CONCEPT TO COMPLETION: BUILDING THE Z7 MECH SUIT IN PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES GARDEN WARFARE 2

Posted by EA Staff

The smallest details can make all the difference. In our Concept to Completion series, we’ll look at how environments, characters, and more are added to video games during development.

There’s a little touch in Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 that long-time fans of EA games will appreciate.

We had lovingly spoofed Mass Effect during the original Garden Warfare, so when it came time to think about big crazy ideas for Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2, we started thinking about how we might actually put “Grass Effect” in game,” says Jeremy Vanhoozer, Creative Director. “We at PopCap are huge fans of Mass Effect and to be honest it was a bit of a “geek-out” moment for us.”

The PopCap team approached BioWare to discuss the project early on in development.

 

Our first reaction was that this was awesome,” says Chris Bain, Director of Business Planning and Development at BioWare. “There is a lot of respect for the PopCap team at BioWare and we knew they would treat Mass Effect with the care and attention they do Plants vs. Zombies.”

With both teams aligned, an initial meet up in San Diego set the tone for the project.

“I remember discussing the initial idea with the BioWare guys at Comicon,” says Vanhoozer. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”

 

The early part of the process moved quickly.

“I think for me it took about four days,” says Rachel Downing, Senior Character Artist. “One day of intense research, one day of sketching out ideas, and then two days working with the team and nailing the final design.”

The team then spent a few weeks building the suit and getting it into the game, followed by testing and balancing. The trickiest part of the early design work was making the suit work for the PvZGW2 universe.

“From the concept perspective, it was challenging deciding on which parts of the mech should be what materials,” says Downing. The team also debated the right shape of the mech suit so that the design worked. “We wanted it to be recognized as something that clearly belonged in both worlds,” says Downing.

 

The suit had to be tweaked slightly to fit a Zombie’s body.

“We had to adjust to match the overblown and exaggerated proportions of the Plants vs. Zombies Universe,” says Vanhoozer.

If longtime fans look close, they’ll notice a bunch of small details from BioWare games.

“The iconic belt design is hidden on the hip of the mech, which is a bit easy to overlook,” says Downing. “The imp’s pistols are based off the silenced M-11, and the mech’s gun is based off the M7 Lancer.”

The helmet includes a few subtle touches as well.

“The paneling seen on the back of the mass effect suits was reintegrated into the head of the mech,” says Downing, “which is also mixed with a little bit of the Atlas design.”

The N7 is an iconic symbol for longtime fans of the franchise, and it’s woven into the mech suit inPvZGW2.

“You can see the modified N7 logo (Z7) along with the iconic red stripe and armoring from the game,” says Bain. “The weapon used is inspired by the M8 Assault Rifle from Mass Effect with the offhand weapon patterned after the Omni Blade.”

It’s that symbol that connects our players around the world.

“It’s really something special that every fan of Mass Effect gets to share with each other,” says Bain. “I’ve always believed that it represents a special bond with not only my Shepard, but with other players who have played through the game and taken the same journey.”

With a project like this combining two established teams, communication is absolutely crucial at all steps of the process.

The PopCap team has been a great partner and shared their progress throughout the creative process,” says Bain. “The consistent check-ins made sure everyone was creatively pointed in the right direction.”

Both teams were thrilled to see the final result.

“We were able to combine two universes that we really love,” says Vanhoozer. “Being able to collaborate and share a laugh with them on this project has been amazing.”

 

 

 

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