Off to See the Wizard
WMS brings The Wizard of Oz to life once again with 3D and motion in “Ruby Slippers 2”
by Frank Legato
When WMS Gaming first released “The Wizard of Oz” seven years ago, industry experts knew it was going to be big, and they were right—it quickly eclipsed all other WMS hits, from Jackpot Party to Reel ‘Em In, as the most successful slot game in the manufacturer’s history.
The format on which the game resides, called “Sensory Immersion,” used booming BOSE surround-sound speakers built into a chair to virtually take the player inside the theme—a technique that has been copied by many other slot manufacturers. The Wizard wasn’t the first game ever placed on Sensory Immersion—that was Top Gun—but clearly, it was the game this format was made for.
The matching up of the original Wizard with Sensory Immersion was so successful because the theme itself, the 1939 MGM classic The Wizard of Oz film that generations grew up watching, is a “world that a player loves to be immersed in,” says Jamie Vann, senior principal game designer for WMS. “The Wizard of Oz is a dream license. It’s a dream license for people to play, and it’s a dream license for us as designers to work on.”
It showed in the original game, as the sound chair combined with the video on the screen to make it seem like the flying monkeys from the film flew up from behind to land on the reels and turn symbols wild. It showed when Glinda the Good Witch floated onto the screen to wave her wand and turn symbols wild. It showed with intricate animation and booming sound in bonus events attached to each of the beloved characters from the film.
It’s no surprise the many of those original Wizard of Oz slots are still out on casino floors to this day, and are still packed with lines of players waiting to play. It’s an act that has been hard to follow for WMS, but the slot-maker has, in grand fashion, building up a library of what is now 13 Wizard of Oz titles. The most popular of the sequels, according to Vann, has been “Ruby Slippers,” which he says is almost as popular with players as the original Wizard game.
Perhaps that’s why Vann was given one of his most challenging tasks as a game designer recently: a sequel to Ruby Slippers. “It’s both a no-brainer and a daunting task to actually follow up that game,” Vann says.
To say he met the challenge is an understatement. Meet “Ruby Slippers 2,” a game that surely is going to give the original a run for its money. The reason is simple:
What fan of the classic film hasn’t wanted to climb into that movie to walk the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy and her friends all the way to the Emerald City? The main bonus event in this game is just about as close as you can get, without a time machine.
That journey happens in the free-spin bonus of Ruby Slippers 2, which is in the “Sensory Immersion 2.0” format, featuring the “motion chair.” But that’s only one part of a masterful mix of old and new that Vann’s team used to create what promises to be one of the year’s blockbusters.
Glinda the Glorious
WMS does a lot of player research—the slot-maker brings players in to try games, asks them what they like and don’t like, and watches them in casinos as they play the games. According to Vann, what players love the most about the original Wizard of Oz game is Glinda the Good Witch.
Glinda’s appearance is a random event. After any given spin, you hear familiar sights and sounds from the classic film as Glinda floats down in her bubble to change reels wild, causing that welcome “BIG WIN” message on the screen.
“The original Wizard of Oz is still our best of all time,” Vann says. “Players still love the game, and the thing that people really play that game for is to see Glinda come down, give them the wild reels and hope for the multiplier that comes afterwards. It’s the centerpiece of that game.”
The Original Ruby Slippers kept Glinda in the mix for that very reason. So, for Ruby Slippers 2, Glinda is there again—only along with some new surprises. “We did keep the Glinda feature, with the wild reels and multipliers up to 10X,” Vann explains. “We kept that exactly the same as it was in the first one, because through our research we found—and I’ve known this watching people play this game for years—that is exactly the thing people play the original Ruby Slippers for.”
The Glinda feature—in which Glinda appears to turn up to five reels wild, and additional bubbles may appear to grant multipliers of 2X, 5X or 10X, applied to the win—is joined in Ruby Slippers 2 by a second random feature carrying the theme of Glinda’s opposite in the film, the Wicked Witch of the West. On random spins, the Wicked Witch appears on the top screen and adds two reels to form a seven-reel screen.
Then, the Winged Monkeys fly up from behind you (the placement of the speakers really makes you think they are coming from behind; it’s a great effect) to replace the low-paying symbols on the reels with one of a randomly selected higher-paying symbol.
“The Winged Monkeys come flying in over your shoulders and grab a symbol on the reels—like Dorothy, Scarecrow or Cowardly Lion—and then flood the reels with that symbol,” Vann explains. “So you’ll have hundreds of new Dorothy symbols added to the reels, increasing the chances of you triggering six and seven of a kind on these new reels. And there’s a huge amount of ramp-up for the six- and seven-of-a-kind pays.” Occasionally, he adds, the monkeys will grab a wild symbol and drop a bunch of those onto the expanded reel set for a big win.
The Wicked Witch feature can even trigger an appearance of Glinda. “So even after you get these seven reels and you get the reels flooded with these high-paying symbols, Glinda can come in and make up to five of your reels wild,” says Vann.
Adding to the payoff potential of this is the fact that the base screen is a four-by-five layout—four spaces per reel instead of the three spaces of the original Ruby Slippers—in a 40-line setup. (The original was a 25-line game.)
The random features add great fun to the primary game, but it is the free-spin bonus that takes you right into the Merry Old Land of Oz.
The basic mechanics of the event trigger are eight free spins for three scattered bonus symbols, eight free spins plus a bonus of five times the total bet for four triggering symbols, and eight free spins plus 50 times the bet for five. A “Bonus Respin” feature provides another way into the free spin event—when bonus symbols land on two reels, they lock in place for a re-spin to get one or more additional bonus symbols to trigger the free spins.
But the way the free spins are delivered is what makes this an unforgettable version of the Wizard. WMS reproduced the actual sets from the 1939 film in a series of 3D screens, and combined with the motion chair, the event sends you right into that 1939 motion picture.
The Sensory Immersion 2.0 motion chair was used to great effect in games like Aladdin & the Magic Quest, Spider-Man and Willy Wonka. The chair moves and vibrates, transforming the slot into a virtual-reality amusement ride. In this game, it takes you down the Yellow Brick Road.
During the initial free spins, the object is to collect Scarecrow symbols. If you accumulate nine of them, the chair “moves” you down the road through the cornfields from the film until you meet the Scarecrow. A picking bonus occurs, prompting the player to select jewels to keep spinning. Then, the object is to accumulate Tin Man symbols with the award of being whisked down the road to the Orchard to find the Tin Man. The process repeats for the Haunted Forest, where the Cowardly Lion awaits.
If the you make it through the free-spin rounds to select nine Dorothy symbols, you’re whisked to the Emerald City for a final pick to get your “gift” from the Wizard.
Along the way, a map on the top box tracks your progress.
“These are probably the most impressive visuals we’ve ever put into a Wizard of Oz game, and they are synched with the sound chair,” Vann says. “It’s like you’re one of the characters traveling with Dorothy.”
This is the first time the sound chair has been used with a Wizard of Oz game, and arguably, it’s the best use of the chair yet. Vann says that while the free-spin bonus occurs every 120 spins or so—average frequency for a free-spin round—the addition of the Wicked Witch means the random events occur with “incredible frequency.”
It’s a bold statement to predict any game can approach the popularity of the original Wizard of Oz, but Vann says if any version of the Wizard can to it, this is the one.
Watch for this game beginning in January or February, in a stand-alone version and a progressive with a million-dollar, multi-site prize.
Either way, it’s never been more fun to go off to see the Wizard. •
|THE WIZARD OF OZ:
RUBY SLIPPERS 2
Five-reel, 40-line video slot; random bonus events with wild reels; free-spin bonus event; all denominations available in stand-alone version; penny and nickel denominations in progressive
Payback % Range
Progressive: 87.9%, 90.03%
Average Hit Frequency
Stand-alone: 6 million credits
Progressive: $1 million reset
Approvals pending at press time