There is a new kid on the slot block at Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City. You may be vaguely familiar with him/it. Let us introduce you to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory by WMS Gaming.
Not only is this game awesome because it features some of your childhood fave footage of Gene Wilder in action and has the ability to take you through a bumpy ride through the Chocolate River with the sensory immersion 2.0 chair, it also has the potential to earn you a. lot. of. money. Maybe even in the millions. It is a progressive after all. (Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City – Millionaire Maker – check). This is all thanks to the Oompa Loompa feature. Oompa Loompa’s may show themselves during any spin in the base game. When this happens, they add 1 to 5 reels of WILD symbols (two screens high) that may earn you up to 10x.
Three or more bonus symbols in the base game can also score you an Elevator Bonus which gives you a credit amount or another of the following bonuses: Chocolate River Bonus, Free Spin Bonus, Gobstopper Pick Bonus and the Golden Ticket Bonus. Every Elevator Bonus finishes with a Golden Ticket Bonus where players will be awarded with one golden ticket, the highest of which is $5,000.
Sound and look fun? We thought that it sounded so much fun that it made us want to dig a little deeper! We wanted to know more about this game and get down to the nitty gritty of it all. We spoke with game designer Jeremy Hornik about the creation of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and all it has to offer, below!
TAC: What kind of research went into bringing this game to life?
Jeremy Hornik: We watched the movie a whole bunch. We focused on the second half of the movie. Most people forget that the whole first half of the movie is before he gets into the chocolate factory. We watched that a few times and ultimately decided that people didn’t really not want to be in a chocolate factory when they could be inside a chocolate factory! But we also read the book a few times. It’s good to know where everything comes from to sort of stretch it out as well. Those were the main areas that we sort of focused on to get Willy Wonka going.
TAC: How long did the creation of this game take from the very first to the very last stages?
Jeremy Hornik: I think this one took about twenty months. It may have started a little earlier than that on pencil and paper, but this was a big project for us, so we spent a lot of time on it. There’s a lot of bonuses, there’s a lot of stuff in it; there’s a lot of cool visual things that you might not catch on the first play and that all took time so we had to stretch out on this one a little bit.
TAC: Is there anything that the game features in its final form that wasn’t part of the initial plan?
Jeremy Hornik: Yeah, we’re always adjusting as we go. The Gobstobber Pick bonus came in later. When we were doing our initial tests, people who were playing the game wanted a pick bonus. They felt that the free spins were great and all the other parts were great, but it didn’t have everything they wanted. We also were redesigning the whole elevator sequence a few times as it went. We couldn’t get it to visually be fun and interesting, exciting and also be clear about what you might or might not win. So the final one we came up with took a whole bunch of changes to go through. We had one where you were kind of zooming up through a tunnel of prizes, and it was really exciting, but it was hard to tell what you were looking at.
TAC: What was the process like behind the initial ideas of all of the bonus rounds?
Jeremy Hornik: The signature of the piece is the Oompa Loompa feature. We knew that people liked WILD reels, but what would Willy Wonka do is the question. What crazy stuff would he do? So we came up with this idea of not just expanding the reels, but expanding them from one screen to all the way up to the next screen. They are reels that are so big that one screen cannot contain them. They have to expand over two screens. We knew that we wanted that to go very well with the music. That Oompa Loompa music is so iconic, people love that. We spent a lot of time trying to time things out so that they would fit with the music and also to make the music adjustable so that if you have a long bonus, and a lot of stuff happening, the music suits it, but if you have a short one where not much happens, the music suits that as well. Trying to make it as exciting and clear as it can be with a whole bunch of variation. We went through a lot of mass variations to make sure that it was fun and exciting and had the potential to pay really, really well. We had a musician working, we had a 3D animator working over here to make our Oompa Loompas, and so that was a pretty lengthy one.
The free spin bonuses, we had those giant, oversized symbols that come through. That one actually went pretty easily once we started it going. We wanted the giant symbols because it’s a neat idea to see a giant, oversized Willy Wonka going by. Particularly when you get one that’s five wide, that’s an exciting moment. And then it was just balancing the math; making sure it was fun, that you had a chance at something good, so making sure the tease felt appropriate and also doing it with different characters. So you have the Charlie version, the Grandpa version, the Wonka version and helping people understand that that would be a better one as you go on up.
TAC: The Chocolate River Bonus uses the sensory immersion chair. What was the design process like for this bonus with this in mind?
Jeremy Hornik: We have this chair and we have done a couple of games on it already, but we have never done a game where it was very dynamic where you might move. In most of the other ones, it’s kind of an express path where it’s fun and it’s exciting and it moves you through, but once you’ve played that game 100 times, you’re not going to be feeling anything new out of it and you start to feel tired out. What we wanted to do with this one is have this very variable ride where you never really knew where it was going to go. It might cut left, it might cut right. You might want something over there and you can feel the chair pushing you towards it, and you’re hoping that you can get all the way to it. Sometimes it cuts away at the last moment, sometimes it goes past it, and sometimes you run right into it and it’s just perfect. That Chocolate River as well, that’s one of people’s most remembered segments of the movie because it’s so strange!
TAC: How did you choose to incorporate Gene Wilder’s character into the game?
Jeremy Hornik: The great thing about the Willy Wonka character is on the one hand, he is this maker of all things wonderful; chocolate, delicious things, all this kind of great stuff. On the other hand, he is also kind of unpredictable and he sets these paths for people and they get into trouble. He is a great slot character! On the one hand, he could deliver untold riches, untold delights and piles of piles of chocolate, and on the other hand he could shut you out completely and you would feel like that was just part of his mood. To have this character that is on the one hand, so beloved and so memorable to people, but on the other hand has this sinister edge, it is great for a slot game. Because when he comes up in play, you don’t know what you’re going to get out of him.
TAC: What was your favorite part of the process creating this game?
Jeremy Hornik: This has been a great game to work on. There is a really terrific team of artists and programmers and they love the movie so much and have so many ideas that they pour into this. We probably came up with ten games worth of material working on this game! Filtering out what we would end up using is always tough, but the commitment over such a long period of time from so many people was the greatest thing. From a player perspective when I’m playing the game, I want that Oompa Loompa. That’s where the money is.
TAC: Why do you think this game will resonate with our players at Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City?
Jeremy Hornik: Having that chance to win a big pile of money on one spin. You don’t have to work your way through a bonus, you don’t have to do this and that. The bonuses are all fun and exciting and adventurous and you can win a lot of money on them, but the chance that just in a spin, you can just crush the machine. That’s a great feeling.
TAC: Did you learn anything about Willy Wonka during this whole process?
Jeremy Hornik: The movie is fascinating. They had the hardest time making the Chocolate River look good while they were shooting. It looked terrible. Even in the final movie, it doesn’t look all that great. They started with just sort of dropping all of this chocolate powder into the water. It looked like mud and started to stink after a day or two! The game is different, we tried as best as possible to make it look like a rich, warm river full of chocolate! Gene Wilder also was very particular about the color of his hat. He wanted a brown hat and they tried to give him a green hat and he got all upset. He wrote a long letter about why he needed it to be a brown hat. Something about how a green hat was too weird, mysterious and magical and he needed to make sure that people know that he’s from the real world so he needed a brown hat like a normal person would have. The other really exciting thing is that when Wonka actually appears for the first time, he comes out the door and comes out limping with a cane. There’s this sort of hush that falls over the crowd as they are looking at him limp out. Then he falls down and does a summersault and hops up, and he’s perfectly fine. Gene Wilder insisted that this go in. He just had a normal entrance and he wanted to add this moment because he said that after he did that, no one would trust anything he said for the rest of the movie. They would know that he would be trying to trick them. I thought that was great. Completely great insight into that character.
TAC: How did working on this game differ from the others you have worked on in the past?
Jeremy Hornik: There’s so much desire to get the movie right in this game. We always have that with all of our movies, but it’s rare that we get to work on something as quite as beloved as this. Wizard Of Oz games are similar. We have the same level of passion for them. These are movies that people loved not just because they were great movies, but they loved them as children. When people have that kind of connection, as a kid they like something and they still like it as an adult and are able to feel it on many different levels, you really have a responsibility to get everything completely right. The other thing we got to put in this game which is very rare, is if you get no credits during a free spin bonus, Wonka comes out and we actually run the video of the speech: YOU GET NOTHING. NOTHING! GOOD DAY, SIR! You can’t do that in a slot game, that’s horrible, so of course we make sure they get something on the way out, but you can only do that with something as beloved as this.
There you have it, folks. Try it out at Caesars and Bally’s if you haven’t already. And don’t fret, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Showboat Atlantic City players! Willy Wonka will be there soon! Hopefully it will be ready to add you to the millionaire club too…if you’re lucky! And at the very least…you’re just lucky to be here, aren’t you?