“Thundering Herd,” “Invasion 2” and other top games herald the arrival of Multimedia’s new MPX format
By Frank Legato
Players don’t normally give much thought to a slot machine’s cabinet—unless, of course, it plays an integral role in the game itself. This one does.
It carries a title that sounds like it could apply to either high technology or a muscle car—the “Platinum MPX” series. But in this case, it’s a very functional title: The MPX stands for “maximum player experience.” Slot-maker Multimedia Games has drawn together several different gems of slot-machine technology into a complete package that offers a giant interactive screen, along with a sound chair that is only one part of a six-speaker audio system.
Brad Johnson, vice president of marketing and product management for Multimedia Games, says the company directed its engineering efforts into creating a format that would offer game features that can’t be achieved using a normal video slot format.
“On current cabinets, with a 23-inch display, you could only really show reels spinning on the main screen,” says Johnson. “On the top box, for most, you can only show progressive amounts. What we wanted to do when we started planning for a new cabinet and new games three years ago was a super-large video screen, on which we could use the whole screen to create a whole new type of game.”
The MPX presentation centers on a 40-inch, vertically positioned LCD video monitor, which displays everything having to do with the game, on one screen. “Everything you’re going to see that connects to the game is on this one large video display,” Johnson says. “One of goals in creating every game is to take up the whole screen—not just reel-spinning, but other animations and bonuses.”
This display combines with that sound system—two speakers in the chair, two facing the player and two at the top of the cabinet—to give the game-makers at Multimedia a wealth of capabilities they didn’t have when creating their core video products. That’s one reason some of Multimedia’s most popular current games are coming out in new MPX versions—giving them what Johnson calls an “IMAX theater feeling”—adding to a mix of completely new titles, all designed specifically to take advantage of the firepower of the new format.
One of those completely new titles will serve as the launchpad for the new series of games. Inaugural MPX release “Thundering Herd,” to be available in some casinos by the time you read this, makes full use of the strategically placed speakers in the sound system to create special effects around the theme of a buffalo stampede.
“Players hear, off in the distance, buffalo starting to stampede toward them,” Johnson says, “just faintly, and then getting stronger as they get closer. That transfers over to the main game. When the player gets into the bonus, the system transfers to the overhead speakers so people around the area can hear.”
The two speakers facing the player are always on, and the other two sets of speakers are used to accentuate certain parts of the game. It’s quite an effect, and it’s only one of the cool features of Thundering Herd.
The video screen, taking up all the real estate in front of the player, displays dual progressive jackpots on top, animation in the middle and the reels on the bottom. Randomly during the primary game, the rows of reels will expand, the five reels growing from four rows of symbols each to as many as 10 rows of symbols. Each expansion can add hundreds of paylines to the spin.
“Sometimes you might be playing a 500-line game or 300-line game or 200-line game, even though you only paid for 50 lines,” Johnson explains. “We have the ability to expand the game as we want, or make the bonus games really interactive, taking up the big screen to make it very exciting for the players.”
Johnson says the various screens, known as “arrays,” are created “in a very dramatic fashion; with the sound and animations that go with it, it really builds the anticipation of how big is this thing going to grow for the next game.”
The reel expansions are random during the primary game, but also are worked into one of the game’s main bonuses, the Expanding Reel Free Spins. During 10 free spins, “Expand” symbols on the second and fourth reels cause the reels to expand to add 25 more paylines. The screen can expand to as many as 200 paylines during the free spins.
There also is a picking game called the “Arrowhead Bonus,” in which the player picks tiles attempting to match four squares, collecting “prize bumps” and wild cards along the way.
Everything sits under that dual progressive, featuring two “Must-Hit” amounts—the game lets you know when the progressive prize meter is near the level at which the progressive is guaranteed to hit.
Invasions and Haunted Houses
The release of Thundering Herd will be followed in September by a sequel to the Multimedia hit “Invasion from Outer Space.” “Invasion 2: The Return” is a super-charged version of the campy 1950s Hollywood sci-fi film theme.
As they did in creating the first one, Multimedia game designers enlisted various employees at the slot-maker’s Austin, Texas headquarters to provide the blood-curdling screams for the characters fleeing aliens on the screen. Executive assistants, marketing executives and other Multimedia employees again provided the movieland soundtrack, or placed their pictures on screen as one of the panicked townspeople.
This time, though, even the company’s top executive got involved. The policeman character in the game is Patrick Ramsey, the CEO of Multimedia Games.
The bonus events in Invasion 2 are as quirky and funny as the original. The “Invasion Bonus” is the main one, in which the player is awarded five picks to destroy a fleet of aliens. “The player gets to defend the world from extinction,” says Johnson. “There are a lot of interactive features.”
At the end of what can build into a multi-tiered free-spin event, the player lands three “Zap the Alien” symbols for a pick between two identical townspeople. One is the real deal, and the other is an alien in disguise. You pick one—if it’s the alien that gets zapped by your ray gun, the free-spin game is restarted.
According to Johnson, a new game will be released in the MPX series every two or three months. The one coming up in mid-winter is “Dracula,” followed by another sequel—a new version of the superb “Haunted House,” a popular game involving a bonus trip through a haunted mansion, drawn and animated with creepy accuracy.
The new version of Haunted House expands that bonus trip through a mansion covering the huge video screen. “The enhanced version of Haunted House is the most in-depth game we’ve ever created,” Johnson says.
Other games in the new series will follow every few months, into the middle of next year, but the first few games look like a great start.
“Every game is going to have its own unique components to it,” says Johnson, “but the whole benefit is that we wanted to have something where we could utilize the whole screen, and create an experience that others haven’t” on a slot. “Others have done pieces of it—a sound chair, a better speaker system, a larger screen—but nobody has utilized the big screen like we are.”
The cabinet and the initial MPX game Thundering Herd have already won awards within the industry for their innovation. The players will be the next judge, and with everything featured in these games, it looks like the start of a very long run.
Five-reel, 50-line video slot; expanding randomly to 100-plus paylines; free-spin and second-screen bonus events; dual “Must-Hit” progressive jackpots; interactive large-screen cabinet; penny, 2-cent and nickel denominations
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Pending; in casinos as of July 2014
Invasion 2: The Return
Five-reel, 50-line video slot; mystery primary-game multipliers; free-spin and second-screen bonus events; dual “Must Hit By” progressive jackpots; interactive large-screen cabinet; penny, 2-cent and nickel denominations
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
16,000 credits times line bet
Pending; in casinos as of September 2014