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Publication numberUS20020119819 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/796,056
Publication dateAug 29, 2002
Filing dateFeb 28, 2001
Priority dateFeb 28, 2001
Publication number09796056, 796056, US 2002/0119819 A1, US 2002/119819 A1, US 20020119819 A1, US 20020119819A1, US 2002119819 A1, US 2002119819A1, US-A1-20020119819, US-A1-2002119819, US2002/0119819A1, US2002/119819A1, US20020119819 A1, US20020119819A1, US2002119819 A1, US2002119819A1
InventorsAdrian Kunzle, V. Garcia
Original AssigneeKunzle Adrian E., Garcia V. Maximillian
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Systems and methods wherein a portion of landscape information is provided to a remote player device
US 20020119819 A1
Abstract
Systems and methods are provided wherein a portion of a landscape is transmitted to a remote player device. According to one embodiment, a game controller determines landscape information associated with a game being played by a player. A first portion of the landscape information is transmitted to a remote player device without transmitting a second portion. For example, a first portion of a maze configuration may be transmitted without a second portion. The game controller then arranges for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.
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Claims(33)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of facilitating game play at a game controller, comprising:
determining landscape information associated with a game being played by a player;
transmitting a first portion of the landscape information to a remote player device via a communication network without transmitting a second portion; and
arranging for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
updating the first portion of the landscape information; and
transmitting the updated first portion of the landscape information to the remote player device via the communication network.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein said determining comprises at least one of: (i) generating the landscape information, and (ii) retrieving pre-stored landscape information.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the landscape information is associated with at least one of: (i) a particular game played by the player, (ii) a plurality of games, and (iii) a plurality of players.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the landscape information comprises at least one of: (i) maze information, (ii) terrain information, (iii) game item information, (iv) a game item locations, (v) game prize information, and (vi) a game prize locations.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the first portion of the landscape information comprises at least one of: (i) a portion of a maze, (ii) a portion of a terrain, (iii) a subset of game item information, (iv) a subset of game item locations, (v) a subset of game prize information, and (vi) a subset of game prize locations.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the first portion of the landscape information includes (i) information that is currently displayed to the player via the remote player device, and (ii) information that is not currently displayed to the player via the remote player device.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
determining the first portion of the landscape information.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the first portion of the landscape information is determined based on a current game location associated with the player.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the first portion of the landscape information is further based on at least one of: (i) direction information, (ii) speed information, and (iii) acceleration information.
11. The method of claim 8, wherein the first portion of the landscape information is determined based on a prior game location associated with the player.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
arranging for the player to provide payment in exchange for game play.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein said arranging is performed via at least one of: (i) a payment identifier, (ii) a credit card account, (iii) a debit card account, (iv) a bank account, and (v) a digital payment protocol.
14. The method of claim 13, further comprising:
determining the game result based on both the first and second portions of the landscape information.
15. The method of claim 14, further comprising:
arranging for the player to receive a prize based on the game result.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the prize comprises payment of at least one of: (i) a monetary amount, and (ii) an alternate currency amount.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein game play is associated with a game of skill.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the game of skill comprises an arcade-style game in which the player moves within a maze.
19. The method of claim 1, wherein the remote player device comprises at least one of: (i) a personal computer, (ii) a portable computing device, (iii) a personal digital assistant, (iv) a telephone, (v) a wireless telephone, (vi) a game terminal, (vii) an interactive television device, and (viii) a kiosk.
20. The method of claim 1, wherein the communication network comprises at least one of: (i) the Internet, (ii) a public network, (iii) a public switched telephone network, (iv) a proprietary network, (v) a cable television network, (vi) a wireless network, and (vii) a local area network.
21. A game controller, comprising:
a processor; and
a storage device in communication with said processor and storing instructions adapted to be executed by said processor to:
determine landscape information associated with a game being played by a player;
transmit a first portion of the landscape information to a remote player device via a communication network without transmitting a second portion; and
arrange for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.
22. The game controller of claim 21, wherein said storage device further stores at least one of: (i) a player database, (ii) a game database, and (iii) a landscape database.
23. The game controller of claim 21, further comprising:
a communication device coupled to said processor and adapted to communicate with at least one of: (i) the remote player device, and (ii) a payment device.
24. A medium storing instructions adapted to be executed by a processor to perform a method of facilitating game play at a game controller, said method comprising:
determining landscape information associated with a game being played by a player;
transmitting a first portion of the landscape information to a remote player device via a communication network without transmitting a second portion; and
arranging for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.
25. A computer-implemented method of facilitating game play at a game controller, wherein game play is associated with movement within a maze, comprising:
arranging for a player to provide payment in exchange for game play;
determining a first portion of the maze based on an initial player location within the maze;
transmitting the first portion of the maze to a remote player device without transmitting a second portion;
arranging for the player to play a game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the maze;
updating the first portion of the maze based on a current player location within the maze;
transmitting the updated first portion of the maze to the remote player device;
determining a game result based on movement within the maze by the player; and
arranging for the player to receive payment of a monetary amount based on the game result.
26. A method of facilitating game play at a game controller, comprising:
determining game information associated with a game being played by a player;
arranging for a remote player device to receive a first portion of the game information without receiving a second portion; and
arranging for the player to play the game at the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.
27. The method of claim 26, wherein the game information comprises at least one of: (i) text information, (ii) image information, (iii) audio information, (iv) landscape information, (v) maze information, (vi) terrain information, (vii) game item information, (viii) game item locations, (ix) game prize information, and (x) game prize locations.
28. The method of claim 27, wherein the game comprises a game of skill.
29. The method of claim 28, wherein the game of skill comprises an arcade-style game in which the player moves within at least one of: (i) a landscape, (ii) a terrain, and (iii) a maze.
30. The method of claim 28, wherein the game of skill is associated with a physics simulation.
31. The method of claim 30, wherein the game of skill comprises at least one of: (i) a golf simulation; (ii) a golf putting simulation; (iii) an archery simulation; (iv) a moving water simulation; (v) a racing simulation; (vi) a fishing simulation; (vii) a baseball simulation; (viii) a basketball simulation; (ix) a football simulation; (x) a soccer simulation; (xi) a hockey simulation; (xii) a bowling simulation; (xiii) a billiards simulation; (xiv) a throwing simulation; (xv) a ring-toss simulation; (xvi) a shooting simulation; and (xvii) a space simulation.
32. The method of claim 28, wherein the game of skill comprises at least one of: (i) a trivia game, and (ii) a puzzle game.
33. A method of facilitating game play at a player device, comprising:
receiving a first portion of game information from a remote game controller via a communication network without receiving a second portion of game information; and
arranging for a player to play a game via the player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.
Description
FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to games. In particular, the present invention relates to systems and methods wherein a portion of landscape information is provided to a remote player device.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Many players enjoy playing computer-based games, such as fast paced arcade-style games (e.g., games in which a player uses skill, such as his or her planning and reflexes, to achieve a goal). Examples of arcade-style games include computer-based maze games, racing games, fighting games, shooting games, and flying games. In a computer-based maze game, for example, a player typically moves about within a two-dimensional or three-dimensional maze (e.g., by moving an icon or other representation associated with the player). The player may, for example, provide player inputs (e.g., “up,” “down,” “left,” or “right”) to control his or her movement within the maze. Generally, the player uses a keyboard and/or a computer mouse to generate these player inputs.

[0003] Using these player inputs, the player navigates through the maze in an attempt to achieve one or more goals. For example, the player may try to exit the maze or collect game items located within the maze. The player may need to achieve a goal, for example, within a limited number of moves (or a limited amount of movement) or a predetermined period of time. In some games, a goal must be achieved before a player encounters a game item within the maze (e.g., encountering a monster located within the maze may end game play).

[0004] Many players also enjoy playing other types of games, such as games involving simulated physics. In a computer-based golf game, for example, a physics simulation (e.g., a computer program) calculates a trajectory of a simulated golf ball in accordance with a set of player inputs, (e.g., a golf club type, a golf club velocity, and/or an angular measurement associated with a swing of a golf club). The player may continue to provide player inputs (e.g., by taking additional swings) until the simulated golf ball comes to rest in a simulated golf hole. In this case, a player may be allowed to shoot the simulated golf ball around, but not through, an obstacle (e.g., a tree or a windmill).

[0005] One way a player can play a game, such as any of the games described above, is via a player device. For example, the player may use his or her Personal Computer (PC) to access a Web site associated with a game provider.

[0006] Some players, however, may try to use automated game playing devices to unfairly help them during game play. For example, a player may create an automated game playing device that captures information when a maze is displayed on a computer screen. In this case, the automated game playing device may analyze the captured information and calculate an optimal path through the maze (e.g., a path that exits the maze while collecting a maximum number of game items).

[0007] In a game involving multiple players, such an automated game playing device may be a concern to other players, who can become discouraged if they are unable to compete with the automated game playing device. This will be particularly true if the players have provided payment in exchange for playing the game and/or are competing for a prize.

[0008] In addition to being a concern to other players, automated game playing devices can pose problems for game providers. Consider, for example, a game provider that promises to pay one thousand dollars to every player who successfully completes a computer-based maze game in less than thirty seconds. In this case, an automated game playing device may result in the game provider paying out an unfairly large number of prizes.

[0009] To discourage the use of automated game playing devices, the computer-based maze game may display only a portion of a maze to a player. In this way, an automated game playing device that captures information from a game display may be unable to calculate an optimal path through the maze (e.g., because some of the information required for such a calculation is included in the game display). This approach may even make game play more exciting (e.g., because the player will not know what to expect has he or she navigates through the maze).

[0010] Such an approach, however, may not prevent all automated game playing devices from unfairly helping players. For example, even if the game display does not include information sufficient to calculate a path through the maze, an automated game playing device may be able to determine this information in other ways. For example, an automated game playing device may examine information stored in computer's memory or hard disk drive to determine a maze configuration. Similarly, an automated game playing device may intercept and/or decode information received from a game provider to determine a maze configuration. Thus, even when a portion of a maze is not shown in a game display, an automated game playing device may still be able to unfairly help a player during game play (e.g., by calculating a path through a maze).

[0011] Similar problems exist with other types of computer-based games (e.g., an automated game playing device may calculate an optimal series of simulated golf swings based on terrain information stored at a player device).

SUMMARY

[0012] To alleviate problems inherent in the prior art, the present invention introduces systems and methods wherein a portion of landscape information is provided to a remote player device.

[0013] According to one embodiment, a game controller determines landscape information associated with a game being played by a player. A first portion of the landscape information is transmitted to a remote player device via a communication network without a second portion. The game controller arranges for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.

[0014] Another embodiment is directed to facilitating game play at a game controller, wherein game play is associated with movement within a maze. According to this embodiment, it is arranged for a player to provide payment in exchange for game play. A first portion of the maze is determined based on an initial player location within the maze, and the first portion is transmitted to a remote player device without a second portion. It is arranged for the player to play a game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the maze. The first portion of the maze is updated based on a current player location within the maze, and the updated first portion of the maze is transmitted to the remote player device. A game result is determined based on movement within the maze by the player, and it is arranged for the player to receive payment of a monetary amount based on the game result.

[0015] According to another embodiment, game information associated with a game being played by a player is determined, and it is arranged for a remote player device to receive a first portion of the game information without receiving a second portion. It is also arranged for the player to play the game at the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0016] Another embodiment is directed to facilitating game play at a player device. According to this embodiment, a first portion of game information is received from a remote game controller via a communication network without receiving a second portion of game information. It is arranged for a player to play a game via the player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0017] One embodiment of the present invention comprises: means for determining landscape information associated with a game being played by a player; means for transmitting a first portion of the landscape information to a remote player device via a communication network without transmitting a second portion; and means for arranging for the player to play the game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information.

[0018] Another embodiment comprises: means for arranging for a player to provide payment in exchange for game play; means for determining a first portion of the maze based on an initial player location within the maze; means for transmitting the first portion of the maze to a remote player device without transmitting a second portion; means for arranging for the player to play a game via the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the maze; means for updating the first portion of the maze based on a current player location within the maze; means for transmitting the updated first portion of the maze to the remote player device; means for determining a game result based on movement within the maze by the player; and means for arranging for the player to receive payment of a monetary amount based on the game result.

[0019] Still another embodiment comprises: means for determining game information associated with a game being played by a player; means for arranging for a remote player device to receive a first portion of the game information without receiving a second portion; and means for arranging for the player to play the game at the remote player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0020] Yet another embodiment comprises: means for receiving a first portion of game information from a remote game controller via a communication network without receiving a second portion of game information; and means for arranging for a player to play a game via a player device in accordance with the first portion of the game information, wherein a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0021] With these and other advantages and features of the invention that will become hereinafter apparent, the invention may be more clearly understood by reference to the following detailed description of the invention, the appended claims, and the drawings attached herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0022]FIG. 1 is a block diagram overview of a game system according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0023]FIG. 2A is a flow chart of a method for facilitating game play according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0024]FIG. 2B illustrates landscape information according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0025]FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a player device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0026]FIG. 4 is a tabular representation of a portion of a game play database according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0027]FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a game controller according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0028]FIG. 6 is a tabular representation of a portion of a player database according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0029]FIG. 7 is a tabular representation of a portion of a game database according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0030]FIG. 8 is a tabular representation of a portion of a landscape database according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0031]FIG. 9 is a flow chart of a computer-implemented method for facilitating game play at a game controller according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0032]FIG. 10 is a flow chart of a method for facilitating game play at a player device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0033]FIGS. 11A through 11C illustrate player devices displaying game information according to some embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0034] Embodiments of the present invention are directed to systems and methods wherein a portion of “landscape information” is provided to a remote player device. As used herein, the phrase “landscape information” may refer to, for example, game information that is provided to a player, or to a player device, during game play. Consider, for example, a computer-based maze game. In this case, landscape information may comprise a particular maze configuration and/or game items located within the maze. Other examples of landscape information include terrain and terrain features (e.g., mud, sand, and water) and map information (e.g., roads and buildings). Note that the landscape information does not need to be static. Consider, for example, a computer-based space game. In this case, the landscape information may comprise size, direction, and velocity information associated with a number of asteroids and planets that must be avoided (or obtained) during game play.

[0035] Game System Overview

[0036] Turning now in detail to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a game system 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention. The game system 100 includes a game controller 500 in communication with a number of remote player devices 300. As used herein, devices (such as the player devices 300 and the game controller 500) may communicate, for example, via a communication network, such as a Local Area Network (LAN), a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN), a proprietary network, a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) network, a cable television network, or an Internet Protocol (IP) network such as the Internet, an intranet or an extranet. Moreover, as used herein, communications include those enabled by wired or wireless technology. Note that although a single game controller 500 is shown in FIG. 1, any number of game controllers 500 may be included in the game system 100. Similarly, any number of the other devices described herein may be included in the game system 100 according to embodiments of the present invention.

[0037] In one embodiment, a player device 300 communicates with a remote, Web-based game controller 500 (e.g., a server) via the Internet. Although some embodiments are described with respect to information exchanged via a game provider's Web site, according to other embodiments information is instead exchanged, for example, via: a telephone, an Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVRU), electronic mail, a WEBTV® interface, a cable network interface, and/or a wireless communication system.

[0038] The player device 300 and the game controller 500 may be any devices capable of performing various functions described herein. The player device 300 may be, for example: a PC, a portable computing device such as a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a wired or wireless telephone, a one-way or two-way pager, a kiosk (e.g., a game kiosk located at an airport terminal), an interactive television device, a game terminal (e.g., a SONY PLAY STATION® video game terminal), or any other appropriate storage and/or communication device.

[0039] Note that the devices shown in FIG. 1 need not be in constant communication. For example, the player device 300 may only communicate with the game controller 500 via the Internet when appropriate (e.g., when attached to a “docking” station or “cradle” coupled to the player's PC). The player device 300 may also communicate with the game controller 500 via an infrared device when near a game kiosk.

[0040] A player can use a player device 300 to receive information associated with game play. For example, a player may view a portion of a maze via the player device 300. The player device 300 may also be used to provide or generate player inputs during game play. For example, a player may use a keyboard or mouse coupled to his or her PC to navigate through a maze.

[0041] As shown in FIG. 1, a player may also attempt to use an automated game playing device 360 to help him or her during game play. The automated game playing device 360 may be, for example, a modified game program or a separate software program that is being executed on the player device 300. For example, a player may create an automated game playing device 360 that analyzes information received by, or stored at, the player device 360 in order to determine a maze configuration. The automated game playing device 360 may then calculate an optimal path through the maze (e.g., a path that exits the maze while collecting a maximum number of game items).

[0042]FIG. 2A is a flow chart of a method for facilitating game play according to an embodiment of the present invention. The flow charts in FIG. 2A and the other figures described herein do not imply a fixed order to the steps, and embodiments of the present invention can be practiced in any order that is practicable. Moreover, the methods may be performed by any of the devices described herein. The method shown in FIG. 2A may be performed, for example, by the game controller 500.

[0043] At 202, landscape information associated with a game being played by a player is determined. For example, the game controller 500 may generate the landscape information (e.g., using a random landscape generator) or retrieve pre-stored landscape information. Note that the landscape information may be associated with the particular game being played by the player, or with multiple games and/or players. The landscape information may comprise, for example, maze information, terrain information, game item information, game item locations, game prize information (e.g., indicating that a particular prize is worth $5.00), and/or game prize locations.

[0044] At 204, a first portion of the landscape information is transmitted to a player device 300 without transmitting a second portion. For example, the game controller 500 may only transmit a portion of a maze, a portion of a terrain, a subset of game item information, a subset of game item locations, a subset of game prize information, and/or a subset of game prize locations. In a computer-based maze game, the game controller 500 might only transmit the section of the maze around the player's current location. In this way, an automated game playing device 300 will be unable to analyze (and make calculations based on) the other sections of the maze.

[0045] Note that although the second portion of the landscape information is not transmitted to the player device 300 at this point, some or all of this information may eventually be transmitted during game play. For example, the game controller 500 may update the first portion of the landscape information based on a player's current location and transmit the updated first portion to the player device 300. In a computer-based maze game, this may mean that additional sections of a maze are transmitted to the player device 300 during game play.

[0046] Also note that some information associated with the second portion can be transmitted to the player device 300 and/or displayed to the player. For example, a coarse outline of an entire maze may be transmitted to the player device 300, but detailed information (e.g., showing game items within the maze) may only be transmitted with respect to the first portion.

[0047] It is then arranged for the player to play the game via the player device 300 in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information at 206. For example, a player may provide player inputs in order to move about within a maze. Note that a game result will eventually be based on the first and second portions of the landscape information. That is, whether or not the player is able to exit a maze within a predetermined period of time may depend on a portion of the maze that is not initially transmitted to the player device 300.

[0048] By way of example, consider the landscape information 250 shown in FIG. 2B. In this case, the landscape information 250 is a two-dimensional maze comprising areas “A1” through “19.” Although a two-dimensional maze is shown in FIG. 2B for clarity, embodiments of the present invention would similarly apply to three-dimensional mazes. FIG. 2B also shows an indication of the player's current position 252 and game items 254 that can be collected by the player during game play.

[0049] As represented by a dashed box in FIG. 2B, only a portion 256 of the landscape information 250 is transmitted to the player device 300. This portion 256 is then displayed do the player via a game display 260. That is, only the portion of the landscape information 250 representing areas “E2” through “I8” is transmitted to the player device 300. In this way, an automated game playing device 360 will be unable to calculate an optimal path through the entire landscape information 250.

[0050] Because additional information will need to be sent to the player device 300 during game play (e.g., when the player moves to area “B2”), a game provider may find it difficult to provide smooth, fast-past game play via the player device 300. That is, the player device 300 may be prevented from displaying the additional portions of the maze until those portions are received from the game controller 500.

[0051] To address such a problem, the game controller 500 may transmit to the player device 300 both information that will currently be displayed to the player (i.e., the portion 256) and an additional portion 258 that will not currently be displayed to the player (i.e., represented by the shaded area in FIG. 2B). That is, an additional “fringe” of information representing an area outside the game display 260 may be transmitted to the player device 300 to enable smoother and/or faster game play. Note that even in this case, much of the landscape information 250 is still not transmitted to the player device 300 (providing protection against automated game playing devices 360).

[0052] The game controller 500 may determine the displayed portion 256 and/or the additional portion 258 based on a current game location associated with the player. These portions 256, 258 may also be determined based on, for example, direction information, speed information, acceleration information, and/or a prior game location. For example, if a player is moving slowly to the left within a maze, the game controller 500 may transmit a small additional portion 258 representing an area to the left of the current game display 260. If the player begins to move more quickly, the game controller 500 would instead transmit a larger additional portion 258 to the player device 300.

[0053] According to one embodiment, it is arranged for a player to provide payment in exchange for game play. For example, the game controller 500 may arrange for a player to provide payment via a payment identifier associated with a credit card account, a debit card account, a bank account, and/or a digital payment protocol. The game controller 500 may also arrange for a player to receive prize (e.g., payment of a prize amount) based on a game result. As shown in FIG. 1, a payment device 110 can be used for the player to provide or receive payment (e.g., payment of a monetary amount or an alternate currency amount such as a gift certificate).

[0054] As described above, the present invention may be directed to a game of skill (i.e., a game in which a game result is determined predominately by skill as opposed to chance) such as an arcade-style game in which the player moves within a landscape (e.g., a computer-based maze game). As another example, a player may move about a terrain (e.g., including hills, forests, and streams).

[0055] According to another embodiment, the game controller 500 determines other types of game information associated with a game being played by a player. It is then arranged for a player device 300 to receive a first portion of the game information without receiving a second portion. The game controller 500 then arranges for the player to play the game at the player device 300 in accordance with the first portion of the game information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information. For example, the game information may comprise text information, image information, and/or audio information.

[0056] Such an embodiment may be used, for example, in connection with a game of skill associated with a physics simulation such a golf simulation (including a golf putting simulation). Other games that are associated with physics simulations include archery games, moving water games (e.g., white water rafting), racing games, fishing or hunting games, sports games (e.g., baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey games), bowling games, billiards games, throwing games, ring-toss games, shooting games, and space-based games. The present invention may also be applicable, for example, with respect to trivia and puzzle games. Of course, a single game may incorporate more than one type of game play (e.g., by including both arcade-style game play and a physics simulation).

[0057] Player Device

[0058]FIG. 3 illustrates a player device 300 that is descriptive of the device shown in FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The player device 300 comprises a processor 310, such as one or more INTEL® Pentium® processors, coupled to a communication device 320 configured to communicate via a communication network (not shown in FIG. 3). The communication device 320 may be used to communicate, for example, with the game controller 500 and/or the payment device 110.

[0059] The processor 310 is also in communication with an input device 340. The input device 340 may comprise, for example, a keyboard, a mouse or other pointing device, a microphone, a knob or a switch (including an electronic representation of a knob or a switch), an infrared port, a docking station, and/or a touch screen. Such an input device 340 may be used, for example, to provide player inputs (e.g., by manipulating a pointer associated with a computer-based maze game).

[0060] The processor 310 is also in communication with an output device 350. The output device 340 may comprise, for example, a display (e.g., a computer monitor), a speaker, and/or a printer. The output device 350 may be used, for example, to provide game information to a player (e.g., by displaying a portion of a maze to a player).

[0061] The processor 310 is also in communication with a storage device 330. The storage device 330 may comprise any appropriate information storage device, including combinations of magnetic storage devices (e.g., magnetic tape and hard disk drives), optical storage devices, and/or semiconductor memory devices such as Random Access Memory (RAM) devices and Read Only Memory (ROM) devices.

[0062] The storage device 330 stores a program 315 for controlling the processor 310. The processor 310 performs instructions of the program 315, and thereby operates in accordance with the present invention. For example, the processor 310 may receive a first portion of game information from a game controller 500 without receiving a second portion of game information. The processor 310 may also arrange for a player to play a game in accordance with the first portion of the game information, and a game result may be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0063] As used herein, information may be “received” by or “transmitted” to, for example: (i) the player device 300 from the game controller 500; or (ii) a software application or module within the player device 300 from another software application, module, or any other source.

[0064]FIG. 11A illustrates a PC 302 displaying a computer-based maze game according to an embodiment of the present invention. The PC 302 includes a keyboard 342A and a mouse 342B which can be used by a player to provide player inputs (e.g., moves within a maze). The PC 302 also includes a computer display 352A and speakers 352B which can be used, for example, to provide a portion of a maze configuration to a player.

[0065]FIG. 11B illustrates a PDA 304 displaying a computer-based racing game according to another embodiment of the present invention. The PDA 304 includes an input device 344 and an output device 354 (e.g., a display screen) that may be used by a player during game play. Similarly, FIG. 11C illustrates a wireless telephone 306 including an input device 346 and an output device 356 displaying a computer-based space game.

[0066] As shown in FIG. 3, the storage device 330 also stores a game play database 400. An example of a game play database 400 will now be described in detail. The illustrations and accompanying descriptions of the databases presented herein are exemplary, and any number of other database arrangements could be employed besides those suggested by the figures.

[0067] Game Play Database

[0068] Referring to FIG. 4, a table represents the game play database 400 that may be stored at a player device 300 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The table includes an entry identifying a game that is being played by a player via the game system 100. The table also defines fields 402, 404, 406, 408 for the entry. The fields specify: a game identifier 402, a player identifier 404, a landscape portion 406, and a current player location 408. The information in the game play database 400 may be created and updated, for example, as a player plays a game via the game system 100.

[0069] The game identifier 402 may be, for example, an alphanumeric code associated with a game that is being played via the game system 100. The player identifier 404 represents a player who is playing the game.

[0070] The landscape portion 406 represents a portion of a landscape that has been received from the game controller 500. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the landscape portion 406 may represent a portion of a maze (i.e., areas “E2” through “I8” as shown in FIG. 2B). Note that the landscape portion 406 may be updated by the game controller 500 during game play. The current player location 408 represents a current location of the player within the landscape (i.e., area “I5” as shown in FIG. 2B). Because the entire landscape is not stored at the player device 300, an automated game playing device 360 may be unable to calculate an optimal strategy for the player.

[0071] Game Controller

[0072]FIG. 5 illustrates a game controller 500 that is descriptive of the device shown in FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The game controller 500 comprises a processor 510, such as one or more INTEL® Pentium® processors, coupled to a communication device 520 configured to communicate via a communication network (not shown in FIG. 5). The communication device 520 may be used to communicate, for example, with one or more player devices 300 and/or the payment device 110.

[0073] The processor 510 is also in communication with a storage device 530. The storage device 530 may comprise any appropriate information storage device, including combinations of magnetic storage devices (e.g., magnetic tape and hard disk drives), optical storage devices, and/or semiconductor memory devices such as RAM devices and ROM devices.

[0074] The storage device 530 stores a program 515 for controlling the processor 510. The processor 510 performs instructions of the program 515, and thereby operates in accordance with the present invention. For example, the processor 510 may determine landscape information associated with a game being played by a player and transmit a first portion of the landscape information to a player device 300 without transmitting a second portion. The processor 510 may also arrange for the player to play in accordance with the first portion of the landscape information.

[0075] According to one embodiment, the processor 510 arranges for a player to provide payment in exchange for game play. The processor 510 also determines a first portion of a maze based on an initial player location within the maze and transmits the first portion to a player device 300 without transmitting a second portion. The processor 510 then arranges for the player to play a game in accordance with the first portion of the maze. For example, the processor 510 may update the first portion of the maze based on a current player location and transmit the updated first portion to the player device 300. The processor 510 may also determine a game result based on movement within the maze by the player and arrange for the player to receive payment of a monetary amount based on the game result.

[0076] According to another embodiment, the processor 510 determines game information associated with a game being played by a player and arranges for a player device 300 to receive a first portion of the game information without receiving a second portion. In this case, the processor 510 arranges for the player to play the game in accordance with the first portion of the game information, and a game result will be based on the first and second portions of the game information.

[0077] The program 515 may be stored in a compressed, uncompiled and/or encrypted format. The program 515 may furthermore include other program elements, such as an operating system, a database management system, and/or device drivers used by the processor 510 to interface with peripheral devices.

[0078] As used herein, information may be “received” by or “transmitted” to, for example: (i) the game controller 500 from the player device 300; or (ii) a software application or module within the game controller 500 from another software application, module, or any other source.

[0079] As shown in FIG. 5, the storage device 530 also stores a player database 600 (described with respect to FIG. 6), a game database 700 (described with respect to FIG. 7), and a landscape database 800 (described with respect to FIG. 8). Examples of databases that may be used in connection with the game controller 500 will now be described in detail with respect to FIGS. 6 through 8.

[0080] Player Database

[0081] Referring to FIG. 6, a table represents the player database 600 that may be stored at the game controller 500 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The table includes entries identifying players who may play games via the game system 100. The table also defines fields 602, 604, 606, 608, 610 for each of the entries. The fields specify: a player identifier 602, a name 604, contact information 606, a payment identifier 608, and an account balance 610. The information in the player database 600 may be created and updated, for example, based on information received from player when he or she registers with the game controller 500. The information in the player database 600 may also be based on, for example, information generated as the player plays games via the game system 100.

[0082] The player identifier 602 may be, for example, an alphanumeric code associated with a player who has registered to use the game system 100. The player identifier 602 may be generated by, for example, the game controller 500 or the player (e.g., when he or she provides a user name and password) and may be based on, or associated with, the player identifier 404 stored in the game play database 400. The player database 600 also stores the name 604 and contact information 606 (e.g., a postal address, an electronic mail address, an IP address, or a telephone number) associated with each player.

[0083] The payment identifier 608 may comprise, for example, a credit card, debit card or bank account number (e.g., a checking account number) or digital payment protocol information. The account balance 610 may represent, for example, an amount that a player owes to a game provider or an amount that the game provider owes to the player. The payment identifier 608 and the account balance 610 may be used, for example, by the game controller 500 to arrange for the player to provide or receive a payment (e.g., based on a game result).

[0084] Game Database

[0085] Referring to FIG. 7, a table represents the game database 700 that may be stored at the game controller 500 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The table includes entries identifying games that are being (or have been) played via the game system 100. The table also defines fields 702, 704, 706, 708, 710 for each of the entries. The fields specify: a game identifier 702, a player identifier 704, a landscape identifier 706, a landscape portion 708, and current player location 710. The information in the game database 700 may be created and updated, for example, as players play games via the game system 100.

[0086] The game identifier 702 may be, for example, an alphanumeric code associated with a game that is being (or has been) played via the game system 100. The game identifier 702 may be based on, or associated with, the game identifier 402 stored in the game play database 400. The player identifier 704 represents a player who is playing the game and may be based on, or associated with, the player identifier 502 stored in the player database 500 and/or the player identifier 404 stored in the game play database 400.

[0087] The landscape identifier 706 is associated with one or more landscapes that are used during game play. The landscape portion 708 represents a portion (e.g., a subset) of this landscape that is transmitted to a player device 300. The current player location 710 represents a place in the landscape where the player is currently located. The current player location 710 may be based on, or associated with, the current player location 408 stored in the game play database 400.

[0088] Note that the first entry illustrated in FIG. 7 (i.e., having a landscape portion 608 of “E2:I8” and a current player location 610 of “I5”) is associated with the game information illustrated in FIG. 2B. As shown by the second entry, a player who is currently located at a different place in the maze will be associated with a different landscape portion 608 (i.e., the landscape portion 608 has been shifted up two areas). The third and fourth entries illustrated in FIG. 7 show other types of landscape portions 608 and currently player locations 610 according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0089] Landscape Database

[0090] Referring to FIG. 8, a table represents the landscape database 800 that may be stored at the game controller 500 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The table includes entries associated with landscapes that may be used during game play. The table also defines fields 802, 804, 806 for each of the entries. The fields specify: a landscape identifier 802, landscape information 804, and an indication of a number of times the landscape has been used 806 during game play. The information in the landscape database 800 may be created and updated, for example, by the game controller 500.

[0091] The landscape identifier 802 may be, for example, an alphanumeric code associated with a landscape that may be used during game play. Note that the landscape identifier 802 may be based on, or associated with, the landscape identifier 706 stored in the game database 700.

[0092] The landscape information 804 represents information used by the player device 300 and/or the game controller 500 during game play. For example, the landscape information 804 may represent a particular maze configuration. Note that the landscape information 804 may be associated with a particular game or may be associated with multiple games and/or multiple players (e.g., pre-stored landscape information 804 may be used during multiple games). The number of times used 806 associated with the landscape information 804 may prevent the same landscape information 804 from being used too often.

[0093] Methods that may be used in connection with the game system 100 according to some embodiments of the present invention will now be described in detail with respect to FIGS. 9 and 10.

[0094] Game System Methods

[0095]FIG. 9 is a flow chart of a computer-implemented method for facilitating game play at a game controller 500. In this case, game play is associated with a game of skill in which a player moves within a maze. At 902, it is arranged for the player to provide a payment in exchange for playing a game. For example, the game controller 500 may transmit a payment identifier 608 to a payment device 110 to arrange for the player to provide a payment of $1.00 in exchange for game play.

[0096] At 904, the game controller 500 determines a first portion of the maze based on an initial player location within the maze. For example, the game controller 500 may use the game database 700 and the landscape database 800 to determine a landscape portion 708 based on a current player location 710. At 906, the game controller 500 then transmits the first portion of the maze to a player device 300 without transmitting a second portion.

[0097] If the game controller 500 determines that a player has moved at 908 (e.g., based on the current player location 710 stored in the game database 700), the process returns to 904 allowing the first portion of the maze to be updated. For example, a new portion of the maze may be transmitted to the player device 300 whenever the player has moved within a predetermined distance of a boundary (e.g., an edge of a previously transmitted first portion).

[0098] The game controller 500 eventually determines a game result at 910 (e.g., when the player has successfully completed a maze or when a predetermined period of time has expired). At 910, the game controller 500 arranges for the player to receive payment of a monetary amount based on this game result. The game controller 500 may also update the account balance 610 stored in the player database 600.

[0099]FIG. 10 is a flow chart of a method that may be performed by a player device 300 according to an embodiment of the present invention. At 1002, the player device 300 receives a first portion of game information from the game controller 500 without receiving a second portion of game information. For example, the player device may receive and store a landscape portion 406 in the game play database 400.

[0100] At 1004, the player device 300 arranges for a player to play a game in accordance with the first portion of the game information. For example, a player may begin to move about the maze portion that has been received from the game controller 500. In this way, an automated game playing device 360 may be unable to calculate an optimal path through the entire maze based on the information available at the player device 300. The landscape portion 406 may be updated by the game controller 500 during game play (e.g., as the player moves around within the maze), an a game result will eventually be determined (e.g., by the player device 300 and/or the game controller 500).

[0101] Additional Embodiments

[0102] The following illustrates various additional embodiments of the present invention. These do not constitute a definition of all possible embodiments, and those skilled in the art will understand that the present invention is applicable to many other embodiments. Further, although the following embodiments are briefly described for clarity, those skilled in the art will understand how to make any changes, if necessary, to the above-described apparatus and methods to accommodate these and other embodiments and applications.

[0103] As described herein, a game controller 500 may transmit a first portion of landscape information to a player device 300 without transmitting a second portion. According to another embodiment, the game controller 500 instead transmits an encrypted version of the entire landscape to the player device 300. In this case, the game controller 500 transmits additional information (e.g., decryption keys) during game play enabling the player device 300 to decrypt portions of the landscape as appropriate.

[0104] Although most of the embodiments described herein are associated with a game controller 500 transmitting a portion of landscape information to a player device 300, according to another embodiment this function is instead performed by a player device 300. Consider, for example, a game in which a first player at a first player device 300 plays against a second player at a second player device 300. In this case, the first player device 300 may transmit a portion of a landscape to the second player device 300. Similarly, although most of the embodiments described herein are associated with a game played by a single player, the present invention can also be used with respect to games involving multiple players (e.g., teams of players).

[0105] The present invention has been described in terms of several embodiments solely for the purpose of illustration. Persons skilled in the art will recognize from this description that the invention is not limited to the embodiments described, but may be practiced with modifications and alterations limited only by the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7322889 *Oct 22, 2004Jan 29, 2008Ssd Company LimitedGame for moving an object on a screen in response to movement of an operation article
US7554545Nov 4, 2004Jun 30, 2009Ssd Company LimitedDrawing apparatus operable to display a motion path of an operation article
US8012024Oct 12, 2005Sep 6, 2011New Illuminations LlcMethod and apparatus for simulating game accessories
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/30, 463/33
International ClassificationA63F13/12
Cooperative ClassificationA63F2300/552, A63F2300/50, A63F13/12
European ClassificationA63F13/12
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 15, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: WALKER DIGITAL, LLC, CONNECTICUT
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SKILLGAMES, INC.;REEL/FRAME:012235/0607
Effective date: 20010917
Feb 28, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: SKILLGAMES, INC., NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:KUNZLE, ADRIAN;GARCIA, V. MAXIMILLIAN;REEL/FRAME:011578/0401
Effective date: 20010228