How Online Slots Are Made
Gambling online has become a major leisure activity that a huge number of internet users practices on a regular basis. And we’re not just referring to those pass-the-time moments, in fact – these are rare. People seem to invest a lot of their time and financial funds to engage in online casino games, and the reason for this is because they give them a lot in return. Most online gamblers have had some experience in brick and mortar venues and they want to replicate the thrill and financial gain from their homes or while on the move by frequenting virtual gaming establishments. Casino games aren’t like regular video games – while the latter are focused on more casual players, the former provide the customers with instant gratification in form of monetary prizes and great gameplay features.
Looking at standard offers at online casinos, you’ll find the most equipped category always to be online slots. It is a fairly obvious state of affairs, and a pretty logical one as well. Slot machines are the most popular casino activity, and there are pages and pages of statistical data to prove it. We won’t be going into numbers, but it is safe to say that slot revenues amount to a lot more than 30% of the casino’s overall take. So, how do online slots achieve such huge success among players? One of the reasons is surely the way they are made. When a casino game is developed properly, through an extensive process of creative structuring, analyzing and hard work, and the final product contains all the essential elements a good, new game should have, the success is practically guaranteed. For all of you inquisitive minds out there, we’re exploring the background of virtual slots – how they are made and how do they fit into the online gambling world so well.
What are Online Slots
Everybody knows what old-school one-armed bandits look like. These enduring machines have a lever that operates the game and a screen which shows usually three reels spinning, eventually coming to a stop and showing an outcome of matching or non-matching symbols across one line. When advanced electronics stepped in and computers became affordable for the average customer, a whole new world of online activities emerged, substituting and, we dare say, improving some aspects of the actual, real life counterpart actions, it wasn’t before long that online casinos came flooding the world wide web. Slot machines got their virtual equivalents, with the lever being replaced with a click of a mouse and a spin button, and at first they looked the same as the originals. The screen showed one line and there were three reels of symbols. The player needs to place a bet and hit the spin button to start the game. The reels would turn and a set of symbols would appear when the spinning stops. If the symbols matched, a winning amount would be paid out to the player, or in this case credited to his/her online casino account.
A simple concept, still works to this day. But, casino game developers realized soon enough that virtual slots could be a fantastic playground for them to show their creative potential, so the products grew and grew in terms of everything – starting from game configuration, themes and design to adding animation and innovative bonus features. At this point, online slots are the most demanding casino games when it comes to development and the ones that endure changes with the highest frequency.
The Process of Creating an Online Slot
For an online slot game to cross the gap between the original idea and the final launch, it may take nearly one year’s time – sometimes less and sometimes more, but the average stands on one dozen months for a game to be completed and done properly. Apart from a fair amount of time, there’s effort to be invested, and not just from one person. There are various individuals working on creating a single title, some organized in groups and teams, and others doing their share independently, but in the end they all have to coordinate and approve of the final product.
The game does not take shape until game designers, mathematicians, front-end developers and server developers step onto the scene. They all work closely together with game testers, the project manager, the project configurator and the creative team. If a game happens to be a more demanding endeavor than usual, specialty graphic designers may be required to come onboard as well. Sometimes, it’s not impossible to use a pre-existing framework for a slot and make the process shorter, but even then the game needs to be thoroughly planned to the very last pixel. All the participants in the development process equally matter, and slots wouldn’t be as layered as they are today without them. Clearly, the procedure takes place a multidisciplinary environment, and for explanatory purposes it can be broken down to several stages including a conceptual stage, a mood-creating stage, a segment dedicated to game design and so on.
Concept and Idea
Sophisticated or not, every online slot begins its journey towards being released online with the concept an abstract notion of what may or may not be created. Coming up with an idea is the first step in designing a game. It involves a lot of brainstorming and getting the group together to talk and eventually agree on one concept. When there’s more people attached to the project, there can be a series of meetings where they pitch ideas to each other and discuss which one would be best to start working on. Often, marketing research teams contribute to the discussions by conducting research and then exposing the current situation on the market, therefore directing the team towards the types of slots that aren’t already present in the company’s portfolio and among the competition.
There can be dozens of concepts at the beginning, but due to constructive interaction between coworkers and teammates the choice gets narrowed down to two or three concepts usually and these will be the company’s focus during the following months. What was initially a rough concept becomes a palpable idea like for example basketball, burlesque, zoo, tourism or robots. Even if something similar already exists on the market, the team would prioritize a challenge to present it in a different, fresh way that will attract players.
Setting the Mood
Now that the idea is formed and the theme is on the table, the next step is figuring out the mood of the game, the overall vibe, the environment and to some extent – appearance. Depending on the theme, the creative team starts making decisions about whether to bring in cartoon characters or stick with a more realistic outlook. Some themes benefit from drawn illustrations and a more cartoonish presentation whereas some themes require a more lifelike approach, real photographs for background and the like. At this stage the bonus rounds should already be conceived to an extent that would also reflect the mood of the game and suit the theme.
When a company is developing a branded slot they have very little to worry about on these matters, as the material is being provided by the very brand they’ll be adapting. Characters, background music and audio effects already exist; they just need to be properly included in the game’s composition for the slot to become operational and a worthy representative of the TV show or movie it was inspired by. Authentic online slots need to be conceived and constructed from zero, and that means background stories, characters, symbols, colors and music. All scenes need to be planed ahead, and for the mood to be easily processed and transferred to different screens developers often create mood boards for every visual aspect of the slot game. What comes next is a job for the design team.
Design and Variance
The first thing that captivates the player, apart from the theme, is the design. These are the first lines of contact before the bettor starts to play and comes to witness how the inner ‘gears’ work as well. Needless to say, design is of prime importance. When you’re trying to convey something through visual channels, in this case visual pleasure, engaging activities and messages that go with them, the quality of the appearance is essential. The mood boards we’ve mentioned earlier need to cover every element of the game, regardless of how big or small. We’re talking characters, typography, materials, structures, props and color palettes.
Are the hues going to be bright and striking or subdued and shadowy? That’s one of the questions graphic designers are qualified to give the right answer to. A couple of colors usually get selected as the dominant range of tones, so as to not make the game uneasy on the eyes. Color schemes, fonts and audio effects get processed to the tiniest specifications, but they don’t get picked out at random. They are also dependent on the creative minds of the team, as well as on the market research. Before any final resolutions are made, every individual element remains a subject for debate and reevaluation by the developers. The reason why the design process takes the most time is because there can be so many details to attend to. Clothing, hairstyles, textures, facial expressions, movements, special effects and timing are just some of the aspects that need a skilled eye. If, for example, the game being created is supposed to be a 3D video slot, it should be no surprise that character designers and 3D animators are the busiest bees in the team.
It is a complex task, achieving the balance between a story/background and reel movement inseparably connected to the symbols. Some slots demand entire worlds to be created from scratch and characters to have believable personas for the slot to be appealing enough, impressive enough and intriguing enough to stand out from the crowd. The final product has to remain a game in its essence, but still adapt to the interface requirements and game features designed to enhance the player’s experience. The best slots make user experience their main goal. This takes us to another important point in the design process, the user-friendly approach. Responsive optimization has become one of the main focuses in casino slot development lately, due to massive usage of mobile devices. Instant play mode allows players to access their favorite games directly from the browser, on both computers and portable devices, but the games need to be enabled for smaller screen rendering beforehand. Which brings us back to our design process – the slot needs to be built twice. Apart from regular design and programming, the world needs to be created again in a smaller size so as to fit smartphones and tablets.
On other thing that gets settled during the design stage is game variance. At one point the developers have to decide if the machine they are creating is going to be low-variance, medium-variance, or high-variance. When you find a title at an online casino that features a low risk, or low variance, that means you’ll be playing it longer and winning smaller amounts as time goes by. The winning combinations are more frequent, but the prizes are reduced because of it. Medium risk slot machines are something of a middle ground. Online casinos offer plenty of these, some with high prizes, some with low. The main attraction of these types of slots is the bonus rounds assortment and special features – chances to win extra money. They pay out more than low-variance ones, but the risk of losing more is also present. High-variance online slots offer the best jackpot prizes and the most lucrative special features, but you can expect a fair number of dead spins in return. The effect of each kind of variance on the players is important to game designers. Each risk level is oriented towards specific groups of customers; it attracts distinctive kinds of players, which is why the designers have to maintain a clear notion of whom they are targeting before assembling all game elements into a wholesome product.
Performance and Production
As the developers continue to move onward on their creative paths, they reach the next stadium of slot development. After the scenery, characters, symbols and layers are created, the next step is to attach them all to a slot mechanism. The mechanism can be a pre-existing one, as we’ve mentioned earlier, but most of the time developers just keep the framework and adjust gameplay features to fit the specific theme better of suit the symbols and variance in a more fluent manner. One thing always stays the same – the player spins the reels, the reels turn, and the winning lines are established. However, special features are expected to be added to the base game, like Free Spins, Expanding Wilds or Scattered Wins, but always in a way that correlates to the creative decisions in the foreground of the slot.
Now the game is actually being built and since the marketing consultants were involved in the initial decisions about the slot theme and contributed with their practical pitches and considerations from the real world, the necessity for last-minute changes and the risk of unpleasant surprises at this point of the development process is considerably reduced. The project remains on track, conquering the production lane, awaiting it release date. In cases when influential participants are left out of the relevant stages of development, it is likely there could be some problems, setbacks and changes in trajectory when the project finally faces production. Fortunately, it’s still not too late to carry out necessary corrections, though, and the slot should be up and running in no time as a fruit of collaboration and consensus achieved by fine creative minds helped by some data input.
Some software supplier companies release a new title every few months, some take their time and treat us with an online slot ever so rarely, and it all depends on the company dynamics and its focuses. Nevertheless, game providers that specialize in making state-of-the-art slot machines usually assemble a team of experts and keep them on one task for at least a year in order to achieve desired results – quality, originality and longevity. From the initial stages of concept and ideas, across the extensive process of design, formulation and composition to the final stages of adding performance and going into production until finally reaching launch across numerous internet casinos, slots are very complex creations that can rarely, if ever, be made by accident. They are products of observant research, thorough analysis, methodical reevaluations and human dedication. It may seem silly to dedicate so much time and effort to details like what color is the flower in the left corner of the screen going to be, but it all counts and it all matters because the mood of the game captivates casino visitors, immerses them into this miniature world. The scenes, symbol combinations and character interactions become a reality for players, a virtual reality, but a powerful one none the less – powerful enough to solidify their passion for online slot games and keep them coming back as satisfied customers.