The founder of Bigwinboard, Daniel S Hansson, got to sit down with legendary game producer Terence Igesund to talk about his iconic masterpiece Immortal Romance, which also happens to celebrate its 10 year anniversary! Daniel, who started his career in iGaming as a casino streamer back in early 2016, became known for one of the greatest Immortal Romance moments ever caught on camera (more on that in the interview – video included). He’s also a massive fan of the game, calling it “the most perfect online slot ever created”.
Up until now, the history of Immortal Romance, including how it came about and the man behind it all, has been shrouded in mystery. Today, however, the godfather himself has decided to step into the light to talk to us about the legend that is Immortal Romance.
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Hi Terence, thanks for speaking with me today and congratulations on the 10-year anniversary of Immortal Romance! Can you tell our readers a bit more about yourself and your game studio?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): Sure, my name is Terence Igesund, and I am the Executive Producer of Stormcraft Studios, which has its HQ on the east coast of South Africa and has been developing slots for Microgaming for the past 5 years. I, however, was fortunate enough to be in the room at the birth of the online gaming industry in the early 90s and have been designing online games for over twenty-five years.
Looking back, it has been an incredible journey, with so many industry firsts and other memorable highlights. Over the years I have had the privilege to work with many awesome licensed brands and bring those games to life in the likes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider™; Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones™ to name a few. What I am most proud of, however, are the slot brands that I manifested into existence and which have evolved into commercially successful fan favourites, like Thunderstruck, Immortal Romance and Mega Moolah for example.
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Oh wow, those are some AMAZING titles Terance! Many of them were complete game-changers too and still stand the test of time. Speaking of Immortal Romance, it just celebrated its tenth anniversary – can you give us some background into its creation?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): It’s incredible to think that a decade has passed since we launched Immortal Romance. It seems like just the other day that I had the idea for the game. I was in London for the ICE trade show (an iGaming exhibition for slots and betting in the UK), and like every year, remember making the annual pilgrimage to my favourite comic and collectable megastore in Shaftesbury Ave. I remember heading downstairs to the bookstore, excited to see what new graphic novels and art books would be for sale.
To my surprise, the shelves that normally contained the new releases were now filled with dozens of paranormal romance books. It was at that moment that I realised this trend was significant and we needed to get on board. So, I bought my first vampire romance novel, finished it on the flight home, and, on arriving back at the studio, announced that we were going to be sinking our teeth into the paranormal romance genre!
“I wake before the dawn, with a feeling something’s wrong, there’s a shadow on the wall, I’m not sleeping anymore”
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Indeed, the Twilight saga was all the rage back then so it really makes sense. The timing for such a slot couldn’t have been better. I must ask also, the music for Immortal Romance is undoubtedly one of the best soundtracks ever made for a slot – what was the production for this like?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): While conceptualising the characters for the game, I started thinking about what music would best represent their personalities and empower each of their free spins features. Amber needed to feel light and familiar; Troy had to be the opposite – dark and dangerous. Michael’s theme needed to be classical and steeped in history. Sarah’s theme needed to be a passionate long song.
While writing the backstories for each of the characters, I started playing with rhyming couplets from descriptive words that I had collected. “I wake before the dawn, with a feeling something’s wrong, there’s a shadow on the wall, I’m not sleeping anymore.” (Sorry to interrupt, Daniel here: HOLY shit, getting goosebumps just reading that line). I remember thinking, ‘Wait a minute, this could be a song!’ I called my sound designer David and told him we were upgrading the musical tracks he was working on into proper songs with lyrics. We had so much fun writing the songs for the game. I remember David being concerned that my lyrics for Troy’s track were too hardcore, but the character was supposed to be a real psychopath the song needed to portray him as such!
Once all the songs were written and composed, we asked a few of our multitalented designers who had good singing voices to record demo tracks for us. After we had made all the necessary changes, we hired professional singers to record the final voice track for the songs. In the end, we actually ended up keeping the demo voice track from one of our designers, as he had delivered such a powerful performance for Michael’s duet with Sarah.
Once the game went live and started breaking records, we knew we had achieved something special. This was confirmed when we received feedback from some operators that their helpdesks were being inundated with requests for more info on the music, with players wanting to know which bands recorded the songs. How awesome is that!
Prior to the release of the H5 version of the game, we remastered the songs and made them available on Spotify for fans to enjoy. We have since seen videos of YouTube singers doing covers of ‘In the Dead of Night’ so the song must have struck a chord with the community!
Daniel (Bigwinboard): When I was streaming back in the day, there were rumours going around that the band Evanescence had recorded the tracks haha. Now we can debunk that one. How do you feel when you hear streamers still singing along to the soundtrack?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): It’s awesome to watch them fully engaged in the experience. I do think that we may need to do for Immortal Romance what we did for Thunderstruck Wild Lightning, and that is to release lyric videos on YouTube of all the songs, because sometimes the words being sung are rather entertaining, to say the least! (the soundtrack to Wild Lightning is available here).
Daniel (Bigwinboard): When you were crafting Immortal Romance, did you have any idea that it would grow into such a fan favourite title and be enjoyed every bit as much ten years on as it was on its release?
“The dream is always for anything that you put your heart and soul into to be well received and appreciated by the intended audience”
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): The dream is always for anything that you put your heart and soul into to be well received and appreciated by the intended audience. I had a good feeling about Immortal Romance from the start but did not anticipate that ten years later it would still be as popular as it is and having achieved such incredible commercial success. I have to ask Daniel, do you have a favourite Immortal Romance character?
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Of course Terance! One simply cannot play IR without developing some sort of relationship to the characters – good or bad! This phenomenon became very apparent back in the days when I was streaming. Every time you’d trigger the bonus, viewers would spam the chat trying to make you choose their favourite character. It was always a great mix too.
For me personally, my favourite is Amber. It just feels like the most straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense option with its 10 spins and x5 multiplier. But I have to admit, the music is such a strong driving factor in this game and the Amber soundtrack is irresistible to me. I will choose that feature just so I can get to hear the theme.
My second choice would be Sarah. Seen some crazy hits on that feature, and the soundtrack is amazing as well. By the way, my girlfriend always wanted to go for Michael – I think it was all about the looks for her!
Moving on, I need to ask about the Wild Desire mechanic. It’s such a standout feature of the base game, how do you think this increases player engagement and overall entertainment?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): The Wild Desire mechanic is super exciting for players because with every spin of the reels there is the chance of triggering the feature. The hope of landing a wild reel across all five reels is palpable – the feature was designed with loads of anticipation to increase the thrill of the experience.
I must say that your Wild Desire reaction video on YouTube remains my all-time favourite to this day! I refer to it regularly when mentoring new recruits about the importance of craftsmanship, considered interaction design, and always keeping the end-user in mind. How did you feel when that fourth wild reel came in?
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Oh man, it’s mostly a blur to me but I still get goosebumps when I watch that clip. It’s such a loving memory for me, with my family and viewers being there to share the moment of pure joy with me. As a streamer, I don’t think anything else ever topped that, no matter what came after. I think it was the win that came to define me as a streamer and I still receive messages about it from people who were around at the time.
The Wild Desire is such an amazing feature. When you sense it coming, hearing that heartbeat, you get this rush of adrenaline and anticipation for what’s to come. Typically you get one, two, or, if you’re lucky, three wild reels, but this time I got a fourth one, which was just mind-blowing. Not only that, it connected with premiums as well. You can see the shock in my face when realising it wouldn’t stop at three reels. If the fifth would have dropped, I would probably have had a heart attack! I still dream of landing a full reel Wild Desire – maybe one day.
By the way, there’s a similar feature in Thunderstruck II and Thunderstruck Wild Lightning – will we be treated to any more Wild Storms in the near future?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): Yes indeed, Wild Storm will be featuring in our new Jurassic Park: Gold slot, which is launching globally in February 2022. Players will experience the powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring onto the screen turning up to five reels Wild. Daniel, you have reviewed a seemingly uncountable amount of new titles. With all the new games that have been released over the past ten years, what do you think makes Immortal Romance such a classic?
Daniel (Bigwinboard): Sometimes all the moving parts just come together perfectly, and IR is one of those creations. With Immortal Romance, you accomplished something unusual, namely to create a world with depth and great storytelling that players can immerse themselves into. It’s incredible how it all came together in such pure perfection – the atmosphere, the iconic soundtrack, the features, the 243 win ways format, the characters, the potential (which was massive at its time), and the incredibly well-balanced math model. Immortal Romance is more than just a slot to me personally. I have many memories associated with it. I can almost get sentimental playing that game as it makes me think of some of the beautiful moments I’ve had playing it on stream. I know many of my viewers love it as much as I do. One of them is viewer Trazke, a loyal follower and friend who is still around six years later.
“…the next chapter in the Immortal Romance saga is well underway”
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): Thanks so much! Do you have any features or functionalities that you would love to see in a sequel to Immortal Romance?
Daniel (Bigwinboard): That’s a tough question. These days there is a demand for high volatility and spectacular potential, so I would definitely like to see a version that can hit even harder yet still realistically achievable. As for features, I would probably keep the Wild Desire but maybe have the game grid and win ways expanded, allowing players to land a 6 reel wild desire – imagine that! It’s so hard trying to improve on a game that you already regard as perfect.
Terance, I’m really honoured to have had this opportunity to talk to you. Thank you so much for doing this for me and the community. I know there are loads and loads of IR fans who will enjoy reading this. I’m sure a lot of game producers and industry folks will enjoy it too! Before we sign off, do you have any other sneak peeks you can give us into Stormcraft Studios’ upcoming content?
Terence (Stormcraft Studios): Daniel, this has been such a blast, thank you so much for having me. As for upcoming content, the question that I get asked all the time is when are you making a sequel to Immortal Romance. The answer to that question is that the next chapter in the Immortal Romance saga is well underway and I can confirm that it will include exciting innovations, unexpected plot twists, as well as several new songs!
Daniel (Bigwinboard): WHAT THE F…Talk about a cliffhanger 😁