Designed for Carnegie Mellon’s 2012 Spring Carnival, Krusty Kitchen is a Spongebob-inspired tangible interaction game in which players follow onscreen recipes by assembling wooden blocks resembling deep-sea ingredients. Krusty Kitchen was a part of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity’s 2012 Spongebob Squarepants-themed carnival booth, which is a two story wooden structure designed and built by students. Curious? You can read more about Sigma Phi Epsilon’s booth program here.
Working inside of an existing design style and the wider context of the Spongebob universe presents an opportunity to work in a vibrant and exciting color palette that evokes strong associations with the television show. As booths are frequented by area families (especially those with children), the booth game needs to be accessible to children as young as five.
For 2012, we chose to place our game into the kitchen of the Krusty Krab, the restaurant where Spongebob works. We wanted to work the game into the natural flow of the booth, so we decided to put visitors into the role of a fry cook in the Krusty Krab. Players will be able to fit together interlocking, electronically augmented blocks to recreate deep-sea recipes. From sea-horse radish to jellyfish jelly, visitors will combine a wide array of fanciful ingredients in an engaging interactive experience that ties together themes and references from across the Spongebob universe.
Each block has inlaid wiring and resistors that feeds back to a sensor placed into stove burner. By summing the resistance and doing some simple circuit mathematics, a computer can easily tell which blocks are in a given assembly. To get ingredients in the correct order, parts interlock through a series of protrusions and insets that make it impossible for incorrect parts to fit together. Because the insets are on the bottom of each piece, Krusty Kitchen forces users to turn over each piece and really get into the tactile experience of assembling the food.
Process Work and Workflow
Jason and I began by doing line drawings to play with how various parts would fit together. Then, I cut small blocks of foam and sanded/cut them to the desired shape:
After developing an initial form, Will Maher and I modeled each of the parts in Solidworks, taking care to size things appropriately and ensure pieces fit together properly. The picture below is all of the Solidworks parts stacked on eachother.
Following that, we imported the Solidworks models into rhino. Kevin Kuntz then split the models so that that we could cut the insets into one half and the rest of the part on the other half. He then created toolpaths for a CNC router to mill them all as exactly as possible. Once we were able to get time, we used the CNC router to mill 3 of each game piece.
Unfortunately, when designing the models, I forgot to take into account a couple key features of my manufacturing process:
- When you mill into a piece, it rounds the corners of your cuts, however, the corners of the protrusions are not rounded.
- Three coats of lacquer plus a coat of paint adds significant thickness to a piece
- Some of the insets were milled as circles cut all the way through, but there was a top side and a bottom side.
The milling issue was poor foresight and inexperience with digital fabrication on my part, but it unfortunately meant that I had to put an endmill bit into my drillpress and remill the corners. Many thanks to Winston Avil, who ended up doing the majority of that remilling.
As for the lacquer and paint, it meant that the parts had to be sanded down, which would lead to more problems down the road.
The inset orientation problem led to some of the pieces being glue together wrong, and since CNC time is hard to come by, meant that I had to scrap having two different types of bun (we went with just the Sesame Seed).
After the remilling and the sanding, the pieces were ready for painting.
Then, using copper tape, wire, and solder, I made a model of each part’s electronics. Each side of the part has copper tape contact strips, then a small hole drilled through the piece either runs a wire to the opposite side or holds a resistor that will connect the two. Each physical part has a a resistor and a no resistor variant, allowing for more parts than types of resistors the software has to be able to differentiate. After making a model of each piece and testing connection, I handed them off to Jake Flittner and Robbie Murcek, who then copied my design onto the remainder of the parts.
Unfortunately, this is where the sanding issues from earlier reared their ugly heads. Due to uneven sanding, the contact strips on the pieces didn’t maintain consistent contact, making it difficult to run a current all the way through the circuit and evaluate a given burger. Because of this issue, which could only really be fixed by remilling the pieces with redesigned files, I built a backup system into the game in which volunteers could determine correctness and input it into the system as a right or left click of a wireless mouse.
Gameplay and Installation
One of the key parts of Krusty Kitchen was marrying the onscreen graphics to both the physical forms and to the feel of Spongebob as source material. To that end, we kept in-game graphics fairly simple, using vector done by Kapil and I that was based off of the 3D forms. For loading, intro, and exit screens, we dipped into vector art based off of the Booth’s architecture, as well as the rich color palette of Spongebob.
Game Over Screen:
The game was then installed into our booth into a mock stove built by Brian Bleda. Game pieces were stored in two deep fryer baskets set into the middle of the stove, easy to access for either player.
Credits: Due to the nature of booth as a whole-house event, there were around 70 people who helped in some way with the Booth and therefore the experience of the game. The following section lists more specific roles. Booth is an incredibly large undertaking, so often tasks are accomplished by making a model part or component of which others make copies. I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in this project and kept me sane, especially our Booth Chairs Kunal Deodhar and Junki Nakayama.
Concept and Experience Design: John Brieger, Thomas Doyle, Jason Paul
Part Design: John Brieger, Jason Paul, William Maher
Part Manufacture: Kevin Kuntz, John Brieger, Winston Avil
Electronics Design: John Brieger
Electronics Manufacture: John Brieger, Jake Flittner, Robbie Murcek
Game Housing Design: Bryan Bleda, Jason Paul, John Brieger
Game Programming: John Brieger, Andy Biar
Game Art: Kapil Easwar, John Brieger
Sound Design: Andy Biar