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2. During art passes, focusing on the Monkeys first.
Character is one of the most important elements of any Monkey Ball game; it's so much more interesting to roll around a cute simian than a shiny, blank-slate marble! In moving the characters from 2D to 3D, we needed to make sure that we had character poly count allowances that made the four stars (Ai-Ai, Mee Mee, Baby and Gongon) look as good on iPhone as they did on consoles.
Once we had the Monkeys modeled, rigged and lit, we went onto populating the environments, allowing the characters to take aesthetic priority. This made us much more comfortable determining how many background props to create, and which particle effects to employ in the final art pass.
3. Ensuring full compatibility.
Back when the iPhone App Store launched, developers only had to worry about three types of hardware (Edge iPhone, 3G iPhone, and iPod Touch Gen 1) and one firmware platform.
By the time SMB2 launched, there were iPhone handsets available with different capabilities (notably the 3GS vs. 3G), and firmware updates meant that some consumers would be up to date (with 3.0 firmware), while other users lagged behind (sticking to 2.21 firmware).
We didn't want to let any of our audience have a sub-par experience, so we ensured that Super Monkey Ball 2 ran perfectly on all platforms. The finished product looks cutting edge on any iPhone device, including the launch machines. This was also critical for multiplayer gaming (race mode); in the final version of the game, no advantage is provided to players with more powerful handsets.
4. Going big.
It would have been easy enough to use the same engine we had employed in Super Monkey Ball 1 (it still holds up pretty well), create some new character sprites, tweak the play controls, and stamp a "2" on the app. But that approach wouldn't have established a game that we'd be comfortable building upon moving forward.
By aggressively upping the quality bar in every part of the game, and building all-new play experiences into the package, we are able to increase consumer confidence in our ability to manage our core brands on iPhone. When a Sega sequel hits the App Store, you know it's not just going to be more of the same.
So what, then, are the key features that support our claim of going big?
Competitive Multiplayer: The original Super Monkey Ball on Gamecube, a launch title for that platform, gave players a chance to race against each other in a split screen mode. iPhone's local wi-fi compatibility allowed us to bring this feature back, with the added benefit of allowing all four players to enjoy a full screen experience. This adds a lot to the game's replay, as all 115 boards support multiplayer racing.
Mini-games: Even the DS version of Super Monkey Ball features mini-games, and we couldn't let the iPhone sequel launch without addressing this notable omission from SMB1. Solid pass-along multiplayer fun was crucial to cultivating a good multiplayer experience, so we chose experiences that worked best taking turns: bowling, mini-golf, and target.
It would have been great to have all three mini-games available at launch (more on that later), but we're happy we got at least one in (bowling). Some players have noted in user reviews that they actually come back to bowling more frequently than they do the main game!
Full graphical revamp: When the App Store debuted, Apple used SMB1 to show off what 3D gaming looked like on the iPhone. The game still looks good, but we've come a long way since then. In the era of Real Racing and N.O.V.A, we needed to make sure Ai-Ai and his pals still set the bar for graphical excellence on the device. Editors have been favorably comparing the visuals of SMB2 to the Gamecube version of the game, so I'm confident in saying we hit this mark.