Interview with Lucksome (Bryan Upton, Founding Director)

June 25, 2023 0 comments
Lucksome (Bryan Upton, Founding Director)

Welcome to our interview with Bryan Upton, Founder and Director of Lucksome! Bryan's journey from slot game artist to slot dev studio founder is fascinating.

With a Master's degree in 3D Art and Multimedia, he unexpectedly entered the gambling industry and gained expertise in both land-based and online casinos. Bryan's experience at IGT and NetEnt exposed him to advanced game design and slot mathematics.

Now, as the founder of Lucksome, Bryan is dedicated to creating talented teams and delivering transparent, visually stunning games with superior mathematics. In this interview, we'll explore Bryan's insights on the industry's evolution, player engagement in different regions, Lucksome's philosophy, and their highly acclaimed game, 6 In The Chamber. Bryan also shares his vision for the future of iGaming and offers advice to aspiring game designers.

Welcome, Bryan! Could you briefly explain your journey from being a game artist to now serving as Founder of a game studio?

Bryan Upton (Director & Founder of Lucksome).

Hey there! Sure thing.

I graduated with a Master's in 3D Art and Multimedia application design. Initially seeking jobs in Video Games or TV, I unexpectedly landed a position as a Game Artist at a Gambling start-up. Since then, I've had a dynamic journey in both land-based and online casino industries.

Most of my education and knowledge came from GTECH, which later became IGT. Working with the teams on land-based casino games and hardware exposed me to advanced game design and slot mathematics. I also had the opportunity to explore various markets and product verticals, ranging from street market AWP and VLT games to premium products on Vegas casino floors. This experience gave me over five years of expertise in product and content strategy methodologies and game design.

After my time at IGT, NetEnt offered me a chance to apply my knowledge to the online space. This introduced me to the exhilarating innovation and fast pace in Malta. Now back in the online industry, I face the challenges of a rapidly evolving market, complex regulations, and fierce competition. After leaving NetEnt, I wanted to start something small but full of talent and ideas. And with the help of friends at Blueprint Gaming, Lucksome was born.

Seventeen years is a long time in an industry growing and changing like iGaming is. There has been a dramatic transformation from traditional slots to immersive video slots and new formats. Now more than ever is a surge in demand for unique, high-quality graphics and innovative features that enhance player engagement and a need for game providers to stand out in ever-increasing competition without compromising on what the players want. 

I think the needs of these players are changing as each market matures; these markets do not necessarily all want the same thing either, so building products to fit different markets adds to the complexity of a slot studio's process.

As someone with global experience in this field, can you share what you've learned about how players engage with games in different regions?

Certainly, one of the most intriguing aspects of being in the iGaming industry is experiencing how player engagement varies across different regions. From my experience, cultural nuances, player preferences, local regulations, and a strong retail gaming sector significantly shape these differences.

For instance, in European markets, players tend to gravitate towards high-volatility slots with big win potential with different hit frequency configurations, while the UK market is a lot more mixed in the requirements for win potential and volatility. These considerations go into the creative and technical process when designing games at Lucksome.

Our aim is to craft universally engaging games while also paying heed to regional and demographic preferences. It's a delicate balance!

Could you talk about the philosophy behind Lucksome and its commitment to transparency, incredible graphics, and superior mathematics?

Firstly, transparency isn't just a buzzword for us - it's a key component of how we operate and interact with our players. We believe players should have access to all the information they need to understand our games thoroughly. This includes everything from the game mechanics to the odds and potential payouts. We strive to be open and build trust and respect with our audience. We're not just about creating games; we're about creating a fair and enjoyable experience for our players.

Secondly, the visual aspect of our games is paramount. Superior graphics are an integral part of the gaming experience. We recognize that players are drawn in by the artwork and animation, which serve as the first impressions of our games. Our talented artists and designers work hard to create immersive graphics that bring our games to life. Whether it's the wild-west cyberpunk aesthetics in our recent release "6 In The Chamber" or the eerie yet classic allure of "Treasures of the Dead", we aim to wow our players visually every time they take a spin with us.

Finally, the cornerstone of any good slot game product lies in its mathematics. We at Lucksome are committed to superior mathematics, providing balanced gameplay that's fair, exciting, and rewarding. We understand the allure of potential big wins but also recognize the importance of consistent, smaller victories that keep players engaged. Our games, like "6 In The Chamber," provide a range of volatility levels to cater to different player preferences.

Your recently released game, 6 In The Chamber, has created quite a buzz. Can you discuss its inspiration and what sets it apart from other games in the market?

6 In The Chamber Slot Game
6 In The Chamber Slot Game

The inspiration for 6 In The Chamber is a blend of a classic Western theme infused with an edgy, cyberpunk aesthetic. The idea was to create an electrifying gaming environment that captures the essence of a thrilling hunt in a lawless world, combined with high-pay potential gameplay.

We wanted to recreate the anticipation that comes with every spin of the reels and every pull of the trigger in an old Western duel but in a futuristic setting. It sets the traditional and the new together seamlessly. The game is a simple 5x3 reel system with 10 paylines and cascading symbols, but it offers varying levels of volatility to cater to a wide range of player preferences. The maximum win potential is an eye-watering 100,000x base bet, making it a highly engaging game for players looking for those big-win opportunities.

What are some of the innovative features that you have incorporated in 6 In The Chamber that you believe will resonate with players?

A key feature of 6 In The Chamber is the Bounties system. This innovative mechanic guarantees cash prizes when players score three or more cascading wins. Combined with Ricochet Wilds, that create more cascades after the first and second cascades, setting up players onto the Bounty Board where the bigger prizes are. 

There are 13 characters in the game. The bounty board updates every spin, and some characters are worth more than others. You can collect bounties for them all and brag about it later by looking at your bounty achievement and win history in your own personal bounty board. Three cascades guarantee a bounty win; with each Cascade in the Base Game upgrading the Bounty you will win. You only need six cascades to win the top 10,000x base bet prize in Base Game or 8 in Free Games, where the Bounties are much bigger.

Activating Hunter Mode results in a substantial increase in the bounty sizes. It unlocks a special feature called Hunter Free Games. Within these games, the highest bounty, represented by Buffalo Bill, becomes available. Capturing Buffalo Bill yields an eye-watering 100,000x base bet win. Buffalo Bill is stubborn, so when he appears on the bounty board, he locks and stays for the rest of the bonus!

The game also offers the Bonus Buy and Free Games Exchange features. Players can directly buy into different game modes with varying volatility and max win potential. It's an exciting option for those who want to jump into high-volatility.

How has the response been from operators for 6 In The Chamber so far?

Some of us were part of the team that were responsible for Dead or Alive 2, in previous parts of our career, so we know what we are doing with games like this, it's always nerve-wracking to see how operators respond to what you have created.  The response is extremely positive, although it's the first super high payout game that Lucksome has done, we are confident as a team that 6inC will thrill their players.

Lucksome is known for its high-quality game design. Can you share your approach to game development and what stages are involved from conception to release?

Absolutely! Our approach to game development at Lucksome is based on three key pillars:

  • innovation,
  • immersion, and
  • player experience.

Every game development process begins with a concept. This can be sparked by a unique game mechanic idea, a theme, or even an art style. Once we've fleshed out the initial concept, we move into the pre-production stage. This is where our artists and game designers come together to develop the game's core mechanics, visual style, soundscape, and storyline. It's a collaborative effort to ensure that each component is entertaining and contributes to the overall gaming experience.

After establishing the game's backbone, we move on to the production stage. Here, our developers translate the designs into playable features, ensuring the gameplay is fluid, engaging, and bug-free. The mechanics and visuals go hand in hand during this stage, as the interactivity and aesthetics of the game are crucial in maintaining the player's interest.

Simultaneously, our mathematicians are busy developing the game's algorithms, ensuring that the odds, payout structures, and overall RTP ratios are aligned with industry standards and our commitment to fair play.

We begin the testing phase once the game's primary aspects are developed. We thoroughly test the game internally to ensure all components function as intended. We also run the game through various game testing labs to ensure it meets all industry standards and regulations.

We then localize the game for the various markets we serve. This includes translating the game into different languages and adjusting certain aspects to cater to cultural nuances.

The final step before release is to submit the game to the accredited testing labs who independently test the game is inline with the laws and regulations for the markets we release to. 

As the Founder, what is your strategy for assembling the right team to build these immersive games?

We prioritize hiring skilled individuals with a passion for gaming, covering a range of roles such as artists, designers, developers, and mathematicians. Diversity is important to keep the thinking fresh and different.

Our team consists of diverse backgrounds, nationalities and gaming preferences, and skills to bring a wide range of innovative ideas to the table. The hardest part of the job is fostering a collaborative environment. We spend a lot of time on nurturing a culture of honest and open communication and teamwork and continuous learning and development. We also emphasize keeping up with industry trends and skills development, reflecting the dynamic nature of the gaming industry. 

Can you tell us a bit about the technologies that Lucksome leverages to create its acclaimed slot games?

We use Blueprint's own proprietary frameworks for our front and backend technologies stack, which is extremely mature and robust and allows us to build many different game types with little friction. We are using standard software packages to create our visuals and animations - it is less about the tools here and more about the people and the talent.

You mentioned your focus on the Luxpots™ mechanic previously. Can you explain how this feature will impact player experience and bring innovation to the game?

Our next game FatStacks™ Miami Cash features our new dynamic pay ways mechanic (FatStacks™) and the next generation of Luxpots™ feature. Luxpots™ is a prize ladder based on collecting symbols. In Miami Cash, modifier symbols can drop it to upgrade, merge and shuffle the ladder to give players access to some great prizes and some serious excitement up that ladder.

In Free Games, that ladder is persistent, so any upgrades or other modifications are there until the free games are finished, leading to top-end win of 15000x. If that isn't big enough, then Joker Lux, or other Luxpots™ game in the release pipeline, offers up to a max win of 25,000x on the Luxpots™ ladder for landing those cheeky sticking Jokers with Ladder multipliers in Free Games. Luxpots™ is a proven mechanic that we have only just started tapping its excitement potential.

What markets do you think offer the most significant growth potential for Lucksome in the upcoming years, and how do you plan on catering to these territories?

As Lucksome is less than 3 years old - most markets are ripe for growth for us, but we see Canada, the US, and LatAM as serious drivers of growth for us on top of our core markets in Europe including locally regulated markets such as Italy and Greece

We have enough knowledge, experience in the team as well as data for us to analyse to understand continuously what these markets are telling us in terms of what they need, and how Lucksome can succeed. We look at math profiles, local popular culture and demographics to understand players' needs and start the design process with these targets in mind.

As a key player in the industry, what is your perspective on where iGaming will be five years from now?

Questions like this are always hard to answer. We have to be practical, although the games and game formats have changed a lot over the last 5 years, the players haven't at the same speed, we are just finding different ways to deliver what they would like to see.

We may start to see a more palpable generational shift? Beyond geographic distinctions, maybe it's important to take note of the demographic changes in the player base. With more millennials and Gen Z players coming into the fold, there maybe a rising demand for games with strong narratives and innovative game formats.

We will be watching this closely!

The topic of responsible gambling is a crucial one. What is Lucksome's approach, and how do you ensure adherence to new regulations?

Responsible gaming is integral to Lucksome's ethos, and we're committed to promoting a safe and enjoyable gaming environment. We prioritize clear and transparent communication, ensuring that our players understand the rules of our games, which is a key aspect of responsible gambling.

Regarding regulatory compliance, we closely follow changes in the regulatory landscapes of the markets where we operate. We understand that regulations are there to protect players and maintain the integrity of the gaming industry, and we fully embrace them. To ensure our adherence, we have a dedicated team that monitors regulatory developments and integrates required changes into our games and processes.

Could you share your top three favourite slot games and explain why they appeal to you?

Another difficult question! Has to be Elk's Gold series, Duo Fu Duo Cai (DFDC), Light and Wonder and our own Bon Bomb Bonanza.

Elk's games have a logic and pattern to them, which is fun to play, their graphics and animations are top notch too.

DFDC was the first game to put that magical pot on top of the reels and fluttering wilds to launch the Progressive picker. Great game, great legacy.

Bon Bomb Bonanza is our of our recent favourites as we feel it is an improved design on other scatter pay games, where the candy multipliers are in the base and they hold and build until they are won. This guy has a fresh dynamic on classic format while you are waiting for the Free Games to trigger! 

Bon Bomb Bonanza

In your opinion, are regulators in the industry doing enough to protect players, or is there room for improvement?

From where I'm sitting, it really does seem like regulators across the globe are stepping up their game to keep players safe in the iGaming world. There's been a big push in places like the UK, Sweden, and parts of the US to make the rules tougher - think limits on deposits, ways for players to exclude themselves if they need a break, and rigorous ID checks. These changes have made a big difference in promoting safer play.

But the thing is, iGaming is always evolving, and that means the rulebook needs to evolve with it. Take cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech, for instance. They're changing the game and bringing their own challenges to keep things transparent and above board.

A big help would be if there were more consistency with regulations worldwide. If the rules were more uniform, it'd be easier for the industry to tackle big issues like fraud and problem gambling globally. So, while it's clear that regulators are upping their ante, there's always room to level up and keep adapting to keep our players safe in this ever-changing industry.

Lastly, could you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or games that Lucksome is developing?

We're absolutely blazing a trail right now! We've got so many irons in the fire: our latest release, Bon Bomb Bonanza with the explosive Hyperboom™ mechanic, has hit the ground running and is creating quite the buzz! Come July; we're upping the ante with the launch of Joker Lux and of course 6 in Chamber. Then, hold onto your hats, because in early September, we're rolling out our groundbreaking Dynamic Ways mechanic FatStacks™ with the inaugural game, Miami Cash.

But that's not all for sure.  We've got a legendary sequel in the works based on a brand you'll definitely recognize, and we're cooking up two entirely new grid game concepts as well. The sky is looking pretty blue for Lucksome.  Stay tuned for more updates soon!

How do you see Lucksome's role in shaping the future of iGaming, and what are some key areas where you'd like to push for change?

We're committed to driving transparency in our games. We're all about putting players in the driver's seat, telling them what they can expect, and providing features to tailor their gaming experience. By weaving transparency into our games, we can help build trust with players and foster a healthier gaming environment.

We're championing enhanced player engagement. Our innovative game mechanics, like Luxpots™ and FatStacks™, are about more than just razzle-dazzle; they're designed to deepen player engagement and drive replayability. We want to set a new standard where immersive gameplay and dynamic features are the norm, not the exception.

Lastly, we're pushing for greater customization in iGaming. We believe that games should adapt to players, not the other way around. To that end, we're exploring ways to give players more control over their gaming experience, from adjusting game volatility to choosing their preferred bonus types.

What advice would you give aspiring game designers who look up to Lucksome and wish to make their mark in the iGaming industry?

Game design, especially in the dynamic world of iGaming, is a roller coaster ride for sure.  Here is some advice for anyone out there wanting to join our crazy world.

First, get your hands dirty in the world of online casino games! I can't stress enough how important it is to understand the games from a player's perspective and deeply understand responsible gaming, what it is, what it means and what tools are out there. This will help you truly understand what makes a game fun and exciting. Second, embrace the power of teamwork.

In this industry, a great game is rarely a one-person show. It takes programmers, artists, mathematicians, sound designers, testers, and many others to work together to create a stellar game. Appreciate their roles, learn to communicate your ideas clearly, and always be ready to learn from them. Lastly, never give up; you must keep that creative flame alive.

The iGaming industry is a whirlwind of innovation, and standing out requires bold, fresh ideas, but it is also full of problems to solve and blockers in the way. Don't be afraid to push boundaries, experiment with new mechanics or themes, and challenge the status quo where it makes sense!  Creating online casino games should be just as fun as playing them. Work hard, play harder, and you might be lighting up the iGaming galaxy sometime soon.  I look forward to it.