Styles & Techniques: The Overarching Principles of Online Game Design

Do you remember the days when ‘bedroom coders’ were a thing? No? Wow, I really am getting old aren’t I! In the early 1980s, the most popular gaming platforms were the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum, both of which had an avid group of devoted one-man coders that would regularly sell their work to the big software houses for a few hundred pounds.

It’s sad to say it, but those days are without a doubt long gone – today, video games are produced by huge teams – sometimes hundreds of people! One exception to this is online casino games, which are much simpler than a modern AAA title. For example, many online casinos offer a wide variety of simple slot machines – take the games offered in this 32red spins promotion, for example – how is it that these types of games can still be created by relatively small teams, perhaps even a single person? Let’s find out!

The Key Differences Between Online Club Games & Video Games

The headline of note here is simply skill vs chance – a game that requires skill to progress clearly requires much more thought, work, and time to map out – you need to make the game long enough for players to feel satisfied when they reach the end of it! Furthermore, a good skill-based game will include elements to reward the best players; Find all the secrets on a level? Boost his score! Kill every bad guy? Give him an achievement for being badass!

Now compare such a paradigm to that of a game wholly based around the outcomes generated by a random number generator (RNG). Most slots consist of just two screens/modes – the base game, and the bonus round. There isn’t really a need for a great deal of levels, although some games such as Gemix and Cloud Quest have made strides at incorporating level-progressing gameplay into their titles. 

But here’s the thing – whilst the prospect of winning money undeniably creates an addictive game loop, video gamers spend far more time on their consoles each week than slot players do spinning at online casinos. What is it that slot developers can learn from their counterparts over at the video game software houses? 

There’s another key factor here too – video games require practice, whereas everybody who plays slots has the same chance of winning regardless of their previous experience of the game – if any. A seasoned video slot player will probably be able to figure out the interface, layout, and mechanics, within seconds. Now take that same player and sit him down in front of R-Type Final 2. I promise you he won’t reach the end of the first level – or anywhere close to it!

How Slots & Online Video Game Makers Have Borrowed Each Other’s Ideas

The creators of both slots and video games have borrowed plenty of ideas from one another over the past four decades – a trend that is sure to continue well into the future! Take user interface design, for example; the first online slots created by Microgaming in the late 90’s offered some of the worst user experience elements that will ever exist! Unnecessary buttons, confusing terms, slow gameplay, and worst of all – no mention of your real-world odds (RTP) to be found anywhere. 

Thankfully, the major slot developers got their acts together at some point and started taking inspiration from the videogame industry – a place where dedicated UI and UX personnel are a must. The vast majority of slot machines available on the web today are well designed, boast excellent presentation, and – thank the lord – display all of the most important vital statistics clearly in their rules or pay table sections.

The improvements that slots have lent to the video game industry have been hugely successful with players, yet in terms of sheer revenue, they haven’t got anything on the video game developers. Many AAA video games now include a “loot box” system – sometimes displayed in a slot machine format. You pay real money to purchase in-game currency, and this then allows you to purchase a loot box. The contents of the box are decided by RNG, just like a slot machine… but there is one key difference here; you can’t withdraw your money back out of a videogame should you be disappointed with the contents of your box!

The Future

There’s an obvious ‘gotcha’ with respect to slots and video games continuing to move closer together in terms of gameplay, features, and content. Video games are widely enjoyed by minors, whilst slot machines are clearly unsuitable for persons of that age. 

Some video game makers are already leading the way by hiding such features from players whose account shows that they are under 18. If regulators have their way, that mechanic is sure to be the bare minimum in terms of protection in video games with gambling-based elements.

But here’s the best thing – no matter how similar the two categories eventually become, there will always be a need for both of them! A few quick slot spins can take a couple of minutes, whilst making your way through the latest game in the Zelda franchise is sure to require dozens of hours of gameplay. 

That difference alone guarantees that we’ll be seeing both video games and video slots for decades to come!

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