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Exclusive Q&A with Dejan Orlac, Head of Design at Royce&Bach

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Dejan Orlac, Head of Design at Royce&Bach
Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

Let’s start from the beginning. Your beginnings, that is. Our readers love to learn more about top professionals and their life. Tell us more about yourself.

I was one of those kids that knew what he wanted to do from early on. That is to turn problems into elegant solutions through design. I loved drawing anything that moved, either on wheels, through the air or, underwater. My passion led me to the Academy of Arts and Design in Ljubljana, where I studied Industrial Design. After a successful study, I moved to London to pursue my appetite for design at the Royal College of Art, studying MA in product design. I never finished the course as I found myself in front of a new challenge in the gaming industry. It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. I became a partner and head of design at the original Royce&Bach company. One thing led to another, and soon I was playing a part in launching the online casino platform called Oryx Gaming. We planned, developed, and designed a complete library of over 40 slot games, online roulette games, and poker games. We also designed all interfaces and the whole front end that enabled the launch of the product.

It was enough. I needed a break from the gaming environment and embarked on a new adventure. I was designing different products in various industries, from toys to phones and anything in between. I worked on projects for many high-end brands like Burberry, Coway, Panasonic, LG, and many others. It was a valuable learning experience that allowed me to reflect on the gaming industry that gave me the start. It is funny how I came back full circle and decided to focus on the gaming industry again with more specific goals.

 

Perhaps the first time you made your mark in the industry was by launching Archipelago 8 electronic roulette. Tell us about that experience.

Before starting the journey with Royce&Bach, I was already designing online casino lobby’s and games for Playtech, and other casino providers. It gave me significant knowledge and confidence for my next adventure. Royce&Bach was an incredible opportunity for a 22-year-old boy. I worked and learned from some of the most intelligent people in the industry. The company had a clear goal and product vision; to disrupt the gaming industry with a better approach to a customer and user experience. The design was our first bet. Our first presentation of the Archipelago roulette was in 2007 at ICE in London, and the interest was overwhelming. However, it came with its fair share of challenges. After the show, we realized we need to go back to the drawing board and make changes to the design, construction, and implement additional feedback from potential buyers. And we did. The plan hit home with the Asian demographic, and shortly after, we started shipping our first products. Soon we proudly installed our roulette in the MGM Grand Macau.

 

You were involved with gaming product designs when you were working in Orlach Design? Could you tell us about some of the designs that you were associated with?

Orlach design is my own design company. Through Orlach design, I designed products, concepts, user interfaces, and other innovative solutions for many well-known international companies. I also worked directly with leading design studios helping them with their projects. Together we worked on products for beverage brand Budweiser, JSP and Keeler. I also designed the new UI for the ROXI home music entertainment system and worked on many projects at Burberry. It was interesting to be part of the TV brand campaign for Peugeot or cooperate on developing sets for Garnier TV commercials. Through Orlach design, I worked on many projects in healthcare tech, scientific, industrial, high spec and toy industry, interiors, and furniture design. It enabled me to receive international recognition and win the awards such as Red Dot Design award Concepts and Core77 Best Of Design.

 

You were also part of some innovations like a digital market place of 3Dprintable industrial designs. How did it go?

The 3Defied project is a digital platform with a professionally created consumer level 3d product content. Through 3Defied, designers, design companies, and prominent brands can connect and sell their work. The end customer is the owner of a 3d printer or a regular customer who prints the content through outside vendors. It is my “pet” project. I strongly believe in it, and it is something I am very passionate about. Unfortunately, due to ongoing gaming projects, 3Defied is currently on the backburner.

 

What about your present company Royce&Bach? Tell us about your areas of expertise, ongoing projects and clients.

Our passion is to create innovative gaming products that add value to players, operators, and casino vendors. Through strategic, industry-informed, and innovation-driven design, Royce&Bach strives to enhance players’ experience and maximize operators’ return on investment. We design all kinds of online and land-based casino-relevant experiences and equipment. Electronic roulettes, slot machine cabinets, player terminals, user interfaces, and casino games are just a few of many products we designed for our clients. Ultimately Royce&Bach uncovers hidden potential and delivers innovative products that exceed our client’s expectations.

We are currently working on several fascinating products. My team is designing a new slot machine and a new automated roulette for a renowned retail casino gaming company. A well-known international brand hired us to design real room interiors for their live virtual games. For them, we are also conceptualizing new games that are either more immersive or integrate the brand on a different level. Demand for digital products is rising, and we are looking forward to developing that side of the business as well.

 

Could you explain the design process and its various stages from concept to manufacturing?

We must maximize the ROI for investors as well as enhance the entertainment experience for our players.

I want to think that I am in the process of developing our “patented” approach to the challenges of designing for the gaming industry. We based our approach around understanding specific players’ psychologies. We want to know what triggers their senses, what gets them into “the zone,” how they associate themselves with the product and, how they perceive a machine design as their winning tool.

First, we dive deep into research to uncover and identify the specific opportunities associated with the client and focus on solving those through product design. Through fieldwork, we talk to all parties involved in the product lifecycle. We also learn from previous research in our industry. Works from Natasha Dow Schüll, Roger Thomas, and Bill Friedman are an essential base for further actions. After we gather all relevant information, we create a design brief which we use throughout the development process.

Next, we move to the “concept design phase,” where we propose a variety of ideas for product design. We review them with our clients and together select the winning horse. Sometimes we choose several concepts and develop them further. I like to say that those are our horses in the race, competing against each other. After the race is over, we end up with a winning horse, which becomes our winning concept.

Now it is time to optimize our design. Together with our clients, we review the ergonomics, add further technical input from the engineering team, and, overall, create a winning proposal. What follows is finalizing colors, materials, and finishes (CMF), preparing renderings, models, and mock-ups for presentations. The result is a product that makes our clients proud and excited about the future.

 

You have worked with a lot of start-ups and helped them get ahead. What are your views about start-ups in the gaming industry in general. Pros, cons and general advice, if any?

In my view, many companies developing gaming solutions, underestimate the financial investment, and the time needed to create a successful product. Due to gaming-related legislation and strict certification processes which differ from country to country, the process is more complicated in comparison to the mainstream entertainment business. Also, the industry is small, everybody knows each other, and the competition is ruthless. That creates a unique set of challenges for any start-up that wants to thrive in our industry.

Collaborate with someone who can think and work outside perceived limitations. It can uncover hidden potential you never knew was there. Do your research, look deep to avoid surprises later. Design to attract, impress, and satisfy. Be different. It will help you stay on track and continuously evolve in the ever-changing gaming environment. Design is the best tool to explore new opportunities, adapt, and plan for the future. Design is also your best bet in the product development journey to success. It’s an investment that pays back double, at least.

 

What are the challenges and opportunities that you find in the gaming industry in terms of design?

Planning design for any gambling solution creates challenges on many levels. First, the product design must be fit for the manufacturer and easy-to-operate for the vendor. The vendor is the actual buyer who has to service and maintain the product. Second, players require much understanding. They expect to receive a completely different user experience than the vendor. Both use the same product but on different levels and have different requirements. Satisfying both is very challenging. That generally makes products complicated to design and produce because they’re often required to do too much at once.

The gambling market is also continually changing. It needs to adapt to new generations of players through technology, better research, and innovation. That presents a multitude of design pathways that can open up opportunities to create innovative designs that amuse existing players or attract new ones.

 

Final question. With a number of gaming product manufacturers employing in-house designers, what value additions can an external designing firm provide?

If you want to stay ahead, you need to collaborate with someone who can work outside perceived limitations. The in-house design team usually has plenty of work supporting ongoing business demands. That is why it’s essential to include outside professionals who are well informed overall and have cross-industry experiences to come up with fresh ideas. Flexibility, free-thinking, insight, and the quality of specialized people enables our clients to offer products that exceed expectations. Most everyday consumer products that we use were conceived and designed by external design studios. Big corporations rely on smaller companies. A lot of talented and skilled people will instead work for a smaller studio than a corporation.

Africa

“Land-based Casinos Should Crisis-proof Their Operations and Diversify Online” – WinPrincess’ Guven Eraslan

George Miller

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“Land-based Casinos Should Crisis-proof Their Operations and Diversify Online” - WinPrincess' Guven Eraslan
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

After announcing its partnership with WinPrincess, whereby the principal retail casino in Tanzania will be diversifying its operations, incorporating the digital channels to its retail business strategy, leading iGaming platform provider BtoBet meets with Guven Eraslan, Executive Coordinator of the WinPrincess Group, to understand key market traits.

Coming from the casino vertical, do you intend to stick to your core brand strategy or diversify and grasp the opportunity that other verticals keep in hold?
Our core business is the operation of land-based casinos. At heart we are a family owned traditional bricks and mortar company with strong values. But like any other company we need to grow in order to continue to remain relevant.

Therefore, we cannot afford to miss any of the opportunities that lie ahead of us, and our focus will be on all verticals within the iGaming industry. Our mid-term strategy is to be online in all the countries where we operate land-based casinos already. With marketing being key to the success of the online business, we believe that we can create a synergy through our already existing physical presence, knowledge of the culture and manpower on the front.

You have targeted Tanzania for your first expansion to online gambling. Why Tanzania?
Tanzania’s betting industry has more than doubled in the last three years. Moreover three of the fastest growing cities in the world are in Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam has a population of 6.7 million people and is projected to grow by 100% to 13.4 million by 2035.

Apart from this it is important to note that all of the fastest growing 15 cities in the world are found in Africa. We believe that Africa is a safe bet if you need a good start. And that is exactly what we need, if we are to tackle and master diversification within a traditional casino company such as ours.

From a global perspective land-based casinos have been slow to shift or expand their operations to the digital channels, and thus providing a more complete betting experience where all the channels are interlinked. Why do you think is there such a reluctance from retail casino operators to transform their business strategies?
I think people are reluctant to change in general. We are talking about two totally different cultures as well, with the online branch of the business considered as the disruptor in our traditional casino world, where until recently people always needed to be physically present in a brick and mortar casino in order to place their money on bets. Thus there always needed to be a live interaction and it was more like a personal experience.

That is not required anymore, with online casino bringing about a clash of cultures, if you will. Well it is quite clear that it is us, the land-based casino operators, the ones that need to change and adapt. Diversification can only be made in the direction of progress. Business diversification is definitely something that all land-based operators need to address in the short term. We are up to the challenge, and with the right vision and the right partners such as BtoBet we will get there.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about never before seen measures requiring social distancing. How has this effected the retail casino business?
All but 12 of our casinos are closed at the moment. So we are talking about 20 closed casinos of which we do not know yet when they will be allowed to reopen. The best business model is a crisis-proof one, and there will be a lot of analysis from all industries on how they can achieve this.
Nonetheless I dare say that if we could have achieved a diversification to online more early, and by doing so hedged our investments, we probably would have not been hit as hard.

Do you think that the pandemic will eventually change the players’ behaviour?
We cannot foresee with certainty what the player behaviour will look like after the crisis. People might be more hesitant to go to a casino but on the other hand once normality returns I believe that social interaction will be a key element that will characterize people’s lives.

My guess is that everything will go back to normal once the pandemic is under control. People have a tendency of wanting to forget bad times. After all social interaction is what makes us human, so we will not easily give up on that.

What elements made you choose BtoBet’s Neuron 3 platform as the technological core of your online business?
When I did my own research for iGaming and sports betting platform providers, which are active in Africa it was amazing that under every stone I turned I found BtoBet. When a company of our size wants to go online there is a lot of demand for working with us. And although we had contact with all the main companies in the online gaming business, our decision in the end was quite easy. Knowledge, expertise and trustworthiness are key elements that distinguish BtoBet, and we look forward to work with them on other similar projects.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Tell us about the history and current status of Gunnars Glasses.

Iustin: The idea for the glasses was born out of one woman’s frustration with her husband’s digitally induced migraines and worry about the eyes of her child who was fascinated by technology. Jenny Michelsen’s husband, Matt, was suffering from headaches after hours sitting in front of six computer screens. The headaches were a symptom of Computer Vision Syndrome, a collection of minor ailments that build up over time.

As the Rancho Santa Fe woman urged her husband to see a doctor, she wondered whether her 3-year-old son, Gunnar, was getting a jump-start on similar problems.  If she and her husband believed the computers were getting to their eyes – and they didn’t start using electronics until they were in their 20s – what would happen to Gunnar’s generation?  Matt and Jenny Michelsen reached out to their close friend, Joe Croft, a former Oakley engineer, about the issues surrounding CVS.  They wanted to learn more about the effects of focusing on a digital image projected on a screen just inches from one’s face for hours at a time and years on end.  The Crofts and the Michelsens began their five-year road to launch by talking to medical experts.  One of those experts was Dr. Jeffrey Anschel, a Carlsbad, California, optometrist who has become an expert in Computer Vision Syndrome and Visual Ergonomics.  He noticed the problem about 17 years ago when employees of a nearby computer company began complaining about dry and tired eyes and difficulty focusing.

They were problems that people generally didn’t experience until they were in their 40s, but these patients were in their early 30s.  It didn’t take him long to make the connection between their work and the required time spent in front of a computer screen.  “You can work, shop, communicate and do just about everything from your computer now, and people just don’t realize how much time they’re spending looking at the screen.  The digital images that computers project are one factor contributing to Computer Vision Syndrome.  The eye focuses on the hard edge of an image, but digital images don’t have a clean edge.  As a result, the focus drifts forward and back, causing eye fatigue.” Anschel also noted, “that when people spend long periods focusing on something close to their face, eye muscles tend to lock into a singular position, which is tiring and can push the eye down the path to becoming farsighted.  Meanwhile, the eye has to deal with light from conflicting sources, such as sunlight, that are much brighter than the computer screen.  There’s also glare from the light shining into the eyes.  And the angle of view for the computer screen, which is straight ahead, isn’t desirable.  People tend to focus better at objects when looking down, such as reading a book.”

Croft and Michelsen set out to create a product that addresses the issues associated with digital eye-strain.  They completed their first prototype in 2006.  In early 2007, they founded the company and in October of 2008 they launched their first product.   Investors included Carl Zeiss Vision, 50 Cent, Peter Thiel and Monster, Inc. Retail customers include Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s, GameStop and Staples. Corporate customers include Facebook, Google, Microsoft.

Gunnar is present in Romania since 2015, when I began experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms after spending hours in front of two screens as a Poker player and began to look for a solution. This is how I’ve learned about Gunnar glasses being the no.1 brand among computer glasses brands and the next step was to become Gunnar representative in Romania and now also in Hungary.

 

Let us talk about the gaming glasses now. Do we really need customized special glasses for gaming?

Iustin: Yes, if we tend to be passionate gamers, we end up spending extended hours in front of our screens and we experience blurred vision, eye strain, and headaches – symptoms of Digital Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome. Some compensate for their blurred vision by leaning forward, or by tipping their head to look through the bottom portion of their glasses. Both actions can result in a sore neck, sore shoulders and a sore back. GUNNAR gaming eyewear can help because is engineered to reduce digital eye strain while increasing contrast, comfort, and focus. And what is different for the gaming styles, compared to the computer styles produced by Gunnar is the shape of the temples that comfortably accommodates headsets.

  

What about gaming developers and others who work in gaming companies. How will they benefit from the gaming glasses?

Iustin: They can benefit too, because Gunnar glasses are made for anyone who works and plays on a digital screen for extended periods of time.  Gunnar also makes glasses without the yellow tint – with CLEAR lenses, for those who work in “true colour”, such as gaming developers, graphic designers, digital artists.

 

What make gaming glasses special? What are the differences, for example, these glasses have with normal common-use glasses?

Iustin: Gaming glasses and computer glasses developed by Gunnar, with their amber-tinted lenses, make images appear clearer and sharper by adding contrast and, very important, filter out blue light. The lenses have an anti-glare filter that allows light from the computer in but keeps out distracting reflected light from other sources.  The lenses are also designed to be fitted close to the face, creating a “micro-climate” that keeps away the dry air currents and prevents dryness of the eyes. GUNNAR GAMING glasses, compared to GUNNAR COMPUTER glasses, have a more ergonomic shape and thin temples that are compatible with wearing headsets.

 

How do you ensure lower weighing frames for these glasses? Does the lower weight affect the durability of the glasses?

Iustin: GUNNAR has many styles to choose from. Some frames are lighter than others. GAMING frames are usually lighter and therefore more comfortable during long gaming sessions. These light frames are good quality ad durable frames – such as RAZER FPS, RAZER RPG, Torpedo, Trooper, Vayper, Heroes of the Storm.

                                                             

I have seen some articles about using wide-angled lenses for gaming glasses. Could you elaborate on this point?

Iustin: Yes, especially for gaming, a wide-angled lens provides a panoramic view, as the frame does not interfere with the viewing field of the gamer “caught in action”.

 

Now on to the business front. How has been the business going during this period of lock down. Some reports suggest that an increasing number of people playing games online. Does it reflect on your business?

Iustin: Yes, this has been a quite good period for our business and as our business is mainly online, we are running at full speed right now as work from home extended the hours we work in front of a digital screen and gamers play more while staying home. People became more conscious of spending long hours in front of digital screens and reached out to us to protect their eyes.

 

What are the best ways to buy the gaming glasses of Gunnars Glasses during the lock down?

Iustin: The best way to buy Gunnar glasses is definitely online. For Romania and Hungary our online shop is www.gunnars.ro. We are offering online advice on our chat and we implemented the “virtual try-on” feature on our site that enables anyone to try-on most of our styles.

 

Finally, what are the new innovations and offers that you have in store for post-COVID-19 situation? The gaming community is eager to hear any such announcements.

Iustin: Gunnar releases new frames each year and this year is no exception. At the beginning there was only the Amber lens that has a 65 BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION FACTOR – BLPF (filters out 65% of the blue light). Then Gunnar added the Clear lens with a 35 BLPF, the Sun lens that has a 90 BLPF and also Amber Max lens with a 98 BLPF, designed to be used before going to sleep or for extremely sensitive eyes. In July, Gunnar will be launching CRUZ for kids from 4 to 8 Year Olds and for kids from 8 to 12 Year Olds, as this was a concern from the beginning: children spend more and more time in front of screens and the parents want to protect their kids as much as they can. Right now, in May a new style was launched: Pendleton. Four new exciting gaming styles will be launched this summer – Lightning Bolt 360, Lightning Bolt 360 RAZER Edition, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and a new design in partnership with Razer: MOBA. For those who are more on the hip and “vintage look” side, there will be a new style called Berkely, in September.

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Interviews

Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment

George Miller

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Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How much of an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your business plans?

As an agile young company, Evoplay Entertainment has been able to adjust its commercial plans quickly and react to the ongoing situation. While the pandemic may have blunted the industry’s schedule, we’re not letting that dampen our spirit.

With resources freed from a number of ongoing projects, we’re able to embrace the challenge by going all in on our R&D process and continuing to work on pioneering new technologies. Instant games are a particularly interesting area right now; with the current downturn meaning that players are looking for a far more engaging proposition than the usual offering.

 

How has it affected your potential partners? Has it helped focus their mind?

It certainly should. The unwanted change in circumstances gives companies a chance to widen their appeal by reaching a new generation of players looking for entertainment. With a plethora of new products flooding the market, operators are reporting a marked change in player preferences. As gamblers become increasingly tech-savvy and hungry for innovation, traditional ‘spin and win’ slot games no longer have the draw they once did.

However, in order to pioneer the gateway from sportsbook to slots in light of the recent cancellations, it’s essential to develop a tailored cross-channel portfolio that truly stands out for those who want something different. A new generation of player demands an immersive, detailed and aesthetically stunning entertainment experience which can be enjoyed on any device.

Here at Evoplay Entertainment, we’re proud to provide exactly that.  From VR to 3D and every piece of immersive tech in between, now is the time for gaming suppliers to go bold and get creative. The market share is there for the taking for operators who offer a fresh approach.

 

What strategies have you put in place for business development following the cancellation of industry conferences?

Naturally, we’re disappointed to see the cancellation of in-person conferences, such as the MARE BALTICUM Gaming Summit, which no doubt would have been a key regional event. Health and safety, however, have to take priority and we fully support the decision taken by organisers.

We certainly haven’t let the cancellation put a dent in our plans. We’re a tech first company and it’s all about adapting and innovating. As well as making use of our global network for business development – we’re ready to embrace the latest methods available for networking and insight, with virtual conferences such as these likely to prove invaluable during the current downturn. We’re very much looking forward to sharing our experiences as well as hearing from expert voices through the industry.

 

How important do you believe virtual conferences to be? Do you believe online events such as these will become the new normal?

Virtual conferences are a great way to keep abreast of the latest industry trends and exciting new developments in technology. Events such as these also allow us to continue networking with colleagues and sharing our insights amid unprecedented global circumstances.

I think we’re definitely at a point where new technology (i.e. virtual conferencing tools) are certainly coming into the mainstream – however the ‘use case’ for such an approach will remain to be seen once we return to normality.

As an industry innovator looking to bring new technology into the gaming space – whether it be 3D or VR – we welcome the addition of virtual conferencing as a new, fresh approach. However, despite its advantages, especially when it comes to reduced costs and convenience, there’s also no substitution for the face-to-face meeting element. I personally predict that over the longer-term, rather than these events becoming the new normal, I would envision that we’ll see them emerge as a mainstay niche to complement on-the-ground events throughout the calendar year.

 

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