Plants Vs. Zombies Quest In WoW: Cataclysm

By Quintin Smith on September 20th, 2010 at 2:19 pm.

Bless. As we know, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is bringing all kinds of apocalyptic change to Azeroth, and what could be more apocalyptic than a quest recreating PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies? The new Peacebloom vs Ghouls quest can be found in the Hillsbrad Foothills, and is such an absurdly detailed recreation of PvZ (albeit with only 6 plants) that the whole thing must have been done with PopCap’s consent. Aww. A video of the level by RPS’s own eager commenter TotalBiscuit can be found beneath the jump.

You know, sweet as it is, this is exactly the kind of things that turns me off WoW. If I’m going to be sinking hundreds of hours into an imaginary world, I at least want the people taking my money to be taking their fiction seriously. But then, I’m a big ol’ grumpypot who liked Pathologic. What do I know?

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45 Comments »

  1. Ian says:

    Is this the most explicit they’ve got with a real-world reference in the game?

    I know there’s tonnes of references to other things in character names, quest text and the like but that seems to be a whole other level.

    Given the plant-like beasties already going about being a bit bastardly in the game it seems they could have actually done this without it being quite so… well, the way it is.

    It still amuses me, mind.

    • Mithrandir0x says:

      Well, Popcap did a Bejewelled for WoW as an Add-On.

      What I find more remarkable is that they’re adding some spice to quests with different mechanincs and a bit of spice on it.

    • Butterbumps says:

      Well, Blizzard and PopCap do have a history of collaboration. PopCap made an addon for playing Peggle in WoW, for example. And one for Bejewelled too, I think.

    • Seniath says:

      And let’s not forget the time when Popcap put WoW in Peggle.

    • Butterbumps says:

      By one minute!

      It’s true about the quests though. I’ve been trying not to read too many spoilers, but Cataclysm does look to be doing some really cool stuff with variety in quests.

    • Ian says:

      The add-on’s sorta different though. I mean obviously it was still Peggle in WoW, but it wasn’t in the game world, was it? (Which I realise isn’t quite what I said.)

    • Tycho says:

      I’m confused, have Popcap and Blizzard Collaborated before? Someone enlighten me!

    • Ian says:

      @Tycho: There was an official PopCap add-on for WoW that allowed you to play Peggle in a WoW window.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s a choice a developer makes. The WoW world is not hermetic. It’s an inclusive world, made to accommodate all sorts of different players. Whether you’re a casual player, fanatical raider, pvp’er, roleplayer or anything else, it all fits in there somehow. You see it in the art and lore as well. There’s fantasy, steampunk, all sorts of stuff. It’s just a different approach.

  2. BooleanBob says:

    I’m with you on both points. Obviously it’s brilliant, but if I’d invested significant time and money in a world, and a character, I suspect I would find it maddening. But then, who’s to say you can’t break the fourth wall AND build a compelling fiction?

    Consider examples x and y, that I’m too tired to pluck off the top of my head. Er – the Ubu plays?

    Additionally: given Blizzard’s, er, fondness for all things Games Workshop, I should add that If they were to make a PvP zone which recreated the rules of Blood Bowl as faithfully as this does PvZ, I would buy one – nay, ten! – lifetime subscriptions.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Warcraft has ever had lifetime subscriptions?

      This is news to me.

  3. Alexander Norris says:

    If I’m going to be sinking hundreds of hours into an imaginary world, I at least want the people taking my money to be taking their fiction seriously.

    Quinns, once again proving that he is the best RPS mans.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I don’t see why this isn’t taking the fiction seriously. It’s always been full of references, and has never taken its self seriously. What exactly is wrong with magic plants fighting zombies in a world full of magic plants and zombies?

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I don’t see why this isn’t taking the fiction seriously. It’s always been full of references, and has never taken its self seriously.

      “I don’t see how this isn’t taking the fiction seriously, but the fiction has never taken itself seriously” isn’t exactly a refutation of Quinns’ claim, Gonzo. In fact, it’s a point in favour. I don’t want to play an MMO that takes place in a setting that doesn’t take itself seriously.

    • Ian says:

      Blizzard take their main stories seriously but are happy to have a bit more silly fun with quests on mini-plots and the like.

      Which suits me. If this was part of the main questlines building up to the Big Bad I guess I’d find it annoying but I like some light-hearted stuff throughout the world.

      To each their own, though, obviously. I’ll know better when I play it myself of course and on what I can see here it seems a little in-your-face without being enough to actually bother me and I might well find it a fun diversion. I can see why people would find it ruining the tone of the whole area, though.

    • Wulf says:

      I think I get Quinns point, and to be honest, it’s the reason I like Guild Wars. There’s an unspoken truth to the Guild Wars ethos and it is this: Don’t include anything in the game that you cannot convincingly explain within the context of the game. The problem of this is that it’d be damn near impossible to explain this PvZ convincingly within the context of that world.

      Here’s the thing: I love goofy worlds, I love Minecraft, I bloody love Recettear, I love Ratchet & Clank, so I think we can accept that I love goofy, right? But here’s the thing, everything that happens in those games makes sense within the context of the world or worlds within those games. This cohesion allows for believability, it allows one to set aside their cynicism and accept that what they see before them is real. This is known as suspension of disbelief.

      However, let’s say that the Caverns in Uru were suddenly invaded by hordes of My Little Ponies, this would be awesome and hilarious, but you’d never be able to take the serious storyline of Uru seriously again, because what happened just could not make sense within the context of the world they’d created. Such an inclusion could only be defined as not impossible, it would be perfectly possible, but more as poor story-telling.

      Now if it was hordes of beautiful Unicorns that had slipped into the Caverns via one of the books, somehow, then that could be acceptable. But if it’s My Little Pony then there’s this… artistic clash, this lack of cohesion, it just doesn’t fit. You present the observer with a completely unbelievable scenario, and you then have trouble to get them to believe that what you’re showing and telling them is real. This is a problem that Blizzard has always had, really.

      Another example, using the Guild Wars vs World of Warcraft system is holiday events. World of Warcraft has some fun ones, but they’re rarely–if ever–explained convincingly, it’s more along the lines of that these events are simply an approximation of real world holidays in the World of Warcraft world, deal with it or ignore it. In Guild Wars however, you literally have incredibly strong ties to the lore. The way they worked Christmas in as being about a rivalry between Dwayna and Grenth was fantastic, and you really have to read up on it to appreciate it.

      Blizzard have always been like this though, they’ll take something that seems cool and just plonk it down i their world, like that robot near the entrance of Gnomeragan for example that drops a CPU shield, it’s just stuff that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense within the context of their world, and they didn’t put much thought into explaining it. Why was that shield a CPU? Why was it also a cog? What did the gnomes know of CPUs? And so on, it was cool and funny, yes, but it made no sense.

      Now, Guild Wars made a similar joke, but they fit it perfectly into their world, it was actually in a book about golems. They were talking about crystal cores, how a large crystal was needed to contain all the spells within the walls of the crystal, that only such a large stone could be used to house an arcane simulated mind, sort of using the crystal as a form of data storage. One golem ended up with two cores, it was a mad experiment by an Asura under duress at the time who feared for his life, he ended up making a ‘dual-core’ golem.

      And that’s the difference between Guild Wars and World of Warcraft, which is why I like the former and dislike the latter, and this is actually what I think Quinns was getting at. I really like to immerse myself in a world, but things need to make sense within the context of that world for me to be able to enjoy it, it can be as ludicrous and abstract as is desired (and sometimes I’ll even encourage that, in the case of Ratchet & Clank, for example), but all inclusions must make sense within the context of the world I’m given.

      Plants vs Zombies, like that, in the middle of the Hillsbrad Foothills… just doesn’t make much sense when considered in concept, and if I know Blizzard (and I know Blizzard), they’re not going to make much of an effort explaining it. They’re just going to say that he’s some guy who’s trained some plants, some zombies are invading his farm for some ludicrous reason, ignore the quest text, just play the silly game. I’d pretty much frown at that, because I’d know that if Guild Wars did something like that, they’d do it in such a way that it would just make perfect sense.

      I don’t mind silliness, I love silliness, I just like that silliness to not completely and utterly destroy my ability to have any belief that the world I’m playing in is real. If I’m going to be playing there for a long time, if I’m going to commit to spending time there, then I want to be able to immerse myself and have some degree of belief that hey, that’s an alternate reality with an alternate me. World of Warcraft never really allowed me to do that at any point, it kept shattering my suspension of disbelief with stuff just like this. In the end, I came to the conclusion that Blizzard’s world is just one big joke to them, and if they can’t handle taking it seriously enough to keep it in context, why should I bother trying to suspend my disbelief?

    • Ian says:

      I’ve obviously not seen the quest text or any associated build-up, but the only thing that’s that difficult to explain (in-game) is why it looks the way it does.

      - There’s already been a character in the game who can wrangle the sentient plants and instruct them, and they’re capable of knocking lumps out of players.

      - Seperately, they’ve been seen fighting undead, so to have somebody who can control them using them to do so isn’t a stretch.

      - The Forsaken have been trying to create a killing-then-raising-victims-from-the-dead plague of their own since the start of WoW (I think), and one of their main strongholds is in the same zone as this quest take place in.

      - (Speculation from what I know of Cataclysm / spoilers) The Forsaken really fuck some shit up in the zone come Cataclysm and I’d say there are quite likely to be undead beasties in the area and it makes plenty of sense for them to be targeting humans as they’re an important enemy of the Forsaken.

      I can appreciate people would find something like that irksome by it being such a jarringly-similar recreation of a popular game and there’s no pretending that Blizzard treat WoW the way other devs treat their MMOs. But based on what we know and what we can guess from Cataclysm information the basis for the quest itself isn’t at all difficult to fit into the game world.

    • Wulf says:

      @Ian

      Look how much writing you had to do there to try and convince me of one, small quest, if it was so easy to fit into the game world then it would be much easier to explain, but you’re trying to convince me that it’ll all be okay if I tip my head to the side and squint a bit, don’t you feel at all that you’re trying to jury-rig rationale into this? What I’m getting at is that it feels like it’s grasping at straws, and it doesn’t read like the professional things I’ve seen in other MMORPGs.

      It kind of reads like glossing it over and hand-waving; well, we have thing A here, and we have thing B here, and we have construction C here, so it makes sense, yo! By that logic, there are wild worgen in Tirisfal Glades (or whatever that forest is called), there’s now a racetrack there, and undead racers. They now have a worgen racing track, where they race around on the backs of worgen by holding out dead rabbits on sticks. You might think that’s kind of awesome, but really it makes me twitch. It’s the same thing, but it doesn’t make context in the given sense of the world. Neither does the PvZ thing unless you just say, well… hey, it makes sense because it’s there.

      I’m not fond of ‘it makes sense because shut up, it’s there, so it just does’, I’m fond of ‘it makes sense because it actually does make sense within the context of the world’. When Blizzard do things like this, it feels like they’re not taking their world seriously, they’re just pissing around, it even seems like they’re mocking their playerbase to a degree. It’s got this vibe of “Well, we can just toss any old shit in there and they’ll lap it up. Let’s put a clone of a game in there as a sort of friendly advertisement for a company we like and call it an official quest, they’ll love it, they won’t question it, they’re not smart enough to question it.” and I find that unsettling.

      I find it more unsettling that they’re right, that people would defend it rather than actually being slightly annoyed that Blizzard is taking the level of intelligence of their players for granted. The thing is, you can have something fun, something brilliantly fun, something amazing even… and you can have it make sense within the context of the world. For example, the Norn in Guild Wars 2 invented a game by originally tossing a keg of ale around, they added rules to that and it actually became a sport of sorts, where the biggest, meanest Norns have to hold onto the keg for the longest time, and get it to a sort of goal point. That’s great because it makes sense, it’s something that the Norn would do, it’s kind of awesome as well, and it just proves what I’m saying.

      But this? Uh… well, we have this Dwarven farmer in the Hillsbrad foothills who’s somehow managed to tame a bunch of giant plants, and uh… zombies are invading his farm, for some reason, instead of doing something more realistic like just attacking places randomly or going for a strategical target under the command of a military leader, but no, they’re attacking this farm, but you’re not going to go and slay the zombies, oh no… you’re going to have to use the power of the sun, and these giant plants that this dwarf farmer has somehow tamed. See? I cringed when writing that. It’s horrible.

      It might be fun, but it’s also really bloody horrible. And not even in the so bad it’s funny sort of way, it’s just plain bad, really. All it says to me is that Blizzard really stopped caring a long time ago, they don’t take their world seriously, there’s no love there. You just wouldn’t do this to a world you loved.

      And that’s why it bugs me, that’s why World of Warcraft bugs me in general, it promises me one thing but it keeps hcanging its mind, it’s schizophrenic, almost to the point of having multiple personality disorder with a billion disparate personalities. If the bloody thing can’t understand its own personality, if it fails to present itself in a cohesive manner that doesn’t make me believe that it was made by some nutcase of a bored god who just didn’t give a shit, then why should I bother?

      I can put in the effort to explain something if I feel that the developer has at least tried to keep things in context, then I can care, then I can come up with my own excuses. But if anything I think up makes me cringe, then I know it’s just not worth it.

  4. Flint says:

    Most of the time the WoW fiction does take itself rather seriously. Things like these are just the occasional spot of comedy to serve as counter-balance, albeit a more explicit way of offering it than amusing NPC conversations or a bizarre guest giver with a silly quest.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Which is all a darn shame, because quite a lot of it is tripe.

      The only thing their writers have done is by virtue of a level designer, with *Spoilers? Starcraft 2 has been out for a month or two!* the death of a species and consequently the rest of the universe at the end of the Zeratul mind crystal thing. It would have been better if the lines had been better written, but kudos to the guy that voiced Artanis for putting in any effort, as opposed to basically everyone else that decided they were already getting paid. Although that may be the voice casting guy’s fault, but either way.

  5. Razz says:

    I’ve invested 5 years into my WoW character and I think this is fantastic. I don’t really play WoW for the lore or the consistency of the storyline (I’d have quit long ago if I do, as it’s not one of its strengths). There are loads of references and silly things like this in the quests, which to me add to its appeal. It’s basically a giant pastiche of all kinds of different elements, references etc. It even goes incredibly meta at times by referring to a meme WoW itself created, or by putting a WoW pop culture reference in its achievements or NPCs (you can get a “Jenkins” title for your character by replicating Leeroy Jenkins’ infamous wipe in Blackrock Spire, for example).

    Basically, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all and that’s one of the good things about it as far too many games take themselves too seriously. In its storyline, yeah, it occasionally tries. But as I said the story’s not its best element, and stuff like the Peacebloom versus Ghouls thing is just a sidestep in an immense number of quests.

  6. spinks says:

    I’m sure this’ll be fun, but it is weird just after they’d said they weren’t going to do in game advertising. Surely there’s a point where you cross the line on that.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Doesn’t look like in-game advertising to me. Looks like a minigame based off another game.

    • spinks says:

      They’ve certainly done minigames before (like Simon in TBC), but it’s not that clear cut. They’ve been pretty clear with the naming here and of course it will sell copies of Plants vs Zombies.

      I’m sure it’s not a huge advertising deal but prolly a mutual agreement from game designers who have a good relationship. But still.

    • Byth says:

      Just because someone can make money off of it doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly a bad thing. In a way it’s advertising, but it’s tasteful and interesting advertising. It’s not even comparable to playing NFSU2 and coming up on a Burger King.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Capitalism, boiled down, is Money > Morals. Lying isn’t a big deal if it means somewhere they’re going to see more money. Because this will interest even more people in Plants VS Zombies, Popcap will continue their ‘friendship’. Down the line, Blizzard will assuredly get something in return.

    • Chesterton says:

      @DJ Phantoon, that is not capitalism “boiled down” at all. It is a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and/or services, though.

  7. Chiablo says:

    I’ve got the itch to get back into WoW, but I don’t want to bother playing before Cattleclism comes out. Seeing stuff like this just makes the waiting that much more painful.

  8. bleeters says:

    Alternatively, you could just play Plants vs Zombies.

  9. Dean says:

    “I at least want the people taking my money to be taking their fiction seriously”

    I’d argue that Blizzard are taking their fiction seriously. It’s just, the fiction, the world, that they’ve created is somewhat self-aware. Shows like Boston Legal, House, Stargate, etc broke the fourth wall all the time but were still capable of providing serious drama when necessary. Not at the same time, but so what?

    Plus Blizzard does it all the time. It’s interesting to see it happen with an external game, but there are internal jokes and references to WoW memes throughout the game. Hell, Blizzard have even been known to build entire raid encounters around them.

    There are big, bleak stories going on throughout the WoW universe, but just like the real world, not everything is unremittingly bleak. There’s plenty of scope for humour too. Also, I’d imagine this isn’t just dropped in out of nowhere. Zones tend to be themed and you know some are going to be sillier than others. If you see a human settlement in flames and being besieged by the undead, you can be sure of a bunch of quest lines dealing with arch themes and heroes speaking in olde english. On the other hand, if you see a gnome settlement with an oilspill and some mad robots, can you be sure it’ll consist of playing around with ridiculous contraptions and doing silly quests. There’s room for it all.

    Also, one quest added in the latest patch has you speaking to a gnome speechwriter called Toby Zeigear, which is pretty much why I play WoW to be honest.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I love a bit of fourth wall breaking. Always been a fan of Nomad Soul, I don’t think anyone would accuse that of not taking itself seriously either and that was a story built around breaking the fourth wall.

    • Ashen says:

      Throwing tons of random junk and pop culture references now constitutes self-awareness?

      Blizzard has never cared about keeping the warcraft universe cohesive. This has zero to do with fourth wall and everything to do with their ‘gameplay first’ mantra. They build their ‘lore’ around the gameplay mechanics.

      For example of opposite approach, see LOTRO.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      And that is the correct way to approach it. Gameplay > Lore.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Or it would be, if revisionist history hadn’t taken a hold of all of your minds, apparently.

      Since when have they given a damn about actual gameplay? Balance has never been priority number one, neither has uniqueness of classes. They just threw darts at a wall, and that’s what that class got. There’s basically nothing in the game that some other class doesn’t have some form of besides silly obnoxious things like Death Grip. Some classes even literally have the same abilities, like Druids and their animal forms basically just being a different class. Bear is just a Warrior, Cat is just a Rogue, etc.

      The fact they now need to radically change all the classes (god help you if you don’t like the changes and you only ever had the one character) speaks that design was never the major goal, and perhaps they possibly didn’t have an endgame plan (not raids) until now. This is not good design!

      Whatever the reasons may be for these problems, I don’t care. They don’t deserve a free pass because it’s getting fixed now, and maybe isn’t getting fixed at all. And they are certainly not going to make the game more actiony, for fear of alienating all the casual players even if that drastically improved the game. They have to fix what they have, and just like every time before they will probably fall short.

    • Dean says:

      Yep, that is best way to approach it. But to be fair, Blizzard do have one full-time employee working purely on lore continuity, and there’s a whole bunch of books and comics (some of which are pretty decent) that expand on it. But they’ve always said, if they think up something cool, and it doesn’t fit the lore, they’ll change the lore to make it work. Not just ignore the lore, but retcon in loopholes.

      As it should be.

      The universe has been going on for a decade. Whenever that happens you either play a bit more loose with the lore or have to abide by bad story decisions that were made years ago

  10. Rii says:

    There are certainly some folks in this thread who take themselves too seriously.

    Great stuff, Blizzard.

  11. cpy says:

    Great game great minigame, what else to say?

  12. Barry says:

    The author of the video seemed to not understand what the patches on the ground were and what the random craziness of sunlight was caused by. After watching the video, I came to the conclusion that the patches give the plant that is on that patch special abilities. If a sunflower is on that patch, the special ability is crazy amounts of sunlight.

    He also thought that the patches killed plants during the final boss fight. If you watch closely though, you will see that the boss is actually throwing rocks at random plants.

  13. rocketman71 says:

    I’ll take Pathologic over WoW any day of the week.

    And any non-MMO game, really.

  14. BA says:

    After the fine makers of PvZ managed to delete my game and everyone else’s… go ahead, fire it up if you haven’t lately… this doesn’t interest me in the least. I think its ignorant that this is the next news release after deleting everyone’s games. No apology or acknowledgement. Just f*cked over. WTG Popcap.

  15. kevf123 says:

    this looks like a nice bit of fun, and a change of pace for the gameplay.

    as usual, everything in WoW is entirely optional, and complaining about one tiny sliver of it is silly.

  16. Cataclysm says:

    Wow, this is an awesome upgrade. There really is no telling what this game is capable of next. I have quite a few friends that play this game that are not only addicted to it ,but also can’t stop talking about it. I am starting to see why.

  17. What about Warcraft? says:

    What bothers me is that now, WoW has yet another minigame in it, yet there are still no minigames that look like Warcraft (the RTS). How is it that they can incorporate PvZ, but not WC?