Life By You Blog

Life Update


Life Update: Cooking Deep-Dive

Hello everyone and welcome to a delicious new blog post! Let’s dive into the culinary world of Life by You and take a look at the cooking system and how that entire process works, start to finish.

Today we’re joined by Lauren, Senior Game Designer at Paradox Tectonic. Lauren has been working on Cooking, and has answers to all of your sizzling questions. Without further ado, let’s jump into some Q&A with Lauren!

What types of food can you cook?

We've prepared a veritable smorgasbord for all you chefs out there! Our vast array of ingredients supports recipes from all over the world, for any time of day. Some examples:

  • Breakfasts: Apple Baked Oats, Congee, Hashbrowns & Eggs

  • Main Courses: Duck L'Orange, Ghormeh Sabzi, Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Desserts: Creme Brulee, Pasteis De Nata, Baumkuchen

At least 100 recipes will be available at the start of Early Access, with many more to come as we work toward our full launch.

Meal Options

Where can you cook food?

Cooking is currently accessible from fridges, kitchen counters, stoves, and barbeque grills. During early access we hope to add cooking functionality to more appliances, such as microwaves and ovens.

Grill Time

What types of ingredients are there? How does substituting ingredients work?

With over 400 ingredients currently in the game, we've got you covered for most culinary needs. What other games can boast 5 varieties of potato, 9 types of flour, and 6 different cooking oils?

Now, you may be wondering why on earth you'd ever need 6 kinds of edible seaweed, but this is where substitutions come into play. Let's say you're making Basic Pancakes, which requires:

  • Wheat Flour

  • Chicken Egg

  • Cow's Milk

But wait, you only have White Flour! No problem, Basic Pancakes allows you to substitute Wheat Flour with any other type of flour - and any type of egg or milk, for that matter. This makes cooking far more flexible and convenient, as well as granting finer control over your character's dietary choices.

That said, not all recipes allow substitutions. For example, both Green Salad and Chicken Romaine Salad call for Romaine Lettuce, however only the former allows substitutions. A Green Salad is a Green Salad no matter what lettuce you use, but you can't take the Romaine out of Chicken Romaine Salad. 


Where can you get ingredients? Can you buy/find/grow them?

Yes, yes, and yes! Currently you can purchase ingredients from stores, grow them through gardening, or find them in troves scattered across the region. Most recipe ingredients can also be auto-bought from the cooking menu for convenience, similar to our four crafting categories you’ve seen before.

How does the Cooking skill work? How do you unlock new recipes?

At the start of Early Access, the Cooking skill will serve 2 functions: unlocking recipes and increasing the chance of success.

Most recipes unlock as your Cooking skill level increases, with roughly 5-10 new recipes per level. As a sneak peak, here's an unlockable breakfast recipe at each level:

  • 0: Bagel & Cream Cheese

  • 1: Avocado Toast

  • 2: Basic Congee

  • 3: Berry Pancakes

  • 4: Breakfast Casserole

  • 5: Belgian Waffle

  • 6: English Breakfast

  • 7: Chilaquiles

  • 8: Breakfast Pizza

  • 9: Croque Madame

  • 10: Eggs Benedict

When a recipe unlocks is typically based on its real-world equivalent factors such as time to make, number of ingredients, techniques required, acceptable margin of error (*cough*baking*cough*), and more. These factors aren't necessarily simulated 1:1 through gameplay - watching your character make Pho for 7+ hours isn't the most entertaining use of your time - so we chose to reflect them through their level requirements instead.

The Cooking skill also affects the character's culinary success. Every time you cook there is a small chance the resulting dish won't be the Borscht you were desperately craving, but a purple death soup of failure known as the Shady Slop. The higher your Cooking level is in comparison to the recipe's level requirement, the less likely you'll end up with a nasty surprise.

The best way to get better at Cooking is to cook. A lot. There are a handful of book items that grant Cooking XP - as well as passive earning opportunities from observing other characters cook - but as with most things, learning by doing is the most efficient method.

Shady Slop

Do any traits tie into cooking?

Yes! At the start of Early Access we'll have:

  • Foodie: A lifestyle trait that draws the character's AI toward food-related activities, such as cooking

  • Culinary: A talent trait that doubles Cooking XP rewards and makes it less likely you'll end up with the dreaded Shady Slop

We hope to add more food-related traits along the journey to full launch, and look forward to seeing what our modding community comes up with as well!

Do recipes have different effects on hunger or otherwise?

Special effects granted by cooked meals is something we plan to explore during Early Access. At the moment, differences are limited to the amount of Food satisfaction based on the relative size of the dish. A S'mores won't fill you up quite as much as a whole Bundt Cake, for example.

If I wanted to add my own food/recipes to the game, how would I go about that?

Cooking recipes are added through the Recipes section of the Item Editor, which handles recipes for all forms of crafting. To create a new recipe, simply select the Create New button (or Duplicate an existing one) and fill out the following:

Basic Info

  • Recipe Name: What the recipe is called in the editor. Treat this as an internal reference, as this name is not user-facing. The name shown in the actual crafting UI is the name of the resulting item.

  • Type: The category(ies) the recipe falls into. When launching the crafting UI through a ShowAvailableRecipes command, only recipes from the categories listed in the "recipe type" field will show up in the list. For example, all cooking recipes have the "cooking" type, but only those that also have the "barbeque" type will appear when cooking on a grill.

  • Display Name: Only fill this out if you want the recipe name to be something other than the resulting item's name, otherwise leave this blank

  • Must Be Acquired To Create: Check this box if you don't want the recipe to appear in the crafting UI until the character acquires it through gameplay as opposed to unlocking it based on skill level. An in-game example would be the Duck A L’Orange recipe, which is learned as a quest reward.


Recipes currently support up to 10 ingredients. To add an ingredient requirement, click the "Choose Item" header to bring up the item list. Once you select the desired ingredient, you can set the quantity needed and whether or not the ingredient can be auto-bought from the crafting UI.


Clicking the "View/Edit Substitutions" button launches the substitutions UI. Selecting the + button for an ingredient adds a set of fields for the item tag(s) an ingredient must have (or not have) to be considered a substitution option. Keep in mind that for each Includes/Excludes pair, the ingredient has to pass both checks to be a valid substitution. For example, most recipes that call for Cow's Milk have the following substitution tags:

  • Includes: milk

  • Excludes: cream, sweetener 

This pulls in everything that technically classifies as milk, but filters out those used in more specific contexts. That way you're not pouring Condensed Milk or Heavy Cream into your cereal bowl.

Another thing to remember is you can have multiple substitution settings on a single ingredient, however they won't be mutually exclusive. To use the Cow's Milk example, if the cream and sweetener tags were instead in the Excludes field of a second substitution setting, the list of valid ingredients would include everything with the milk tag and everything without the cream and sweetener tags (i.e. just about every other item in the game).

Since this can require getting creative with how you tag ingredients, the substitutions UI includes a handy Preview Substitutions button that displays the list of valid items based on the tags you've set.

Skill Requirements

This is where you'd set the recipe's Cooking skill level requirement. Technically recipes can support up to 2 different skill level requirements, however for Early Access our cooking recipes will only require the Cooking skill.

Interaction Script

How a recipe is made is determined by its assigned interaction script, which is treated like any other object interaction. For example, the CookStove script directs the character to cook on a stove with appropriate animations whereas CookCounter points them toward nearby kitchen counters. The script is also where the rolls for success and failure occur. However, writing cooking interaction scripts could be its own blog post, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Item Rewards

This is where you'd set what item your character receives at the end of successful cooking - Shady Slop is handled separately within the interaction scripts. Like the Skill Requirements, the system can handle up to 2 reward items if needed.

More personally, do you have any preferred recipes or cooking animations?

I'm partial to the Pho recipe. Eons ago when I was still in college, my over-ambitious first attempt at "real" cooking - aka something other than Hamburger Helper - was making pho to share with my roommates. I have photos somewhere of our kitchen counter completely covered in the various meats, spices, and herbs necessary to make the broth from scratch, as I'm kind of a "go big or go home" kind of person. Although the LBY Pho recipe is far from a true 1:1 with real pho, the nostalgia is still strong every time I come across it in-game.

In terms of our visuals, the callback to salt bae at the end of our stove cooking animation gets me every time.

Cooking Salt Bae

Early Access Offer

Launch Exclusive Content Packs & Discord Access


Receive the Nightlife Vibes Pack + Life Begins Pack*, includes an in-game Vintage Scooter, the Jumpstart Fashion Pack and Walls to Floors Decor Pack. The first 100,000 Early Access players will also be invited to join our private Discord server – providing a space to bring your feedback to directly to us, get exclusive behind-the-scenes looks, and more.

* Purchase of Life by You must be made during Early Access period in order to receive the Nightlife Vibes Pack + Life Begins Pack.


Stay up to date

Life by You Newsletter

Stay up to date regarding the latest news and rewards and receive a pack of Life by You desktop wallpapers with concept-art from the design team.

Sign up for News & Updates

By subscribing, you agree to receive news and special offers from Paradox Interactive.