我认为最大挑战要分为两个方面来说。首先，你得研究这些掌机设备用户所欢迎的游戏模式。例如我们将《植物大战僵尸》移植到Xbox 360的时候，几乎有一半的开发时间是用于设计它的多人玩法模式，我们希望它可以提供“沙发玩游戏”的最佳体验，因为我们清楚这就是Xbox 360用户所需要的体验。
你刚才提到针对Xbox 360和DS调整游戏控制界面充满不少挑战，而且这个过程与针对PC和智能手机调整内容非常不同。但掌机设备的界面也在发生变化，比如现在的Kinect和PS Move……
PopCap chief: ‘We’re the tortoise’John Vechey on whether the maker of Plants vs Zombies will become as big as Disney and how the iPad 2 changes gaming
The growth in popularity of casual gaming in recent years has catapulted video games from fringe to mainstream entertainment. The Wii has been immensely influential in this regard, but recently smartphones and social media have started replacing consoles as the “go-to” platforms for casual gaming.
One of the best and most influential developers behind casual-core video games is PopCap. The Seattle-based company’s catalogue features some of the most critically acclaimed and biggest-selling titles of all time – Bejewelled, Peggle and Plants vs Zombies among them.
With casual gaming becoming more and more popular – throw a rock into a crowd and you’ll hit someone playing Angry Birds – some pundits have begun speculating that companies such as Rovio and PopCap may some day be as big as Disney. We thought it we’d find out from PopCap’s chief executive John Vechey what he thought of that assessment, as well as his opinion on several other topics.
Last year was a fantastic year for casual games and casual gaming – with the success of Plants vs Zombies on various platforms, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope – especially on mobile platforms. It’s really captured the imagination of millions. Has all this competition been good for PopCap?
I think so. I mean, we don’t really think of gaming as some industry. We’re friends with nearly every single every game company in our competitive environment. When you look at Angry Birds on mobile phones and Zynga’s games on Facebook, they’re really great for us because people are playing more games because of them.
Look at it this way; the majority of people in the world will argue about movies and have favourite movies, but very few of them will say, “I don’t like movies at all”. In gaming right now there are still more people or as many people who say, “I’m not a gamer and I don’t play games” as there are people who play games. Any game that has the success we’ve seen from some titles in the last year, increases the number of people who play games. There are people discovering gaming for the first time, because of Angry Birds. And that is good for us! And it’s good for the industry! (Laughs) It’s all good!
What did you think of Angry Birds?
Angry Birds to me is like golf in that it’s more frustrating than fun. However, it’s incredibly rewarding when things go your way in it. I can play something like Cut the Rope – and I did for hours – and get three stars on every level. With Angry Birds, the scoring is a bit to arbitrary for my tastes. I like it, but I feel it would be a better game if it wasn’t so opaque – but that’s me.
There are a lot of people who play games who don’t consider themselves gamers, but the audience for casual games has grown in leaps and bounds in the last year. Do you think the market is becoming saturated?
I think the sky’s the limit. I can’t predict how fast it’s going to grow; when started in 2,000 with Bejeweled there was a big acceleration in casual gaming. Then it settled down a bit over the next few years. Now with Facebook and smartphones being a great one-two punch, it’s picked up again and you’re seeing huge growth again.
PopCap’s goal is this; everyone in the world has a top five games list and we want a couple of our titles on everyone’s top five list. Whether that takes us 10 to 50 years to accomplish this, we don’t care. I know we have so much further to go.
We’re a very inwardly focused company. We believe markets and platforms aren’t static – everything changes, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. For us, it’s about focusing on great games and great game franchises. We don’t need to release 50 games per year that are C+ or B- quality releases. What we need to do is keep reinvesting in the great games we have and continue to experiment with games that we think would make amazing experiences. We’re like Pixar; they don’t feel the need to make 10 times as many movies as their competitors, but they do feel the need to keep making every movie great. We’re okay being the tortoise. The tortoise eventually wins the race.
Do the backyard shuffle … PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies There are some pundits who – because of the success of Angry Birds and PvZ – are saying that companies such as Rovio and PopCap will become bigger than Disney. What’s your take on that?
I definitely think that companies such as Rovio and Zynga and PopCap are going to end up looking like companies such as Disney. You look at what Hasbro’s done with Transformers and how that revitalised the brand in the toy business.
I think that what’s going to happen is, at some point we’re going to see that gaming is just one aspect of what we do. How else can our customers want to interact with what we do? Whether that’s toys or movies or TV or some other medium, it’s another way that customers gain appreciation for it.
Look, Disney’s a giant company and I think it would be foolhardy to say, “hey, we’re gonna be bigger than Disney”, but I think that in 30 or so years, we’re going to look a lot more like Disney than we do right now.
I think the fact that the big media companies don’t have great interactive experiences for their audiences nailed yet, will mean that eventually, they’re going to start to look more like us.
The quality of their games is factor. PopCap seems to be one of those developers who seem to straddle the casual and core markets. Your games are visually very cute and friendly, but the depth of play is guaranteed to bring in the core crowd too. Is it a tricky balancing act?
We get that just by the nature of the development process. We make games first and foremost for ourselves and we cancel titles that we aren’t having fun with. Once we’ve started having fun with a title, we try to make that experience as accessible to as many people as possible, and once again, if we can’t do that we cancel it.
By nature, everyone at PopCap is a hardcore gamer. If we find it fun, we’ve got the core audience. Once you make that experience accessible to people outside that core audience, you increase your game’s reach. We spend a lot of time making what we enjoy appeal to as many people as possible.
Your titles have had a lot of success on portable devices. The Sony PSP2 (NGP) is on the horizon, and it’s come under fire from some quarters who say that the experiences available on it don’t lend themselves to the easy “pick-up-and-play” appeal that audiences want on portable gaming devices. What’s your take on that?
(Laughs) I think the thing with portable gaming – and portable gaming devices – is they all have the same problem; the mobile phone. I don’t carry my DS with me anymore when I go travelling. It just sits there until there’s a game I absolutely have to play on it, which isn’t available on any other platform.
The PSP2 will have the same problem. People always have their smartphones with them. Yeah, you’re always going to get better hardware and more immersive expereinces, but when I’m on the road, I’m looking for a less immersive experience. That’s really what all those devices are up against.
Peggle … 2D time-wasters will never go out of fashion So would you say these portable devices are on their way out, because they don’t offer all of the conveniences of a smartphone – such as a phone, a camera, a gaming device, a music player and so forth?
I think that if they want to survive, in my mind, they’ll have to evolve into something that’s way beyond what they are now. Whether or not they do that, or what they need to do, or what they’ll even look like, I’ll be honest, I don’t know. But it’s very definitely a challenge they face.
Speaking of evolving platforms, the iPad 2 just got released …
We’re really rooting for the iPad, just because so many great experiences can be made. We need more users on it for us to develop more specific content for it – the way we did with multiplayers on the Xbox 360 – but there are all sorts of things the iPad 2 can do, such as LAN gaming. Usually that involves a big headache of setting up machines, feeling really nerdy and wondering why women talk to you at all. With the iPad, if you have a multiplayer game, you can just bring your iPad round, sit on the couch and have a blast.
In the past, PopCap mainly made games for PCs and Apple’s touchscreen platforms, but recently you made the jump to Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS. What were the main challenges in porting your games to these consoles?
I think the big challenge there breaks into two parts. First, you have to look at the modes that are expected by the audiences of those consoles. For example, when we ported Plants vs Zombies to the Xbox 360, we probably spent well over half the development time on designing its multiplayer mode. We wanted to make it a really great, “on the couch” type of experience because we knew that that’s what people expect and want from an Xbox 360 game.
Second, we spent a lot of time adapting our control systems to the console interface. What makes a great iPhone game or a PC game is different to what makes a great Xbox 360 game – and in turn, what makes a great Nintendo DS game. So, really the creative challenge that we embrace and take very seriously, focuses a lot on those two areas.
Now that you’ve made the jump on to these platforms, will we see PopCap make a title exclusively for one of those consoles?
We will never release a game that’s exclusive to any platform. Whatever gaming experiences we create and continue to create, we’re all about the multi-platform aspect of gaming. We feel it’s very important to our strategy and very important to our customers.
Will we ever start a title off on a console? Well, it’s something that we’ve talked about at various stages. We’ve even done some prototypes of some games on a console. I can see us at least starting on a console in the next five years, certainly.
We don’t have a hard and fast rule for or against the idea; it’s all about whether or not we’ve got a great idea for a console game. And the same goes for PC, or mobile phones, or any other platform we’re currently on.
You talked about the challenges of adapating to the Xbox 360 and DS control interface – being, as they are, very different from PCs and smartphones. But the interfaces of consoles are changing again, with the introduction of Kinect and the PS Move …
Yeah, we’re looking at them. The problem we have with those interfaces is… well, the great Wii and Move and Kinect games you see are designed from scratch to be great Wii and Move and Kinect games. We have yet to see a game that’s a port or an adaptation on those control systems that’s a great game too. To the extent that one of our games would be a good adaptation, then, yeah, we could think about porting it. But the question, once again, would focus on whether the game would be a great experience with those interfaces. For example, Bejeweled on Kinect would just be Bejeweled exactly how it is, but you’d control it by moving your hands, which wouldn’t exactly be a great Kinect experience.
We’re not a mobile company or a console company or a PC company. We’re a games company – that’s our DNA.（source:guardian）