«We’re hedging a big bet with our unique multiplayer slots coming in 2023» — Interview with G.Games’ slot developer
Our editors continue the series of interviews with key figures in the casino, gambling, and online gambling industry. Today’s story focuses on Richie O., a game designer at G.Games. In just 5 years, a recent university graduate has grown into a key developer at one of the most popular slot providers. We talk about his line of work, how ideas for new games are born, how software for online casinos is created, and what new products can be expected from the studio in the near future.
― How long have you been working at G.Games? Did you have any experience in creating slots for other studios before you joined this company?
― I first started my journey with G 5 years ago now, joining the company at the tail end of 2017. Previous to that, I started fresh out of University working as a slots frontend developer for UK-based Intouch Games.
― Could you please tell me how ideas for such extraordinary plots are created? What does your muse look like?
― Being quite a creative and driven person, the hard part is not coming up with ideas, but rather compiling them in a way that fits the purpose or vision of the product. When it comes to game design, everything we do has a player-first mindset – from math, mechanics, and beyond we’re there to make sure every single spin is earned. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a player helps us learn many lessons.
― One of the unobvious things about your slots is the excellent harmony between the visuals and the sounds. How closely do the slot designers work with the music and sound designers at G.Games? What is done first – the music or the design? Or does the work go in parallel?
― Our talented audio team thrives on having a set of game assets to get their magic working. It acts as a visual guide and is the perfect kickstarter to get their creativity flowing. Once we have both together in a game build it is then where we spend quite a bit of time fine-tuning the experience. So, more briefly, the design is done first, then more intensely collaborative at the end.
― Today, it seems that there are no new themes left in the slots. But each new release by G.Games proves otherwise. How many unique ideas do you still have in store?
― We are never short of unique ideas. It’s always a balance of risk and rewards coupled with internal goals and capabilities. For now, we’re hedging a big bet with our unique multiplayer slots coming in 2023, though I can’t go into any further detail about that at the moment.
― What fears torment a slot designer? Is it a creative crisis or something like that? Maybe players’ indifference? Or something else?
― I think you have to be clear and stay true to your target audience when designing a game. You can’t make a game that appeals to everyone, but at the same time, it’s important to (but not always) appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Besides that, sudden deadlines! Whilst uncommon, these for sure can be a tormenting factor when it comes to getting product out the door.
― Let’s talk a bit about your team. Do you have an informal atmosphere or is it a highly working and subordinate relationship?
― I don’t think it can get much more informal. Everyone is a doer, not a manager. We don’t have authoritarian hierarchies (natural and evolving hierarchies are fine) but we believe in expertise and have high trust in one another.
― Can anybody submit an idea for a new slot? Or does everything go to plan according to the management’s idea?
― Yes, we welcome anyone in the company to submit ideas for games. Whilst the majority never really make it anywhere, some contain innovative ideas or useful shreds of information we sometimes develop further which turn out to be incredibly beneficial – In short, we’re an open book!
― What slot that you created is the one you are most proud of? Why that one?
― I am most proud of our Fishing Trawler slot. That game for me ticks all the boxes from its next-gen visuals, innovative multiplier reel fishing, big bonus mechanics, and its increased freespin randomness. It really is (completely unbiased) head and shoulders above its competitors in the fishing space. But don’t take my word for it, the proof is in the playing.
― Do you play in a casino? If so, what’s your biggest success?
― I do enjoy my time playing in online casinos recreationally nowadays. The thrill of the ride when you’re on top is a feeling like no other. I once turned a £5 free casino bet into over £6000 liquid balance during one blackjack session which was crazy. At the exact same time, I lost £3000 in a single spin of European roulette. Gamble responsibly folks!
― Many of your slots are considered real hits. Tell me, do you expect worldwide success with slots like these, or is it a nice surprise for you to get such acclaim?
― Everyone has their good and bad games. Generally speaking the more effort we put into a game, in the form of revisions across the board, the more we might expect to get out of it in terms of performance or acclaim. It is important to note however that this is not always true, and can be quite the rabbit hole. Knowing when to stop hammering away and move on is equally important for longer-term success.
― Do you look at your competitors’ slots when you develop your own designs? Or do they always come from your mind?
― It’s a mixed bag. There are so many slots being released these days it’s difficult to stay completely up to date with the latest & greatest new releases. But absolutely, if I stumble across a feature or something that is really appealing, I may try and make that work for us in some way, shape, or form. We’re all fighting for the same thing here, so long as players’ demand for something is there we’ll do our best to accommodate.
― In your subjective opinion, what makes G.Games slots better than the others? Why do users choose you?
― It’s important to be realistic and realize that whilst we have some good slots, we are far from being better than everyone, and to own what we have. There are many reasons why I think players choose (and don’t choose) us, but let me tell you a little about one of them; our math. We focus quite heavily on rewarding the average player, and our mathematicians constantly battle to retain ‘achievable’ high prize odds as opposed to some enormously ‘sky-high’ hit rates I have seen in some of the similar games to our own.
We’re also normally quite generous when it comes to RTP, at the time of releasing our ‘book-of’ it was the highest, and still remains one of the highest RTP games of its type at 96.5%.
― Who do you personally consider as your main competitor?
― There are many markets that each come with their own competitive challenges, but in the main, the crew at Pragmatic seem to be doing a great job.
― Is there anything special in the near future? Does the company have a unique release? Care to share an insight?
― We are cranking slots up a gear by layering a really innovative, fun, and unique multiplayer element on top. It’s mostly under wraps for now, but soon you’ll hear all about it!
― How is the design adapted to smartphones? Is this your job or are the developers doing it?
― On quite a lot of our games, the layout of the game will reposition depending on the position you’re holding your smartphone in a way that feels most natural, particularly useful for critical elements like the spin button. In most cases, this is spec’d out at the design stage.
― What are the most common challenges for a slot designer?
― Getting the game to ‘feel right’ is one of the most important aspects when it comes to making slots and so what appeals to a player, and understanding what they stand to experience during an average session is of critical importance. Splitting down RTP, allocating it across various features, balancing hit rates, and so on is the key to a successful game. Imagine a book-of game where the expanding symbols could never actually be a higher paying symbol – volatility and excitement killed. We want to retain players for as long as possible & keep them engaged with clever math.
― Does it happen that you do not have time to complete the work on time? How does the boss react?
― Very early on when we first started making slots, at times we narrowly avoided missing release dates which we all felt the heat from. Thankfully we learned on our feet (though it did take a few near-misses!) and now have a clear-cut production process set up that we still strive to improve. Collaboration is key – we believe that as great as everyone may be individually, together we can achieve more than we could alone.
― When creating a slot design, do you take into account the peculiarities of the market? Are people’s preferences different in different countries?
― Yes, demand in markets differ & we do our best to understand our customer. In Germany for example old school is very much alive with strong demand for fruit games in particular and land-based casino classics – something we specifically acknowledged and targeted with several of our higher profile fruits games, like Cheeky Fruits 6, and we have enjoyed a bit of success by doing so. It doesn’t stop at theme though – we take into consideration things like average starting bankroll as well as dive further into player demographics, etc.
― Imagine that I am a designer, but have never worked in gambling. How can I get a job at G.Games?
― Interestingly the vast majority of staff at G had never worked in gambling before, so the majority of people here have probably asked themselves that same question. There are so many ways in which we can be better. If you are highly adept in your field and can demonstrate that you can deliver value then your best first move is to apply directly via the G.Games website.
― What are the prospects for a designer in the gambling industry? Are there opportunities for growth?
― A good designer is highly sought after. A track record of successful games can lead to renowned status within the industry and may open the door to many opportunities to enhance your career.
― Is there such a thing as a routine in the work of a slot designer? Or are all tasks always different?
― Every slot is made up of a number of key components that all require direction or input in some way, shape, or form from feature design, math balancing, engine work, and artwork concept through to delivery, audio, frontend build reviews, localisation, and testing. Typically you’ll be guiding a number of games through these stages at any one time, overcoming problems and keeping the wheels turning.
― We are always interested in predictions about the future of the gambling industry. Will you share yours? What global trends can we expect in the next 10-15 years?
― The future is multiplayer. A social experience as well as just gambling.
― Before we say goodbye, would you like to wish something to our readers?
― I appreciate you taking the time to read a little about what it takes to make slots here at G Games. Whilst my knowledge is not infinite, I do hope there was at least one useful piece of reading. One final piece of advice, you win or you learn!