Casino game development is a difficult and responsible job requiring a specific skill set and a great understanding of this industry. Creating online casino games or software for gaming machines involves several phases, with the same team of developers taking the game from a blueprint to a workable prototype.
From defining the essential features and crafting game mechanics to designing a great-looking GUI and testing all possible interactions, the road from a game idea to a finished product is long and often very challenging.
This overview will explain what it means to develop games for real money casinos and the whole gambling industry in general, and all the different forms such games can take.
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Basic Facts about Casino Video Games and Slot Machines
Casino video games are contests based on chance that allow users to participate in any action that rewards the winner with virtual or real money. These software products are highly interactive and usually based on classic casino disciplines, only with additional features and plenty of splashy visuals. Here are some interesting facts about various games and this industry as a whole::
- Slots are by far the most profitable and most popular type of digital casino games, accounting for around 80% of the income for the gambling industry.
- Blackjack and video poker offer the most favourable odds for the players, but since they are largely skill-based (as opposed to pure random number games), only the best players can take advantage of those odds.
- There are 1.6 billion people globally who gamble in some form, with a large percentage participating in casino gaming either on-premises or online.
- Some of the biggest game development companies frequently releasing new games include Microgaming, Playtech, Netent, IGT, and Betsoft.
- It’s common for gaming sites in Australia to offer large bonuses, so players can get a $300 free chip no deposit or spend on a casino game of their choice.
- Game developers with experience working on casino software can expect annual salaries between AUD 60,000 and AUD 100,000.
How Are Casino Video Games Made?
Developing a new casino game can last months and involve several distinct stages. Here is a quick overview:
Brainstorming and Concept Development
Making a video game is a team effort that starts with game designers, who need to decide what rules will the game follow, which features it needs to have, how the winner will be determined, etc. In this stage, wireframes and mockup models are often created to demonstrate how a game looks and works. This is a creative part of the process that takes a lot of skill and some inspiration.
Such decisions are often driven by the genre of the game selected (i.e. poker or roulette) and game design, as well as the results of the online gambling market research. The appropriate technology stack should be chosen with respect to the demands of the game and the environment in which it will be deployed. The designers must also select the graphic theme and the main storylines reflected in the gameplay.
Creating the Game Engine and Mechanics
Those basic concepts are passed to software developers, who need to translate them into working code. The first step is to check the concept’s viability and start creating a back-end system capable of supporting all its intended functionalities and software components. The most important of those is the game engine, which is the beating heart of the software product and is called upon whenever a player takes action.
Each intended feature also needs to be coded and integrated with the engine. Depending on the complexity of game mechanics and the number of features, this phase could take a lot of work. The final output should be an operational prototype, or MVP (Minimum Viable Product), that can be further improved by testing and balancing.
Developing User Interface and Front-End Features
Even with the engine and mechanics in place, game developers are still a long way from a functional product. The entire software layer that users can interact with needs to be added on top, including the protocols that connect those layers. Front-end development may not be as difficult as creating the technological backbone that holds the product together, but it still represents a crucial part of the development process.
The user interface (UI) is a part of a game that a visitor in an online casino sees, and it includes numerous elements that can be clicked on. The interface must be functional and easy to get around, with all key game commands instantly visible. However, it must also be visually attractive and add flavour and style to a well-known casino game.
Balancing the Outcomes with Random Number Generator Principles
For a game to be fair and playable, it’s necessary to provide variability of outcomes in a way that game operators or players can’t control. Developers use the RNG function for this purpose, basically introducing a random factor and connecting it to specific outcomes, including the frequency of winning and the overall volatility of the game.
For example, when a player spins the reels of an online slot machine, the RNG algorithm will cycle through a huge number of combinations and return a value that determines where the reels will stop. While the RNG function is not complicated, coding this element is a particularly sensitive aspect of the job because errors could have serious consequences for the user experience and game balance.
Quality Assurance (QA) Testing and Launching the Game
After the casino game is completed, it must be thoroughly tested and debugged. Even the most basic game concepts enable countless possible interactions, and it’s imperative to check whether all of them work as expected before a game is publically released. A failure to spot an error could open the door for a costly exploit and ruin the game’s reputation beyond the possibility of repair. Several types of testing are conducted in this stage, including Unit Testing, Integration Testing, and User Acceptance testing.
In some cases, the game might be pre-ordered by specific providers, but it’s not rare for software studios that develop gambling products to complete a new title first and look into distribution later. A well-organised launch followed by multichannel promotion goes a long way toward ensuring the game’s success.
What Casino Games Are Available in the Digital Form?
A wide variety of game formats is one of the biggest allures of casino gaming, and this characteristic is emphasised even more in online casinos. Due to intense competition, gaming providers offer hundreds or thousands of titles, most directly related to well-known games of chance.
The idea is to use the same game rules that most players are already familiar with and to spice up the action with interactive features or juicy bonuses. With this in mind, we will list some game types most commonly found in the online gambling market.
Poker, blackjack, and baccarat are among the most popular online casino games, and they are well-represented in the virtual world. Almost every gaming website features a few variations of classic card games that give the player a chance to beat the house and win money. This casino game style also requires quite a lot of skill, which is why they are popular with experienced gamblers.
Another hugely important category involves live dealer games, where players can interact with a human operator drawing the card, eliminating the need for a maths engine. This gaming format comes close to an actual casino experience and is extremely popular among users of all skill levels. However, due to constant interaction, such games pose unique challenges for game developers.
Slots are probably the most user-friendly type of games, as they require very little skill or strategy. They are a staple of traditional casinos, with a slot machine spewing out a bunch of coins as an enduring symbol of the gambling industry. This game style works great online, as a slot game can be greatly improved by adding extra reels, inserting mini-games, or using similar fun gimmicks.
Despite the form factor, slot games offer a lot of excitement and entertainment. The moment before the reels stop, and the outcome is revealed is very engaging and motivates the player to keep spinning. Slots are generally considered simple games, but in terms of development, they still present quite a challenge, especially if they have to be matched to existing game machines.
Another group of highly popular games of chance are collectively described as table games as they were originally played at a casino table. Roulette and craps are the most prominent examples, and they can be found in almost every online casino. The player is competing against the house with precisely determined odds, and the winner is decided based on the randomly chosen numbers.
The development process for games of this kind is equally complex, but there might be fewer possible interactions to keep track of. This is one of the reasons why gambling providers are so fond of them, as they can be produced relatively quickly and are quite resistant to any attempts at cheating by the players.
Developing Games for Different Platforms
As previously mentioned, any casino game can be hosted on various technological platforms, from physical game machines to mobile apps that can be downloaded from app stores and other online software repositories. Needless to say, the game creation process is different for each form factor and must consider the system’s characteristics where it would be deployed.
Here are some possibilities for deploying casino games frequently encountered in today’s gambling market:
- Physical gaming machines.
- Browser-based online casino games.
- Downloadable applications for PC or Mac.
- Mobile games that can be accessed from a phone or tablet.
Evaluating a Game’s Success in the Market
All casino games are produced to become widely accepted and ultimately profitable. The only question is what evaluation parameter can capture the level of success for a particular casino game the most objectively. Here are some indicators of the game’s place in the market that should be considered:
- The number of deployments, i.e. online casino websites hosting the title.
- Total number of players interacting with the game on all platforms.
- Player feedback in the form of user reviews and ratings.
- Lifetime earnings for the studio derived from the particular game.
Is Being a Casino Video Game or Slot Game Developer a Good Job?
Software engineers with the skills to develop games are easily employable and often command very good salaries. Some have full-time jobs, while others prefer to work on a project basis. Highly skilled developers with experience working on large projects and creating hit online casino games are held in high esteem by their peers, and some of them go on to start their own companies.
On the other hand, the work is complex and technically demanding, even when working on a simple game, so this is not a job for everyone. It takes a lot of learning and hard work to become a respectable game developer, not to mention brilliant logic and advanced coding and debugging skills.
Getting an opportunity to land their first job working on a casino game might also be challenging, but those who are really dedicated to this goal and prepared to improve their knowledge constantly can take advantage of the fast-growing market and become a part of this lucrative industry, at least in an entry position for starters.