As part of our ongoing series of behind-the-curtain interviews with game developers and designers, G3 speaks to Roman Sadovskyi, Product Owner at Evoplay Entertainment, about the creation of the latest games from the company, his design influences and the exciting technologies affecting slots development in the future.
Could you outline your background in game design?
I’ve been fond of creating my own magical worlds since early childhood. From the moment I had my first PC in my teens, I was enchanted by the idea of storytelling, as well as immersing myself in the realms of possibility when it came to imagination and visual content immersion in the games. I soon became involved in game modification options to customise stories for myself, which led me to joining Evoplay Entertainment as a junior game designer soon after it was founded.
How did you become involved in games design?
Since day one at Evoplay Entertainment I’ve been passionate about exploring and learning game mechanics as well as their visual style – especially when it comes to understanding what works better and doesn’t.
With that experience under my belt, I began developing new game concepts, design and mechanics for our future games. I’m delighted to say I now have my own projects coming out under the Evoplay Entertainment brand – Reign of Dragons and Nuke World have been particular highlights – as well as proving a real hit with our audience!
Who do you admire in terms of great design and where do you seek your inspiration?
For me personally, inspiration is all about the knowledge you gain during the process, rather than simply an abstract term that arrives out of nowhere. As a daily rule, I always read whatever I can. The world of iGaming isn’t insular, influences from the outside the world shape player’s preferences for the perfect gaming experience. Movies, literature and art are all part of that, and the influence of culture on our industry can never be understated. With this in mind, it’s a major part of our vision and strategy for our new projects, as well as taking a step back from existing games have in development and working out how the process can be improved.
Starting from a blank canvas, how and where do you begin the creative process?
During the project development stage we go all in. Of course, while some of these ideas and mechanics are incredible – they unfortunately can’t match the with theme or concept of the project. No good idea in the creative process is wasted however, and we keep them stored to be ready for us once we have a theme that suits them.
Having said that, we try not to overload our games with innovation for innovation’s sake – it’s essential to keep a smart balance in all of our products, instead of working in the latest shiny tech just because it’s there. Once we’ve made it past the initial creative stage and we have enough ideas and features to begin shaping our idea, I “place” them on a blank canvas and start brainstorming with the wider team as to how we’re going move forward.
What are the most important elements in creating an appealing game?
Besides the obvious elements – visual, design and code – the game’s engine and mathematics can never be underestimated. Music and sound effects are essential, as does having the ‘right people’ on the team. I’m particularly proud of the creative vision our team shares, and believe that our collective understanding and deep knowledge of our product helps us to deliver some truly amazing games.
How many design iterations do you have to go through before reaching the final concept?
When it comes to game design, process is king. We have the same pipeline of production for all of our games, and it all starts with the design document describing concept, setting, location, gameplay and mechanics.
Once approved, we work out exactly how the game will function, and begin working on a design mood board for all team members to brainstorm on visual elements, symbols and first sketch files. After that we look at the prototype of the overall game structure.
To minimise design iterations during the final production stage we collect all feedback and begin analysing the prototype stage – and at this point we look to answer the ultimate question – whether this product is solving the problem we set at the very beginning.
What is the relationship between the mathematics of the game, the artistic style and its sound design – and which is the most important in your view?
I believe that visual elements capture the most attention, but how the game actually works, and what makes a player tick, is most important. Everything needs to be in perfect synergy for the product to make an impact on market.
At ICE 2018, Evoplay Entertainment unveiled 3D/VR slots. How different is the design process for 3D/VR games compared to traditional slots? What kind of opportunities and challenges does 3D/VR present from a design standpoint?
The principal limitations of 2D are the weight and low variations that comes with it. Identifying the difference between 2D and 3D is easily recognisable. It’s easy to pick up on the unique atmosphere created in a 3D environment, it quite literally gives the feeling of a magic world surrounding you and responding to each move and action – making the player feel part of the slot.
Unsurprisingly, our first 3D / VR slot Necromancer did not come without its challenges. The huge amount of data required during development did not yet have a development framework in place, meaning one change alone meant it took us up to a couple of days to be able to enact one adjustment.
These challenges proved to be a fantastic learning process however, and have no doubt made us more flexible when it comes to future development. Necromancer opened the doors to the creation of our next major titles (Sprinkle and Dungeon), and wouldn’t have been possible without our first step into the unknown.
What do you see for the future of 3D/VR slots?
3D is definitely here to stay, but time will tell on VR/AR as the technology has not yet been fully utilised. While we can see plenty of demand in the market for VR-based gaming, there is simply not enough hardware yet to support its full use, so I would say the jury is still out.
While mobile devices cannot yet support the whole range of 3D features available, I expect that to change soon enough. We’re seeing plenty of progress when it comes to R&D – and features such as kinesthetic tech will be a real gamechanger. It’s also worth mentioning that AR is an exciting tech challenge for everyone, as the idea of producing a slot using the existing reality of the user and creating a playing field within it is revolutionary, especially for video slots. VR/AR are at a point when everyone wants to explore its function, but the technology is not ready to satisfy the demand, so again, there’s still plenty of time to go.
How do you target specific demographics through design?
We collect a huge amount of user analytical data as well as researching entertainment and content trends religiously from every corner of the world. This helps us to identify trends by their demographic. We then create our user persona profiles to set the right habits, interests and behaviour patterns. This helps each game to target the right audience.
How mindful are you of accusations that game design can be too cartoonish (appealing to children), stereotyping or generic?
In my view – people often find hidden messages and try to connect seemingly incoherent patterns. We are always very careful with our communication and messaging and follow all the rules of game certification and gambling commission to ensure full compliance. While I wouldn’t comment on other development studios – we take our role at Evoplay Entertainment very seriously and design our games with the correct audience in mind.
Is there an Evoplay Entertainment house style? How would you describe the design signature of Evoplay Entertainment?
At Evoplay Entertainment, we’re certainly not fans of the ‘tried and tested’ model of working! Each of our games differ when it comes to theme and visual style – as well as the mathematical models that power them. Of course, our audience have certain expectations for our games – and the continuity that comes with it, but we always aim to deliver variation and a new gaming experience.
Do you take a different approach to designing a game such as Syndicate, for example, as opposed to a game such as E.T. Lost Socks?
We always go for variation – as we want to deliver an exciting, one of a kind gaming experience – but there are commonalities in what we create in terms of development. From the high level of quality the game’s visual elements to the speed of loading, maths and optimisation, a lot of the underlying approach is core to what we do, and has a similar approach.
How culturally respectful are you during the process of designing a game?
We respect every culture and its traditions and take great care in entertaining our global audience. While creating a game, we conduct stringent research to avoid any misunderstandings, and certainly like to think it’s reflected in our games.
How large a portion of the overall design is animation and does practically every element of the game now need to be animated to appeal to players?
I would say no. If you start animating every detail of the game – the whole effect will lose its raison d’etre. We use animation to set the scene and for added impact when it comes to the big win, bonus games and free spins, but we don’t want to disrupt our user from the gameplay with extra effects that have no need to be there.
In your opinion, what is the most important design element to the success of a game?
A first impression can never be made twice, and without a doubt, the visual side is responsible for that. Visuals are key to emotion and the experience it provides, but in my view, game mechanics are key – and what drives a game’s true success.