After 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.