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Interview with Melvin Teo – Producer of Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition on the Nintendo Switch Interview

One week after the reveal of Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch we had the opportunity to talk with Melvin Teo from PopCap Studios, who was one of the leading developers behind the Nintendo Switch port. He revealed to us that there are no microtransactions in this port and we got to know interesting informations about the premiere of the Frostbite Engine on the Nintendo Switch. Here you can read the English interview, if you prefer to read the German version, click here.

Hello and congratulations to the reveal of your game at the Nintendo Direct last week. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Sure, my name is Melvin Teo, I'm the producer for Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville on the Nintendo Switch.

The full title of this game is Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition. What does Complete Edition mean for Nintendo Switch players?

Yeah, so I mean, since we launched Battle for Neighborville back in 2019, we’ve had a year of post launch content updates, like new cosmetics, new maps, new modes, sort of complete additions for Nintendo Switch, which basically encompasses every single piece of content, that we ever released at launch as well as post launch minus the Founders exclusive rewards when we ran the Founders Edition program when we first launched. The big difference here with the Nintendo Switch version is, we decided to make everything unlockable through play. So if you’re familiar with Battle for Neighborville, we had a concept on rainbow stars, which is a currency that you can earn and you can unlock cosmetic items through the Rux’s emporium. For the Complete Edition, we’re going to remove rainbow stars completely and make everything unlockable through play. So again, play whatever you want, earn XP, coins and Prize Bulbs as well and then you can unlock all items either through the Rux’s emporium or through the Prize Maps.

So does this mean, that there are no microtransactions on the Nintendo Switch version at all?

That’s correct. By removing rainbow stars, we are removing all microtransactions as well. We wanted to keep the Nintendo Switch version a very simple and straightforward version where players knew exactly what they were getting and it was a one single purchase. Players are going to get a lot of value out of the game that they buy, and we hope that that’s something that the players will be happy with. In comparison to other platforms, the Nintendo Switch is different, because it's a hybrid console, so you can also play it on a go.

What can players expect from the offline content from this game?

Yes, so I think this is one of the big decisions we had to make very early on when we started working on the Nintendo Switch version. We knew that we wanted to make the game feel like it was meant for the Nintendo Switch. Battle for Neighborville on other platforms was designed from the get go as an online only title. So you needed an internet connection in order to get pass a login screen and go to Giddy Park and start playing. We knew that the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, one of the big factors is, it's portable. You can play on the go, in the bus, in a car, on a trip. You don't need an internet connection. And there are many features in Battle for Neighborville, such as PvE free room regions, Giddy Park and even Private Play, which is something like your offline training mode that we wanted to make sure players could play without an internet connection. So to that front it was lots of engineering work to make offline support. And I think we also wanted to make sure that players feel like they could earn progression. We didn't want to have offline be sort of a mode in that you couldn't earn anything. So we also want to make sure that XP, coins and Prize Bulbs can be earned while playing offline. And again, I think that that was very important to us, because it speaks to how unique the Nintendo Switch is as a console.

But overall, the content is very similar to the other consoles. There is no missing content except the micro transactions you talked about and we can expect no real new content, right?

Well, in terms of features, you know, motion controls is a brand new feature on the Nintendo Switch. We also added a lot of settings to allow players to tweak how sensitive the motion controls are going to be, whether players can aim when they activate. This means you could activate only when you are in aim mode like looking downside. So when you're looking around freely, it's really up to the player. Touch menu interactions is also a new feature, obviously, for the Nintendo Switch. We also added a new Prize Map selector feature. Again, that's exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, on other platforms, you have a monthly Prize Map, where players can earn Prize Bulbs and unlock rewards along the way. Again for the Nintendo Switch, we wanted to make sure that players had a lot more choice. So we had this feature where players can switch between any Prize Map they want at any time and spend the Prize Bulbs on the rewards that they want. And again, that feature is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.

Beyond that, we have made minor tweaks. For example, the economy overall, we have made coins a little bit easier to earn and spend. So for example, in the Reward-O-Tron 9000, which is another way to get cosmetic items, the price of coins have been reduced by half. So again, it's easier and faster for players to earn rewards. In private play, which is an offline mode, players can earn rewards a little bit faster as well. And then obviously, in terms of things like UI and legibility, we made some changes to make it read better on the small screen. So like the font sizes are a little bit bigger, button areas and sizes are a little bit more generous as well. Overall, that's sort of the way we wanted to approach a Nintendo Switch port. We wanted to do whatever we could to make it feel like it belonged on the platform.

What about people who played it earlier on other platforms – do they get any rewards for rejoining?

Right now, we don't have any plans to give additional rewards for people who have the game on other platforms. I think there are two eco systems at this point in time. You know, again, with the Complete Edition, everything is on disk and there are some microtransactions, there are certain modes, like on Nintendo Switch we support 8v8, so Turf Takeover is now 8v8 and other platforms is 12v12. So there are some differences there. At this point, we don't have any cross progression or rewards linking out of platforms because again, we wanted to keep Nintendo Switch an all in one release.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition is the first time we see the Frostbite Engine on the Nintendo Switch. How much effort have you spend in the optimization of this engine on a console, which is technically much weaker in comparison to other platforms?

Yeah, first of all, we are super happy to see the first Frostbite title on the Nintendo Switch. Obviously, I think that is a big step for the company in terms of making the the engine available. It was a lot of work. I remember when we managed to get the game to run on Nintendo Switch development kits for the first time, the performance was really, really bad and the visuals were all over the place. We constantly asked ourselves, if we are on track, do we think we can pull this off. But I'm super happy what we eventually delivered. The game runs great at 30 frames per second. It looks great. I think we retained a lot of the charm of PvZ. You know when you look at the characters and the world, it's a very playful and fun and energetic and approachable style to PvZ and what it means and I think we capture that in the Nintendo Switch version. Throughout the project, we did focus a lot on performance optimization because we knew, again, because we wanted to make the game play well, that's super, super important. So a lot of our effort was spent making calls on the sudden visual effects, that we don't need, because they're not that critical and that saves us one or two frames per second. And how we handle memory and storage and again, all the different technical tricks we can do, to make it run well on the Nintendo Switch, we did as much as we could and I think we're happy with the result.

And so therefore, you have now created a basis for future Frostbite engine titles that we can expect from Electronic Arts, right?

I mean as a player I hope so. I think there are some amazing EA games that I personally would love to see on the Nintendo Switch, but I can't say for sure if or when that would happen. But, you know, I hope this opens the door for more Frostbite titles on the Nintendo Switch, like you said.

Battle for Neighborville is already the third installment of the series, but it is the first one on a Nintendo console. For which new group of players are you aiming for with your release on the Nintendo Switch?

Yeah, I mean, we haven't had a PvZ game on a Nintendo console for a long time, the only one was the original PvZ on the Nintendo DS. We certainly haven't had a third person shooter of PvZ on the Nintendo Switch. So I think the biggest group is probably the players who either only have a Nintendo Switch console and never had a chance to try a PvZ game, or they game primarily on the Nintendo Switch. I know that many people I know only play on the Nintendo Switch and would love to try PvZ as well, but they never had the opportunity, and I think this is just a perfect chance to do so. I also think maybe there are players who have played Battle for Neighborville on other platforms, but are curious about motion controls, they would love to interact with the Prize Map vendor and be able to switch maps whenever they want or even just to keep earning coins again and unlock items in the Rux’s Emporium that were previously only available as microtransactions because now we have the Complete Edition. I feel like there are many things that could attract people to play Battle for Neighborville on the Nintendo Switch, whether they've played it before or not.

I think one of the big reasons, we wanted to bring PvZ on the Nintendo Switch, is because we felt it was a natural fit for the console. If you look at what makes Nintendo and Nintendo games in general so great, is they are super friendly, super approachable, super family oriented and it is fun and charming and I think PvZ has a lot of those ingredients as well. My kids for example love to watch me play the game and when I'm working on it, because they love every one of the characters and they're so funny and interesting. I think that's sort of why we knew right from the get go, that when we started working on Battle for Neighborville, we would want to and hopefully eventually bring it to the Nintendo Switch and I think we're happy, that we finally made it.

Can we expect future contents of the Nintendo Switch version like in-game events or things like that?

At this point, we are not planning any post launch content updates, the Nintendo Switch version does have a weekly playlist feature and weekly challenges. The weekly playlist would rotate to a different mode. And then that coincides with the weekly challenges that show off a place where you can earn additional Prize Bulbs for completing objectives. In terms of content and typical DLC drops, we're not planning anything, which is why we wanted to be transparent to players that this was the Complete Edition. Everything we've ever made for the game is here and there are no surprises. We do make sure that if players find critical issues with the Nintendo Switch version for some reason, modes are broken or they cannot matchmake or something doesn't work, we would we will definitely fix that but in terms of content updates we're not planning anything when we launch.

What can we expect for the future of PvZ? Some classical PvZ games on Nintendo Switch maybe?

Unfortunately, I can't answer to both questions. I don't have the information. I know from our group we’re not planning any future PvZ titles, but I can't speak for the franchise as a whole. As a player I would love to see more PvZ titles, whether the classic tower defense or the shooter variants, show up the Nintendo Switch. Let's hope to get it.

... or maybe a third version?

Maybe, that would be exciting.

Thank you for this interview and good luck for your launch on Nintendo Switch March 19th!

Thank you, we’re happy that we’re finally out and we were excited to see our game announced on Nintendo Direct. That’s pretty cool.


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Kommentare 5

  • Fuma

    Meister des Turms

    Glückwunsch zum Interview

    Das mit der Frostbite Engine ist super das sie auf der Switch läuft und man kann nur hoffen das EA dann auch weitere Spiele veröffentlichen

  • billy_blob

    Meister des Turms

    Super Multiplayer Spiel.

    Zocke es seit kurzem auf der Xbox.


  • Luigis_bruder


    Hoffen wir Mal das sich genügend Spieler online auf der Switch finden!

  • playersdestiny


    Ich bin echt geneigt das Spiel zu kaufen.

    Finde es super, dass alles MTX entfernt wurden!

    Benötigt man einen separaten Account (EA-/Origin-Account)?

  • Zowser


    Bringt sims raus EA