The Making of Treasure Fair
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… right this way, just over the hill… welcome to Treasure Fair!
888’s Treasure Fair began with a decision to create a truly high-end slot game, something out of the ordinary and completely unique. This initial determination was, of course, a business decision – a commitment to dedicate the time and resources necessary to execute such a complex and long-term project. With that decision made and the resources assigned, the birthing process began.
In this article, we will follow Treasure Fair on its creative journey – from the original idea to its production and launch. We’ll see who was involved in the decision to create a circus, how many ideas were brought forward before that decision was made, and we’ll take a look at the considerations that went into choosing what type of circus to create.
We’ll hear from the creative team about the types of decisions they made on a daily basis about every exacting detail of bringing the circus to life. We’ll learn how the scene was set, how the cast of characters was created, and how all of these details combined to create a mood and an experience unique in the world of online gaming.
Finally, we’ll take a look at how the fantasy became real. We’ll learn the process by which development was made more efficient, and we’ll understand what minimized the need for last minute changes of direction.
So let’s take a journey that will end at the circus… as we discover the
Making of Treasure Fair.
1. The Idea
An endeavor like the creation of Treasure Fair involves dozens of people across numerous
teams in a multidisciplinary organization like 888: creative teams, product management, development, QA, marketing, and more. So, the first step in Treasure Fair’s evolution was convening a broad forum to agree on an idea. A slot game as sophisticated as Treasure Fair takes longer to birth than a human child, and this initial forum took place no fewer than 13 months prior to the slot’s first appearance online.
This stage of the process involved a group of at least ten people working together in a series of three meetings. These meetings were not freewheeling,creative brainstorming sessions. They took place against the backdrop of real business and marketing research about the types of slots existing in the competitive space and what might be missing from 888’s offering. Based on this research, approximately 20 different concepts were pitched to the forum.
Through a series of votes, these 20 concepts were eventually narrowed to two or three to be developed in the upcoming period. It was determined that a circus offering was missing in 888’s portfolio, and this was the winning idea that eventually became Treasure Fair.
“Let’s create something darker, more mysterious, more intimate, more complex.”
With the general concept in hand, the committee was narrowed to those who would actually execute it: the creative team and the product team. More extensive research was conducted into the circus-themed slots offered by the competition, and it became clear that their offerings were similar in look and feel: bright colors, playful imagery, and the fun and frolic of the “big top.” So the challenge was to create something to stand out against this competitive landscape. It was this desire to create something truly unique that led to what was to become Treasure Fair. Instead of creating yet another bright, playful circus tent, “let’s create something darker, more mysterious, more intimate, more complex.” Thus, Treasure Fair was born.
2. The World
In the course of competitive research, it was discovered that the competition’s offerings in this area were not 3D, so another major decision was made that Treasure Fair would be an immersive 3D experience that would absorb players in a different world. But what would be the elements of this world? Answering this question was the next step in the process.
Again, significant research went into this phase of Treasure Fair’s creation – this time into popular culture. Inspired by imagery from the past and present – literature, film, television, and the Internet – the creative team built a mood board to reflect the emotions and the complex energy they wanted Treasure Fair to evoke. Instead of three rings, there would be a gypsy caravan. Instead of a big top, the action would take place against the backdrop of a night sky. Instead of “in your face” bright colors, dark hues would dominate.
The challenge here was to create something a little bit dark, a little bit Goth – but at the same time not unpleasant. It would have more elements of “freak show” than the “Greatest Show on Earth” – but be intriguing and inviting, not off-putting.
Against the dark background, various creative elements of Treasure Fair help to lighten the mood – primary among them,quite literally, the use of light. Against the blackness of the night sky are lots of fair-inspired, light-producing elements: a brightly-lit Ferris wheel and carousel, swinging lanterns, spotlights, candles, and more. Indeed, if you pay attention, you’ll see that light bulbs are everywhere.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that the creation of Treasure Fair’s world was not the creation of a movie set. The world does have its own way of telling a story, but that is not its main purpose. Its main mission in life is to serve as the backdrop for an online slot game, and it is, therefore, heavily influenced by decisions about user interface and game features.
This is where major collaboration between the creative and product teams comes in, and together they developed the cornerstones of the Treasure Fair world: The game would include the main slot, along with five bonus games – so there would be six gypsy carts and six primary characters, each hosting a different game. An exploding WILD with colorful confetti animation lightens the dark palette, and fun winning-spin animations and a circus-themed soundtrack evoke a carnival atmosphere against the darker freak show-like elements.
And let’s not forget that this world had to be built twice: the second time in miniature. An ongoing challenge was to provide the same rich immersive experience whether Treasure Fair is played on a full internet browser or on a mobile device.
3. Colours and More
“The user feels and appreciates every one of these details – even though he may not realize that he is noticing them. but this is what makes the experience high-end and keeps the players spinning and coming back for more.”
Entering Treasure Fair means entering a world in which every single detail has been carefully considered. (If only the real world were so carefully planned!) Creative decisions are behind every visual and audio element, and every one of these details taken together create the player experience. As explained by 888’s Creative Director, “The user feels and appreciates every one of these details – even though he may not realize that he is noticing them. But this is what makes the experience high-end and keeps the players spinning and coming back for more.”
Treasure Fair’s colour palette is a major aspect of the mood the game evokes. No neon yellows, screaming purples, or bright reds here – instead you’ll find more subdued, but still colourful, hues. Heavy use of browns, soft yellows, dark reds, and subtle blues predominate. The most dominant colourin Treasure Fair’s palette is a deep reddish brown that the creative team describes as “a touch of mud.”
As each scene was planned, the type and colour of every material was chosen. What colour should the wood of the carts be? What about the circus banners? The ring master’s suit? The monkey’s jacket? The answers to these questions are where years of design experience came into play. Mood boards were created for every visual element: characters, props, typography, and materials. None of these decisions was taken lightly (or made alone), and every element was the subject of debate and discussion among the members of the creative team.
4. The Characters
Treasure Fair would not have become the rich experience it did without its incredible cast of characters. The world may exist for the benefit of the game, but it is the characters who invite you into that world. They are more than just circus performers; they are your hosts and your guides as you become immersed in their travelling show.
As we already discovered, there are six main residents of the Treasure Fair world – determined by the number of game-playing venues:
The Clown – Always likely to receive a big pie-in-the-face, what could be behind that somewhat creepy smile?
The Flea Master – With a monumental nose and feet to match, he’s just a bit too willing to discipline his fleas.
The Fire Girl – Treasure Fair’s sexiest performer, there’s no doubt she’s fiery in every sense of the word.
The Fortune Teller – See the past and the future, tomorrow and beyond… all with a gaze into her crystal ball.
The Strong Man – All belly and no brawn, his remarkable feats of strength defy explanation.
The Ring Master (and his monkey!) – Well-dressed and proper, he plays the dapper host. But there’s something about him… dare you trust him as he shows you around?
The creation and development of every aspect of these characters is what kept the creative team, character designers, and 3D animators busy for almost a full year.
Treasure Fair’s characters are what give the world its, well… character. None completely happy-go-lucky, but none unpleasantly creepy, they maintain the delicate balance between Goth and game. How did the creative team pull off this complex task?
While Treasure Fair has no explicit story to tell (other than the background of the travelling circus), a deeper look reveals that the designers created characters with backstories. Their histories brought them to this place, and the travelling fair will lead them into their futures. As was explained by one of the creative team’s members, “Once you start working on the characters, you are really getting into their worlds. You become them.”
“Once you start working on the characters, you are really getting into their worlds. You become them.”
With one look at the Fortune Teller, you can imagine that she is the latest generation in a long family history of women with “the gift.” She is not exactly spooky – but definitely mysterious. And if you give her the opportunity (and perhaps even if you don’t), she has hours of tales to tell about growing up in the circus from the time she was a small girl and about all the strange things she has experienced along the way.
And how about the Fire Girl? Of course, she is an aspiring starlet – only working in this circus while she waits for her big break. She knows she’ll be out of here before too long, but in the meantime, she’ll do anything it takes to make it.
One fundamental aspect of Treasure Fair’s characters is that they incorporate an element of humour. Part of the delicate balance that keeps Treasure Fair dark but still inviting, humour is a vital component of the experience (whether the characters like it or not)! The Ring Master may appear a little bit sinister, but even he can’t control his monkey’s silly antics. The Flea Master doesn’t hesitate to whip his fleas into shape, but their calisthenics and injuries are downright funny. And take a look at the Strong Man’s pot-bellied physique; you might say it borders on the ridiculous.
Every Last Detail
“First we need the script. Then we film the movie.”
Just as thousands of small details comprise real-life people, thousands of small details give Treasure Fair’s characters life. And none of these details happened by accident. Whether it’s the colours and textures of their clothing, the looks on their faces, the style of their hair, or the way they move, every element of the characters’ look and feel is the product of deliberation and decision. Case-in-point: The Fire Girl was lucky enough to undergo “cosmetic surgery” during Treasure Fair’s development. Along the way, she lost an eye patch and developed more beautiful facial features.
Each of these details was planned and decided before work began on the computer renderings. As 888’s Creative Director noted, “First we need the script. Then we film the movie.”
So much of the personality of Treasure Fair’s characters comes through in the way they move. This is where high-end meets high-tech. Together, the character designers, 3D animators, and some pretty incredible software tools worked to bring the characters to life. Through a modelling process known as 3D mashup, 2-dimensional sketches became bodies in 3-dimensional space. Next, the animators gave the characters virtual skeletons and defined their movements.
Finally,video footage and multiple computer-generated images were layered together in a process called compositing to create a single scene. This process allowed the various layers to interact with and affect each other – bringing 3D realism to every moment of the Treasure Fair experience.
While the characters’ show-stopping scenes occur mostly in the bonus games they host, they don’t just sit idly by during the primary slot’s game play. Their icons are a major feature of the slot’s reels. Usually stationary, the characters’ icons come to life with lively 3D animations when they are part of winning lines. The Ring Master and his monkey host the spinning action and bring ongoing movement to the game – with the Ring Master leaning over to see the results of the spins and his monkey periodically flipping and jumping to swing the hanging lantern.
As it turns out, according to 888’s Creative Director, the monkey provided the most complex technical challenge in the development of the game. His spirited movements bring extra excitement to the slot’s exploding WILD feature, and synchronizing the monkey’s romping about with the action of the game was a task requiring extraordinary patience and expertise. But from the first time you encounter an exploding WILD, there is no doubt that the results were worth the extra effort.
5. From Fantasy to Reality
In keeping with 888’s regular workflow, all of Treasure Fair’s design and creative decisions were made primarily by the creative team, along with the product team’s input. This process minimized surprises when it came time to build the game itself, and it kept the project on track throughout its long and extensive creative development.
When the game itself was built, all of the creative scenery, characters, and designs were“layered on top” of a pre-existing slot mechanism or framework. This method streamlined the R&D process and made it unnecessary to recreate the wheel. The player spins, the wheels turn ‘round, and the winning lines are tallied. All of this is the result of the framework in the background, with the product of thousands of creative decisions in the foreground.
Because marketing and business representatives were participants in the original decision-making and consensus-building process, these practical, real-world considerations were taken into account from the very beginning – minimizing the need for last-minute, business-related changes of direction during the slot’s final production and launch.
Treasure Fair – The Making of Fleas Master
VIDEO Treasure Fair – Slots Game That Will Keep You on Your Toes
VIDEO Treasure Fair – The Making of Fire Girl
So, was the journey successful?
Since its launch in May 2015, Treasure Fair has quickly become one of 888’s top-five slots. And all it takes is one spin of the wheel to find out just why. When you visit Treasure Fair, you do indeed become part of a very special world. The characters draw you in. The scene and the mood surround you.
We have learned that this success was not born by accident. It was the product of meticulous research and planning, careful collaboration, and fine creative minds –working together, building consensus, and taking more care with every little decision than some of us take with our major ones. Players may not realize that they are appreciating thousands of little details, but they do appreciate them. The mood takes over, the scene becomes real, and when it comes time to decide which slot to play next… they’ll keep coming back to Treasure Fair.