Interview: Game producer Toby Woolhouse, speaks to SlotBeats on our latest release, Booty Bay

One of our Game Producers, Toby Woolhouse, spoke with SlotBeats on our latest release, Booty Bay.
He explains why Booty Bay is different to other Pirate games, and talks us through the many exciting features that this game has. 

As with many slot themes, Pirates are much loved, so what has Push Gaming done to differentiate this from other pirate-themed slots that are currently available?
When it comes to the core themes and what is generally considered appealing by players, you see a lot of wealth and power symbols – Ancient civilisations like Greece and Egypt, Gods, Kings and Queens and the ever-popular Leprechauns with their pots of gold. Pirates are up there too with their plundered booty and treasure chests. A lot of pirate games that have come before have taken place on the deck of a ship on the high seas, but we wanted to lean more into the lush tropical cove setting.

The animation and artwork does a lot of heavy lifting here; there’s a skull rock overlooking the reef, a sandy bank in the centre and a lot of effort has gone into the water animations –  If you watch the moving chest symbols in the game, they move differently if they’re on the sand as opposed to the water, it was those small details that we really wanted to emphasise. It’s also a summer launch game so we wanted it to enjoy a bright, vibrant summer theme.
We pride ourselves on the level of execution we put into the artwork and how experienced we are in creating expertly executed takes on existing themes and we believe it sets us apart as a studio.

The visual styling of the characters has a chunky, angular look, which we drew inspiration for from the game Sea of Thieves by Rare. This had a really fun visual style that occupied a middle ground between being light and approachable but not too cute and cuddly which we were anxious to avoid. We’re really pleased with how it’s ended up, our approach was right where we wanted it in terms of the rendering style and the look of the environments.

Talk us through the inspiration and development of the game theme

The feature approach happened entirely up front, and actually came before the theme idea. Our lead mathematician had a great idea for a mechanic called the Hotzone, inspired by Jammin’ Jars. The idea was that instead of needing to get a win for your chance to progress and get increased multipliers, you had an area within the reels where if the player’s symbol was inside it, it moved around, increasing the multiplier. It was well received and after some work to refine it, we were able to decide on it fitting a 5×5 game and nailed down the mechanics of it ahead of time. 

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Meanwhile, we had wanted to do a pirate themed game for a while. We’d never produced one before and we thought we could execute the genre really well. That then helped us make other decisions like a pick and click feature which became the Treasure Map feature in the game where you click on various areas of the map to win different prizes. So it was largely the features that led to the creation of the overall game, with the desire for a pirate game fitting nicely with the mechanics.

Booty Bay is packed with features – can you explain how they work?

Rather than make the game a cluster payer with cascades, we wanted to shake things up by using respins instead. We found it really exciting when you get to reset the entire reel every time your wild symbols are inside the central 3×3. The game really emphasises  what I think was one of the most important parts of Jammin Jars’ success: every time you get a big win in both Jammin’ Jars games, players can see that if one of the Wild Symbols had landed one position different, the win would have been so much bigger – and that being really apparent to players really elevates the gaming experience. 

Those who pay close  attention get drawn into the positioning and the possibility of big wins as the wild symbols start to line up. We found it really increases the engagement and the anticipation of these moving symbols. When the wilds are moving around the playfield, it becomes really exciting as the player starts to anticipate their movements.

During our BETA launch we saw this in spades and the feedback that we got was that it elevates gameplay, which was what we were looking to do. Since keeping your symbols in the Hotzone was a key engagement driver, we wanted the features to help players do just that. We added a magnet feature which became the Swirling Rapids where water surges around the cove and pulls the chest into the 3×3 so you get more repsins.

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We have the base game Locking Wilds feature where a special symbol lands and any chest within the Hotzone are locked in place. The other big feature is the Triple Wilds lock, so as soon as you get a third wild, any that are in the central area become locked for three respins. Because the reel layout is relatively small, the odds of the third wild connecting with the other two feels achievable to the player and builds anticipation.

The excitement that runs throughout the game as players try to keep symbols within the Hotzone is the main focus of the game and we feel that it’s almost a condensed version of what made Jammin’ Jars and Jammin’ Jars 2 so hugely popular. The tighter reel set makes it easier to see where players want things to go – it makes it fantastic fun. 

Where the real difference lies is in the rather than chasing a big respins round we wanted to give players more to build up over time and give them a more enjoyable base game experience, so we built a base game respinner. I like to think of Booty Bay as a base game that turns into a super base game, as opposed to a base game that transitions into a separate bonus round.

What’s next in Push Gaming’s slot release pipeline?

People really like our games and the volatility of them. Booty Bay is a slight departure from the normal slot we produce and while it is super engaging, it is slightly lower in terms of volatility, but if the performance of it dictates, then we’ll look to replicate that in future titles. For now however, it’s a return to our classic style with the next installation in the Fat series.

Fat Drac (as in Dracula!) is set to continue the line of classics such as Fat Rabbit and Fat Santa. We can’t reveal too much about it just yet, but it’s a title we’re really excited about. It’s going to launch in October in time for Halloween, so keep your ears to the ground for more information as the year progresses!

The original interview can be found here.

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