I spent my second semester doing a co-op at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment in Phoenix, Arizona, as a content designer for the never released Stargate Worlds MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game). My intention was to stay with Cheyenne Mountain through my 3rd and final semester to finish the game. However, as the start of the 3rd semester approached, it became clear that the studio was in financial collapse (we hadn’t been paid in many weeks) and I decided to head back to the ETC.
Because it was so close to the beginning of the semester, all of the project teams had already been assigned. I would be attached to an existing project team. I came to the administrators and asked to be placed on the team which was most in need of help. I didn’t want to burden an existing successful team with an extraneous member, and thought the best way to learn and grow would be to work on a project that was in trouble.
There was one team that had just lost its producer to a late arriving co-op opportunity and I jumped at the chance to fill in. This was my first time leading such a large team for so long and I knew it would be a great chance to test my mettle.
The project was for a client sponsor, WMS Gaming, a leading manufacturer of slot machines for casinos. This was something that I had very little interest in or knowledge of, but again, a great opportunity to learn. WMS was looking for us to develop some innovations for their products that would attract more players to their machines and keep them at the slots for a longer period of time.
We needed to do some research to understand how players choose which slot machines they want to play at and how long to stay. We visited some local casinos in Pennsylvania and even made an excursion to Atlantic City, armed with surveys and notepads.
Atlantic City casinos aren’t exactly the most conducive places to conduct research for a wide variety of reasons, but we made it back to Pittsburgh with some much needed insights into the collective brain of our target audience. We determined that almost all of the cues that help a person determine what machines to play and how long to stay are subconscious.
This fact was very helpful in driving our design decisions. Our goal was to create the shiniest, flashiest slot machine bank on the whole casino floor: something that would appeal to the gambler’s subconscious. Our two main innovations were A) an immersive light symphony that lit up the whole bank of slot machines and B) a communal, co-operative progressive jackpot minigame that took full advantage of the lighting. You can see it below:
Every feature we implemented was intended to create the largest spectacle possible. The communal aspects meant that the machines were always flashing and dancing, enticing players from all over the casino floor. It also meant that success from a neighboring machine might entice you to stick around a bit longer. I drew up plans and built three wooden slot cabinets to house our final design. I also acted as the producer and lead designer of the project.
Overall the project was very successful. The client loved the end result. In fact, they loved it so much that these innovations are now on casino floors, being used in WMS’s BluebirdXD platform.