PC Gamer

Update: Valve's Doug Lombardi told Joystiq: "As a point of clarification, this is probably better categorized as Valve hiring two new employees instead of an acquisition of a company or opening of a Valve SF office."

Original: Valve Time are reporting that the two-man operation Star Filled Studios have been bought by Valve, and will be heading up a new office based in San Francisco.

According to the LinkedIn profile of Star Filled's Tod Semple, a former programmer for PopCap, "my recent startup was acquired by Valve and we are opening a new office on the San Francisco peninsula."

Star Filled Studios is comprised of Tod, who has previously worked at Blizzard and LucasArts, and Jeff Gates, who did work on Maxis' Spore and Blizzard's Diablo 3. Both then worked together at PopCap.

Valve's plans for the company are still a mystery. While Star Filled Studios never announced what they were working on, their website states, "our games are made to be playable by everyone and available on iPhone, Steam and many different platforms."

The last company acquired by Valve was Turtle Rock Studios, who made Left 4 Dead before being rolled into Valve's Bellevue HQ. Turtle Rock have since reopened, now independent of Valve.

Thanks CVG.
Shacknews - Steve Watts

Update - Doug Lombardi of Valve confirmed that Semple and Gates have been hired, but offered a clarification: "This is probably better categorized as Valve hiring two new employees instead of an acquisition of a company or opening of a Valve SF office."

Original Story - An indie start-up composed of former PopCap developers has been acquired by Valve. The developer Star Filled Studios was just composed of two men: Jeff Gates and Tod Semple, both of whom formerly worked at PopCap. Semple says they're opening a new office in San Francisco.

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell confirmed the acquisition, telling Edge: "The guys who did PvZ, down in the Bay Area, we're helping them set up a Valve subsidiary there."

The studio site also references work on high-profile titles at Maxis, LucasArts, and Blizzard. The two were working at PopCap's San Carlos office until they were made redundant in August by the company layoffs. They went on to form SFS in September.

Valve's last acquisition was in 2008, when it took on Turtle Rock Studios. That led to the company getting behind Left 4 Dead and then closing the studio before it reopened as independent in 2009. Valve didn't give word on what Star Filled Studios will be working on.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The Frostbite 2 engine gained a strong reputation for realism after it was used in Battlefield 3, and started branching into other genres, such as EA's racing titles. But we might see what it does with a completely different art style too, under the care of PopCap.

A job listing dug up by Superannuation asks for a software engineer with Frostbite 2 experience to work at PopCap. The project is called a "AAA console title" and specifically mentions experience working on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Signs point to this being related to the unconfirmed Plants vs Zombies shooter that we heard about in August. It makes sense for EA to use its proprietary engine and show off its flexibility to boot, but Frostbite 2 wouldn't have been our first guess for the backbone of a cartoon art style.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Hey, remember when PopCap announced it was working on a sequel to Plants vs. Zombies? Well, it looks like it may be called Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Fusible has discovered a bunch of new domain registrations attributed to PopCap including gardenwarfare.net, pvzgardenwarfare.com, and pvzgw.com. All of the domains were registered on October 16th.

The Garden Warfare moniker has a nice ring to it, as it seems to poke fun at the successful Modern Warfare series of games. The name does make us wonder: could that odd rumor about a multiplayer PvZ shooter actually be true?

Shacknews - Steve Watts

You may not want to contribute to kids' tooth decay this Halloween, but chances are you don't want to be "that guy." You know, the one who handed out little toothbrushes or apple slices to trick-or-treaters. Luckily, PopCap has teamed up with the American Dental Association to let you give away something much cooler than toothbrushes or (dare we say) candy: Plants vs Zombies.

The "Stop Zombie Mouth" campaign lets you give trick-or-treaters a free game coupon for the PC or Mac version of Plants vs Zombies. You can pick up sets of limited-edition PvZ trading cards with download codes from an ADA member dentist, or you can visit the official site to print coupons. The announcement estimates it will give away millions of games in all, along with more than a million of the trading card packs.

"We at PopCap have been interested in the potential for video games to provide benefits beyond entertainment for many years," said co-founder John Vechey, in the announcement. "We're passionate about the very important cause behind the 'Stop Zombie Mouth' campaign and proud to be highlighting yet another positive effect that games can have on society."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

There was a surprising casualty in yesterday's PopCap layoffs. George Fan is best known as the creator of one of PopCap's most endearing games: Plants vs Zombies. And although the company is moving ahead with a sequel to the game, according to a report by 1UP, Fan was part of yesterday's layoffs. (His LinkedIn page has not been updated, however.)

If Fan is no longer involved with Plants vs Zombies, it may explain the curious rumor that surfaced earlier--that the next iteration of the franchise would turn into a multiplayer shooter. While the original game was heralded for its simplicity, a look at Fan's GDC talk reveals how much design work and iteration was necessary to make the game as accessible as it is.

PC Gamer
Not all games can be as vivid as Peggle, but high contrast huds are always welcome.

Today's "say it ain't so" news involves PopCap releasing about 50 employees at its Seattle offices and investigating the shaky future of its Dublin, Ireland branch. Now, PopCap co-founder John Vechey took to the keyboard with an official blog post explaining the decision with unusual clarity.

"In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games," Vechey wrote. "Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity. That happened fast. Surprisingly so. The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms. It’s a completely different world from when we started."

"There’s also an economic component to the reorganization. To stay in business, we need to manage costs, improve efficiency, and maintain a profit. We’ve been able to invest in creative new games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies because we had a high profit business. That business is challenged, and if we don’t adapt, we won’t be able to invest in new IP. That sounds harsh -- but if we don’t stay in business, no more plants, zombies, jewels, frogs, or worms."

Vechey later tweeted a followup thought to the employee departures, saying, "PopCap's leadership, especially and including myself, are the only ones culpable for this sad news."

We're saddened by the layoffs at PopCap. It's refreshing, however, to see a developer breaking bad news with such candor, rather than burying it in an obfuscating haze of corporate jargon.
PC Gamer
Plants vs Zombies

Did you enjoy Plants vs. Zombies? We did, very much. It was a dark drama about sunflowers plopping out light beads in the shadow of hordes of hungry undead, some of them wearing speedos. Expect more strangeness spring next year when the zombies return with new strategies designed to undo your home grown garden defences. There are no real details yet, but unlike most of EA's other games at the moment, it doesn't seem to be made in the Frostbite engine, as far as we know. Hooray! The screenshot above is from Plants vs. Zombies 1.

“Spring is crullest curlie ungood time, and plantz grow dull roots,” a zombie told PopCap's press department. “So, we are meating you for brainz at yore house. No worry to skedule schedlue plan… we're freee anytime. We'll find you.” What a polite young zombie.
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Daft and unlikely rumours about PopCap making a multiplayer shooter spin-off of Plants vs. Zombies were circulating earlier this month, causing the sensible to groan sceptically. Well, a sequel is officially coming, PopCap announced today, though there was no mention of shooty-shoots--or much else for that matter.

All PopCap would commit to was saying that it'll bring "new features, settings, and situations," including new plant and zombie types. It should launch in the first half of 2013, by late spring.

Platforms are unconfirmed, though expect it to hit just about everything. The original is on PC, Mac, XBLA, PlayStation 3, Vita, Nintendo DS, DSiWare, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7.

"Spring is crullest curlie ungood time, and plantz grow dull roots," an actual proper real zombie said in the announcement. "So, we are meating you for brainz at yore house. No worry to skedule schedlue plan... we're freee anytime. We'll find you."

Let's all cross our fingers and hope those shooter rumours were as silly as they seemed, while we sing, "There's a zombie on your lawn..."

[This story's image and trailer from the original PvZ.]

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The next Plants vs Zombies game may not be a tower defense fans would expect. Instead, the latest rumor suggests it will be a game unlike anything PopCap has ever done. Various signs and one unnamed source have indicated it could take the series in a multiplayer-action direction, possibly even as a first-person shooter.

It started with a handful of job openings. Supperannuation reported that the new PopCap team at EA Canada Burnaby's campus showed openings for a 3D animator and a multiplayer designer. The candidates are expected to have console experience, and the multiplayer designer is asked to have experience as a level designer on a shooter or action title. Finally, a world modeler asked for experience with "cartoon style and tone."

Then later, an unnamed source in the Canadian industry told Kotaku that the team is working on a multiplayer, first-person console shooter based in the Plants vs Zombies franchise. It may sound crazy, but it fits all the pieces we know. It does raise certain questions, though, like "what?" and "why?" and "how do you make an FPS with one team literally rooted to the ground?"

According to the report, the project will be submitted to PopCap for final approval later this month, at which point it could simply be taken off the company slate. So even if this rumor is true, the game might never see the light of day if PopCap or EA decides to nix it in these early stages. Shacknews has contacted EA and will update as more information becomes available.


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