US 20080182664 A1
Games in which players cooperate to help each other score points or win prizes are described. In a game, players are grouped into rooms where they can collect puzzle pieces using a random selection technique, such as a spinner. The spinner can provide puzzle pieces, points, additional spins, and/or loss of spins. The player can position a puzzle piece on a game board, offer to give a puzzle piece to another player in the room, and/or offer to trade a puzzle piece for another player's puzzle piece. The other players can accept or reject proposed gifts and/or trades. The player can collect and use the puzzle pieces to complete the puzzle. The player can earn points for completing the puzzle, which may be used to win a prize.
1. A game that promotes cooperative and interactive play to complete a puzzle, the game comprising:
entering a room of the game;
collecting a puzzle piece using a random selection technique;
using any puzzle piece, wherein using any puzzle piece includes selectively performing at least one of positioning a puzzle piece on a game board, offering to give a puzzle piece to another player in the room, and offering to trade a puzzle piece for another puzzle piece of another player in the room;
accepting/rejecting a proposed gift of a puzzle piece from another player;
accepting/rejecting a proposed trade of a puzzle piece from another player;
repeating at least collecting and using puzzle pieces until completing the puzzle; and
earning points for completing the puzzle.
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22. A computer-readable medium comprising instructions that, when run on a computer, generate signals to control the steps of a game, the game promoting cooperative and interactive play to complete a puzzle, the instructions comprising:
instructions for a player to enter a room of the game;
instructions for the player to collect a puzzle piece using a random selection technique;
instructions for the player to use any puzzle piece, wherein using any puzzle piece includes selectively performing at least one of positioning a puzzle piece on a game board, offering to give a puzzle piece to another player in the room, and offering to trade a puzzle piece for another puzzle piece of another player in the room;
instructions for the player to accept/reject a proposed gift of a puzzle piece from another player;
instructions for the player to accept/reject a proposed trade of a puzzle piece from another player;
instructions for the player to repeat at least collecting and using puzzle pieces until completing the puzzle; and
instructions for the player to earn points for completing the puzzle.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to games and particularly to games that encourage positive social interaction through cooperative play in real-time multiplayer online environments.
2. Related Art
Typical online games targeted to casual players (often called “casual games”) are strongly influenced in their design by console or arcade games. Consequently, most casual games adopt a competitive, challenge-oriented, or ‘beat the clock’ format. Further, most casual games provide for little or no interaction between players other than chat windows or relative rankings of scores. Many casual game players, however, prefer to engage in less-pressured leisure activities, often in small social groups where they can make new friends or enhance existing relationships.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, various design concepts for games in which players cooperate to help each other score points or win prizes are described. Cooperative game play creates a different social experience than games that offer zero-sum, winner take all, or negative consequences. Cooperative game play can deliver a more positive social experience for the players, e.g. by providing a structured format in which to help (and be helped) by others, through altruistic and mutually beneficial behavior.
In order to play in a game, the player first enters a “room”. That is, at any point in time, each player is assigned to a specific room, usually with other players. Once in the room, the player can collect a puzzle piece using a random selection technique. In one embodiment, the random selection technique can be a spinner that provides puzzle pieces, points, additional spins, and/or loss of spins.
At this point, the player can “use” any puzzle piece, i.e. positioning a puzzle piece on his/her game board, offering to give a puzzle piece to another player in the room, and/or offering to trade a puzzle piece for another puzzle piece of another player in the room. The other player can accept or reject the gift/trade. Similarly, the player can accept or reject gifts or trades proposed by other players. The player can repeat the steps of collecting and using puzzle pieces until the player completes the puzzle. The player can earn points for completing the puzzle, and points can be used to claim prizes.
In one game, the puzzle piece is a chain segment and a completed puzzle forms a chain having at least two end pieces or forming a loop. In this game, the points for completing the chain correspond to the number of links in the chain.
In another game, the puzzle piece is a picture piece and a completed puzzle forms a picture.
In yet another game, the puzzle piece is a tile piece and a completed puzzle forms a tile pattern. In this game, the points for completing the tile pattern correspond to a number of background colors. For example, in one embodiment, the fewer the number of colors in the background, the higher the points earned.
In yet another game, the puzzle piece is a card and a completed puzzle forms a card hand. In this game, the points for completing the card hand corresponds to patterns of cards in the hand (e.g. “Royal Flush”, “Two Queens”, “Three Eights”, etc.).
In yet another game, the puzzle piece is a layer of a layered stack (e.g. a food item, such as a hamburger or bun) and the completed puzzle forms a stack (e.g. a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion) with proper placement of layers.
In yet another game, the puzzle piece is a letter and a completed puzzle forms a word. In this game, the game board can contain slots into which letters are placed, and a sequence of adjacent letters that spell a proper word is a completed puzzle. In this game, the longer the word formed, the more points earned by the player.
The above-described games can be stored on a computer-readable medium. This computer-readable medium comprises instructions that, when run on a computer, generate signals to control the steps of a game. Exemplary instructions can include instructions for a player to enter a room of the game, instructions for the player to collect a puzzle piece using a random selection technique, instructions for the player to use the puzzle piece (wherein using the puzzle piece includes selectively performing at least one of positioning the puzzle piece on a game board, offering to give the puzzle piece to another player in the room, and offering to trade the puzzle piece for another puzzle piece of another player in the room), instructions for the player to accept/reject gifts or trades proposed by other players, instructions for the player to repeat collecting and using puzzle pieces until completing the puzzle, and instructions for the player to earn points for completing the puzzle.
Note that various features as described above for specific exemplary games can easily be used in other games. To minimize undue repetition hereafter, the description of a feature may be limited to one exemplary game. However, the use of such feature may be applicable to one or more games.
In contrast to most casual games, where players compete or try to “beat” each other in some fashion, the games described hereafter provide incentives for players to help each other achieve their shared or individual goals. These games may include some or all of the following elements: discrete puzzle pieces, combination of puzzle pieces, view of a shared playing environment (i.e. a room) for most or all players, offering to give and/or trade puzzle pieces, and accepting/rejecting of offers.
A player can assemble these collected puzzle pieces according to predetermined rules set forth for the players. A correct combination allows a player to progress in the game. This progress can be determined by the scoring of points.
In one embodiment, the playing environment can advantageously allow each player to see some or all of the current state of play for the other players. This playing environment can include, but is not limited to, showing which puzzle pieces the players currently possess on their game boards, whether the players are currently “using” the puzzle pieces, and providing the context to determine how valuable the puzzle pieces are to another player's strategy or situation.
In one embodiment, a player can offer to give or trade one or more puzzle pieces to another player. This giving/trading may provide advantages to one or both players' advantage. In one embodiment, a potential recipient of an offer can accept or reject the proposed gift or trade of puzzle pieces. Enabling reciprocal altruism of this kind helps to reinforce a positive shared experience, stimulates social interaction, and creates ‘social debts’ that encourage continued play to afford opportunities to return the favor.
In step 101, a player in the game can select a prize. In one embodiment, players select the prizes that they wish to play for before starting to play. These prizes can have associated point values. Thus, each player must earn at least the number of points associated with the selected prize to claim that prize. In one embodiment, players can optionally change their prize at any time during the game.
In step 102, the player can enter a “room”. This room is a virtual room that can include any number of visual indicators of the presence of other players and of the nature of the game being played. In one embodiment, a player can select the room. In another embodiment, a player can be assigned (e.g. by a game manager) to a room. In this virtual room, other players may already be active in playing the game. Advantageously, in addition to seeing and playing on his/her own game board (referenced herein as the “current” player), each player can view the game boards of some or all of the other players present in the room. However, each player in the room may have a distinct and potentially inconsistent view of the room, boards, or arrangements of the other players.
In this embodiment, a random selection technique can be used to collect a puzzle piece in step 103. An exemplary random selection technique can include activating a “spinner” to collect a puzzle piece. Other examples include the dealing of a card, a “grab bag”, selection of a numbered ball from a rotating basket (as in Bingo), etc. In one embodiment, the players may pay for each spin, be limited in the number of puzzle pieces they can acquire over a given time period, and/or otherwise have some cost or limitation imposed on their acquisition of the puzzle pieces. In one embodiment, based on a player's actions or status in the game, that player may receive one or more free “spins”.
Using the collected puzzle piece determined by the random selection technique, the player can then position the puzzle piece on a game board in attempting to complete the puzzle in step 104. Specifically, the player can assemble, arrange, or combine any puzzle pieces then on the game board to form a desired result. The desired result may for example be a picture, a tile pattern, a card hand, or a word. The puzzle may have a matrix format, a stacked format, or an appropriate format for the desired result. Step 105 determines whether the puzzle is completed.
Note that, in some embodiments, the number of pieces that can be obtained or managed at a given time may be limited. In such embodiments, a player may need to discard one or more puzzle pieces to acquire more puzzle pieces and progress in the game.
If the puzzle is not completed, then step 106 allows a player to interact with another player, i.e. by offering to give puzzle pieces to other players or to trade puzzle pieces with other players. That is, because the number of pieces a player has to work with may be limited and other players' puzzle pieces are shown on their game boards, each player may propose to trade or give a puzzle piece to another player. The other player can accept or reject any proposed gift/trade. If a gift/trade is accepted, then the game returns to step 104 so that the player can continue their efforts to solve the puzzle with the new puzzle piece. If the gift/trade is not accepted, then the player returns to step 103 to collect another puzzle piece. Note that step 106 does not require the player to trade/gift puzzle pieces, but provides such an opportunity to promote cooperative and interactive behavior between players. In addition, the player may accept or reject proposed trades/gifts from other players.
If the player has completed the puzzle (step 105), then step 107 determines whether the player has earned enough points to claim the player's selected prize (as selected or automatically designated in step 101). Players may score points in a number of ways. For example, a “spin” itself may award points or free spins (in addition to puzzle pieces). In another embodiment, partial or complete solutions to the puzzle may earn various point values. In yet another embodiment, players may be rewarded for cooperative or positive behavior. In yet another embodiment, players may earn points based on continuous or frequent play.
If the player has earned enough points, then the player can claim the selected prize in step 108. In one embodiment, when sufficient points have been earned to claim the prize, the player is offered the option of claiming the prize, changing to another prize, or simply continuing to earn more points that can be used to claim prizes in the future. If the player decides not to claim any prize, then the player can return to step 103.
Note that at any time during the game, the player can decide to stop playing. In one embodiment, the number of points accumulated by the player can be saved and used for future games.
In this embodiment, the current player is in the center of the screen (which shows the room), with up to two other players to the left and two to the right. Note that from each player's perspective, the designation for that player can appear to be in the center position on that player's screen, since each player is viewing the room on a different screen. Further, the fact that a specific player appears in a particular position relative to another player on their own screen (for example, to the left of the other player) does not mean that they appear to the left of that other player on all player's screens. That is, the arrangement of players does not need to be physically consistent across all players' screens.
As noted above, in one embodiment, a player can select a prize that the player wishes to play for. A picture of the prize and the number of points required to claim that prize can appear over their game board just above their current score. For example, in the screen shot shown in
In this game, a player can take a turn by pressing the orange ‘Spin’ button at the bottom center of the player's screen. In turn, a spinner 201 (in this screen, just above the spin button) can rotate (e.g. from top to bottom) similar in appearance to a single reel of a slot machine. Each horizontal segment (in this case, 3 horizontal segments) of spinner 201 can show a chain segment or a message (e.g. “10 Free Spins”, “100 Free Points”, “Bad Luck” or “Try Again” (i.e. a loss of a spin), etc.). In one embodiment, spinner 201 can slow down as it turns (like a slot machine). The element that appears in the center segment of the spinner when spinner 201 stops is the result of the spin.
If spinner 201 stops on a chain segment, the chain segment can appear to “fly off” spinner 201 and land on a highlighted square on a game board 202. In this game, game board 202 is a 3×3 matrix. In one embodiment, a player can set the location of the highlighted square by clicking on a square before beginning the spin.
Using a mouse, the current player can then “drag and drop” chain segments around a game board 202. In one embodiment, dragging and dropping a chain segment on a square already occupied by a chain segment will result in swapping locations of the two chain segments. On the other hand, if the designated square is not occupied, then the chain segment is simply moved to that square.
If the movement(s) form a completed chain (i.e. a chain having at least two end pieces or a loop), then the completed chain flashes, a sound is played, the player's score is incremented based on the length of the chain (longer chains with more links are worth more points), a message such as “Jerry scored 300 points with a 3 piece chain” appears in the chat window, and the completed chain is cleared from the board.
Note that while this individual activity is taking place, up to four other players in the room are independently engaged in parallel play with their own spinners and boards. If three or more players' spinners happen to land on the same segment or message at the same time, those players “match”, and get awarded some extra points.
If the player has chain segments that are unwanted, then the player can propose a trade by dragging the unwanted chain segment to a square on another player's board occupied by another chain segment. In this case, a double-ended arrow 203 can appear on the recipient's screen, thereby indicating which link on the proposing player's game board is being offered in return for which link on the recipient's game board. At this point, the recipient can click on a “yes” button to accept the trade, or a “no” button to decline. In one embodiment, the “yes” and “no” buttons can appear in a pop-up box (not shown in this screen shot). If the trade is accepted, then the chain segments are exchanged on both players' game boards. In one embodiment, the proposing player can also propose to give a chain segment away, by dragging the unwanted chain segment to an unoccupied square on the recipient's game board.
In one embodiment, players can chat with each other at any time by typing into a chat field 204 and clicking a “Send” button. Players can change rooms (wherein any game may have a plurality of players divided into multiple playing rooms), change games, or log off at any time during a game. In one embodiment, when logging back on, a player's prize, score, and current board can be restored to the same state they were in when the player logged off. In one embodiment, a player's prize and score are “portable” in that they can be taken to any other room or game.
In one embodiment, a horizontal segment of the spinner can also show a “wild card”. This special piece can be used in substitution for any puzzle piece. For example, in
If the movement of a picture piece forms a completed picture (e.g. a picture of a horse in
The player can then decide to repeat solving the puzzle using the same picture or try to solve another puzzle using a new picture. In one embodiment, when a player tries to solve another puzzle using a new picture (i.e. still playing the same game), all the picture pieces on all the players' boards on the player's screen change to this new picture. Notably, in this embodiment, different players may be working on and looking at different pictures, even though they are in the same room and trading pieces. For example, the current player (in the center position) is working on a picture of a horse, and so the same picture pieces would appear on the other players' game boards on this player's screen even if the other players are actually working on other pictures on their own screens. This simultaneous use of different pictures by different players is possible because only the position of the piece is important in assessing trades, not the actual picture each player is working on, and each player is viewing his/her room on a separate screen. That is, the role of each picture piece in its picture is solely determined by its place (e.g. a location in the matrix) in that picture. Thus, as explained previously, each player may experience a unique and physically inconsistent representation of the room on their individual screens.
In game 400, if the movement of a tile piece forms a completed picture (i.e. a smiley face is formed irrespective of the number of background colors), then the completed picture flashes, a sound is played, the player's score is incremented based on the number of colors in the background of the completed smiley face (the fewer the colors the higher the score), a message such as “Jerry scored 300 points with a face on a two-color background.” appears in the chat window, and the player's game board is cleared.
Note that through careful management of the puzzle pieces, a player can simultaneously complete two faces at a time, since each tile piece can be used to form two faces.
In one embodiment, the description of the current poker hand and its value (score) appears above the hand of the current player (e.g. in the screen shot of
When the player next clicks the Spin button, five new cards appear in the player's hand. If the player has an unwanted card, then the player can drag the unwanted card to a slot on another player's hand (if other players are currently playing), to propose a trade or a gift.
In this embodiment, if the spinner stops on an ingredient, then the ingredient flies off the spinner and lands on the currently highlighted layer in the game board. Using the mouse, the player can drag and drop ingredients to form the stack. When the placement of layers is proper, the completed stack (in this case, a burger) flashes, a sound is played, the player's score is incremented based on the value of the stack, a message such as “Jerry scored 250 points with a sesame cheese burger.” appears in the chat window, and the stack is cleared. If the player has unwanted ingredients, then the player can drag the unwanted ingredient to a layer on another player's stack to propose a trade or a gift.
Variants of this game include other stackable foods, such as pancakes, layer cakes, Neapolitan ice creams, etc. Note that each player can be working on a food of their own choice, independent of the other players in the room, and the ingredients appear differently on each player's screen, as long as the layer placement rules are consistent. (see “Picture Magic” for further description).
In this example, the current player's stack (in the center position) is a double cheese burger with garnish. The current player has 741,086 points, or 241,086 points more than required to claim their prize. A player can claim the selected prize at any time by clicking on the “Claim Prize” button 602.
When a real word is formed that completely fills one row, two adjacent rows, or a plurality of adjacent rows, the completed word flashes, a sound is played, the player's score is incremented based on the number of letters in that word, a message such as “Jerry scored 250 points by spelling ‘magic’.” appears in the chat window, and the word is cleared off the board.
In the embodiment shown in
In one embodiment, the game can provide the player a hint that a word could be spelled with the provided letters. For example, in
If the player has unwanted letters, the player can drag the unwanted letters to a slot on another player's game board, to propose a trade with or gift to that other player.
In this example, the current player's board (in the center position) has ten letters, and the longest proper word is comprised of five letters (H, S, O, U, T). The current player has 528,710 points, or 28,710 points more than required to claim their prize. Therefore, the current player can claim the selected prize (i.e. the movie ticket) at any time by clicking on the “Claim Prize” button.
The games described above can be implemented using one or more computer programs that execute on a programmable system including at least one programmable processor coupled to receive data and instructions from, and to transmit data and instructions to, a data storage system, at least one input device, and at least one output device. A computer program can be implemented in a high-level procedural or object-oriented programming language, or in assembly or machine language if desired; and in any case, the language can be a compiled or interpreted language. Suitable processors include, by way of example, both general and special purpose microprocessors, as well as other types of micro-controllers. Generally, a processor will receive instructions and data from a read-only memory and/or a random access memory. A computer can include one or more mass storage devices for storing data files; such devices include magnetic disks, such as internal hard disks and removable disks, magneto-optical disks, and optical disks. Storage devices suitable for tangibly embodying computer program instructions and data include all forms of non-volatile memory, including by way of example semiconductor memory devices, such as EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory devices, magnetic disks such as internal hard disks and removable disks, magneto-optical disks, and CDROM disks. Any of the foregoing can be supplemented by, or incorporated in, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).
As described above, all games in accordance with the present invention advantageously rely on both skill and luck to accomplish a result, which allows players to accumulate points. Although illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described in detail herein with reference to the accompanying figures, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments. They are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. As such, many modifications and variations will be apparent. For example, although the game boards are shown using a certain size matrix, stack, or number of lines, other game boards can include any size matrix, stack height, segment shape (e.g. triangles instead of squares) or number of lines. In addition, cooperative games could be designed in which players share and contribute pieces to a single board, and points scored are divided according to some rules among the players contributing to a solution. Accordingly, it is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the following Claims and their equivalents.