Signage for a PopCap game called Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is sprouting up at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the site of this year's E3. Combine that with a reliable source telling Kotaku that the long-rumored PvZ shooter—yes, shooter—is about to unveiled, and it looks like we've got a name to attach to the game.
You know... the title sounds like "Modern Warfare". Get it?
The photo for Garden Warfare ran on the gaming website Gamekyo today (we spotted it via Polygon). But the signage doesn't explain what kind of game this is and observers might assume it's tied to the newly-announced Plants Vs. Zombies 2. PvZ 2 is a tower defense game in the same style as the first PvZ. Garden Warfare most likely is not.
There's that title.
And there's all those rumors. Our sleuth Superannuation dug this up last August:
In recent months, Electronic Arts has been hiring for a new PopCap team at the EA Canada Burnaby campus that does not sound very much like anything that has come from PopCap before.
Among the handful of openings was one from April for a 3D animator—something that seems pretty peculiar given PopCap's history as primarily developing 2D games. However, that is nowhere near as baffling as the description of the job in the listing, which mentions that the animator is involved in the synthesis of "gameplay, storytelling and character movement" by making "emotionally believable characters that allow game players to interact with the game, whether photorealistic or stylized, in a realistic and believable fashion."
In addition, the listing states that "The Animator will be involved from idea and prototype creation and the directing of actors and stuntmen during motion capture sessions, to the final stage when animating and implementing the results into the game." Quite curiously they are also desiring candidates with experience developing console games—which is somewhat unusual since PopCap games do not typically start off on consoles.
For most companies, it would not be weird to have any of that among the copy in a job listing, but this is PopCap—the company that created the likes of Peggle, Plants Vs. Zombies,Bejeweled and Zuma, none of which probably utilized any sort of motion capture or relied on emotionally-plausible characters. So whatever PopCap Burnaby is creating probably falls outside those franchises, though some plant motion capture or further characterization of Bjorn the Unicorn would be quite interesting to see.
Perhaps slightly weirder is this listing from around the same time for a multiplayer designer. The designer is tasked with creating multiplayer levels—specifically, "creating extremely fun & polished multiplayer maps." One of the requirements for the job was "Previous experience as a Multiplayer Level Designer on a shipped shooter or action title," and the studio was looking for a candidate with "Experience designing levels where the player has a lot of freedom to manipulate the gameplay space (destruction, construction, modification)." Finally, among the requirements in the world modeler listing is the line "Experience working with a cartoon style and tone."
A cartoony, mechanically-novel and possibly multiplayer-oriented 3D action game for consoles from PopCap does sound potentially interesting.
And then a Kotaku source told us this later that same day:
This afternoon's great PopCap mystery may now be a little less mysterious: a Canadian industry source with ties to Electronic Arts has told Kotaku that a small team at EA's Burnaby campus is working on a new entry in the Plants vs Zombies franchise.
The thing is, it's not another tower defence game. Apparently it's a multiplayer-oriented first-person shooter. For consoles. Seriously.
Which certainly fits with what Kotaku has since been told: that the small team, comprised mostly of former members of EA's Black Box studio (Skate, Need for Speed), is working on a Plants vs Zombies console title that's "in the vein of Team Fortress 2".
Also worth noting that PopCap has been teasing some shooter-related parody images on their Facebook page:
We've reached out to PopCap for comment. UPDATE: A PR rep for the company declined to comment. Worst case scenario, we'll know for sure what Garden Warfare is on Monday, when EA holds its big E3 press conference.
To contact the author of this post, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.