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Publication numberUS20080200233 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/676,311
Publication dateAug 21, 2008
Filing dateFeb 19, 2007
Priority dateFeb 19, 2007
Publication number11676311, 676311, US 2008/0200233 A1, US 2008/200233 A1, US 20080200233 A1, US 20080200233A1, US 2008200233 A1, US 2008200233A1, US-A1-20080200233, US-A1-2008200233, US2008/0200233A1, US2008/200233A1, US20080200233 A1, US20080200233A1, US2008200233 A1, US2008200233A1
InventorsEiji Aida
Original AssigneeKonami Gaming Incorporated
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gaming system monitoring client terminals with hybrid reel assemblies
US 20080200233 A1
Abstract
In a thin-client gaming system according to the present invention, a server performs computations for the control over a game on a gaming machine, and hardware thereof including hybrid reel assemblies. Each hybrid reel assembly includes a mechanical reel and electric display devices mounted on the circumferential surface of the reel. The server commands the display devices and motors of the hybrid reel assemblies, and provides image data to the display devices. By using a terminal observer unit, the server estimates the current status of the gaming terminal, and in particular the hybrid reel assemblies. Preferably, when having estimated excessive deviation between the positions of the reels and symbols displayed on the display devices, the terminal observer unit will quickly cause a game process to be stopped and the reels to continuously rotate, and then inform a game system administrator of the error.
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Claims(6)
1. A gaming system comprising a gaming terminal and a server configured to communicate with each other,
the gaming terminal comprising:
a console unit configured to accept data identifying a game program selected by a player and an instruction from a player to change the status of a game conducted by the selected game program;
a plurality of hybrid reel assemblies coaxially arranged and each comprising a mechanical reel, a motor configured to rotate the mechanical reel under the control of the server, and an electric display device mounted on the circumferential surface of the mechanical reel and configured to reproduce an image under the control of the server; and
a terminal communications unit configured to transmit a request for a game program selected by a player, an instruction from a player to change game status, and data indicating a current position of the mechanical reel to the server, and receive commands for the motor and the electric display device and image data to be used by the electric display device from the server; and
the server comprising:
a server communications unit configured to receive a request for a game program, an instruction to change game status, and data indicating a current position of the mechanical reel from the gaming terminal, and transmit commands for the motor and the electric display device and image data to be used by the electric display device to the gaming terminal;
a memory unit configured to store a plurality of game programs;
a game controller unit configured to invoke a game program identified by the request from the memory unit, change game status in response to the instruction, and generate image data to be used by the electric display device depending on the game status;
a reel controller unit configured to generate a command for the motor to control the rotation of the mechanical reel depending on the current position thereof;
a display controller unit configured to generate a command for the electric display device to control an image to be reproduced thereon depending on the game status; and
a terminal observer unit configured to estimate the state of the gaming terminal on the basis of the game status, the command and the image data for the electric display device, the command for the motor, and the current position of the mechanical reel.
2. A gaming system according to claim 1, further comprising a monitoring terminal configured to visualize the state of the gaming terminal estimated by the terminal observer unit.
3. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the reel controller unit is further configured to control the rotation of the mechanical reel depending on the game status as well as the position of the mechanical reel.
4. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the display controller unit is further configured to control an image to be reproduced on the electric display device depending on the position of the mechanical reel as well as the game status.
5. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the display controller unit is further configured to turn off or reduce the brightness of a portion of or all of the electric display device that is located in an invisible position.
6. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the display controller unit is further configured to cause the electric display device to reproduce a specific image that moves on the circumferential surface of the mechanical reel in the reverse direction of the rotation of the mechanical reel, and thereby cause a player to see the specific image remaining stationary or moving freely independent of the rotation of the mechanical reel.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a gaming system comprising gaming terminals and a server that is installed in a casino or the like.

2. Background Information

Gaming machines such as slot machines, poker machines, fruit machines, and the like generally attract enormous popularity from players in casinos. Such a gaming machine displays an arrangement of symbols on the front thereof, and changes the types of symbols in the arrangement at random. A player guesses which line of the arrangement (i.e., payline) a specific combination of symbols (i.e., winning combination) will appear, and places a bet on the payline before the symbols are changed in the arrangement. If a winning combination appears on the payline where he/she has placed a bet, the player will win an amount of a payout that depends on the amount of the bet and the type of the winning combination.

This type of gaming machine is generally equipped with mechanical reels that are coaxially arranged and allowed to independently spin by respective motors. Symbols are permanently displayed on the circumferential surfaces on each reel in a predetermined order. The reels repeat spins and stops, and thereby change the visible symbols. Alternatively, this type of gaming machine may be equipped with an electric display device, and symbols are arranged in graphic form (i.e., video reel) on a screen of the electric display device.

There is a prior art gaming machine equipped with improved reel assemblies (hereinafter, hybrid reel assemblies) that have both the merits of mechanical and video reels (cf. U.S. Published Patent Applications Nos. 2003/0060269, 2003/0220134, 2006/0100013, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/419,204). Each of the hybrid reel assemblies comprises a mechanical reel, and one or more electric display devices that are mounted on the circumferential surface on the mechanical reel. Symbols are displayed in graphic form on a screen of the electric display device. Hybrid reel assemblies retain the real three-dimensional motion of symbols caused by the rotation of the mechanical reel. This three-dimensional motion causes many players to prefer mechanical reels to video reels. On the other hand, hybrid reel assemblies can easily change symbols depending on the status or type of games, since the change in symbols require only updates of image data used by the electric display devices. This facilitates model changes for gaming machines and brilliant visual effects in games without the replacement of portions of the mechanical reels. In addition, hybrid reel assemblies can freely expand the range of odds in games, since the sizes of the mechanical reels do not limit the number of symbols per reel. Accordingly, hybrid reel assemblies are especially suitable for use in gaming machines placed in arcades and casinos.

In most casinos and the like, many gaming machines are connected to one or more management servers, which monitor and control the states of the gaming machines collectively. Accordingly, it is desirable that the management server can control hybrid reel assemblies installed in the gaming machines, and in particular update image data of symbols to be used by electric display devices mounted on mechanical reels. On the other hand, hybrid reel assemblies require highly accurate performance in both the mechanical reels and the electric display devices installed therein under severe stresses caused by the spinning of the reels. In particular, the consistency between positions of the reels and symbols displayed on the display devices must be maintained with high reliability, like conventional mechanical reels with symbols permanently fixed on the circumferential surfaces thereof. Accordingly, it is also desirable that the management server can monitor the states of the gaming machines, in particular, the states of hybrid reel assemblies installed therein.

In view of the above, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that there exists a need for an improved gaming system in which each gaming machine comprises hybrid reel assemblies, and the gaming system can ensure highly accurate performance in the mechanical reels and electric display devices installed thereon. This invention addresses this need in the art as well as other needs, which will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A gaming system according to the present invention comprises a gaming terminal and a server configured to communicate with each other.

The gaming terminal comprises a console unit, a plurality of hybrid reel assemblies, and a terminal communications unit. The console unit is configured to accept data identifying a game program selected by a player and an instruction from a player to change the status of a game conducted by the selected game program. The hybrid reel assemblies are coaxially arranged, and each comprises a mechanical reel, a motor, and an electric display device. The motor is configured to rotate the mechanical reel under control of the server. The electric display device is mounted on the circumferential surface of the mechanical reel, and configured to reproduce an image under control of the server. The terminal communications unit is configured to transmit a request for a game program selected by a player, an instruction from a player to change the game status, and data indicating the current position of the mechanical reel to the server. The terminal communications unit is also configured to receive commands for the motor and the electric display device, and image data to be used by the electric display device from the server.

The server comprises a server communications unit, a memory unit, a game controller unit, a reel controller unit, a display controller unit, and a terminal observer unit. The server communications unit is configured to receive a request for a game program, an instruction to change the game status, and data indicating the current position of the mechanical reel, from the gaming terminal. The server communications unit is also configured to transmit commands for the motor and the electric display device, and image data to be used by the electric display device to the gaming terminal. The memory unit is configured to store a plurality of game programs. The game controller unit is configured to invoke a game program identified by the request from the memory unit, change the game status in response to instruction, and generate image data to be used by the electric display device depending on the game status. The reel controller unit is configured to generate a command for the motor to control the rotation of the mechanical reel depending on the current position thereof. The display controller unit is configured to generate a command for the electric display device to control an image to be reproduced thereon depending on the game status. The terminal observer unit is configured to estimate the state of the gaming terminal on the basis of the game status, the command and the image data for the electric display device, the command for the motor, and the current position of the mechanical reel.

This gaming system is of a thin-client type where, in particular, the server performs computations for control over the hybrid reel assemblies of the gaming terminal. More specifically, the server generates image data to be displayed on the electric display devices of the hybrid reel assemblies, and commands the electric display devices and the motors of the hybrid reel assemblies. The gaming terminal reproduces the image data on the electric display devices and rotates the mechanical reels by means of the motors in accordance with commands. In this case, by using the terminal observer unit, the server can easily estimate the current status of the gaming terminals, in particular the hybrid reel assemblies thereof. Accordingly, the server can keep track of the state of the hybrid reel assemblies without any feedback except for the current reel positions from the gaming terminal. Preferably, when the terminal observer unit has estimated excessive deviation between positions of the mechanical reels and symbols displayed on the electric display devices, the terminal observer unit will quickly cause the game controller unit to stop a game process and the reel controller unit to continue rotating the reels without stopping any position, and then inform an administrator of the error. Thus, the server can quickly and accurately control the hybrid reel assemblies through communications, and therefore ensure highly accurate performance of the hybrid reel assemblies, in particular, highly reliable consistency between the positions of the reels and symbols displayed on the display devices.

The gaming system preferably comprises a monitoring terminal configured to visualize the states of the gaming terminal estimated by the terminal observer unit, preferably in real time. In this case, developers and administrators of the gaming system can construct and manage the gaming system more easily by using the monitoring terminal.

Either the reel controller unit or the display controller unit may adjust the relationship in positions between the mechanical reels and symbols displayed on the electric display devices, especially in an initialization at the start of a new game or each round of a game. Preferably, the reel controller unit is further configured to control the rotation of the mechanical reel depending on the game status as well as the position of the mechanical reel. In particular, the reel controller unit adjusts the position of the reel to match with the position of the symbol displayed on the display device to be visible from a player side. Conversely, the display controller unit may be further configured to control an image to be reproduced on the electric display device, depending on the position of the mechanical reel as well as the game status. In particular, the display controller unit adjusts the position of the symbols displayed on the display device to match with the position of the reel surface to be visible from the player side. In either case, the highly reliable consistency between positions of the reels and the symbols can be maintained.

Preferably, the display controller unit is further configured to turn off or reduce the brightness of a portion of or the entire electric display device that is located at an invisible position. This can reduce the power requirements for the hybrid reel assembly, and prevent the electric display device from damaging its screen due to static symbol images (e.g., burn-in on CRTs, image persistence on LCDs) and overheating.

Preferably, the display controller unit is further configured to cause the electric display device to reproduce a specific image that moves on the circumferential surface of the mechanical reel in the reverse direction of the rotation of the mechanical reel, and thereby cause a player to see the specific image remaining stationary or moving freely independent of the rotation of the mechanical reel. This enables the device to freely display various types of stationary and moving images (e.g., a foreground and a background of symbols, lines indicating paylines, a credit meter, etc.) on the screen of the display device, independent of the rotation of the reel. This may eliminate other display devices other than those mounted on the reels from the gaming terminal, and in addition facilitate the management of the server with respect to image data to be used by the gaming terminal.

These and other objects, features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, which, taken in conjunction with the annexed drawings, discloses a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring now to the attached drawings which form a part of this original disclosure:

FIG. 1 is a network diagram of a gaming system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view that shows the appearance of a gaming terminal shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram that shows the configuration of hybrid reel assemblies according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of the gaming terminal shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the server shown in FIG. 1;

FIGS. 6A and 6B are schematic cross-sectional views of a reel and a front panel of the gaming terminal shown in FIG. 1; and

FIGS. 7A, 7B, and 7C are schematic diagrams that each show a game screen visible through display windows of the gaming terminal shown in FIG. 1.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Selected embodiments of the present invention will now be explained with reference to the drawings. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that the following descriptions of the embodiments of the present invention are provided for illustration only and not for the purpose of limiting the invention as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

A gaming system according to an embodiment of the present invention is preferably installed in a casino where, as shown in FIG. 1, a plurality of gaming terminals 10 are placed on floors and connected to a server 30, which is preferably placed in a security room off-limits to players, through a LAN 20. This gaming system is preferably of a thin-client type. The server 30 executes game programs and performs computations for control over the gaming terminal 10. The gaming terminal 10 simply operates its own hardware under the control of the server 30, and serves as an interface between a player and the server 30, e.g., displays a game screen, produces visual and sound effects, receives and pays coins according to data and commands received from the server 30, and transmits requests and instructions accepted from a player to the server 30.

A gaming terminal 10 is preferably a stepper-reel slot machine as shown in FIG. 2. The components of this slot machine visible from the exterior include a cabinet 1, lamps 2, three sub-display units 3A, 3B, 3C, hybrid reel assemblies 5, a touch panel 6A, operation buttons 6B, a spin button 6C, a coin/bill slot 7, a coin chute 8A, and a coin tray 8B. The components of this slot machine mounted inside the cabinet 1 and invisible from the exterior include a terminal communications unit 101, a coin counter 103, a coin acceptor 104, a coin hopper 105, a console unit 106, and a speaker 107, as shown in FIG. 4.

The lamps 2 are illumination lights mainly for use in decoration and visual effects in games; they can blink and/or change brightness and color in specific patterns. The lamps 2 may be mounted on, for example, the top of the cabinet 1, as shown in FIG. 2, and in addition, the front, sides, and rear of the cabinet 1.

The three sub-display units 3A, 3B, and 3C each receive external image data, and reproduce images which correspond to the image data. The images include, for example, images for use in decoration, such as the image of a logo of a game developer, images for use in advertisements, images for use in visual effects in games and the display of information about games, such as pay tables, illustrations of game content, the amount of a bet, the number of credits available, and a jackpot meter.

The display window 4 is comprised of a plurality of holes provided in front of the cabinet 1 as shown in FIG. 2. Each hole is preferably covered with glass. The circumferential surface of a mechanical reel of the hybrid reel assembly 5 is visible through each display window 4 from the front (player's side) of the cabinet 1. In FIG. 2, the five hybrid reel assemblies 5 are coaxially arranged.

As shown in FIG. 3, each of the hybrid reel assemblies 5 comprises a mechanical reel 51, a motor assembly 52, an electric display device 53, a display driver unit 55, and a wireless communications unit 56.

The reel 51 is a cylindrical-shaped member rotatable around its center axis. The motor assembly 52 preferably comprises a steeping motor and a reel position sensor (not shown in figures). The stepping motor is coupled to the center axis of the reel 51, and rotates the reel 51 around the center axis under the control of a reel controller unit 31 of the server 30 (detail will be described below). The reel position sensor is preferably an encoder coupled to the stepping motor or the reel 51. The reel position sensor monitors a current position (i.e., rotation angle) of the reel 51, and feeds the server 30 with the current position.

The electric display device 53 is preferably a flexible liquid-crystal display device (LCD), or alternatively, a flexible organic electroluminescent display device (OLED), a matrix of light emitting diodes (LEDs), or a piece of electronic paper. One or more of the display devices 53 are mounted on the circumferential surface of the reel 51, and configured to reproduce images, in particular symbol graphics 54, to be visible through the display window 4 (cf. FIG. 2). The display driver unit 55 is preferably mounted on the inner surface of the reel 51, and the wireless communications unit 56 is placed on the cabinet 1, preferably in the vicinity of the circumferential surface of the reel 51. The display driver unit 55 uses a built-in wireless interface in wireless communication with the wireless communications unit 56, and thereby performs two-way communication with the display control unit 32 of the server 30 through the wireless communications unit 56. Here, the wireless interfaces are preferably based on the ISO/IEC 14443 standard (the international standard for contactless IC cards), or alternatively, Bluetooth™, UWB (ultra wideband wireless communications), wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11x), or IrDA (infrared-ray communications). On the other hand, the display driver unit 55 is preferably supplied with power from an external power source through a slip ring mounted on the axis of the reel 51. Note that the communication between the display driver unit 55 and the display control unit 32 of the server 30 may be also performed through the slip ring, instead of the wireless communications unit 56. The display driver unit 55 thus receive image data from the display control unit 32, and causes the display device 53 to reproduce image data at a proper position on the screen under the control of the display controller unit 32 (details will be described below). The image data represents, in particular, a predetermined line of symbols 54. Accordingly, the line of symbols 54 is displayed on the circumferential surface of the reel 51 (cf. FIG. 3). Different symbols 54 appear in the display window 4, depending on the rotation angle of the reel 51 and the positions of the symbols 54 on the screen of the display device 53.

In the case where the display device 53 is not of a self-emission type, such as LCD and electric paper, an external lighting device (e.g., fluorescent lamp or LED) is preferably placed in the vicinity or the inside of the reel 51 (not shown in figures), and brightly illuminates the front of the circumferential surface of the reel 51.

The console unit 106 is connected to input devices such as the touch panel 6A, the operation buttons 6B, and the spin button 6C (cf. FIG. 2), and accepts various kinds of instructions from a player through the input devices. The instructions in particular include a request for a game program selected by a player and an instruction from a player to change game status. The touch panel 6A preferably displays a keyboard image and a numeric keypad image thereon, thereby allowing a player to enter characters and numerals. The operation buttons 6B and the spin button 6C are lamp buttons, which include LEDs and light up when pushed. A player uses the operation buttons 6B especially in order to enter a bet. A player uses the spin button 8 in order to cue the reels 51 for the start of spin.

A player enters coins and bills into the coin/bill slot 7. The coin counter 103 counts the coins and bills. The coin acceptor 104 validates the coins and bills. The total amount of the validated coins and bills are displayed, for example, on the middle sub-display unit 3B as credits available to the player. The coin hopper 105 holds a large number of coins, and discharges the coins equivalent to the credits that the player has won on a game from the coin chute 8A into the coin tray 8B. The speaker 121 is installed inside the cabinet 1, and generates voice announcements and sound effects under the control of the server 30.

The terminal communications unit 101 preferably includes a CPU, a ROM, a RAM, and a network interface for the LAN 20, and controls the above-described components installed on the slot machine 10 under commands received from the server 30 through the LAN 20. Note that the terminal communications unit 101 does not compute any control data independent of the server 30. More specifically, the terminal communications unit 101 simply decodes and relays commands from the server 30 to each of the components, in particular, commands for the motor assembly 52 and the display driver unit 55 (or the display device 53) and image data to be used by the display device 53. In addition, the terminal communications unit 101 simply transmits requests and responses from the components to the server 30, e.g., a request for a game program selection, an instruction to change game status, and data indicating current positions of the reels 51.

The server 30 is preferably a single computer, or alternatively a group of computers that are linked to each other and serve separate functions through a network. As shown in FIG. 5, the server 30 comprises a reel controller unit 31, a display controller unit 32, a server communications unit 33, a game controller unit 34, a memory unit 35, and a terminal observer unit 36. These components are preferably constructed by collaboration between a CPU, a RAM, a ROM, and other peripheral devices according to respective programs executed by the CPU. These components exchange data and commands with each other through internal buses, and with the gaming terminal 10 through the server communications unit 33 and the LAN 20. The reel controller unit 31, the display controller unit 32, and the game controller unit 34 constitute a virtual gaming machine, i.e., control the hardware of the gaming terminal 10 remotely through the server communications unit 33 and the LAN 20.

The reel controller unit 31 generates commands for the motor assembly 52 of the hybrid reel assembly 5 in the gaming terminal 10 in order to cause the stepping motor to rotate the reel 51 depending on game status. The reel controller unit 31 preferably monitors the actual position and rotation speed of the reel 51 of the gaming terminal 10 through the reel position sensor of the motor assembly 52, and thereby uses the current position of the reel 51 in a feedback control over the stepping motor and the reel 51.

The display controller unit 32 generates commands for and image data to be used by the display devices 53 (i.e., the display driver unit 55) of the hybrid reel assembly 5 as well as the sub-display units 3A, 3B, and 3C. The display controller unit 32 thereby controls images to be reproduced on the display devices 53 (in particular, symbols 54) depending on game status.

Here, either the reel controller unit 31 or the display controller unit 32 may adjust the relationship in positions between the reel 51 and the symbols 54 displayed on the display devices 53, especially in an initialization at the start of a new game or each round of a game. Preferably, the reel controller unit 31 controls the rotation of the reel 51 depending on the game status as well as the current position of the reel 51. In particular, the reel controller unit 31 adjusts the position of the reel 51 to match with the position of the symbol 54 displayed on the display device 53 to be visible from a player side. Conversely, the display controller unit 32 may control images to be reproduced on the display device 53 depending on the position of the reel 51 as well as the game status. In particular, the display controller unit 32 adjusts the position of the symbols 54 to match with the position of the reel surface to be visible from the player side. In either case, the highly reliable consistency between positions of the reel 51 and the symbols 54 can be maintained.

The server communications unit 33 preferably includes a network interface for the LAN 20, and uses it to receive a request for a game program, an instruction to change game status, and data indicating a current position of the reel 51 from the gaming terminal 10, and transmit commands for the motor assembly 52 and the display devices 53 and image data to be used by the display devices 53 to the gaming terminal 10.

The memory unit 35 preferably stores a plurality of game programs 35A, 35B, 35C, 35D, . . . , which allows the selective playing of various games on the gaming terminal 10. In the case where the five reels 51 are installed in the gaming terminal 10 as shown in FIG. 2, the memory unit 35 may store slot game programs using three or four of the reels with or without an additional bonus reel, in addition to standard slot games using all the five reels.

The game controller unit 34 receives a request for a game program from the gaming terminal 10 through the server communications unit 33 and the LAN 20, and then invokes the game program identified by the request from the memory unit 35. After that, the game controller unit 34 conducts a slot game on the gaming terminal 10 according to the executed game program as follows.

First, the game controller unit 34 causes the display controller unit 32 to display symbols 54 linked to the slot game on the display devices 53, and produce visual effects for use in the slot game by the display devices 53, the sub-display units 3A, 3B, 3C, and the like. Next, when a player inserts coins or bills into the coin/bill slot 7, the game controller unit 34 increases credits of the player by the count of the coin counter 103. The player places a desired bet by using the touch panel 6A and the buttons 6B. The game controller unit 34 then decreases the credits by the amount of the bet accepted by the console unit 106. Here, the game controller unit 34 causes the display controller unit 32 to display the amounts of the bet and the credits and the selected paylines on the display devices 53 or the sub-display unit 3A, 3B, 3C. When the player pushes the spin button 6D, the game controller unit 34 detects the push through the console unit 106, and causes the reel controller unit 31 to command the motor assembly 52 to spin the three, four, or five reels 51. In parallel to that, the game controller unit 34 randomly determines symbols 54 to be displayed at the visible positions on the reels 51 when they will be stopped. Furthermore, the game controller unit 34 determines whether or not to provide an award to the player based on the arrangements of symbols on the stopped reels 51 with or without a winning combination of symbols. After a predetermined amount of time has elapsed from the start of the spin, the game controller unit 34 causes the reel controller unit 31 to stop the reels 51 at the determined positions. If the player has won an amount of a payout, the game controller unit 34 increases the credits of the player by the payout, or causes the coin hopper 105 to discharge the coins equivalent to the payouts. In addition, the game controller unit 34 provides the gaming terminal 10 with commands for controlling the lighting devices 2, 6A, 6B, 6C, and the speaker 107 and respective visual and audio data to be used thereby. The lighting devices are then turned on and off in the patterns represented by the visual data. The speaker 107 changes sounds to reproduce the sound effects according to the audio data. The game controller unit 34 also causes the display controller unit 32 to produce visual and sound effects by using the display devices 53 and the sub-display units 3A, 3B, and 3C.

The terminal observer unit 36 monitors the status of a game conducted by the game controller unit 34, the current positions of the reels 51 received and the commands for the motor assembly 52 transmitted by the reel controller unit 31, and the commands and image data for the display devices 53 transmitted by the display controller unit 32. The terminal observer unit 36 then estimates the states of the gaming terminal 10 on the basis of the game status, the commands, the image data, and the current position of the reels 51. Here, the gaming system is of a thin-client type where, in particular, the server 30 performs computations for the control over the hybrid reel assemblies 5 of the gaming terminal 10 by using the reel controller unit 31, the display controller unit 32, and the game controller unit 34. In this case, the terminal observer unit 36 can easily estimate the current status of the gaming terminal 10, in particular the hybrid reel assemblies 5 thereof. Accordingly, the server 30 can keep track of the states of the hybrid reel assemblies 5 without any feedback (except for the current reel positions of the reels 51) from the gaming terminal 10. Preferably, when the terminal observer unit 36 has estimated excessive deviations between positions of the reels 51 and the symbols 54 displayed on the display devices 53, the terminal observer unit 36 will quickly cause the game controller unit 34 to stop a game process and the reel controller unit 31 to continue rotating the reels 51 without stopping any position, and then inform an administrator of the error. Thus, the server 30 can quickly and accurately control the hybrid reel assemblies 5 through communications, and therefore ensure highly accurate performance of the hybrid reel assemblies, in particular, highly reliable consistency between positions of the reels 51 and the symbols 54 displayed on the display devices 53.

The monitoring terminal 37 is preferably a separate computer device that will be connected to the server 30 when required. Alternatively, the monitoring terminal 37 may be integrated into the server 30. The monitoring terminal 37 visualizes the states of the gaming terminal 10 estimated by the terminal observer unit 36, preferably in real time. In this case, the developers and administrators of the gaming system can construct and manage the gaming system more easily by using the monitoring terminal 37.

Preferably, the display controller unit 32 further causes the display driver unit 55 to turn off or reduce the brightness of a portion of or all of the display device 53 that is located at an invisible position. More specifically, the circumferential surface of the reel 51 are divided into a visible region R1 and an invisible region R2 from a player's position through the display window 4 at the front of the cabinet 1 of the gaming terminal 10, as shown in FIG. 6A. Here, the boundaries between the two regions R1 and R2 are preferably set at or behind points P1 and P2, where circumferential tangents to the reel 51 passing through the edges W1 and W2 of the display window 4 touches the circumferential surface of the reel 51, respectively (in FIG. 6A, a point C represents the center axis of the reel 51). When a single display device 53 is wrapped around the entire circumferential surface of the reel 51 as shown in FIG. 6A, the display controller unit 32 will turn off or reduce the brightness of the portion of the display device 53 that is located in the invisible region R2 (cf. the hatched region shown in FIG. 6A). When the four display devices 53A, 53B, 53C, and 53D are separately covered over the circumferential surface of the reel 51 as shown in FIG. 6B, the display controller unit 32 turns off or reduces the brightness of the two display devices 53C and 53D that are located in the invisible region R2 (cf. the hatched region shown in FIG. 6B). Thus, the power requirements for the hybrid reel assembly 5 can be reduced, and the display device 53 will be prevented from damaging its screen due to static symbol images (e.g., burn-in on CRTs, image persistence on LCDs) and overheating.

Preferably, the display controller unit 32 further causes the display device 53 to reproduce a specific image that moves on the circumferential surface of the reel 51 in the reverse direction of the rotation thereof, and thereby cause a player to see the specific image remaining stationary or moving freely independent of the rotation of the reel 51. Here, the specific image may be of various types. In FIG. 7A, line tags T (which are assigned to selectable paylines) and selected paylines L1 and L2 are displayed on the visible surfaces of the three reels 51A, 51B, and 51C, and serve as the background of the symbols 54 (hatched portions shown in FIG. 7A). The symbols 54 move in the vertical direction caused by the rotation of the reels 51A, 51B, and 51C. On the other hands, the line tags T and the selected paylines L1 and L2 seem to remain at rest while the symbols 54 are moving in the vertical direction. In FIG. 7B, four information regions D1, D2, D3, D4, and two banner images F1 and F2 are displayed on the visible surfaces of the three reels 51A, 51B, and 51C, and serve as the foreground of the symbols 54 (hatched portions shown in FIG. 7B). Information about the game status, e.g., the number of available credits, the amount of a bet placed on a game, the round number of a game, and the amount of the denomination of a game, is displayed on the four information regions D1, D2, D3, and D4, respectively. The four information regions D1, D2, D3, and D4 seem to remain at rest while the symbols 54 are moving in the vertical direction. In FIG. 7C, three images B1, B2, and B3 are displayed on the visible surfaces of the three reels 51A, 51B, and 51C, and serve as the foreground and background of the symbols 54 (hatched portions shown in FIG. 7C). The images B1, B2, and B3 are displayed and produce a visual effect during a bonus round. For example, the two side images B1 and B3 hide symbols 54 at the upper and lower portions of the side reels 51A and 51C. The letter images B2 represent that a bonus round is proceeding. The images B1, B2, and B3 seem to remain at rest or move freely while the symbols 54 are moving in the vertical direction. The display of these foreground and background of the symbols 54 on the display devices 53 mounted on the reels 51 may eliminate other display devices (e.g., the three sub-display units 3A, 3B, and 3C shown in FIG. 2) from the gaming terminal 10. In addition, the integration of the display function of the gaming terminal 10 into the display devices 53 facilitates the management of the server 30 with respect to image data to be used by the gaming terminal 10, e.g., it is able to quickly and easily update image data in a game or a model change of the gaming terminal 10.

General Interpretation of Terms

In understanding the scope of the present invention, the term “configured” as used herein to describe a component, section or part of a device includes hardware and/or software that is constructed and/or programmed to carry out the desired function. In understanding the scope of the present invention, the term “comprising” and its derivatives, as used herein, are intended to be open ended terms that specify the presence of the stated features, elements, components, groups, integers, and/or steps, but do not exclude the presence of other unstated features, elements, components, groups, integers and/or steps. The foregoing also applies to words having similar meanings such as the terms, “including”, “having” and their derivatives. Also, the terms “part,” “section,” “portion,” “member” or “element” when used in the singular can have the dual meaning of a single part or a plurality of parts. Finally, terms of degree such as “substantially”, “about” and “approximately” as used herein mean a reasonable amount of deviation of the modified term such that the end result is not significantly changed. For example, these terms can be construed as including a deviation of at least ±5% of the modified term if this deviation would not negate the meaning of the word it modifies.

While only selected embodiments have been chosen to illustrate the present invention, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that various changes and modifications can be made herein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims. Furthermore, the foregoing descriptions of the embodiments according to the present invention are provided for illustration only, and not for the purpose of limiting the invention as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8002624Sep 27, 2001Aug 23, 2011IgtGaming machine reel having a flexible dynamic display
US8591330 *Jul 29, 2011Nov 26, 2013Bally Gaming, Inc.Gaming machine with mechanical reels having flexible displays
US8758129Oct 5, 2011Jun 24, 2014Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedGaming system and method of gaming in which symbol reels selectively rotate in less than a full rotation
US20120283012 *May 4, 2011Nov 8, 2012Wms Gaming, Inc.Signage Display for an Electronic Gaming Terminal
WO2010042328A1 *Sep 24, 2009Apr 15, 2010IgtGaming machine reel having a rotatable dynamic display
WO2014039029A1 *Sep 4, 2012Mar 13, 2014Konami Gaming, IncorporatedGame machine including turning unit
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/20
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3232, G07F17/3211, G07F17/34
European ClassificationG07F17/34, G07F17/32C2F, G07F17/32E6
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 26, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: KONAMI GAMING INCORPORATED, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:AIDA, EIJI;REEL/FRAME:019066/0561
Effective date: 20070215