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A new reel-spinning format powers great offerings from WMS Gaming

By Frank Legato

 

Adding to this basic strength is the fact it is a five-line game—three horizontal pay lines and two diagonal pay lines. There is a separate pay table for lining up three wild symbols (the Triple flanked by Doubles) on each pay line: 3,000, 4,500, 6,000 and 7,500 for three wilds on paylines one through four, respectively; a progressive resetting at $10,000 for the three wilds on the fifth, diagonal payline.

WMS_BladeStepper

If you’re a fan of the traditional reel-spinning slot, you’re probably set in your ways. You probably even have your favorite three-reel mechanical-style game, and maybe you’re not even looking for something new in your classic handle-pulling experience.

A new series of traditional reel-spinners from slot-maker WMS Gaming may just change your mind.

Dubbed “Blade Stepper,” the new series of three-reel mechanical-style slots from WMS will meet all your basic requirements: There’s a handle. There are traditional slot symbols like bars and 7s. There is a top box with a pay schedule that spells out the payoffs for all the winning combinations.

But you’ll notice something different. This is not your father’s reel-spinner. That pay schedule just seems to pop out at you. There is animation in a super-high-resolution monitor—that’s the top box you may have mistaken for traditional glass at first glance. The graphics are that sharp.

Most of all, you will notice a difference from tradition in the first batch of games being released in the Blade Stepper format. Each has a unique aspect that has been enabled by the modern technology, and in particular, the integration of video bonus features into the classic reel-spinning mix.

“We really tried to design this cabinet with the player in mind,” says Allon Englman, vice president and design chief at WMS Gaming. “We did quite a lot of extensive research on it.” The end product is what Englman calls a “modernized retro look.”

“It’s a simple three-reel mechanical product,” he says. “It’s got three really beautiful, bright reels, much like these types of players expect. It’s got the handle, which we know players love. But then, it’s got a few modern features, like a very high-definition monitor up in the top box that allows us to do pay tables and different game-play elements. The monitor is so crisp it looks like glass, but it’s actually a video monitor up in the top box.”

He says the key to the design effort was to keep things simple, with pay-table information easily seen, but to add the modern feel of a video monitor with the potential for animated bonus events. “We did a lot of research when it comes to changing the hardware design, and we found that what three-reel mechanical players really want is simplicity and clarity,” Englman says “They want a simple game that’s delivered very easily and very crisply, very brightly. They want it to be easy to read, so we spent a lot of time on the way the reels are lit, the way they spin. They’re very bright and they stand out very, very well on the floor.”

The WMS designers did borrow one cool feature from the video version of the Blade format, which has been out on the floor for a few months: It’s called the “Wager Saver.” Particularly on the lowest denominations in the reel-spinners, the Blade Stepper games will give you a chance to parlay your pennies. If, for instance, the minimum bet on a game is $1 and you’ve got 42 cents left on the credit meter, the game will let you wager that amount for one spin at the last level you bet—you’ll either keep playing or zero out your meter. It saves you from having to cash out a fractional ticket.

But the really compelling features of Blade Stepper are in the games themselves.

 

Classics With a Twist

According to Englman, the Blade Stepper will come to casinos in two waves—high-denomination games now, and pennies and other low denominations later in the year.

Every one of them has something special.

Take “Roll 7 Progressive,” one of the first group of high-denomination games being released. There’s nothing new about the pay table itself—single, double and triple bars along with wild symbols and a “7” combination. For the first four coins wagered (you’ll likely see this one in quarters or dollars), it plays like any classic reel-spinner, with the top three-wild combination paying 4,000 credits.

But bet that fifth coin and the game becomes unique. With the maximum five credits played, every winning combination brings a shot at a corresponding progressive jackpot, with resets ranging from $15 for one wild symbol on the payline to $10,000 for three wilds. Whenever a winning combination lands on the payline, a dice roll plays out above the reels. If the dice land on a seven, you win that progressive.

That’s not all, though—if the dice roll lands on doubles, the progressive for the winning combination increases, and the dice roll again. The progressive rises again with another double. A third double (or a seven) returns the progressive. Rolls other than a double or a seven return the pay table amount for that combination.

Another strong game in the initial Blade Stepper suite is “AfterShock.” This is a new twist on the multiplying wild-symbol game, combined with a pay table packed with five different winning “7” combinations. There are “Double AfterShock” wild symbols on each of the outer reels and “Triple AfterShock” wild symbols on the center reel—the former doubles the payoff for the win and the latter triples it. Two Double AfterShock symbols with a win pay four times the pay table amount.

Adding to this basic strength is the fact it is a five-line game—three horizontal pay lines and two diagonal pay lines. There is a separate pay table for lining up three wild symbols (the Triple flanked by Doubles) on each pay line: 3,000, 4,500, 6,000 and 7,500 for three wilds on paylines one through four, respectively; a progressive resetting at $10,000 for the three wilds on the fifth, diagonal payline.

Strong features for any classic reel-spinner, to be sure. But for Blade Stepper, one more important feature is added: the mystery “AfterShock.” On any random spin, the AfterShock feature can activate. That means anywhere from the next spin to the next seven spins are guaranteed winning spins.

During the AfterShock Feature, the wild symbols “stick”—if any Double or Triple wild symbol lands on or within one position of the center payline, it will remain and “nudge” to on or within one position of the center payline for the remainder of the AfterShock Feature spins.

The third game in the initial rollout is called “777 Wheel Hot”—again, a classic pay table with bars and three separate “7” combinations. And again, something special. In this case, it is a variable table of winning amounts for each of the three “7” wins, with the payoff determined by a wheel above each 7 combination on the pay table.

Every time you get mixed 7s, red 7s or “fiery 7s,” the corresponding wheel spins. The amounts on the mixed-7 wheel range from 100 credits to 1000 credits; on the red-7 wheel, from 150 to 1,500; and the fiery-7 wheel, 500 to 5,000 credits, or a progressive where the game is configured as such.

 

Only the Beginning

The three high-denomination games in the first rollout of Blade Stepper is only the start for this slot series. Englman says the first suite of games should be in casinos around the country by April, and what will follow by summer will be some low-denomination reel-spinners carrying some of the most iconic WMS themes. (Yes, there will be a Blade Stepper version of “Reel ‘Em In.”)

The Blade Stepper rollouts aren’t over either. According to Englman, you can expect to see many of those classic WMS reel-spinning titles from the 1990s coming out in this format as well. Back when the company was called Williams, its first games beyond the famous pinball machines were three-reel mechanical games like “Triple Golden Cherries” and “Diamonds of Dublin.” Expect those two in the Blade Stepper series sometime this summer.

Beyond that, expect more blasts from the Williams past late this year.

“We’ve got a whole range of high- and low-denomination games that I think are going to be really compelling in this series,” Englman says, noting two main strengths players will notice in all of them: “Visually, they look just awesome, with great brightness and clarity of display. And the games are really cool—great, simple three-reel mechanical games that ultimately can deliver what the player wants.”

Yes, that’s right: We want wins. •

 

 

ROLL 7 PROGRESSIVE

 

Slot Type

Three-reel, five-coin, single-line multiplier; wild symbols; top-box bonus game with progressives attached to each winning combination; all denominations up to $500

 

Payback % Range

85%—97%

 

Average Hit Frequency

Approximately 20%

 

Top Jackpot

Progressive; $10,000 reset

 

Availability

Pending at press time

 

•••

 

AFTERSHOCK

 

Slot Type

Three-reel, five-coin, five-line buy-a-pay; multiplying wild symbols; mystery repeating-win feature; all denominations up to $500

 

Payback % Range

85%—97%

 

Average Hit Frequency

Approximately 33%

 

Top Jackpot

Progressive; 10,000-credit reset

 

Availability

Pending at press time

 

•••

 

777 WHEEL HOT

 

Slot Type

Three-reel, three-coin, single-line buy-a-pay; payoff on top three combinations determined by wheel spin; all denominations up to $500

 

Payback % Range

85%—97%

 

Average Hit Frequency

Approximately 13%

 

Top Jackpot

Progressive; $5,000 reset

 

Availability

Pending at press time

 

 

 

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