Venba cooking game celebrates Tamil cuisine

You may not immediately think of sound as one of the essential senses in the kitchen. The taste and smell, of course, are obvious, but there’s also the saying that you eat with your eyes first too. In a cooking video game like Venba, you’re stripped of those essential senses – there’s no way to taste, smell or smell the food on screen – leaving only sight and sound. It’s in situations like these that you realize how important cooking sounds are: the way garlic sizzles in oil, or how ravioli hisses with steam. A video game about cooking must tap into these sensory memories to appeal to the player.

Venba is described as a narrative cooking game centered on an Indian family who immigrated to Canada from Tamil Nadu in the 80s. You play as Venba, a mother and wife who use food to connect her family members to their heritage and , in turn, restore lost family recipes. It’s part visual novel and part cooking game, with all the ingredients adding up to a story, according to Visai Games, centered on “family, love, loss, and more. Again”.

A mother standing over a pot and looking at her son

Image: Visai Games

During a preview organized last week, Venba Game designer Ahbi gave the media an insight into the game’s narrative and cooking elements, but also described how the studio created realistic sound for all of the game’s recipes. Ahbi said the whole team got together. committed to cooking all Venbathe recipes several times. “It was a huge source of reference for art and sound,” said Ahbi. He noted that Tamil cuisine is not always the food that comes to mind when someone thinks of Indian cuisine; North Indian cuisine is more common in North America.

“It’s something that I was very excited to present in Venba, but it comes with a double edged sword because there’s a lot of pressure to show this with a lot of authenticity and to do it right, because people rely on these recipes to be accurate. When Venba found a wider audience, we felt that responsibility very deeply.

The cooking rule – that team members would follow these recipes themselves – was key to ensuring everyone understood the taste, texture and, yes, sound, of southern food. India. “Capturing recipes accurately was important to us, as was making players feel like they were stepping into Tamil cuisine,” Ahbi said. “For this, sound design plays a very important role.”

This task was entrusted to Venba sound designer Neha Patel, who not only cooked the meals, but recorded the sound every step of the way. “It’s not that we wanted to make sound effects, necessarily, but […] it was really hard to capture those specific sounds, and there aren’t many libraries out there,” Abhi said. “Neha felt foley was the only way to do it right.”

A side-by-side comparison between a rice dish cooked on a stovetop in real life and in-game

Image: Visai Games

Ahbi showed the press how it works in side-by-side videos depicting recording, for example, oil crackling and crackling alongside in-game clips of fried food. The way it was recorded required almost no editing from Visai Games; the sound was able to be layered directly over the game footage “like it was marked for it,” Ahbi said.

Beyond the foley for cooking, Ahbi described the team’s efforts to create the essential backdrop for Tamil cuisine, especially the music on the radio. He recalled that there had been no quiet moments in his family kitchen, with the radio or television often playing in the background. Visai Games has added an in-game radio with a branded soundtrack alongside the various narrative eras related to the sounds of Tamil cinema from the aligned decade. “Actually, it’s even more specific,” Ahbi said. “It’s designed to sound like a specific composer’s song. The songs are tributes to specific musical directors that we were all fans of growing up. Depending on the level and the period, the era will change with the music and the style of the songs. This includes a song by a musical director named Devanesan Chokkalingam, or Deva, a man who composed the music for hundreds of movies and for nearly 40 years. They were planning to do a song based on his music, and he said he would do it himself.

Venba ended up with live recorded music sung by various South Asian artists and composed by Alpha Something. “It’s pretty rare for games, but even rarer for indie games,” Ahbi said. “But to recreate those styles of music, we needed live instruments that were signatures for different musical directors.”

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