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Best of John Grochowski
New Machines from WMS Gaming31 December 2002
Bonus rounds on modern video slot machines resemble nothing so much as animated film shorts. Characters, witty dialogue, even mini-plots make the games go, and keep the customers in their seats.
These grown-up equivalents of Saturday morning cartoons need someone to organize the storyline, animation and features beyond the bare math of the awarding of a bonus. So it came as only a mild surprise at the recent Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas when Bill Wadleigh of Waukegan-based WMS Gaming told me his job title:
Wadleigh gave me a guided tour through the WMS booth at the expo, where suppliers show off their latest and greatest wares to potential customers in the gaming industry. I took a look at products from all the major slot machine manufacturers, and will give my impressions on new games over the next several weeks. At WMS, Wadleigh was enthusiastic when showing me the games that will be available soon including Ms. Pac-Man, a new version of Hollywood Squares and two new games in the Monopoly series. But Wadleigh's enthusiasm really showed when he took me into a booth within a booth, a sneak preview area for attractions WMS hopes will be ready for prime time by next summer.
There, we looked at games on the new CPU-NXT operating platform, with enhanced video, more color capability and vastly improved resolution. It's a platform that lets WMS, which has attracted creative people from Disney and other studios, really go to town with animation.
"Look at the leaves on the trees move," Wadleigh said, pointing out the background animation on one bonus round. "We've always had the great characters at WMS, and now we have the capability to really use them to best advantage. Now we can let our people really show what they can do."
Games in the behind-the-scenes area were mounted in new slot cabinets, called the "Bluebird" cabinet, another coming attraction. Wadleigh pointed out the ergonomic features of the cabinet, with space at the bottom so the player can fit knees under the machine, and with a lowered console, allowing players to rest their wrists in a more natural position.
The enhanced animation capabilities and more comfortable slot cabinet promise to be big parts of WMS' future, but that promise figures to be a year away. In the more immediate future, the company has a few twists on the way.
One twist is the new 3RV slot series--three-reel video. It seems like an odd turn for the first American company to hit it big with multiline, multicoin video slots, but WMS is trying to carve out a niche among three-reel players who are willing to try video, but who don't like the zigs and zags of the multiple paylines.
The base games on the 3RV series play just like reel-spinning slots. Some are meant to be very traditional, non-intimidating games with simple bonuses rather than the more complex second screens seen on multiline games. Others have a few more bells and whistles. Those who have played WMS reel-spinning slots with dotmation screens for bonus rounds will find a similar feel to the 3RV games. In fact, some classic WMS themes have been brought back, with Jackpot Stampede and Jackpot Party among the offerings.
I tested Jackpot Party, and played a bonus round that is shorter and simpler than the bonus on either the dotmation game or the multiline video adaptation. On the 3RV version, the player is asked to choose among three packages by pushing one of the buttons on the console next to the coin head. Once the player has pushed a button, the package opens to reveal a bonus award--a simple introduction to bonusing for reel-spinning players.
No fall gaming show would be complete without new multiline video games from WMS--that's were the company has really made its reputation, with games including Reel 'Em In, Off the Charts, Cash Crop, Winning Bid, Hollywood Squares and the Monopoly series. This year's new games include the pirate-themed X Marks the Spot; Toast of the Town, where the bonus round asks the player to find the best champagne offered by a snooty French waiter, and Roll Credits, in which players collect bonuses by chosing among an unlikely looking group of credits to review strange-sounding films.
Name-brand games include Ms. Pac-Man, following up on the success of the Pac-Man slots earlier this year, a new Hollywood Squares game called The Center Square, and new Monopoly games called Free Parking and Hot Properties. I spent the most time with Free Parking, which features three bonus rounds. In the Railroad Crossing bonus, players touch a symbol on the main screen to reveal a bonus. The Parking Meter bonus brings five free spins, and when coins appear on the reels to feed the meters, bonuses multiply. The Free Parking bonus goes to a second screen, where players choose parking spaces. Cars then pull into the lot, and the fancier the cars that park in the chosen spaces, the bigger the bonus.
Let the fun times roll, and get ready for bigger and better things when the new system debuts next year.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski