The Gameological Questionnaire

Justin Wiebe

Justin Wiebe, creative director, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

The PopCap developer is buying what Microsoft and Sony are selling.

By Ryan Smith • June 13, 2013

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2013 show floor. We picked five of our favorites; those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.

EA surprised its audience by opening its pre-E3 press event not with a big-budget first-person shooter or a high-profile sports game but with Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a fresh take on PopCap’s mobile tower-defense game. Garden Warfare reinvents the original as a frantic third-person shooter. In that same spirit of surprise, I hit Garden Warfare’s creative director, Justin Wiebe, with readers’ questions about alien species, wine pairings, and more.

The Gameological Society: If your game had a super-deluxe version that cost $1,000, what would be in the box?

Justin Wiebe: Probably a golden PVZ yeti figure. It’s in the box. It’d be a bigger box.

Gameological: Sony and Microsoft have new consoles coming out soon. What are some exciting things you’ll be able to do on the new machines, in terms of game design, that you couldn’t do before?

Wiebe: Absolutely. I think with this Xbox One specifically, the way they designed the Kinect experience to work and the Smart Glass experience has really freed us up as developers to be able to take advantage of them in a way that we weren’t able to do with the original. The technology is superior, so what that means is that we’re able to bring more innovative and complex game interactions to support it. Even for games like Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, I think we have new opportunities to use the Kinect features in a way we’d never been able to on the original.

On the Sony side, I think what they’re doing is giving us the hardware so we can push the boundaries of the game—so we can hit a higher frame rate and a higher resolution. Just the way they got their system setup, we’re going to be able to digitally upload a lot more content a lot quicker than we normally would have been able to, especially for [downloadable content] and adding extra goods in the game.

Gameological: If an alien species discovered your game as the only remnant of human civilization, what would they learn about us?

Wiebe: They’d find us incredibly humorous. I think they’d find that zombies are probably the stupidest forms of life on the planet, and they’d probably have some admiration for the endearing qualities of the plants.

Gameological: What wine would pair best with your game?

Wiebe: That’s a tough one. I would say probably some form of bitter, kind of expired almost, with a vinegary type of taste. So wine that’s gone bad, but is still really great to put in Greek salad.

Gameological: What’s the weirdest idea that came up during production but ultimately didn’t make it into the game?

Wiebe: Somebody wanted to create a chicken gun. They wanted to equip all the zombies with chicken guns, and launch chickens everywhere. And that’s true. [Laughs.] I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know if that fits Plants Vs. Zombies.”

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22 Responses to “Justin Wiebe, creative director, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

  1. Chalkdust says:

    Oof, that’s gotta be the most disappointing of the “new consoles” answers so far.  So many words spent on saying so very little.

    • Enkidum says:

      What are you talking about? He was quite clear that they’ve been freed up to take advantage of the Kinect Experience and the Smart Glass experience in ways that they weren’t able to do with the original, and to bring in innovative and more complex game interactions to support the superior technology! 

      Sheesh, it’s like you didn’t even read the interview.

      • mizerock says:

        I managed to forget about Smart Glass, or maybe I was napping when they announced it? It sounds like it allows you to turn a touch-screen device (sold separately) into something very much like (and perhaps even far more sophisticated than) the Wii U touch-screen controller. Sounds fantastic. And Playstation has nothing like this in the works, correct? So why isn’t this feature being mentioned by Microsoft more often? Has it already been deemed a failure? I see that very few games currently use it, even though it’s been out since October.

        I guess I don’t hear much about how game-changing the touch-screen is on the Wii U either, not yet any way, all the talk seems to be about the “potential awesomeness” that it will bring, someday in the future.

        • NakedSnake says:

          I love how gaming companies continue to be frustrated by the fact that they basically perfected the (console) user interface with the dual shock controller. “Innovation,” a frightened and vengeful voice in the back of their mind insists, “innovate or die!” And so they stumble blindly onwards, positing The Next Big Thing, unable to come to terms with the perfection they have already created.

        • neodocT says:

          Sony’s doing the same thing with the PSVita, and I’m pretty sure they have something in the works for the iPad and other tablets. There’s already a PSN app, though nothing like Smartglass.

          And I think it’s pretty interesting that Sony and Microsoft seem to be always copying Nintendo’s ideas in hardware innovation, with both consoles now adopting motion controls and second-screens.

        • mizerock says:

          Hey, NakedSnake, did you win your “drive across the continent” real-life mini-game? I was going to say that you needed to change your title now, but I guess you still are “from” the Mid-Atlantic, no matter where you are now (Vancouver?).

        • NakedSnake says:

          Haha, yea @mizerock:disqus, mission accomplished. In 5 day we did Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia. Honestly, I remember very little, except that Montana was amazing and diverse. And yea, I’ll always be from the Urea, no matter where I live.

    • Bakken Hood says:

      But now you can kill zombies by yelling at them, or something!

    • NakedSnake says:

      Anytime someone starts their answer to an open-ended question with “Absolutely”, you know that they’re just doing their best to get out of answering the question unscathed. I feel for the guy.

  2. NakedSnake says:

    Reminder to anyone who wants to participate in the Gameological Society game creation: The Game Design chat, where we discuss who can contribute to the programming, level design, and gameplay mechanics of our future game, is at 10 EST at the steam group.
    And we can most certainly discuss the idea of ripping off the ‘zombies with chicken gun idea’, cause that sounds awesome.

    • djsubversive says:


      • NakedSnake says:

        I’ve been trying to read up on platform options. Unity sounds pretty hardcore.

        • djsubversive says:

          ‘Hardcore’ is a good way to put it. As I said, though, my lack of programming/game design knowledge is probably making it worse than it would otherwise be. I might grab some of the tutorials/sample projects from the Unity site and spend some time this weekend trying to figure things out.

          Or I’ll just go back to 7.62 High Calibre with the Blue Sun Mod. or Fallout Wanderers Edition.

  3. neodocT says:

    Didn’t the N64 Southpark game have a chicken gun, where the characters squeezed a chicken to shoot out eggs? Or was that just a fever dream?

  4. George_Liquor says:

    I guess mashing Modern Warfare together with PvZ could be fun, but does this game remind anyone else of what happens when a short, plot-less kids book gets stretched into a miserable Hollywood movie? I’m getting terrifying Jim Carrey & Mike Meyers flashbacks just thinking about it.

  5. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    I want to hate this game, because I’m not really thrilled with the idea that the reward for being a successful franchise is being turned into yet another third-person shooter.  But . . . it does look kind of fun.

  6. Merve says:

    The chicken gun idea was rejected? That’s one of the most awesome ideas I’ve ever heard!

  7. Andy Tuttle says:

    This seems like the most “corporate approved” interview yet. The guy didn’t seem candid with his answers whatsoever, but maybe that’s just how he talks.