FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application is related to and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/591,741 filed Jul. 28, 2004, titled “Wagering Game With Popup Feature,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to gaming terminals for playing a wagering game and, more particularly, to a wagering game having a popup feature.
Gaming terminals, such as slot machines, video poker machines, and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such terminals with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the terminal and the intrinsic entertainment value of the terminal relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing terminals and the expectation of winning each terminal is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are most likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting of the terminals.
Consequently, shrewd operators strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting terminals available because such terminals attract frequent play and, hence, increase profitability to the operator. In the competitive gaming terminal industry, there is a continuing need for gaming terminal manufacturers to produce new types of games, or enhancements to existing games, which will attract frequent play by increasing the entertainment value and excitement associated with the game.
One concept that has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is that of a “secondary” or “bonus” game which may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, and is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome of the basic game. Such a bonus game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the basic game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the basic game.
One problem with some games is that they cause a drastic change of screens, generally, from a basic screen to a bonus screen when a bonus game is triggered. This screen change may cause a perception in some players that a totally different, and undesired, game is being played. For example, a player that is comfortable and familiar with certain visual characteristics of a basic game, such as a game theme or a game symbol appearance, may feel frustrated if those visual characteristics disappear. The visual characteristics temporarily disappear when the screen changes, consequently causing potential dissatisfaction in the player
To further player excitement, some games provide blind selections which reveal hidden symbols upon selection. An example is a scratch ticket that may provide a hidden reward, or “surprise,” for a player that scratches off the layer covering the hidden symbol representing the reward. Some current video games provide an initial symbol that is displayed in an array of symbols during a basic game, and a hidden symbol that replaces the initial symbol during the basic game if a predetermined condition is met. A problem with this type of video games is that the player may not even realize that a symbol has been replaced. For example, if the player is temporarily distracted while the initial symbol is being replaced with the hidden symbol, the player may not even realize that he or she has gained something, i.e., an award associated with the hidden symbol. Thus, the player may totally miss the purpose of the game play.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Thus, there is a need to overcome the problems associated with gaming terminals having wagering games. The present invention is directed to satisfying this and other needs.
A gaming terminal for playing a video wagering game includes a display and a controller, which is coupled to the display. The controller is programmed to present at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes on a basic window of the display. The randomly-selected outcome is presented in the form of an array of symbols. A popup window is opened and includes at least one popup symbol. A game outcome is indicated with an arrangement including the at least one popup symbol and at least one symbol of said array of symbols.
In another aspect of the present invention, a method of conducting a video wagering game includes randomly selecting at least one outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving a wager from a player. The method further includes presenting an array of symbols on a basic window of a display, and opening a popup window having at least one popup symbol. A game outcome is indicated by an arrangement including at least one popup symbol and at least one symbol of the array of symbols.
In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a gaming terminal for playing a video wagering game includes a housing having wager-input means and a video display. The video display displays a basic window and a popup window. The basic window includes an array of symbols that indicate a randomly-selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes, wherein the randomly-selected outcome is selected in response to a wager input via the wager-input means. The bonus game is triggered by a predetermined outcome of the plurality of outcomes. The popup window is overlying at least a portion of the basic window and includes a plurality of popup symbols. A bonus game outcome is indicated by an arrangement including at least one symbol of the array of symbols and at least one symbol of the plurality of popup symbols.
In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a method for playing a video wagering game includes displaying to a player a randomly-selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes on a display device for playing a video wagering game. The randomly-selected outcome is presented in the form of an array of symbols. In response to the randomly-selected outcome being a pop-up window outcome, a popup window is displayed on the display device such that at least a portion of the array of symbols is visible. The popup window includes a plurality of player-selectable elements, wherein at least one of the plurality of player-selectable elements forms an arrangement with at least one symbol of the portion of the array of symbols that is visible. A game outcome of said wagering game is indicated via the arrangement.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
The above summary of the present invention is not intended to represent each embodiment, or every aspect, of the present invention. Additional features and benefits of the present invention are apparent from the detailed description, figures, and claims set forth below.
FIG. 1 illustrates a gaming terminal that is useful for displaying a wild-card feature in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 2 illustrates a control system that is used in conjunction with the gaming terminal of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 illustrates a bonus game screen with a popup feature before revealing a hidden symbol.
FIG. 4 illustrates the game screen of FIG. 3 after revealing a hidden symbol.
FIG. 5 illustrates a bonus game screen according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 illustrates a bonus game screen having an independent reel, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 7 illustrates a bonus game screen moving across a basic game screen, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 8 illustrates a bonus game screen rotating over a basic game screen, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS
While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments are shown by way of example in the drawings and are described in detail herein. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not intended to be limited to the particular forms disclosed. Rather, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
Referring to FIG. 1, a gaming terminal 10 is used in gaming establishments such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming terminal 10 may be any type of gaming terminal and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming terminal 10 may be a mechanical gaming terminal configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electromechanical or electrical gaming terminal configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, etc.
The gaming terminal 10 includes input devices, such as a wager acceptor 16 a, 16 b, a touch screen 21, a push-button panel 22, and a player-identification card reader 24. For output, the gaming terminal 10 includes a main display 26 for displaying information about the basic wagering game. The main display 26 can also display information about a bonus wagering game and a progressive wagering game. The gaming terminal 10 also includes a secondary game display 27 for displaying the bonus wagering game, or for displaying award amounts of a progressive game. While these typical components found in the gaming terminal 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming terminal.
The wager acceptor 16 a, 16 b may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination. The wager acceptor 16 a, 16 b may include a coin slot acceptor 16 a or a bill validator 16 b to input value to the gaming terminal 10. Or, the wager acceptor 16 a, 16 b may include a card-reading device for reading a card that has a recorded monetary value with which it is associated. The card may also authorize access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming terminal 10.
A payout mechanism 23 performs the reverse functions of the wager acceptor 16. For example, the payout mechanism 23 may include a coin dispenser or a note dispenser to output value from the gaming terminal 10. Also, the payout mechanism 23 may also be adapted to receive a card that authorizes the gaming terminal to transfer credits from the gaming terminal 10 to a central account.
The push button panel 22 is typically offered, in addition to the touch screen 21, to provide players with an option on how to make their game selections. Alternatively, the push button panel 22 provides inputs for one aspect of operating the game, while the touch screen 21 allows for inputs needed for another aspect of operating the game.
The operation of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the main display 26. The main display 26 can also display the bonus game associated with the basic wagering game. The main display 26 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, a LED, or any other type of video display suitable for use in the gaming terminal 10. As shown, the main display 26 includes the touch screen 21 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the gaming terminal 10 may have a number of mechanical reels to display the game outcome.
The player-identification card reader 24 allows for the identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. Currently, the identification is used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's players' club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player-identification card reader 24, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming terminal 10.
A player begins play of the basic wagering game by inserting a wager input into the wager input accepter 16 a, 16 b of the gaming terminal 10. A player can select play by either using the touch screen 21 or the push-button panel 22. The basic game consists of a plurality of symbols on a plurality of reels that are displayed along a plurality of paylines, yielding a plurality of outcomes of the basic game. Such outcomes are randomly selected in response to the wagering input by the player. One of the plurality of randomly-selected outcomes is a start-bonus outcome, which can include any variations of symbols or symbol combinations triggering a bonus game.
As shown in FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming terminal 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 30, also referred to as a processor (such as a microprocessor or microcontroller). To provide the gaming functions, the CPU 30 executes one or more game programs. The CPU 30 performs the random selection of an outcome from the plurality of outcomes of the wagering game. Alternatively, the random selection of an outcome may be performed remotely by a CPU that is networked to the gaming terminal 10 but is not a component of the gaming terminal 10. The CPU 30 is also coupled to or includes a system memory 32. The system memory 32 may comprise a volatile memory 33 (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory 34 (e.g., an EEPROM). It should be appreciated that the CPU 30 may include one or more microprocessors. Similarly, the memory 32 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories.
Communications between the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10 and the CPU 30 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 35a. As such, the CPU 30 also controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10. Further, the CPU 30 communicates with external systems via the I/O circuits 35b. Although the I/O circuits 35 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 35 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.
The gaming terminal 10 is typically operated as part of a game control network 50 having control circuitry and memory devices. The game control network 50 may optionally include a system memory 52 for alternative storage of data. The gaming terminal 10 often has multiple serial ports, each port dedicated to providing data to a specific host computer system that performs a specific function (e.g., accounting system, player-tracking system, progressive game control system, etc). To set up a typical serial communication hardware link to the host system, the typical RS-232 point-to-point communication protocol that is often present in the gaming terminal 10 is converted to an RS-485 (or RS-485-type) master-slave protocol so as to take advantage of some of the advantages of the RS-485 capability (e.g., multi-drop capability that allows many gaming terminals 10 to communicate with the game control network 50). To perform this function, a custom interface board may be used by the gaming terminal 10 for each communication port in the gaming terminal 10. It should be noted that the gaming terminal 10 can initially be designed to be configured for a typical RS-485 protocol, instead of the typical RS-232 protocol. Further, the gaming terminal 10 may simply be designed for an Ethernet connection to the game control network 50.
Referring now to FIG. 3, the main display 26 includes a basic window 59 having a plurality of reels 60 a-60 b (collectively referred to as reels 60), a plurality of paylines 62, and a popup window 70. The reels 60 have a plurality of basic symbols 68 that form an array for indicating an outcome of a basic wagering game. If the outcome is a popup Window outcome, a popup window 70 is opened. The popup window outcome will be generally referred to as a popup game, which can be considered a part of a basic wagering game, a bonus wagering game, or both.
The popup window 70 is opened within the basic window 59 and overlaps at least a portion of the basic window 59. As shown in FIG. 3, the popup window 70 overlaps three of the reels 60, i.e., the center reel 60 c and the rightmost reels 60 d-60 e. However, the two leftmost reels 60 a, 60 b are not obscured. The popup window includes a plurality of popup symbols, or selections, such as a plurality of blind selections 72 and a visible symbol 74. In one embodiment, the plurality of blind selections 72 surround the visible symbol 74. Each of the blind selections 72 shows a similar bonus symbol that covers, or hides, a hidden symbol. The blind selections 72 are player-selectable elements that initially hide an award/outcome, which is revealed after being selected. The visible symbol 74 shows an image of an elephant head. As shown, eight blind selections 72 are located around the visible symbol 74 with three blind selections 72 located on either side (left, right, top, and bottom). Thus, the popup window 70 shows a three-by-three matrix consisting of a mix of the blind selections 72 and the visible symbol 74.
After selecting one of the blind selections 72, the hidden symbol that is associated with the respective blind selection 72 is revealed. In FIG. 4, two elephant symbols 72 a, 72 b have been revealed. The arrangement formed by at least one of the basic symbols 68, which has not been obscured by the popup window 70, and at least one of the popup symbols 72, 74 is used to indicate the outcome of the basic or bonus game being played. For example, a winning combination may be indicated if one of the hidden symbols 72 matches one of the basic symbols 68. According to the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, a winning combination has not resulted because neither one of the elephant symbols 72 a, 72 b matches any of the visible, or unobscured, basic symbols 68.
Alternatively, the revealing of a hidden symbol 72 can show a winning combination if the arrangement also includes the visible symbol 74. Optionally, a combination of all the revealed hidden symbols 72 can show a winning combination if they form a predetermined arrangement with one or more of the basic symbols 68. For example, revealing two hidden symbols 72 of the same kind shows a winning combination independently of their arrangement, or location, on the popup window 70 if a basic symbol 68 is a popsicle symbol. According to this embodiment, the two elephant symbols 72 a, 72 b that are displayed in FIG. 4 show a winning combination because a popsicle symbol 68 is displayed in the basic window 59.
The visible symbol 74 can have game-play functionality, aesthetic functionality, or both. Thus, the visible symbol 74 can be used in the arrangement of symbols that indicates a winning combination, the visible symbol 74 can provide a visually entertaining background, or can do both. Further, the visible symbol 74 can be located anywhere on the popup window 70, and can randomly change from one game to another game or during a specific game. The visible symbol 74 can optionally mirror the most current revealed hidden symbol 72. For example, if a player has just selected an elephant symbol 72 b, the visible symbol 74 can provide an entertaining animation using an elephant symbol 74.
In general, a player starts playing a basic game shown in the basic window 59 and triggers a popup window outcome. In response, the popup window 70 appears and covers a portion of the basic window 59. For example purposes only, it is assumed that a winning combination has been determined if a popsicle symbol 68 is displayed in the basic window 59 and two elephant symbols 72 are displayed in the popup window 70. The popsicle symbol 68 is already displayed in the basic window 59. The player is prompted to make two selections. After making a first selection, the hidden symbol 72 a is revealed giving the player an illusion that a cover that obscures the hidden symbol 72 a has been scratched off the surface of the popup window 70. The hidden symbol 72 a is an elephant symbol that matches the elephant shown as the visible symbol 74. The player will receive an award if the player selects one more elephant symbol. The player is prompted to make another selection, and the hidden symbol 72 b is revealed to be another elephant symbol. Accordingly, the player will receive a reward.
When the popup game is over, the popup window 70 is removed from the basic window 59 and the basic game is resumed. For example, the popup game can end when a stop-selecting hidden symbol 72 is revealed. Alternatively, the popup window 70 is removed in response to the player selecting one of the blind selections 72 that is not associated with an award, e.g., “You Lose.” Optionally, any awards that are associated with unselected ones of a plurality of blind selections 72 are revealed prior to the removal of the popup window 70.
In an alternative embodiment, shown in FIG. 5, a main display 126 includes a basic window 159 having a plurality of reels 160 a-160e, a plurality of paylines 162, and a popup window 170. The popup window 170 includes a plurality of popup symbols, having a plurality of blind selections 172 and a visible symbol 174. After selecting three blind selections 172 a-172 c, three hidden symbols 172 a-172 c are revealed showing three popsicles. A popup outcome is indicated based on an arrangement of one or more of the hidden symbols 172 a-172 c and one or more of a plurality of basic symbols 168 shown in reels 160 a-160e. For example, having five symbols of the same kind in a row can result in a winning combination. Thus, a winning outcome may be shown by having two popsicle symbols 168 a, 168 b in two reels 160 a, 160 b of the basic window 159 and three popsicle symbols 172 a-172 c in the popup window 170, all the symbols being aligned along an active payline 162. Optionally, a winning combination may be indicated based on any arrangement formed between any symbol in reels 160 a-160 e, which are located in the basic window 159, and any symbol in the popup window 170, i.e., the visible symbol 174 and the hidden symbols 172.
Referring now to FIG. 6, a main display 226 includes a basic window 259 having a plurality of reels 260 a-206 e, a plurality of paylines 262, and a popup window 270. The basic window includes a plurality of basic symbols 268. The popup window 270 includes a plurality of popup symbols, having blind selections 272. In addition, the popup window 270 includes an independent reel 273. The reel 273 is shown in motion and includes a plurality of visible symbols 274. When the popup window 270 appears, the independent reel 273 can be set in motion to randomly select a visible symbol 274. Alternatively, the independent reel 273 can be set in motion at any point while the popup window 270 is open. As described in the above embodiments, the visible symbol 274 that is displayed in the independent reel 273 can have a variety of functions. Optionally, each one of the popup symbols can be replaced by an independent reel, each reel having its own set of popup symbols.
Referring now to FIG. 7, a main display 326 includes a basic window 359 having a plurality of reels 360 a-360 e, a plurality of paylines 362, and a popup window 370. The popup window 370 includes a plurality of popup symbols, having blind selections 372 and a visible selection 374. In this embodiment, the popup window 370 is moving across the basic window 359. The popup window 370 can move continuously or intermittently during bonus game-play. For example the popup window 370 can move only when a selection has been made or only when a winning combination has occurred. Any of a plurality of revealed hidden symbols 372 a-372 e can be used in combination with any of a plurality of basic symbols 368 to indicate a winning combination or outcome. Assuming that a combination including three tiger symbols 372 a-372 c and a “Please Don't Feed The Animals” symbol 368 a is a winning combination, in one embodiment the popup window 370 moves to provide visual entertainment for the player when the winning combination is produced. Alternatively, the popup window 370 can move to show a particular basic symbol 368 in the basic window 359 for making a determination whether an arrangement between the basic symbols 368 in the basic window 359 and the popup symbols 372, 374 will show a winning combination.
Referring now to FIG. 8, a main display 426 includes a basic window 459 having a plurality of reels 460 a-460e, a plurality of paylines 462, and a popup window 470. The basic window 459 includes a plurality of basic symbols 468, and the popup window 470 includes a plurality of popup symbols 472. The popup window 470 rotates over the basic window 459 providing a different gaming experience for a player. Optionally, any of the popup symbols 472 can rotate or move within the popup window 470.
In alternative embodiments, other variations can be made using any of the above-described embodiments and/or other embodiments. For example, after a popup window has been opened over a basic window, one or more additional popup windows can be opened over the original popup window. Thus, if a predetermined condition is met during a popup game played in the original popup window, the player may proceed to an advanced popup game that is played in a secondary popup window. The secondary popup window can be contained within the original popup window, the basic window, or both.
The popup symbols can be fixed or movable. For example, a plurality of popup symbols can move continuously, or intermittently, around a visible symbol during a bonus game. Similarly, the visible symbol can move continuously, or intermittently, within the popup window during a bonus game.
While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that it is not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.