Slot machines used to be simple.
You put a few coins in a machine that held three reels, pulled a lever on the side, and hoped to get matching symbols along the single pay line across the center of the reels.
When you won by matching a winning combination your coins were dropped from the bottom of the machine into a metal hopper. You collected your coins in a bucket and used them to play more or put them in your pocket or purse.
Now it’s hard to find a machine that even resembles one of these old timers.
The reels inside the machine have been replaced with reels shown on a screen. The entire machine is now run by a computer using a random number generator.
This allows slot machine designers to develop games that are more complicated than older machines and also lets the designers add a wide range of features to attract new players.
I’ve covered many slots features below, but designers are coming up with new ones all the time.
Some older machines had wild symbols, but modern slots can use wild symbols in new ways. Not only do wild symbols substitute for other symbols to create winning combinations, now they can multiply wins by two, three, or more times, unlock free spins, or open bonus content in the game.
Scatter symbols don’t have to line up on an activated pay line to win. The scatter symbol is generally a picture of something related to the theme of the slot machine. They either pay a bonus or unlock a special feature (or both) when enough of them show up.
Check the payout chart to see how many you have to hit and what each number of scatters does. The payout goes up with the number of scatters, just like it does with matching additional normal symbols on a pay line.
A bonus feature is a special game or series of spins within a video slot machine. Most of them are unlocked by scatter symbols or other special combinations. I’ve played on a few machines that have a guaranteed bonus feature after you play a set number of spins.
Bonus features can be almost anything the developer can dream up. They can be special spins of the main reels or an entire new game called a second screen.
Almost every bonus feature is a chance to win a nice prize or group of prizes. (I say almost every one because it’s possible a bonus feature can be used for something else, but every one I’ve seen is a chance to hit a nice win.)
A second screen bonus is simply a bonus feature that opens in a new screen over the regular reels. They don’t have to be anything fancy, but most of them are elaborate animations.
Sometimes you spin new reels, or have to make other in game decisions like choosing between multiple options. Other second screen bonuses just load a short animated or regular video clip to show you part of an advancing story line.
The term used to describe newer slot machines and their features can get confusing. Most players call any slots game using a screen instead of real reels a video slot machine. This is a perfectly reasonable name and one I use myself.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking the word video is only used to describe a newer machine.
You can play slots now that have actual video footage inside the game. Whether from a television show or a movie or developed solely for the game, the graphics can be as good as anything you see elsewhere.
The only ones I’ve played have the video features as a bonus game and / or second screen bonus. You unlock the special game area by hitting a certain combination or by landing a number of scatter symbols and the new screen loads.
I played a knock off of the Lord of the Rings with an orc and an elf where you picked a champion and they fought. If your champion won you were awarded financially and you progressed one step closer to completing your quest.
The graphics were better than anything I’ve ever seen on animated television.
Slot machine video features come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so be on the lookout for new games offering them.
Slot machine manufacturers understand the more they can get you mentally involved with a game the longer you’ll want to play.
The developers have started introducing slots games with story lines to keep you involved. As you play you unlock parts of the story. Psychologically you want to unlock the next part of the story so you want to keep playing.
When you unlock another level they reward you with a win to reinforce your desire to keep going.
I’m not saying this is bad, but be aware of what they’re doing. I love some of the great games with story lines, but have started playing more online so I can switch to free play mode if I’m spending too much money chasing the next level.
Remember the old time machines I mentioned in the opening above? If you look, both at your local casino and online, you can usually find a few games like the old timers. They might still use a video screen to display the reels, but otherwise are simple and straight forward.
If you enjoy the old machines or the new slots filled with features you should be able to find numerous options for your slots entertainment.
The advancements in quality of game play and features are amazing. The developers keep coming out with bigger and better options to keep slots players at the machines longer and bring new players to the games.