US 20030069057 A1
A gaming machine with interactive story line. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the player will advance to an interactive bonus game after achieving a certain combination of symbols on a base game. Once the player has advanced to the bonus game, he or she will have the opportunity to play a video based animated or real-life bonus game that varies depending on the player's input. In a preferred embodiment, the player's input is through the base game display, which is a touch screen LCD or video monitor and which has the dual purpose of displaying the base game during base game play and functioning as the player interface during the bonus play which is displayed on an LCD or video monitor in the top-box of the gaming device. The player's input in the preferred embodiment includes answering questions posed by the characters in the game, making decisions for the characters in the game or assisting the characters in the game whether such assistance is in the form of shooting targets, picking up objects, choosing paths, steering vehicles or basically interacting with the primary characters of the storyline.
1. A gaming machine comprising:
a display device for displaying animated or real-life characters;
a player interface for receiving data inputted by a player;
a processor in data communication with the player interface and the display device, the processor outputting data to the display device so as to cause the display device to display a particular story-line segment based on the data inputted by the player, said processor determining a monetary award after the display device displays at least one story-line segment outcome;
means responsive to the processor for indicating the monetary award; and
means for providing the monetary award to the player.
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 This application claims the benefit of commonly owned and copending U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. No. 60/325,923, filed Sep. 28, 2001. The invention disclosed in this application is related to Disclosure Document No. 497692 filed on Jul. 30, 2001.
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention generally relates to gaming machines.
 2. Description of Related Art
 In a standard bonus-game gaming machine, animation is utilized on a video screen or other display device to award monetary prizes in an entertaining fashion. The players interaction with the animated bonus event is limited to choosing symbols, characters etc. to reveal bonus credit amounts. The primary game animation or bonus animation may display intricate bonus events to the player and then award the player with the bonus prize. In addition the player may make a choice in the primary or bonus game that causes an animated or recorded real-life video loop to be played which will entertain and award the player with a prize. Alternately, the player may be presented by a randomly chosen and displayed number of characters, symbols or images which will reveal bonus amounts when chosen by the player said quantity of images displayed and corresponding bonus amounts randomly changing each time the player reaches the bonus round.
 One particular interactive scenario used with gaming machines is IGT's “Little Green Men”. In the bonus event, the player is instructed to choose one of five characters sitting in front of a small farm house. Once the player has chosen a character, an alien space ship beams up the character and flies away. A few seconds later a newspaper spins toward the screen and stops once it grows large enough to cover the monitor. The newspaper displays the character that the player chose with a “Reward” amount displayed under the character's picture. The “Reward” amount equals the bonus credits won by the player. The player's choice in this game causes the game to display five different newspapers with different “Reward” amounts. The key premise or story-line in IGT's Little Green Men and similar other games does not change.
 The present invention offers far greater entertainment value to players than current gaming machines because the player has the opportunity to interact with characters in a base or preferably a bonus game and through this interaction, alter or advance the story-line of the game. The ability to alter the story-line of the bonus game ensures that the players level of entertainment stays very high even if they have played the same game many times over.
 In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the player will advance to an interactive bonus game after achieving a certain combination of symbols on a base game. Once the player has advanced to the bonus game they will have the opportunity to play a video based animated or real-life bonus game that varies depending on the players input. The player's input in the preferred embodiment will be via the base game display, which will be a touch screen LCD or video monitor and which has the dual purpose of displaying the base game during base game play and being the player interface during the bonus play which will be displayed on an LCD or video monitor in the top-box of the gaming device. The players input in the preferred embodiment will include but not be limited to answering questions posed by the characters in the game, making decisions for the characters in the game or assisting the characters in the game whether such assistance is in the form of shooting targets, picking up objects, choosing paths, steering vehicles or basically interacting with the primary characters of the storyline.
 In an alternative embodiment the gaming machine based on the present invention has standard stepper motor driven reels for the base game, an LCD or video monitor to display the bonus game and buttons, joystick, track-ball or other mechanical input device for the player to interface with the bonus game.
 In the preferred embodiment the gaming machine has ample storage in the form of hard-disk, DVD-ROM, or CD-ROM on which the bonus game scenes are stored and sufficient random access memory to allow for the seamless integration and display of the scenes that correspond the player interactivity.
 In the preferred embodiment there will be many different variations of story-line, action within the story-line and monetary awards awarded within the story-line. The number of different story-line variations, monetary awards and action within the story-line can be in the thousands, tens of thousands or millions depending on the desire of the game designers.
 In the preferred embodiment the processor will award monetary prizes for all story-line segments prior to play of the interactive story-line bonus game. In this embodiment a player that fails to kill a dragon allowing the dragon to fly away with the princess will be awarded a monetary award that was chosen randomly by the processor prior to the play of the bonus game. If the player had killed the dragon and saved the princess then the monetary award associated with this success would also have been chosen by the game processor prior to the play of the bonus game.
 In the preferred embodiment the story-line advancement is a mixture of player interaction, randomly chosen scenes and preset scenes. The result of the mixture is that the player's successful interaction can be awarded with monetary awards if the game is skill based but if a skill based game is not desired the player can still interact for entertainment value but the game processor can randomly choose scenes that correspond to the player's interaction. In the latter case the player's skill or lack thereof has no affect on the monetary award received in the bonus game. For example if the game desire wanted the player involved in the slaying of the dragon but did not want the player's skill involved then the game characters would ask the player “Slay the dragon?” or “don't slay the dragon?”. If the player chose “slay the dragon” then the hero in the story-line would slay the dragon, the princess would be saved and a monetary award would be awarded to the player.
 The primary object of the present invention is to provide a gaming machine that allows players to play an intricate bonus game where they can interact with characters in many different ways, win randomly assigned, skill based or pre-assigned monetary awards and through their interaction and alter the story-line of the bonus game.
 Another object of the present invention is to provide a gaming machine where the player has the perception that their skill in the bonus game has advanced the game to a monetary award though even without skill or interaction on the player's part the monetary award would still have been received.
 Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a gaming machine bonus game where the player makes a few key choices in the beginning of the bonus game thereby changing the overall story-line but not requiring constant interaction with the characters in the bonus game. In this embodiment the player slightly changes the story-line but they do not have to do much but sit back and watch the story-line play out per their initial decisions.
FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating a preferred embodiment of the gaming device of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating how a player can win monetary awards during a interactive story-line bonus game in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the basic electronic configuration of the present invention.
 In the interactive story-line gaming machine of the present invention, the player interacts with the animated or real life character or characters. The interaction with the animated or recorded real-life character can be led by the character and or the player. When the player interacts with the character, the story-line of the primary or bonus game changes as a result of the interaction and the monetary amount awarded to the player changes as a direct result of the players interactive choices or decisions.
 For example, a character may greet the player and ask the player a series of questions the answers to which are communicated by the player to the game via a button, voice recognition, touch screen input, mouse pad, mouse ball, joy-stick, sword, pistol or any other form of player input commonly known and associated with player interactive games. The player's answers to the character's questions or the players decisions will cause the story-line of the game to change. For example, a player's answer of “yes” to whether or not they like sports and an answer of “no” to whether or not they like dessert may cause the bonus game to display a sporting event where animated or real-life baseball player tries to hit a home run with their success equaling the bonus payment to the player. If the player had answered “yes” to both questions, then the bonus game may have displayed animated or real characters playing a bowling game where the pins are characters and the bowler throws a pie at the pins in an effort to get a strike. Regardless of the players answer the gaming machine will award the player with a predefined or randomly chosen monetary award which will be awarded prior to, during or following the animated or real-life segment that is controlled by the processor and displayed to the player via the display device.
 The purpose of the interactive story-line is to create an environment where the player has greater entertainment value because he or she is actively involved in the story-line of the game. The player gets to script or direct the story-line through the interaction with the characters. If the storyline is about police chasing the bad guys then the player gets to join in the chase as one of the policemen and the players decisions, answers to questions and actions change the storyline of the chase. One important benefit is that casino machines that incorporate this invention will be able to offer players many different versions of the primary and bonus games thereby ensuring that the player does not get bored.
 The ensuing example illustrates one embodiment of the present invention. However, it is to be understood that this is just one example and that other more interactive examples and embodiments are possible.
 The ensuing example pertains to the use of the well-known character Betty Boop™ as one of the interactive characters in the gaming machine though any well known or new character could be used.
 Opening Scene: Betty is sitting in a traditional movie star style dressing room getting ready for the day. She greets the player and continues picking up one script and throwing it down, picking up another and throwing it down”.
 Betty Boop: “Oohh this is too difficult. I have three great roles offered by the studio and I can't decide which one to take.”
 Action: Betty looks into the mirror and notices that the player has walked into the room.
 Betty Boop: “I am so happy you're here. I really need a good agent to help me with my career.”
 Action: Betty spins around in her chair and looks at the player head on.
 Betty Boop: “Please be my agent and pick the best movie to star in and I will pay you a bonus for your choice.”
 Scene 2: Three Movie Posters—The player picks the movie.
 Poster #1: “Betty in Circus Extravaganza”
 Poster #2: “Betty in Cook-n-Cookies”
 Poster #3: “Betty in Game Show Babe”
 Action: The poster choice fades and reveals a small “signing” bonus amount.
 Scene 3: Betty Boop back in her dressing room.
 Action: Betty is still sitting in her dressing chair.
 Betty Boop: “I love your choice, it will make me a bigger star than ever”
 Betty Boop: “Now I have another offer for you. Why don't you be my director? The studio will pay you well.”
 Action: Betty gets up out of her chair and walking out of the room glances back at the player.
 Betty Boop: “See you on the set”
 Action: Betty closes the door behind her.
 Betty in Circus Extravaganza
 Scene 4: Betty Enters the Circus
 Action: Betty walks down on of the hallways to the center of the circus.
 Circus Announcer—The Clown: “Ladies and gentleman the incredible, the great, the fearless, the woman you all have been waiting for . . . . Betty Boop”.
 Action: Betty bows to the crowd and waives her hand in the air.
 Betty Boop: “Thank you, thank you, thank you”
 Circus Announcer—The Clown: “Now ladies and gentleman, I would like to ask you to choose the act that Betty will perform.
 Action: The player decides whether Betty will be:
 Betty Boop: Statements by Betty vary depending on the player's choice of the act.
 Bonus Payouts: The manner in which Betty completes the act affect the bonus amounts won.
 Scene 5—Taming the “nasty” Tigers:
 Action: Betty keeps the tigers at bay with the whip and the chair.
 Betty Boop: “Stay away you big, nasty beasts”
 Action: As the tigers roar and swipe at Betty and she counters with the whip and chair, the player accumulates bonus points.
 Scene 6—Cannon Fodder:
 Action: Betty puts on her helmet and climbs up the ladder, climbs into the end of the cannon and waives to the crowd.
 Action: The announcer walks up the cannon, lights the fuse and shoots Betty through the air.
 Betty Boop: “Weeeeeeeeeeee”
 Action: Betty lands on her feet, takes off the helmet and bows to the crowd.
 Betty Boop: “Thank you, thank you, thank you”
 Bonus Win: The bonus amount won depends on how far Betty flew out of the cannon.
 Scene 7—Swinging on the Trapeze:
 Premise: Betty's will ask the player to choose which trapeze to swing from and which flips and tricks to perform. The player's choices will alter the outcome of this scene allowing the player to win different bonus amounts depending on the final outcome.
 Scene 8—Riding the Elephants:
 Premise: Betty rides around the ring on the back of an elephant grabbing rings from circus members. Once Betty has the rings in her hands she will ask the player questions such as but not limited to how many she should juggle and should she balance on one foot while juggling. The player's choices will alter the outcome of this scene allowing the player to win different bonus amounts depending on the final outcome.
 Betty in Cook-n-Cookies
 Scene 9—The scene is Betty's kitchen. The kitchen door opens and Betty enters singing a tune.
 Betty Boop: “I want to cook some cookies for my friends.
 Action: Betty continues singing while she starts to roll the cookie dough.
 Betty Boop: “Where is my cookie sheet?”
 Action: Betty turns around to grab the cookie sheet from one of the lower cupboards. While turned around, Betty accidentally bumps into the table and knocks it over.
 Action: The cookie dough, rolling pin and bag of flour go flying.
 Action: Betty swings back around, catches her foot on the end of the table and falls down with her face going straight into the pile of flour.
 Action: The flour goes flying up in a cloud and blankets Betty, covering her hair and face.
 Action: Betty stands up and tries in vain to brush the flour off of herself.
 Action: Pudgy the dog starts laughing.
 Action: The little boy starts laughing.
 Betty Boop: “You two be quiet. This isn't funny”
 Action: The chair at the far end of the room morphs into a human character and starts laughing.
 Betty Boop: “Everyone stop laughing or there will be no cookies for anyone”.
 Action: Betty stamps her feet and pulls at her hair.
 Action: The clock at the far end of the room morphs into a humanistic character and joins in the laughter.
 Betty Boop: “Ooohh, I am getting so mad”
 Action: Betty picks up the cookie dough and breaks off a piece.
 Action: The screen tells the player to choose one of the four laughing characters.
 Betty Boop: “You want a cookie, I will give you a cookie”
 Action: Betty throws the cookie dough at the target. Sometimes hitting the target, sometimes missing the target causing her to throw again.
 Action: Once the character is hit with the cookie dough, they continue to laugh and then they throw it back at Betty. A food fights ensues and Betty, while laughing, starts to through the dough back at the characters. Every throw by Betty and the other characters starts racking up bonus points as all characters are laughing and having a great time.
 Action: The characters finally tire out and start to eat the cookie dough.
 Betty in the Game Show Babe
 Scene 10—A game show set with a large wall of 10-12 squares that can be spun around to reveal an image on their backside.
 Action: Betty Boop walks out onto the floor in a game show host outfit and greets the crowd.
 Betty Boop: “Hello everyone and welcome to the best game show in the world” “Today we have one luck contestant that can win a lot of money if they match the images on the big board.
 Action: Betty walks over to the big boards.
 Betty Boop: “If you can match three of the images on the rear of the squares, you will be a winner. The more matches you have the more you will win.”
 Action: The player starts to touch the squares causing them to spin around and reveal images of Betty, Pudgy, the clown, the boy, Gramps, etc.
 Betty Boop: Every spin of the square causes Betty of the characters in the symbols to say something funny.
 Action: The images on the squares morph into animated characters and start to say things to Betty.
 Action: The player continues to spin squares until they hit a stop square.
 Bonus Amounts: Bonuses depend on the images matched. Certain images are worth more than others as depicted on a bonus win paytable.
 Scene 11: Closing Scene:
 Scene: Betty is back in the dressing room.
 Action: Betty spins around in the chair and faces the player.
 Betty Boop: “Thank you so much being my agent and director”. “I had a great time working with you and hope that we can work together on another film project sometime soon.”
 The ensuing example illustrates yet another embodiment of the present invention. This example is more interactive than the first example, however, it is to be understood that this is just another example and that other more increasingly interactive examples and embodiments are possible.
 Scene: Joe Jackpot is sitting in the drivers seat of a Ferrari sports-car. The Ferrari is idling in the middle of a freeway that branches like a “Y” to the right and left. The player who has reached the bonus round by lining up three Joe Jackpot symbols in the base game has been transported into the game so that they are now sitting in the passenger seat looking at Joe Jackpot from a first person perspective.
 Action: Joe Jackpot looks at the player.
 Joe Jackpot: “Hey ya big winner, we need to get to Casino Island quicker than a buzzard to road kill”. Joe points out the front window to the left and to the right and asks the player, “You choose our path, the road to the left leads to the bridge and the road on the right leads to the ferry?”.
 Action: The player uses a physical button on the machine, the touch screen or a voice command to choose the road to the right that leads to the ferry.
 Joe Jackpot: “I guess you don't get seasick . . . lets boogie”
 Action: Joe Jackpot floors the Ferrari which burns rubber for a few seconds and then rockets towards and down the road to the right. The Ferrari flies down the hilly road for a few seconds and when it comes over the top of the third hill, the player can see a brightly lit ferry tied at the dock. Joe expertly pulls the Ferrari up the ramp and onto the ferry.
 Joe Jackpot: “You still awake big winner?”
 Action: The player is prompted to respond with a yes or no and the player used a button, the touch screen or a voice command to respond with a yes.
 Joe Jackpot: “I'm mighty glad for your sake. If you had been asleep I would have pushed you out of the car and backed up off of the ferry but since you are awake, you can tell me if we should stay in the car for the short trip or go upstairs to get some chow?”
 Action: The player chooses “Upstairs for Chow” instead of “sitting in the car”.
 The preceding example reflects the possible beginning of an interactive bonus event in an interactive story line gaming machine although it could also be used as the beginning of a base game in an interactive story line gaming machine.
 In this example, we see that the player is making decisions for a game character, in this case Joe Jackpot. Thus, the game character and story line is altered by the player's decisions. If the player had chosen the road to the left which was the bridge to Casino Island, then perhaps the player and Joe Jackpot would have run into traffic or the drawbridge could have been up to allow a cruise ship to pass. The player in this example of course chose the road to the right which led to the ferry to Casino Island. When Joe Jackpot asked the player whether or not they were asleep, the player could have answered “yes” instead of the “no” used in this example. A “yes” answer could have resulted in the bonus event ending with the player winning a smaller “participant” award or it could have resulted in Joe Jackpot turning up the stereo of the car to awaken the player. The player in this example of course answered “no” and then “upstairs for chow” instead of “sitting in the car”. “Upstairs for chow” may result in no more questions from Joe Jackpot or interaction from the player until they reach the food section of the ferry or perhaps Joe Jackpot will ask the player whether or not “they want some fresh air before they eat?”.
 As seen in both examples, the interactive story-line can be very short and basic with only a few possible endings to the story as a result of the player's interaction or the interactive story-line can be much more intricate and involved resulting not only in longer base or bonus game playing time but also many different possible endings or variations to the story. The players level of involvement could also be far greater including but not limited to the player driving the Ferrari in the second example or shooting a gun from the passenger seat of the Ferrari if Joe Jackpot were a policeman and the player and Joe were chasing bad guys. Monetary bonus awards in both examples can be awarded immediately after the player has made a decision or during a particular segment of the interactive storyline game. If the player was driving the Ferrari and steering via a steering wheel mounted on the gaming machine they could drive over “cash bags” lying on the road and score bonus amounts every time they successfully drove over a bag.
 In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the existing standard gaming machine hardware is used for an interactive story-line game and modifications are made only to the software programming. In this embodiment the standard gaming machine includes a video screen to play a video slot game and a second video screen to display the interactive story-line bonus. The software of the interactive story-line game will establish branches in the display of the story-line of the base or bonus game. The player's input causes the software to retrieve from a standard storage medium animated or recorded real-life video segments that correspond to the players input. In this embodiment the software may choose segments that directly respond to the player's input or the software may randomly choose from a series of segments that could correspond to the player's input. The number of branches in the story-line or segments that could be displayed is limited only by the intended average length of the base game or bonus game.
 Hardware and software that may be used to implement the present invention are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,611,694, 5,873,057, 5,737,527, 5,161,034, 5,848,934, 4,445,187, 4,333,152, 4,569,026, and 4,305,131, the disclosures of which are herein incorporated by reference.
 Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown one possible configuration of the invention gaming device 10 which is a standard video gaming machine with a video screen 12 in the top-box 13 which is used to display the present invention. It should be noted that this configuration is only one embodiment as the gaming device cabinet can be in any of the forms commonly known in the industry including but not limited to slant-top, upright, in-bar or sit-on bar style.
 The base game of gaming device 10 is played in the video screen 11 and could be any base game including but not limited to video reel, poker, blackjack or keno as well as being a mechanical reel slot machine in which case stepper reels would take the place of video screen 11 in gaming device 10. The base game may also be linked to a wide area progressive, local area progressive or any other type of bonus game.
 Gaming device 10 can include the standard array of player input devices including but not limited to a handle 14, coin-out button 16, bet max button 17, spin button 18 and for the present invention, a “yes” button 19 and a “no” button 20 in addition to a coin-in head 21.
 Gaming device 10 also includes belly glass 15 to display the game name. This belly glass could be replaced with an LCD screen or other display device in an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 illustrates a general diagram of the electronic design of the present invention which includes RAM memory 20 and ROM memory 21 which are used to store game data, player decisions or actions, the story-line content of the present invention and a processor 27, touch screen 26 which can be configured as the player interface for the player to interact with the characters in the present invention and speakers 22 to project sounds of the base game and bonus game to the player, standard player interface 23, such as buttons or other mechanical devices which are used when the touch screen 26 is not used and coin/bill acceptor 24 which the player uses to input money into the gaming device and the display devices 25 which as seen in FIG. 1, can include but not be limited to two video displays to display the base game and the bonus game of the present invention.
 Referring to FIG. 3, there is shown the players' interaction with the story-line Example II above. In step 40, the character asks the player to decide whether to take the bridge or ferry to get to an island. In step 41, the player chooses the bridge. The alternative step is step 42 wherein the player chooses the ferry. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, processor 27 randomly picks awards for different player decisions prior to the start of the interactive story-line bonus game. Thus, if the player chooses the bridge (step 41), the player wins 100 credits. As a result, the player's choice of the bridge leads to one of three randomly chosen scenes, indicated by steps 43, 44 and 45, from the database of possible story-line segments. Step 43 describes a randomly chosen scene wherein the Ferrari jumps the drawbridge so that the Ferrari reaches the island (step 50) and the player wins a total of 200 credits in step 60. In step 44, the Ferrari drives across the bridge and reaching the island (step 50) resulting in the player to win 175 credits in step 61. In step 45, the Ferrari is delayed by traffic on the bridge and therefore, does not reach the island. As a result, the player wins only 125 credits in step 62.
 If the player chooses the ferry (step 42) instead of the bridge (step 41), then there are three possible story-line segments, indicated by steps 46, 47, 48, that are randomly chosen by processor 27 (see FIG. 2) with different randomly chosen award amounts. If the player reaches the island (step 50) because processor 27 randomly chooses the step 47, then the player wins 275 coins in step 64 and the game will continue. If processor 27 chooses the other story-line segments, indicated by steps 46 and 48, then the player does not reach the island, the game ends and the player wins the credit amounts in step 63 or step 65.
 It is important to note that this is a very basic example of the present invention as any number of segments in the story-line can be chosen as well as the level of player interactivity can be enhanced so that the player is constantly making decisions or inputting actions via the player interface. The story-line segments can be preset or randomly chosen by the processor and the monetary awards can be preset or randomly chosen. The level of randomness not only in the story-line but also the monetary awards is limited only by the desired length of play of a base or bonus game incorporating the present invention.
 While the present invention has been particularly described, in conjunction with a specific preferred embodiment, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. It is therefore contemplated that the appended claims will embrace any such alternatives, modifications and variations as falling within the true scope and spirit of the present invention.