While the world was in lockdown for months for the most part, some people never stopped working for a second. Golden Rock Studios is certainly one company that kept the foot on the peddle and made things happen in this difficult period and has just released yet another amazing slot game in Wild Predators.
We managed to get Will Mathieson, the founder and game designer for GRS to take some time and speak to us about this recent release, all the work and trouble that went into it and the upcoming plans for the company.
GP: Hello Will and thank you for agreeing to take this interview. Before we get into anything too specific, can you tell us a bit about how the idea for Golden Rock Studios came about, when you launched and what the vision was back thank for the path ahead?
Will: Golden Rock Studios was founded in 2018 by James Curwen, Duncan Paines and I, between us we have the right mix of expertise and experience in all the key elements; slots, table games and UX/UI design. The amount of new content available has grown steadily over the past few years, yet the variety remains low with too many similar games out there, so the trend is to see players continue to go back to the old classics. Our vision is to create a wide range of truly innovative, fresh and exciting content built for gamblers by gamblers which resonates with those looking for a real gambling experience without too much fuss!
We set out from the start with a 5-year roadmap which we have put together in the form of a GRS periodic table which measures game complexity versus volatility. We understand player needs and behaviors are not uniform and differ, these can be based on many things such as Geographical Location; Austria vs Sweden for example, Player Demographics; age, personality, gender, favourite game, income or it can vary just based on the time of day or mood. Whether they want time on a device with a low volatility game or to be entertained by a feature rich slot or even to try their luck on a really high volatile game - our aim is to cater for all those player types and more by launching a broad and varied roadmap.
GP: You have now released a number of exciting slot games as well as several unique table game titles. In what way do your games stand out from others of their kind out there? Do you think your themes and special features make your games truly unique and what would be some of the highlights from your games that you would mention in this sense?
Will: Our first 3 slots are all part of our simpler and more volatile range of games, sitting at the top of the periodic table and tailored towards the more serious gambler. I have tried to keep the game play and mechanics simple, easy to follow but with plenty of surprise and delight elements. One of the issues with highly volatile games is the variance, especially in bonus rounds, some players will win huge amounts - but most won’t and sometimes end up with no winning experience at all. For Volatile Slot we introduced a new feature to make sure that if a player has had to grind away to get to the bonus, they will not leave feeling cheated. If the player wins less than 20x their stake from the bonus spins, it will keep Re-Triggering 10 Free Spins. Whilst in Star Gods instead of just awarding Re-Spins that often pay out nothing, we added in Win-Spins. By giving back extra and guaranteeing winning experiences from all our bonus feature, our goal is to make sure players feel rewarded and if possible, beyond their expectations!
For our table games, we have recently launched Roulette x2 which has been very well received by many of the biggest operators around. Next up we have Roulette x5 and also Back Blackjack due out soon, each of them containing industry first reward mechanics. Designed by my co-founder James Curwen, who has decades of experience in the land-based casino sector, managing some of the top casinos in the world before moving to bring his expertise online.
Our table games bring the land-based player experience to online with an incredible attention to detail on all the key elements, from the chips to the betting layouts. All of this combined with the unique bets on offer makes them stand out from the competition. With Roulette X2, the player just needs to get any win and we’ll roll 4 dice. If they match, the player gets double the winnings. It’s as simple as that - same odds and payouts as standard roulette. So, with nothing taken away from the player, why would they play anything else? With our newly designed blackjack side bet, it means for the first time in history you can back the dealer! The way it works is that if you OR the dealer gets a Blackjack you get paid out at 8/1! If BOTH of you have Blackjack the payout is quadrupled! Then using our own unique dice mechanic, we roll 3 dice, if they match the same numbers the payout is then enhanced further up to an incredible 264/1. We really can’t wait to get this game live now too!
GP: You have just launched your latest release, Wild Predators and the game looks absolutely amazing with some fun features, a great RTP and plenty for players to look forward to. What would you say is the reason players should play Wild Predators and other GRS games as opposed to those from competitors?
Will: Wild Predators has some amazing sounds and graphics, set in the swampy lands in Sri Lanka featuring 5 local predators as our 5 main paying symbols. It is another volatile and simple slot but taking nothing away from the simplicity and lack of fussy features Wild Predators makes up for it all with a rock-solid bonus feature. No bonus scatters and only 5 lines its really easy to follow. All you need is to get any Predator win with a wild symbol to trigger 5 Free Spins with Predator Win amount saved as the bonus trigger payout value. It’s so simple to trigger the bonus that it keeps you on the edge of your seat with every spin!
During the Free Spins bonus if the special Golden Scatter symbol appears anywhere it will reward you the original saved trigger payout value over and over again. Factoring in that you can get up to 5 scatters in view in each spin it is really exciting as you see the scatters drop in! You can also re-trigger Free Spins, possibly increasing the Wild Predator trigger payout value at the same time with another Wild Predator.
As an added feature any Wild that appears will also award an extra Free Spin. There is plenty of excitement and it’s easy for players to see the win potential. We have made the game available with low bet levels of 0.05p/c all the way up to £250/euros – so it caters for all budgets and if casinos want to offer free spins it can give great value for money too!
GP: The coronavirus situation left the entire world on lockdown, but the online gambling industry probably benefited from it in some way. Can you tell us a bit about the opportunities and challenges that this situation created for GRS? Were you working from offices or from home and did any of your plans get pushed back as a result?
Will: We have employees, some remote based, spread across multiple countries. So, in one sense we are already used to working in this new remote working fashion, however that can never fully prepare you for a complete lockdown. We have all had to change and adapt the way we work and for sure we have made experienced challenges which have caused us to re-prioritise to ensure we keep up the delivery of games. But the important thing is we are working very well as a team still and we are all becoming better communicators and learning as a team from any problems which are preventable.
Before the lockdown we were already seeing more land based players moving to play online, so since casinos around the world have been closed for the last 3 months and the future of landbased businesses remains at risk in the future, I’d expect the trend to continue growing over the next few months/years. We have a great opportunity to appeal to those players and bring them the sort of excitement that they like from the landbased casinos with our excellent land based focused table games and wide range of slots appealing to all walks of life.
GP: What are the plans for GRS moving forward? You have stated earlier that a clear roadmap is something the company has been operating with since the start, so what is next on that roadmap? What kind of releases and novelties can we expect from your studio in the coming months and years?
Will: I have so much I’d love to share with you! It is a regular frustration of mine how long it can take to develop new game features and mechanics. To truly innovate and create what we believe will be game changing content takes time to perfect and get right. What I can say… our next batch of games continue to be improved upon and level up in terms of game complexity and entertainment value. The next 3 or 4 games bring across brand new mechanics not seen before online and mixing in some medium volatility games as opposed to the high volatility of the 1st 3 slots, they should appeal to a more mass-market audience.
I am particularly excited and eagerly anticipating the release of our Gold n Rocks slot which is tumbling reels style with a really nice twist, it’s nearly finished and is looking very nice. And then we have Dream Machine upcoming in Q3, our 1st multi-feature rich game which takes you to 4 different dream worlds – this title has been 18 months in the making and it has been for a reason, it really does show in terms of the artwork and production value. Towards Q4 we will be launching our unique Golden Rocket Rollercoaster feature, this innovative and unique new feature which will change the betting behavior of players, once released it will become available on all of our new games going forward and it certainly has the potential to really shake up the slot market.
Alongside Slots games, we will be launching a full suite of table games, all will be highly polished games featuring industry first new and game enhancing features, all will be revealed in time J
GP: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us and tell us more about your recent release and your future plans. We hope that GRS will continue to grow as a major player in the industry in the coming years and we will have a chance to speak again soon about some more exciting news coming out of the studio.