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Publication numberUS20070060261 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/485,122
Publication dateMar 15, 2007
Filing dateJul 12, 2006
Priority dateAug 19, 2005
Publication number11485122, 485122, US 2007/0060261 A1, US 2007/060261 A1, US 20070060261 A1, US 20070060261A1, US 2007060261 A1, US 2007060261A1, US-A1-20070060261, US-A1-2007060261, US2007/0060261A1, US2007/060261A1, US20070060261 A1, US20070060261A1, US2007060261 A1, US2007060261A1
InventorsBenjamin Gomez
Original AssigneeWms Gaming Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wagering game having expanding symbol for triggering bonus game
US 20070060261 A1
Abstract
A gaming machine for conducting a wagering game includes an expandable bonus-game symbol that expands to cover additional paylines and trigger a bonus game.
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Claims(20)
1. A gaming machine comprising:
a value input device for receiving a wager;
a display region for displaying symbols at respective symbol locations in visual association with at least one active payline, said displayed symbols being selected from a plurality of symbols, said plurality of symbols including an expandable bonus-game symbol; and
wherein in response to said expandable bonus-game symbol being located at a first of said symbol locations, said expandable bonus-game symbol expands to a second of said symbol locations to complete a bonus-game-triggering event along said at least one active payline.
2. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said display region includes a plurality of reels for said displaying of said symbols, each of said plurality of reels including said expandable bonus-game symbol.
3. The gaming machine of claim 2, wherein said plurality of reels are video reels.
4. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said expandable bonus-game symbol is activated upon a player providing an additional wager input.
5. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said symbols along said at least one active payline indicate a randomly selected outcome selected from a plurality of outcomes.
6. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said expandable bonus-game symbol is associated with a multiplier for increasing a bonus payout.
7. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said expandable bonus-game symbol expands to a third of said symbol locations.
8. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said expandable bonus-game symbol located at said first of said symbol locations is removed from said first of said symbol locations upon expansion of said expandable bonus-game symbol.
9. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein said bonus-game triggering event includes three of said bonus-game symbol along said at least one active payline.
10. A method of conducting a wagering game, said wagering game including a plurality of symbols having at least one expandable bonus-game symbol, the method comprising:
receiving a wager input;
displaying a randomly selected outcome for a basic game from a plurality of outcomes that is indicated by a symbol combination from said plurality of symbols;
achieving an outcome including said at least one expandable bonus-game symbol;
expanding said at least one expandable bonus-game symbol to another symbol location to complete a bonus-game triggering symbol combination; and
in response to achieving said bonus-game triggering symbol combination, conducting a bonus game.
11. The method of claim 10, further comprising increasing a bonus payout associated with said bonus game via a multiplier associated with said expandable bonus-game symbol.
12. A computer readable storage medium encoded with instructions for directing a gaming machine to perform the method of claim 10.
13. The method of claim 10, further comprising returning to said basic game after said bonus game is completed.
14. The method of claim 10, wherein said displaying further includes displaying a plurality of active paylines, said another symbol location being on one of said active paylines.
15. The method of claim 10, further comprising receiving an additional wager input to activate said expandable bonus-game symbol.
16. A gaming machine for playing a wagering game, comprising:
a display for displaying a plurality of symbols on a plurality of reels, said plurality of symbols indicating a randomly selected outcome selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving a wager input,
an expanding bonus-game symbol feature for expanding at least one of said plurality of symbols on at least one of said plurality of reels; and
a controller coupled to said display, said controller operative to conduct said wagering game and to expand said at least one of said plurality of symbols from a first symbol location to a second symbol location to result in a bonus-game-triggering outcome.
17. The gaming machine of claim 16, wherein said controller is operative to expand said at least one of said plurality of symbols upon said gaming machine receiving an additional wager input.
18. The gaming machine of claim 16, wherein said display includes a plurality of active paylines, said second symbol location being on at least one of said active paylines.
19. The gaming machine of claim 18, wherein at least three symbols along said at least one of said active paylines results in said bonus-game-triggering outcome.
20. The gaming machine of claim 16, wherein said controller is operative to receive a selection of at least one of said plurality of reels by a player prior to said expanding of said at least one of said plurality of symbols.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/709,842, filed Aug. 19, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

COPYRIGHT

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material that is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to gaming machines and methods for playing wagering games, and more particularly to a gaming machine and a method of playing a wagering game having an expanding symbol for triggering a bonus game. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning at each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting machines. Shrewd operators consequently strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines, features, and enhancements available because such machines attract frequent play and, hence, increase profitability to the operator. Therefore, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to continuously develop new games and improved gaming enhancements that attract frequent play through enhanced entertainment value to the player.

One concept successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is the concept of a “secondary” or “bonus” game that 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, which is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome in the basic game. Generally, bonus games provide a greater expectation of winning than the basic game and may also be accompanied with more attractive or unusual video displays and/or audio. Bonus games may, additionally, award players with “progressive jackpot” awards funded, at least in part, by a percentage of coin-in from the gaming machine or a plurality of participating gaming machines.

Because the bonus game concept offers tremendous advantages in player appeal and excitement relative to other known games, and because such games are attractive to both players and operators, there is a continuing need to develop gaming machines with new types of bonus games and new ways of triggering the bonus games to satisfy the demands of players and operators alike.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes a value input device for receiving a wager and a display region for displaying symbols at respective symbol locations in visual association with at least one active payline. The displayed symbols are selected from a plurality of symbols. The plurality of symbols includes an expandable bonus-game symbol. In response to the expandable bonus-game symbol being located at a first symbol location, the expandable bonus-game symbol expands to a second symbol location to complete a bonus-game-triggering event along at least one active payline.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method of conducting a wagering game is disclosed. The wagering game includes a plurality of symbols having at least one expandable bonus-game symbol. The method includes receiving a wager input and displaying a randomly selected outcome for a basic game from a plurality of outcomes that is indicated by a symbol combination from the plurality of symbols. The method also includes achieving an outcome that includes at least one expandable bonus-game symbol and expanding the at least one expandable bonus-game symbol to another symbol location to complete a bonus-game triggering symbol combination. The method further includes, in response to achieving the bonus-game triggering symbol combination, conducting a bonus game.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, a computer readable storage medium is encoded with instructions for directing a gaming device to perform the above method.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, a gaming machine for playing a wagering game includes a display for displaying a plurality of symbols on a plurality of reels. The plurality of symbols indicates a randomly selected outcome selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving a wager input. The gaming machine also includes an expanding bonus-game symbol feature for expanding at least one of the plurality of symbols on at least one of the plurality of reels. The gaming machine further includes a controller coupled to the display. The controller operates to conduct the wagering game and to expand at least one of the plurality of symbols from a first symbol location to a second symbol location to result in a bonus-game-triggering outcome.

Additional aspects of the invention are apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of various embodiments, made with reference to the drawings, a brief description of which is provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming machine according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the gaming machine of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 illustrates a primary display showing a wagering game with a missed bonus outcome according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates the primary display of FIG. 3 having an expandable symbol for triggering a bonus game.

FIG. 5 illustrates the primary display of FIG. 3 having an active payline that is completed via the expandable bonus-game symbol.

FIG. 6 illustrates an example of a bonus game that is triggered via the expandable bonus-game symbol.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be 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.

DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and is herein described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure shall be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.

The present invention is directed to a gaming machine and a method of playing a wagering game at the gaming machine that includes player-attractive features that enhance game-play and offer players more ways to win. The wagering game of the present invention includes an expandable symbol for triggering a bonus game. In one embodiment, the expandable symbol expands in at least one reel of the gaming machine to complete an active payline and trigger a bonus game.

Referring to FIG. 1, a gaming machine 10 is used in gaming establishments such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming machine 10 may be any type of gaming machine and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming machine 10 may be an electromechanical gaming machine configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electronic gaming machine configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.

The gaming machine 10 comprises a housing 12 and includes input devices, including a value input device 18 and a player input device 24. For output, the gaming machine 10 includes a primary display 14 for showing information about the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 can also show information about a bonus wagering game and a progressive wagering game. The gaming machine 10 may also include a secondary display 16 for showing game events, game outcomes, and/or signage information. While these typical components found in the gaming machine 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 machine 10.

The value input device 18 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination, and is preferably located on the front of the housing 12. The value input device 18 receives currency and/or credits inserted by a player. The value input device 18 may include a coin acceptor 20 for receiving coin currency (see FIG. 1). Alternatively, or in addition, the value input device 18 may include a bill acceptor 22 for receiving paper currency. Furthermore, the value input device 18 may include a ticket reader, or barcode scanner for reading information stored on a credit ticket, a card, or other tangible portable credit storage device. The credit ticket or card may also authorize access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming machine 10.

The player input device 24 comprises a plurality of push buttons 26 on a button panel for operating the gaming machine 10. In addition, or alternatively, the player input device 24 may comprise a touch screen 28 mounted by adhesive, tape, or the like over the primary display 14 and/or secondary display 16. The touch screen 28 contains soft touch keys 30 denoted by graphics on the underlying primary display 14 used to operate the gaming machine 10. The touch screen 28 provides players with an alternative method of input. A player enables a desired function either by touching the touch screen 28 at an appropriate touch key 30, or by pressing an appropriate push button 26 on the button panel. The touch keys 30 may be used to implement the same functions as push buttons 26. Alternatively, the push buttons 26 may provide inputs for one aspect of game operation while the touch keys 30 may allow for input needed for another aspect of game operation.

The various components of the gaming machine 10 may be connected directly to, or contained within, the housing 12 as seen in FIG. 1, or may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the housing 12 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods. Thus, the gaming machine 10 comprises these components whether housed in the housing 12, or outboard of the housing 12 and connected remotely.

The operation of the basic wagering game is shown to the player on the primary display 14. The primary display 14 can also show the bonus game associated with the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, an LED, or any other type of display suitable for use in the gaming machine 10. As shown, the primary display 14 includes the touch screen 28 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the primary display 14 of the gaming machine 10 may include a number of mechanical reels to display the outcome in visual associated to at least one payline 32. In the illustrated embodiment, the gaming machine 10 is an “upright” version in which the primary display 14 is oriented vertically relative to the player. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be a “slant-top” version in which the primary display 14 is slanted at about a thirty-degree angle towards the player of the gaming machine 10.

A player begins play of the basic wagering game by making a wager via the value input device 18 of the gaming machine 10. A player can select play by using the player input device 24, via the buttons 26 or the touch screen keys 30. The basic game consists of a plurality of symbols arranged in an array, and includes at least one payline 32 indicating one or more outcomes of the basic game; such outcomes are randomly selected in response to the wagering input by the player.

In some embodiments, the gaming machine 10 may also include a player information reader 52 allowing for identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. The player information reader 52 is shown in FIG. 1 as a card reader, but may take on many forms including a ticket reader, bar code scanner, RFID transceiver, or computer readable storage medium interface. Currently, casinos use this identification for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's loyalty 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 information reader 52, allowing the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming machine 10. The gaming machine 10 may use the secondary display 16 or other dedicated player-tracking display for providing the player with information about his or her account or other player-specific information. Also, in some embodiments, the information reader 52 may be used to restore game assets that the player achieved and saved during a previous game session.

Turning now to FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming machine 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 34, also referred to herein as a controller or processor (such as a microcontroller or microprocessor). To provide gaming functions, the controller 34 executes one or more game programs stored in a computer readable storage medium, in the form of memory 36. The controller 34 performs the random selection using a random number generator (RNG) of an outcome from the plurality of possible outcomes of the wagering game. Alternatively, the random event may be determined at a remote controller. The remote controller may use either an RNG or a pooling scheme for its central determination of a game outcome. It should be noted that the controller 34 may include one or more microprocessors, including but not limited to a master processor, a slave processor, and a secondary or parallel processor.

The controller 34 is also coupled to the system memory 36 and a money/credit detector 38. The system memory 36 may comprise a volatile memory (i.e., a random-access memory [RAM]) and a non-volatile memory (i.e., an EEPROM). The system memory 36 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories. The money/credit detector 38 signals the processor that money and/or credits were input via the value input device 18. Preferably, these components are located within the housing 12 of the gaming machine 10. However, as explained above, these components may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the remainder of the components of the gaming machine 10 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods.

As seen in FIG. 2, the controller 34 is also connected to, and controls, the primary display 14, the player input device 24, and a payoff mechanism 40. The payoff mechanism 40 is operable in response to instructions from the controller 34 to award a payoff to the player in response to certain winning outcomes that might occur in the basic game or the bonus game(s). The payoff may be provided in the form of points, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. For example, in FIG. 1, the payoff mechanism 40 includes both a ticket printer 42 and a coin outlet 44. However, any of a variety of payoff mechanisms 40 well known in the art may be implemented, including cards, coins, tickets, smartcards, cash, etc. One or more pay tables stored in the system memory 36 determine the payoff amounts distributed by the payoff mechanism 40.

Communications between the controller 34 and both the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 and external systems 50 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 46, 48. More specifically, the controller 34 manages and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 through the input/output circuits 46. Further, the controller 34 communicates with the external systems 50 via the I/O circuits 48 and a communication path (i.e.., serial, parallel, IR, RC, 10bT, etc.). The external systems 50 may include a gaming network, other gaming machines, a gaming server, communications hardware, or a variety of other interfaced systems or components. Even though the I/O circuits 46, 48 may be shown as a single block, it should be noted that each of the I/0 circuits 46, 48 may include a number of different types of I/0 circuits.

Controller 34, as used herein, comprises any combination of hardware, software, and/or firmware that may be disposed or reside inside and/or outside the gaming machine 10 that may communicate with and/or control the transfer of data between the gaming machine 10 and a bus, another computer, processor, or device and/or a service and/or a network. The controller 34 may comprise one or more controllers or processors. In FIG. 2, the controller 34 in the gaming machine 10 is depicted as comprising a CPU, but the controller 34 may alternatively comprise a CPU in combination with other components, such as the I/0 circuits 46, 48 and the system memory 36.

The primary display 14 of one embodiment of the present invention is shown in more detail in FIG. 3. In this embodiment, the basic wagering game is a slot machine game, with symbols on the five reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. The reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68 may be either traditional mechanical reels or they may be computer-generated images of reels, with each reel including a plurality of symbols. Upon receiving a wager input, the payline indicator(s) 70 indicates which paylines have been selected (i.e., activated) by the player. A randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes is then indicated along the payline(s) in the form of a combination of symbols on the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. An outcome indicator (which may include the “PAID” indicator panel in FIG. 3 ) may indicate whether the outcome has resulted in a winning outcome or a non-winning outcome. While the embodiment shown in FIG. 3 includes five reels, gaming machines having more or less than five reels are also contemplated by the present invention.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the basic wagering game includes different symbols and/or objects in a plurality of symbol locations on the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. The symbols are in visual association with at least one active payline. In this particular embodiment, the symbols include objects such as fruit, bells, lucky 7's, jackpot symbols and bonus symbols. These symbols may vary from one embodiment to another. The present invention is not limited to the particular symbols shown in this embodiment.

Once a player places a wager, the randomly selected outcome is displayed via the primary display 14 on the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. The symbols displayed on the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68 indicate the randomly selected outcome to the player. If a player achieves a winning outcome, the player may be awarded a monetary award, such as a credit award, or a non-monetary award, such as a number of free spins or the opportunity to play a bonus game.

In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the player does not achieve a winning outcome on the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. In some embodiments, a winning outcome may be indicated by a certain number of same symbols along an active payline or other symbol combinations. In the primary display 14 depicted in FIG. 3, the player achieves a first bonus symbol 72 on the reel 60, a second bonus symbol 74 on the reel 62, and a third bonus symbol 76 on the reel 64. However, none of the bonus symbols 72, 74, 76 are contained along an active payline, and thus the particular combination depicted in FIG. 3 does not indicate a winning outcome.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, at least one of the bonus symbols 72, 74, 76 that is achieved on the reels 60, 62, 64, respectively, is adapted to expand into additional positions, or symbol locations, on the reels and influence additional paylines. As shown in FIG. 4, the expanding bonus-game symbol 72 a expands into symbol locations located above the symbol location of the bonus symbol 72 on the reel 60. With the expansion of bonus-game symbol 72 a into all symbol locations on the reel 60, the active payline 78 as shown in FIG. 5 now includes three bonus symbols 72 a, 74, 76. This expansion of the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a completes the active payline 78 and achieves a bonus-game-triggering event.

According to other embodiments, the expanding bonus-game symbol 72 a can occur on all of the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68 or on less than all of the reels 60, 62, 64, 66, 68. In further embodiments, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may expand to cover positions on a single reel or more than one reel. For example, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may expand vertically into one or more symbol locations as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 (i.e., above or below the original bonus symbol). Alternatively, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may expand in a horizontal direction (not shown) such that the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a expands into symbol locations on other reels to the left or right of the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a. The expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may remain in the first symbol location or may be removed from the first symbol location as the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a expands into other symbol locations.

If mechanical reels are used with the present invention, the bonus symbol may expand via a transmissive display positioned over the mechanical reels. The use of a transmissive display in combination with mechanical reels is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,433 which is commonly assigned to WMS Gaming, Inc. and is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

The expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may be activated during game play by several different mechanisms. In one embodiment, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a is activated by a player placing an additional wager prior to playing the basic game. In another embodiment, the player may be allowed to select a reel prior to playing and if an expandable bonus-game symbol is displayed on the selected reel, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 aexpands. In other embodiments, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may be available at any time during game play without placing an additional wager or selecting a reel. In yet other embodiments, only certain symbols may have the ability to expand while other symbols do not.

Once the expanding bonus symbol 72 a triggers the bonus game, the bonus game is displayed on the primary display 14 or secondary display 16. One example of a bonus game that may be displayed is shown in FIG. 6, i.e., the “Jackpot Party” bonus game. In this bonus game, a player is allowed to select certain objects that may be associated with awards or game-terminating features. It is contemplated that many other bonus games may be triggered by the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a. The player may return to the basic game after the bonus game is finished in hopes of receiving other winning outcomes and/or additional expandable bonus-game symbols 72 a that trigger the bonus game.

In some embodiments, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may also enhance any awards that a player receives in the bonus game. For example, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may be associated with a multiplier for increasing the bonus payout. Alternatively, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may award additional credits once the bonus game is triggered. In yet further embodiments, the expandable bonus-game symbol 72 a may expand and award a multiplier that will multiply the final credit award outcome of the bonus game.

While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8585488Jan 8, 2009Nov 19, 2013Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedMethod of gaming, a gaming system and a game controller
US8616953 *Aug 31, 2007Dec 31, 2013IgtReel symbol resizing for reel based gaming machines
US20090061984 *Aug 31, 2007Mar 5, 2009IgtReel symbol resizing for reel based gaming machines
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3258, G07F17/34, G07F17/3244
European ClassificationG07F17/34, G07F17/32K, G07F17/32K12
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 12, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: WMS GAMING INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:GOMEZ, BENJAMIN T.;REEL/FRAME:018102/0641
Effective date: 20060707