WMS takes players on a journey through Middle-earth with “The Lord of the Rings”
by Frank Legato
The film’s recounting of the story—about a band of pint-sized but brave hobbits, assisted by men, a dwarf, numerous elves and other mystical creatures, charged with taking the “One Ring of Power” back to the evil land in which it was forged to destroy it—is faithfully reproduced by this slot machine. And it’s assisted by the next level of the technology that proved so effective with The Wizard Of Oz slot.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Millions of literary fans of all generations know these words as the inscription on the magical ring central to the story in J.R.R. Tolkien’s mid-20th century masterpiece The Lord of the Rings.
However, moviegoers—even those who never picked up a volume of Tolkien’s amazing 1940s trilogy or the simple 1937 fantasy book that ultimately was its prequel, The Hobbit—also are now intimately familiar with the fantasy world of “Middle-earth” which Tolkien, an Oxford University professor, created and developed as World War II raged around him.
Tolkien’s fantasy world was part of popular culture long before Peter Jackson’s masterful 2001-2003 film adaptation of the trilogy. References to Tolkien can be found in decades of pop culture, from popular films to rock music. (Led Zeppelin often returned to Middle-earth in their lyrics, from “Ramble On” to “Misty Mountain Hop.”) The recent film series, though, has opened the Tolkien trilogy up to an entire new generation of fans.
Putting the epic fantasy tale on film was a major achievement, to be sure. But if you thought it was difficult to transfer an iconic story like this from novel to film—and it was—imagine how difficult it may be to transfer that entire story into a video slot machine experience.
Who else to take on this task but WMS Gaming, the slot-maker that made The Wizard of Oz come to life so convincingly a few years ago? This summer, WMS launched “The Lord of the Rings” slot machine in a format that lets fans extract maximum pleasure from the journey.
And a journey it is. The film’s recounting of the story—about a band of pint-sized but brave hobbits, assisted by men, a dwarf, numerous elves and other mystical creatures, charged with taking the “One Ring of Power” back to the evil land in which it was forged to destroy it—is faithfully reproduced by this slot machine. And it’s assisted by the next level of the technology that proved so effective with the “Wizard” slot.
That technology, called “Sensory Immersion,” is a format you probably know well—it’s the vibrating chair, the Bose surround-sound system and the intricate visual show that made “Wizard” come alive. Applied to The Lord of the Rings, it offers what Brad Rose, senior director of WMS game studios, calls the “cinematic slot experience.”
“The Sensory Immersion technology really immerses you in each feature of the game,” Rose says. “It’s like you’re playing a motion picture.”
The technology yields some memorable moments in game play. For instance, speakers behind and in front of the player make for some truly unique effects. In the “Wizard” game, it is why, in the Flying Monkeys Bonus, monkeys seem to fly from behind you to transform symbols on the reels into wild symbols. This time, it’s Gollum—the former Hobbit transformed into a pathetic goblin by possessing the ring, who follows main characters Frodo and Samwise, trying to steal the ring. Gollum randomly appears to make symbols on the screen wild, and thanks to the surrounding speakers, the creature seems to creep up from behind before appearing on the screen.
But this random wild sequence is not the truly remarkable thing about this slot game. What is remarkable is that the game is built to take you on a journey through Middle-earth, the mythical region of the story, carefully laid out exactly as it is in the books and the films. And, it’s a journey that does not end when you’re done playing the game.
There are eight bonus sequences programmed into this slot game, and they begin at the start of the book/movie and take you right through the three volumes to the end of the saga. When you arrive at the casino to play the game initially, there are only two bonus events. Through your play, you earn “miles” across Middle-earth, “unlocking” subsequent bonus events as you reach certain distances.
“While there are eight bonuses in the initial release, six of them are locked,” explains Rose. “The farther you get in Middle-earth, the more entertaining and cinematically pleasing the bonuses get. They get more intense.”
Just as in the WMS game series known as “Adaptive Gaming” (Star Trek, Reel ‘Em In Compete to Win), the player is given a log-in code at the start of play, which he can use to freeze his progress through Middle-earth and pick up where he left off the next time he’s at the game in any casino. However, with The Lord of the Rings, Adaptive Gaming is taken to a new level, called “Player’s Life.”
Through the website www.playerslife.com, the player can actually take The Lord of the Rings off the casino floor and onto his personal computer. The website has “mini-games” set up that draw from the content of the video slot without the gambling aspects. Players can log onto the website, enter their log-in code from the casino game, and continue their journey through Middle-earth, sans the gambling. You don’t win money, but you can actually earn miles at home, which will be applied the next time you’re in the casino, toward unlocking more bonus sequences and progressing you further into the story.
When you are playing the slot game (it is a 25-line game, which is of fairly little import to the experience) and trigger the bonus, you are offered a choice of bonus sequences from all you have unlocked. The more advanced in the story the bonus, the greater the animation, potential outcomes and ultimately, entertainment.
There’s even a map of Middle-earth—yes, the one you remember from the books and films. It appears when the bonus is triggered, showing you the point you have reached in your journey and the bonus games that are available to you. There’s a button on the panel marked “Map” that lets you check your progress across the land at any point.
The bonus games themselves follow the three volumes of the story. The first two, available when you first play the game, are called “Gandalf’s Fireworks” and “Merry and Pippin’s Garden Heist.” They depict two of the earliest events from the story—the fireworks display put on by Gandalf the wizard for the “eleventy-first birthday party” of Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist from The Hobbit who is an uncle to Frodo Baggins, the main character in Rings; and the scene in which Frodo’s fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin are caught stealing vegetables from a farmer’s garden just before all three main characters leave on their quest.
The bonus sequences use great animation and sound to offer the player selections to reveal hidden bonuses, multipliers or free spins. The first “earned” bonus is “The Prancing Pony,” depicting the hobbits’ first meeting with Aragorn (the first stop on their journey to the land of Mordor), and they progress from there through the story: “Arwen’s Rescue,” “Isildur’s Sword,” “Balrog,” “Galadriel’s Stairway” and finally, “Uruk-Hai Battle.”
(Hint: One of the best is “Balrog,” which depicts Gandalf’s battle with the giant Balrog beast in the depths of a mountain’s interior.)
The earned bonus events are joined by events open to anyone who plays. In addition to “Gollum Wilds,” there is a random “Power Spin” feature. Random spins will end with an award of a Power Spin. A button lights when a Power Spin has been earned, and the player can simply press it at any time for one of several random Power Spin events—symbols will turn into wild symbols, wins will be multiplied, a free “scatter spin” will occur, a reel or reels will turn into expanding wild symbols.
Another random feature, “Legolas’ Wild Arrows,” has the elven character from the film shoot arrows at symbols to make them wild. As far as diverse events, Rose says, the engineers put “everything but the kitchen sink” into this game.
But the eight main bonuses are what make this slot unique—with animation and graphic quality that merge cinema and video game into a totally new experience.
The first two bonuses center on events in the first volume of The Lord of the Rings—The Fellowship of the Ring. The next two take you to The Two Towers and give you the code to get into the “Player’s Life” website to play for the next level at home, eventually arriving—along with the characters on the screen—in the land of Mordor and the ring’s birthplace, Mount Doom, for the final epic battles against evil.
That’s the Land of Mordor, where the shadows lie. •
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Five-reel, 25-line video slot; multiple second-screen and free-spin bonuses, random expanding wild symbols and bonus multipliers; all denominations available
Payback % Range
Average Hit Frequency
1,000 credits times line bet
AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MI (tribal), MN, MS (tribal), MO, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, WA, WI; additional jurisdictions pending
Hobbit Quest – The Lord of the Rings.