FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to systems and methods for role playing games, and more particularly to a system and method for a reality role playing game genre.
A massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is an online computer role-playing game (RPG) in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world, as described on the Wikipedia Website. As in all RPG's, players assume the role of a fictional character (traditionally in a fantasy setting) and take control over most of that character's actions. MMORPG's are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player RPG's by the game's persistent world, usually hosted by the game's publisher, which continues to exist and evolve while the player is away from the game.
A virtual world is a computer-simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids or other graphical or text-based avatars. Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.
An alternate reality game (ARG) is a cross-media game that deliberately blurs the line between in-game experiences and the real world. While these games may primarily be centered around online resources, events which happen as part of the game may be communicated to the players in a number of forms. Often events that happen inside the game reality will “reach out” into the players life in order to bring them together. Previous ARG's have included the following:
Websites, both those obviously connected with the game and unrelated, innocent looking Websites. Both of these Website types are often where the bulk of the game lies, providing puzzles in many forms, e.g. cryptography;
phone calls to a player's home, cell or work phone;
phone calls from players to a fictional character;
SMS messages to players' cell phones;
postal (snail) mail;
newspaper articles or classifieds;
chat/Instant messaging, often involving conversation with actors or bots;
real world artifacts related to the game in play;
real world events using actors who interact with the players who attend.
Most ARG's have a specific goal of not only involving the player with the story and/or fictional characters, but of connecting them to each other. Many game puzzles can be solved only by the collective and collaborative efforts of multiple players, and strong communities flourish around individual games and the ARG genre as a whole.
ARG's are usually earmarked by a large game-reality in the form of multiple Websites, all of which are presented as being real (non-fiction). In fact, sometimes it is difficult to tell if a Website is fictional or not. These Websites form the foundation of the game's universe, and are usually the primary storytelling vehicle, although the various media listed above can be used as well. This creates a situation where the game's alternate reality and the real world collide—some games have extended into players' everyday lives by pushing information towards players at certain times (e.g. SMS messages), whereas others have required players to initiate all communication.
The concept of “this is not a game” is central to the ARG genre. Alternate reality games do not advertise themselves as such, and never admit to being a game while ‘live’—when the game is over, some information about its creation may become public. The mystery surrounding the game's events and creators is a major contributor to player immersion and enjoyment, as is the general thrill of discovering the game's alternate universe and exploring its boundaries with the real world.
- SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
Several ARG's have been used as marketing tools to promote certain products, from video games to cars. Although the Web-based nature of alternate reality games means that financing them is easier than producing a full-scale video game, a long-running game has several ongoing expenses, including, but not limited to: Web hosting and bandwidth; Web and graphic design staff; scriptwriting staff; actors; puzzle creators; real world artifact creation; telephone calls; and advertisements in newspapers. Using an ARG as a marketing campaign allows players to form a deep attachment with particular products, e.g. being immersed in the universe surrounding a video game, while providing the resources necessary to run a full-scale game. Other games have financed themselves, for example through the sale of real-world artifacts.
Accordingly, it is a principle object of the present invention to provide a game genre called Reality Role Playing Game (RRPG). RRPG's can be played by a single or a limited number of players using a standalone computer, or by many players interacting online, in which case they should be called MMORRPG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Reality Role-Playing Games). In the following discussion both types are referred to as (MMO)RRPG's.
(MMO)RRPG's of the present invention simulate real life situations and experiences in diverse worlds, or content scenarios. A content scenario is herein defined as a self-contained game world (real, fictitious or mixed) possibly implemented as a separate system comprising software, hardware devices, communication channels, etc.
(MMO)RRPG games, like ARG's (Alternate Reality Games) blur the distinction between in-game and out-of-game experiences but, the real world content scenarios are not fictional in nature (as in ARG's)—they are related to REAL people and REAL-life actions, feelings, contacts, etc.
It is a further principle object of the present invention that game experiences also involve real life experiences, as opposed to Alternate Reality, or totally imaginary and fictitious game worlds.
It is another principle object of the present invention that players in the (MMO)RRPG's are represented by artificial characters or avatars, and the real players' identities are either confidential or disclosed, at their own discretion.
It is one other principle object of the present invention that the artificial character or avatar representing a player is portable to other game environments and/or content scenarios, and can co-exist in several parallel game worlds at the same time.
It is one further principle object of the present invention that in the case of a disclosed identity, the “avatar” can be represented by the real image (photo/animation) and/or voice of the player.
It is yet another principle object of the present invention that events that happen inside the game reality may be tied to the players' real lives.
It is still another principle object of the present invention that game credits and ranks may have real-life value, such as accreditation, recognition and financial values, for instance, and vice versa.
Finally, it is yet still another principle object of the present invention that events that happen inside the game reality and players participating in the game may interact with real-life environments and mechanisms, such as reality TV programs. In these scenarios, TV program spectators can interact with game players during a TV broadcast or asynchronously (before or following the broadcast). Such spectators may grade the performance of game players or even compete with them, or participate in their experiences by joining the game temporarily (or become regular game participants). The distinction between game playing and TV broadcast is thus blurred, since game scenes may be broadcast on TV and vice versa—TV broadcasts may become a part of the game and can be relayed synchronously or asynchronously to game players.
Some of the players in (MMO)RRPGs may be non-human (computer-generated). These players will typically lack some of the attributes associated with real players.
(MMO)RRPGs may incorporate marketing content and advertisements. The deep involvement of players in their content scenarios, which is achieved by the real life aspects of (MMO)RRPGs strengthens players' deep attachment to particular products and services presented within game worlds.
A system is disclosed for a Reality Role Playing Game (RRPG) including at least one of in-game experiences, out-of-game experiences and real world content scenarios that are related to at least one of REAL people and REAL in-life actions, feelings and contacts, wherein the distinction between in-game and out-of-game experiences are blurred.
A player can chose to experience one or more worlds (content scenarios) concurrently. There can be any number of content scenario types, such as:
Support Group content scenarios:
- Parenting and child care;
- Pregnancy and child birth;
- Avoiding over-eating and slimming;
- Giving up smoking;
- Treating Alcohol or Narcotic addictions; and
- PTSD support groups
Learning content scenarios; and
Gaming content scenarios:
- “Survival games” in the spirit of various Reality TV programs;
- Gambling games;
- Dungeons and Dragons scenarios;
- Dating games;
- Investment games (using real or game currency, using real or virtual/game investments); and
- Competition games such as:
- Skill based (with or without real judges);
- Knowledge based; and
- Professional expertise.
The content scenarios listed above are indicative of but a few of the various possible content scenarios in which the principles of the present invention may be employed. The present invention is intended to include all such content scenarios and their equivalents. Playing in any of the worlds comprises assignments or quests of various types:
Computer assigned quests:
- Learning assignments with qualifying exams;
- Real world physical assignments where validation or assignment credit from real entities is passed using cryptographically created “assignment keys;”
- Real, virtual, or mixed human interaction, or treatment, or coaching, or training; and
- Group assignments within the game world and/or in the real world;
Player self-defined assignment:
- From pre-defined sub-quest types; and
- Where only goals (parameters of the assignment) are self defined;
Internet-related assignments such as:
- Establishing and moderating a forum;
- Establishing and maintaingn a blog
- Establishing and maintaining a vlog; and
- Creating and distributing a podcast;
Externally defined assignments, such as those imposed by reality TV programs' producers.
It is to be appreciated that the quest types to be implemented in accordance with an aspect of the present invention are not limited to the quest examples listed above, as many other quest types exist.
An additional classification of quest types is based on the distinction between:
Real time (synchronous quests). This type of quests can occur within the game world and/or in real life. The real time nature of a quest may be critical where group interaction is involved; and
- (MMO)RRPG's Credits and Economy:
Offline (asynchronous quests) to be performed in a player controlled pace.
- Players Gain Credit in Various Ways:
Players may create valuable assets within the game world, in the real world or in both. Assets may be either a product or a service (such as teaching, coaching, consulting, helping, etc.). Assets may be either game-world oriented (such as assets that have no meaning in the real world) or physical/tangible assets (such assets can be sold in internet auction sites, real world shops, game world mechanisms or internet shops).
By selling real assets;
By selling virtual assets;
By getting certification;
By selling knowledge;
By training in a gym;
By visiting a therapist;
By Raising funds, real or virtual;
By Donating funds, real or virtual;
By Providing tips and reports, such as tourist tips of consumer information; and
By evaluations and/or votes cast by spectators of reality TV programs, for instance.
Game currency could be exchangeable with real money using various mechanisms.
- Advertisements and Marketing Content in (MMO)RRPGs:
It is to be appreciated that the possible methods to gain credit in accordance with an aspect of the present invention are not limited to those examples listed above, as many other methods exist.
(MMO)RRPGs may incorporate marketing content and advertisements. The deep involvement of players in their content scenarios, which is achieved by the real life aspects of (MMO)RRPGs, strengthens players' attachment with particular products and services presented within game worlds. These may assume any of the following forms:
Marketing campaigns immersed in the content scenario of the game;
Advertisements displayed in various locations visited by players within the game;
Assignments and quests involving real-life services and products associated with a specific brand; and
Branded game worlds or game scenes in the spirit of branded entertainment TV programs giving the opportunity for brands to echo their commercial benefits and the positioning they want to defend.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows hereinafter may be better understood. Additional details and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the detailed description, and in part will be appreciated from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention.
In order to understand the invention and to see how it may be carried out in practice, a preferred embodiment will now be described, by way of a non-limiting example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a flow chart illustration of an exemplary scenario of a player beginning to participate in a Massively Multiplayer Online Reality Role-Playing Game ((MMO)RRPG), constructed according to the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an exemplary schematic block diagram of an attribute structure 200 representing a player as an artificial character or avatar, constructed according to the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is an exemplary block diagram of a system that facilitates portability of the artificial character or avatar representing a player to other game environments and/or content scenarios, constructed according to the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is an exemplary schematic block diagram of a system that facilitates coexistence of the artificial character or avatar representing a player in several parallel game worlds at the same time, constructed according to the principles of the present invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT
FIG. 5 is an exemplary flow chart illustration of a scenario of a player continuing to participate in a Massively Multiplayer Online Reality Role-Playing Game ((MMO)RRPG) once the player does have a content scenario world, performed according to the principles of the present invention.
The principles and operation of a method and an apparatus according to the present invention may be better understood with reference to the drawings and the accompanying description, it being understood that these drawings are given for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be limiting.
FIG. 1 is a flow chart illustration of an exemplary scenario of a player beginning to participate in a Massively Multiplayer Online Reality Role-Playing Game ((MMO)RRPG), constructed according to the principles of the present invention. On a player's first visit 110 he typically registers his character in the form of an avatar 120. He then initializes his real identity attributes and a minimal set of shared avatar attributes, i.e., those not specific to any specific world or context scenario 130.
An introductory tutorial is perused or optionally can be skipped 140. It is then determined whether the Player has a content scenario world 150. If not then he wanders and experiences worlds passively 160 until he joins a specific world 170 and initializes the world with specific attributes and goals 180. Once the player has at least one content scenario he can continue to participate in the game as outlined in FIG. 5.
is an exemplary schematic block diagram of an attribute structure 200
representing a player as an artificial character or avatar, constructed according to the principles of the present invention. These attributes can be divided into three categories:
- Real identity attributes 210: Attributes identifying the real person behind the player. Some of these attributes are initialized when the person enrolls any of the games or content scenarios. Other attributes can be added and/or modified later on. The values of these attributes are initially confidential—other players cannot see them and they are needed by the game operator(s) mainly for registration, charging and legal purposes. As the player joins one or more content scenarios he can decide to reveal parts of his real identity. This decision is preferably both attribute-specific and game-world (content scenario) specific.
- Avatar Attributes 220: These characterize the artificial character representing the real player within the game world(s). These attributes can be sub-divided into two groups:
- Shared attributes 221: those attributes, which are persistent and invariable between different game worlds, define basic characteristics of the avatar.
- Private attributes 222: those attributes that are valid within a specific game world. They may be overloaded based on the game world context. They may also override shared attributes within a specific game world context. They are arranged in a linked list of attributes per content scenario (see content scenario 1 attributes . . . content scenario N attributes 222, where N is a natural number). The number of content scenarios is unlimited, thus the structure should be implemented based on expandable data structures. Some of these attributes are static while others are dynamic and change as the game advances.
- Global computed attributes 230: These attributes are used to hold computed and/or combined values as derived from the avatar attributes in different contents scenarios. This makes it possible to enable interaction between content scenarios and a player's achievements in each one of them in order to derive global values for that player—values which are not specific to any certain game environment.
All types of attributes presented above should be registered based on a distributed registration method, such as Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) based Object identifiers (OID's). ASN.1 is a formal notation used to define data types and encode data values and a language that describes the data structures that make up an abstract syntax.
In order to protect values of attributes in each content scenario, and in order to protect the global computed attributes, a protection through digital signature technology is needed, so that each content scenario can access and modify only its unique attributes. The global attributes are modifiable by the game operator (or by more than one operator, through a predefined protocol and strong authentication of the operators handling these attributes).
FIG. 3 is an exemplary schematic block diagram of a system that facilitates portability of the artificial character or avatar representing a player to other game environments and/or content scenarios, constructed according to the principles of the present invention.
Since initially not all game worlds will necessarily adopt an agreed structure, as presented in FIG. 2
described above, a manual method of exporting and importing avatar attributes is needed. Additionally, a game operator may decide to let players save their avatar attributes in a file structure 300
, which can be kept off-line for a certain period of time and reloaded when the player wishes to join the game again. The structure of the saved file is defined by a Portable Avatar Format (PAF) 300
, which constitutes a part of the present invention. When exporting an avatar, it can be partially or fully exported, at the discretion of the player according to the constraints imposed by the game(s) operator(s). One or more of the following export options may be allowed:
- Full export (Player 310 and full avatar attributes 320)
- Player attributes 310 export (can be useful for creation of a new avatar with same real player's attributes)
- Avatar attributes export (from a single content scenario, a group of content scenarios or all content scenarios 322).
- Global computed attributes (330) may be nullified while exported, since they will be computed dynamically when the exported avatar is imported in the future.
Importing a saved PAF file is also a modular process. Any type of PAF file can be imported into an existing player's structure while ignoring or nullifying certain attributes based on constraints imposed by the game operator's import rules for each content scenario. The PAF file also includes PAF-file attributes (340) which are needed for its management, identification, storage and protection (by signatures).
A set of export/import operations can be used in order to merge attributes from different game environments into a newly created player/avatar structure to be imported into another game environment. External tools for manipulation of PAF files may support these operations.
It is important to note that attribute values are preferably protected by digital signatures of the exporting entities. A player cannot manually change attributes or use a certain content scenario's avatar attributes in another content scenario, unless permitted by the policy defined by each content scenario's operator. The same policies dictate what should be stored in the global computed attributes.
FIG. 4 is an exemplary schematic block diagram of a system that facilitates coexistence of the artificial character or avatar representing a player in several parallel game worlds at the same time, constructed according to the principles of the present invention.
Players 420 are represented as player 1 to player M, where M is a natural number. Game worlds (content scenarios) 410 are represented as Content Scenario 1 to Content Scenario N, where N is a natural number. A virtual Integration Engine 430 monitors attributes of players based on policies dictated by each Content Scenario, and computes global computed attributes as described in FIG. 2 above. Integration engine 430 is considered virtual since it may be constructed from an aggregation of computation rules, data and methods mutually agreed upon by the collection of interacting game worlds, while the actual engine may be either at a central location or distributed within the cooperating game worlds.
In order to protect values of attributes in each content scenario 410, and in order to protect the global computed attributes, protection through digital signature technology is needed, so that each content scenario 410 can access and modify only its unique attributes. The global attributes are modifiable by the game operator or, alternatively, by more than one operator, through a predefined protocol and strong authentication of the operators handling these attributes.
is an exemplary flow chart illustration of a scenario of a player continuing to participate in a Massively Multiplayer Online Reality Role-Playing Game ((MMO)RRPG) once the player does have a content scenario world, performed according to the principles of the present invention.
- The specific game world selected by the player is initialized 510: The state is derived from values stored centrally within the game operator's database and existing avatar attribute values.
- The values for the player's avatar are either loaded from the game operator's database or from a stored avatar in the exemplary format associated with PAF attributes 340 or a merging of both sources 520. In order to prevent fraudulent attribute value initialization, all values are signed by one or more game operators and verified using digital signature mechanisms.
- Global computed attributes are calculated and recalculated as a part of the game world initialization each time a player enters a game world and recalculated again periodically or when requested by game engine logic 530.
- Once the player starts playing 540, he can engage in different activities as described above in the summary of the present invention, including the following activities:
- perform quests 541;
- engage in non-quest credit enabling activities 542;
- interact with other players 543;
- handle modifiable avatar attributes and/or save/export his avatar 544;
- switch game worlds 545; and
- interact with external spectators, such as reality TV programs spectators 546.
FIG. 5 depicts a setup where the player can play a single game world at any instance. This does not mean that concurrent playing in more than one world is impossible. The present invention makes it possible to play in several game worlds concurrently based on game interaction protocols (GIP's) and avatar portability as described in reference to FIG. 4 above.
Having described the present invention with regard to certain specific embodiments thereof, it is to be understood that the description is not meant as a limitation, since further modifications will now suggest themselves to those skilled in the art, and it is intended to cover such modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims.