November 15, 2021 Interview

Keeping Gaming Fun

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Ezra Amacher talks with Keith Kruczynski, Gaming Arts VP of Game Development and Design, to hear about exciting trends in game design and the importance of music in the gaming experience.

What’s your overall impression from the G2E floor?

It’s definitely amazing to be back right, having another G2E in 2021. Everything that we’ve done from the beginning has been fun for the gambler. We’ve always wanted to make sure that that’s who we are, that’s who we’re coming across as. This year is no exception to that rule. Especially now as we’re debuting our VertX Grand 49-inch cabinet. We have two families. To start with you have a Let’s Spin, which is a game for your absolute hardcore gambler. You get your bars and sevens, your wheel with the multiplying multipliers on that central feature. Then we have our Pub series. This one has some volatility, but it’s definitely more fun, more for entertainment. We decided to go with four different pub games. One takes you to Mexico, one takes you to Italy, one takes you to Russia and the other takes you to Ireland. Drinking and gambling, they go hand in hand right? So, each one has its own in-house written and sung music which is absolutely fantastic. Kaleigh’s Pub has beer and shots of whiskey, Isabella’s Tequileria has margaritas and shots of tequila, which you know is probably my least favorite of the bunch only because of the bad situations I’ve been in because of tequila. Sophia’s Cellar has wine and, of course, Anastasia’s has martinis and shots of vodka. It’s really cool being a small company. We’re allowed to have some fun.

 

Can you tell me about your creative process?

I’m free to say Heidi’s BierHaus is one of my favorite games of all time. I remember seeing that in a casino the first time being very pleasantly surprised. They did a great job with the music and the excitement they built around that. I’ve taken my daughter to Disney World and Epcot. You walk around Epcot and you see all the adults walking from country to country, having their drinks. I want to take that experience and put it on the gaming floor. It’s also great being a small company. We embrace the spirit of fun. Jean Venneman is our recently promoted COO and everyone loves her. She’s been in the industry forever. She’s actually the model behind Sophia’s Cellar. So we got to do that, and everyone’s been asking her to take pictures here at G2E. It’s been really, really cool.

 

Is the art and music done house? What games are your most successful?

We have the K9 Studio, which we started four years ago or so. It was nine of us to begin with, so that’s why we called it the K9 studio. All the assets, all the math and engineering were done here in Vegas or up in Colorado. We have some virtual employees. Having virtual employees before the pandemic was great because we already knew how to work remotely, we already knew how to have those Slack meetings and those conversations without being right next to each other. So that was a huge benefit for us. We have The Pub Series, Let’s Spin, and then we’ve debuted Casino Wizard VIP for the first time. Casino Wizard has been our number one product. Coming into this three or four years ago, we never thought of ourselves as being an ETG company. But when we did that, we became one, and it was extremely, extremely successful for us.

So what we decided to do on our VertX Grand cabinet was have a new version of Casino Wizard, called Casino Wizard VIP. Casino Wizard has blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette. On VIP we’ve added Pai Gow poker, Big Six wheel, triple card which is three card poker, as well as a game that we invented in house that we’re really excited about, called Swap In poker. I’ve been blown away by the response that’s received from everybody.  We also have a great game that’s been the hero of the show for us called Kung Fu Empress. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback. And then there is Jackpot Go, which is kind of our take on the lottery style game that people will really, really pick up. We’re debuting our first 3D engine games, Cash Quest. You know we are a Linux-based company. We really enjoy it. That’s going to open the door for us to do a lot more things in the very near future that we are extremely excited about.

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