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terça-feira, 19 de novembro de 2013

Plants vs. Zombies VS Plants vs. Zombies 2



Free to play games are quite annoying to me. To be honest, most of the time, I can say right from the start that I’m very much against the concept and it is so for one simple reason: people are too greedy.

Putting aside those Massive Multiplayers Online Role Playing Games, or MMORPGs, if you prefer, the image I get, in these days, is that the majority of the free to play games are almost like a trap, designed thinking only in ways to maximize profit, never considering how much this objective can break the game mechanics ou even if what they are willing to sell is really a game. If you look deep into these games you may notice that the success do not depend of your skills on playing, it depends of:

1 - How lucky you are
2 - How many “paid items” you have
3 - How much free time you have
4 - How lucky you are (again)

Just to give you one example, in a game like Candy Crush Saga, after some of the first levels, unless you pay for some special items and extra moves, or unless you have nothing better to do and would not care at all to retry a level 100 times until you finally have the luck to get a set of candy which you can progress, it is completely impossible to advance in the game. In a game like that your luck weighs way more more than your skills.

Along with that, the prices charged for something that will, at its best, help you to beat one, two, or, who knows, three levels, is equal to the price of complete and better games.

I think it is funny to realize that this definition of game, where your luck is the key factor to progress, is normally applied to cassino machines, like that one where you drop a coin, pull a lever and hope that three equal figures will come up.

For all that, when I learned that Plants vs. Zombies 2 would be launched firstly in iOS and then in Android as a free to play game, I was very worried, wondering through the corridors of the castle, wearing nothing but a robe and an unshaved face, asking each of my four cats “why?? why? why….?”. But now, after the experience of playing the game, I can say that this is a free to play game that could easily be taken as a model, if one little detail was missing: Plants vs. Zombies 1. So, in order to all this make sense, by Plants vs. Zombies 1 we shall start.


Plants vs. Zombies 1



The year was 2009, the Sun was shining and, suddenly, hordes of zombies attacked the front yard of virtual houses in Windows and Mac. Produced by PopCap, better known for Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies 1 was largely pleased by public and press. Through the years, the game was ported to almost any platform you can think of, from Nintendo DS to Playstation 3, including tablets, smartphones and, I would not be surprised to find out, even to some fridges.

It is a Tower Defense game. The objective is to protect you house, or your brains, to be more specific, from hordes of zombies, managing resources and using plants of different types. You gather suns, which are used to create plants, place your plants, they stay still and react as the zombies approach.

It may sound too simple, but, as the game plays, these mechanics are quite deep once we consider to the mix the variety of zombies and plants to be used in each case, depending on variations of terrain and at which time of the day the zombies are attacking.

Technically the game is very well built, controls are great, music and sounds have personality and the art direction is, overall, quite charismatic.

It is worth to mention that the game has lots of things to do and many gameplay modes which go beyond the adventure mode, giving even more value to the whole package.

If by any means my silly and pointless words were not enough to make you interested, all you have to know is that Plants vs. Zombies is one of those game that is worth to be played. Even if it never become your favorite game of all time, you will certainly have enjoy yourself.

There is a free demo version, at PopCap’s website, that can be played from you browser. If you feel like trying, just click here.


Plants vs. Zombies 2



Continuing our adventure, the year is now 2013. Reaching first iOS and then Android, Plants vs. Zombies 2 grabs what it’s antecessor was and tries to fit all that in a free to play box, with micro transactions spread all over the game, from access to levels, plants and “life easing things” in the form of special powers to make much happier the player less adept of a life of strategic planning.

In Plants vs. Zombies 2 the theme is time travel and, by traveling in time (ha!), the player goes to thematic maps, like the Ancient Egypt or the Wild West. Each map has a set of levels forming a main path and, as you beat the levels, new plants and access to parallel paths are available.

Once you reach the end of the main path, challenges such as “beat the level using this number of plants”, “don't use more then that number os suns”, or “don't let the zombies to step in this line”, are available to all levels of the map. By winning these challenges you get stars that can be used to open new maps.

Another way to open new maps, in case the player just don’t feel like doing all that, is to simply pay some money.



This logic of offering the options of paying in money or in a demonstration of skill, is in every micro transaction, in the way you get that powers to be used during the levels, in the way you get access to parallel paths, and even to make available new plants.

Paying is a way to make easier, or faster, something that would require more ability and more hours of gameplay. As simple as this.

The balance between paying or having the proper skill is very well done. It is safe to say that if you turn out to be what the legend calls “a great strategist and slayer of zombies using plants”, it is possible to play 100% of the game, not paying a single dime.

Forgetting a little this details of paying for this and that, this design of a game with world maps, with unique challenges to each level, with a more complex pace and, specially, with super powers, brings a whole new face to the mechanics of the original game. In this edition there possibilities of battle and strategies that are impossible to be done in the previous version. The game not only succeeds in becoming a very well done free to play game, it also becomes something new.

And that’s where I connect the dots.

Because it is a free to play game and because it needs to make money with the micro transactions inside the game, Plants vs. Zombies 2 turns out being a much harder game. While the first game is hard enough to challenge you, leading you through a accessible learning curve, the second game will often make you angry and tired, specially if you have the experience of playing the first game as reference.

And that is why I said over there at the beginning that the existence of Plants vs. Zombies 1 is what stops Plants vs. Zombies 2 of being a perfect model of what free to play game should be. The same money you can spend to have the full experience of the first game ($ 0,99 on AppStore and $ 1,19 in Google Play) in the second game will give you much, much, much, much, much, much, much, less.

Just to give you a picture, considering the iOS version, to open a gate to get access to a new plant and a parallel path with 3 levels, the game will charge you $ 1,99, and, to make available new plants, the game can charge you up to $ 4,99.

That is why, in my opinion, of just a guy from the internet, if you never played the first game and have plans to start your adventures in this world with Plants vs. Zombies 2, if you ever feel like spending some money in it, stop, take a breath, get back and buy Plants vs. Zombies 1.

It is worth not only because it will assure you many more hours of fun, but also because the learning curve of that game will allow you to later come back to Plants vs. Zombies 2 with much more abilities to stop, imobilize and destroy the terrible zombies.



Closing thoughts

Plants vs. Zombies 2 succeeds in offering a experience of free to play game so complete and with a level of quality far above what is usually done in this type of game. The whole package is so good that I felt like buying anything in the game just to reward in some way the amazing work from PopCap. The game has great production value, it is not something cheap and plain as, ahn, let’s say some simplistic candy going from the top to the botton of your screen 90% of the time *cof*sorry*cof*. There are many zombies and plants, each with its own animations and personalities, in a living and charismatic (and hard) world.

Plants vs. Zombies 1, if compared with its sequence, is a little behind in some minor details that reminds us that this game was the first one, like the position of the elements on the screen during battle or the design of plants and zombies that are well made and all, but not so good looking if compared with their counterparts in Plants vs. Zombies 2. Putting these details aside, the game offers an amazing and rich package which certainly is worth to be visited by those who start this adventure of killing zombies with plants on the second edition.

Plants vs. Zombies 1 and 2 are games above the average, developed with care, talent, respect to the player and that should be played by anyone.


--- Links
- Plants vs. Zombies 1, free to try, right from your browser
- More about PopCap
- More about Bejeweled
- The guys from Candy Crush Saga said that 70% of the people on the last level haven't paid anything (what doesn’t tells us if they never had something else to do in their lives, right?)