Mah Jong Quest II is in the running for Best Card, Board & Mahjong Game of 2007 at the upcoming Zeeby Awards. We chatted with Senior Producer Peter Traugot about what makes Mah Jong Quest II special and why it deserves to get your vote.

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

One of the challenges we had in this game was in developing the story, since we wanted to have the main character, Kwazi, grow up. In the original version, we purposely left the gender ambiguous to give the players the opportunity to determine for themselves whether Kwazi was a boy or girl. As a young child, this was pretty easy to do. But as a teenager, we wanted to give the character more visual depth which required revealing a bit more of the gender.

After pondering this for quite some time, one of the designers came up with the idea of splitting the character into a masculine/feminine personality, sort of a yin and yang that each person embodies. This created exactly what we needed to further the story. In fun little vignettes at the end of each level, the two personality types are at odds with each other but must work in synch to solve problems together.

What we didn’t take into account was that the ESRB [Electronic Software Rating Board] was a bit more restrictive than we had anticipated. Much to our chagrin, the game ended up with a rating of E with Mild Violence, since some of the interludes have the animated personalities accidentally or playfully hurting each other akin to the family-oriented Warner Brothers cartoons.

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

There are a few things we added to this version of Mah Jong that don’t exist anywhere – new power-ups that must be strategically timed to solve a puzzle, and a tournament mode that has players comparing their abilities with people from all over the world. As with the original game, the objective of the Quest mode is to clear the yin and yang tiles (represented by black and white hats). New power-ups, such as the earthquake tile, both help further the story (as the earthquake is what’s responsible for the splitting of personalities) and give the player fun ways to solve the puzzles. A whole new set of intriguing puzzles were created for this game providing unlimited hours of fun.

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

Peggle, Cradle of Rome, Fairway Solitaire, Azada.

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

A quick celebration… and them back to work on the next title. There’s no rest for the weary.

Any final words for your fans?

A big THANK YOU for playing our games.

Voting runs until July 11. Click here to vote for you favorite casual games of 2007.