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.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Finally! PopCap has announced a brand new Plants vs. Zombies. Unfortunately, it's not the sequel we've been clamoring for. Instead of offering us a brand new game, PopCap has announced a spin-off app featuring the game's zany zombies.

"PvZ Presents: Talking Zombatar" is a free-to-play app for smartphones and tablets. Essentially a virtual pet simulator, Talking Zombatar will let you carry around your own zombie, dress him up as you'd like, and take photos of you and your zombie together.

Being a free-to-play title, of course, there will be a variety of accessories on sale at Crazy Dave's store. For example, you can buy sunglasses, hats, shoes, or buy full outfits to turn your zombie into an astronaut or a samurai. In addition to photos, you'll also be able to shoot videos with your zombie, and hear him repeat your words "in zombese." Finally, you'll be able to share all this stuff via Facebook and "other social channels that don't get mentioned as much." (Myspace integration, anyone?)

The app should be available "later this year."

Announcement - Valve
The Steam Summer Sale continues today with huge savings throughout the store!

Today's Daily Deals Include:

Don't forget to check back for a new Community Choice vote every 8 hours and new Flash sales throughout the day! You can also grab the Steam mobile app to make sure you never miss any great deals while you're on the go!

Complete information on all the savings, Flash Sales, Community Choice Votes and more may be found on

Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on Plants vs. Zombies during this week's Midweek Madness!

Zombies are invading your home, and the only defense is your arsenal of plants! Armed with an alien nursery-worth of zombie-zapping plants like peashooters and cherry bombs, you'll need to think fast and plant faster to stop dozens of types of zombies dead in their tracks.

PC Gamer
diablo 3 classes
The PC Gamer Word Dungeon hasn't stopped echoing the phrase "What Diablo class are you playing?" for months. It's a constant inquiry. We talked about it at length at the end of last week's podcast. A few of us still haven't made up our minds. With precious time left to make a decision (and hopefully helping you to relieve the same burden), we bugged some developers. We asked Notch, Runic Games, Blizzard themselves, and others: what're you rollin'?

Barbarian - Jay Wilson, Diablo III Game Director
“Because no one in Diablo III breaks things better! Being a Barbarian is leaping into the thick of the fighting, being tough enough to take as good as you get, and never being afraid of anything.“

What classes are other Blizzard devs rolling? Read here.

(creators of Torchlight II)
Witch Doctor - Max Schaefer, CEO, Runic Games
"I'm rolling a Witch Doctor because it's the weirdest class. I usually end up just wanting to mash things, so I'll go Barbarian eventually, but my first will be a Witch Doctor for sure."

Barbarian - Travis Baldree, President, Runic Games
"I was going to say a Wizard, but who am I kidding. I'm going to have to take a Barbarian out first time. Smashing things until they aren't things anymore is a special pleasure, and I really, really like axes."

(creators of Minecraft, duh)
Demon Hunter - Markus "Notch" Persson
"Surely the best way to fight the hordes of hell is to not even get close to them? Thankfully loot is individual, so I might actually get some equipment this time."

(creators of PlanetSide 2, EverQuest)
Monk - John Smedley, President, Sony Online Entertainment
“I’m going Monk. I love the hand-to-hand combat and getting up close and personal. I’m also going to see how many hours I can stay up and play! I’ll be on at midnight for sure!”

(creators of Solitaire Blitz, Plants vs. Zombies, rainbows)
Monk - John Vechey, PopCap Co-Founder and Franchise Studio Director
"I am the Monk. Why? Because monks are the most fun in any RPG. They're all like 'I PUNCH ZEN THROUGH YOUR S$&*!'"

Barbarian - Jeff Green, PopCap Editorial and Social Media Director
"My go-to in Diablo 2 was the Necromancer, who had his undead minions do the killing for him while he sat around and counted his money. I was part of the Diablo 1%. But, like John, I too like hitting things, and the Barbarian in Diablo 3 has a satisfying bone-crunching fury to him. Honestly, though, I'll play the game all the way through with every class, because I'm just that sad."

Monk - Dan Amrich, Social Media Manager
"I loved the Amazon in Diablo II, so the Demon Hunter looks great...but since it's a female avatar and my wife likes her characters to be representative, she's probably going to claim that instead. So I'll probably go for the Monk—I play rogues in WoW, so this matches well with my preference for fast, devastating melee attacks. And who knows, maybe I'll finally learn how to heal."

(creators of Super Monday Night Combat)
Monk - Chandana "Eka" Ekanayake, Art Director and Executive Producer
"I gotta go with Monk for his lightning quick reflexes and bare-knuckled-spirit-powered fists of whoop-assness. Playing Monk is the closest you can get to experiencing the soul glow power of Bruce Leroy. It's the proper choice."

Wizard - John Comes, Creative Director
"I'm going to play a Wizard because I like money, and power, and he's got both. And you know it."

(creators of Dungeons of Dredmor)
Witch Doctor or Wizard - Nicholas Vining, Technical Director, Lead Programmer
"It's a toss-up between Witch Doctor and Wizard. On the one hand, I'm a sucker for voodoo references; on the other hand, there's a lot to love about time manipulation. The ideal solution is that the game industry stops discriminating against voodoo practitioners and gives them access to time manipulation magic, but until that day comes we'll have to make tough decisions."

(creators of Age of Empires Online)
Barbarian - Chris Taylor, CEO and Founder
"Sadly my answer is Barbarian, because you have to be a Barbarian in real life to raise 4 boys. When I was in the beta, I played Barbarian too. You’d think I would want to reach out, try something new. My experimentation years are behind me now; I just want to smash monsters in the mouth and grab the loot."

(creators of Tribes: Ascend)
Demon Hunter - Scott Zier, Lead Designer, Tribes: Ascend
"I'll start with the Demon Hunter. I'm a big fan of the agility and speed, and ranged DPS is kind of my thing."

Wizard - Joe Rougeux, Senior Software Engineer, Tribes: Ascend
"Definitely gonna start out with a Wizard, stacking MF to get geared up for Inferno!"

Wizard - Sean McBride, Art Director, Tribes: Ascend
"The Wizard. I love the utility that the class brings to the table in a group setting. Her awesome ability to nuke huge groups of enemies at once also is a big draw for me."

Monk - Adam Moore, Sr. Artist, Tribes: Ascend
"The Monk. His combination of both agile DPS and support abilities make him a cornerstone of the group play."

All photographs courtesy of interviewees.

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