On December 14th we turn our focus back on the iGaming development process. After design, art, animation and front-end development, the time has come take a look under the hood of the car. The topic of the day is back-end development – roll up your sleeves!
Back-end development refers to the part of development you can’t see, the “back” of the house, as opposed to front-end development which deals with everything visible in a game. Back-end in our case means the programming and implementation of the game logic, creating the link between the database and the browser or app, and most importantly implementing the math model which ensures reliability and compliance. For iGaming the latter is particularly crucial, as the back-end function holds a great deal of the responsibility of upholding whatever license a supplier of casino games have.
For gambling to safely work online there must be complete transparency between developer, casino and licensing authority so that a certain amount of money is returned to the players. In a physical casino all the things that affect the game – tables, dice, cards, machines etc. – are regulated, standardized and controlled continuously. Just like a player must be able to trust that the cards at a Las Vegas blackjack table have not been tampered with to serve the casino unjustly, a player who enters an online casino must be able to trust that a digital casino slot does not serve the casino or supplier unjustly. They must be provided with information on how much they can win, exactly all the ways to win and how much the casino slot pays back over time. When developing casino games there are limitations to what can be done and how, and all of that is regulated by the licensing authority. In the case of Gaming Corps, the company is licensed by Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). Our compliance as a developer with the license we hold is programmed, operated and monitored by our back-end function.
When we last visited the iGaming development process a question was left hanging. If you need two screens for art and three for front-end development, how many do you need for back end development?! The answer as can be seen by the featured image of the day is: three screens, a baby and a kitten. Or at least, that is the case for Vincent Calay-Roche, Gaming Corps’ IT and Development Director, who will be our expert mechanic in figuring out the ins and outs of iGaming back-end development.
As the person in charge of Gaming Corps’ back-end function, Vincent is present throughout every step of the process of developing a casino game. First, he is an active participant in the design of the game with the task of ensuring that all ideas presented are given a technical perspective. The design needs to fit with the legal limitations as outlined by our licence, which to a large degree means fitting with the math model that serves to ensure all the legal restrictions are met technically. At this point he will provide input, restrictions when necessary, but also just listen in so that he learns exactly what the designer and art team have in mind – trying to find ways of solving that.
When the game design document is set and the art creation begins, the work of setting up the back-end also starts and runs in parallel. This entails the work of creating a suitable math model, or adapting an existing one, which for Gaming Corps is done via subcontractor as per Vincent’s requirements. Vincent will facilitate the dialogue between the designer and the math subcontractor, answering questions and moving the development of a suitable math model forward. At this point the back-office is also set up. The logic of the game is outlined as a flow where Vincent needs to identify each step in terms of what happens – a bet is placed and the reels spin – what are all the potential outcomes of each play? What happens after a free spin? What happens when you get one, two or three bonus symbols? To the left below is a small section of the flow chart of Undead Vikings which Vincent used to construct the game logic.
To the right you can see a section of the math model used for Undead Vikings. The math model is what ensures that over the course of thousands and thousands of randomised spins, a game will provide a certain percentage of winnings and thus be reliable. Once the subcontractor has delivered the math model and it is implemented, Vincent will work on improving it and making sure that the logic is correct and that everything is secure. He will focus a lot on efficiency – what can be done in terms of improvements to make the game quicker? For example, the cascading slot Jellos needed a new algorithm to increase pace. That took quite a bit of research to find, test and adapt different algorithms in order to facilitate a better result. The algorithm worked well and can, when suited to a new design, be used again for another casino slot. Hence the work of implementing and improving math models and game logic is about the individual game, but also about building a Gaming Corps library of great “machines” to put into use in the future.
After this phase Vincent will work on the back-office, enabling all the transactions which will take place. When you press the spin button in a casino slot the reaction is instant. But what happens is a series of “check-points” where information travels back and forth between our back-end and the casino back-end for the purpose of controlling and asserting that the player is in the right country, using the right currency, playing on an affiliated and approved casino and using approved betting levels.
When game production moves into the intense, iterative phase of collaboration between artist, animator and front-end developer, Vincent is equally engaged. He takes requests for changes that needs to be done for instance to make the art function better or the game run smoother, and makes requests based on legal requirements, the math model, the efficiency of the game and so forth. As the game nears launch it is the role of the back-end function to put it live to the operators and aggregators that are affiliated with the company. Each one has specific technical requirements, and when a new partner is signed Vincent is in charge of integrating Gaming Corps and that partner, making them ready to receive our games. If a player requests to see the history of a gaming session (if for instance his/her internet broke down mid session), the operator will put that request to Vincent who will search for the transaction in Gaming Corps’ database. Every single bet is registered so that there is complete transparency, again a requirement of the MGA. Below is an example of some of the data that can be searched when analysing an individual bet or session made by an individual IP number.
In conclusion, the back-end function collaborates with all other functions in the company in one way or the other, providing the technical back bone of the products we develop. The next step in our journey of iGaming development is testing which is done by a team very closely connected to the back-end function. How many times must a game be tested before release? How do you test? What is a critical bug and a non-critical bug? Stay tuned to find out!