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Making lightning strike twice with ‘Temple Run 2’

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Imangi aims for a fitting sequel to one of mobile gaming’s biggest hits

Temple Run 2
Temple Run 2

The premise of Temple Run is easy to understand — you steal an artifact from an ancient temple, and then you run like hell. This simple concept combined with exhilarating gameplay and intuitive controls helped make the game a smash hit to the tune of more than 170 million downloads across both iOS and Android. It even spawned a spin-off based on Pixar's film Brave and an actual physical board game. Now that the sequel is available, after a surprise announcement just yesterday, it's clear that the team at Imangi Studios doesn't want to fix what isn't broken. Temple Run 2 plays much like the original, but with updated graphics and a few new twists and features. But in spite of the similarities, the nine-month development of Temple Run 2 wasn't quite as simple as it may sound. "We basically wrote the game from scratch," says studio co-founder Natalia Luckyanova.

Steal an artifact, and run like hell

The biggest change might just be that the sequel takes place in a brand new location. Gone is the dark, foreboding temple of the original, replaced with a series of floating mountains in the sky. The sense of height makes the game feel even more tense, while also giving the developers the excuse to make things more beautiful — you'll run through lush patches of forest and leap over streams of water. You can even soar from one island to the next on a zipline and navigate through a mine while riding a cart. Temple Run 2 isn't a huge leap forward in terms of new features, but according to Luckyanova there's more here than what would be possible by simply updating the original.

"Once it became so popular, there was a ton we wanted to do to Temple Run," she says, "but it really wasn't built for expansion. It's built on top of our in-house 3D engine, which is pretty limited and requires a lot of coding on our end to make any changes. Plus, we didn't want to change Temple Run too dramatically, since so many people were playing it and loving it. So we decided to make a brand new version, where we could update the graphics, play around with powers, create new environments, etc." The sequel was built using the Unity game engine, the same tool used to make everything from Bad Piggies to Mothhead to Derrick the Deathfin. This allowed the team to get away from the rigid, 90-degree turns of the original game and instead create more "organic environments and curving paths." It seems to have worked, and not just for the setting — protagonist Guy Dangerous certainly looks a lot less blocky this time around.

"We already had the game in mind — we just had to write it and make it beautiful."

Imangi also had to contend with the pressure of following one of mobile gaming's biggest hits. While the studio had some success in the past with games like Harbor Master, none of its previous titles had achieved the same kind of success as Temple Run. This led to a new approach for developing the sequel. "The process was very different from any game we've done before because we knew from the start what we wanted, although it turned out even better than we expected," says Luckyanova. "In all our previous games, we'd basically start with a mechanic, and the whole game would evolve from there. Here, we already had the game in mind — we just had to write it and make it beautiful."

Temple Run 2 is available now on iOS devices, with an Android version expected to launch in around a week's time. There's no word on a Windows Phone version, though we're told the original Temple Run will finally make its way to the platform "soon" (it was originally announced at an event way back in October). It will be interesting to see whether or not lightning strikes twice for the studio, but either way, Imangi has no plans to drop support for the first Temple Run in the foreseeable future — though there's always the chance that could change. "If everyone ends up migrating to Temple Run 2 eventually, then we'll obviously just focus on that version."