dwlt.thinksOutLoud

No Limit for Better

Another week, another PopCap interview, this time with Matt Johnston, senior producer on Plants vs Zombies for XBLA over at Gamasutra. This one generally focuses on the value of being able to iterate repeatedly until you get it right:

We spent a lot of time just trying to get [the control system] to feel right but I think eventually we got there

(Although weirdly, the next paragraph states: “Spending a lot of time on small elements like this is something PopCap prides itself on” – although I’m not sure I’d classify the control system a ‘small element’ of a game.)

They bear in mind that you have to think like a player:

we sat there and spent a lot of time looking at how that double sun was going to look and animate, trying to second guess over and over and over again how somebody who had never played PvZ or somebody who may be confused by it, what they would think and what they would do.

They obsess on details:

I feel incredibly lucky to be working for a company that values those things and shares my need to sort of exercise my OCD and go through every little detail.

Aside from iteration, they also value knowing when to stop:

To be honest, getting that working and tested would have taken another six months … I didn’t feel like it was worth [it]. … At some point every good game developer has to decide, ‘OK, I’m actually gonna ship this game this year.’

That last paragraph reminds of me of this quote from Harrison Ford:

You keep on going until you get it as close to being right as the time and patience of others will allow.

And if you read this interview with the Dave Roberts, the CEO of PopCap, you can see why they work like that:

[W]e are pretty happy. We have never had to compromise anything about what we believe in for great products … I think we are going to continue to build some awesome value here, and people love the games. And we are going to keep making great games.

Lovely.