Interviews Feed

Plants Vs Zombies 2 Senior Producer Bernie Yee Talks Monetization, Development, And Bonk Choy

Plants Vs Zombies 2After years of speculation and old fashioned waiting, fans of PopCap's famed Plants vs Zombies are finally enjoying the sequel, Plants vs Zombies 2: It's About Time, now that it's arrived exclusively (for now) on the App Store for the iPhone and iPad.  The new game keeps the core experience of lovable plants lashing out at invading undead hordes while adding new mechanics such as the plant food boost option, touchscreen-based power-ups for quick zombie extermination, and a pack of new plants with their own unique attacks.  Time travel sets the stage for a series of levels based around eras such as ancient Egypt and cowboy adventures in the wild west.  It's not all smiles and sunshine, though; the most controversial aspect of Plants vs Zombies 2 has to be the inclusion of paid upgrades bought with real money instead of in-game coins.  The plants have gone freemium allowing PopCap and publisher Electronic Arts to offer the game as a free download with the expectation/hope that players will kick in a few dollars for additional plants and enhancements.  PopCap Senior Producer Bernie Yee recently had the chance to sit down and answer some of my questions about Plants vs Zombies 2, and I asked series superfan and my Power Button podcast co-host Blake Grundman to kick in his questions as well.  Here's what Bernie had to say about the free-to-play aspects, elements left on the cutting room floor, when the game will come to additional platforms, and so much more.


PTB: What is your background and role at PopCap?  What were your responsibilities on PvZ 2?  

BY: I’m the Senior Producer. Game development is a collaborative process – designers come up with ideas and systems, the artists come up with a visual world, and the  programmers implement it.  Inevitably, there are more things we want to do, than we have time to do.  Sometimes this means that we  have to make hard decisions on what to cut and what to keep. Producers work to make those tradeoffs, and keep things aligned with the product vision and the schedule. We work across all the disciplines, and with the business folks, to make sure we know how things are going at all times, to raise warning flags, and to solve problems.

PTB: How did the PvZ 2 project start?

BY: After the original game, we wanted to follow it up. (This was before my time on the project, by the way.) So folks at PopCap spent a lot of time prototyping new  ideas. Nothing really stuck until the team prototyped the Plant Food system.  The team felt  like this was the mechanic that preserved a critical element of the game – the charm and whimsy of the original characters – and gave it a new dimension. That kicked off actual production, and everything fell into place after that. And by “falling into place” I  mean, all the sweat and tears that is game development.

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Power Button - Episode 103: WayForward Director Austin Ivansmith Rewrites History With DuckTales: Remastered

Power ButtonLife is like a hurricane when WayForward's Austin Ivansmith, director of the recently released DuckTales: Remastered, joins Blake Grundman and I for an hour to talk all about the development of the game.  You'll hear about how the project began, how closely involved Disney and Capcom were with the development process, what inspired the addition of new elements, how the new game matches up with the original Nintendo Entertainment System release, what it's like to direct legendary voice actors like Alan Young and June Foray, which line of Scrooge McDuck dialogue Disney ordered to be changed, how the rearranged soundtrack was composed, what Remastered means for the future of the DuckTales brand, if a mobile or handheld version of the game is in the cards, whether or not everyone involved is interested in creating new editions of other classic Capcom/Disney collaborations from that era, how to handle negative reviews, and so much more.  It's over an hour of conversation that'll answer the DuckTales: Remastered questions that you didn't even know you had.  Special thanks to Austin for coming on the show!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button - Episode 103: WayForward Director Austin Ivansmith Rewrites History With DuckTales: Remastered


Power Button - Episode 97: Paging Through The Industry

Power ButtonIt seems like all kinds of video game journalism companies and websites are folding these days, but something great can come from the ashes.  This week on Power Button, Brad Hilderbrand and I are joined by our friends and colleagues from our old Kombo days, Casey Ayers and Sean O'Neill, to discuss their new media venture.  The Industry is a digital magazine for iPad, Kindle Fire, and the standard Kindle publishing platform that focuses on key trends and events in the video game industry with several feature length articles.  Published twice a month, the magazine is on the verge of releasing its third issue.  Join us as we discuss the magazine, the goals that drive it, and how gaming journalism is changing in the face of lower ad revenues and shifting audience trends.  We have an hour of discussion for you.  Plus you can listen for the special keyword that will earn you a bonus entry in the BioShock Infinite contest.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @aubradley84, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button - Episode 97: Paging Through The Industry


Power Button - Episode 95: The Force Is With Neil Sorens Of Zen Studios And Star Wars Pinball

Power ButtonZen Studios has been releasing creative and innovative pinball tables for a variety of modern gaming platforms over the past few years.  Working with famous properties like Plants vs Zombies, Street Fighter, and of course the Marvel suite of characters and storylines such as Iron Man and Civil War in addition to the company's own original IPs has exposed new and old generations to the wonders of pinball.  Now the company has taken on its greatest challenge with a series of ten pinball tables based on aspects of the Star Wars universe.  On this episode of Power Button we welcome Zen's Creative Director, Neil Sorens, to discuss the new Star Wars Pinball tables — The Empire Strikes Back, Clone Wars, and Boba Fett —  to Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2.  Neil takes us through the process of acquiring the Star Wars license, outlines the voice casting process, details elements left on the cutting room floor, covers how Zen chose which parts of the franchise to use in its tables, and so very much more.  We even get Neil to spill the beans and share a little of what Zen has in the works for future tables for both Star Wars and Marvel, but if you want the details, you'll have to listen to the show!  Join us for just over an hour of pinball action without any boring trade negotiations.  Friend of the show and pinball pro extraordinaire Blake Grundman brings his unique perspective to things when he sits in this week as well.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @aubradley84, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button - Episode 95: The Force Is With Neil Sorens Of Zen Studios And Star Wars Pinball


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 35: Peggle Is Like Weapons-Grade Heroin... For Your THUMBS!

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerThis classic episode of Kombo Breaker finds Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I welcoming Garth Chouteau of PopCap Games to discuss the origin and process behind the famed Peggle, Zuma, and Plants vs Zombies games which were PC titles at the time of this episode's air date (July 10, 2009), but of course today they're on just about every modern gaming platform out there.  Spend forty minute with us as we talk about the then-future of the company's products, which consoles are next in line for ports of their PC hits, and even the whole core/casual dichotomy.  Oh, and don't miss the bit where Garth remarks that he wouldn't expect to see PopCap games on smartphones.  My, how the times have changed!  However, the industry still has a long way to go.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 35: Peggle Is Like Weapons-Grade Heroin... For Your THUMBS!


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker At E3 2009 - Episode 3: Ghostbusters... Again?!

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerDespite recording more than one hundred podcasts episodes together, there are only a small handful of instances in which Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I actually recorded together in the same room without having to rely on Internet magic to bring our melodious voices together.  This week's classic episode of Kombo Breaker is from one of those times (although I don't hear Brad in the room on this one, but I know he was around there somewhere).  This installment is from June 4, 2009 during our week of recording at E3 2009, and for this episode we invited our old friend Glenn Gamble of Terminal Reality back to give us the complete rundown on the then-upcoming Ghostbusters: The Video Game.  Glenn opens the vault and tells us all the secrets behind the making of the game without spoiling anything too significant.  You'll learn about how the game's backstory came together, what it's like to visit the real Sedgewick Hotel, which levels were cut from the finished product, and so much more.  No Ghostbusters fan can afford to miss the tantalizing stories in this hour of storytelling.  For an episode recorded after midnight on an exhausting day, I think it turned out rather well.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker At E3 2009 - Episode 3: Ghostbusters... Again?!


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 38: Game Writer Anne Toole Joins Us

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerThis week's classic episode of Kombo Breaker originally aired back on July 31, 2009 and finds us chatting with Anne Toole, a writer whose credits include work in video games, television drama, comics, and short fiction.  Even if you don't recognize her name, you probably know her work; she had a hand in titles such as The Witcher, Rock of the Dead, Aqua, and the unreleased Stargate Worlds.  Brad Hilderbrand, Dan Johnson, and I were fortunate enough to spend an hour with Anne in Episode 38 to discuss her process, how one can break into the writing world, and the differences between writing for games and other mediums, the downside of cut scenes, and much more.  It's a different kind of interview and one that I know you'll enjoy.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 38: Game Writer Anne Toole Joins Us


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 19: Glenn Gamble of Terminal Reality and Ghostbusters

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerIf you listened to Episode 75 of Power Button (and, really, you should have), then you heard Brad Hilderbrand mention that he'd been to a THQ press event several years ago.  As luck would have it, he talked about that experience on a classic episode of Kombo Breaker, so it seemed only proper to bring back Episode 19 which originally aired on March 13, 2009 so you can hear Brad talk about his experience with the Legends of Wrestlemania event.  That's just the prelude to the main topic for this episode, however.  When Ghostbusters: The Video Game was in development at Terminal Reality, we used our mighty Kombo clout to bring the company's Glenn Gamble on to the show several times to answer all of our burning questions about the then-upcoming game.  This is Glenn's first appearance with us and, naturally, I had a lot of geeky Ghostbusters questions for him.  You'll hear all about what Dan Aykroyd thinks of the upgraded design of the iconic proton pack, which quips Bill Murray brought to reprising the role of Peter Venkman, why the librarian ghost from the opening scenes of the original film returned, and much more.  Mixed in there is some discussion about Tomb Raider: Underworld, Call of Duty: World at War, and Halo Wars.  It's a busy episode!  We had fun recording it back in the old days.  We hope that you enjoy listening to it now just as much.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 19: Glenn Gamble of Terminal Reality and Ghostbusters


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 45: Heavy Rain Interview

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerPower Button has to unexpectedly take the week off which means that in its place we have a classic episode of Kombo Breaker for you to enjoy.  This installment features an interview with Petro Piaseckyj of Sony Consumer Entertainment in which we discuss Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain for the Sony PlayStation 3.  The game had yet to hit stores at the time, so we pepper Piaseckyj with questions about how the story unfolds and just how intrigued and/or uncomfortable the game is meant to make players feel (in terms of both narrative and the uncanny valley effect).  It originally debuted on September 18, 2009, but it's just as interesting to listen to now as it was then.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Next Week: We're still planning to discuss Saints Row: The Third sooner or later.  Call the hotline and tell us what you think of the game!


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 45: Heavy Rain Interview


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 52: NSMB Wii and CheapyD (Yeah, It Rhymes)

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerWe're taking an unexpectedly sudden week off on Power Button this week due to family illness, so instead we have an episode of classic Kombo Breaker for you.  This installment is Episode 52 which originally aired back on November 26, 2009.  We invited CheapyD of Cheap Ass Gamer to join us and clue everyone in about where to find the best gaming shopping deals for today, tomorrow, and through the 2009 holiday shopping season. We recommend games that you shouldn't have missed and advise you on which games you should have skipped if you don't want to turn a friend into an enemy. Before all that happens, however, Joey Davidson and I discuss Nintendo's then-new New Super Mario Bros. Wii and basically go on and on about what a fantastic game it is. Naysayers can relax though, as we also go over some of the little things that could have been improved.  By the way, the Kombo Breaker theme is a bit loud on this one, so watch your ears when it kicks in.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Next Week: We're going to let our sociopathic tendencies shine as we discuss Saints Row: The Third.  Call the hotline and tell us what you think of the game!


Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 52: NSMB Wii and CheapyD (Yeah, It Rhymes)