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Publication numberUS20080207304 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/034,808
Publication dateAug 28, 2008
Filing dateFeb 21, 2008
Priority dateFeb 27, 2007
Also published asUS20080207313
Publication number034808, 12034808, US 2008/0207304 A1, US 2008/207304 A1, US 20080207304 A1, US 20080207304A1, US 2008207304 A1, US 2008207304A1, US-A1-20080207304, US-A1-2008207304, US2008/0207304A1, US2008/207304A1, US20080207304 A1, US20080207304A1, US2008207304 A1, US2008207304A1
InventorsJohn F. Acres
Original AssigneeAcres-Fiore, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Improved presentation of multi-level mystery bonus awards
US 20080207304 A1
Abstract
In one aspect, a system displays a winning one of multiple mystery bonus awards before identifying a winner of the winning award from among a plurality of players of base games. In another aspect, the system displays a winning one of multiple mystery bonus awards after identifying a winner of the winning award from among a plurality of players of base games.
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Claims(36)
1. A method of conducting a game of chance comprising:
identifying at least two of a plurality of player awards;
selecting one of the identified player awards;
identifying one of a plurality of players to receive the selected player award; and
identifying the selected player award.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying one of a plurality of players to receive the selected player award occurs before identifying the selected player award.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying the selected player award occurs before identifying one of a plurality of players to receive the selected player award.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying the selected player award occurs substantially simultaneously with identifying one of a plurality of players to receive the selected player award.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the player awards comprise bonus awards and wherein the method further comprises identifying at least one award resulting from a base game pay table.
6. The method of claim 5 wherein the player awards comprise progressive awards.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein the progressive awards accumulate in separate pools from which an award is made.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein at least one of the player awards comprises a mystery award.
9. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying at least two of a plurality of player awards comprises displaying the identified awards on a rotatable wheel.
10. The method of claim 9 wherein identifying the selected player award comprises stopping relative movement of a pointer and the wheel.
11. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying the selected player award comprises controlling a light adjacent the selected player award.
12. The method of claim 1 wherein at least one of the identified awards comprises a mystery award.
13. A method of conducting a game of chance comprising:
displaying at least two of a plurality of mystery bonus awards;
identifying one of a plurality of players of a base game to receive one of the mystery bonus awards; and
thereafter identifying which of the mystery bonus awards the player will receive.
14. The method of claim 13 wherein the method further comprises providing the identified mystery bonus award to the player.
15. The method of claim 13 wherein the method further comprises providing at least one award resulting from a base game pay table.
16. The method of claim 13 wherein the mystery bonus awards comprise progressive awards.
17. The method of claim 16 wherein the progressive awards accumulate in separate pools from which an award is made.
18. The method of claim 13 wherein displaying at least two of a plurality of mystery bonus awards comprises displaying awards on a rotatable wheel.
19. The method of claim 18 wherein identifying which of the mystery bonus awards the player will receive comprises stopping relative movement of a pointer and the wheel.
20. The method of claim 13 wherein identifying which of the mystery bonus awards the player will receive comprises controlling a light adjacent a display of the identified mystery bonus award.
21. A method of conducting a game of chance comprising:
displaying at least two of a plurality of mystery bonus awards;
identifying which of the mystery bonus awards one of a plurality of players of a base game will receive; and
thereafter identifying the player to receive the identified mystery bonus award.
22. The method of claim 21 wherein the method further comprises providing the identified mystery bonus award to the identified player.
23. The method of claim 21 wherein the method further comprises providing at least one award resulting from a base game pay table.
24. The method of claim 21 wherein the mystery bonus awards comprise progressive awards.
25. The method of claim 24 wherein the progressive awards accumulate in separate pools from which an award is made.
26. The method of claim 21 wherein displaying at least two of a plurality of mystery bonus awards comprises displaying awards on a rotatable wheel.
27. The method of claim 26 wherein identifying which of the mystery bonus awards one of a plurality of players of a base game will receive comprises stopping relative movement of a pointer and the wheel.
28. The method of claim 21 wherein identifying which of the mystery bonus awards one of a plurality of players of a base game will receive comprises controlling a light adjacent a display of the mystery bonus award.
29. A gaming system comprising:
an award mechanism configured to award a winning one of at least two awards;
a mechanism configured to identify one of at least two displayed awards as a winning award; and
an indicator configured to indicate a winner of the winning award at a time different from when the winning award is identified.
30. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein the awards comprise bonus awards and wherein the system further comprises at least one base game.
31. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein at least one of the awards comprises a mystery award.
32. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein the mechanism configured to identify one of at least two displayed awards as a winning award comprises a rotatable wheel having at least two segments that correspond to the awards.
33. The gaming system of claim 32 wherein the mechanism configured to identify one of at least two displayed awards as a winning award further comprises a pointer that is movable relative to the wheel.
34. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein the indicator configured to indicate a winner of the winning award comprises a display.
35. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein the time different from when the winning award is identified occurs before the winning award is identified.
36. The gaming system of claim 29 wherein the time different from when the winning award is identified occurs after the winning award is identified.
Description
Cross-Reference to Related Application

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/903,959 filed Feb. 27, 2007 whose contents are incorporated herein for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to novel methods of presenting multi-level mystery bonus awards on games of chance.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Playing games of chance is a popular recreational activity. There are many types of games of chance including table games where players wager against a live dealer such as blackjack, Pai Gow, roulette, Baccarat. Other types of games of chance are offered as automated machines. Examples include slots, poker, bingo, etc. Still other types of games of chance allow players to wager against one another, such as a poker table. In return for a wager, games of chance generate randomly determined outcomes, some of which result in a winning event. Games of chance are often played with wagers having financial value but some games of chance are played with points or other freely available currency having no fiscal worth.

Games of chance may be played in casinos, or at home using electronic devices or mechanical equipment. Gambling via Internet, whether for fun or for money, is also a popular activity.

Games of chance typically associate a winning event with a specific game outcome. For example, achievement of BAR BAR BAR on the payline of a three reel slot machine might pay 20 credits on a 1 credit wager. To increase player interest, bonus awards which are won independently of any single game outcome are sometimes offered. The “mystery” bonus is a popular bonus award that is so named because players cannot easily discern why the award occurred, as it is completely independent of the game's normal schedule of payments.

Mystery bonuses are awarded as a function of game play and are increasingly likely to be won with each game played. FIG. 1 a, FIG. 1 b, and FIG. 2 are indicative of prior art mystery bonus award operation. Here the mystery award is a progressive amount because it grows in value as a function of each wager made until it is won. Once won, the award is initialized to a starting value and the process begins again. FIG 1 a depicts the initialization procedure which is executed once upon inception of the mystery award and executed again after each winning occurrence of the mystery award.

A mystery progressive award is defined by a starting and ending (maximum) value. The award must be won before the award grows larger than the maximum value. A winning number W is randomly selected from within the range of all numbers between the starting and ending award values. For example, a mystery progressive starts at $1,000.00 and ends at $5,000.00. A winning value W is chosen, at 110 of FIG. 1 a, from the range numbers between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00. In this example, W=$2,431.56. The progressive award value is set to the starting value of the award range 120—which is $1,000.00—and the bonus is ready for play as depicted in FIG 1 b.

The current award value—$1,000.00—is displayed to players 130 and then a new wager is awaited 140. When a wager occurs, the award value is increased as a function of the wager size 150. A commonly used embodiment adds a percentage of each wager amount to AWARD. For example, AWARD=$1,000.00, a wager of $3.00 is made, and FUNCTION is 3% of wager size. AWARD now grows to $1,000.09, as 3% of $3 is 9 cents ($0.09). AWARD is then tested against W at step 160. Since $1,000.09 is less than $2,431.56, the test fails and the flow chart returns to step 130.

This process continues until cumulative play brings AWARD=$2,431.56, making comparison 160 true and the flow chart passes to step 170 where the winner is identified. The winner in this case is the person whose wager caused AWARD to grow equal to W. The winner is then paid the amount won, $2,431.56 at step 180, after which the mystery award is again initialized 190, which simply executes the steps of FIG. 1 a again, and the process repeats.

A fixed award mystery bonus works exactly like the progressive mystery bonus award just described, except at step 180, the winner is paid the fixed amount—100 credits for example—instead of the incremented AWARD amount.

FIG. 2 is a prior art four-level progressive mystery bonus display. Enclosure 200 houses the displays and may be configured as an overhead sign, built into the gaming machine, or both. Each display, 210, 220, 230 and 240, represents one progressive mystery bonus award and each grows as a function of wagers made in any gaming machine linked to these awards. Each of the four award values has a winning number W chosen for it during initialization and each award is won independently of the others.

The range for each progressive award 250, 260, 270, and 280 are made known to players so they may understand that, as each progressive award grows, it is more likely to be won.

When one of the mystery awards is won, the winning display immediately begins to alternate every few seconds between the progressive bonus amount won and the winning machine identifier. After the award amount is paid to the winner, either automatically as credits placed on the winning machine or as a manual payment of cash or check directly to the player, the won mystery progressive award is reset to its starting value and again grows as wagers are made in the associated games of chance.

In another embodiment of the prior art, a light or other indicator is placed on, or near each machine in the link. When a win occurs, the winning machine indicator is activated, and remains active, until the award is paid. Because there are so many numbers, multi-level mystery progressives are confusing to many players and this limits their appeal. While the growing award amount, and the corresponding increased likelihood that a win will occur, creates drama and therefore enhances entertainment value to the player, the win occurrence itself is anticlimactic to everyone but the winner because the amount won is known the instant the win occurs.

Effectiveness of multi-level mystery bonus awards is limited by the confusion of displaying multiple bonus award values and player enjoyment would increase if such displays are simplified.

Players would enjoy a heightened sense of entertainment if they know that an award is won before the winner identity and bonus amount won are revealed.

In mystery bonus awards that are a function of wagers made, it would be useful to illustrate that larger wagers have a greater likelihood of winning.

In mystery bonus awards, it would heighten player enjoyment to have an indication of how close the next mystery award is to being won.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

My invention is a device and method which improves the player appeal of mystery bonus awards. Specifically, my invention provides a method of conducting a game of chance displaying a plurality of mystery bonus award values, comprising the steps of: (a) displaying each of the plurality of mystery bonus award values to a player; (b) making a wager to initiate play of the game; (c) determining that a mystery bonus award has been won; (d) upon the occurrence of a win, displaying to a player that a win has occurred; (e) executing an indication process wherein at least two of the plurality of mystery bonus awards are indicated to a player in a sequence, with less than all mystery bonus awards indicated at any one time; (f) ending the indication process with the winning mystery bonus award indicated to a player; and (g) paying the indicated mystery bonus award to a player. My invention is also directed to providing an indication of proximity of a win, of wager size, and to sequences of revealing win occurrence, win amount and winner identification.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 a is a prior art flow chart for initializing a progressive mystery bonus award.

FIG. 1 b is a flow chart for implementing a progressive mystery bonus award.

FIG. 2 illustrates a prior art four-level progressive mystery award display.

FIG. 3 is a flow chart of a preferred embodiment of my invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates a four-level progressive mystery award using a video-based wheel indicator according to my invention

FIG. 5 illustrates an eight-level fixed-award mystery award using a video based wheel indicator, winner identifier and win indicator according to my invention.

FIG. 6 illustrates a 22-level fixed award mystery award using a mechanical wheel indicator with illuminated indications of proximity to the next mystery award win, and illuminated indicator of wager size according to my invention.

FIG. 7 illustrates a 16-level fixed-award mystery award with an additional progressive mystery award which includes illuminators to indicate proximity to next award occurrence according to my invention.

FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram of gaming machines and display device connected to a mystery award controller according to my invention.

FIG. 9 is a schematic diagram of a video subsystem used as a display device according to my invention.

FIG. 10 is a schematic diagram of a motorized wheel, mystery award proximity indicator and wager size indicator used as a display device according to my invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Though my invention is equally useful with table games and gaming machines, the following discussion describes its use with gaming machines only. I do this solely for clarity of explanation as the manner of operation on any game of chance—table game or gaming machine—is very similar and my claims regarding this invention should in no way be limited by this clarification. My invention is also useful in Internet gambling and computer games that simulate wagering.

I define “mystery bonus” as a system that selects awards as a function of game play events, excluding specific individual game outcomes. My definition of a mystery bonus does not include an award that is paid simply because a single gaming machine outcome resulted in a specific result, such as BAR BAR BAR on a three reel slot machine, as that is a normal jackpot occurrence. A mystery bonus could be, however, paid on the 11th occurrence of BAR BAR BAR. It will be appreciated by one of skill in the art that there are many methods and techniques for determining when a mystery award occurs. Although I may choose to describe a particular embodiment while teaching how my invention functions, I do not limit the claims of my invention to only that embodiment.

In addition, the winner does not have to be the person whose game play caused the winning condition to be met. The award could be paid to the tenth person that makes a wager after the win occurs, the person that placed the wager prior to the wager that met the winning condition, etc. One of ordinary skill will recognize that many such variations are possible and may be used with my invention.

FIG. 3 is a flow chart depicting my invention and represents a process for a four-level mystery jackpot award. As one of skill in the art will readily understand, each of the four mystery awards must be processed independently. FIG. 3 shows the logical flow of the award process so as to emphasize the unique attributes of my invention. Moreover, while the process shown describes a progressive mystery bonus award; the concepts of my invention apply equally to fixed value mystery awards.

Each of the four AWARD values are displayed 310 and then a new wager is awaited 320. When a wager occurs, the amount of each of the four jackpot award amounts are increased as a function of wager amount 330, after which each AWARD amount is tested against the value W already chosen for that AWARD level 340. If no AWARD amount has grown to at least equal its associated value of W, the process returns to step 310 and displays updated AWARD values.

After one of the AWARD values has grown sufficiently, players are made aware of the win occurrence 350. Next an indication process 360 is executed in which at least two of the four award values are indicated to players in a sequence. In a preferred embodiment of my invention, less than all of the award values are indicated at any one time. When the indication process ends 370, the award value that was won remains indicated, letting players know the amount won. The indicated award is then paid to the winning player 380, after which the award won is re-initialized 390 and the process repeated.

Multi-Segmented Bonus Wheels

FIG. 4 represents a display which is useful for implementing the steps just described. A video display 400 displays a wheel 410. Each wheel segment 420 holds one of the four progressive bonus award values 430. During normal play, the wheel is stationary. After a win occurs at 350 of FIG. 3, win Indicator 450 illuminates to inform players of the win occurrence. Next, wheel 410 begins to spin. Each award amount is indicated in turn as it rotates into alignment beneath pointer 440. The wheel then slows and finally stops, indicating the award won by stopping with that amount directly beneath pointer 440. In a preferred embodiment, corresponding sound effects accompany the win occurrence, wheel spin and celebration sequence after the wheel stops.

In a preferred embodiment of my invention, the winner identity is not disclosed until a time period after the amount won is made known. Referring again to FIG. 4, winner identifier 460 delays disclosure of the winner identity until several seconds after wheel 420 comes to rest and the amount won is known.

In an alternative embodiment, the winner is identified before the winning amount is made known. In yet another embodiment, the winner identity and bonus amount won are identified simultaneously.

Win Proximity Indicator

FIG. 5 is a video display of a wheel 510 which is divided into 8 segments 520, each containing a fixed award amount 530. Win proximity indicator 550—which in this embodiment is shaped like a thermometer—informs players of the proximity of the next mystery bonus award, as well as announcing each winning event. Upon initiation, the thermometer is set very low, indicating a winning event is not imminent. As wagers are made, the thermometer rises, indicating a winning event is growing closer. When a winning event occurs on any of the eight mystery bonus awards, the thermometer rises fully to the top and begins to flash, alerting players that a win occurred. After a period of time wheel 510 spins and stops, positioning the winning value beneath pointer 540. Winner identifier 560 identifies the winner and award payment is completed.

The purpose of win proximity indicator 550 is to show, in a non-numeric way, that a mystery win is growing closer with each wager. In one embodiment, the thermometer is lit in proportion to how much progress has been made toward the next winning event. Suppose a winning number W is selected from a range of 1 to 1,000 and a counter C, is increased by one count for each unit of wager made. That is, the counter is increased by 3 for each 3 credit wager made, 2 for each 2 credit wager made, etc. Now presume that, upon initialization C=0 and W=400, causing win proximity indicator 550 to indicate its lowest value because the win is far from occurring.

As wagers are made, C grows and win proximity indicator 550 rises in proportion to the percentage of progress C has made from its starting point to reaching the value of W. For example, after 100 credits are wagered, C=100 and is 25% of the way to a win. At this point the win proximity indicator has risen about 25% of the way to the top. Win proximity indicator height is recalculated after each wager, thereby providing players with a real sense of how quickly the next mystery bonus award will next occur.

FIG. 5 indicates 8 different fixed-value mystery awards. Win proximity indicator 550 always represents progress toward the nearest winning occurrence. When that award is accomplished, the win proximity indicator is reset to indicate the next nearest win occurrence. Therefore win proximity indicator 550 will rarely indicate its lowest value because when one win occurs, another win has also grown towards its winning value. This technique gives powerful incentive for players to continue to play and chase the next available mystery bonus award.

In another embodiment win proximity indicator 550 indicates progress toward the maximum theoretical value of W. In the above example, the largest value W could be is 1,000. When C=100 win proximity indicator 550 displays as 10% toward the top since 100/1000=10%.

Those of skill in the art will recognize these as just two algorithms for using a win indicator to represent progress toward a mystery win and that many other algorithms are possible.

Audio signals may be used to augment or replace the function of the win proximity indicator, the winner identifier, or both. For example, winner identity is announced using a live or recorded voice, and win proximity indicator functions are performed as a changing pitch, timbre or content of sound. One of skill in the art recognizes there are many other mechanisms by which to electronically, mechanically or electromechanically indicate the functions of the win amount, win proximity, win occurrence indicator and winner identity. All such methods are useful with my invention.

Mechanical Bonus Displays & Alternative Win Proximity Indicator

FIG. 6 depicts a mechanical wheel embodiment of my invention implemented using a Bally CineVision gaming machine 600. Mechanical wheel 630 includes 22 segments, each containing a fixed mystery bonus award. Pointer 610 indicates the winning amount. Win proximity indicator 620 is a crown of crystals. Each crystal of the crown is equipped with a multi-color illumination source. When the game is initialized, the crown is colored an icy-blue, indicating an award is not imminent. The crown illumination turns from icy-blue to reddish to bright red as a mystery win grows closer and closer. When a win is struck, the crown turns red and flashes, indicating a win occurred. Those of skill in the art will recognize that other color and brightness patterns may be utilized to represent the nearness of a mystery win and that win proximity indicator 620, though different in visual appearance, performs the same function as thermometer shaped win proximity indicator 550 of FIG. 5 and is adaptable to the same functional embodiments.

Once a win occurs, wheel activation button 640 illuminates. When the player presses the button, wheel 630 spins, slows and ultimately stops in such a position that the won mystery bonus amount is positioned directly beneath pointer 610.

Although the wheel depicted in FIG. 6 contains only fixed value mystery awards, one of skill in the art readily understands that some, or all, of the fixed award values could be replaced with progressive award amounts. One skilled in the art will further understand that wheel activation button 640 could be eliminated and wheel 630 automatically spun, either immediately upon a win being struck or after a time delay. In an alternative embodiment, wheel 630 could spin after a win occurs and wheel activation button 640 is pressed or a predefined period of time has passed, whichever occurs first.

While the examples of my invention that I presented above describe a wheel rotating beneath a fixed pointer, one of skill in the art will readily understand that other methods of indicating a winning amount on a wheel are possible. For example, the wheel could remain stationary while the pointer revolves around it, much like a roulette ball rotates around a roulette table. The amount indicated on the wheel segment that is aligned with the pointer when it comes to rest is the amount won.

Alternately, the wheel and the pointer could simultaneously rotate, either in the same direction or opposite directions. The amount indicated on the wheel segment that is aligned with the pointer when both wheel and pointer come to rest is the amount won.

When a fixed pointer is used, it need not be at the top of the wheel but could be located anywhere around the circumference of the wheel. In another embodiment, a player is allowed to choose one pointer from a plurality of pointers. After pointer selection is made, the wheel is spun. The award amount that is aligned with the chosen pointer when the wheel stops is the amount won.

One of ordinary skill will readily see that my invention is useful with any of the above mentioned methods of displaying award amounts on a wheel. For example multiple pointers can be active simultaneously and the award indicated when the wheel and pointers come to rest are the amounts won. The player may win the highest value indicated by the plurality of pointers, or the player is paid the sum of all values indicated by all active pointers.

As an alternative to mechanical wheels or video depictions of wheels, the image of a segmented wheel can be backlit with one illuminator for each wheel segment. Such implementations are known in the art as light wheels. The illuminators are lit, one at a time, in sequence, to simulate rotation. Whichever segment is lit when the sequence comes to a halt is the amount won. These are but two of many other methods of illumination which can be utilized with my invention.

Wager Size Indicator

Turning again to FIG. 6, wager size indicator 650 is constructed of a number of illuminators arranged in the shape of an arrow on the right and left sides of wheel activation button 640. Each time a wager is made, these illuminators flash from the base of the arrow towards button 640. The brightness and duration of the flash is proportional to wager size. Gaming machine 600 is a three credit game, that is, players may wager one, two or three credits per game played. If three credits are wagered, illuminators 650 flash brighter and remain lit longer than if two credits are wagered. And a two credit wager causes an illumination flash that is brighter and longer-lasting that a single credit wager.

One of skill in the art understands that the shape in which the illuminators are arranged, the quantity of illuminators used and the color and brightness with which they indicate wager size and nearness to a mystery win can be varied according to need, so long as it is demonstrated to players that larger wagers are more likely to win a mystery bonus award than smaller wagers. Alternatively, in FIG. 6, audio cues (not shown) may be used to supplement or replace visual indicators.

Alternative Bonus Displays

FIG. 7 depicts an alternate display configuration embodiment of my invention. Overhead display 700 contains sixteen separate fixed mystery award indicators 710 and one mystery progressive award indicator 720 which surround progressive award display 730. Each of the sixteen fixed mystery award indicators 710 and the one mystery progressive indicator 720 is backlit by an illuminator and each is associated with its own randomly selected winning number W and counter which is incremented as a function of credits wagered. Until one of the seventeen mystery awards is won, all of the illuminators behind the seventeen award indicators are turned off.

The set of award displays is surrounded by a win proximity indicator implemented as individual illuminators 740. At initiation, all illuminators 740 are off. As play ensues and a win on any of the seventeen awards grows closer, illuminators 740 are lit one at a time, starting at the first illuminator located clockwise of the 12 o'clock position. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 7, the first three illuminators 750 are lit. Because each counter and each associated lucky number W is known within the system, it is straightforward to calculate how many wagers remain before a win occurs.

As any win grows closer, a proportionate number of illuminators 740 are lit in clockwise sequence. The illumination sequence is conducted so that the very last illuminator 740, which is at the 12 O'clock position, is lit when a win occurs. At this time all illuminators 740 are lit, completely encircling the array of seventeen award displays. When this happens, the illuminators behind each award display 710 and 720 are lit, one at a time. After one of the award displays is lit for a brief time, it extinguishes, and another of the award illuminators 710 or 720 is lit. Each illuminator is lit in a pattern so that all illuminators are lit once in each sequence which then repeats. Over the period of a few seconds, the sequencing speed slows until only the award display that was won remains illuminated and that amount is awarded to the winning player.

Means of Implementation

Referring now to FIGS. 8-10, I now describe various means of configuring my invention. FIG. 8 depicts a schematic representation of a linked implementation of my invention. Controller 830 is configured by means of configuration computer 840 with the number of mystery awards, the size of each, the rate of increment for each wager, and the range from which winning numbers are to be randomly selected, amongst other parameters. One of skill in the art will recognize that configuration techniques for mystery award controllers are well known and all such configuration means may be used with this invention.

Three gaming machines 820 are shown, though any number may be used, including a single machine. Each is connected to controller 830 through connection 825. In a preferred embodiment, this connection is a two-way serial protocol capable of allowing the controller 830 to receive information about game play, including wagers made from each gaming machine and also to send payout messages to each gaming machine for payment when a mystery award is won on that gaming machine. Examples of such two-way protocols include the well-known existing industry standard SAS protocol and the industry standard protocol in development by the Gaming Standards Association.

In yet another embodiment, connection 825 is a one-way transfer of information from each gaming machine 820 to controller 830. Such connections are less preferable because automated award payments are not supported.

Gaming machine designs sometimes utilize Ethernet, USB or other such high-speed network connections which offer the advantage of high-bandwidth and are useful for carrying information for many purposes from gaming machines to many kinds of controllers and database systems. These connections are being adapted for other casino functions such as player tracking, casino accounting and security. One of skill in the art will appreciate that such high-bandwidth connections are useful with my invention whether they are used exclusively for the purpose of transferring mystery award information or if the connection serves a variety of other purposes as well.

Connection 825 may also be implemented via wireless protocol such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, wireless Ethernet or other protocol whether based on radio frequency (RF), infrared or other technologies.

Connection 835 transfers information between controller 830 and display 810. This connection may be of a wide range of electrical protocols such as RS-232 or it may utilize more recent protocols that specify electrical, connector, cabling and information communication structure such as Ethernet or USB. One of skill in the art will appreciate that a wide variety of standard and proprietary connector, cable, electrical and information structure protocols may be used with this invention, including wireless protocols.

The transfer protocol for connection 835 may be one-way from controller 830 to display 810, or more preferably, two-way, with information flowing from controller 830 to display 810 and from display 810 to controller 830.

Although a single display is shown, multiple displays may be used and the displays may be mounted over or near a bank of gaming machines, on individual gaming machines or as remote displays away from the gaming machines to which they are associated.

Once controller 830 is configured and connected, wagering information from each gaming machine 820 is transmitted to the controller via connection 825 where it is used to increment the counter(s) which are then compared against the list of Winning values W. If the configuration includes progressive mystery awards, the updated award values are transmitted to the display 810 via connection 835 for presentation to players. Information for winner identification, win proximity, wager size and win occurrence are also sent from controller 830 to display 810.

When connection 835 allows two-way communication, display 810 returns information back to controller 830, including acknowledgement that each message sent from the controller was received, diagnostic information that the display is functioning properly and other such housekeeping and award information.

Display 810 may be a video display and preferably includes a processor for rendering the required images and updating the image with information received from controller 830. Any type of video display is useful including LCD, Plasma, rear-projection DLP, CRT, LED, VFD or any other technology capable of rendering the desired image for presenting information to players about award values, win occurrences, wager sizes, win proximity, etc.

FIG. 9 illustrates video display 910 connected to computer subsystem 920 via connection 915. The video display 910 is preferably a flat panel display using LCD or plasma technology as such displays are economical, widely available, long-lived and require little physical space. Of course, any other video display technology may be used.

The computer subsystem 920 is preferably a personal computer running Microsoft Windows, Linux, or Apple's OS X, though other operating systems may be desirable in certain situations. The computer subsystem may render the image using Macromedia's FLASH programming methodology or it may use alternative application software for rendering. As virtually all computers do, computer subsystem 820 includes a case, power supply, main processor such as an Intel Pentium, a graphics coprocessor, or separate processing card such as an ASUS EN7600GT video interface for driving the video display, standard memory such as DRAM, non-volatile memory such as a hard disk and/or CD_ROM, DVD player, flash memory, battery backed RAM or some combination therein. The operating system, applications programs and data are stored in non-volatile memory and loaded into processor memory, usually DRAM, as needed. All such computer components, and other associated components that may be optionally used, are well known to those of skill in the art and will not be further described here.

The connection 915 between computer subsystem 920 and video display 910 may be, but not limited to, VGA, DVI, HDMI, component video, or less-preferably S-video or composite video.

Another benefit of using a personal computer for video rendering is that most such computers include powerful capabilities for creating and storing audio waveforms. Connection 925 takes the output from computer subsystem 820 audio output to an audio amplifier 930. Connection 925 may be analog or digital audio signals such as optical TOSLINK or coaxial SPDIF, or other such cable for carrying monophonic, stereo, or surround sound information.

Audio amplifier 930 may be analog amplification sufficient to drive the chosen speaker or speakers 950. For example, the audio amplifier could be a two channel 50 watts RMS per channel amplifier as is readily available from many well-known sources. Alternately, the audio amplifier 930 could contain an audio processor for processing surround sound information from either the analog inputs or from digital inputs.

Speaker 950 may be a single speaker or a pair of speakers for stereo sound. Alternately, speaker 950 could be a set of speakers to implement surround sound in 5 or 7 channels, or other configuration. Each speaker channel may include a simple single cone speaker or an array of speakers for desired sound dispersion and/or improved frequency response. Subwoofers could be included for enhanced low frequency response.

Computer subsystem 920 connects to controller 830 via connection 835. Personal computers today typically include RS232, Ethernet and USB ports with a range of optional wired or wireless ports on specially configured computers or by adding an interface card to the standard personal computer.

FIG. 10 depicts a schematic representation of circuitry to enable a mechanical wheel display for use with controller 830 of FIG. 8. The video display of FIG. 9 is interchangeable in function with the mechanical wheel display of FIG. 10. One of skill in the art will recognize that these types of displays may be used together or separately and that many other types of displays are useful with my invention.

In FIG. 10, Microcontroller 1070 transmits and receives commands and information to and from controller 830 via communication interface 835. The microcomputer is connected to win indicator 1010, win proximity indicator 1020, winner identifier 1030, winner size Indicator 1040, motor encoder 1050 and motor driver 1055 through peripheral interface 1060.

Win indicator 1010, win proximity indicator 1020 and wager size indicator 1030 are typically arrangements of illuminators such as LEDs or light bulbs. These illuminators may be changed in brightness, color, pattern or a combination thereof as required to indicate the particular function and create excitement in a given environment. For example, the win proximity indicator could be shaped as thermometer 550 of FIG. 5 a crown of lights 620 surrounding wheel 630 as depicted in FIG. 6 or individual illuminators arranged as 740 in FIG. 7.

Motor 1080 has the wheel indicator connected to its shaft and may be a DC motor, an AC motor, a stepper motor or other type of motor as fits the size and weight of the wheel and the desired control in positioning and stopping the wheel. Motor driver 1055 is used to convert signals received from microcontroller 1070, via peripheral interface 1060 into a format and capacity for driving the motor. Motor encoder 1050 provides feedback on the motor position, allowing Microcontroller 1070 to sense exactly when to stop Motor 1080 so as to indicate the correct award on the wheel.

Motor controls and wheels are well-known to those of skill in the art. The same technology that is useful in controlling the wheels used in International Game Technology's “Wheel of Fortune®” and Bally Gaming's “Monte Carlo®” may be used in my invention.

The schematic depicted in FIG. 10 is readily adaptable to controlling a reel, which is simply a wheel turned on its side and with award values disposed on its circumference, much like a slot machine reel. A payline on the front of the reel housing indicates the winning mystery bonus amount, much like a payline on a slot machine indicates the paying symbols.

Controller 1030 may also be implemented using a personal computer or other suitable electronic control mechanism, a wide variety of which are well-known to those of skill in the art.

I have described above specific implementations of my invention only as examples of how implementation may be accomplished. It will be clear to one of skill in the art that my invention may be embodied in the manner described or in a range of other expressions.

Classifications
U.S. Classification463/20, 463/25, 463/27
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3244, G07F17/3258, G07F17/3227
European ClassificationG07F17/32K, G07F17/32E2, G07F17/32K12
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