♫ Plants vs. Zombies Official Soundtrack now online ♫

November 22, 2010 at 1:28 am | Posted in Video Games | 73 Comments
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After almost 2 years, I can finally announce that the official Plants vs. Zombies soundtrack is now online ^_^ If you’d like to help out, please help spread the news! And thank-you so much to everyone who has been supportive of my music… you are all so awesome.

George was kind enough to draw this wonderful cover art… I thought it would be cool if the Sunflower decided to teach music lessons and Digger Zombie joined the class, too (he has a softer side you know, if you couldn’t tell from his penchant for pink tricycles).

Plants vs Zombies XBLA Release Party!

August 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Video Games | 36 Comments
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So for those of you who were wondering what the August 2nd “save the date” was all about, PopCap held a Plants vs Zombies XBLA Release Party in San Francisco on that day and it was a blast! I tried to take as many pictures as I could (I’ll post some here, but if you want to see the entire batch, you can find them here). George and I also performed “Zombies on Your Lawn,” which you can watch here. I was a little nervous at first, but I hope it’s still alright!

There were 3 areas at the venue: The main courtyard had a makeshift stage and a delicious buffet-style dinner.


All the cooks there were wearing PvZ aprons, and unfortuntely for the plants they were serving Cornpults

They also had one of those giant pictures where people could put there heads through it in order to look like Bobsled Zombies. What are these called anyway? I see them all the time at carnivals and amusement parks, but I have no idea what their actual name is.

George Fan

laura shigihara
Laura Shigihara dances with zombies

Indoors they set up a gaming station with several large monitors and Xbox consoles so that people could come and try out the new game (some people were glued to their consoles for literally 2.5 hours)… there were benches and folks could hang out here to warm up (since it was really cold outside).


People test out versus mode for the first time


Lindsey Kurz, Tod Semple, Rich Werner, George Fan

laura shigihara in game room
Laura Shigihara in the game room

The last area was a small covered space between the courtyard and game station… there was a bar here where you could order PvZ-themed drinks like “Fermented Plant Matter” or Crazy Dave’s special “Zombie” drink. The PvZ artist (Rich Werner) also had a table set up where he drew personalized plants and zombies for people.


Infamous Brain Ooze


Some of Rich Werner’s sketches


Drink menu

laura shigihara, crazy dave, george fan
Laura Shigihara, the “real” Crazy Dave, and George Fan pose outside the game room

As for the game itself, I really think they did a great job with the conversion. At first I had no idea how the control scheme would work; going from the mouse to the iPhone or iPad was a simple transition, but I figured mapping controls to an Xbox controller would be a much bigger challenge. Basically, the player uses the analog stick to move the cursor around. Rather than clicking on sun, you roll the cursor over the sun in order to pick it up. Pressing the R-trigger will magnetize the sunshine allowing it to be automatically collected. You can use the right and left bumpers in order to scroll through the seed packets, and you press A to select them. It’s surprisingly intuitive and easy to pick up.

By far my favorite part of this version is the “versus mode.” You can play as either the plants or the zombies. The zombies’ goal is the same as in the original game: you want to break through the plant defenses and get to the house. The plants’ goal is to destroy a certain number of gravestone targets, while battling the onslaught of undead that the zombie player sends towards you. While it was still in development, I spent several hours playtesting this mode with George. Despite the fact that the game wasn’t even balanced yet, I could not stop playing because it was so addictive. There’s something incredibly fun about being able to place zombies… especially large ones like the Gargantuar.

The co-op mode is also worth checking out; especially if you’re trying to get less competitive friends or family members to join in. Players can help each other out by “buttering” zombies in order to hold them in place. This mode also encourages players to talk with one another in order to come up with strategies for the more difficult levels. And of course, there is no shortage of fun mini-games in addition to the original adventure mode… so even though this isn’t a sequel, it has so much new material that it kind of feels like one 😛

Anyways, thanks to Popcap for putting on such a fun event! We had a great time 🙂

When we were young… a post mortem on live action role playing

May 12, 2010 at 8:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments
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When I first heard about L.A.R.P. (live action role playing) I was under the impression that it was just a bunch of crazy nerds going out into the woods and throwing fake lightning bolts at each other. I was so amused by this that I even talked George into renting a L.A.R.P. documentary called Monster Camp, which actually ended up being a very entertaining and insightful film. I say “insightful” because the director, through the examples of the people he followed, delved heavily into the concept of escapism. There was a lady who said she larped to escape the reality of being in a wheel chair, a single father who was addicted to World of Warcraft, a software programmer at Xerox, and many others. I was surprised at the wide variety of people who attended these events. For some of them, larping was just a healthy activity where they could get away for a weekend and hang out with friends… for others, it was just another drug helping them avoid neglected responsibilities in their real lives.

The other concept the film touched upon was one that I’d been curious about for quite some time: being able to enjoy make-believe as if you were a kid again. I remember going out into the backyard with my friend and our younger sisters and just playing for hours. I remember we pretended that we lived on an island, and we’d invent various scenarios. One time we said that “bad guys” were going to invade the island and we’d have to prepare traps and other defenses… Another time we decided that winter was coming so we gathered “supplies” and fortified our shelter. We had this tree in our yard that was slowly dying, it was hollow at the top and rainwater collected there. It wasn’t just water though, it had magical powers of restoration that could cure my sister when she got some mysterious island sickness. We didn’t make her drink it of course, but we climbed to the top of the tree just to obtain the water so she could pretend to drink it; after which she was immediately healed. We played this for hours… I even put Megaman 2 on hold so that we could play… and my NES-time was severely limited back then, so that was a BIG DEAL.

In middle school, I was talking with my friend Tara who still had a sister in elementary school. At some point we were like, “hey, remember when we used to make stuff up?” We both agreed that it was the most fun thing in the world, and then questioned why we hadn’t done it lately. “Would we still enjoy it?” we wondered… so we went into the yard with her sister and attempted to make up scenarios and play as we did just a few years prior… but it just wasn’t fun anymore. It was a sad realization; for both of us I think.

After that, I never had fun playing like that again. I had forgotten how.

But after watching Monster Camp it suddenly occurred to me… these people whom I had been imitating in jest, who go out into the woods dressed as elves and mages, throwing lightning bolts and using healing potions… these people remember how. They remember how to have fun playing like we did as kids. And at that point, I became intrigued with live action role playing. I became intrigued with the adults who were actually able to suspend reality in order to relive that fantasy that all children experience and invariably forget once they grow up.

So I decided to write a LARP. Well, not a real one… there was no battle system or throwing of lightning bolts… but there was a story with characters who had latent conflicts, a central objective, a giant feast with plastic gold goblets, and a handful of mini-games. Oh, and one of our characters had to pretend that he was raised by bears.

As this was the first time I’d ever run an event of this nature, I found that there were definitely some kinks that I’d want to iron out if I ever did this again (especially in terms of how late everyone ended up having to stay awake). But beyond that, I was amazed by how many people came dressed in creative costumes, got into their characters, and seemed to actually have a good time. I don’t think we quite reached the level of “suspending reality” in the way that the people from Monster Camp did, but that’s okay. For now I’m just focused on creating an environment where people can come and have fun, play games, and goof around for a few hours.

Perhaps someday though, I will remember.

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Pictures!
laura shigihara, george fan, dylan librande
me (yes, Laura Shigihara loves head ornaments, haha), “Emperor” George, and Dylan


We were all wearing our costumes when we went outside in the middle of the night to do an “Alchemy Relay” that culminated in dropping mentos into diet coke.


Preparing the mentos…


The players were discussing clues… (At Norolond, who left behind a black pouch with a ninja star, bay leaf, and black sea salt inside?)


Dan (the Imperial doctor), Lindsey (the head of the Economic Council), General Tod (head of the Military Council), and Zita (head of the Dragon Riders)


Theresa… she holds an annual robot fighting competition called “Theresa’s Mech Wars”


I think the plastic gold goblets were my favorite part.

One good natured Siberian Lynx

May 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments
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So a few weeks back George took me to a place called “Vision Quest” for my birthday. It’s basically a big animal reserve; a lot of the animals there had been abused or abandoned at a young age, but were later rescued and brought there to live. There’s also a few animals who have done work for Hollywood, either starring in films or acting as models for animators.

As part of our tour, we got to hang out with a Siberian Lynx. Amazingly, she’s about the size of a Golden Lab, and she’s incredibly easy going and friendly. Her trainers explained that she was bottle fed and socialized with humans early on… additionally, she’s just remarkably good natured for a Siberian Lynx. I love how she’s sticking out her tongue in this picture

George Fan, Laura Shigihara, Siberian Lynx

And this one…

I was under the impression that this type of wildcat wouldn’t purr, but she purred just like a domestic cat… only louder… and she continued to purr the entire time we saw her.

She kind of went nuts on the grass… she couldn’t stop eating it. All the domestic cats I’ve known have been the same way… my first cat loved eating grass.
George Fan, Laura Shigihara, Siberian Lynx

Besides hanging out with a Lynx, we also bathed an elephant… it was like washing a really really big car that occasionally looked back at you with giant onyx eyes. The elephants all hang out in this wide open area occupied by a zebra and a couple ostriches. One of the ostriches decided to dance for George…

I was a bit disappointed to find out that he wasn’t actually trying to woo George with a mating dance… we later learned that it was a territorial dance meant to warn us. He also might have been showing off to the lady ostrich as if to say, “This is my territory, I will protect us!”

Clumsy May

May 27, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments
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First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for all of the wonderful comments and messages I’ve received lately, I really appreciate it… you are all awesome 🙂 These past few weeks I’ve been devoting a lot of time to working on my game, and recording some new music in the studio. I’ll try to post more details about that soon…

But for today I’m going to talk about my most recent affliction: I like to call it “Clumsy May.” Normally, I’m not a clumsy person; I think I’m fairly dainty and can complete tasks that require precision with ease… but this month my ridiculous acts of clumsiness could easily outnumber all clumsy things I’ve done in the past year combined. It worries me. It really does. Here are a few examples just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Exhibit A: The Laundry Room Volcano
A while back I purchased a really large jug of vinegar and a huge box of baking soda from Smart & Final for laundry purposes. I’ve found that adding a cup of vinegar to the laundry is quite effective at getting everything super clean without being as harsh as bleach, and baking soda is great for removing mud. So one day I go to start my laundry, and I pour about a cup of vinegar into a measuring cup and set it down on the dryer. I then set the laundry basket on the dryer and begin loading the washer, only to inadvertently knock over the cup of vinegar right next to the giant box of baking soda. And I’m sure you’ve probably all seen the 4th grade volcano experiement in some capacity… but usually that experiment uses but a few spoons of baking soda, and a small amount of vinegar. My unintended laundry room experiment included a giant, economy sized box of baking soda and an entire cup of vinegar, and it was on top of my dryer.

Exhibit B: Why I needed baking soda to remove mud
So one day I decided to take a walk near this estuary to clear my mind. It had just rained the week before so all the birds were out and about, and it was quite a sight to see… there were herons, cranes, Canadian geese, sand pipers, ducks… it was really lovely. Being that it was such a nice day, and I was feeling a bit adventurous, I decided to go off the path so I could get a closer look at the wildlife. I think I was really distracted by my surroundings, because I walked for a good hour before finally realizing that I was in some seriously muddy territory. I was wearing running shoes, and it was getting to the point where with every step I took, I’d be lifting a good 4-5 pound chunk of mud per foot. This of course made it incredibly difficult to walk; the more mud I was carrying, the more I would stick to the ground. It then occurred to me that I couldn’t even get back to the original path because the estuary was now in between me and that path, and there were fences blocking me from the bridges. I tried climbing said fences, and the results were muddy. Very muddy. Is that clumsiness? Absent-mindedness? I don’t know, but I felt that it was a good example of my recent affliction.

Exhibit C: Lunchables-Related Neck Strain
I strained my neck in the most retarded way possible. I was in the grocery store and I reached for the last pizza Lunchables, but I reached a little too far resulting in a strong pain in my neck and the area between my shoulder blades.

Exhibit D: I just keep dropping things and knocking things over
2 Coke Zeros, a pizza from the aforementioned Lunchables SAUCE-SIDE DOWN, boxes, microphones…

The other weird thing, is that I’ve been talking to other folks who have experienced similar things this past month. One of my friends dislocated their pinky and strained their neck reaching for shampoo in the shower. Another friend sprained their ankle. Another ran right into a glass window. What is going on?? Has anyone else out there experienced an unexplained increase in incidents of clumsiness this past month? Please let me know. And here’s to hoping we’ll be back to normal come June >_<

P.S. Maybe it’s because someone ate my brains when I was in Seattle…
laura shigihara got her brains eaten by a zombie again
PvZ team from left to right: George Fan (designer), Laura Shigihara (music), Zombie Temp Worker, Tod Semple (programmer), Rich Werner (artist)

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