The uber popular game “Plants vs. Zombies” was originally released for the PC in 2009, and has garnered millions of fans of all ages across the world since its original debut. PopCap (the game’s developer) released its much talked about sequel “Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time”, on August 15th, and I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the creators of the game, Bernard Yee, who dished on the game’s new features, why it’s so popular with families across the globe, and the goals and challenges of the game!
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about the new features of the game?
Bernard Yee: “PVZ 2: It’s About Time is a sequel to the first game ‘Plants vs. Zombies’, and we spent a bunch of time (it was actually before my time) doing prototypes and seeing how we’re going to take this game, which I love and so many people do- how do we do a sequel that’s just another level, it’s something else.
What captures this game and adds something new and interesting to it. And the thing that switched the light on in the designers heads was when they came up with plant food. I’ve been describing to people in some of the gamer press- you know when Mario gets the mushroom and doubles in size and becomes more powerful? Plant food is that thing for our plants. Part of what makes Plants vs. Zombies so great is its character design. It’s whimsy, it’s fun. Plant food allows plants to take on that moment of super power. A sunflower when you plant food, a sunflower will squint and an explosion, a shower of suns will come out of it. When you do that to a walnut, it’ll arm itself in an iron man armor suit. When you do that to a Peashooter it’ll put on a little army helmet and shoot out a stream of peas at the zombie. That was the thing that said ‘Okay, this is what we’re really going to build are game on.
The second thing that’s really different is the different locations- We have a lovely world map, where you see different levels and each of the worlds has a specific time period, so the first one is Ancient Egypt, the second one is the Pirate Seas, and the third one is the Wild West. So not only is it visually different, each world has a different ‘thing’ about it that makes it unique, like the sandstorms and gravestones that pop up in Ancient Egypt. The planks in the water and the swinging zombies in Pirate Seas, and the rails and the mining carts you can plant on in the old west.
The third thing that’s different is the original PVZ was released on PC. In a lot of ways it didn’t hit its stride until it hit the iPad. Any touch interface allows you to do different things. One of the things that we wanted to do from the beginning was to design a game that took advantage of that sense of touch. The set of of power ups that exist alongside plant food are the pinch, zap and flick power up. So you literally put two fingers on the screen, pinch a zombie and its head pops off. You tap your finger onto the screen and a little bolt of electricity comes out, almost like a magic spell in Harry Potter or something, and it zaps the nearest zombie. And if that zombie gets turned to a pile of ash, the electricity finds the nearest zombie after that. And then the flick- you just sort of flick the zombie once and it moves back; flick it twice and spins off the screen. It really takes advantage of the device in a way that the first one didn’t. Those are the main differences from PVZ 2 to PVZ 1 from a game play standpoint.”
Candace Rose: Why is this game so family friendly?
Bernard Yee: “The character design, the visuals, the way the plants are animated and drawn- the art style is timeless. My son played it while sitting on my lap when he was five. Hardcore ‘World of Warcraft’ players play it, there’s something about the visuals that are just funny and whimsical. The music is fantastic. It’s one of the few games where I can- and this is before I came to PopCap, I could whistle the theme song in my head in a way that I can’t do for a lot of games.
The game mechanics are really simple, right? You plant some stuff, and you hope that they can take out the zombies. But there’s enough variety in those things that even hardcore players will enjoy the strategy. One of the things we really love about the iPad especially is that you can sit with your child in your lap and you can plant the plants and let your son or daughter tap on the suns to collect them or as they get more sophisticated, they can start planting the plants themselves and you collect the suns.
It’s super hard and it’s unique and I feel lucky to work on a game that’s loved by such a broad audience.”
Candace Rose: What were some of the goals and challenges of creating PVZ 2?
Bernard Yee: “Well, that’s a great question. The thing that’s a great challenge is you get a chance to work on such a beloved IP. From parents and kids to hardcore gamers and they all love something different about the game. There are things of course that everyone loves- character design and music. But you need to not screw it up for so many people, so much expectation from the players and frankly from our bosses too, right? You want the game to be great and you don’t want to disappoint anybody. And then you want to add something new, so you have to take some risks and those are all things that you have to balance that the team felt was a significant challenge. You don’t want to be the one that screws this up. You want to be the ones that keep it going. That’s a real challenge, and that’s a real responsibility.”
Candace Rose: Is there anything else you want fans to know about PVZ2?
Bernard Yee: “I think the thing I think about most about the game is there games you can tell the team loved making, and I think we put so much care and passion into the game, that it shows in everything we’ve done. I really think it’s going to be one of the most finely crafted games on the app store this year, and I hope the players see that too.”
Candace Rose: Where can viewers go for more information?
Bernard Yee: “You can go to PopCap.com and you’ll be able to see all the information about our game, as well as other games that we do. The game is available now on the iTunes app store, so that’s where I would go.”