4. High production values
By mitigating the risks above, we were able to block out all of our planned characters and all of their gear. While this meant artists were very tightly constrained to sizes that they could not deviate from, it also meant that they had a sandbox where they could play to their heart's content.
After having given the tech behind assembling characters such a fair shake we had a pretty good idea of what the system was capable of and what assets would work -- and which wouldn't. As a result, assets that we created in-house or through outsourcing were almost entirely plug-and-play, which saved us a good amount of debug time.
But the greatest advantage was that the artists could really iterate on the heroes and the gear without worrying about the work getting lost due to technical changes. As a result, the heroes are incredibly unique and sport all kinds of crazy animations. By constraining our art team, we actually empowered them to iterate without fear of change.
5. Planning past the future
We knew we would want to launch a large series of content right after launch and we planned out our features for a 1.1 and 1.2 as part of the initial feature set. This meant that as our artists were creating assets for buildings, they were actually creating about 20 percent more than the 1.0 requirements for every type of asset (such as heroes, gear, monsters and buildings).
Doing art assets this way had a similar effect to shooting multiple movies at the same time. The tone on everything was fairly universal. Additionally, things were a little bit faster to make as artists were producing these assets while they were "in their groove" and not re-learning a pipeline to do one or two assets. When you are talking about assets which take one or two days to make, a half day re-learning process is a dramatic increase in time.
A large number of our content (buildings, heroes, monsters and backgrounds) was all ready to go for a Halloween update, a Holiday update and then a major update for 1.1 which added a few new features such as being able to train your heroes and make use of the extra gear you had lying about.
Having this content ready to go right after launch led to a very smooth update path, which helped the app gain lasting appeal and resulted in a healthy number of post-launch downloads.