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In the latest episode of the Designer Notes podcast, hosted by Idle Thumbs, Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan graced the airwaves to explain how he dreamed up a real-time strategy (RTS) title that pits the shambling undead against feisty flora.
Believe it or not, PopCap's infinitely popular debut was actually inspired by Blizzard's mod-happy RTS, Warcraft III, and at one point was going to focus on a school of tank-dwelling fish who'd attracted the (unwanted) attention of extraterrestrial visitors.
That very different game would've been a sequel to Insaniquarium, one of Fan's earlier creations that utilized resource management and puzzle mechanics. But as we all know, it didn't quite turn out that way.
"I had these bold designs where I wanted to take the economy from Insaniquarium 1 and add this RTS layer where aliens would attack you en masse, and you have this other fish tank where you just build defensive fish," revealed Fan.
"So yeah, instead of just being the economy game, it was this 'build your defenses' game, and that led to me thinking 'okay, it'd be cool to do a more defense take on Insaniquarium.'
"Warcraft III was also out at the time, and I was playing more of the mods for Warcraft III than the game itself. They had loads of tower defense mods, and I went through a good portion of them.
"Something about those really spoke to me. They were so addictive to me for some reason, and that's when had the thought of making a defense game."
You can hear the full story behind Plant vs. Zombies strange conception by checking out the Idle Thumbs podcast. Fan starts talking about the game at around the 1 hour 40 minute mark, but the full show is well worth a listen.