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G2E 2007, Part 1: To Boldly Go Where No Slotmaker Has Gone Before

4 December 2007

By John Grochowski

Slot machine technology is an expanding frontier. And WMS Gaming, with headquarters in Waukegan and a design lab in Chicago, has taken on a mission: To explore new technology. To create strange new game themes. To boldly go where no slotmaker has gone before.

Melodramatic? Certainly. But WMS has long been an innovator, and certainly has added drama to the unfolding capabilities of slot machines as they become more and more like the kinds of games you'd play on your PS3 or Xbox.

The latest innovation is called Adaptive Gaming, and the game developed to introduce the line is Star Trek. Introduced to the casino industry at the annual Global Gaming Expo Nov. 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Star Trek lets you warp through space with Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise in search of jackpots and bonuses.

Slot manufacturers have been mining pop culture for game themes for years, and while Star Trek is a particularly powerful and attractive brand, it's not the theme alone that makes this game innovative and fresh. For one thing, it incorporates some of the Sensory Immersion line introduced last year, with a special Bose speaker-equipped slot chair.

The important step for Adaptive Gaming is that it allows players to unlock games within the game of Star Trek --- and to save their place for future play. Star Trek is really three games in one, starting with the initial theme, Explore New Worlds. In the game's animated bonus rounds, players can earn medals. Acquiring 50 medals unlocks a second theme, The Trouble With Tribbles. When that's unlocked, the game theme, graphics, video and animation change, and the player can choose to play the fresh theme.

And when the player earns 50 medals in The Trouble With Tribbles, a third theme, Trek Through Time, is unlocked.

What if you don't play long enough to unlock a new theme? You can save your place. Choose a Star Trek character and create a screen name, and you can enter the information next time you play. If you've earned a dozen medals before you go, you'll still have a dozen medals the next time you play. And if you've unlocked The Trouble With Tribbles, it'll still be unlocked whenever you next enter your character and name.

Not only will your information be held and available, it'll be available wherever you play, even at a different casino. Your character and screen name will be linked to different casinos via WMS' wide-area link, the same technology that links jackpots in different casinos. So if you've been playing Star Trek in the Orleans and want to give it a try in the Las Vegas Hilton later on, you'll be able to pick right up where you left off.

Star Trek was one of the stars of the show at Global Gaming Expo, but WMS also did some impressive work in consolidating the product lines introduced at last year's G2E. Transmissive Reels, mechanical reels fronted by clear glass that also can display a video image, have been popular in the Monopoly Super Money Grab game that debuted in 2006. This time around, WMS extended the product line with John Wayne and Bruce Lee themes. Sensory Immersion gaming, an all-senses explosion enabled in part by the Bose-equipped chairs for surround sound, has wowed players with the initial Top Gun game. At G2E 2007, WMS showed off two very different games in the line, with the Wizard of Odds, a gentle journey in which players collect characters and follow the classic storyline, and the wilder ride of Dirty Harry.

Among the new Community Gaming options was Press Your Luck, based on the old TV game show. As in Monopoly Big Event, WMS' first Community Gaming entry, Press Your Luck gives players a chance to win together in a shared bonus round. But there's a difference. One player is randomly selected to stop the moving light on a ring of multipliers on the huge plasma display overhead. A big multiplier makes the player a hero to the crowd, for wins on the ensuing free spins are multiplied by that amount. A small multiplier … well, expect some groans.

One I really liked in the Community Gaming line was Bigger Bang Big Event, which plays off the Piggy Bankin' games that were successful for WMS a decade ago. Bigger Bang combines Community Gaming and Transmissive Reels. That's especially fun in a bonus round called The Pigs Take Over. A whole screen full of pigs squeal on the overhead plasma screen, then drop onto the Transmissive Reels at each slot machine. Pigs surround the reels, and take orders from a top pig to add wild symbols or stop the reels.

Bigger Bang Big Event has a competitive element, too. In a pig race played out on the plasma, you can choose your own racer. If I have Cleopigtra and you have McArthur Pork, we're rooting for different results. Community Gaming, WMS is saying, doesn't always have to be winning together. Sometimes it's a trek of a different kind.

G2E 2007, Part 1: To Boldly Go Where No Slotmaker Has Gone Before is republished from GamingMeets.com.
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, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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