In a new Gamasutra postmortem feature
, Zen Studios creative director Neil Sorens says he was pleasantly surprised by how much Microsoft's suggestions improved the final release of Pinball FX 2
As Sorens recounts, the title was nearly complete in January 2010, when Microsoft sent ideas for new features it thought should be added. Sorens says he was skeptical at first, based on previous experience with such first-party meddling.
"Normally, when I get a big list of ideas like this from a first party [developer], I find one or two reasonable ones, a bunch related to their latest peripherals or initiatives, and some that are well-intentioned but not very timely," he said.
However, the list turned out to be packed with ideas that were good enough for Zen to delay the game's planned release by nine months just to work on them.
Among Microsoft's suggestions were a number of improvements to the game's high score functions, Sorens said, including cumulative leaderboards across downloadable pinball tables, rewards for high scores summed across friends lists, and a challenge feature that gave notifications upon nearing or beating friends' scores.
"These social features they suggested are mentioned by reviewers and customers alike as reasons to keep coming back to the game," Sorens recalled positively. "We owe quite a bit of our success not only to Microsoft's ideas, but also to the extensive work the company did to accommodate our 'pinball platform' model on the back end."
Soren's full feature
goes into more detail about the good and bad points of Pinball FX 2
's development, including success with improved marketing and a partnership with Marvel and struggles creating new content quickly and attracting reviews.