WMS introduces “sensory-immersion gaming” with its amazing new “Top Gun” slot machine
by Frank Legato
At first glance, it looks like a normal enough video slot machine. There is dramatic artwork on a high-rise cabinet, with movie-style artwork and a familiar title blazoned across the top.
But wait until you sit down.
Sit in the attached chair, start playing, and hit a bonus round. Suddenly, you’re in the cockpit of a fighter jet, making moves to dodge enemy fire, shooting at enemy jets, listening to and actually feeling the chaos of battle. The seat rumbles and vibrates. You hear jets coming from one side and crossing over your head to the other side of your aircraft. You feel an exhilaration you didn’t expect from a slot machine.
Welcome to “sensory immersion gaming.” It is a concept that takes a game event, like winning bonus credits, and communicates it with a sensory experience that brings you those winnings on the wings of a virtual-reality experience.
The sensory immersion technology is being launched in a new series of video slots from WMS Gaming. The series is a marriage of several technologies which collectively allow the player to “experience” a theme—not by looking at icons or brand names, but by pretty much climbing into the story.
This month, casinos will see the first game resulting from this combination of technologies—“Top Gun.” There will be others to follow—a “Wizard of Oz” slot will be next—but for an introduction to a new kind of gaming experience, it will be hard to top this one. No, you won’t see Tom Cruise in the game. It doesn’t follow the plot of the Top Gun movie, unless you count the fact that you get to step into Cruise’s character and play fighter pilot.
Top Gun is about much more than the theme itself. It is, first and foremost, a great slot game. One of the reasons slot manufacturers have gotten away from heavy theme-ing recently is because slot games were becoming secondary to the bells and whistles of high-profile themes—themes that were used to draw people to games for initial trials, and not much more, causing players to tire of a game easily, and causing the game itself to disappear quickly from floors. Not so with Top Gun. This game is built to last—packed with interesting propositions and multiple possible outcomes, and a volatile program that doles out huge credit wins. And boy, is it ever fun.
In sensory immersion gaming, the technology comes first, and themes are picked that will best utilize that technology, according to Rob Bone, WMS vice president of marketing.
In fact, when the idea of a “Top Gun” slot first was raised, WMS officials were uninterested. “We originally passed on it, because it didn’t fit our demographic,” Bone says. “We weren’t excited about it until we saw how it would play into this immersion technology. The only reason any of these brands made sense was because they play into the visual and auditory experience enabled by the technology.”
Sensory immersion gaming is a combination of technologies from WMS and two partners. Perhaps the more important of the partners is Bose Corporation, the legendary audio technology powerhouse. Sensory immersion uses the exclusive Bose 3Space proprietary technology—in the slot seat. It is called the “Bose 3Space Surround Sound Gaming Chair.” Speakers are built into the chair, and the technology creates the effect that the sounds are coming from different points around the player’s head.
“The technology allows us to map audio elements from each speaker specifically to the player’s hearing zones,” Bone explains, “mapped and designed to tie right in with the animations on the screen.”
In practice, this technology creates a slot experience the likes of which you have never seen before. The sounds come from all directions, and you will feel that you are surely in the middle of an air battle—or at the very least, are on a ride that does better at simulating the experience than anything you’ve ever encountered.
Add in actual vibrations in the chair and it becomes like a virtual reality ride—particularly when you add the visuals of the WMS video platform CPU-NXT2 and technology from another partner—a 3D graphics engine provided by ATI Technologies.
Bone notes that WMS secured the license to create a Top Gun slot two years ago, but it was perfected through the combination of technologies going into sensory immersion gaming.
“Top Gun is a very well-known brand,” he says. “We’re not getting into the characters—Tom Cruise is not a part of it, for example—but the game is about the combination of the experience of being in an F-14 and of getting substantial pays. It’s not the brand, but the collaboration of technologies that really makes this good—not just Top Gun, but Wizard of Oz and the other games that will be in the sensory immersion series.”
For all the amazing effects in the fighter-pilot bonus round, Top Gun is a solidly designed game from the start. Bone notes that the company’s game designers took the exact same approach to designing this game as all the other CPU-NXT games.
The predominant version of Top Gun will be a multi-site progressive penny or nickel version with a top jackpot resetting at $500,000. You will find it in 15-line, 20-line or 25-line configurations, with maximum bets ranging from 60 credits to 200 credits in commercial jurisdictions and 250 credits in the Native American jurisdictions. In jurisdictions where the multi-site progressive jackpot is not permitted under the gaming law, the slot will be offered in a 15-line or 25-line version with a top award of 10,000 credits.
In all versions, the primary game will feature a volatile program—hit frequencies will be just over 40 percent, which is lower than some multi-line video slots; however, the credit wins will often be huge within this configuration. As with most of the low-denomination games being released these days, Top Gun will follow the proven formula of being a gambler’s game—you will be able to adjust your bets according to how high your credit bank has risen. You will see occasional dry spells, but you will play for the promise of big credit awards. This is a modern, volatile video slot, but it is one that employs the technique, often forgotten these days, of entertaining bonus events.
And, the bonus events are where the capabilities of sensory immersion gaming really come into play. As Bone notes, each of the bonus events is designed first as an opportunity for large credit wins, with advanced technology employed to convey these wins in dramatic fashion.
For instance, while you are playing the primary video slot, a random event will occur in which several jets will streak across the screen. Called the “Fly By Bonus,” it is triggered when a bonus symbol lands on the fifth reel. When this happens, the chair rumbles and the screen shakes as jets fly across the reels. Every time a jet flies by, a wild symbol is revealed on the screen, increasing the primary-game jackpots.
“The Fly By Bonus is the more frequent bonus in the base game,” says Bone. “Where jets come from and how they fly across the screen—coming from behind you on the right, showing up on the right and flying to left, or right toward you—those directly impact the player’s wins.”
Three or more Top Gun bonus symbols on an active payline trigger the main Top Gun Bonus. This is where the real fun begins. The rumbling chair, the Bose sound system and the 3D graphics combine to take you right into the cockpit of an F-14. Your first experience is taking off from an aircraft carrier and entering a “danger zone.” As enemy aircraft approach, you are given the option of choosing the maneuver you will execute to avoid them—“climb,” “barrel roll,” “hard left” or “hard right.”
As you maneuver, credit awards appear—the better you do, the higher the credit awards. Randomly, a 2X or 3X multiplier appears, multiplying all credits earned.
According to Bone, while this phase of the game makes it appear as if your skill is achieving the results, the bonus amounts actually depend on which moves you choose at each juncture. Each move is assigned a credit award. So, much like the “pick-a-tile” bonus in games like “Jackpot Party,” the player’s choice of move actually determines the bonus award.
There are two advanced levels of bonus you can achieve while you are battling the bogeys in this event.
If “Engage Enemy Target” appears, the move-related credits disappear and you go on the attack against a squadron of enemy jets. You choose one of four buttons to fire a missile at enemy planes. If you hit an enemy target, your “pilot rank” increases one level, and you are awarded another missile shot.
This repeats, with the bonus award growing larger as you shoot down enemy planes—the bonus sequence ends if you get a “Return to Base” message on the screen. However, if you succeed in shooting down five enemy planes, you are rewarded with the rank of “Top Gun.” That means the bonus round continues; you continue to fight enemy pilots and rack up bonus awards.
Along the way, you can collect “Bonus Extender” icons that permit you to ignore the “Return to Base” message and continue the bonus round. If you get a couple of these messages along with shooting down several enemy planes, the resulting bonus awards can grow to enormous proportions.
Each of these bonus events is heralded by vibrations, sounds and sights that place you in the cockpit of a jet fighter. However, as Bone notes, none of these events occurs solely for entertainment value—all are tied to a credit-winning event.
“When you trigger the Top Gun Bonus, you’ll go into a different world where you can hit multipliers, and engage with the enemy to go into other levels of bonus to increase your rank,” Bone says. “As far as multiple outcomes and different ways to win, this game is really limitless, because there are so many different ways to win in the bonus round. When you add the sounds to it, the bonus experience is never the same twice. Do I bank left, or bank right? Do I barrel-roll? There are tons of different outcomes, but the overall effect is a very volatile slot game.
“It was very important to us to create an experience that a tourist or a local—players ranging from not familiar to very familiar with slots—will benefit from. There are ways for everyone who plays this game to walk away with a tangible, cash-out win.”
Top Gun is just the first game in what is sure to be one of the most popular slot series in the history of WMS.
“Top Gun is the debut title, but there will be at least four additional licenses that will be introduced into this series,” says Bone, “all of which will create totally new gaming experiences. You’re flying a fighter jet to begin with, but then you’re going to be skipping down the Yellow Brick Road, and other brands will dictate other experiences.”
(Several brands were planned but not yet signed and sealed at press time.)
For now, players can simply enjoy Top Gun’s introduction to sensory immersion gaming. Placements are beginning this month in Native American jurisdictions, and Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi will see the game appear by the summer. So, relax and settle into Top Gun’s space-age slot seat.
The fun is just beginning.
Multi-coin, 15-, 20- or 25-line video slot; primary-game wild symbols; multi-level, second-screen bonus event; multi-sensory special effects in bonus rounds; penny and nickel denominationsPAYBACK % RANGE
88.41%—92.08%AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Progressive: Resets at $500,000
Stand-alone: 10,000 credits