Slot machines have been around for over 100 years. For most of that time, they were simple lever machines where players would attempt to line up symbols to score winning payouts. The symbols were simple – images of fruit and other simple icons – and the payouts came in the form of a drink or a piece of gum. But “playing the slot machine” was seen as a harmless and engaging form of innocent entertainment.
Today, slot machines have evolved. New machines are launched with 3D imagery, animations, realistic graphics, different types of features, online casino signup bonus promotions and more. Today’s slot designers are hard-pressed to find ways to combine the traditional simple real money gambling machines with today’s high-tech gaming environment that the public has come to expect.
How do 21st century game designers succeed in creating games that keep slots aficionados spinning?
Designing a Successful Slot Machine
Designing a successful slot machine involves the melding of many different elements. It takes only a few unsuccessful slot machines for a design company to get a reputation for failure so developers are hard-pressed to make sure that each and every machine is interactive, engaging and entertaining.
The design of a new machine starts with the conceptualization and theme selection. Designers have to make sure that the themes will resonate with audiences and that involves connecting the themes with events of current interest, like holidays, or with plots and storylines that appeal to the users.
Designers often research popular movies and books to get ideas of what themes will draw in new players. Then, based on that theme, they can start creating the graphics, sound effects, storyline and overall ambiance of the slot machine.
The technical staff is then brought in to work out the algorithms and mathematics of the machine. These systems, including the Random Number Generator (the software that determines that every result of every spin is completely random) and the machine’s volatility (how often a slot triggers a win and the typical size of the wins) determine the game's odds and payouts.
Game designers need to balance the gameplay with these processes so that the resulting game offers an engaging experience that meets players’ expectations, yet allows the casino to make money.
Once the machine’s new design and mechanics have been worked out, designers are ready to get busy with the “guts” of the machine – the elements and features that determine the user experience. They include:
- Graphics and animation – gamers are first drawn to a new slot machine mainly due to the machine’s visual appeal. Graphic designers are responsible for creating eye-catching symbols, captivating animations, alluring backgrounds and other imagery that complement the game’s theme.
Above all, it’s important to make sure that the game provides a visually stimulating and immersive experience that will keep players entertained and involved.
- Audio – sound plays a vital role in the gaming experience. Specialized audio designers craft the sounds that keep players engaged in the gameplay including music that evokes the game’s plot plus sounds of slot machine’s spinning reels and celebratory bells that indicate winning combinations.
- User interface and user experience – game designers aim to create a user interface that will be both intuitive and user-friendly. The screen needs to display easily-accessible buttons that allow players to spin, adjust bets, add casino bonus promotions and access game information at the swipe of a finger across the computer screen.
Designers must prioritize user experience to ensure that the gamers can navigate the game easily so that their gaming event is enjoyable and engaging.
- Bonus rounds –
- slots gamers report consistently that the most alluring element of any slot machine is its bonus rounds. It’s not even so much the added payouts that they enjoy as the added gaming time.
Interactive mini-games, free spins rounds and other bonus gameplay is a big draw to slots aficionados so today’s game designers make sure to strategically incorporate these elements. By adding layers of unpredictability and excitement, the designers are able to create a more dynamic gaming experience.
- Testing – once the game is assembled it’s time to test it. Through the testing process designers can evaluate the game’s performance and identify any snags or glitches. Testers are asked to provide feedback which designers use to make adjustments that enhance the overall gameplay experience.
Governments are increasingly becoming involved in regulating slot machines and are demanding that the slot machines adhere to strict regulatory standards. These standards promote fairness, transparency and responsible gaming practices. Game designers work closely with regulatory bodies to meet compliance requirements, such as verifying the accuracy of the RNG and otherwise ensuring that the game meets legal standards.
Slot machine design involves a delicate balance of creativity, mathematics and technology. Game designers strive to create an experience that not only entertains but will also keep players coming back for more.