My short bio: Hi reddit! I'm George Fan and I make cool games. One cool game I made was Plants vs. Zombies. Another cool game I made was Insaniquarium.

Check out my new game, hot-hot off the presses-presses! http://store.steampowered.com/app/525620/Octogeddon/

My Proof: https://twitter.com/thegeorgefan/status/961815268056944642

Comments: 367 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

IndyPoker979336 karma

Do you know how much you have affected people's lives?

Sooo this is pretty cool. You created a game that my 5 year old right now obsesses over. As a gamer, it's been a bit of a change in perspective when we found out he was born on the spectrum. So I had to put my expectations of him playing games with me on the shelf. We actually didn't know if he'd talk until last year.

This past year has changed quite a bit. Now he's talking and discussing his favorite obsessions and currently it just happens to be PvZ.

"Talk about zombies daddy" "You talk by yourself bout zombies"

I tell him all about Disco Zombies and Bucket Zombies, Lawnmower Zombies and every other one I can think of.

Then he'll ask me about the 'shooters' or the 'plants' and I have to name as many as I can of those.

"I wanna play zombies" becomes watching him press every button he can on the screen as he tries to win from just sheer luck. Sometimes I'll even ask him if he wants me to 'set him up' and I'll give him a start and let him fill in whatever is left.

I don't really have a specific question honestly. We're at the point right now in his obsession that I've ordered a bunch of plush zombies from China so that we can play the game in real life.

But from a gaming dad who didn't know if he'd ever get to enjoy his favorite pastime with his son... thank you. It truly makes me smile every time I see him light up with his iPad playing zombies. And I didn't know if you knew about how much you've affected people.

thegeorgefan211 karma

Aw, this warms my heart soo much

Icommentoncrap296 karma

What is your current opinion on EA and how do you think you will feel about them later in life?

thegeorgefan583 karma

Even though I jokingly shake my fist at their office every time I drive past, I bear no real ill-will towards EA. They're a corporation and corporations do what corporations do. In some ways, I couldn't be doing what I'm doing now if EA didn't buy PopCap. I can be sad that the PvZ franchise didn't go down the path I would have wanted it to (and frustrated that I can't really do anything about it), but I'm more grateful that I'm able to make games like Octogeddon exactly the way I want to now.

LittleMissRileyx194 karma

if you had full control over PvZ2, how would you have wanted it to be like?

thegeorgefan502 karma

I don't have an unused grand vision for PvZ2 or anything. It probably would've still involved Time Travel, since that's the "take-the-sequel-to-the-next-level" theme I came up with for them. We would've just racked our brainz for cool ideas and iterated on them until we had something fun.

Of course, I would've fought to keep it pay-once-and-play. I think it's a bad idea to force a new monetization scheme onto an existing game that already worked. If you're gonna make a freemium game you gotta design it that way from the ground up.

LittleMissRileyx122 karma

I got another question, its extremely important.

Am I experiencing some form of the Mandela Effect or is there a version of PvZ where Potato Mine is named the Spud Mine? I swear back in the Ye Olden Times of 2010 when I first played PvZ, I saw Spud Mine somewhere instead of Potato Mine and ever since, I have refused to call it Potato Mine because Spud Mine has stuck with me ever since.

Is Spud Mine real or do me and Crazy Dave got something in common

thegeorgefan185 karma

That is crazy because I don't believe any version of PvZ got released with "Spud Mine", but there was some debate early on in dev about what to call it between those two names... Are you sure you weren't working at PopCap in an alternate reality or something?

Danthelmi164 karma

What was your inspiration for crazy Dave?

thegeorgefan308 karma

Crazy Dave may be inspired by a real person named Dave. The real Dave didn't wear a pot on his head tho

DankWojak66 karma

Holy crap, can you tell us what the real Dave was like?

Edit: thanks for answering my question

thegeorgefan284 karma

Not quite as crazy as Crazy Dave...

One of the craziest things real Dave did was one time treat a bunch of us to a pizza buffet... Near the end, the waitress asks us if we want more. We all say "no, I'm full" and real Dave says "yes". Then, real Dave looks at his phone, says "OH SH--! I forgot about a meeting!" and just takes off, leaving us with the bill. And then the waitress brings us this giant pizza which no one can eat.

Jaceabj151 karma

First off, thank you for Many hours of fun! Sevondly, was it hard to balance out PvsZ?

thegeorgefan161 karma

First, your welcome! Secondly, yes, but we had a year to do it

kalysti122 karma

Plants vs Zombies is one of the great games. I'm a software engineer, and I've been gaming for decades. From both points of view, I have done nothing but admire PvZ since the day I first booted it up.

My question is: Was the design process for Octogeddon significantly different from PvZ? If so, what were the differences, and what do you think caused them?

I'm so excited your new game is out and I'm going to go buy it as soon as I post this.

P.S. What EA did to PvZ2 was a travesty, and I'm glad you had nothing to do with it.

thegeorgefan89 karma

Not solely design, per se, but Octogeddon was the first game I released completely indie, so while I had to wear many hats making PvZ, I had to wear so many more making Octogeddon

They were similar in that early on I had nailed down a prototype for each that I felt was fun, and then it was just a matter of getting that core gameplay to a full fledged game

matisyahu2237 karma

Was one of those hats a pan?

thegeorgefan79 karma

The name's Crazy Dave, but you can just call me Crazy Dave

pimhazeveld54 karma

I've read that you've played plants vs zombies heroes. What decks did you like to play?

thegeorgefan56 karma

My fav was a Solar Flare deck with 4 Toadstools that just felt bananas

WillFord2754 karma

How many standard-sized imp pirate zombies can you fit into the default virtual tank?

thegeorgefan73 karma

That question breaks so much of the realism I try so hard to set up in my games, so I can't answer that

WillFord2732 karma

I'm sorry for destroying the immersion! I'll exit stage left.

thegeorgefan68 karma

Someday I'll buy the rights back to all my games and do some insane-o-mash-up of everything

logically49 karma

Are there any Easter Eggs that most players wouldn't know about?

thegeorgefan116 karma

There's a secret where you can get the zombies in PvZ1 to chant "Brains of Sukhbir", referring to our friend Sukhbir Sidhu at PopCap, producer on OG Peggle amongst other things

Flight71427 karma

I'm not going to ask how—that would be rude—but before I go searching through Plants vs Zombies clicking everything I can in every combination, I will ask: Is this "Brains of Sukhbir" easter-egg for real, or are you just kidding around with us?

Please consider that this possible hoax will inevitably cause huge human suffering via carpal tunnel syndrome.

thegeorgefan65 karma

I'll just say rather than clicking everything you can in every combination, you should try typing everything you can in every combination

Apologies in advance for the carpel tunnel...

thesenpaisquad46 karma

Hi George! I love your games! But have you seen this? https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.glmb.gigantopusdemo

thegeorgefan47 karma

That looks very very very very very very very very familiar

Baconus_Yum43 karma

Hey George. Love PvZ

Just a random question: What gave you the idea to make a game about Plants fighting Zombies?

thegeorgefan89 karma

Plants and Zombies weren't just two random things I decided to pit against each other. Those were specifically chosen to facilitate gameplay. You can probably find old interviews where I go more in depth but the gist of it is plants = stationary and zombies = slow, and that's why I chose them

N_to_the_orthernlion38 karma

What was your favourite plant from the original pvz? As a kid, I always loved the starfruit dude.

thegeorgefan109 karma

Squash (looked cool, name lines up with its purpose) or Tall-nut (when it sheds a single tear)

naturaldecay2 karma

I used to love reading the descriptions for all the plants, they were hilarious. You put more character into some vegetables than million dollar studios put into their protagonists.

thegeorgefan3 karma

Those were written by Stephen Notley, who is still at PopCap, else I would've totally enlisted him to write the descriptions for Octogeddon too.

I ended up having to do those myself, and they're... serviceable. It didn't help that I had a million other things to focus on

chuckeroo77736 karma

Whats your favorite load-out in Octogeddon?

thegeorgefan42 karma

I hear about people using 4 queen bees and 4 king cobras, but I'm much more about having 1 of each thing. I'll start with 1 snake, 1 claw, 1 bee, 1 chicken and upgrade each of those along the "tree" as I go through the game

spiderlocmtgo33 karma

My wife is generally not a gamer, but she has played tons of hours of insaniquarium and Plants vs Zombies. I didn't realize they were both designed by the same person! When you design games, is there something in particular you keep in mind or try to do to make them fun for people who may not otherwise enjoy other games?

thegeorgefan38 karma

I think the thing that separates me from other designers is I love taking game design and paring it down to just the essentials. That, and I have these "goggles", so to speak, I can put on that lets me see games in a way closer to how non-gamers would see em.

The_Ninjadillo33 karma

Looking back, is there something you wish you could've added to PvZ 1 but didn't?

thegeorgefan69 karma

The only thing is to cap the damage on AoE effects for gloomshroom and cob cannon so that people couldn't go infinite in Survival mode. (we did this for the torch'd peas, dunno why we didn't apply it to the other AoE/splash damage effects)

Redandgreen4331 karma

I noticed a trend between your games and that all of them seem to include elements of tower defense. Any reason for that?

thegeorgefan70 karma

I used to watch the last part of Swiss Family Robinson over and over as a kid. (Where they set up traps to defend their fort vs. pirates) I really enjoyed that feeling and wanted to capture it in gameplay

PetrifyingOnReddit30 karma

What inspired you to complete Octogeddon?

thegeorgefan67 karma

If I didn't "complete" making games I wouldn't know what else to live for

DerpTheHerpDerp26 karma

Love the sort of "formula" you do in a lot of your games, why do you think so many of your games use it?

thegeorgefan49 karma

As a game maker, you pick up tricks as to what works as you make each game, and your later games tend to include those tricks as "shortcuts" of sorts. When I made Insaniquarium, I did that effect of when you click on a coin, it "travels" down to your coin bank. At the time I don't think I'd seen it done in a game before (but it feels a lot more prevalent now). That effect just shows up in each of my games cause it "works"

ThatOneBadUsername22 karma

What do you think publishers/developers should do to make money post release? Are loot boxes the future?

thegeorgefan95 karma

I'm a game designer and not a businessman and have no idea how to make money

StoneVeil_Official20 karma

How do you keep being so fantastic? What's your primordial origin story?

In other news, thanks for keeping at it. I'm glad you're back in indie development, and I look forward to seeing more from All Yes Good. From the number of times I checked out Flying Bear, to the time I spent on insaniquariumguide.com/forum, to the virtual tank screensavers that drove my parents crazy, to the endless enjoyment I took from Plants vs. Zombies, thanks. You're awesome. Octogeddon is amazing.

thegeorgefan16 karma

Thanks for sticking around through all them years! You rule! :D

ZentoZekto20 karma

Is the pet tutorial level music supposed to be based off "Never gonna give you up"?

thegeorgefan28 karma

Is this a rickroll?

Cagetastic17 karma

Would you rather fight 100 plant sized zombie or defend against 1 zombie sized plant?

thegeorgefan20 karma

I will fight 100 egrets

lt799116 karma

Is there a game that you hold as the pinnacle of game design overall?

Side note, I played hundreds of hours of the original PvZ when I was a kid that game kept me out of a dark place in my head. So thanks a lot for that.

thegeorgefan19 karma

Thanks, it makes me really happy to hear that! I'm so glad PvZ helped you out when it did.

That is such a tough question, but at the moment I would say the original design for Magic: the Gathering Richard Garfield came up with is just absolutely brilliant

RealPoison9216 karma

I love Insanaquarium and Plants Vs Zombies, but here's my question, as a designer what were some ideas you never used?

thegeorgefan48 karma

Once I wanted to make a Flash boxing game that instructed you to "Slam your fist on your desk to punch!" and the player would do that and go "whoa! how does it know I'm punching???"

(we would detect minute vibrations from their mouse. That's it! The secret's out!!!)

therror14 karma

Hey George, love your games!

What are you playing currently? Do you enjoy more indie games, or AAA games?

thegeorgefan33 karma

Currently, nothing! I'm looking forward to getting to my backlog once things die down a bit. The latest Magic sets, Hearthstone Dungeon Run, Slay the Spire, Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 is what March will look like if it all works out :)

I lean more towards indie games these days besides Nintendo and Blizzard stuff just cause I'm not into a lot of the grittier-looking AAA games out there

LeviLovesPasta13 karma

What do you think the best way of getting known in the indie game scene is? I'm a striving indie dev myself and I thought I would ask from a well know dev :)

thegeorgefan22 karma

I dunno! I think I'm way less well known in the indie game scene than my games are...

ToughGlove13 karma

Thank you so much for this AMA! I am a huge fan of pvz, and I always catch my dad playing the “rainy day” bonus level from the first game (it’s the only level he really plays, can’t blame him though). My question is, what was your favorite bonus level from the first game?

thegeorgefan25 karma

You're very welcome! :)

If you count Vasebreaker, then it's definitely Vasebreaker. There was even a point where I thought I had it all wrong and Vasebreaker should've been the main game

bambakagames13 karma

Hi, thanks for doing AMA!

What affected you most as a game designer? What helped you in your professional establishment?

thegeorgefan28 karma

I think the single moment it all clicked together was when I realized (at least for me) that designing games wasn't about having the entire game design planned out in your head but rather having a rough idea and then iterating the crap out of it

conchas1411 karma

Are there any interesting stories of how you came up with ideas for plant/zombies and their powers?

thegeorgefan26 karma

Off the top of my head, the Torchwood was originally this orange pepper thing with fire on it called "Torchipotle". Tree on fire much better.

RingmasterJ511 karma

Do you have any plans to release Octogeddon on other distributors, like Humble or GOG?

thegeorgefan14 karma

No solid plans, but never say never of course

SuperSwabbie10 karma

I loved the original pvz and I think it was the best creation you have ever made. Tbh if you were still in business when pvz2 was in development, I bet the game would’ve been 100x better than it is today but other than that I have a few questions to ask

  1. Did any game(s) inspired you to make PvZ1? If so, what games were they?
  2. In the future if possible, will Octogeddon become a mobile game someday too? (I have no computer and I really wish I can play it too)
  3. If you still play the sequels of pvz (adventures, pvz2, garden warfare, and heroes) what are your thoughts about them today
  4. Similar to question 1: did any game(s) inspired you to make Octogeddon?

Other than that, I think you are the best game developer that has ever existed!!

thegeorgefan19 karma

  1. Warcraft III Tower Defense Mods, Tapper, MtG
  2. I think Octogeddon would play great on mobile but we have no solid plans yet
  3. I played heroes and had a decent time
  4. Old school shmups, Roguelikes like Binding of Isaac

SpazticChaos10 karma

What's your favorite non-mobile game?

thegeorgefan26 karma

I'll usually say Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is my favorite game of all time

Paraxic6 karma

Heh you'd get along great with my buddy then ;), what was the biggest challenge you faced during your career as a developer?

thegeorgefan15 karma

I feel pretty blessed actually and have probably experienced nowhere near the challenges others have faced, but right now it's a toss-up between getting Octogeddon done with all its ups and downs, and dealing with the feeling of pouring my heart into making the PvZ IP and then having it pretty much ripped away from me.

DankShamwow8 karma

Are you and Edmund McMillen friends?

thegeorgefan24 karma

Hell yeah! I saw him at GDC once and said "cool shirt!" cause he was wearing a shirt with a Magic black mana symbol on it and we became insta-friends from there.

iwanttofuckkusanagi8 karma

I feel like I had seen a Micheal Jackson zombie at one point. The next thing I know there's another dancing zombie. Did I imagine things?

thegeorgefan13 karma

We originally had a zombie that looked an awful lot like Michael Jackson. Then Michael Jackson's estate came after us, so we changed it.

I feel like had Michael Jackson still been alive at that time, though, he would've been cool with the tribute. I know he was into video games like Sonic the Hedgehog and stuff.

sirspate8 karma

Octogedden has a much longer loop than Plants vs Zombies. (e.g., for PvZ you fought a bunch of zombies, then moved on to the next location, whereas for Octogedden you have a longer thing going on where you move between several sublocations in a given stage before you.. well.. die. The whole thing takes longer to get through, with the player revisiting the same territory a lot.) What was the thought process behind making it multi-stage? Had you considered making the loop longer or shorter?

thegeorgefan13 karma

Octogeddon went back and forth between its current loop and something more more like PvZ. Oy! I don't recommend making a game with that much waffling back and forth!

The battle was waged between the two sides between the "more interesting" mode and the "more potentially accessible" mode, and in the end the more interesting mode won

LennieB6 karma

Did you feel like you were at least taken serious when trying to make the Pvz sequel pay once instead of pay to win? Also, did you feel the arguments from the other side were solidly based?

thegeorgefan14 karma

So PopCap asked me after finishing PvZ1 if I wanted to do the sequel and I declined, so my involvement with PvZ2 was only at a conceptual level. Because I wasn't leading the project, I didn't have a whole lot of say in the matter, plus they made the final call on it once I wasn't at the company anymore.

I understand the arguments from the other side: PopCap wanted to hit these astronomical targets and going freemium was the only way they felt they could do that. I don't fault them for thinking that way, but my instincts told me that going freemium with PvZ2 was a bad idea because you're trying to shoehorn in a monetization scheme onto game that wasn't made for it

TheAverageJoey5 karma

Octogeddon game looks perfect for mobile, are there plans to release it on mobile, or other platforms in the future?

thegeorgefan12 karma

No solid plans but I would love to some day

_iffisheswerewishes_4 karma

As a George fan, who's your favourite? Konstanza high on my list.

thegeorgefan6 karma

I dunno, George Washington was pretty rad. "I cannot tell a lie" is something I can get behind

WhiteopsUnitedx3 karma

I am currently in my second year of Game Dev and got one more to go. Any tips you can think of for me to meet people in the industry to try and get my foot in the door?

thegeorgefan4 karma

My first job out of college in the industry, I took a salary that was way lower than what my peers from college were getting just because I got that advice of "needing to get your foot in the door"

When I was first starting out, going to GDC was a great way to meet more people in the industry

foxden_racing3 karma

Do you have any advice for what to look for, and what to be thinking about, when trying to pick apart other games to figure out how...and more importantly why...they work?

Some stuff (like Ogre, a board game about asymmetric tank battles) is so elegant it's hard to not see that kind of stuff straight away, but other stuff it's a pain to find that point at the end of the chain (not unlike breaking a recursive loop, if that's a better mental image) and lets it all unwind.

Another thing that's always bugged me, for video games specifically: Books that say "Polling an input / creating a window is something too complicated for this book" and "Polling an input / creating a window is something any idiot can do, we're not wasting time on it" are everywhere. Got any recommendations on a title that does hit the middle ground?

thegeorgefan6 karma

That's so tough, because yeah, it's usually not just one thing and about lots of things and how they fit together.

I'd say just play as many games as you can while just generally thinking critically about them, and not be worried that you have to have some sort of a revelation from each one. As you do this you'll build a gut instinct or subconscious of what works and doesn't work in games

The two books that have been the most useful to me practically speaking are Jesse Schell's "The Art of Game Design" and Roger von Oech's "A Whack on the Side of the Head"

PixelatedPunk3 karma

Any plans on bringing Octogeddon to the switch?

thegeorgefan11 karma

Nothing set in stone yet but I'm such a Nintendo fanboy that this would be a dream come true for me

Jacksonthetaco3 karma

Hey George. I have heard that you like boba tea. Have you ever tried boba tea with blueberries instead of boba?

thegeorgefan9 karma

That sounds ridiculous!

trizgo2 karma

  1. how often do you get pitched mediocre game concepts by people wanting to use your prior experience to flesh out their half-formed idea?

  2. I've got this cool idea for a game can you help me make it

thegeorgefan6 karma

Hahaha I see what you did there :)

jaydonteh2 karma

Now that I just finished Octogeddon, I can finally deserve to ask a question! How much does the development costs in terms of producing assets like the art and the music? Provided if you do outsource them.

thegeorgefan7 karma

Congrats! You're one of the first few to finish, so hell yeah you deserve to ask a question!

We're a really small indie team that produces our assets in-house, I suppose. It's just a really small house. Probably not to dissimilar to the ways other indie game studios with 3-4 people do it

krvass2 karma

How often do you play mtg?

thegeorgefan5 karma

Often! Whenever I have to do something super stressful (for me) like write a GDC talk, I really look forward to playing Magic afterwards as a way to get re-centered and calm down. I have an interesting relationship with Magic in that way

Obandigo2 karma

How did it make you feel to see that Blizzard worked a Plants vs Zombies style minigame into World Of Warcraft?

I love the sunflower companion you get from it and how it randomly sings

There's a zombie on my lawn.

thegeorgefan8 karma

I've always been a fan of Blizzard and even got to work there for awhile, so I thought it was absolutely awesome! I was even playing WoW at the time so it was just so cool to get that sunflower pet. I thought the quest was really well integrated and made for a really nice diversion from the usual "kill x this" or "collect x that" quests

SilentSakura1 karma

Would you ever do a game without the greedy micro transactions ? I love pvz but the whole micro transactions thing has turned me away from it all.

thegeorgefan1 karma

First, I hope to never do a game with greedy microtransactions...

Regarding PvZ, I am no longer with EA/PopCap and the whole microtransactions thing I really didn't have a say in

I just released a game 2 days ago that has no greedy microtransactions in it, so that answers your question I hope! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdhO9e-9C6Q

WonderPutty1 karma

Are you working on any new projects? And could I have a hint to what the genre of game it is?

thegeorgefan1 karma

I just finished my "new" project 2 days ago!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdhO9e-9C6Q

HonkHonkBeepKapow1 karma

Hi George, I'm a big fan.

I also have a lot of respect for the field of game design as a discipline, and I consider you one of the masters.

Do you think "game design" is something which can be taught, or is it something innate? What separates a good game designer from a bad one?

thegeorgefan4 karma

There's certainly a lot that can be taught, and stuff you pick up from experience designing (where you start to develop a "gut instinct" for what works and what doesn't), but I do think some part of it innate. Specifically the sense of knowing what's fun vs. what's not. Because that is just something that is so hard to explain/teach.

Designers that don't have that innate sense can shore it up with a lot more "throwing darts out there and hope one sticks" approach as long as they're good at evaluating afterwards. It's just they might take longer to get there.

emqathy1 karma

I am a huge fan with PvZ being my most played franchise since at least 2012. Thank you for all you have done.

Do you have any insight into the future of PvZ Heroes?

thegeorgefan1 karma

Thanks, I really appreciate it!

No idea on what's gonna happen with PvZ Heroes... (not involved in making it, haven't played it in some time)

CrashingDRaco1 karma

What inspired you on your path into game creation, and in particular PVZ?

thegeorgefan2 karma

I've always loved games and had a leaning towards the creative stuff. When I was younger I couldn't decide if I wanted to do art, music, or programming, and spent a good deal of time honing my craft in each. Making games (especially indie ones) lets me still utilize my skills in each of those just a little bit

CEPTyler1 karma

What do you think of the plants vs zombies slot machine?

thegeorgefan2 karma

I have yet to see one in the wild, but my dad sends me pictures of them all the time, followed by complaints about how much money he loses to em