We sat down with Foxium creative director Daniil Sanders to talk about their creative process, the future of online slots, and, most importantly, about their hugely promising upcoming title Cossacks: The Wild Hunt. Find our full conversation with Daniil below!
Bigwinboard: Hi guys, thank you for taking some time off from your busy slot-crafting schedule to talk to the world’s biggest online slot nerds! For those who don’t know Foxium all too well yet, you are the guys behind the hit ”Boom Pirates”, a slot that utilises your Wonderways™ mechanic, and which has the capacity to expand to over 10 million paylines. That game really put you guys on the map as far as we’re concerned. What has Boom Pirates meant for Foxium?
Daniil Sanders: Thanks for bringing us in to talk slots – it’s something we’re pretty passionate about! The recognition that Boom Pirates received was a real tipping point for Foxium as a studio, but even before that game was released to such acclaim, we’d been working to perfect our pairing of top-quality art and audio design with incredible gameplay, and our games were already resonating with players. Boom Pirates added something extra to that mix, and performed incredibly well because it built on our signature standard of playability and presentation with the addition of the new Wonderways™ mechanic.
Boom Pirates also cast a long shadow, and ever since that game was released, we’ve been prototyping, testing, and refining ideas for how to improve on it. I’m happy to say that I’m confident we managed it with our upcoming game, Cossacks: The Wild Hunt. As well as carrying through our heritage of unmatched audio-visual craft, Cossacks makes some tweaks to the Wonderways™ mechanic, simplifying the core logic to ensure that the experience is as engaging as possible without confusing players. And after all, both before Boom Pirates and in its wake, the players are what really matter to us.
“Cossacks is definitely what you’d call a statement game: it’s the best of everything that we can do.”
Bigwinboard: What defines Foxium as a studio?
Daniil Sanders: That’s an interesting question! I see Foxium as a craft slot studio, because we approach things differently, the same way new, small-scale breweries have been overturning that industry with a fresh slant and a real passion for their craft. Our slogan is “outfoxing the ordinary”, and that’s a mission statement that informs everything we do; we’re not happy to simply churn out more of the same.
There’s a sense of fun in our day-to-day work, along with a passion in everything we do. And like you might find at a craft brewery, where every ingredient is picked by a hand and brewed with real expertise and attention, everyone here enjoys coming to work in a way that bridges their personal and professional lives. I hope that our community spirit shines through in our games, because it’s something we really believe in.
Bigwinboard: You mentioned the upcoming release Cossacks: The Wild Hunt. Judging by the teasers we’ve seen it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a killer slot! Is this what you would consider to be a flagship title of yours?
Daniil Sanders: Cossacks is definitely what you’d call a statement game: it’s the best of everything that we can do. The best artwork, the best game design, the best audio, and the best setting and narrative. But honestly, that’s the way we feel about every game we put out. Nothing we release is ever “just good enough”, and we try never to settle – whether it’s a soundtrack or a new bonus feature we’re talking about.
As far as we’re concerned, we release every game with the vision for it to become a flagship game, and let the players decide. We’re thrilled to be releasing Cossacks soon, and I’m incredibly proud of the artists and technical teams who brought it to life. We also have several other upcoming games scheduled for 2021, and I’m confident that each of them has just as much potential to be our flagship game for the year as Cossacks does.
“Cossacks is absolutely destined to be a triple-A project from us, combining great gameplay with incredible presentation as well as the possibility of landing wins of up to 20,000x.”
Bigwinboard: The artwork and screenshots shared here are extraordinary. It looks more like a video game than a slot machine. What can players expect from Cossacks, and can you tell us a bit about the creative process?
Daniil Sanders: Originally, I and the team wanted to take the Wonderways™ mechanic we pioneered in Boom Pirates, refine it, and use it as the foundation for a Viking-themed game. We quickly realised, though, that the market was packed with games using Viking themes, so our goal shifted to coming up with an entirely new theme, new characters, and a new world that invoked similar feelings in players, but that was all completely original.
Historically speaking, the Cossacks were quite similar to the Vikings – just more reserved, and with more structure to their society. Casting them as characters in our latest game was a perfect way of conjuring up images from Norse and Slovenian history, and for striking a similar note to the Viking settings that players love at the same time as offering them something that was all-new.
Everything else about the game grew from there. Cossacks is absolutely destined to be a triple-A project from us, combining great gameplay with incredible presentation as well as the possibility of landing wins of up to 20,000x.
Bigwinboard: We need to talk about the soundtrack too, because Foxium has taken things to the next level here as well. Through our research we’ve come to learn that you guys have teamed up with American vocalist and composer Jillian Aversa who’s known for her contributions to famous video games like Halo, Civilization, and God of War. You’re really going all in here in terms of sensory experience, aren’t you?
Daniil Sanders: You’re right that we’re extremely committed to delivering a video game-grade audiovisual experience with Cossacks, as well as with our other games. We recorded a vocal track with Jillian Aversa for this game, which was an incredible experience spread over more than a month of refining lyrics together, recording, and collaborating. This was the first time Jillian had worked on a slot game, so we’re honoured that she agreed to take that journey with us. However, it actually wasn’t our first time recording a vocal track for a game – we did something similar with one of our first games, “FruitZ”.
Another thing players will notice with Cossacks is that we’re using top-tier voice acting talent as well as musical talent. We’ve recorded voiceovers with Michael Schwalbe who plays the Roman – the main character in Cossacks. Players will recognise him from global franchises like Transformers, Half-Life: Alyx, and other AAA projects. And what’s especially interesting is the synergy between music and voice; it was actually with the help of our composer Sean Beason that we were able to build our relationships with high-calibre talent like Michael and Jillian.
“As you can probably imagine from our commitment to artwork, audio, and story, we believe the entertainment aspect has a very important role to play in attracting new players from social gaming and video games.”
Bigwinboard: That’s amazing! We’re really thrilled to see a studio pour so much passion into their work. Do you think the iGaming industry is sort of evolving from being solely about gambling, to becoming more of a subsegment within the entertainment industry? Is that where things are headed you think?
Daniil Sanders: This is a very important subject, and it’s one that I think gets simplified too much these days. It would definitely be correct to say that the level of presentation and storytelling in slot games has never been higher, and I like to think that Foxium has done a lot to drive that forward. But at the same time, we as a studio understand that there’s a careful balance to be struck between entertainment and the long history of slot gaming, so we recognise that even the most story-driven games need to put real money winnings first.
As you can probably imagine from our commitment to artwork, audio, and story, we believe the entertainment aspect has a very important role to play in attracting new players from social gaming and video games, as well as in keeping existing players feeling as though there are new worlds to explore. But at the same time we as a studio understand that iGaming will not survive on entertainment value alone, that there’s a careful balance, and that it will always be a real money winnings first.
Bigwinboard: So let’s delve into the key components of Cossacks. What about volatility, mechanics, features, feature buys?
Daniil Sanders: Wonderways™ is at the core of Cossacks, in the fine-tuned form I mentioned earlier. Unlike other multi-ways games, Cossacks benefits from the concept of zoning that we first introduced in Boom Pirates. We’ve taken this to a new level where the higher potential for wins, cascade wins, and multipliers is communicated to players in a simple, intuitive way. The mathematics behind the scenes that make this all possible is complex, but the front-end experience is anything but – which helps players to remain immersed in the experience we’ve created. But at the same time, combining Wonderways™ with our FOXIFY™ feature can allow players to maximize the number of ways to win for every single spin, keeping the full potential of the mechanic constantly in their minds.
In terms of volatility, the base game sits somewhere in the middle, to cater for all types of players, and to provide the right balance between story and risk. The free spins feature takes things up a notch, and increases the likelihood of players taking home the maximum 20,000x win. And throughout the base game and free spins, two additional features can trigger that bring the Cossacks characters into play. First, Roman, who is our lead character, can use his dual swords to strike random symbols to reveal additional wilds. Second, his second-in-command Yana will randomly help the player by turning a random spin into a payout by replacing random symbols with a six-of-a-kind winning combination.
Cossacks also premieres a new addition to the ability for players to purchase free spins at different levels with different multipliers depending on their cost. The lowest tier starts with a 1x multiplier, the middle tier increases that to 10x, and the top, most expensive tier, takes it up to 20x.
Bigwinboard: We can’t wait to get our hands on Cossacks: The Wild Hunt! When is it coming out?
Daniil Sanders: To quote some of the studios we admire the most in video games: “when it’s done”. But, realistically, we anticipate that Cossacks will go live exclusively with Microgaming during the first half of the year with the chance for some operators and their players to get their hands on the game on an exclusive basis ahead of the global release.
Bigwinboard: To round things off, what else is in store for 2021? Are we going to get Boom Pirates 2 anytime soon?
Daniil Sanders: We are working on one more game that will use the Wonderways™ mechanics, but we’re not prepared to announce it just yet. Boom Pirates 2 is definitely something the studio is evaluating, along with some other themes – both homegrown and more recognisable. We’ll be ready to talk soon about what we’ve been working on beyond Cossacks.
Bigwinboard: Any final words for the Bigwinboard readers?
Daniil Sanders: Stay tuned! Anyone who has enjoyed previous games from Foxium will be blown away by what we have in store. Like I said earlier: everything we do involves taking things to the next level, and I’m confident that we have some real surprises and evolutions in store for 2021 and beyond.