering and pathing. This would also be a proof of concept of the relationship between the new global navigation and new focus-based navigation.


The final product is a brand new experience that still holds true to what the mechanic always intended to be - An interactive card matching and light puzzle mini game. But now each of it’s parts have been allowed to breathe and take up as much space as they need on the screen. The users experience has transformed from an overwhelming one, into a calmer and more guided one.

Players don’t have to worry about feeling taken out of the game’s world or setting, and now they can fully enjoy the the theme as it’s presented. And with more features that gives the power back to the player, the mechanic leaves no more rooms for needless errors or, like I did, rage quit’s.


This project was such a treat for me to work with. I know that Bear and Breakfast is Gummy Cat Studios’s baby and that it is made with so much love from their team. I know this because I can feel it all across the game when I played it. So before I reflect on my own time on this project, I’d like to congratulate them on a wonderful game and applaud them for their continuous work with their fanbase to keep improving the experience through free content updates and fixes.

At the end of this experience I’m really thankful that this game’s existing UI allowed me to more naturally include hand-drawn elements into the final result. And experimenting with the blend between vector and pixel into one environment. Using both Procreate and Figma felt natural and I was able to create visuals I was really pleased with.

The research phase was very exciting to me. I have asked myself afterwards; Should I have done my heuristic evaluation after, or before? Like I did this time. I’ve mentioned my reasoning as to why it was done before. But again; How can I know for sure? I’ll take solace in the fact that asking myself this question is probably half the battle of not letting your own opinions interfere with player research. But what would this project have been without a little passion? :)

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