This is an incredibly exciting time in gaming. In addition to our own creativity, we are being inspired by other industries, and we are able to pull from off-the-shelf technologies to make our dreams become reality for the next generation of players. One of the interesting developments is the concept of Multi-Player Stations, which allow players to play against each other, making the gaming experience an interactive, almost sporty, event. GSA protocols provide the solutions necessary solve Multi-Player Station dilemmas.
Because the technology is new, GSA has been receiving questions about Multi-Player Stations, their configurations, and the role GSA protocols will play in driving it all. To help, we created the following not-too-technical primer.
Let’s start with the basics. A Multi-Player Station consists of multiple player terminals closely associated with each other physically – usually connected – for the purpose of playing with or against other players, a central dealer or in playing a community event, such as a horse race or a roulette game.
In some cases, player terminals may be completely independent, only exhibiting a communal behavior in a bonus or secondary game. In other cases, the entire game is played as a group to the point where game play of all stations may be halted while waiting for a player to make a decision. In all cases, the individual player stations do not directly affect the outcomes of each other but, each may, as in the case of blackjack or other card game, provide insight that could affect the game strategy of players at other stations.
Also common is some form of central determination of the community outcome typically consisting of a device that may be housed in a central part of the Multi-Player Station. The central determination section may provide the outcome for a portion of the game such as for a bonus, or may provide all the outcomes, such as for a card game.
Several configurations are possible with a Multi-Player Station, depending on the structure of the game, and the relative independence of the player terminals. One of the initial distinguishing factors is the location of the random number generator, or RNG. If the player terminals have their own, independent RNGs, each player terminal typically operates independently of the other player terminals. These player terminals may be linked for convenience or marketing and only become communal for special events where all eligible players compete for a bonus or special award.
This configuration is typically not considered to be a Multi-Player Station and, instead, is considered to be a form of bonusing. The bonus controller may be connected to the G2S network and can relay bonus awards via G2S to EGMs (player terminals) participating in the bonus. In this case, each terminal has its own G2S connection and acts, and is treated as, an independent EGM for accounting purposes and for the purposes of G2S communication.
If the player terminals in a Multi-Player Station do not have an RNG, they may rely on a Master Terminal (described in GLI-11 section 3.19) to provide game outcome results. This is the typical configuration for a Multi-Player Station. With this configuration, game play on the player terminals is linked to the master terminal and game play is always communal on all terminals. In this case the GSA protocols support three possible communications configurations.
- The player terminals have an independent G2S connection each with an independent IP address and unique egmId.
- The player terminals communicate through the Master Terminal resulting in a single IP address with each terminal having a unique egmId, but are still treated as independent G2S connections.
- The player terminals have independent G2S (or proprietary communications protocol) connections each with an independent IP address and unique egmId. The Master Terminal acts as the proxy G2S host to the EGMs connected to it and as an S2S host for communications to the back of house.
If the Master Terminal is required to have summation metering capability, the Master Terminal would be required to be configured as an S2S proxy. The player terminals would communicate the information necessary for the Master Terminal to assemble summation meters for accounting and overall machine performance either by G2S or by a proprietary protocol. The Master Terminal could then be independently queried as to overall performance of the Multi-Player Station.
It is important to note that a Multi-Player Station consists of a relatively small number of player stations which, for the most part, form a large, single game station. The terminals themselves typically are not designed to be “standalone” and must be part of the Multi-Player Station from both a hardware and software point of view. This differs substantially from a class II, central determination device, or a mobile gaming device where the controlling central server is located remotely from the player stations, the player stations may be numerous and they do not exhibit communal play except, possibly, for bonuses.
Another possible configuration for a Master Terminal responsible for accumulating summation meters would be to configure the Master Terminal an independent G2S client (like an EGM) while also configuring the Master Terminal as a G2S guest host for the player stations.
This would be the same basic configuration as for the S2S proxy but would involve only the G2S protocol. In this configuration, the Master Terminal, in its guest host function, would be manually configured to subscribe to meters and events from its G2S player terminals sufficient to perform its duty of accumulating the meter information. Then the Master Terminal, acting as the G2S client, or EGM, would be queried by its G2S owner host for the summation information. In simplified terms, the communication out of the Multi Player Station would be G2S instead of S2S.
If a Master Terminal is to be a proxy for meters, it could also be configured to provide other functions. For example, depending on the configuration, the Master Terminal may determine the overall “enabled” status of the connected player stations.
There is definitely the requirement, at least in Nevada and GLI jurisdictions, that each player terminal of a Multi-Player Station be capable of providing individual accounting, performance, game recall and other game related information on a per terminal basis.
There can be a single IP address and single connection for the Multi-Player Station, but the information from each player terminal must still be available on a per terminal basis for reporting to a casino accounting system.
To assist in providing operators with more information on Multi-Player Stations, a feature was recently added to the S2S protocol version 2.1 clientInfo and propertyInfo classes introducing the concept of a multiGroupId. This attribute, in the propertyMultiGroup element, is used to identify EGMs or player terminals that are part of a multi-player station. Each terminal in a specific Multi-player Station shares a common multiGroupId.
The multiGroupId must be unique in a single property and is defined on a property by property basis. The G2S Committee is considering a similar attribute that will be included in a future version of G2S. At this time, the current versions of G2S and S2S are capable of providing all required information related to game accounting and performance for a multi-player station.
So that’s a quick look at the future. For more information, visit www.gamingstandards.com. If you are an operator, visit the Operators Only Forum, which takes place May 19 at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Registration is available at www.gamingstandards.com.