The sheer speed with which the online casino industry has grown over the last couple of decades is nothing short of astounding.
Now worth an estimated $72 billion a year, its phenomenal success has been driven in no small way by the slots which, just as in land-based casinos, have consistently shown themselves to be the biggest single money-spinners by far.
But, to make these captivating games work online, certain technological barriers have had to be overcome, something that the industry has managed to do with ease.
The earliest beginnings of the slot
It was in the 1880s that the very first slots game was introduced to the world. It was the invention of a German-born electrical engineer called Charles Fey who was working at the Californian electric company at the time.
Called the Liberty Bell, the machine had a grand jackpot prize of no less than 50 cents. When it was won it was accompanied by the ringing of the bell on top of the machine to let all around know.
From producing the prototype, it was only a matter of months until Fey was able to quit his day job to set up production and gradually other similar machines started to appear.
Naturally, these were all mechanical so the next stage in the slot game’s evolution came when electricity started to power them, Then came the digital age that we are in now, something that has opened up countless new options and opportunities for the casino slots developers of today including Monopoly Casino.
How to recreate the random?
Arguably, the major issue that faced developers when trying to create the online casino version of the slots game was to recreate the randomness of the real world.
In “traditional” slots, the physical reels spin and stop at random moments. But this can never be the case for digital slots.
Therefore, there is the need for a piece of computer software that can realistically recreate the unpredictable nature of the spinning reels.
This has come in the shape of a clever piece of software that is used not just in slots games but in all casino games as well as in all manner of other devices.
Called a Random Number Generator, this runs constantly creating a never-ending sequence of different numbers. In the case of a slots game, these numbers correspond to particular symbols on the virtual reels.
When the play button is activated and the reels begin to spin, after a few seconds the RNG stops on the numbers generated at that precise moment and these are represented by the symbols in the game.
In the case of other casino games like blackjack and roulette, the same RNG technology selects which cards are drawn or which number the ball lands in.
There is still some debate as to just how random any computer-based random number generator can ever be so a number of other methods are currently being investigated.
One of the most intriguing of these is the use of constantly-changing lava lamps whose patterns can be harnessed to correspond with numbers.
Setting the Return To Player
Running in tandem with the RNG, there is an additional feature that is programmed in to all slots. In this case, its acronym is the RTP, or “Return To Player”. As an expression it is both fairly self-explanatory and slightly misleading.
Represented as a percentage, it identifies the proportion of stake money that is returned in the form of prizes. This is something that needs to be calibrated and programmed into the software that runs each game.
Usually, this figure is around 95% but may be slightly lower or higher. Some people see the RTP and assume that this will guarantee they will get at least this percentage of their stake money back in any session.
But this is simply not the case. That’s because it only applies to the average figure over a considerable period of time, This is why some players can expect to win much more than 100% of the money they play with and, unfortunately, why other players will lose money in a session.
When fine tuning the programming of a casino slot another aspect that is built-in is the particular game’s so-called volatility.
This is a measure by which a game is more likely to offer multiple and reasonably frequent lower prizes or larger prizes that are paid out less often.
Psychologically speaking, it is the lower volatility games that reward play more often but less generously that seem to be the most satisfying for people to play. This is thanks to the release of a chemical in the brain called dopamine that accompanies even modest wins.
That said, there are still plenty of people willing to take their chances on a higher volatility slot in the hope of walking away with one of the big prizes.
Looking good, sounding great
Last but not least, there’s all the tech that’s needed to produce the amazing graphics and animations that make today’s slots so exciting to play. Many also have tailor-made soundtracks to up the tempo and enhance the experience when wins arrive,
It’s a far cry from the original tinkling bell on the Liberty Bell, but then slots have advanced hugely since then.
And now, with virtual and augmented reality firmly with us, and AI making great strides too, they also have a long, long way to go in the future.