The lights are on
Now that Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is nearly out in places other than Australia (PopCap is still cagey about a release, but it's real close), we talked with senior producer Allen Murray about the development of the game and why the team decided to release on iOS first.
When did development of Plants vs. Zombies begin? Plants vs. Zombies 2 went into production in early 2012, but the years prior to that there were always a few people thinking about what a new PvZ game could be – not necessary a sequel – but what fun and interesting things could we do in this crazy world. It wasn't until late 2011 that a prototyping team came full circle with the core combat of plants fighting zombies and refined the gameplay around Plant Food. At that point we knew that this was great fun and could be the core element of Plants vs. Zombies 2.
When did you decide to make the iOS version first?This was largely driven by the industry as a whole. Since the release of the first Plants vs. Zombies on PC we have seen that the largest and most active group has been our mobile players, so it was a no-brainer to focus there first – and this fell right in line with PopCap as a whole, which has been focusing on mobile for the past few years.
How do you test out new plant and zombie types? Were there any that didn't make the cut?We test through rapid iteration and constant playing of the game. It's not lip service to say the team is very agile and tries to 'fail fast.' The design and art teams work hand in hand with the programmers to think of interesting mechanics and silly setups for the plants and the zombies, and then they work to get them into an unpolished, playable state as fast as possible so all of us can get hands on experience with them and constantly tweak them to perfection.
Many zombies and plants never made the cut for the launch, but that doesn't mean they won't return in some way or another in later worlds, so I don't want to give anything away by listing off characters that are currently on the shelf. I will say, though, that one of the earliest new plants we created we cut purely for thematic reasons and will be back very soon because it just wasn't his 'time.' Get it?
What are the working conditions in the office like?There are desks and chairs and whiteboards filled with notes, mathematical equations and silly doodles. In essence, it's like every other game development office. It's a working floor, so it's messy, things are in disarray and you'll often see groups clustered around a computer, ooh-ing and aah-ing, sharing jokes, debating technical or scheduling issues and discussing interesting games, books, movies, and what they did last weekend.
I say this to highlight that our 'special sauce' is that we just roll up our sleeves and get to work. We've built a great team that has learned to trust and respect each other and the team is hand built to solve problems. This team has moved mountains with regards to technical issues to get this game to operate across multiple devices in a seamless, service oriented fashion with a client that is under 50mb and a system to stream in new content that is catered to your device. Most of this work is, when successful, never really noticed by the player and that's the point. We want players to tap the icon, enter the world and immerse themselves in a silly, good time.Plants Vs. Zombies 2 releases soon on iOS for free. Trust us, you should download it. Check out some concept sketches of the game's early development below, and read our interview with the Dark Horse comic creator.
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