Interview with Stephen Reisenberger
Despite being extremely busy with preparations for G2E, Stephen Reisenberger of NanoTech Gaming Labs was kind enough to give me some time in the following text interview about Vegas Pinball 2014.
Prior to reading this Interview, I would suggest reading the first two Articles in this series, but particularly, the second one about Vegas Pinball 2014.
Vegas Pinball 2047 is such a unique concept, what would you say your inspiration for the game was?
Aaron has a history with Video Pinball development, and given the goal of merging skill and gambling combined with emerging display technologies, it was a perfect fit for our first prototype. We have a lot of respect, also, for traditional mechanical pinball games, and took great care in researching and measuring elements of those games in order to present a digital version as authentic as possible. We didn’t intend to create the most innovative pinball table layout. Instead, we created “Vegas 2047” to be the best judge of pinball-playing skill of any previous pinball game – mechanical and video included.
One interesting feature of the game is the customization option that allows a player to have the resolution, in terms of EV, be based on skill to varying degrees. For instance, your default, 'Pure luck,' setting for a $1000 bet is an EV of 99% where the player's performance on the game is immaterial, all the way to a range of 75% (Lowest return allowed by Nevada law) to 123% if skill matters as much as possible. With that said, can a skilled player consistently and reliably have an edge, and if so, how can you guarantee a casino profits on the game?
The first part of the answer to your two-part question should address guaranteeing casino hold. Our patent-pending NanoTech Advantage math model guarantees that the casino holds exactly the theoretical House Edge that they choose (or more).
The second part of the answer includes the fact that “Vegas 2047” judges a player’s skill on an individual game using a failsafe mechanism to prevent from awarding a sum total advantage to the aggregate of all players. Also, the NanoTech Advantage works by awarding theoretical advantage to players above-average players by taking it away from players with below-average skill.
A skilled player can consistently and reliably have an edge only if they can consistently score above the 50th percentile as compared to all previous scores, and also if there has been enough theoretical advantage in the system to award.
In terms of that 50th percentile, that’s obviously perfectly understandable. Would players’ scores essentially count towards that average if they were playing the, “Pure Chance,” mode? If so, and the first player ever lost (making the casino’s hold 100%) could the very next player play at an advantage by beating the first player’s score if playing a maximum-skill mode? Also, when we talk about, “Theoretical Advantage to reward,” for a $100 bet set to a default of 99%, would that mean that anything less than a 99% return-to-player as of the time of that play could go to a theoretical advantage, but there could not be one when the casino’s hold is currently less than 99%?
Playing with the Skill Effect set to ZERO or ‘quick quitting’ the game will prevent the player’s score from ‘counting towards’ the average score. The second player cannot have any advantage regardless of any settings because there will not have been any theoretical advantage taken from below-average scores.
The second part of this follow-up question has flaws in it where you fail to define what “99%” refers to in, ‘set to a default of 99%’. Secondly, you incorrectly state, ‘when the casino’s hold is currently less than 99%’. The casino hold in most cases is a small percentage.
(Author's Note: What I meant to ask was if the casino's current hold is less than 1%, or if the current return to player is above 99%, but fortunately, this will be addressed later on.)
In one of the Demo videos, it appeared that you played a game in the most skill-based way with a bet of $1000 to win $100. After the gameplay portion, the randomizer was entirely green which means, at that point, you couldn't lose though you did not seem to achieve even the 123% EV. It seems that, even if you had performed better on the gameplay portion, it wouldn't have mattered. Is that an accurate analysis, and if so, what is the, "Sweet spot," where there is a reason to play up to 123% but you still can't lose if you achieve it?
Yes, this is an accurate analysis. The math behind the example above gives us a probability of winning the bet of 90% = (100% - 1% House Edge) * ( $1000 / ($1000 + $100) ) with an EV of 90% [(0.9)*(100) + (0.1)*(-1000)]. In order to overcome the 10% chance to lose, the player would need an EV of 111.11% - this is the “sweet spot” for this particular bet.
In a separate video, Aaron Hightower demonstrated a pure luck game in which he bet $1.00 to win $100 at a 25% House Edge, which brings up this question: Even if a player does not play a skill-based game, it seems that a reasonably proficient Pinball player could still play at least a couple of minutes...allowing for a $1.00 bet clearly does not seem like a mathematically feasible decision for the casino, what is your suggested minimum bet to allow?
The casino may choose to set a number of variables to describe House Edge for small, medium, and large denomination bets. We believe that “Vegas 2047” will earn best with the combination of high-denomination bets and low House Edge (1%). Given our observed average play time of about 60 seconds, we suggest a House Edge that would earn the casino a $1 theoretical hold per minute.
With that said, then it is fair to say that a $1.00 bet is not feasible to achieve that hold of $1/minute at a 75% House Edge. If the average play time is indeed 60 seconds, though, you could have a low-roller setting of $5/play at a House Edge of 80% that would achieve the $1/minute played. What the casino would have to adjust for, at this point, is making money based on how frequently the game is in operation, though, certainly we cannot literally expect the game to be in use 24/7...so from a practical standpoint, do you see something like $25 at a House Edge of 10% (or something along those lines) to be more practical? After all, a $2.50 loss-per-minute to the player would be somewhat in keeping with a minute played on penny slots.
Again, the casino may choose to adjust House Edge and minimum bet denominations to their preferences. We believe that “Vegas 2047” is best suited to make the most money when offered at a high-denomination bet with a (Low) House Edge.
Some people have questioned the viability of a skill-based game in general terms, however, skill-based games in and of themselves are not unprecedented, games such as Blackjack and Video Poker come to mind. Is it fair to say that this is different only in that it relies, in part, on physical skill?
No. While it is true that Blackjack and Video Poker can be played with mental skill, and that “Vegas 2047” uses physical skill as a judgment, it is not fair to say that this is the only difference. A second very important distinction is that “Vegas 2047” utilizes the NanoTech Advantage which guarantees the House Edge and eliminates exposure to very skilled players. The example of ‘optimal’ or ‘perfect’ play exhibited on both Blackjack and Video Poker results in the casino losing money in the long run since players of that skill level will always be able to get an advantage. Applying ‘perfect’ play in “Vegas 2047” would mean earning a slightly higher score on each successive game. Eventually, in our system, there would be no theoretical advantage to award, and thus the payback to the player would trend towards that as set by the House Edge.
(Author's Note: I believe that Mr. Reisenberger assumed I was referring to card-counting when I used Blackjack when I really simply meant that some decisions are mathematically better than others. This is the same case with Video Poker where, of course, for a player to be at an advantage would require a certain paytable or a paytable plus points and promotions...etc....
Pinball, in general, is the type of game one might expect to see in an arcade, but casinos have often been considered arcades for adults. Do you think the success of this game might open the door for other skill-based arcade type features, maybe a slot machine in which the Bonus game return is partially decided by playing some Variant of a Galaxian or Galaga type game, or racing game, or something of that nature?
Yes, we believe that the success of “Vegas 2047” will open the door for other skill-based features. However, relegating these features to ‘slot machine bonus games’ is a big mistake in our opinion.
I’m really talking more in terms of application than relegation. After all, with such a versatile concept such as Integrated Gaming, it seems appropriate to want to have as broad a product spectrum as possible with which to apply the product concept. Certainly, one could have a space-shooter game with a NanoTech Bet Wheel that is a stand-alone product, but does Nanotech plan to also develop integrations of the skilled-player concept into slot machine Bonus Features? Alternatively, would NanoTech be open to licensing out its patent-pending integrated software to a large slot machine manufacturer for such purpose provided they agree to a non-compete with stand-alone games?
NanoTech Gaming stands on the principles of fairness and transparency. Slot machines have traditionally operated by obfuscation and confusion, so we are not interested in aligning our company with existing slot machine manufacturers for the purpose of creating skill-based bonus rounds in slot machines.
Would Nanotech endeavor to develop other partially skill-based games?
We are developing a number of skill-based games.
Is the past performance of previous players on an individual unit the mechanism by which player performance is incorporated into determining the EV when one is playing on a skill-based setting?
Yes, but it is not the only mechanism. Bet amount, and the player’s chosen effect of skill also are factors in determining the EV.
With the spinner that lands on green or red and results in a win or loss, is that essentially based on an RNG in which, the better the player performs, more numbers of the number set become winning numbers?
Mostly yes. The Bet Wheel clearly represents the player’s chance to win their bet based on the bet amount, win amount, effect of skill, and the House Edge. The green and red sections of the Wheel change based on the player’s score, the bet amount, and the skill exhibited by the player.
I probably could have been more specific. The question that I meant to ask is, from the lowest possible EV, a certain section of the wheel will be green and a certain section will be red if a player has the worst game possible, as the player’s performance improves, does the amount of green change in a directly correlative way with player performance?
Two pieces of information are missing from this question in order to answer it with a solid, “yes”:
the player’s chosen Effect of Skill. If it’s set to ZERO, then player performance has no effect on the Bet Wheel. The other nine Skill Effect settings will have varying degrees of influence in the correlation of the player’s performance to the changes on the Bet Wheel
- the amount of theoretical advantage available to award in the system. The Bet Wheel will only change if there is enough theoretical advantage in the system to award to the player who achieves an above-average score. This saved theoretical advantage also assumes that there have been previous below-average scores submitted.
There's bet amount, but then the desired win amount also becomes a factor in determining the probability of winning, as it should. It seems to me that the formula would be simple, let’s say a player is betting $100 to win $100 and he wants it to be a random decision at a 99% EV, then the spinner could theoretically have 20,000 numbers from an RNG by which 10,100 lose and 9,900 win. ((9900/20000) * 100) - ((10100/20000) * 100) = -1 which is the correct expected loss of $1.00 on $100 bet. Now, if you have a player playing a skill-based game with an EV range of 75%-123%, then the effective variable range is 48% EV, someone scoring exactly in the 50th percentile gets 99%, would someone scoring exactly in the 80th percentile get (.48*.8) + .75 = 1.134 or 113.4% EV, thereby causing something equivalent to (11340/20000 * 100) - (8660/20000 * 100) = $13.40 Expected Win?
I believe your example and assumption is correct in spirit, but I would be careful using the phrase, ‘Expected Win’, which is misleading. Stating that the player in the above example earns an Expected Value of $13.40 by achieving a score in the 80th percentile. (again, this assumes the theoretical advantage is available to award)
What would be the base line for the first player who ever plays a newly installed game on the skill-based version?
Since there would be no theoretical advantage to award, the first player to ever play a newly installed “Vegas 2047” game has no opportunity for advantage play.
In terms of casino placements, can you speak to where Nanotech is in the process of getting Vegas Pinball 2047 placed, and with how many casinos?
We cannot disclose publicly which casinos we’re speaking with or considering placing “Vegas 2047”.
Will it be possible to integrate this game into Player's Club systems?
Do you have anything you’d like to add at this time?
Tell everyone to register for G2E and visit us at booth 4116!
You heard the man, register for G2E and visit them at Booth 4116!!! In the Forums, Aaron Hightower (AHigh) made a post offering free passes for WoO and WoV readers, (That means you!) so please follow this link, find the post, and get your free passes! All NanoTech Gaming Labs asks in return is that you come by and try their super-fun games for a half hour, that's one of the best Vegas deals out there for that week!
And, of course, thank you again to Stephen Reisenberger who took time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with me!