Inside Battle Slots: Game Designer Bryan VanDaele
April 18, 2011
Hello Battle Slots Players! My name is Bryan VanDaele, and I am the Lead Designer of Battle Slots. I’m here to talk to you about the serious topic of Botox addiction. More and more people today are spending their hard-earned money on endless injections of Botox. Sure, Botox can create incredibly smooth and wrinkle free skin, but sooner or later you’ll end up with that scary huge-lipped frozen face that everyone runs away from screaming in terror. I’m just trying to help…be happy with how you look, let those wrinkles shine through, and don’t give in to the Botox pressure.
Okay, enough about that. I’m sure you’re all chomping at the bit with anticipation to hear some insider information on how Battle Slots went from a silly idea to the shelf at your local retailer. Right? Right. Just how did the idea for Battle Slots come about? Well let me start by telling you about my ‘normal’ job. I work at Phantom EFX as a game designer. Phantom EFX is known for making THE BEST™ slot and casino video games in the world! On an average day, my job involves coming up with brand new slot machines and bonus rounds for our monthly slot releases and our boxed products (all available on the cheap at our incredible store, and also at your local PC game retailer). I also design quests and adventures for our Casino MMO called Reel Deal LIVE. I’m a huge video game addict, playing games on my PC and my Xbox 360 (when it isn’t out for repair) (which happens a lot) (no I’m not joking).
While brainstorming slot ideas here at work, Shurm (another game designer here at Phantom EFX, who also happens to be the CEO) and I have always wanted to come up with a way to use a slot machine in battle against other players or against monsters of some type. A few slots that we have released used this idea on a limited basis (we have a cool one called Armies of Osiris that features Egyptian gods doing battle), but we’ve never had the time or the manpower to fully flesh out the idea. And to tell you the truth, the guys who control the pocketbooks kind of thought we were crazy.
Then one day our company had a meeting to decide on a new game that we could release to fit in with a gap in our current development schedule. Many game ideas were thrown around…everything from Monster Fashion Designer (design your own clothes and outfits for everyone from Bride of Frankenstein to Wolfman) to Mouseville (kind of like Farmville with mice, don’t ask). I pitched the idea of Battle Slots, and to my surprise almost everyone liked it. Everyone except Dale, and he got overruled, so HAH Dale, I win. So I went on my merry way to work on a design document.
The original design that I submitted differed quite a bit from how the end game turned out. In the original design I had all the spells and attacks linked directly to the symbols in the slot machine. So if you discover a Fireball symbol and install it in your slot, whenever you spun and hit a payout on that symbol you would cast a fireball on the enemy. A payout of 3 fireball symbols would be less effective than a payout of 5 fireball symbols. Well, this went through some preliminary testing, it just wasn’t very fun. You just sat there and spun the slot and never had to use any strategy or skill in order to defeat the enemy. It was 100% luck on how your spins turned out, and it got old pretty fast. Yeah it basically stunk. Not everyone has a perfect fun idea the first time, don’t make fun. I cry easily.
So the design was redone to instead use a system of “pools” to build up in order to execute attacks and spells (we call them Techniques). Winning spins of Magic symbols add points to your Spell meter, and winning spins of Weapon symbols add points to your Attack meter. Each Technique uses a certain amount of points…so once you win enough points from spinning, you can use a technique. Some techniques damage the enemy; some make your slot machine more powerful by adding Wilds or increasing payouts. There are tons of different effects. So basically you spin to fill up meters, then use those meters to kill the enemy.
This added a whole new level of strategy to the game, where you, the player, had to decide what to use and when. Do you save up points to try to execute your powerful and damaging attack on the enemy, or do you cast a cheaper spell that allows you to spin your reels twice as fast as they can? Everyone can play in a different way and find their own ‘best’ Technique layout and use.
We were also continuously surprised during our design and testing periods at how differently the game could be played based on which Techniques you acquired from the enemy during your journeys. The Techniques that you earn are dropped randomly when battles are won, so one person in the office would have a totally different set of Techniques to use than another, and their strategy would be completely different because of that. It makes the game fun to play through more than once, to see just how different the game can feel.
A lot of other details of the original design were also changed, added, or removed. We had a GREAT team of artists, programmers, testers, voice actors and actresses (way to moan and groan Jane Marie), and sound guys (sound guy actually. Yep, just one. Adam you rock :] ), who continually played and tested the game and came up with great ideas to make it even more fun along the way. All of their ideas meshed in and changed the original design, so in reality everyone that you see on the credits of the game should be listed as a designer. We had so many cool ideas that when (hopefully!) work on Battle Slots 2 begins, we’ll have no problem making it bigger and better than the original. In fact, I can guarantee that it will be at LEAST 10% slottier! So give Battle Slots great review scores so we get the go ahead to make another one!
Thanks so much for reading this and for supporting Battle Slots! None of us could do the jobs that we love without you supporting us by playing our games! If you ever stop by Cedar Falls Iowa, I’ll buy you a beverage of your choice.