Making IT: Dan Whelan

Posted on November 15, 2017 at 8:30 AM UTC


Making IT is a monthly Question and Answer article featuring the people who make IT games possible. From game designers, to sound engineers, to programmers, each role is vital to the production and success of each slot Incredible Technologies produces. Players and customers see the polished, finished product, but rarely have a chance to peek behind the curtain and understand the people or the process that make their favorite games happen. Making IT is the spotlight on the creative minds that make IT games incredible.

Dan Whelan, Art Director & Game Designer: Heavyweight Studio

Q: How long have you been at IT? In this role?

A: I’ve been at IT for 16 years. I’ve been Gaming Art Director for 11 years and Game Designer for Heavyweight Studio for 5 years.

Q: What’s your favorite part of working at IT?

A: Seeing the games I create in public.  It’s very satisfying to see players having fun playing a game you worked hard to develop. I also love seeing artists I hire flourish at the company.

Q: How did you get into Class III game design?

A: When IT formed the internal studio development model, Elaine and Richard were kind enough to give me the opportunity. That is when Heavyweight Studio was formed. I have learned how to develop games for Class III over the past 5 years.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for games?

A: I look very hard at the market. I’m constantly evaluating games and trends in the industry. I play slot games myself, and I try to put on the ‘player lenses’ when I’m making a game. How would a player perceive this? Would they think it’s fun and want to play it again?

Q: What’s a rough outline of your “creative process?"

A: I try to balance proven features with new innovative ideas. I imagine what a new game would look like. I then work with our mathematicians to see if the idea is feasible & fun, then I build it out in Adobe Photoshop and 3ds Max. From there it takes off and we put many coats of polish on the math, art, sound and gameplay.


Q: What comes first for you, generally; slot theme or feature idea?

A: Always a feature idea. I make sure the math is promising before spending a lot of time on the theme.

Q: What’s your favorite part of designing a game?

A: Both the satisfaction of creating a successful game and being in the trenches with my team. We work very hard together to produce fun games for Incredible Technologies. The process of developing a game is challenging. Making a game players would want to put their hard earned money into is the most challenging of all.

Q: Most memorable feedback (can be good or bad) you’ve ever received on a game?

A: After Leonidas was released, thousands of player uploads starting popping up on YouTube. Over the years since the game was released in 2013, the game has over a million views and thousands of comments by players. I think I’ve watched every video, and read every comment. I use the feedback in every game I make to this day. Keep the feedback coming!

Q: What was the inspiration for your studio name?

A: I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I’m very competitive. I don’t like losing. When Heavyweight was formed, I set out to punch the industry in the face (figuratively of course!)

Q: Favorite game(s) you’ve worked on?

A: It’s a tie between Leonidas, Fired Up and Crazy Money Deluxe. All three were special because not only did they help my career take off, but they were/are huge successes for IT.

Q: What's something you wish slot players knew about slot machines in general?

A: Players don’t get a chance to see all of the hard work that goes into making a game. It takes months of time for many departments to deliver the games on a casino floor. We truly care about making a fun game for them.

Q: Did you play slot machines or gamble before you started working here?

A: I did not. I have grown to love playing the games. I get a rush just like any other player when I hit a big win. It feels good.

Q: Have you learned anything about the gaming industry that surprised you or struck you as interesting?

A: How immersive the games are. As powerful hardware has become available, the game designs have followed. The games are more entertaining than ever.

Q: Did you ever think you’d be working in this industry or have this job?

A: I didn’t. I’ve always been a huge video game player. When I started at IT I worked on Golden Tee for many years. I was asked to be the Art Director when IT launched the casino game development initiative. I find making slot games very fun and satisfying.

Q: What’s your dream slot machine? Maybe a theme or feature that wouldn’t appeal to anyone else, but you’d play the heck out of it. (No, one that only produces wins is not a valid answer.)

A: I like games that have higher volatility. I love games that have retriggering free spins. I will try any theme. Playing all types of games is fun.

Tags: Making IT