I’m not sure if I’ve told this story before. This goes back to Steffie’s grade school days, so at least 6-7 years ago – possibly longer. She was doing a report on Emperor Penguins and needed to know about their sleep habits. She could find (which means we could find) no data.
So, I sat down and scoured the (at that time) very new World Wide Web. I came upon a site maintained by a university professor, wrote him, and before I woke up the next morning a response had hit my in box.
I forget the exact wording, but the professor basically said, you’ve come to the right guy. There are only a few who’ve done research on the sleeping habits of Emporer’s, and I’m one of them. And then he went on to answer Steffie’s question in a much more thorough and learned fashion than a grade schooler would need.
Steffie wasn’t impressed, but I was, partially because of the answer, partially because he was writing from Hobart, Tasmania in Australia!
That was the “Eureka”¹ moment for me. I had tapped the real power of the net, reaching the right person with the right knowledge.
In the interim I have corresponded with Nobel laureates, presidents of television networks, the past two executive producers of Good Morning America and other luminaries. With a little sleuthing, it’s often easy to guess at the proper email address (though the New York Times is a particular pain in this regard as it’s an email free-for-all).
Where are we going with this?
In Las Vegas I saw the coolest slot machine… and I wrote to the person responsible.
I remembered your name from the New York Times Magazine article. I am a small IGT stockholder and have just returned from a week in Las Vegas. In real life I am a TV weatherman.
On my last night at The Mirage I stumbled onto the new Wheel of Fortune machine. The only reason I’m writing is because I was so impressed by what I saw. It is by far the sharpest looking machine I have ever played (I’m talking about gameplay here, not the exterior packaging). The video of Pat and Vanna and the graphic animations were excellent (though neither Pat nor Vanna should make a point of waiting for an Oscar – they were both really stiff)
Luckily for me, the random number generator was in a generous mood, and I did fairly well. Unfortunately, that allowed me to see what I consider a few shortcomings of the game. Every time I entered the bonus round I was slowed down by seeing the same video of Pat and Vanna. It was cool the first time, but I went to the wheel four times. It started to get old.
Couldn’t you look for a pause in the action, or the addition of cash, to determine if there was a new player and limit the number of times a particularly long animation would play for one person?
I also would have liked seeing some different cuts when Pat or Vanna appeared during ‘normal’ winning.
Finally, I was confused about how the bonus game worked. I understood that I’d have to choose letters, but beyond that, it wasn’t until trip four that I began to get it. Even then, I’m not sure of all the nuances.
I wouldn’t be writing at all, except I was blown away. It looked so good on the screen. I hope you don’t mind the comments.
All the best from Connecticut,
Last night I got this back:
Thank you for the note and the compliments, it is always nice and helpful to hear from our players. I will pass your comments along to my team.
What you observed is some of the power of our new platform, the AVP. It offers more memory, colors, and multi-media capabilities than our older product. For the next few years, we will exclusively use it for our high-end participation games where we charge a premium to the casinos. Since it is a new platform, we are still working out some of the pitfalls, one of them you encountered – the annoying intro videos that you have to watch. Our design specification requested that the player be able to ‘snap’ through it by touching the screen or any button. However, the software code was not set up to handle that and we decided that it was a better decision to release the product to market rather than wait a couple extra months for the feature to be implemented and tested. The good news is that it is already in the next Wheel of Fortune game as well as our other AVP products – so in future games you can either enjoy the videos or quickly move on with the game.
As more players become familiar with video slots, we are advancing the bonus rounds and trying new idea to try to give the players something they have never seen before. This bonus round is very unique but not exactly intuitive. While there is no skill involved, adding a little complexity seems to keep the player from becoming too bored too easily and hopefully play longer. The bonus itself is really easier than it appears. Three puzzles each have a color and some missing letters. Each time you find a missing letter, the multiplier for that puzzle increases. This continues until you pick a pointer with either 1, 2, or 3 colors on it. The colors on the selected pointer are the ones you win on your spin. The value on the wheel for the selected pointers are then multiplied by the multiplier for that color from the puzzles in phase one. It can lead to some really large wins.
Thank you again for writing and be assured we are working hard and for many hours daily to drive the stock price. Hopefully you have been an owner for at least a year or two and not just the past couple months.
Director of Game Design – IGT
Here’s why he asked when I bought the stock. Over the past five years this company has been positively buoyant – and though it’s well off its highs, it’s still 8-9 times what I paid for it.
It’s not Earth shattering stuff, but the kind of entr