Mahjongg Artifacts 2 is in the running for Best Card, Board & Mahjong Game of 2007 at the upcoming Zeeby Awards. We chatted with Vadim Kumerov, CEO of Shape Games, about what makes Mahjongg Artifacts 2 special and why it deserves to get your vote.

Please give us some insight or a few fun facts about the development of Mahjongg Artifacts 2.

When we were making the original Mahjongg Artifacts, our goal was to create the best mahjong game in the world. We wanted the buttons to be pleasing to click, the tiles to be attractive and easy to read, the story to be engrossing and the sounds to be so true-to-life, you’d think you were playing a real table game. Of course, all of this had to be done in the shortest time possible. And we did it! But the sequel had to be even better.

Both core developers are Ivans. To avoid confusion, we’ll call Ivan Yanikov, the developer, by his nickname, Winnie. Ivan Nekaev, our artist, goes by Vanya. Winnie chewed through more than a dozen pencils while working on Mahjongg Artifacts 2. Vanya drew the fifth tile set, the astral one, using Winnie’s sketches as a guide. Winnie didn’t mean to draw them, he was just scribbling on a sheet of paper while in deep meditation. So they are totally subconscious visuals.

Both Mahjongg Artifacts games have a unique feature — the Unlimited Mode. Initially, that was the entire game, but our producer, Kirill Plotnikov, talked us out of that risky endeavor, and we’re grateful for that. Instead, the Unlimited feature works perfectly as a bonus game mode.

We used a robot to test the Unlimited Mode. It played very fast, although not always with tremendous foresight. It reached the 100th layer overnight and just kept going until the score counter overflowed. We were sure nobody would play that long, but added an extra digit to the counter just to be sure!

Imagine our surprise when a user contacted us with the following message: "The Unlimited game freezes on layer 500!" We still don’t know if he was serious or not. We just couldn’t reproduce the bug, as the robot never reached that layer.

The storyline was the result of an intense brainstorming session. Deciding on the fate of the main character after he became almighty wasn’t easy, so we agreed to relieve Marc of that burden.

Now it’s high time we started working on the third Mahjongg Artifacts game. This time, it’ll be about Marc and Catherine’s child.

What makes Mahjongg Artifacts 2 special and why should people vote for it?

As we mentioned above, we’re especially proud of the tactile nature of the game. The graphics, sound effects and overall "feel" of things all work together to make this happen. But we’re also pleased with how well the idea of collecting pearls to purchase powerups works. We like how it tips the scales of difficulty in favor of the player but doesn’t make the gameplay so easy, strategy and forethought aren’t required.

If you win a Zeeby, how do you plan to celebrate (aside from going to Disney World, of course)?

We already feel like winners because of how popular our fans have made the Mahjongg Artifacts games. But if we actually win a Zeeby, we’ll feel like Sally Field when she won her Oscar for Places in the Heart. Just be glad we won’t be there to scream, "You like us! You really like us!"

Any final words for your fans?

You’re the ones who motivate us to get to work at least by noon (grin) and work into the wee hours of the morning. Knowing you’re out there motivates us to try to make the best games possible and exceed our own efforts with each new offering. Thank you, everyone, for playing our games. It’s good to know you like us! You really — um, never mind…

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