Game design is evolving, but innovative new approaches must always be built on solid foundations, says Dustin Bozovich, Design Works Gaming’s game design manager.
I’ve spent more than a decade designing games for casinos in the land-based, social and online spaces. During this time, what has become increasingly clear to me is while both the art and the science of building engaging casino content is changing, it continues to be guided by the same core principles.
We’ve been following three of these principles at DWG for 16 years now and they’ve helped score us countless hits across multiple channels and markets.
Experiment to Innovate
At DWG, we focus on creating an environment which rewards experimentation. There are a few steps to this approach. At the core of it is the validation of new concepts.
We operate several social casinos, which allows us to test our games on real players without having to jump through the usual hoops required for a RMG release.
This is a powerful form of confirmation. Normal in-house testing of a title simply doesn’t compare with the information and data acquired from putting a game in front of thousands of genuine casino players. It gives us the freedom to take risks and try new things, knowing we can very quickly get a good idea of whether the concept is worth pursuing.
And it has worked both ways for us in the past. We’ve quickly scaled up new concepts for RMG releases based upon social casino data, and we’ve also thrown a few ideas in the trash before committing serious resources to under-performing concepts.
Innovation is also critical when it comes to approaching new challenges as markets change and mature. For instance, we’re currently looking closely at titles which can engage and cross-sell with sports bettors in regulated US jurisdictions. These customers may not be traditional slots players, so we continue to experiment with new concepts they may find more appealing.
There’s often no single solution to this, but rather an ongoing process where our content evolves to match the preferences of our customers.
Keep Things Simple
A part of my day-to-day involves the regular review of upcoming games.
I’m always watching for red flags, and more often than not, these take the form of anything that might confuse the player and make their experience less enjoyable.
It may be a symbol which doesn’t correctly associate with a payout, confusing messaging or an overcomplicated mechanic. My rule of thumb is if I can’t figure out a game within 20 or so spins, it probably isn’t going to find a significant audience.
This ‘keep things simple’ mantra extends to the design process more generally. There’s always a temptation to add bells and whistles to a game, particularly as technology improves and we have the means to deliver additional features. But time and time again, I find stripping things back often creates a stronger product.
Don’t Assume Anything
I may have spent more than a decade building games, but I don’t pretend to have all the answers. As with anything in life, our gut can sometimes mislead us. I’ve seen games I was convinced would be winners that fail to sparkle, while others I hadn’t given much thought to be successful.
The relative success of different game themes can be particularly difficult to predict, with certain themes going in and out of fashion.
There’s no shortcut and building blockbuster slots may never be easy, but what we can do is approach the challenge with open minds, a willingness to try new things and an understanding of the data. Only then will the process of game design become just a little less of a gamble.