How Plants vs. Zombies turned casual gamers into strategy fans

Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies

When PopCap isn't busy hopping on the casino game bandwagon, it's turning non-gamers into strategy game gurus without them knowing. Now that's talent. During Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ) creator George Fan revealed his secret to turning casual gamers into hardcore strategy game players: tutorials.

We're not talking antiquated game manuals or text-filled pop-up windows--Fan tricked the PvZ fans into learning the game's complex systems. (Get to the end of the game, and you'll agree that they're complex.) "We strive to make it not feel like a tutorial at all," Fan said, according to Gamasutra. "I go out of my way to never call any sections of my game the tutorial... humans like learning and leaning is inherently fun, but sometimes we have to trick them."

According to Fan, when the tutorial becomes the game, then casual players have no problem learning where and when to best plant sunflowers or what plants to use at night. Fan said that it's key to have players do rather than read. "The best way for a player to learn is to actually perform actions in the game," Fan said. "The player learns all of this by simply playing the game, and we didn't have to tell them any of it."

Fan went into great detail, listing 10 ways for fellow game makers to successfully teach players without them knowing it. Finally, the designer revealed why he went with plants and zombies as the game's main characters. Plants are inherently rooted, and zombies move slowly--both are common knowledge to even non-gamers. Well, it also made for comedy gold.

Are you a big fan of PvZ? Have you ever played hardcore strategy games before you played PvZ? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

Originally published