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Online casinos come and go, and it is quite rare to find a truly innovative new online casino. But once in a while,  you come across something like Highroller Casino – the latest evolution of adventure casinos with gamification features like you’ve never seen before.

JohnSlots visited the ‘new roller in town’ in Malta to take a sneak peek behind the scenes and to get the full story of Highroller, from its original inception to the casino we know today.

What is Highroller?

Highroller is part of Gaming Innovation Group, a well-known casino brand behind such popular online casinos as Rizk, Thrills, and Guts. Their latest innovation, Highroller Casino, is what we wanted to find out more about.

Highroller is a design-driven casino where all the action happens inside its own universe, a virtual place called Metrocity – a dark metropolis full of heists, thrills, games, and rewards. Players can create their own avatars which will live in Metrocity and interact with the other characters. When you play at Highroller, you can level up through different city districts, collect special game cards, virtual currencies and items.

What makes Metrocity such an intriguing place is that life in Metrocity goes on, even when you are not playing. Before you know it, you will be going back even if it is just to see what has happened since your last visit to this thriving city.

How it all began…

Being a design-driven casino, the story of Highroller began thanks to the creative minds who made the whole Highroller universe happen.

The vision: an innovative, unique and design-driven casino!

The first spark in the creation of Highroller universe flickered when the CEO of Gaming Innovation Group, Robin Eirik Reed, sat down with the design team to discuss the development of a new casino. Art director Matthew Ashton remembers that meeting.

“He said that we need the best casino in the industry, but it had to be innovative. We need something unique and design-driven because that was what was lacking in a lot of casinos.”

“In fact, a lot of them, as good as they are, are still not design-driven. So, he said “let’s start drafting for this unique, amazing, innovative casino and see where we can go.””

The formula: social media apps + characterization + gamification = new casino

With the CEO’s vision in mind, the design team turned to social media and their game apps to get an idea of what was already available. What they saw were very content-rich, heavily branded and entertaining products and the kind of engaging and immersive games you would play on your PlayStation, Xbox or computer.

The design team’s formula for the Highroller universe draws on the concept of entertaining game apps from social media, combined with a pinch of characterization and a spoonful of gamification. This was the very beginning of the Highroller universe.


The early sketches of Highroller characters - a redhead with devil horns and a blond with a bow and arrow

How was Highroller’s Metrocity created?

Creative minds can make magic happen when they are given room to work. In this case, the designers moved to an apartment together, away from the rest of the company, and for 9 months they concentrated solely on creating Highroller.

“I guess we were quite lucky. Not everybody can isolate themselves like that. But if you can isolate, isolate because then all this magic kind of happens. Because you are not distracted by anything else,” Matthew says.

It started with the creation of the different characters, with the concept of Metrocity coming some time later. There are 4,500 levels in Metrocity, each with unique cards and characters. In the end, the apartment’s hallways were heavily decorated with sketches of the different levels and characters.

“It was one giant hub of ideas and free thinking,” Matthew says, recalling the experience.

The Metrocity people – original, yet familiar

If you visit the Highroller website, you will notice a group of Metrocity residents, with square faces, colourful hair, and other unique characteristics. These are the avatars of Highroller players, and they can be modified as the players wish. The characters went through several different phases of evolution before becoming the funky folk we see today.

The idea was to create original characters to suit the Highroller style but ones that would also look familiar. The inspiration came from shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Futurama.

“These guys are familiar to millions of us and we can associate with them. A lot of the characterization process involved creating characters that are unique but display recognisable patterns,” Matthew explains.

It was far from an easy task. Metrocity needed plenty of new residents that had to look like individuals, but everything also needed to be kept simple and scalable for the sake of practicality. And of course, there was the whole universe of Highroller that needed to be created from scratch.

The early versions of Highroller characters - 5 men

From cave system to Metrocity – creating the Highroller universe

Once the characters were born, they needed a place to live – the Highroller universe. At the beginning, the characters were not living in a city at all. In fact, Managing Director Pierrick Leveque explains that they lived in a dark cave, digging for gems.

“The cave system stemmed from the idea that we wanted people to get resources from each other. So we were thinking about an environment where these two elements could be combined. Originally it was a cave and there was a little guy, Gigi  who was digging gems and mining the coins – and it was very dark.”

Yet, from the darkness of the cave system, a friendly creature made its way to the metropolis…

Pidge says ‘hi’

In the cave system, there was a friendly creature who acted as your onboarding buddy and explained how the universe works. The designers liked the creature so much that it was turned into a communication pigeon and carried over to Metrocity to carry messages.

Pidge is one of the many communication pigeons of the Highroller universe, guiding players around Metrocity and answering any questions they might have.

“When you look at it from the characterization point of view, it’s a fact that people love animals. It doesn’t matter what sort of animal it is, people do like animals and we are obviously not going to build a fluffy dog and cute little cat. But we can do a pigeon because that fits in to Highroller universe,” Matthew states.


JohnSlots in the middle of Highroller Casino's Metrocity and its dark alleys with a text "JohnSlots goes to Metrocity"

JohnSlots goes Metrocity

After hearing the story of how the Highroller universe came to be, JohnSlots couldn’t resist trying it out.

Creating John the Avatar

After signing up to the casino, you can immediately start customizing your avatar. You can adjust the skin tone, hair colour and style, glasses, lips, beard and the shirt you want to wear. There is also the option to use a randomly selected avatar.

 

This is Highroller Metrocity

Metrocity is the buzzing metropolis where the avatars live and where everything happens. Even when you are not there.

“The idea is that stuff is happening in Metrocity while you are not looking,” Pierrick explains.

In Metrocity’s own newspaper you can read the latest news and learn if something special has happened in your absence.

By playing the casino games, you level up through different Metrocity districts and collect rewards. The progress map shows you where you are. You can also trigger looting opportunities and unlock level-up rewards on the map.

The Sting – looting coins from others

In Highroller universe, a Sting is a way to loot coins from another player who has been idle on the progress map for over 5 days. This feature is triggered at regular intervals on the progress map. JohnSlots very much approves!

As a Metrocity resident, you will earn virtual coins every day. However, the motto of Metrocity is ‘stay on the move’. If you stay in one place for too long, other active players might be tempted to start rifling through your pockets…

Level up from one district to another

When you reach the end of each district on the progress map, it is time to level up and move on to another district. When levelling up you can expect to be rewarded with spins, cash, coins or other freebies.

The next playground will be home to even more Stings and rewards. Keep in mind that there are 4,500 levels, so you are not likely to reach the edges of the Metrocity universe anytime soon.

The Highroller collectible card with JohnSlots

Highroller is unique because…

What is all this hype about Highroller Casino, you might ask? There are plenty of examples of online casinos using gamification features to improve their player experience. Casinos like Casumo, Casino Heroes, and Wunderino come to mind. A progress bar and levelling up are nothing new in the online casino world.

“We wanted to bring something new to the table. We looked at how to work on our core metrics; we wanted to people to come back, we wanted people to care, we wanted people to enjoy themselves,” Pierrick states.

Highroller managed to add something more to the basic gamification. According to Pierrick there are two things making Highroller unique.

  1. Players can create their own avatar, collect unique game cards by levelling up and collect coins each day – this is what Pierrick calls ‘the ownership aspect’.
  2. Highroller provides the platform for ‘silent communication’, which means that players are interacting with each other by looting virtual resources without having to talk to each other.

It’s not just about bonuses

Many online casinos can only compete by offering bigger and better bonuses or more free spins than everyone else. And sure, players like bonuses. But bonuses aren’t all there is to a great casino experience.

The team behind Highroller wants to make it clear that a Highroller casino bonus is only one way players can engage with Metrocity. Depending on what kind of player you are and how interested you are in the gamification features, you are just as likely to receive communication about your avatar as about a new offer.

“We want people to come back and get excited about something and that is not necessarily always going to be bonuses. It can be about coins, it can be about virtual goods, it can be about lots of different things,” says Pierrick.

Your opinion matters!

Part of the Highroller universe is a feedback and communication system, where players are asked to provide their opinions on the casino.

As a Metrocity resident, you will be involved in the evolution of Highroller by providing opportunities for you to say what you think, what you like and what you dislike.

It’s fun, fair and full of surprises

In a nutshell, Highroller is all about 3 F’s: it is fun, fair and full of surprises. For players this means:

  • Fun – the brand is an exciting and fun place to be
  • Fair – this casino takes responsible gaming seriously and aims to be transparent in all they do
  • Full of surprises – you never know what is waiting for you around the corner, whether it is a new feature or your next victim in terms of looting their coins

“It is important to us to keep surprising people with new features and elements,” Matthew admits.

Pidge, the communication pigeon in Highroller Casinos's Metrocity

The future of Highroller

If you think we have seen everything there is to the Highroller universe, you might want to think again. According to the design team, this is just the very beginning!

Players can look forward to new aspects of Highroller in future. After all, it’s a big universe out there and everything is possible!

Will there be new Highroller characters?

Besides the communication pigeons, one day we might start seeing magpies. As magpies like to steal shiny objects, they make perfect sense in the Highroller universe where players can loot each other’s coins.

“Later on, we will start bringing in the magpie. But what we didn’t want to do was to release everything straight away. So the magpie has been held back,” Matthew confirms.

“And he will not steal, he will borrow,” Pierrick points out, laughing.

It is not correct to talk about stealing, so in the Highroller universe we ‘loot’ or ‘take’ coins – terms approved by Malta Gaming Authority and UK’s Gambling Commission.

It’s the Highroller way – or no way!

New gamification features, races, and tournaments are in the works for the future.

“It is a new product, so we first have to understand how it works with a sample big enough to make sense and then take the product in one direction or another. One of the beauties of the product is that we are already able to start thinking creatively about these other things,” Pierrick says.

And all of this will be done in a unique Highroller way.

“We can do tournaments, we can do races, we can do them in a really cool way because we have the right creative framework to do it. Whether it is going to be done in a month, 2 months, or 6 months, it depends on the needs of the business, and how we see the behaviour of the users. Whatever needs to be done, will be done, and it will be pretty cool, I think,” Pierrick concludes.

Top 3 reasons to start playing at Highroller

If you are not a resident of Metrocity already you might want to give it try. Here are three reasons why.

  1. To get a virtual version of yourself – an avatar you can modify the way you want, and which will represent you in the Highroller universe. Highroller is the only online casino where this is possible.
  2. Being a GiG brand, Highroller can offer everything you can expect from a GiG-branded casino: a huge selection of games, quality service in general, and a good selection of secure and safe payment methods. Even if you don’t care about the gamification aspect, Highroller will offer an outstanding casino experience.
  3. Highroller is not just an online casino – it is a fun and safe, yet a unique place to play.

“If you want a unique experience, if you want to play unique, be unique and stand out in a unique, crazy kind of way, then play at Highroller for sure,” concludes Matthew.

JohnSlots agrees. If you want to see what the future of online casinos might look like, try out Highroller Casino. Perhaps we will meet in Metrocity one day?