Restaurant City: let it be over soon

rc1There’s a new game on Facebook called Restaurant City.

Ok, it’s not actually that new; the open beta apparently took flight in late March.   When I started playing, about 5 days ago, a bunch of my friends, some WoW players, some not, were already chronicking out on it like fiends.

I should have turned & run.

Restaurant City is like a restaurateur’s Sims.   It’s put out by Playfish, one of many companies – but probably the most popular – that provide games via Facebook.   You create a virtual restaurant, you hire workers (chosen from avatars representing those on your Friends list) & you randomly & painstakingly accumulate ingredients — tomato, pasta, mango — to put together appetizers, entrees & desserts you can select from a menu control.

rc-bruleeAt left is my dessert selection.   There 3-4 ingredients needed to make any 1 dish, & for the Brulee it’s egg, cream & sugar… & I’m missing the cream.

And there it is.   The whole game.   It’s about getting that last ingredient you need in order to create the dish, & to create it again, better.   There are 10 levels of each dish & here, thank God, I’ve reached the highest level of confectionary artistry with my Brulee.   So I won’t be needing that cream after all.   But you don’t even understand the kind of crap I had to go through to get the last 10.

There are only a few ways wannabe chefs can obtain ingredients.   1. Once a day (3pm Hawaii time) there is a little quiz that pops up in your game mail.   Answer it correctly & you get a random ingredient (not usually the one you want).   2. You receive 1 random ingredient when you first log in each day.   Logging in, however, means that you logged out the night before.   Therefore I am not always getting my daily ingredient & it’s annoying.   3. When visiting a friend’s restaurant for the first time you are awarded a random ingredient (again… not usually the one you want).   4. If your friend has an ingredient you want, you can visit his restaurant & arrange a trade.   There is no gifting of ingredients, therefore the accumulation of a comfortable amount of necessary & expendable ingredients is important.

The need for speed has most serious RC players posting messages on various Facebook RC groups, where we all add complete strangers – most of them in Asia, looks like – as friends on Facebook, thereby obtaining 1st time visit ingredients.   We add eachother, log out/log in to the game, visit eachother’s restaurants, get our ingredients, & then drop eachother from our Friends lists, usually after 24 hours as a matter of courtesy.   It’s not really en exploit; it’s networking.   It’s a bit of a pain & I’ve developed a system for courteously but efficiently trading temporary friends in & out, & so far have had no problems & a very nice accumulation of ingredients.   And it takes a long time.   Not because I’ve interacted with so many people; because the game seems barely capable of keeping afloat.

rc-lost-connectionRC is still in beta.   Usually an open beta involves ironing out various minor issues, but in this case the game seems barely capable of running.   Perhaps Playfish simply didn’t expect this many people to jump into the game.   Most times simply entering a friend’s restaurant, trading an ingredient, changing your floor plan, or even saving & quitting takes over a minute or even several minutes.   The Playfish server is apparently overloaded all the time.   Constantly.   They’ve even got a rotating limitation on what accounts get access to their server at all at different times of the day.

After a few hours of figuring out how everything worked, I did what any decent neurotically obsessive-compulsive dork would do: I made a spreadsheet of every app, entree & dessert & the ingredients required for each dish.   I then visited each of my friends’ restaurants & painstakingly visually identified which app, entree & dessert each person was serving.   I then incorporated this data into my spreadsheet so I could have an organized picture of what ingredients were needed where.

To progress quickly, due to the scarcity of the availability of the right combination of ingredients & the fact that you can only select 1 item from each of the 3 courses at any given time, your best bet is to level up on 1 app, 1 entree, & 1 dessert.   Leveling up on several apps is a waste of time, since you can only serve one of these at any given time anyway.   Why should you level up on a dish at all?   The higher level the dish you are serving, the more “Gourmet Points” you get – & these, not the game money – are the main currency of the game.   These are like Experience points in an MMO.   Gourmet Points cause you to level up your restaurant, gain more space, be able to hire more employees.

creamofsumyungaiCurrently I’ve maxed out my entree & dessert thanks to successful adding & trading aided by my handy spreadsheet & 16-year-olds in China.   And patience.   Lots of patience.   I’ve only got a level 5 app due to the scarcity of lemons.   Lemons are supposedly a commonly dropped ingredient but good luck finding one since so many recipes call for them, therefore everyone else needs them as well.   The different combinations of ingredients needed in RC menu items seem to result in an overstock of the rare items — for instance, no one knows what to do with their rare-drop Saffron, since there is only 1 menu item that calls for it – Seafood Paella — & the rice needed to make this dish is also used in Vegetarian Fried Rice, Ma Po Tofu, & Chili Con Carne.

So I’ve got a whole pile of Saffron that I’d love to trade away for a fricking lemon.

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