2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 4

30 December 2008

Developing technology has become a crucial element in the slot machine industry, but the technology itself is just a first step. Applying that technology in developing games and systems that will keep slot players in their seats, well, that's both science and art.

Two of the nation's leading slotmakers, WMS Gaming and International Game Technology, used booth space at the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center to stretch out, strut their stuff and show what their tech solutions can do.

WMS, which in recent years has introduced its Community Gaming, Transmissive Reels, and Adaptive Gaming lines, had a couple of eye catchers in new Sensory Immersion games. IGT, meanwhile, devoted a large segment of its booth to slots with REELdepth 3-D screens.

The new Sensory Immersion games at WMS were Dirty Harry: Make My Day and Time Machine. Between them, they explore the different paths WMS wants to take with the series, which give a total sensory experience with special effects and surround sound helped along by a special chair equipped with Bose speakers.

Like Top Gun, the first game of the Sensory Immersion line, Dirty Harry is a thrill-seeker. Based on the popular cop films starring Clint Eastwood, the Dirty Harry slot machine takes you on a car chase through the streets of San Francisco. You wield Harry's .44 Magnum to shoot down the crooks — and the bonus rewards.

Time Machine more closely follows the path taken by The Wizard of Oz, WMS' second Sensory Immersion hit. Instead of an action thriller, Wizard of Oz is a gentler journey through the story line. Likewise, the Time Machine bonus events are more journey than thrills, as you're catapulted into the past and choose your road through dinosaurs or ancient human civilizations, or are zapped into the future, where you might find yourself in a world dominated by robots.

I'm a sucker for science fiction anyway, and I loved Time Machine, just as I enjoy WMS' Adaptive Gaming introduction, Star Trek. Those who prefer more action-packed bonus rounds will prefer Dirty Harry. Between them, they show the versatility of the Sensory Immersion technology — WMS can take the line virtually anywhere.

Likewise, it seems there's little IGT can't do with its REELdepth games. REELdepth uses multi-layered screens to give a three-dimensional effect without glasses. The effect can be eye-popping, and IGT knows it, offering it up in games that give the illusion of solid spinning reels as well as in video games that can give the illusion of symbols flying off the reels.

On games including Diamond Fire, the illusion of depth makes it seem as if you're playing with spinning reels rather than on a flat video display. IGT has done all it can to make a video game look and feel like a reel spinner, right down to the clicks as the reels spin and the vibration on the button console.

But REELdepth can be configured for multigame choices, so that a player who prefers video slots could switch to Magic Butterfly on the same machine. In Magic Butterfly, the title creatures flutter around, seemingly flying in and out as well up and down. When they land on reel symbols, the symbols turn wild.

Through REELdepth, IGT can offer three, four and five-reel games on the same unit. Switching from something with all the look and feel of three mechanical reels to a five-reel video slot with 3-D animation is amazing stuff, but only the beginning.

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Beyond REELdepth, IGT offered a fun take on where technology can take us in Scavenger Hunt. There are a variety of game themes, but in each you're trying to collect specific reel symbols for bonus rewards, going on a scavenger hunt through the game. And the player doesn't have to complete the hunt in one session.

Players start by enrolling in the game, printing a bar-coded ticket. Next time you play, that bar code will identify you, and you start with your previous number of collected symbols. Collecting symbols in the hunt brings bonuses, so the ability to carry that collection forward, even at Scavenger Hunt games in a different casino, helps the player on the way to bonus rewards.

That's similar in concept to WMS first Adaptive Gaming offering, Star Trek. In Star Trek, you create an identity and password, and the next time you play, stored information is transmitted by WMS' wide-area network. You can unlock game themes as you play, and having that identity enables you to continue with previously unlocked games.

Star Trek was introduced in 2007 with three game themes. A fourth theme, The Enterprise Incident, was introduced at G2E 2008. With an entire Star Trek universe to explore, possible additions are limitless.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2008

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.