Amping up the excitement! - An interview with Rory Harpur, CPO at Alchemy Gaming
Given Alchemy Gaming’s three out of three top of the line productions, we're happy to share valuable insights from Rory Harpur on the secret ingredients of their magic crafting recipes. Rory gives us the tour on a game-to-game basis including details on Microgaming’s Hyperspins™ feature, their WowPot network and the current appetite for high-variance slots.
Rory Harpur, CPO at Alchemy Gaming
Welcome, Rory! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us at SlotCatalog. Could you start off by introducing yourself and your history in iGaming to our readers?
Hey, it’s great to be here! I’m Rory Harpur, chief product officer at Alchemy Gaming. I’ve been working in the industry for over a decade, starting out as a humble mathematician and progressing up to head of analytics and mathematics. For the past two years, I’ve been responsible for guiding the strategic direction of Alchemy’s game development, driven by data and, of course, a true love of slots.
What was the seed to the foundation of Alchemy Gaming? What drives the studio and what is your ambition going forward?
Alchemy Studios came into being just over two years ago in Durban, South Africa. We are an independent studio creating online gaming content exclusively for Microgaming. We’re a small but passionate team of likeminded slot enthusiasts who came together on a mission to find novel mechanics and fresh experiences for fellow slot fans. While we are a relatively new studio, we do have years of collective industry experience behind us, underpinned by a strong understanding of slots and players.
With mathematics at our core, we’re all about finding the right balance of how game features deliver rewarding experiences and win potential for players.
So far, you’ve released three games, all of which have been received well among players across different regions according to our data. Please give us a guided tour of your latest release, Reel Gems Deluxe!
We’re incredibly excited about our third game. As its name suggests, Reel Gems Deluxe reimagines Microgaming’s highly successful original Reel Gems online slot with even more thrilling features, an upbeat modern soundtrack and a dazzling makeover. We designed the game to remain true to the original slot, while meeting the growing market demand for high-volatility slot experiences.
As with the classic, we wanted to include an element of player choice. As such, players can control their own gameplay experience with the popular Hyperspins™ paid respin mechanic, which allows them to lock reels in aim of specific wins in the base game. Free spins has unlimited retriggers and an escalating mechanic in its radiant trail.
Landing three or more scatters triggers the bonus feature, which activates the first symbol on the radiant trail. Reels one and two then transform into stacks of the activated symbol, while the remaining reels spin as a single giant reel containing high symbols, wilds and retrigger symbols. Landing a full retrigger symbol will award the original number of free spins again, and level up the symbol on the radiant trail. Unlocking the top symbol turns the first two reels entirely wild, meaning players can win up to 1,000x their bet on every spin.
Your August release, Goldaur Guardians has done very well, especially in the Nordic markets. Why do you think the Nordic gamblers, in particular, have appreciated this game?
We’re always looking to create something that resonates with players across all markets, although we’re thrilled that Goldaur Guardians has been particularly popular in Nordic markets, which is an important region.
We have seen a trend, particularly in the Nordic markets, towards better performance for games with higher volatility and bigger win potential and Goldaur Guardians definitely ticks these boxes. Although the maximum win on a single spin is 1,000x, the game can easily produce wins of 5,000x within the free spin feature. Goldaur Guardians also features Hyperspins™, which allows players to target the big wins in the game and amp up the excitement.
Both Reel Gems Deluxe and Goldaur Guardians utilise the Hyperspins™ paid re-spins feature. What’s it like building the gameplay around this feature?
Hyperspins™ allows players to respin a single reel independently at a variable cost for a chance to land a specific win, or to trigger free spins. This allows players to develop their own gaming strategies, and of course opens up the potential for big wins and rewarding gameplay. We were excited to work with such an established mechanic, while bringing our own touch to the gameplay. Of course, this presented specific technical challenges to our team, but we relished the opportunity to put our own spin on the feature. Microgaming are continuing to actively develop the Hyperspins™ brand, and we’re thrilled to be a part of its growth.
Your first release, Wheel of Wishes, was the first game to include Microgaming’s revamped WowPot progressive jackpot. How would you describe the collaboration between Alchemy Gaming and Microgaming in the creation of the game and bringing it to market?
Not only was Wheel of Wishes our debut release and the first to introduce the newly revamped WowPot jackpot, which is now connected to four top games, but it was also the first title to be added to Microgaming’s progressive jackpot network in quite some time. The pressure was certainly on!
Microgaming’s network leads the industry, so being able to tap into their commercial expertise and experience in this area was invaluable for us. Collaboration with Microgaming’s teams was crucial throughout the development process, and we worked together closely on the structure of the new jackpot tiers.
Bringing our expertise to the table, together with Microgaming’s keen market insights, Wheel of Wishes was designed to offer a seamless gameplay experience. We worked to ensure that everything from the jackpot values through to hit rate and branding was spot on – ready to ‘wow’ players!
If you could recommend each game of yours to a certain player segment. What game would you recommend to which type of player?
As mentioned before, we developed Reel Gems Deluxe with the high-volatility slot player in mind. It’s just the right mix of big win potential, rewarding features and a timeless, tried-and-tested theme – what we believe is a winning formula for the more advanced player. Goldaur Guardians ticks all the same boxes in this respect. Wheel of Wishes, on the other hand, is low volatility and designed for universal appeal, with the WowPot jackpot and its €2 million starting seed ensuring interest among new and experienced players alike.
What main trends and changes do you expect we’ll see more/less of in the two upcoming years?
We’re guided by data and we always take a calculated approach to game development.
That said, we continue to monitor developing trends, exploring their potential and experimenting with their application. We do expect the appetite for high-variance slots with big win potential to persist.
Players want to play games that give them something new – something that piques their curiosity and feels fresh and interesting. And with so many great studios releasing games every month, we’re seeing constant innovation. So I think the biggest trend that we are going to see is more dynamic changes in the features that are grabbing players’ attention. I think it will always come back to the balance of the maths and how this combines with the ‘chase’ of the game, to determine which innovations stand out.
We’re reaching the end of this interview. Is there something you would like to say to our visitors before we part ways for this time?
We’ve really been overwhelmed by the response to our first three games in 2020, which is a brilliant boost for our relatively young studio. We’ll be back even stronger in 2021, bringing a selection of fresh new games to our players, and we can’t wait to reveal what’s to come! Finally, I’d like to say a huge thanks to the entire Alchemy team for their tremendous efforts this year. Although working apart physically, they’ve really pulled together and pulled out all the stops, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.