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PvZ: Garden Warfare – We talk to Popcap – No microtransactions at launch

At a preview event for the new game we catch up with Gary Clay from Popcap and talk frame rates, microtransactions and inspirations

Yesterday we finally got to play the upcoming shooter spin-off of one of our favourite games of recent years. Plants vs Zombies was a work of genius, with brilliant graphic design, some great humour and a perfectly weighted difficulty curve. Its sequel was almost as good, though the addition of in-game power ups did upset the challenge of individual levels somewhat.

The shooter in question is Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and our early prognosis is good. The game is an accessible third-person, multiplayer-centric blast. Its multiple classes look to come from Team Fortress 2, while the gameplay modes resemble both Battlefield’s Rush and Gear of War’s Horde.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
The game is as polished and fun to play as you’d expect from Popcap

We talked to Gary Clay from Popcap about the upcoming shooter, to get some background as to how the company took to making its first 3D shooter. He said that, ‘Popcap has never done multi-platform releases, we’re a very small studio, concentrating on polish.’ and because of that, “We weren’t a launch title because we wanted the extra development time, we’ve been working on this now for two years, and we didn’t want to commit to a launch title.”

We asked if he thought PvZ players would be interested in a shooter? “There are 125m Plants vs Zombies players, you’d be amazed at the crossover between Battlefield 4 players and PvZ. The game broke originally on Steam with PC Gamers.” we enquired after a PC launch, and that is planned for Spring 2014.

EA has had a bit of a rough ride recently in the press after the launch of its micro-transaction funded Dungeon Keeper, more pertinently Plant vs Zombies 2 on iOS also had pay-as-you-play elements. Clay said in response: “There are not any planned micro transactions at launch, we may never bring them in. Popcap will listen to the community and continue to adapt its game. The game will adapt with new content and we’ll be bringing the first of that content out for free in march.”

There’s certainly space for adding micro-transactions in the design though, with coins earned in every game with which you can buy cards, both to burn in battles to grow AI allies and to gain permanent kit, including upgrades and class variants with different abilities.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
These cards can’t be bought for real money at launch, you’ll have to earn them as you play

Speaking of price, Garden Warfare isn’t a full-priced title, though it is a disk-based retail release, costing as little as £30 at some retailers on Xbox One. Clay said, “A full single-player campaign could have justified a higher price but we’ve focused on getting our multiplayer and co-op experience just right.” He continued “It’s locked to 60fps on Xbox One, very smooth, and to get there that took a lot of work.” Although to date the resolution of the game hasn’t been disclosed and a native 1080p rendering resolution therefore looks unlikely.

We asked if Clay thought his game would be overshadowed by EA stablemate Titanfall, but he laughed it off saying the although the two were “Very similar in terms of gameplay, we’re very inspired by Titanfall”, that Garden Warfare was “More focused on having fun, a more relaxed experience. There’s a level of depth to our game that you could get into it for hundred of hours, but at the same time you don’t have to be seriously worried about your accuracy or kill/death ratio.”

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
Fans of the series will see even the most basic elements given a new lease of life

Asking about the studios inspirations, he said: “Left 4 Dead is a huge inspiration for us … the Chili Bean [A grenade-like weapon for the PeaShooter class] is a homage to the pipe bomb in Left 4 Dead. We think it’s more like TF2 than L4D, to which he politely replied: “when people compare our game to Team Fortress we’re very flattered”.

In the future Popcap are looking to bring lots more content to the game, with the first pack confirmed to be free and dropping in late march sometime. We’ll bring you a full review of this interesting new take on a classic very soon.

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