Last week I shared the most common way a slot machine’s outcome is determined, which is the “Reels First” approach – the RNG is hit for each reel, the outcome of each reel is determined, and the prize is calculated based on where the reels stop.
Another way to do this is what’s called a “Prize First” approach. This technique comes out of other slot-like systems such as Bingo Machines, Historic Horse Racing machines, or Video Lottery Terminals designed to work like scratch-offs.
In this format, the amount won (or no win) is determined first, and then an outcome is displayed on the screen that matches that prize.
The reason such a setup exists is pretty obvious when you think about how those other systems work – the win or loss is determined outside the machine, and if it’s a winner the prize is calculated and sent back to the game, which then uses slot reels as a way of displaying the value of the win.
If you’ve ever played in systems where you have this sort of format, you can sometimes see how this plays out differently. I myself have played at Empire City Casino, a New York Lottery-driven video lottery terminal location, and have seen the exact same reel outcome display a few times in a session.
This is because I won, say, 5x on a spin, and it happened to call the same 5x outcome display. Because the outcomes are pulled from a restricted number of options, it can heavily increase the chances of seeing an identical outcome on the screen. So the outcome is sort of disconnected from the reels except in terms of the fact that the reels are there to show how much you won, or not. The reels aren’t determining the outcome.
I’ve spoken with other players who have seen the same – one friend had the exact same Ultimate Fire Link bonus outcome display three times in a single session. Every fireball ended up in the exact same place at the end of the bonus.
So you can see how this would work differently from independent reels, but all of the systems I mentioned above aren’t Vegas-style slot machines. The companies that cut their teeth on these systems were able to adapt by simply having an RNG hit for an outcome that determined the prize first, not the reel stops first.
Once you have the prize, the same sort of lookup system that can pull an outcome and show you the results can be used just as in a Bingo Machine, HHR or other facility.
As it happens, there was a period of time when this wasn’t allowed in some markets, but as regulations have changed, so have the ways you can build a random outcome system to make a slot machine. This has allowed a number of companies who developed central determination games to be able to also make a Class III version of them that doesn’t require a complete starting over of systems designs.
Of course, this also has opened the door to more unique games that don’t use reels at all to determine the outcome, so it’s not necessarily a negative, and payback percentages can be identical on both types of machines – it’s just another way to get you to seeing whether you won or lost.