We spoke to Rory Harpur, a Chief Product Officer from Alchemy Gaming about their newest slot, Africa X UP! Alchemy Gaming are an independent game development studio and Microgaming partner who keeps mathematics at its core to create inventive experiences for players. Alchemy Gaming is a collective of talented individuals within the industry, with some who have a background at working with Microgaming in the past.
Q: Alchemy Gaming are still a relatively new studio in comparison to others, and this November marks 2 years since you became a Microgaming partner. Was it a clear choice for Alchemy Gaming to join up with Microgaming, and how has that helped you guys focus on what you do best
Rory: Alchemy Studios was born as a result of a number of people who’ve worked in the industry for years coming together. These people were basically in the business of building games for Microgaming, and we saw an opportunity to get together and form a new studio. I’d spent a few years out of the game design space, but I started as a mathematician. I was working in an analytics role within the gaming industry working to figure out what makes games tick, and to understand why we get such successful performers, and why certain games don’t make it.
Eventually, I wanted to get back into the game design realm, and I found a number of talented individuals who have complementary skills to mine.
‘The choice to join Microgaming was pretty obvious for us, given our background and experience working with them in the past. They’re also such a heavyweight provider, so pairing up with them comes with a lot of backing that can really help a new studio reach a large number of players fast. We’ve got a great relationship with them, and freedom to design our own content and explore our own ideas, but we have the backing of a big Studio like Microgaming to help with distribution’
Q: Your games up until Africa X UP seem to be particularly focused around Jackpots, is this something that you think will continue with possibly more WowPot integration in the future?
Rory: I think I would say it’s very game dependant. Future Jackpot integrations definitely aren’t off the table, but I suppose it depends on what we’re trying to achieve with the game in question. I feel like launching a big progressive jackpot game is something every studio should have within their portfolio, it definitely has its space in the market, but I don’t think every game needs to have a progressive jackpot.
‘We have Wheel of Wishes out there already as our big multi-million dollar jackpot game, and for now, I’m more keen on exploring other dynamics.’
Q: Africa X UP is a terrific slot with huge win potential. What gave you the idea to create this one? Every time you get 2 scatters you progress towards climbing up the multiplier ladder for Free Spins, so in a sense, there’s actually some excitement in not landing the bonus early!
Rory: Inspiration for this one came in many different ways. We’re always looking at the market and the data to understand what’s working and what’s not. Games with some kind of collection mechanic or a state based evolution within them are games that I think have a very strong place in the industry at the moment. It creates a much more dynamic player experience, so exploring those kinds of elements was one motivation.
As a mathematician I’ve typically been very against the 2 scatter payout that a lot of games have, because it eats up a lot of the RTP, and it’s essentially for a consolation prize that is never going to make a player happy anyway, because they wanted the bonus.
I’ve heard a lot from players about how they don’t like games where there isn’t a reward for the 2 scatters though. That kind of mindset got us thinking that there definitely is some value in the consolation, but we wanted to do it in a way that doesn’t eat up the RTP. I like the idea of a game that rewards you more if you have to wait longer for a feature.
It definitely plays well from a streamer perspective. When you do get to them certain levels, you’re not guaranteed a good bonus but the anticipation builds. It would be great to start a stream opening a top 25x bonus.
Rory: I’m really hoping streamers take to this game quite a bit because I do think it lends itself quite nicely to it. We’ve also made sure that the game has the ability to deliver some knock out pays without the multiplier as well. Even with low multipliers we’ve seen data where players have hit thousands of ‘x’ their bet at 2x and 3x.
Q: Is Africa X UP your first slot to feature a bonus buy option? Unfortunately, this aspect of gaming is lost to UK players, but we were impressed to see how many options Alchemy Gaming gave players in this aspect with the option to buy in at any multiplier level. Are Bonus Buys something you’ll look to include on all upcoming titles, or only when it’s right for the particular game?
Rory: I think it’s somewhat game dependant. I don’t think it makes sense in every game, but I see a lot of value in feature buy, so I can see us using it a fair bit.
Regarding the options within the feature buy, we didn’t just want to release the same old standard approach. It’s a game with a lot of variety in how you can experience the feature in terms of your starting multiplier, so we wanted to include that. Even things like your collected tokens make each of the feature buys cheaper. If you climb your way all up to the 10x, buying the 25x is a lot cheaper than it would be if you hadn’t built a multiplier at all.
Q: One of the things that impressed us most about Africa X UP was its graphics and audio quality. This factor is too often neglected by other providers, and to be fair, it’s better than even some of your own older games. Is design an element that Alchemy Gaming has strived to improve since your inception?
Rory: I’m super proud of what the team has managed to achieve with Africa X UP. it does feel like a bit of a step up. We’re always pushing to try and deliver top quality content. I think It’s largely a natural progression and things are just fitting together well and we’re really coming into our side. Where you spend your time and energy from an audiovisual point of view is important.
You can put a tonne of effort into one thing and the player may not necessarily notice it in the final experience. I feel like we have created something where everything works together to improve the game play experience.”
Q: What has the reception been like so far with Africa X UP? Granted it’s only just been released, but what sort of feedback have you seen so far from players. Any stories of massive wins already?
Rory: The dev cycles for these games are quite long, so you get quite attached to a product when you’re working on it for a long time. I don’t know if i’d say its exceeding expectations because our expectations were quite high to begin with. It’s performance has been exceptional for us, and we’ve had incredibly good feedback from our operators saying that the game is performing really well for them. We’re very happy with how it’s performing so far.
Q: We were excited to learn about the upcoming new slot Chronicles of Olympus X UP. The name itself gives clues of what to expect, but can you tell us anything else about this one? Will the formula be the same as Africa X UP or will there be new aspects to it?
Rory: Chronicles of Olympus X UP is taking what we’ve done with Africa X UP up a notch. So if you’re excited about the potential you see in Africa X UP, then this is blowing it out of the water with bigger multipliers and bigger potential.
Functionally it’s very similar from a mechanics point of view, but a completely different player experience. We’re also launching a patent-pending feature within it, which we think is pretty exciting. This should change the way that players interact with the game and ramp up the experience.
All of our games up to this point have uncapped win potential, and the comparative win potential in this one is over 50,000x.
Q: Where does Alchemy Gaming see itself in the future? Are you looking to implement the X UP feature into a lot of upcoming games, or will you take a different direction with more inventive features?
Rory: We see huge potential within the X UP brand. The performance we’ve seen on Africa X UP has definitely given us confidence that it’s giving the market something that it wants.
‘So we definitely want to release other titles that expand on that. We’ve got a lot of other ideas that are fun and dynamic, so we don’t want to be copying and chasing what other people are doing. We’re looking for things that gives players something new.’
Thanks so much for your time Rory, really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, and we look forward to future releases!