HungryBear's "Slot Masters" - social casino and free-to-play tilt come to online casinos?

Joined
May 10, 2014
Location
UK
Joked about it on another thread, but not finding any mention of this so spinning up a thread for it.

In picture form...
Hungrybear_Blueprint-1024x575.jpg


Some media coverage of this from last summer - with various interviews with their CEO who talked about multiplayer slots being a recent innovation in the industry (Microgaming's Wheel of Wealth was when. 2014? :rolleyes:), a few articles about operators picking it up (Ladbrokes, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games, and now Mecca), signed a content deal with Blueprint in July (to add to SG/LnW), but surprisingly not a lot else - including a rather barebones official website at slotmasters.co.uk and a Facebook page with a couple of dozen followers.

In short, up to 3 players will battle for a few minutes in a versus slot battle - players can gain chests where they can select positive or negative rewards (up to and including zeroing or stealing the score, I'll come back to this in a bit). Depending on the rules, the winner of the individual battle may not get anything - in the case of Mecca the scores are aggregated across multiple battles and fed to the master scoreboard to determine final placings.

So why the title? Casino players aren't the most forgiving to players who make "mistakes" or "bad decisions" that cost them money - plenty of tales of venom for bad or drunk blackjack players who save the dealer and bust the table with "unorthodox" (bad) play. I anticipate that this will go the same way - if we exclude the narrow scenario where multiple players are fighting for the same prize (e.g. both in contention for first place), the positive interactions seem to be somewhat limited (e.g. you might be able to chuck someone a wild reel if you are smart and fast enough) but the negative interactions are plentiful, up to and including deducting 50% or 100% of your score (Ladbrokes additionally mention two abilities to steal players scores as well, so more chaos to come 🤣) - and once the gloves are off it will become a race to the bottom.

I'm waiting for the inevitable moment that a player nukes the score from someone about to win the tournament (especially if of no benefit to themselves) - and the inevitable bust up in the car park bingo lobby afterwards. Free-to-play tilt and real-money casinos seems like a dangerous cocktail to me...

It feels like a bit of a gimmick and surprisingly clunky for an established product (I would have assumed this was the first outing given the number of technical issues and problems identified, but Ladbrokes have been running it since February). To be fair to the operators they did throw some decent initial money at these - Ladbrokes had some "money can't buy" experiences and Mecca are offering £20k/week... but in the former the money dried up fairly quickly and currently offering £125 per tournament for the top 10 with consolation spins/bets/bonuses for everyone else.

Given there are multiple tournaments per day, this is clearly being used as an engagement tool and it will obviously have to keep those stats up for the offering to continue. It's interesting that the game FAQ (snippet below) opens the door for pay-to-play to be a future option, but that feels like a collusion headache in the making... poker still has to fight that battle daily and they have a 20+ year head start on experience.

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Slotting's a solitary endeavour and selfish one to boot, and so I can't see why they'd throw so much weight behind it. I expect it to go the same way as 3-D TVs if that synopsis is anything to go by!

Though multi-play and cross-platform interactivity is fairly commonplace in other forms of entertainment, I'm not too sure that this is really the best medium for it, given how dastardly play and all-round subterfuge is the end goal, when its purpose surely is to create social play and a sense of communal engagement.

All I see is another modernized resurrection of an idea that's already historically had a lukewarm reception. And with that much animosity brewing, I expect people to partake in it as 'Spite Participation', and to ruin the vibe of others. I expect many a car park to be bathed in blood :eek::D
 
Though multi-play and cross-platform interactivity is fairly commonplace in other forms of entertainment, I'm not too sure that this is really the best medium for it, given how dastardly play and all-round subterfuge is the end goal, when its purpose surely is to create social play and a sense of communal engagement.

All I see is another modernized resurrection of an idea that's already historically had a lukewarm reception. And with that much animosity brewing, I expect people to partake in it as 'Spite Participation', and to ruin the vibe of others. I expect many a car park to be bathed in blood :eek::D
I liked the idea of Wheel of Wealth (it had a few spin-offs, including Playboy multiplayer), but there's only so much you can do in an online setting without the headaches of cameras and microphones - probably more a moderation / liability problem than a technical one.

I've done group pulls and versus slot play with friends in person, it adds a bit more to the mix but primarily it's about the social interaction - as it's more for variety and banter.

For bingo operators, it's a curious decision because they already have headaches with serial moaners complaining about the numbers, the tickets, the same winners, the day of the week... and now you've got actual reasons for them to be moaning... well they'll get engagement, just not the type they wanted 🤣
 
This has been live for a few weeks now, if my original opinion was below-average, my current opinion is probably closer to outright disgust.

It really concerns me how this is being provided by multiple regulated casinos and on what appears to be NYX's aggregation platform (which is now controlled by Light and Wonder).

So far I've seen:
  • cheating bots - the official bots (that are added if there are insufficient players) using abilities beyond the allowance provided.
  • cheating players (whether intentional or not) - in one case, a player had a zero score at the end of the round, but was credited with the pre-steal score... which resulted in them receiving a podium cash prize for a score outside the top 100.
  • with the latest update adding mirror/witch - server error messages creeping into the client, regular crashes of the game client mid-round.
  • frequent amounts of "how did that happen?", not a surprise when you're acting in fractions and the game is acting in seconds - not unheard of to see five seconds of delay.
  • a handful of cases of blatant collusion.
  • possible scripting or botting from players also - if it was developed competently I'd argue this was far-fetched, and early on it was easy to put it down to bad players that didn't understand the rules... but this still happens and is fairly consistent in behaviour (often using abilities at first opportunity, often attacking the leader and switching if the lead switches - and often making no sense as far as gameplay... e.g. shield in the first 5 seconds, stealing near-zero amounts etc)
The only thing saving this right now is it's free-to-play... and to be honest I'd rather the casino throw the money into something else (free bingo, daily wheel or whatever) because this is a painful experience. While the number of participants has gone up, their active players (the ones who deposit and spend money) seem to have lost interest in it - rarely gets mentioned in chat, and when it does people mention they've stopped playing it because it's dull, frustrating or not working correctly.

While it hasn't been published by NYX or Light and Wonder themselves, it's a stain on their reputation that not only they'd allow such defective products on their platform in the first place, but it's still seriously defective nearly a year on...

If this ever goes pay-to-play, the regulators are going to have a field day ripping this one apart.
 

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