Celebrate Plants vs. Zombies 10-year anniversary with a look at its humble, alien-themed beginnings

Timeless tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies made its debut ten years ago on May 5, 2009 – so to celebrate, game designer George Fan (opens in new tab) shared some sketches and insights about the game’s beginnings on Twitter. If you have fond memories of collecting sunshine, building Peashooters, and singing along to “There’s a zombie on your lawn (opens in new tab),” Fan’s new info is a delight. 

Happy 10th Birthday, Plants vs. Zombies! I had no idea when scribbling this on paper over 10 years ago just how much it’d change my life! pic.twitter.com/MyZMx9m7ZhMay 5, 2019

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Fan breaks down his sketches in more detail in the Twitter thread, and reveals some intriguing facts about PvZ’s early designs. For instance, the game originally had you repelling aliens rather than the undead – the same aliens from PopCap Games’ fish tank clicker game Insaniquarium (which I completely forgot existed despite playing it for hours in computer class). The adorable sunflowers that produce the energy needed to build your defenses originally started out as “radish-like plants” called Tubers, which bear a striking resemblance to the weaponized vegetables in Super Mario Bros. 2. Speaking of which, the Shy Guy variant Snifit from SMB2 was the inspiration for a spitting tomato with a bazooka-like mouth that would later become the iconic Peashooter. 

Other fun tidbits include an initial six-lane design that was scribbled out, and a deck-building system using seed packets in place of cards. Destructoid (opens in new tab) also did an in-depth interview with Fan that includes even more info gems, like a time-stopping plant that got cut and the fact that Fan provided the babbling voice lines for Crazy Dave. If you want to see what Fan’s up to these days, check out the arcade action of Octogeddon, which is a bit like Rampage if it starred an octopus with genetically modified tentacle weapons. It debuted on Steam (opens in new tab) last year, and will come to Nintendo Switch (opens in new tab) on May 16.

It’s great getting to see a glimpse of an accomplished designer’s process, and Fan’s sketches serve as a reminder that some of the most popular games start as a collection of scattered ideas and scribblings. If you’re feeling nostalgic for Plants vs. Zombies, be sure to check out the rest of Fan’s timeline, as he’s been retweeting tributes from fans and fellow developers alike.

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