Have you ever wondered who's behind those stunning online slots that we love so much? We sure have. So we decided to revisit our dear old friends at Quickspin. Why Quickspin you may wonder? Well, that’s easy – they are a young company with a burning passion for online gaming. And of course, another reason may just be that the world of online casinos was recently buzzing with news about the Quickspin acquisition by Playtech.
But anyway, this time round we wanted to meet the people who actually make the slots we admire so much. So rather than simply talking to CEOs, Quickspin was kind enough to introduce us to their team.
Quickspin’s Fantastic Four
On this occasion, we had the pleasure to talk to four amazing people who are responsible for bringing stunning slots to life. Without further ado, let us present the fantastic four.
Firstly, we would like you to meet Rikard Hilding, art director and graphic artist, with four years at Quickspin and 18 years in the gaming industry. Then there’s Bjarne Grönnevik, a programmer at Quickspin for the last three years, with 14 years' experience in software development in total.
Next in line is Travis Grabau, who has been the project manager at Quickspin for two-and-a-half years, and who has been in the gaming since 2009. Last but not least is Eira Ekre, a test engineer who joined the team just six months ago, but has seven years' of experience in gaming.
Quickspin – the team that just love slots!
We touched base on a number of interesting topics and got to meet the people who put so much energy into crafting fun games. At the end of the day, they’re all just slots lovers who get to create exciting games for the rest of us to enjoy. Keep on reading and find out more about your favourite Quickspin slots and the people behind.
What’s it like working at Quickspin?
BG: I thought I knew a lot about designing games before I worked at Quickspin, but I have learnt so much more here. We all learn from each other every day. We also play our games and other people’s games all the time. That way we are learning on the job, particularly when it comes to the psychology of a player.
The thing that is unique about Quickspin is that we really appreciate other people’s games.
EE: For me the thing that is unique about Quickspin is that we really appreciate other people’s games. I’ve worked at companies before when they’ve pretended their competition doesn’t exist. We have very open discussions here which I think is really helpful for the development of our own content.
TG: There is constant discussion here, which I really enjoy. It’s easily the best place I’ve ever worked. It’s a very special feeling knowing that you are surrounded by so many talented and gifted people.
What makes a good slot game?
BG: One of the guiding principles at Quickspin is that our games are fun. We’re well aware that people are gambling when they play them and we know that people want to win money. But we also know this is their leisure time and they want to have fun. We want people to play the games a lot, not play them and feel they’ve been ripped off or not been entertained. A good game for a player is a good game for us. Obviously everything is ultimately driven by revenues and generating money, but we think these things look after themselves if you develop a great game that people want to play.
A good game for a player is a good game for us.
RH: Part of the entertainment process is the fact players are looking for the chance to win money. That’s why we always start with the maths model. Some design studios will come up with the game’s theme and graphics. But we always start with the maths and work out how it’s going to work. This leads us down the path to a story. You can’t just have a story; the hook has to produce the story. We then brainstorm the theme and the two fit in a perfect marriage. If you look at the maths behind some of our games like Big Bad Wolf and Crystal Queen the maths almost delivers the story.
BG: Sound is a huge part of the entertainment mix too. We know that some people play with the sound down, and that the game has to stand on its own two feet without sound as a result. But for many more players it is integral to the immersive nature of a game. They are quite difficult to get right sometimes but it is important that we do as, for me, the experience just isn’t complete without them. We have a new game coming out later in the month. How the reels stop on the game wouldn’t be the same without the sounds that accompany the action.
Sounds are not just added decoration; they are as important as the graphics.
EE: Sounds are not just added decoration; they are as important as the graphics. We’ve honestly had a number of players write to us and ask us if we could make a Spotify playlist of some of our music and sounds! We have a game called Seven’s High, which has a re-spin after every win features and is based around club music. The dubstep in it has an army of fans. It was put together by one of our coders who was a very successful drummer before he joined Quickspin.
What are your favourite slots?
RH: My favourite Quickspin game is definitely The Wild Chase. It has a fantastic sense of speed about it that makes you want to keep going. It has a real energy about it. I love NetEnt’s Twin Spin, which combines old school Vegas excitement with the best features of a modern video slot. It’s very volatile, but it’s very well executed.
BG: I really like The Wild Chase too. As a company, we’re very proud of it. It’s a real rollercoaster and just when I’m feeling frustrated with it, it rewards me. It also makes me feel I’m getting rewarded more than I actually am. The psychology of the slot is terrific. I’ve been playing NetEnt’s Dead or Alive a lot recently. It’s the sort of game that makes you believe you can win the jackpot. That’s quite a skill.
EE: I have a soft spot for Big Bad Wolf. It was the game that was doing really well when I first started at Quickspin. It is still doing very well and is very popular. It has a great feel to it. Yggdrasil’s Incinerator is a great game too. It has a very clear feature idea, and a clever design with nods to classics like Tetris.
Why do all Quickspin slots tell a story of their own?
RH: There is quite a lot of generic themes in the industry, like leprechauns and ancient Egypt, which people have developed. We have nothing against them, but we’d rather come up with new ones. That’s not to say we wouldn’t if the fit was right with a particular maths model, but we just prefer to set our own course.
TG: For us narrative is important, it makes it much easier to produce the game when you have a story. Most of our games have characters and story lines of their own, which we may or may not be obvious to the players, they none the less help us in developing the game. The Wild Chase is a good example. We know who the people are in the game and what they are doing, hopefully that adds to the experience for the player by adding a certain air of mystery for the player.
This adds a bit of depth for the players, even if what’s going on isn’t super clear
EE: This adds a bit of depth for the players, even if what’s going on isn’t super clear. Some stories, like Big Bad Wolf, are far more straightforward. Other like Illuminous are much harder to design; it’s deliberately stripped back with a more abstract theme, and that kind of project often demands several design iterations. There are probably three near complete versions of the game buried in the archives.
What’s your take on branded games?
TG: Branded games are a funny one. There are so many restrictions in place around the IP that can be a barrier to creativity. The owners of the IP want to protect its integrity and you’re constantly checking back to see if they’re happy as a result. There are fairly obvious advantages to branded games from a marketing perspective, but it has proven to be difficult to make a really good game with them, especially in the online world where development cycles are short.
BG: There’s a lot more work that goes into branded games than some people realise. It is not a lazy way of making games. They are also a way of bringing people into the casino and give you the opportunity to cross-sell then other games. They’re not really for us, but I wouldn’t knock them.
EE: It’s probably a lot lazier following a theme trend that other people already have done. The great example is NetEnt’s Starburst. It was and still is a great game, but there are now 101 gem games that have tried to copy it. I don’t think that is great for the player.
We’re still waiting for the great branded game.
RH: I think we’re still waiting for the great branded game. When you see the restrictions in place you can see why so many of them turn out so badly. But if someone with a decent brand and the foresight to let a good design team run with it, they can still make a great game.
What do you think about the recent acquisition by Playtech?
BG: I don’t think the decision by Playtech to buy us will change how we do things. They didn’t buy us to change us; they bought us because they like what we do. I think it is business as usual, therefore.
TG: I think it’s a great opportunity for us as a company, particularly in areas where they have a strong presence – like Asia. They have an awful lot of experience as a business which we can benefit from.
Our choice was to either join a big player in the industry, or try to grow incredibly quickly on our own.
EE: As a business we were doing very well, and our choice was to either join a big player in the industry, or try to grow incredibly quickly on our own. I’ve been to companies that have tried growing too quickly and it always ended up hurting them immensely, so I’m glad that this allows Quickspin to grow in an organic and healthy way, without affecting our company culture and the way we work today.
RH: When I was working at a smaller games developer it was taken over by a bigger one and that really worked out for the better. I think it’s a real complement that they wanted to buy us.
Can you tell us more about the rest of the team?
BG: We have a very strong team here. That team has doubled in the last two years. But we’re all still very close and get on well. That makes it a great place to work and helps us produce great games. We don’t want to change that so we’re really picky about who we recruit. Their abilities are obviously important, but their personalities are equally important.
Do you see Sweden as a leading country for games' development?
TG: Sweden has produced a lot of games companies in recent years and there is a lot of good content coming out of a relatively small population. I think the Swedish education system has helped, as it is very technical and produces a lot of good coders. But I think we also have to say thank you to NetEnt. That’s really been the university that has produced so many companies.
When was the breakthrough moment for Quickspin?
TG: As a company, we really started to believe in ourselves at ICE this year. People we’d not met before were coming up to us were saying how much they loved playing our games. That made us very proud and has spurred us on to producing even bigger and better games. The quest for the perfect slot is on!!
Thank you Quickspin
We would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Quickspin for this great interview. It was a real pleasure, and we really hope our readers will enjoy reading it as much as we did. And if there is anyone who still hasn’t read our interview with Daniel Lindberg, CEO of Quickspin, be sure to check it out.