The first slot machine was invented in the far year 1894. They are still fun to play, though — now in digital. This article will review what modern slot game development looks like and what you need to build a slot game.
Learn Key Elements of Slot Machine Development
Any game design process can be divided into steps from coming up with an idea to post-production. How does slot development differ from the development of other games? Let’s review the details.
Slot Machine Art
First, digital artists create concept art — sketches of the future slot game. The process typically looks something like this:
- Concepts inspired by other artworks, slot games, genres, movies, books, or any other inspiring things.
- Primitive sketches.
- “Middle version” or a basic artwork.
- 3D mockup or a 3D model with lighting and perspective (if it’s a 3D slot game).
- Final render.
Because slot machines have very simple mechanics in real-time casinos and digital versions of the game, the distinguishing feature of a slot game are often its art and story behind it.
People create slot machines with fantasy, steampunk, sci-fi art, and use fandoms — movies, TV shows, games — gamblers know and love to attract a new audience (the latter requires IPs, though.) That’s why slot machines based on stories and concepts from the ancient Greek and Roman mythologies are so popular in Europe and the USA: for many, they have instantly recognizable characters and narratives.
Mechanics describe how your slot game interacts with a gamer — and how a gamer can interact with it.
Every game uses behavior people are prone to at some point (that’s why people love achievement hunting so much), and slots mechanics aren’t different. Casino slots are intended for a specific target audience – gamblers. They want to escape the real world — as most other gamers do — and they’re often super competitive.
Slot machines often employ impressions of near-win to keep gamblers on edge: it’s never a failure, it’s just not enough of a win. The slot game interacts with users, encouraging them not to give up and rewarding them for it (with bonuses, boosts, and boons).
Interestingly (and dangerously, if used maliciously), if in other games mechanics reward players for remembering the patterns and learning how to master the game, slot machines reward players for continuing to play.
In a feedback loop, where only gambler, slot rows, figures of money won/lost, and a tiny menu exist — a user-friendly interface like this, devoid of distractions or references to anything other than slots is a feature of almost any slot machine. A gamblers’ brain, at some point, gives up on searching for patterns, because there are none due to randomization, and gives into a simple virtual world where all that matters is the process of trying to get lucky.
The next component of slot machine development is choosing the game engine/framework you’ll use to create a future game.
Are you interested in how to make a slot machine game in Unity? We’ll explore this further — but keep in mind that Unity and Unreal Engine are needed mostly for innovative slots development. Flying cars from slot games, if you will.
Building slots is simple in comparison to multilevel plot-rich titles — so companies often use web platforms to build them. Web constructors typically offer libraries with learning materials that guide people through the development; coding knowledge is useful, but frequently what’s needed is basics. This option is perfect for beginners in slots development.
Once you choose the platforms that your game will run on, you must look for game engines that support the languages of that platform.
- Mobile games. Java, Kotlin, and Swift.
- Desktop games. C#, C++, Java, and Lua.
- Console games. C++ only.
So, your game engine of choice must either offer development in that language or an option to port to the language of the platform. For instance, Unity uses C#, but there are options to port C# to Android and iOS — tools that “translate” the game for a device under the hood.
Cross-platform game engines like Unity, UE, Cocos2d, GameMaker Studio 2, etc. offer the opportunity to ship to multiple platforms at once which is why they’re often used by slot games developers.
Game engines or frameworks are your slot software development tools intended specifically for game designing.
High-end desktop slot games are often built using Unity or Unreal Engine software solutions — they’re very popular among gamedev as a whole, too. For mobile games, you may prefer Corona and Fusion. Phaser and Construct 3 do the work for web-based slots.
Stages of the Slot Game Development Process Explained
Now, let’s get into more details of the process and focus on what to do to make your game and your brand recognizable.
This stage is perhaps, the most straightforward and creativity-demanding one. Currently, there are thousands of slots. You need to make up something innovative enough to stand out from the crowd.
Additionally, you need to brainstorm a design idea, i.e., what is the concept of a game itself. This will define the style of your game. Look for inspiration in history, popular art, themes of books, films, technologies, nature, animals, etc.
Because slot games are designed to be infinitely replayed, there’s often no opportunity to sustain a coherent plot. But, stories can emerge everywhere — in the character's dialogue with the player, encouragement, on “timing-out breaks”, and so on. That can be a distinguishing feature of your slot game.
Creating a Prototype
This integral step suits the only goal – find out if your idea performs well. For this purpose, you take your basic artworks, use software or a web platform to make a game layout work, and see if people enjoy it as you’ve thought they would.
The prototype shows how the game functions. It often includes the music in the background, betting scripts, Random Number Generators (RNG), and the payment gateway if you’re building a slot game that people will pay for with real money.
It is the main production stage: you’re creating the code of the game — through the game engine’s graphic user interface (GUI) or without it.
This stage is usually divided into several phases of development, where each cycle ends with a previously established milestone.
As a result, you receive a completely functioning game for one or several platforms. It should be prepared for further integration with various payment systems.
Testing is incorporated in development — each development phase is finished after testers and QAs validate a part of a game that has been developed. There are several pre-release testing stages like vertical slice and beta testing — when the slot game is presented to users for them to evaluate if it’s good and if they would pay money for it.
Players provide developers with feedback, and they react to the reviews that have the most significance and the highest priority before release.
After a game is polished – it is released one more time as a final version. Then – only the regular updates are to improve the game.
Release and Maintenance
It is the end stage of slot machine game development. After months of coding, weeks of testing, and several prior releases – a game is ready to be sold to customers.
Typically, a slot game does not have in-app purchases or any other features attributed to the regular gaming market. But, the constant maintenance is still due. Developers gather gamblers’ feedback and release updates, curate new events, run giveaways, and so on.
Top Slot Game Development Software
If you ask an expert how to develop a slot game, they are most likely to recommend you one of the following top game engines:
- Unity (Desktop + Mobile). Unity developers code in C#. It’s the most popular game engine in the world. Suitable for 2D and 3D and VR (the latter is said to be a hot trend for gamblers, but it’s yet to show substantial results).
- Unreal Engine 4 (Desktop + Web). C++. The second most popular game engine in the world. Also works with 2D and 3D.
- Fusion (Mobile). Fusion devs use Java. It’s great for creating 2D and 2.5D slots for mobile platforms.
- Phaser (Web). HTML5. Good for quick development — people using Phaser can create slots directly in their browser.
The choice of a game engine depends on your knowledge of a particular coding language, the target platform for a game, and, like, UI preferences.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Slot Game?
The price for full-cycle development services falls somewhere between $5,000 and $200,000. It depends on the developers’ wages, the region where they are located, and how long the development of a particular game takes.
But, considering that financial profit from a successful, customized game typically exceeds expenses, such a project is a promising investment — slot games are the main moneymakers for online casinos.
How Long Does Slot Game Development Take?
It may take a few days to cobble together a low-end, primitive slot, but up to two years to create a top, highly profitable game (particularly because of various monetization mechanics.)
In general, slot game development ranges from a few months to a year (or more, if the project is AR-driven, for instance.)
How to Choose Slot Game Developers for Your Project?
The quality and the success of any digital product mainly depend on the qualification of the developers.
Costs of development vary depending on differences in wages across regions and countries, the expertise of developers, their way of working, etc. When choosing, examine developers’ (or a game studio’s) portfolios and don’t hesitate to ask their previous clients for references and ask about them on social media. That can save you a lot of headaches.
Also, game developers specializing in the niche (experts in building slot games, specifically) may do better work than those with more experience in regular games: so, it’s recommended to start your research from them.
As you are fully aware now, the slot development process is complex and simple at the same time. As with most games, slots, too, require creative work and a deep understanding of the player's psychology, even though the mechanics they employ frequently build upon convention and multiply it rather than invent something new. (By the way, you can invent something new. That’s a large market opportunity.)
Note, that safe gambling practices need you to install mechanisms for players to take breaks and impose limits on the amount of time they spend playing. It’s best to do that even if your game doesn't ask them for real money.
- How Are Online Slot Games Made?
To make a slot game, you need the following components: an idea, concept arts, well-thought-out mechanics, a suitable game engine, plus the knowledge of a programming language.
- What Does the Slot Game Development Process Look Like?
Brainstorming, creating a prototype, coding, testing, release, and continuous maintenance. In other words, these are pre-production, production, and post-production phases.
- How Long Does Slot Game Development Take?
It may take from a few months up to a year, depending on the complexity of design, innovativeness of mechanics, and the number of platforms supported.
- How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Slot Game?
Average development services vary from $10,000 to $200,000. It depends mostly on how time-consuming the development is and the wages of the hired specialists.