The first slot machine, the fabled “Liberty Bell”, had five symbols and a single payline, but was seen as a complex machine in the late 19th century. What would the inventor, Charles Fey, think of the games we see in online casinos today? Aside from the great graphics and special features, Fey would arguably be astounded at the calculations used to provide games with so many ways to win – literally tens of thousands when you take in the combinations of some modern online slots.
For experienced casino players, it’s intriguing to see the trend in increasing the number of paylines. The standard, of course, these days is somewhere in the region of 10-25 paylines. That’s the standard for a five-reel, three-row slot machine. Sure, some popular slots will have fewer or a little more, but the majority fall into that category. These games often allow the number of paylines to be adjustable, but most players play with the maximum.
Over the last few years, developers have started to experiment with the reel set and, as a consequence, increase the number of paylines. Games like Bridesmaids (40 paylines), Fortunes of the Amazon, and Lucky Link Beats (both 50 lines) are good examples of this. Slots with 100 paylines – Superman, Astro Babes, Spartacus – follow the same pattern, but many have changed the reel-sets from the old format, with some, like Spartacus, splitting the action over two sets of reels.
Yet, possibly the most important development was the idea of All-Ways Pays (developers will have different names for it). On a standard reel set, this means that there are 243 different combinations working left to right across the reels. Aquaman,
Thunderstruck II, and Avalon 2 are perhaps prime examples of this. Indeed, developer Microgaming embraced the idea in a big way, releasing several of its most popular slots on this format. The key to these games is that you do not need to bet on each individual payline, otherwise small stakes players wouldn’t get a chance.
However, you might think that the next trend would be to create games with 300 lines, 400 lines and so on. Developers ripped up the script and started thinking of ‘blue sky’ numbers. Games like Buffalo Blitz, Dragon Champions, and Epic Ape ramped it up with 4096 paylines working across a six-reel, five-row format. A casino in Canada with those games is Casino.com, and the big attraction for players is that small wagers can have significant payouts due to the stacked symbols. For example, the Buffalo Blitz slot has the highest paying Buffalo symbol stacked across the paylines. As there are 4,096 lines that can be filled with that symbol – well, you can do the math.
Developers haven’t stopped there either. Games like Bonanza and Wolf Run, which fall under the MegaWays category, offer a shifting number of paylines that can reach 10,000+. They don’t offer the complete symbol stack coverage in quite the same manner as Buffalo Blitz, but the multiple payout potential is potent. Is it too much? All players will have their personal tastes, of course, but it’s normal that some find these games a bit overwhelming.
Where do the developers go next? One might argue that there is a ceiling to the number of paylines. Not because of the technology – developers can create anything – but due to players’ tastes. Indeed, don’t rule out more experimentation with slots that really eschew the old idea of reels and paylines, as seen with NetEnt’s Cluster Pays games and ‘maze’ type games like Finn and the Swirly Spin.
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