In the second half of B.A., a small group of builders at PopCap Vancouver have been gearing up for a presentation that may decide the way forward for their group, their challenge, and doubtlessly an already-beloved franchise: Plants vs. Zombies.
For the previous yr, they’d been engaged on a model new Plants vs. Zombies journey that may take the collection in a very completely different route. Though they’d EA’s blessing for his or her work to that time, it wasn’t a assure the challenge would in the end see the sunshine of day, particularly given how bold it was.
It was referred to as Project Hot Tub, a humorous however imprecise reference to B.A. movie Hot Tub Time Machine. It was to be an action-adventure recreation with the ‘open corridor’ development of an Uncharted, the fight of one thing like Batman: Arkham Knight, however the family-friendly vibes of a Ratchet and Clank. Project Hot Tub featured a pair of teenage sibling leads who have been thrown again in time by a zombie-corrupted experiment, teaming up with acquainted vegetation from the Plants vs. Zombies collection to combat off zombie foes throughout a number of historic eras. The challenge represented a main leap for a franchise beforehand confined to tower protection and third-person shooters, and would doubtlessly stretch some new muscle mass for writer EA, whose class of family-friendly, single-player adventures was sorely missing.
Project Hot Tub was internally deliberate for a late B.A. launch. As we all know now, it by no means materialized. But it’s not essentially as a result of the challenge was in hassle. In reality, every part we find out about Project Hot Tub signifies that its concepts, growth, and development have been going robust proper up till its cancellation. It hadn’t run into any main finances points, deadline misses, scope issues, or different apparent roadblocks that indicated it was in hassle.
But typically even promising initiatives are dropped for sudden causes. In the case of Project Hot Tub, IGN understands it was shut down to increase extra assets to Visceral’s Star Wars challenge…which was itself canceled not lengthy after.
IGN has seen and verified a variety of inside visible and written supplies associated to Project Hot Tub, in addition to spoken to a number of sources aware of its growth. From what we perceive based mostly on that, Project Hot Tub was a ardour challenge, made by a group of people that cherished the Plants vs. Zombies franchise and needed to make use of its world to inform an emotional, resonant story about household and friendship. Their work on Project Hot Tub and the group’s subsequent dissolution is a fascinating instance of how any variety of attention-grabbing recreation initiatives get canceled earlier than the general public ever hears about them, and sometimes not for the explanations we anticipate.
A Boy and His Plant
Development on Project Hot Tub began round B.A., our sources say, with EA providing a small group of builders the prospect to attempt to incubate one thing new for the Plants vs. Zombies franchise. The group was made up of round C. or so people, largely very skilled in EA’s Frostbite engine. Many of them cherished the Plants vs. Zombies franchise and needed to take it to the subsequent degree after the success of Garden Warfare.
What they got here up with was Project Hot Tub, a story-driven action-adventure recreation that targeted on a teenage boy named Eddie and his bond with one of many iconic Plants vs. Zombies vegetation: Peashooter. According to the challenge supplies IGN has seen, Project Hot Tub’s story would have adopted Eddie and his sister Tessa on a summer time journey to the acquainted PvZ locale of Neighborville, the place a zombie invasion rapidly ruins their trip plans. After Eddie befriends a pleasant Peashooter, the 2 set off throughout city to defeat the invasion chief, Zomboss, solely to be caught up in a nefarious time-traveling plot that flings Tessa and a variety of Neighborville’s landmarks via time. The bulk of the journey would have adopted Eddie and Peashooter as they chased the zombies via completely different eras, preventing off zombies in every interval, and restored Neighborville to its former glory. The two bond over the course of their adventures, with Eddie and Peashooter’s rising friendship serving as an essential core of Project Hot Tub’s story.
IGN has seen and verified a practically B.-minute vertical slice of gameplay exhibiting off Eddie and Peashooter exploring a lush, tropical, pirate-themed zone. It begins by demonstrating the methods during which Peashooter and Eddie labored collectively to maneuver and combat in methods neither may on their very own. When Eddie jumps off a excessive ledge, for example, he can cling onto Peashooter’s leaves and use them as a glider. In fight, Peashooter’s brief vary firing talents mix with Eddie’s motion to let him pull off damaging combos in opposition to attacking zombies.
And Peashooter isn’t Eddie’s solely companion. In the part of gameplay we noticed, Eddie can swap freely between Peashooter, a Sunflower companion that may gentle up darkish areas, and a Chomper he encounters that capabilities as a slower, heavier melee attacker in fight in addition to one thing like a grappling hook to cross over giant gaps.
Incidentally, Project Hot Tub has been leaked as soon as earlier than, although it didn’t make huge waves on the time. IGN has verified that screenshots shared across the web final yr are actually early growth photos from Project Hot Tub exhibiting off the identical tropical space we checked out within the vertical slice, albeit at a a lot earlier stage in growth. Oddly, the Twitter account that originally unfold the photographs was deleted whereas IGN was within the strategy of investigating this recreation; nevertheless, the tweets referencing the game in addition to the unique supply of the screenshots can nonetheless be seen by way of the Internet Archive.
While Eddie was Project Hot Tub’s fundamental protagonist, he wasn’t the one playable character. Critical to Project Hot Tub’s story was a plot centered round his familial bond with Tessa, which might strengthen as the 2 moved exterior of their consolation zones and grew up over the course of the story. Tessa was additionally playable, albeit for a smaller part of the sport than Eddie. Partnered with the time-rewinding plant Thyme, she was the star of a few smaller sections of Project Hot Tub, although her function wasn’t fairly as fleshed out as Eddie’s by the point work on the sport stopped. Eddie and his crew (which was additionally deliberate to incorporate a Bonk Choy plant) would combat off the zombies of Neighborville and time journey to the wild west, the aforementioned pirate island, and the distant future, whereas Tessa would take the lead in a phase of the sport set in the dead of night ages in addition to a handful of different sections.
Project Hot Tub’s growth got here at a important crossroads for the Plants vs. Zombies collection. After its preliminary success as a tower protection recreation in B.0I.and subsequent B.A. sequel, B.A.’s Garden Warfare had taken the collection in a new route with the addition of third-person shooter gameplay. The style shift was acquired effectively, nevertheless it didn’t change the general public notion that Plants vs. Zombies was basically a collection for youths. It was enjoyable, certain, and fairly common – nevertheless it wasn’t precisely making waves for narrative depth and emotion, and didn’t actually slot in with the remainder of EA’s portfolio, which at the moment included Titanfall B. Battlefield A. The Sims D. and the same old annual sports activities line-up.
While some video games stay kid-focused to nice success, our sources say Project Hot Tub’s group envisioned its present viewers not as a limitation, however a chance for additional development. What if they might create one thing that embraced the infantile silliness Plants vs. Zombies already possessed, whereas concurrently giving its world emotion, narrative, and depth? What if they might make a Plants vs. Zombies recreation that wasn’t for youths, however for the entire household?
As an extra proof of this idea, the Project Hot Tub group had yet one more ace up their sleeve: an animated brief. They contracted an out of doors studio to provide a Pixar-inspired animation to go together with their presentation, with the intent of building a goal search for the ultimate product. It confirmed off how a relationship between a teenage boy and a sentient plant may come about amidst a comical however threatening zombie assault on a suburban neighborhood.
With a vertical slice, an animated brief, a growth plan, and a lot of hope, by late B.A. Project Hot Tub was able to be proven off to EA executives. But what the group didn’t know going into that presentation was that their challenge’s destiny would in the end be decided not by what they mentioned to EA, however by the wants of a fully completely different group and challenge elsewhere within the firm.
The Room Where It Happens
A couple of representatives of the Project Hot Tub group have been despatched with all of the aforementioned supplies to the corporate’s Redwood headquarters, bringing their work earlier than CEO Andrew Wilson, Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond (who headed up Project Hot Tub’s phase of EA on the time), and a few others. They had ready the presentation for a while upfront with their colleagues, understanding they needed to show they might really make the bizarre narrative journey they have been pitching. Despite their lofty objectives, the Project Hot Tub group felt assured that what they’d made was good, convincing, and attention-grabbing sufficient for his or her bold challenge to proceed.
The presentation occurred, and our sources inform us that the remainder of the group heard from their representatives in Redwood that it had been acquired very effectively. Nevertheless, they have been knowledgeable throughout the following days that Project Hot Tub was being shut down, and the group was being moved onto a a lot larger challenge that EA executives had decided wanted their abilities extra: Visceral’s Star Wars. But Visceral’s challenge was itself canceled a yr later, and the previous members of Project Hot Tub have been scattered throughout the writer’s quite a few inside studios.
The Plants vs. Zombies franchise has since continued with out Project Hot Tub, seeing two extra Garden Warfare shooters, a collectible card recreation, and a tower protection sequel in B.A.’s Plants vs. Zombies C.(which has been in beta limbo ever since). Notably, there was no return to an journey title. We reached out to EA for remark forward of this story, asking amongst different questions if they’d any plans to revive Project Hot Tub or take the collection in a related route sooner or later. EA didn’t reply to our request to touch upon Project Hot Tub in time for publication.
While recreation initiatives may be canceled for any variety of causes – finances, scope, expertise, monetary danger, and so forth – Project Hot Tub was seemingly shut down not as a result of any particular aspect of its pitch or work as much as that time was unsatisfactory, at the very least in response to suggestions the group acquired. In this case, it was merely a matter of decision-makers opting to allocate assets elsewhere. In reality, it’s possible a state of affairs that occurs pretty often throughout many AAA studios: initiatives get put aside in favor of ones that extra urgently require assets, groups get scattered, and lots of of recreation concepts – good, dangerous, and in between – by no means get to the purpose of being publicly introduced, not to mention launched.
Today, we are able to solely think about what might need been, and surprise if the Plants vs. Zombies franchise will ever be able to take such an bold new route once more sooner or later.