2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 5

6 January 2009

Multiple-game slot machines have been with us since 1992, when Bally Gaming introduced one of the casino industry's most important innovations: the Bally Game Maker.

At the touch of a button, players could change from game to game on a video screen, all while sitting at the same console. A three-reel slot-type game one minute, video poker the next, video keno after that.

It all seems routine 16 years later, when IGT, WMS and other manufacturers have joined Bally in offering multigame video units, and when you can change not only games but coin denominations by touching the screen.

What's not routine is the idea that the multiple-game concept could be applied to reel-spinning slots. You're stuck with the spinning reels, after all. You can't just change THOSE by pressing a button or touching a screen.

Well, it's been done by the same company that introduced the Game Maker all those years ago. Now called Bally Technologies, the longtime slotmaker introduced the Blazing 7s Multi-Slot at November's Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

The Multi-Slot features three games, with three different math models: Blazing 7s Free Spin, Blazing 7s Scatter, and Blazing 7s Wild. What changes isn't the reels, its the way the reel combinations are applied to your payoffs. Those incendiary 7s can bring you free spins on a separate set of reels in the top box, or can pay big as scatter pays in the main game, or act as wild symbols to create extra winning combinations.

Important to remember is that in modern slot machines, there's more to the reel than meets the eye. Reel-spinning slots are programmed with "virtual reels," and that each symbol or blank space on the physical reel is mapped onto the virtual reel.

Let's create a simple example — and this is me showing how it can work, not the actual way Bally has programmed a reel. Let's say the physical reel has 10 blank spaces, one triple 7, one double 7, two single 7s, one triple bar, two double bars and three triple bars — a total of 20 spaces. Now let's say the random number generator is told that whenever No. 1 comes up, to stop on the triple 7, and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to stop on the double 7, at 5-10 to stop on the single 7, at 11-15 to stop on the triple bar, at 16-25 to stop on the double bar, at 36-100 to stop on the single bar, and at 101-200 to stop on a blank space.

Instead of 20 possible outcomes for that single reel, there are 200. Instead of triple 7s showing up just as often as double 7s, the doubles now will show up three times as often as the triples. Instead of single bars turning up three times as often as triple 7s, they'll show up 65 times as often.

But that's just one way the virtual reel can be mapped. It can be mapped so that the triple 7s exist, in a virtual way, more times if you want the top jackpots or wild symbols to occur more often. It can lower the percentage of blank spaces for a frequent-hit game. Pay tables can be raised or lowered in accordance with the frequency of winners. Possibilities are practically endless.

When you spin the reels, the game is really being played on the random number generator, which then tells the reels which stops to display. That Bally has found a way to take advantage of all that to create a multi-game machine with spinning reels finds a new virtue in virtual.

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Each year at G2E, I look forward to seeing Larry DeMar, founder of Northbrook, Ill.-based Leading Edge Design. In designing games distributed by IGT, Leading Edge puts a creative twist on slot and video poker games with its Wild Tiles and Multi-Strike formats.

At this year's show, DeMar guided me to two new games. One is Cleopatra Wild Tiles, applying a classic IGT theme to the Wild Tiles format. When symbols form a winning combination, they disappear, and remaining symbols drop into the blank spaces. If new winners are formed, they also disappear, and there's a chance at still more winning combos. One column hides the letters B-O-N-U-S. If winners leave all five spaces in that column uncovered, the player advances to the bonus round.

The other Multi-Strike Triple Double Red Hot 7s was Leading Edge's second foray into applying the Multi-Strike format to a slot game. The first, Multi-Strike Triple Diamonds, was a high volatility game, giving you chances at big wins, but also fast losses. Multi-Strike Triple Double Red Hot 7s is less of a wild ride, but still more volatile than single-level games. It's a four-level Multi-Strike event, with winners on the first game bringing a second set of reels worth double the first, and so on. There are five different kinds of 7s, including the firey hot symbols, and all figure into a bonus event. All reels are stacks of 7s and multipliers, and you're hoping to match up colors and multipliers.

As a fan of Multi-Strike Poker, I always find the Leading Edge games fun, a nice option for players looking for something a little different.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2008

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