Last time I visited Las Vegas, it comes to my attention those Blackjack virtual dealer machines - actually, a Blackjack live dealer simulator game. Although you are in a real Las Vegas casino, these option is for players who want to play live Blackjack with virtual dealer games featuring a complete environment including people walking, bar, waitresses and more.
The Blackjack dealer is in front of a real virtual casino environment. I was always thinking that online casinos could offer something in this style. You can play live Blackjack at online casinos, streamed from their studios or even from a real brick-and-mortar casino, but when it comes to something to add some graphics animation, all Blackjack games at online casinos are pretty much the same - and in my opinion weak. Why would a player pick those static Blackjack video games, if they can play with a real dealer in high-quality live streaming?
Play an online version of the virtual reality Blackjack machine.
Virtual Dealer Blackjack
We have something near today at online casinos. A virtual dealer Blackjack game launched by Yggdrasil which features the lovely Sonya as the dealer. This is a multi-player online Blackjack game that is held by the virtual dealer Sonya. Although the great idea, the game has a lack of scenarios. They should have added more features just like the Blackjack virtual dealer machines in Las Vegas: people, bar, drinks, people talking and other things to make the game visually better. (check here). Anyway, it was the first Blackjack video game I liked and still not understanding why other gaming companies have not launched something similar.
Virtual Dealer Blackjack machine game Las Vegas at The Venetian Hotel
Another virtual reality Blackjack game at The Venetian Hotel Las Vegas
My Experience playing Virtual Reality Blackjack games in Vegas
I was staying at The Venetian Las Vegas and while going through the slot machines and table games, I noticed the big machines simulating a Blackjack station. The game itself is very beautiful and well produced. It really reproduces a casino environment with visitors walking to the bar, chatting, the waitresses serving drinks, etc.
So, I decided to give a try in one of these attractive virtual reality Blackjack simulators. The machine I picked allows me to bet $1, $5, $10, $25, or $100 per hand. A very good limit for players who want to play and adjust the wagers in a good range.
I fed the machine with a $50 bill and started to play some hands. Each player has a touch screen terminal in front of their sits. The cards the dealer deal for you will appear on the main big screen and also on your personal terminal.
These Blackjack stations can handle up to 5 players. There is only a girl playing in the machine with me. She was in the first position and I was on the forth sit. Three sits empty. I managed to record a little bit of the gameplay, thinking of writing this blog post.
My $5 bets were doing great and after some hands, I started to feel that was enough. The game is very good, but I believe it would be better if I was accompanied by a group of friends. This is a good option because you can talk about everything you want and the "virtual dealer" won't give a damn about it.
The only reason I see is this. Your party will be together playing in a Blackjack simulator and you can feel comfortable talking, laugh, and etc without bothering the dealer and other players.
Electronic Blackjack - Table Master
The game I played was developed by Shuffle Master and this kind of game is called Table Master. I wrongly called it virtual dealer or virtual reality Blackjack because I thing both terms is understandable than Table Master. Each Table Master game can sit up to 5 players and the dealer will deal the cards to each active position. The dealer is very interactive and talks with the players.
The players will play directly against the virtual dealer and not against each other like a Blackjack competition. The multiplayer gameplay won't change the odds of the game. This is because each player will have the complete decks of cards, different than playing in a Blackjack table.
These electronic blackjack games can be found at several casinos today and allow its players to enjoy a different and impressive gaming reality. I predict that people will soon be able to play multiplayer blackjack games online using a computerized system like the Table Master games found at Las Vegas casinos. Then players will have the opportunity to play a multiplayer blackjack game on mobile devices, laptops, and desktop computers.
Blackjack tables are all about the interaction between players to dealers and players to players, but sometimes it is hard to predict who will be next to you in a table. You can play live Blackjack games online with real dealers, streamed from a real brick and mortar casino studio, however, you play 1 on 1 and no interactivity with other players. The next big thing will add interactivity and reproduce these electronic Blackjack stations found in Vegas to online casinos.
Virtual Reality Blackjack as an option for real fun
What makes a player choose this Blackjack machines? As I mentioned above, some privacy could be one of the reasons. Some dealers won't like players talking loud or dirty talking a lot of stuff. This could be a good option for a little more privacy between your friends.
Also, we cannot forget that there are a lot of people that don't feel comfortable playing Blackjack with dealers and other people. There is always some kind of pressure. Betting limits, time to decide your action, drink something, tips, conversations, etc. You can deal with different situations in a Blackjack table with other people you don't know.
Anyway, these virtual dealer Blackjack stations could be a good option for a smooth 21 gameplay alone or just with your friends. The problem is that if you are alone, you won't play too much as it started to get boring after some time. Bring your friends to Vegas and have fun with these BJ machines next time.
Games like ShuffleMaster's Royal Match 21 take advantage of innovations in video technology to bring players an exciting verion of traditional Blackjack.
The Skill Game Factor
Video games and slot machines converge to create a new casino experience
Today's young adults have grown up with the Internet, gadget-packed cell phones, iPods, and other devices that often leave parents scratching their heads. But the high-tech phenomenon that has really exploded in recent years is the video game industry. Though the games have been around since the 1970s - whether in the arcades or played at home on your Atari - their popularity has soared due to blockbuster game titles released for the PlayStation, Xbox, and other state-of-the-art home consoles.
Video games have, in fact, begun to dominate the U.S. entertainment industry, generating $18.6 billion in sales in 2007 alone. In September 2007, the game Halo 3 grossed a staggering $170 million in U.S. sales in its first 24 hours, making it by some reports the largest debut in entertainment history. By comparison, the movie Spider-Man 3 generated $151 million on its opening weekend; the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours, but at heavily discounted prices. The impact of video gaming has not been lost on the casinos. It's impossible not to notice how the machines have shifted toward flashier, arcade-style presentations, with plasma screens, booming speaker systems, and sophisticated graphics. With titles such as Star Wars and Top Gun, the experience is practically cinematic and the action goes far beyond tapping a button and watching the reels spin.
TARGETING THE NEXT GENERATION
Casino guests are getting younger. In Las Vegas, ultra-hip nightclubs draw thousands of young people to the Strip every weekend - and they travel with plenty of disposable income. Yet slot floors remain pretty predictable, if only because slot players, who tend to be older, demand a certain level of familiarity. The randomized spin is still the standard game after more than a century. Technology inspires innovation, but underneath it is the same devices we've been playing for years.
What will happen as the older generation of players is replaced by younger customers who have different expectations when they spend money on entertainment? Can the allure of a Blazing 7s slot machine compare to playing Halo on a giant home theatre system? Or can the two be merged? Behind the scenes, this question is already being addressed. Skill-based (or fully interactive) games, which combine the thrill of chasing jackpots with a video game-style experience - in other words, rewarding manual dexterity or mental acuity - are on their way.
This defies a long-standing misconception that all slot machines must be games of chance. Most people are under the impression that skill-based video games would not be allowed on a gaming floor. Early attempts at skill-based slots (the more accurate term is "perceived skill") have included titles like Battleship from Progressive Games International (formerly Mikohn), which arrived in casinos back in 2000. With this machine, the internal random number generator selected a field of several possible results, and the player used his wits to find the best bonus. As in the famous board game, ships were placed in predetermined locations on a grid. The player had to find them and sink them to win the bonus amount. In Progressive's Ripley's "Believe It Or Not!" game, correct answers to multiple-choice trivia questions yielded higher bonuses. Games like these gave the illusion of being skill-based. The outcomes of the bonuses were predetermined. You had to be lucky to reach the bonus round in the first place, so it wasn't as if being a trivia wiz or a great board game player guaranteed you a profit.
Amusement game laws vary by jurisdiction but usually prohibit wagering on the outcome of a game. You feed coins into the machine simply for the experience of playing; if it paid out winnings, it would fall under the category of a gambling device. Slot machines, however, are gambling devices - each state designs its regulations to ensure a fair gamble, and even defines what constitutes a "gambling device".
Historically, this has meant that slot machines are games of chance, and video games involve skill - but it doesn't necessarily mean it is illegal to combine the two elements. Most gaming regulators are receptive to slot machines that include a skill component. In Nevada, the Gaming Control Board remarked that they were "dumbfounded" that manufacturers hadn't yet presented skill-based video games for consideration, in light of the soaring popularity of home video games. "There is no formal policy that would preclude skill-based games," says the authority.
The fact is, the slot manufacturers have already gotten started. Last year, Bally introduced a slot machine version of the classic Atari game Pong, in which players knock a ball back and forth between two paddles. The casino version plays like a typical slot machine until the player reaches a bonus round. This triggers a 45-second game of Pong, with the player competing against the computer. The amount of the bonus depends on how well you play. This simple bonus feature, based on the most primitive of video games, is an industry milestone. Pong is the first slot machine that allows hand-eye coordination to affect the payout. It was approved by Michigan's Gaming Control Board and installed in Detroit's casinos, as well as Connecticut's Mohegan Sun. Before the Nevada Gaming Commission approved it, they wanted to make sure the bonus round offered some type of minimum payout regardless of the player's ability. That only seemed fair for a bonus round, after all.
BRIDGING TWO WORLDS
From a technical standpoint, incorporating a skill element wouldn't be a big leap for slot manufacturers. Some of the biggest names in the industry have been involved with both types of games for years. Bally Technologies originated with a pinball game called Ballyhoo. In the late 197Os and early 1980s, its former subsidiary Midway Gaming brought to the United States two of the most popular arcade titles in history: Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Bally has kept up its involvement with traditional arcade games, but its focus is on slot machine development and casino management systems.
The Konami Corporation has also had success with both gaming formats. The Japanese-based company originally rented and repaired jukeboxes in the early 1970s. Over the next decade, it developed classic video games for the Nintendo console including Contra, Metal Gear, and Castlevania. Konami entered the casino world in the late 1990s, applying its creativity and technical know-how to supply popular slot machines.
IGT, the biggest slot manufacturer of them all has never been in the video game industry, though it has introduced many of the high-tech innovations that have made slot machines more of an arcade-style experience. The company has secured several patents that relate to "perceived skill" games, which appear to reward players based on how well they perform a certain action, although the outcomes are predetermined. Then, IGT partnered with Sega Gaming, a major video game developer, to create a slot game called Three Kingdom Wars. We could see more of these partnerships in the future. Cyberview Technology is another company that is actively developing video-slot games.
Cyberview Technology is another company that is actively developing video slot games. In one of its titles called Galaxium, the buttons normally used to draw or hold video poker hands are instead used to move a spaceship from side to side, or forward and backward. In another pinball-style video slot, The Big Score, the buttons control left and right flippers. With these two games, the player purchases a set amount of time. As the pinball or spaceship comes into contact with various objects, the machine registers a win or a loss. The goal is to keep racking up points while your credits tick down for every second that elapses. A highly skilled player is not guaranteed to make money. These are still slot machines. By playing well, you experience an average result closer to the odds of the game, while less skilled players will experience more volatility.
ANOTHER TWIST ON THE TECHNOLOGY
Las Vegas-based Shuffle Master has also combined slot technology with a skill element, but in a different way - by installing random number generators in table games. Titles like Rapid Roulette, DigiDeal's Digital 21, and Novomatic's ToucbBet roulette combine the excitement and social interaction of table gameplay with the high-tech graphics and automation of slot play. Some of these electronic blackjack and roulette tables feature a pre-recorded, life-size image of a dealer while a random number generator determines the cards you are dealt with or the outcome of the spinning wheel. Although they play like tablets, the technology behind these games makes them slot machines. This has enabled casinos in States such as Pennsylvania, where regular table games are not allowed, to offer a table-playing experience.
As slot machines take on more arcade-like qualities, one aspect will remain constant - all of the new concepts and titles will be subject to strict testing and oversight. This makes it unlikely that we'll see any dramatic leaps forward in the near future. There is also concern among gaming experts and manufacturers that players will need time to grow accustomed to the idea of skill-based slot machines. It's going to require a considerable amount of time before skill-based slots make a significant impact on gaming floors. Patenting, developing, and testing these games of the future - and getting them licensed - could take years. But once these games begin to arrive, it could be a watershed for the industry. For future generations of slot players, the reel spinners we enjoy today might seem as primitive as Pong.