The Beginning of a New Grid Slot Era: Nik Robinson on His Latest Creation

Interview

As Big Time Gaming prepares to launch its next great innovation, Bigwinboard speaks exclusively to CEO Nik Robinson about 12 eyed aliens, past adventures, future projects and, of course, Star Clusters Megaclusters.

Scheduled to go live on Betfair on the 17th of June, followed by a global launch two weeks later, Star Clusters is not just Big Time Gaming’s first ever grid slot, it also features a brand new, never before seen game engine known as Megaclusters™. This simple but clever creation splits symbols into smaller symbols, literally reverberating into a clusterf*** of controlled chaos when it decides to go completely crazy.

And the hype is not just about the game per se, it’s all the endless possibilities that the Megaclusters engine opens up as well. Just imagine, your favorite grid slots might very well get a second life once developers secure their very own Megaclusters license. It’s the Megaways rocket ride all over again. 3-2-1, blast-off!

Q: Hi Nik! Congrats on the 9.8 score! As you know, we’re usually quite restrictive when it comes to awarding such high scores, but from the second we hit that ‘spin’ button, we felt that Star Clusters could very well be the beginning of a new era for grid slots in the same way Megaways transformed traditional payline gaming. What was your reaction when you read the review? Did we get your vision?

Nik Robinson: [Blushing] I think you got the idea, yes! I know it’s never wise to blow your own trumpet, but this game has had me transfixed in demo play for months on end. There’s always something new to see, a new way of hitting the feature. Be it getting the gold multiplier up pre-feature, or just knocking out a double-digit set of free spins – it’s all in there, and just needs to be tapped off and bottled with every session, like a fine whisky.

Q: Once we got to see the Megaclusters engine in action for the first time, our initial reaction was – why hasn’t anyone thought of this before! It’s like Megaways in a grid slot format if you will. Were you ever nervous that someone would beat you to it?

Nik Robinson: I think there’s a thing that everyone subconsciously taps into, it’s the ether of all consciousness. It contains pretty much everything that has happened, or will happen across multiple universes, and it is all up for grabs. You just have to tap into it.

For example, there’s a 12 eyed alien called Bob in a casino a trillion light-years from here playing a Megaclusters game. Bob’s ancestors weren’t always twelve eyed, they started to sprout more on an evolutionary cycle once Megaclusters had been invented. This enabled them, as a race, to grab all the simultaneous visual action. Do you think I’m kidding? Well, perhaps not, but the ether is very real when you think about an idea; the chance of someone else bringing it to life becomes worrisome. Last year I was going to shows feeling that, just by thinking about the game I was somehow passing it on to other providers.

“In order, the math is very complex, we don’t just put a bunch of wins into a bin and pull them out all Friday night tombola style! We process every single spin dynamically and on the fly, as we do with Megaways™”

Q: Talk us through the creative process a bit please. We know you were directly involved in the production and we’ve seen you use that iconic Moog synth to record some loops.

Nik Robinson: 17 years ago I came up with the first grid-based real money game, way before Bejeweled was converted into a cash gaming product. The game was a big hit and lasted about as long as Flash did. I sold the company that built it many moons ago, but that genuinely planted the seed for every grid-based cluster game you see today, which are all more or less Chain Reactors with either a bell here, or a whistle there. At BTG we have all been focused on Megaways and caught up in the process of building meaningful iterations of the genre, now classic games like Extra Chilli, Millionaire and Royal Mint. Sorry losing track, back to the question…

A few grid games of late have made a mark and that got me thinking about the genre again, but with many years absent from the concept, I kept returning to it from different angles until at the start of last year, I began to get excited about the possibility of reactive division. Hell, ain’t that the way we humans are made, after all, it’s a natural organic process.

So at first, it was split into two, but that was a bit boring and a little misshapen, so two became four! I put a few graphical mockups together to see how the divisions would work on a phone and, it kinda worked! From there the journey began – onto the math, the graphic design and the sound.

In order, the math is very complex, we don’t just put a bunch of wins into a bin and pull them out all Friday night tombola style! We process every single spin dynamically and on the fly, as we do with Megaways™. So every single winning spin will produce a completely unique game board that no one else will ever see – unless of course, you’re a streamer. The unique nature of every win is why I just can’t stop spinning this game, it’s like an ever-changing kaleidoscope. So the maths under the bonnet is doing something really special.

On the surface the graphics depict that we are flying through a never-ending rainbow of colours – colours that are charged up by every win. All the gem reactions send shockwaves of the unique colours through the entire game window. Megaclusters™ game design is also hybrid, it feels like a slot and then cascades, the bigger symbols burst into mini slot machines that spin in situ. Once they’re exhausted, they become cascading symbols.

We hope the mechanic will finally unify grid players and slot players as there’s something for everyone. Above all, the game starts simple, and that was a major decision from the get go, keep it simple and let the game reveal the complexity.

The sound is four on the floor techno, as simple as you can get. However, the Moog One is very complex and intentionally so as the game grid starts simple and becomes complex, the bits in between the duff, duff of the bass drum create a rich complex tapestry of sound. This also chimes in with lights that are attached to the background, and interface, and the whole thing becomes a light and sound show with specially built-in modulators that pick up the rhythm and push out graphics and illuminations in perfect sync with the groove. All pretty groovy and a little more-ish!

star clusters megaclusters
Star Clusters Megaclusters – free spins feature

Q: What do you want players to feel and experience when they fire up Star Clusters to have a go?

Nik Robinson: I want players to feel fun and excitement. Slots should be a white knuckle rollercoaster ride into riches! However, some players will lose, and if players are going to lose their hard-earned cash, then they damn well ought to be thoroughly entertained by their bankroll. Star Clusters is not a long slog of game either, the base game is very light and fluffy and the feature frequency is roughly 1 in 100 spins, so if you kick off that auto 100, there’s a mighty chance you’re going to hit a feature.

In terms of gameplay, for me, when I play it, I get a warm fuzzy feeling and I hope that’s what our fans find when they boot it up for a quick session. I will also say this, that you can’t judge any game by watching a video of gameplay. It’s a bit like buying a car because it looks OK, you don’t really know how you feel until you’ve got behind the wheel and taken it for a spin. I will say as much for Star Clusters, you have to play it first hand to really get a feel for what it can deliver.

Q: In the past, you’ve done some exclusive first spin launch events with some of our streamer friends like Letsgiveitaspin and Chipmonkz. Is this something you plan to do again for this release?

Nik Robinson: Yes, we’re giving the live stream launch to Chipmonkz on Paddy Power Betfair next week, purely because he made such a balls-up of the Lil Devil launch (which was out of his control) and he deserves a second chance 🙂

Q: We know you’ve been asked this question a lot and it’s probably hard to answer at this point before the slot has proven its worth, but do you see Megaclusters going on export the same way Megaways has?

Nik Robinson: Yes indeed, we already have a bunch of licensees signed up and eager to move forward with a wide range of Megaclusters™ games.

Q: Maybe we’re going off on a limb here, but wouldn’t it be cool to see Reactoonz Megaclusters or Jammin’ Jars Megaclusters versions? It’s not hard to imagine that a dynamic engine such as Megaclusters could bring new life to such great titles and enhance the experience.

Nik Robinson: I guess they’re some of the games that popped up on my radar to get me thinking about doing a grid-based game again. I guess we’ll just have to see. At the moment though, grid games seem to hit in certain jurisdictions more than others. I’m hoping Star Clusters will break the borders as it is such a different game to a standard grid game.

Q: A while back you took part in a webcast in which we got to see a presentation of Star Clusters. You also mentioned that you were already working on the next Megaclusters slot. Is there anything you can say about that?

Nik Robinson: Yes, super excited about this one. It’s going to be shiny, futuristic, and as tough as a truck! Can’t say much more than that, but it’s going to be illuminating and will change things up quite a bit!

Q: A few days ago we published an article about a player who landed a 105,000x+ win on Lil’ Devil which could possibly be the biggest non-jackpot win in history. To be honest, we weren’t fully aware that the slot has such insanely high potential. Obviously, you know your slots better than we do, but were you surprised to see this?

Nik Robinson: No, not surprised at all. The max pay amount we propose is in a single spin of the reels, not in feature entirely. Other games have paid more, players just haven’t come forward asking for replays. Lil’ Devil is a game that’s built to last. It’s the biggest paying non-progressive game built to date and we will no doubt see some magnificent wins hit the public domain over the coming years.

Q: Finally, is there anything you want to say to all the fans out there playing your games?

Nik Robinson: I hope we’re doing OK. It’s taken us 9 years to get here! We thank you for all your support and choosing to play our games! Here’s to the next 9 years! If you have any questions leave them down below and I’ll send Bigwinboard the answers 🙂

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