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 🙂

Girls in the Video Game Industry #3: Paula Wong

July 8, 2010 at 5:36 am | Posted in Girls in the Video Game Industry interview series | 19 Comments
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I’ve been hoping for a while now that PopCap would make more Plants vs. Zombies merchandise… after all, there are so many cute characters to choose from that would make for awesome figurines, stuffed animals, stickers, etc. Heck, even Crazy Dave and his Magic Taco would make a good plushie, don’t you think? And if it’s anywhere near as well-designed and creative as some of the swag that’s been coming out of Popcap’s Creative Labs, then rest assured I will be doing my best to collect a complete set.

Girls in the Video Game Industry #2: Paula Wong
Senior Director of Creative Labs at PopCap Games

If you’ve played around with the Zombatar, seen the eye-catching Plants vs. Zombies retail boxes, or gotten your hands on a can of “Brain Ooze,” then you already know a bit about the creative and interesting things Paula has worked on during her time at PopCap Games.

1.) Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I lead the marketing creative team at PopCap Games. We bring the awesome games our studio creates to market. We’re a team of 20 print, web and video designers, copywriters and account managers. Most of us are based in Seattle; two are in Dublin and two in Shanghai. We develop all the retail packaging, marketing materials, ads, video and the creative for our partners and for, where we feature our games.

2.) How did you get into the video game industry?

I was recruited by Dave Roberts, our CEO at PopCap, four years ago. I told him that I wasn’t a gamer and he just smiled and handed me some PopCap games to play…

3.) What are some of your favorite games?

Peggle, Bejeweled Blitz, Bookworm, and of course, Plants vs. Zombies!

4.) What were some of your favorite projects to work on and why?

I find it thrilling to go to a national retailer and see a whole line-up of our retail products, side by side. We have an amazing shelf presence and that has helped contribute to a successful retail business. Since this is a direct result of my group’s work, it makes me super proud! It was also outrageously fun to work on Plants vs. Zombies marketing projects. I was part of the team that suggested and promoted the idea of a Zombatar—a Zombie avatar creator. Everything that we did for Plants vs. Zombies was so full of personality and quirkiness. Irreverence and silliness went into everything we did for PvZ, from the “no zombies” stickers, to energy producing sunflower seed packets, a Brain Ooze drink, Zombie Temp Worker videos and creating a party invitation with Zombie handwriting that printers were instructed to fold “poorly” as if it came from Zombies.

5.) What are your thoughts on being a female in the video game industry?

When I first started at PopCap, there were perhaps 5 women, out of 75 total employees. Women are definitely in the minority, but our percentage has grown. PopCap’s casual games are immensely popular with women. I foresee our numbers increasing in the video game industry as well as customer base and believe there will be better gender balance in the future. I love that I’ve gotten to be a bit of a pioneer in this industry.

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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