Jewel Quest II is in the running for Best Puzzle Game of 2007 at the upcoming Zeeby Awards. We chatted with Warren Schwader, game designer and lead engineer for Jewel Quest II about what makes the game special and why it deserves to get your vote.

Can you give us insights or fun facts about the development of this game?

We were contacted by Microsoft to provide a launch game that adheres to the Microsoft Games Explorer standards for the Vista Launch in Jan 2007. Microsoft was only expecting a reskinned Jewel Quest 1 because it was already late Summer of 2006 and the game needed to be completed for Vista Launch.

It is not iWin’s style to simply slap something together and call it a new game. We decided that Jewel Quest II would have to be a full sequel to JQ1 in addition to completing the game on time. As if the short time frame wasn’t enough, I (the game designer/lead engineer) was sick for the first 3 months of the development. Had Vista not been delayed into January, we would have missed the launch, but the one final Vista delay gave us just enough time to finish.

What makes the game special, and why should people vote for it?

The first Jewel Quest was the game that broke the Bejeweled mold and added something truly new to the match-3 Genre. By the time Jewel Quest II came out, there had been dozens of clones of JQ1. We felt that it was important that people didn’t interpret Jewel Quest II to be a clone of the clones. So we resisted copying every little idea that the clones added to their games and decided to stay true to what made the first Jewel Quest such a big hit.

Instead of power-ups that exploded everything in sight, we kept true to the puzzle nature of JQ1 and I think people appreciated that. However, we did add "Specials" to Jewel Quest II that allow the player to use them to turn any single space to gold. This made the game much more accessible to the average player.

One other feature that greatly enhances the value of Jewel Quest II is the addition of Tournament Mode. Players could now compete with other players of their own skill levels from around the world. We’ve heard reports of many people that have said they have never played the Quest mode because they were instantly hooked on Tournament mode.

Besides your own games of course, what other games impressed you in 2007?

Like most in the game development business, I was busy making games and don’t get to play much. But the one game that I wish I had made is Peggle. It is one of the few that I bought and played to completion. I also watched every member of my family play it. When a game can appeal to both men and women and children too, AND be different, you really have something there.

I also enjoyed Safe Cracker.

If you win a Zeeby, how do you plan to celebrate (aside for going to Disneyworld, of course)?

Well, we’d have to tell the world about it of course! That and a nice dinner at the Elderberry House in Oakhurst, CA.

Any final words for your fans?

We love making games, and would do so even if we were only making them for ourselves. But, since we have fans too, that is even better. And better yet is when we hear from those fans. Of course we love hearing how great our game is, but we also seriously consider what it is that you may not like as much, and suggestions for future games. So tell us!

Click here to vote for you favorite casual games of 2007.