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Behind the Scenes at the WMS Gaming Booth

25 October 2005

Behind the scenes at the WMS Gaming booth at the annual Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I was awaiting my turn at Top Gun. Perhaps more than any other game at the casino industry's major fall trade show, Top Gun had a buzz about it. Word on the floor was that this was a game you had to see. Finally, it was my turn to see it.

"It's not at all noisy from behind," I was told by my WMS guide as I watched another player finish up. "It's not going to bother the other customers. They can hear the sound from the speaker in the front of the machine, but that's all."

And it was true. Standing directly behind the player's chair, I heard the theme music and jet fighter sounds from the game, based on the 1986 motion picture that starred Tom Cruise as a hot-shot pilot sent to a Navy elite flying school. The sounds were no more overpowering or intrusive than the disco music during a Jackpot Party bonus round or the tinkly "We're in the Money" that accompanies a royal flush on an IGT video poker game.

When I moved into the hot seat, it was an entirely different experience. In the back of the chair were a pair of Bose speakers, turning Top Gun into a surround-sound type of experience. The screen had a 3-D effect, and in the bonus round, I was the Top Gun, targeting bonus amounts as they flew through the air.

Bonus round triggered, I was at the controls of my jet fighter. The music and engines roaring together, I tried to zero in on the big bonuses. Zoom up. Hard left. Hard left again --- and I whooshed through a target, mounting up credits. Then hard right. Soar. Another bonus.

"Try a barrel roll," my guide urged. I touched the screen, and my plane went into a roll --- and took my senses with it. "Whoa!" I exclaimed. It was fun --- as much fun as I'd had on a slot machine bonus round in all my years of writing about gaming. This is an illusion of skill --- a random number generator sets your bonuses --- but it FEELS like you're flying the fighter.

Finally, my wild ride was over, and it was time to let someone else try their hand at being Top Gun. If you want nothing more out of a slot machine than to watch the reels spin, this one's not for you. But for those who want a little video game excitement along the way, Top Gun raises the bar.

* * *

Based in Waukegan, WMS Gaming has been building a little extra fun into its slot machines ever since the reel-spinning Piggy Bankin' became one of the first bonusing games in the mid-1990s. Top Gun is part of a big part of the fun unveiled at Global Gaming Expo, but there was plenty more in the WMS booth.

The lottery-themed Powerball puts a new twist on multi-tiered progressives. In the big bonus here, you're selecting powerballs to move up on a jackpot grid --- you can win the Red, White or Blue jackpot at the Grand, Super or Mega levels. That's nine different jackpots, and you can win all nine at once. In the initial Powerball release, there are two video games and two reel-spinners.

The latest in the Monopoly series, Monopoly Big Event, gives players a chance to win together. The base game includes themes such as Egyptian Riches, Mystical Dragon and X Marks the Spot 2, but the big bonus round is all Monopoly.

When one player gets to the bonus round, all machines in the bank that are being actively played show a Monopoly board on the screen. The dice roll, and all players advance to the same properties and collect together.

Players win different amounts because their bets act as multipliers, but everybody's rooting for good rolls and big properties together --- there's a crapslike camaraderie.

That's part of a mini-trend toward making slot play a more social experience. International Game Technology, which introduced its Wheel of Fortune Superspin at last year's expo, brought it back this year, now that it's closer to market. Nine players sit around one big wheel, and players can share a bonus spin. Each player has his or her own arrow indicator, just as on the TV show wheel, so different players will get different bonuses on the same spin.

Bally Gaming debuted a second game in its Auction Fever series, Auction Fever Estate Auction. When a player activates the round, he or she chooses items to auction, and other players bid on them by touching the screen. Buyers receive bonuses for each item they successfully buy, while the seller receives a bonus on every item sold.

Auction Fever buyers are competing to buy items, and in Wheel of Fortune Superspin, each player is hoping the big money will stop at his or her indicator. But in Monopoly Big Event, all players are hoping for the same rolls, to land on the big properties. That makes Big Event a win-together experience that so far is unique on the slots.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski