How Does a Slot Machine Come Together?

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Peter Post, Senior Director, Content MLP at IGT, stands in front of Mystery of the Lamp
Peter Post, Senior Director, Content MLP at IGT, stands in front of Mystery of the Lamp

As players, we often play a variety of different slot machine games as we move about the casino. Sometimes, we get pulled in by certain games and are curious: How do they come together?

One game that has captured our attention in recent months is Mystery of the Lamp. This multi-level progressive game from IGT features a “three-pot” bonus mechanic (in this case three lamps) that upgrades the Lock & Respin bonus in various ways, depending on the theme. With the various upgrades working independently and together, each bonus has a different trajectory, keeping the game fun and exciting. And different upgrades appear on each theme of the series, layering on some additional variations.

How does such a game go from an idea to the casino floor? Recently, we had an opportunity to visit IGT’s Las Vegas office and meet with Peter Post, Senior Director, Content MLP. Post oversees the development of the various multi-level progressive titles IGT releases each year, including Mystery of the Lamp, and as such was a great resource to consult for today’s article.

He has spent a remarkable 25 years at IGT and its predecessor companies, starting as a game producer and sound designer, and has evolved with the industry and the times. Today he isn’t directly involved in day-to-day development, but the knowledge he learned along the way continues to be employed as game series like Mystery of the Lamp come together.

Three Pots, Different Bonus Structure

Mystery of the Lamp by IGT double active

The nucleus of the idea for Mystery of the Lamp started with something familiar – a three pot format – but aimed to approach it from a different direction.

“Games with multiple pots are out there,” Post said. “But at the time, there were none that led to three different Lock & Respins. There are no free games technically in Mystery of the Lamp. I think taking that three-pot mechanic and saying, ‘How can that become a gateway to different Lock & Respins?’ It leads you down the road of: What can they be, and what are the features? So I think that was the impetus.”

Leveraging something with which players are familiar, and moving it forward in new ways, is not unusual in the development of slots. He noted this was the case for Mystery of the Lamp, saying “We have an innovation piece, we wrap it in the safety of something that players know and trust and like, and that’s where a game like Mystery of the Lamp comes from.” 

In the case of the familiar, it’s the ability to have three growing objects, each linked to an upgrade. The new is the upgrading of the Lock & Respin bonus instead of a free spin bonus. And since there’s only the Lock & Respin bonus, the money that the game pays out isn’t spread out over a bunch of different bonus types.

Different Upgrades for Different Themes

Mystery of the Lamp by IGT all three activated

Another unique aspect of Mystery of the Lamp, unlike other pot game series that tend to have the same pot upgrades on each theme, features two fresh upgrades for each theme (with the Jackpot upgrade being consistent across all themes). This helps to not only diversify the game series themes but keep the series fresh for players.

“One of the things I like about Mystery of the Lamp and how the development has progressed is we pick two features that complement each other,” Post said. “What I like about all of the Mystery of the Lamp [themes] is that they all have a nice balance of that, where the features work well together. That’s a key part of the game to me.”

For instance, the Treasure Oasis theme features an Ignite and a Double upgrade. With Ignite, the upgrade will select a locked coin and every respin, add credits to it. The Double upgrade selects locked coins and doubles the value. When you have a scenario where a coin that has already been Ignited, has been growing, and now gets a Double, the potential win grows very quickly.

Of course, because bonuses can be triggered with just one upgrade, they need to be able to stand on their own as well, and so that’s a core goal of the series development. “The two features are cool on their own,” he said, “but they complement each other and don’t step on each other, functionally or mathematically.”

Having the perfect pairing of upgrades that can come together in a unique and fun way is a key aspect to making Mystery of the Lamp a success.

“You want features that are cool on their own,” Post said, “because most often you’re going to get them on their own. But when they combine, they combine in a new way. We talk about that as game depth”. 

“If you play a game, and you put $200 in a game, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen the feature, I’m done, there’s no reason to get excited.’ But if there are layers of depth where you’re like ‘I’ve never seen it with this, how does it act with this?’ That to me makes a game that has legs and stays, because it’s always a new game.”

Looking Beyond Progressives

Mystery of the Lamp by IGT Maxi jackpot winner

While Post’s role is overseeing games with multi-level progressives, and they are certainly present here, the progressives aren’t necessarily as emphasized in this series vs. other link- style games. He says this is by design.

“There was a lot of discussion in the studios about: ‘Does a link game have to be all about the progressives?’“ he said. “This one’s not. They’re in there, and you’re playing for them, but it’s not the whole identity of the game. It’s OK to be able to branch out and still include a link, still include progressives that are linked, and standalone, and everything else. But the core of what makes the game cool is something else, and this is kind of an added bonus.”

Another change that this series made over other link-style games with a Lock & Respin type element was the way the progressives are awarded. Instead of just landing on the reels and taking a spot, Mystery of the Lamp has you collecting gems that collect and award jackpots when three are collected. They then open up the space for more credit prizes and gems to land.

Room for the Series to Grow

When IGT releases a new game that can be linked, they traditionally launch with two themes, which was the case for Mystery of the Lamp, as well as other games in their library like Prosperity LinkTM Video Slots. If a game is successful, they’re able to follow up with other themes with their own unique twists.

When a game team is developing the series, Post said, “that team will have a notebook with several other kinds of iterations in their back pocket. If the first two do well, we get to work on 3 and 4. It makes their life easier. The feature has to have a long enough runway to be able to iterate [more themes]. They do that when they do the first ones. We’re ready when the follow ups are needed.”

Part of the reason for doing this work upfront is to make sure the series will have legs. If not, Post noted, perhaps it should be a one-off game vs. a series, for instance.

Each theme is designed to be unique, but not fall too far out of line with what players expect from the series. He said, “If you’re inside of a game family, we try and mix it up a little bit so when a new game shows up, you go ‘I haven’t tried that one, that’s a little bit different.’ But I don’t think they’d be radically different. If you want something radically different, you’d go play something else.”

Magic on a New Cabinet

In some ways, Mystery of the Lamp is leveraging a historically common theme at a time when others aren’t taking advantage of it. Right now, Post said, “A lot of games are looking the same. There are obviously exceptions. When you look down the [industry top lists], when you look down the games, there’s a lot of similar theming, a lot of similar colors.”

Mystery of the Lamp, effectively, zags while everyone zigs. “A lot of it I think was it is a bit of fresh air on the floor. That theme has been around forever. But in the current floor, with a lot of red, the purple pops. It really does turn your eye. I think that’s a big part of it.”

Because Post oversees the development of several games at one time, he can make sure the core needs are being met, while also playing with some other ideas too. “If I do 10, 12 games a year, I want to make sure I hit all the high notes,” he said. “But there’s a couple of things in there that are special, that kind of fly against the grain but not in a bad way, so that my portfolio is varied. This just happened to resonate.”

Part of the ability for the game to stand out is the new PeakCurveTM49 cabinet. While Mystery of the Lamp wasn’t initially developed to launch on the cabinet, the pairing of the game and cabinet proved to be an eye-catching combination.

“When we independently saw Mystery of the Lamp coming together and the PeakCurve coming together, we kind of went, oh these things are kind of meant for each other,” he said. “Just the way that lighting is, and the purple shines off the metal, it’s like that game was made for that cabinet. It was kind of the perfect marriage.”

Sounds About Right

For Post, who started as a sound designer and has worked in media like radio, the sound on slot machines is not a throwaway, but indeed a critical aspect. We hear from many of you players who agree – and like you he won’t play a slot without sound either. “Sound is crucially important. If I walk up to a machine where the sound doesn’t work, I won’t play. That’s not the full experience to me.”

Part of this comes from his experience working on sounds and overcoming the challenges of communicating about sound with non-sound experts, he said. “When you talk to a producer, who is kind of the lynchpin of the organization, they’re the center spoke in how a game is made, they can talk to an artist and they can say yeah, I need less blue or I need that to be taller or the nose is wrong. 

“A lot of them don’t have the lexicon to talk about sound. Part of being a sound designer is to pull that out and interpret from someone without the right terms what you really need. It’s like a crystal ball. It’s kind of fun.”

For Mystery of the Lamp specifically, part of the sound package is around giving the genie a moment to shine too. “She has a personality, right? That is important. Games should have their own personality and audio adds a great part of that. That’s the whole package. The visuals are great. There’s no misunderstanding of what’s going on. The audio helps tie it together.”

About That 120 Credit Bet

One thing we saw on the game that caught our eye was that after 80 credits, the bet shifts to 120 credits next. This isn’t something you see often on games, but Post said this was by design, and players may not realize how much time and thought goes into bet levels.

“I think part of it is that we want to let every player have the access to the wagers they’re comfortable with,” he said. “Double 80 [credits] is a bit of a jump for some people. 120 is a little softer of a landing. If someone wants to wager a bit more, but they don’t want to quite go higher, we want to give them that kind of comfort zone. And that goes for all up the denom board as well.”

He added, “You want to make sure that depending on someone’s comfort level, depending on their budget, depending on how much time they want to spend, they can find the bet levels that will allow them to choose their own play experience. So, I think it’s all about comfort and serving the player.”

One Last Thing…

Is there a cheat code slot developers have that give them an edge in the casino? Post quipped, “I don’t know we’d be talking this way if I knew!”

The actual answer is, of course, no – and it’s proven by the fact that Post and other IGT developers can go to the casinos and try their own games on the casino floor. “I have as much of a chance to win when I play as you do,” he said. And, as many of them are players at heart too, they do like to see what’s out there, and, with games like Mystery of the Lamp, see how they can keep pushing slot machine concepts forward in new and exciting ways.

Share Your Questions

We thank Peter Post for his time and expertise to help us put together this article, as well as our partner IGT for the opportunity to visit their offices to have this conversation.

We invite players to send in their own questions for future conversations, as well as for answering in our You Asked! Section. Click here to find the form where you can submit your own questions!

And to learn where you can play Mystery of the Lamp, check out IGT’s website for locations near you. While there you can also learn more about how the game series works! 

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