To say that slot machines have evolved since their move from land-based casinos into cyberspace is a huge understatement. Game developers have come up with one thing after another to make new games stand out and attract new customers.
We’ve seen pay lines reach into the hundreds, we’ve seen pay lines disappear, and we’ve certainly seen some creative ways of making winning combinations on a slot machine. Every few months there seems to be at least one company introducing at least one new mechanism for generating a win on one or more of their games. The successful ones, of course, go on to be a popular series of games with the same or similar gameplay functionality.
In the meantime, you can find my top 5 casinos to play online slots for real money.
Increasing Pay Lines On Slots
One of the first things slot makers began doing was increasing the number of pay lines. Slot machines generally started out with just three reels and a single pay line. The first move was to three pay lines, all straight across the reels. Then a few moved it to five lines, with two diagonal lines added on.
The idea was that if you put extra coins in the machine, you could win for combinations made across different lines. When these types of slots first appeared, you could play just one line if you wanted to, or put in any number of coins between the minimum and maximum to choose how many you wanted to wager on.
On today’s video slots, the number of pay lines can be almost limitless. Most games run a “fixed” number of lines—meaning you have to play all lines—you can’t choose the number you’d like to play. Most machines run anywhere between 10 and 40 pay lines. The average five-reel, three-row video slots probably have about 25.
By now, this is something every slot player has heard of. At one time, though, they didn’t exist. Most slots these days have some sort of trigger that will enable a free spins feature. It’s a simple idea. The feature is triggered and the player is given a certain number of free spins. The free spins will play themselves out—sometimes with some variations on the rules—and then the player will be paid for any winning collected during the free spins. After the payout, the player returns to the regular game.
Pays Both Ways
Another relatively subtle but important change that some slot makers came up with was the “Pays both ways” payout scheme. Where traditional slots required all winning combinations to start on the first reel and continue to the right, these slots would also pay for combinations that started on the last reel and continued to the left.
This type of payout, of course, would more or less double the ways a player could win on a slot machine, regardless of whether he was playing on one line or more.
In an attempt to top the concept of paying both ways, some slots started to show up with a “pays anywhere” rule. This meant that winning symbols only needed to match up somewhere on a payline with at least three in a row. The winning combination didn’t necessarily need to start on either the first or last reel. Again this added a new twist to video slots and gave players a new way to hit winning combinations and get paid.
Many games have worked in some sort of multiplier collector. It may work based on spins, or by collecting certain symbols. The basic idea is the same for both, however. As you collect what is needed, the win multiplier will increase and give you a bonus on each winning payout.
The multiplier will usually reset back to 0 when you miss one of the items that need to be collected, such as failing to continue a winning streak, or landing a spin with none of the special symbols present.
Ways To Win
The “ways to win” system was a real game changer (pun intended). It did away with pay lines altogether.
Rather than having to line up the same symbols on a line, the ways to win system would award you a win if you got the same symbol on any adjacent reels, in any position, as long as they started on the first reels. For example, if you got symbol X once on reel one, twice on reel two, and one on reel three, you win. The position where they stop doesn’t matter, as long as they are on reels that are next to each other.
Most slots that use this method also include a multiplier bonus if you get the same symbol more than once on the same reel, such as having symbol X twice on reel two in our example above.
This payout system was then also given the “pays both ways” and “pays anywhere” treatment by some companies on some of their slots.
The original “ways to win” games had 243 ways to win. Even though there technically are no pay lines, it’s like having 243 pay lines on the same slot. You get the ways to win by multiplying the number of rows exponentially, by the number of reels.
For example, on a five-reel, three-row, video slot, you would multiply 3x3x3x3x3 to get 243. That’s the total number of combinations there are for similar symbols to match up and give you a win.
Of course, there’s always someone trying to outdo another, and it wasn’t long before the 243 ways to win slot machine became the baby of the bunch. Soon, slot machines started appearing with five reels and four rows, or 1024 ways to win. Then you’d find the occasional six by three or six by four machines as well, 729 and 4096 ways to win respectively. Paying both ways on those slots would effectively double the ways to win as well.
Eventually, though, we’re not sure if we can blame it on gambling or just on the lunacy of the Internet itself, along came Megaways™. The Megaways ™ system has been worked into several different slots in different ways. It can, literally, reach up into millions of ways to win on a single slot machine.
On some slots, it’s a fixed number of reels and rows, but on many of the slots that use the Megaways ™ system, the number of rows on each reel, or the number of reels, can change as you play. This makes for a game that will have a different number of ways to win on each spin. So on one spin, you could end up with 1024 ways to win, then on the very next, you could end up with over 100,000 ways. It all depends on what happens for that specific spin.
Looking for a new twist on the traditional idea of just lining up symbols to make a matching win, some companies started to design slot machines that would pay out clusters of symbols, rather than rows.
Most of these slots have a higher number of rows and reels. You’ll often find them in five by five or six by six configurations, sometimes even more.
The idea behind these slots is simple. The reels will spin and when the symbols stop, any that form a cluster, anywhere on the reels, constitute a win. Some games require only five symbols adjacent to one another to count as a win, others might require seven, eight, or nine.
So, rather than looking for rows or pay lines, you’re looking for groups of the same symbol sitting next to each other on the reels. Most games don’t count diagonal connections, though. Symbols must connect either horizontally or vertically. It is normal, however, that more than one cluster of symbols can win on the same spin, just like you’d win on more than one pay line on a traditional machine.
The avalanche feature has been worked into just about all of the game types we’ve already mentioned above in one way or another. The general idea of this feature is that whenever you hit a winning spin, the winning symbols will be removed from the reels and remaining symbols will fall down to fill in the holes. Then, depending on the game, new symbols may or may not fall in from above to fill in any open space left on top.
The end result is something like a respin. As the symbols shuffle around, you’ll have a chance at hitting another winning match. On most games, the feature will repeat over and over as long as you keep getting wins, and then you’ll be paid for all of the collective wins together. Some games also incorporate a win multiplier that will go up based on how many times to manage to make the symbols fall.
This particular feature is known for creating some very large payouts on certain slots, especially if it’s available during a free spins feature.
Respins are a small, but an often helpful feature. They usually trigger either at a random time on a non-winning spin, or they’ll happen when you almost trigger another feature. For example, some slots will give an automatic respin if you happen to land two scatter symbols but you need three. The respin will trigger to give you a shot at hitting the third scatter. Others are triggered by wild symbols. You’ll find a lot of variety with this feature.
Walking wilds sometimes do and sometimes don’t tie in with respins. The idea of a walking wild is that a wild symbol (or wild reel) will start out somewhere on the reels and “walk” one step to the left each time the reels spin.
Some games will give automatic respins which continue until the walking wilds leave the reels, others simply let you keep playing as normal and the wild symbol will simply move over one reel with each spin.
These can prove to be particularly valuable if you have a wild on the first reel and then more walking wilds behind it on other reels.
Jackpots are, of course, a big enticement for a lot of players. Some games have one or more jackpots worth thousands of dollars that can be won. Many games have three or four jackpots that vary in size. Some have special triggers that you’ll have to hit while others will simply award one on a random spin. The idea of winning £10,000 or £20,000 on a £.20 spin is a big lure.
For those who like jackpots Progressive jackpots take it s far as it can go. They collect just a bit of each bet made by every player that plays the slot all over the world and put it towards a jackpot. Some of these big progressive jackpots can award life-changing amounts of money. People have won millions of euros from just one lucky spin on games with progressive jackpots.
Yet another interesting idea that has popped up in a lot of video slots is the use of expanding reels. Generally, the game will expand one or more of the reels when you hit some special combination of symbols. This feature is used most often used in “ways to win” games to increase the ways to win as you play. Some games will also add extra wheels to the left or right as well, instead of just expanding existing reels into more rows.
There is usually something (bad) you can do that will shrink the reels back to their original size as well. This feature does a great job of keeping the action fresh since you never know exactly what you’ll be getting into.
Some games have a special reel that serves no purpose other than to grant the possibility of adding some type of bonus or bonus possibility to your spin. There may be an extra reel to the left or right of the main reels or there may be a reel that spins horizontally either on top of or below the main reels. Either way, these extra reels can add some extra surprises to your game right when you least expect it.
Some games use what has come to be known as mystery spins. They’re often triggered by landing a certain number of special symbols. When the feature is triggered, the special symbols will stick in place and all remaining spaces on the reels will respin. The trick is that all symbols have been removed from the reels except for the mystery symbol.
Somewhat like respins, the feature will continue as long as a new mystery symbol lands at the stop of each spin. When you finally hit a spin that ends the feature, the mystery symbols will all turn over, revealing the same symbol, and you will be paid for any win(s) created.
Interactive Bonus Games
Something that many players really like that could never be done with the old mechanical slot machines is the interactive bonus games that some video slots now include in their arsenal of fun. Some of these games are completely random and some give you a bit of a bonus for skill, too.
Most of them involve showing you a screen with symbols of some sort, each with a hidden prize. You select any symbol that you like and see how far you get. Most interactive games will have symbols that give you a prize, end the game, or reward you with another feature such as free spins or something similar. Some have a fixed number of picks that you can make and others will let you pick as many as you want until you hit a bad choice.
There are also quite a few slots out there that have more than one type of interactive game. These features can really make a slot machine a lot more fun, especially for those who like playing video games well. They tend to make you feel like you have a bit more control over what is going on, even if, perhaps, you don’t.
Between computers and the Internet, the options to play video slots for real money really are limited only by the imaginations of the game designers. There may be a few things we missed here, but this list should be pretty close to call of them. We’ll undoubtedly see more things we never thought we’d see appear on a video slot machine in the near future. Until then…
Cheers & Good Luck!