Zynga combining mid-core RPG and casino genres with Zynga Elite Slots

Zynga today unveiled its fifth casino title, Zynga Elite Slots. The game seeks to tap into both social casino and mid-core audiences with its slots mechanics that feature role-playing game elements. We sat down with Design Director Josh Gause (who co-developed Bingo Blitz) to get the skinny about what makes this game so different from other social casino titles.

The basic setup for Zynga Elite Slots is that of a standard slots game with the usual Zynga level of polish, complete with high-end visuals and roughly an hour of original music. There are currently six themed slots games planned at the time of launch, which players can jump between: Enchanted Forest (a fantasy theme), Aurora Dreams (Arctic) Treasure of Anubis (Ancient Egypt), Pet Park, House of Fangs (vampires) and High Noon (Wild West). As soon as players select a theme to play, though, it quickly becomes apparent that the game is different from other slots titles on Facebook.

Before the game begins, players choose a pet to represent them in a window at the top of the game canvas. There are a total of 24 different pets in the game (only two of which are available for hard currency), though some are only unlockable later in the game. This pet moves a certain distance with each spin, making better progress when a spin results in a win. The pet’s progress allows players to engage in friendly rivalry, as they’ll be able to pass their friends’ positions and then post on their Facebook Timeline in order to brag about the milestone.  Gause describes the mechanic as similar to the water gun game that often appears at carnivals.

Beneath the pet is a progress bar that gradually fills up, but isn’t only fueled by the player. Instead, it’s actually filled by both the player and the 149 other users currently in a slots room. Once the bar is filled, the players in the room engage in “battles” against boss characters where they have a limited amount of time to “attack” the enemy by spinning the slots as many times as possible. We saw this in action in the Enchanted Forest theme where Puss In Boots was the player’s pet and wound up battling a witch. The longer a user plays with a pet, the more experience it earns, which in turn can be used to increase said pet’s attributes like increasing its speed or the amount of quality loot collected.

In order to break up the monotony that often sets in from constantly playing slots, Zynga Elite Slots is going to include different minigames. We saw “Stake The Vampire” in the House of Fangs theme, which involved players selecting a bag with a random number of stakes and then staking vampires in their coffins for varying currency rewards.

These aforementioned rooms allow players to interact with each other — even if they’re not Facebook friends — in several different ways. Whenever someone scores a big win on a slots spin, their profile picture will appear on the other users’ pet window and drop treasures and boosts. Likewise, players can earn “props” (which don’t seem to serve any purpose other than provide a real-time social interaction from the other people in the digital room. After each boss battle, “round leaders” are displayed; the top-scoring players receive special rewards, but everyone who played will be awarded some bonus items.

Gause tells us that implementing real-time social mechanics in the game will give it a huge leg up over other social casino titles because it will increase its potential for virality, especially since he wants to prove this is a game where it’s rewarding even if one doesn’t spend the most money to buy the best items/pets.

“Community is how people find out about this stuff,” he says.

At the moment, there aren’t any plans to make Zynga Elite Slots a cross-platform title, though Gause admits he could see the game eventually being rolled into Zynga Casino. That said, he wants to focus on making the game fun before anything else. “We’re focused on creating a game first and a really good experience,” he says. “We needed to make it something we’d want to play; something we’d want to go home after a long day of work and play.”

Zynga Elite Slots is due to launch sometime soon on Facebook.

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