This week, PC Gamer UK's deputy editor, Graham Smith , is at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle. While he's there, he's been speaking to PopCap Games, creators of Bejeweled, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies. Here's what he's learned.
The company was originally named Sexy Action Cool. Their first game was called Foxy Poker, and was a strip poker game. When you got to the final stage of undress, the ladybits were obscured by objects in the foreground.
They tried to sell Bejeweled outright to EA and MSN, for $60k and $30k respectively. Both said no.
Peggle was prototyped over 3-4 months. They then spent a further two years just trying to work out the theme. It was going to be called Thunderball at one point. It was Viking themed at another. It was Thor themed (!) at another. The unicorn and classical music was there since the beginning, but originally was meant to be placeholder.
Peggle was going to be called Pego, but they worried about problems with Pogo.com .
Plants vs. Zombies was a placeholder name. They wanted to call it Lawn of the Dead. George Romero or his agent said no. They then spent a lot of time trying to come up with alternate titles. Suggestions included Morticulture, and Doom 'n' Bloom, before they went back to PvZ.
PvZ was in development for three-and-a-half years with a team of only 5 or 6 people.
They spoke about how they're moving into social gaming, but want to avoid the manipulative tactics of other companies. They want to create games that people play because they're fun, and want to share because they're fun. They spoke about how they grew the company while retaining its original culture of creativity, and how they encourage everyone to contribute. They spoke about how the games come first, before any other concern, and how marketing, sales and other divisions are entirely separate from the studio making the games. They spoke about their commitment to making polished, excellent experiences, regardless of how long it takes to finish a project. They spoke of how this was actually financially more efficient.