Short on Slots – Gladiators

Digital Painting

Articles to come:
More on Hierarchy
Mobile First
Better Anticipation
Fast localisation of Graphical text.
and more…

The Why

Everyone thinks they can design art for slots – and many companies treat the art process separately from the rest of development – either reskinning existing games or making Art packs by theme and (maybe) using them once the right feature has been decided on by the product team.
In my opinion, this is detrimental to the overall player experience.

Yes, these are gambling games so ultimately if the math and features are attractive to the player and (s)he has an enjoyable experience then it’s entirely possible that an ugly game can go on to be a great success. What I propose here is that the art needs to attract the player initially (good quality assets for the marketing team) and relate the math and features to the player – if the player needs to refer to the info pages (paytable) then chances are something isn’t quite right in the design.

Launch Icon

Here you can see a screenshot from the Sky Casino and Casumo sites. When a game is created they are usually accompanied by a marketing pack – unfortunately, the studio doesn’t always have control of what images are used by the licensee (Sky). It’s often up to individuals within the studio to try to pressure the licensee to replace or improve these launch Icons.
Studios often create bespoke assets for top tier licensees but that doesn’t mean they will get used. In the case of many of these games, there will be bespoke 2 line versions of the logo – yet looking at games like Pharaoh’s Treasure and Murder Mystery, these logo’s are barely legible.

We’ll be looking at these 2 gladiator games in a little more depth. The launch icons – both quite poor – are similar. The one of the left just being slightly better as it has the character silhouette. Players familiar with the film should recognise this as the main character and generally – having characters is more appealing. Note, however, that having a character on launch icons is often discouraged – there are a number of reasons for this, for example, legislation around the potential of being accused of marketing to under 18s. The game on the right is called Gladiator Road to Rome – there is a variant of this logo where you can read the sub-title – and that variant should have been used. As it stands, a player could think this is a rip-off.

Gladiators do battle

The aim of good slot design should be to relate the math model and features to the player. If players need to go to the info (help) pages to understand the game then you’ve missed the mark.
In an ideal world, we would know the math models of the games so we can understand what the producer had in mind – what sort of hit frequency we’re looking at and the volatility.

Looking at Gladiators paytable we can see that there is a noticeable hierarchy in the symbols with Commodus being 5000x payout for 5 of a kind. Followed by Lucilla at 1000x a significant but not uncommon dip and Graccus a 3rd less again.

The Royal symbols also have quite an internal hierarchy however it can be argued that considering the payouts on royals is not very significant that they can be pushed back visually to let other symbols have more prominence.

Focussing on the character symbols and the hierarchy or in this case the lack of. If you look at the in-game screenshot you can see that if anything Proximo (Oliver Reed) has the most noticeable symbol with his dark turban framing the face – making the symbol noticeable even during the spin. He also has the strongest silhouette, is slightly zoomed in (largest face) and breaks the inner square of the symbol most – at the shoulders but also on the left with the turban.

Commodus, the supposed highest paying symbol, shares practically the same colour as one of the lowest paying characters. The picture chosen is not ideal his expression is not attractive, he’s collapsing in on himself making him seem smaller than he is.

Anyone familiar with the film will wonder where Russell Crowes’ Maximus is. Not unsurprisingly he’s not part of the licence. The other two key icons the scatter and Wild are altogether disappointing. Clearly the wild relates to the Gladiator character but the entire symbol is an uninspiring grey. Wild symbols substitute for all other symbols and in this came also enter you into the jackpot bonus so this should be a symbol that really attracts the player. The same goes with the scatter – if you absolutely need to write the word scatter on the symbol to convey it’s important then it’s not good enough.

These issues are not helped by the transparent reel and very large royals.
The quick fixes I would make; Resize the symbols to show hierarchy, scale down all the royals. Address the colouring of the symbols – you don’t always have to have a Warm (high) cold (low) hierarchy in colour so here we can mute the lower symbols and royals (browns and greys). I will assume for the moment that there were no other usable shots of Commodus – we’ll change his colour to a Royal Purple (increased size of the character and breaking more of the frame). Wild will be gold. I would also change the shape of the scatter – perhaps a circle or ovoid extending into the symbols above and below (this would allow better near misses as well).
As you can see now – it’s much clearer that the Purple Commodus symbol and the Wild are the most important symbols – the scatter would still need the proposed work done.

This is the Gladiator Road to Rome game – as you can see from the images the same source files were used and at first glance there a number of the same issues. We can surmise that there wasn’t a lot of option then re. character assets.

Again having a look at the paytable show that in this case, the character payouts are much closer together ranging from 500x to 250x for 5 of a kind vs 5000x to 250x in the other Gladiator game. There are also fewer characters and one of the characters has the visor down – making him less human and thus lower in the hierarchy. The big difference here is that the main character from the film is present as the top paying symbol and it will turn Wild if landed fully. This is clearly the most important base game symbol when it comes to payouts. The means that the other character hierarchy becomes less important – as long as they are clearly subservient to the gladiator symbol the art functions. Compare that with the first Gladiator game and you might think that Commodus (the Emperor) symbol is what you are looking for to score the bigger wins.

Notwithstanding that the art in Road to Rome is simply more modern and better, there additional consideration to the symbols is noticeable -take the scatter and bonus symbols. The scatter symbol is a bespoke piece of art not reliant on the limited film assets and with the reduced number of symbols the colour blue has been freed up to use. With the Bonus symbol, the frames present in both games are broken by the helm. In addition, you notice the character symbol frames dip inwards where the scatter and bonus frame protrude outwards – these touches add depth that is lacking in the first game and once again help with the legibility and hierarchy of the game.

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