'You need to make sacrifices to make the majority of the game work well' - Interview with Mats Westerlund, Senior Advisor at Fantasma Games
This week, we’ve had the opportunity to chat with Mats Westerlund and hear more about the studio’s upcoming release - Elemento, which is the first game under Mats supervision, as well as the first Cluster Pays slot in his career.
Interview with Mats Westerlund Senior Advisor a Fantasma Games.
Welcome, Mats! Despite already having an interview with your colleague Fredrik recently, we couldn’t get past your upcoming blockbuster slot, Elemento, that the gambling community seems to look forward to giving it a try. For those who never heard of Elemento, could you give us a brief insight into what players should expect?
Thanks! Elemento is a cartoony looking Cluster pays game. It has four main features, one for each Element, and a free spin bonus where a growing multiplier is added on top as the “Fifth Element”. The core of the game according to me is the free spins bonus which is very volatile and exciting. The growing multiplier, combined with a retrigger of the bonus, can result in ridiculous wins up to 16000x.
Let’s take a peek behind the curtain. It’s your first slot build around the Cluster Pays mechanic, so what was the thinking behind and how did you come up with the idea to debut in the niche with an elemental themed slot?
Yeah, that was probably a crazy idea since I haven’t done a cluster game before. But I think that’s what challenged me with this game. I have done so many games in the past so I wanted to try something new. I’ve also been playing a lot of Cluster games and I’ve found them as an entertaining experience on the side of the high volatility games I normally play.
Speaking of the theme, or rather the overall design, the first slot that comes to mind when looking at Elemento is Reactoonz. What has been the source of inspiration for the studio while developing Elemento?
The game went through many designs throughout the development phase. It actually started with a more classic Aztec style with jungle elements etc. We were into having cartoony characters as the symbols very early on. But as we progressed we wanted darker colours to make the animations and effects stand out more. And we also looked at the overall style of other successful games in the genre of course. And I must say that we often used SlotCatalog to help us with that.
Elemento is definitely a slot game where players will benefit from a broad range of extras and bonus games. But what impresses even more is that the gameplay is quite unorthodox. How challenging was the developing process and how complex are the implemented mechanics?
The idea for this was growing for a long time in my head, but taking an idea that is a bit unproven, and making something good out of that is always challenging.Especially when you have little time to try it out. But I think the team at Fantasma did a great job to make it happen. They really gave it all, and then some.
I think part of the complexity is how all features tie into each other. So if you make a minor change in one end, it may have a large impact on another part of the game. So in some cases you need to make sacrifices to make the majority of the game work well. Or put another four months on development, but that’s not a luxury many developers have.
What’s the secret of such creativity that many developers might envy?
First of all I think the foundation of it is being a slot junkie yourself. And being curious so you never get completely satisfied. In this specific case I think it has also been a combination of my experience and the younger energetic mindset coming from Fantasma.
I’ve been producing games for 15+ years now so I generally have a lot of ideas that’s been soaking in my head for a while. And I can bring a lot to the table on what the players are after. But I am also used to doing things in a certain way so having new people challenging me like Fantasma has is amazing. I learn so much from that.
As for the features, the decent range of modifiers is impressive, but our attention was caught by the Buy Feature. It doesn’t just give players straight access to Free Spins, but they get a sequence of cluster wins until they activate all elements, giving a chance to scoop a nice win before the action begins. Plus, it boosts the RTP to a remarkable 97.94%. Have you mastered the art of balancing or is it simple generosity?
Pure generosity of course. :) No, but we seriously had a big discussion on this matter.
Sometimes you need to take a chance and go for it. We’re hoping that the players will find it interesting to see if you get a decent win already before the bonus starts.
And the game round leading into the bonus also determines how many spins you will get in the free spins. We have added a fast forward button for less patient players which enables you to make the sequence go a bit faster. It may also help you to come out of the free spin with an okay experience even if you don’t hit it big. The bonus has a lot of punch from the RTP but you mustn’t forget that it is super volatile so your experience may vary. When you hit the big ones you’ll understand.
Moving on to the target audience, which are your most important markets, and which player segment are you giving extra focus?
But I think a good game will work anywhere, so let’s hope that the players think so. I think with this one we were thinking mostly about the general European markets. The interesting part of the target group in this case is probably that the game is less volatile in the base game, and more volatile in the free spins. So with the buy free spins feature you may attract both those player types.
Well, thanks for the chat Mats! Would you like to share anything else with our readers before we say goodbye?
Thanks! It was my pleasure. I think all I can say is that I hope you’ll enjoy Elemento, and that you will get the experience from the free spins that I know is there. And also thank you to SlotCatalog for great content. It pleases a slot geek like me :)