When you name your stake, and start to play an online slots game it’s easy to forget about the incredible technology that has gone into making it a fun, and hopefully profitable, experience for you. Slot gaming today is also certainly a very far cry from the very first mechanical slot machine that was invented 120 years ago in San Francisco by Charles Fey, an electrical engineer.
It’s even a huge development from the very first slots games that first started to appear online in the 1990s – and in five years’ time today’s games will also be looking hopelessly out of date.
When games first started to appear online they weren’t so very different from Fey’s original machine. They had three reels featuring many familiar symbols, a button to choose your stake and one to set the reels rolling. At the heart of the technology was a piece of software called a random number generator and this, at least, is one thing that remains in the current generation of games.
But almost everything else is now different and that is thanks to the way that today’s games are conceived, created and delivered to players. Naturally advances in technology have played a major part in this evolution but so has the whole approach.
Typically, designing a new game first starts with a brainstorming session involving a multi-disciplinary team. Designers, tech experts and even scriptwriters will be involved. Generally, they will begin with a specific target audience in mind so will discuss possible themes aimed to appeal to them – or they may have been briefed to create one to tie in with an upcoming film or sporting event.
Once the theme’s been decided it’s time to start adding some detail such as what the symbols are going to be, whether there will be a narrative storyline through the game and if there are going to be different levels to play. In these respects, the technology behind today’s slots games has much in common with video games design.
Plus, whereas the first online slots were simple play and win machines, there are now many more features that can be included.
With most having five reels and multiple possible pay lines they are already much more exciting to play than the old style. But then when you add wilds, scatter symbols, multipliers, free spins and potentially huge progressive jackpots they become highly complex gaming experiences.
Another aspect of today’s online slot machines is the precision with which the odds of winning can be advertised. This is because the random number generator, though obviously random, can be precisely calibrated to give an exact return. So, it’s never been easier to spot the games offering the best chances of a pay-out.
Looking to the future many observers see the boom in virtual reality technology as the driving force which will produce the next generation of slots. With the chance of creating a truly immersive experience they are likely to become even more like video games so you won’t just be playing a slot, you’ll feel like you’re inside it. And that’s a long, long way from Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell machine with its three reels and a 50 cents jackpot.