US 20090017906 A1
A method of mechanical, electromechanical or video slot play is disclosed. The method comprises networked gaming machines, each machine comprising a base game and a communal second screen bonus feature that is perpetually displayed and viewable in real time. A predetermined symbol or symbol set result in a base game determines a specific number of chances for a qualified player and triggers the play of the communal bonus feature, the number of chances determining a gaming segment. Qualified players play their game segments one at a time in sequential order. Upon the completion of a gaming segment, the player collects awards and returns to the base game. If at any time a predetermined special symbol or event has been activated during a gaming segment in the bonus game event, the game is terminated, and a next bonus game event is initiated.
1. A method of playing a wagering game among multiple players comprising:
at least two game playing apparatus having individual player displays communicating to a common processor;
the common processor displaying a single bonus event to each individual player displays and/or to a communal bonus event display viewable by players at the at least two game playing apparatus; and
wherein a bonus event ending event causes a new bonus event to be available to the at least two game playing apparatus.
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8. A gaming system comprising at least two game playing apparatus having individual player displays in communication with a common processor, the common processor displaying a single bonus event to each individual player displays and/or to a communal bonus event display viewable by players at the at least two game playing apparatus; and the processor having software that recognizes a bonus event ending event that causes a new bonus event to be available to the at least two game playing apparatus.
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This Application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/958,906, filed 10 Jul. 2008.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a networked, interconnected or banked slot symbol game suitable for use in casinos and other gaming enterprises. The invention further relates to mechanical, electro-mechanical, internet or video gaming play that provides a communal bonus game feature wherein eligible players play one at a time in sequenced order.
2. Background of the Art
Gaming machines, and in particular slot machine games, have grown exponentially in numbers in the last twenty years, as have the revenues generated by such devices. Since it is estimated that at least 70% of any casino's revenue are now provided by gaming machines, there is increasingly fierce competition among the machine manufacturers to attract and maintain customers with game content.
Slot manufacturers strive to differentiate their machines by adding unique features and methods, and these proprietary innovations are designed to initially attract a player to a particular slot machine and then retain the player's interest for protracted periods of time.
One of the most popular innovations in recent years is known in the art as bonus game play. Bonus game play may consist of certain enhancements to the base game play, such as free spins and multipliers, or it may add a separate bonus game event that either replaces the base game on the screen or is displayed in a second screen. The second screen bonus has seen an evolution since the first “pick-a-tile” feature revolutionized casino slot games. In this said feature, masked tiles are displayed on a replacement or separate monitor screen from the base game. A single player is prompted to pick a tile, revealing a prize, and in particular an amount of credits. Play continues in this fashion, any prizes being accumulative until an end game symbol is revealed. In many cases the awards that may be won in bonus games are more lucrative than base game pays, so the player is encouraged to play for longer periods until the bonus opportunity is achieved, thereby increasing profits for the gaming establishment. More recent innovations have enhanced the second screen bonus, including providing bonus games that may be shared competitively, collaboratively or both among a plurality of players.
Bonus games that offer or encourage group play are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,692,354 (Tracy, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070129149 (Walker, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070105620 (Cuddy, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070077990 (Cuddy, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070054732 (Baerlocher, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20060247012 (Walker, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20060121971 (Slomiany, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20060073897 (Englman, et al.) and United States Patent Application No. 20040235552 (Gauselmann), the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. U.S. Pat. No. 6,692,354 teaches a group wagering game in which all entrants win or lose simultaneously as a group. U.S. Patent App. Nos. 20070129149 and 20060247012 describe linked play in which a group objective is identified, and wherein prizes are awarded for achieving the group objective. U.S. Patent App. Nos. 20070105620, 20070077990 and 20070054732 discuss linked machine play that, when the bonus event occurs, provides the players who are actively playing each auxiliary gaming device in the gaming system a chance to participate in the bonus event as well. U.S. Patent App. No. 20060121971 teaches a community game in which at least two participating players compete in the game such that the actions and results of each player affect the other players in the community, the interactive game combining skill and luck to improve the play of the game. U.S. Patent App. No. 20060073897 discloses a wagering game in which a player may compete against other players while both players strive toward a common goal, wherein only one or some of the players may win a prize. The network is configured to apply all monetary amounts won in the special-event game session to a special-event jackpot and to award the jackpot to one or more players at a conclusion of the special-event game session. U.S. Patent App. No. 20040235552 teaches a method that, upon a certain triggering event occurring, provides eligible gaming machines to simultaneously receive a signal for initiating a free game bonus round. The free games are played in competition among the players, and a jackpot amount may be awarded to the player having the highest score in credits or points.
Communal bonus play is also disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,097,562 (Gagner), U.S. Pat. No. 6,984,174 (Cannon, et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 6,780,111 (Cannon, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070060369 (Martin), United States Patent Application No. 20070060330 (Martin), United States Patent Application No. 20060252546 Castellari, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20060247011 (Gagner), United States Patent Application No. 20060046823 (Kaminkow, et al.), and United States Patent Application No. 20050096114 (Cannon, et al.), the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. U.S. Pat. No. 7,097,562 and U.S. Patent App. No. 20060247011 disclose a method and system that is a combination of hardware and software that controls the initiation of a shared game, determines the gaming terminals eligible to participate in the game, accepts or rejects their participation, and subsequently establishes virtual communication network directly between participating gaming terminals. U.S. Pat. No. 6,984,174 teaches a linked bonus game in which qualified participants use skill and strategy to compete against each other by navigating a player marker on a bonus game field. U.S. Pat. No. 6,780,111 and U.S. Patent App. No. 20050096114 disclose a perpetual bonus game, the ongoing game being a continuous game in which a player may participate at any point. Players may enter and exit play of the ongoing bonus game while it is still in progress, participating only in a segment thereof. Unlike a traditional bonus game, the ongoing bonus game does not terminate due to a player bonus win or other termination of participation in the game, but progresses thereafter. U.S. Patent App. Nos. 20070060369 and 20070060330 describe community bonus round software and gaming systems based on player competition or player cooperation. U.S. Patent App. No. 20060252546 teaches a linked game feature in which the player triggering the feature may compete for a prize against a previous feature game winner. U.S. Patent App. No. 20060046823 describes a plurality of gaming devices that are linked by a common bonus event on a shared display. When the shared display is activated, it simultaneously generates a separate or individual outcome associated with each of the gaming devices.
Methods of team play in communal bonus games are discussed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,699 (Walker, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070015571 (Walker, et al.), United States Patent Application No. 20070010322 (Walker, et al.), and United States Patent Application No. 20070010321 (Walker, et al.), the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. In each of these teachings, awards may be given for results based on determinations corresponding to a first player and a second player. Joint participation by members of a team in a bonus round is also discussed. Each of these references is incorporated herein by reference in their entirety at least for their technical disclosure, including apparatus, systems, software, hardware and rules of play.
Various disadvantages of the prior art referenced above include group, team or peer-to-peer play that a) causes a player to lose against other players, b) demands that a group objective be achieved in order to win a prize, c) allows other players to participate when a one player achieves a predetermined result in a base game, even if the other players do not specifically qualify to play by achieving the same said predetermined result, d) allows the actions and results of each player to affect the other players in the community, including if a negative outcome is affected e) allows only one or some of the players to win prizes, f) allows only the top-scoring player to win a prize, and/or g) dictates that the participation of the gaming terminals eligible to participate in the game may be accepted or rejected.
It is therefore an aspect of the present invention to overcome these disadvantages by providing bonus game play that allows multiple players to sequentially play segments of a communal game for individual results and prizes.
A method and apparatus for mechanical, electromechanical, internet or video slot play on networked or banked (e.g., multiple player monitors on a single bank of monitors) gaming machines is disclosed. Each gaming machine in the network comprises a primary mechanical reel array or video symbol array (“base game”) and a secondary video symbol array (“bonus game”) disposed in a separate area from the base game. The base games may or may not be identically themed or structured games, while each bonus game displayed to the multiple players is the exact same game in the same real-time bonus stage of play. Each individual player makes a wager to play the base game and an additional wager or “side bet” is preferably required for the opportunity to play what is referred to herein as the communal bonus game feature (“CBGF”). After the wagers are made, the base game is initiated, and a final symbol result is shown. The base game is individually played by each player, although it is possible for the players to have a communal base game displayed on a communal screen and/or on individual screens. The final symbol result is analyzed for winning symbol combinations, and any individual winning combinations are paid according to a predetermined paytable. If a predetermined bonus triggering symbol or symbol set is displayed in the final symbol result, the CBGF is triggered for that player. Preferably the predetermined symbol or symbol set indicates a particular value, the value specifying the number of chances (picks, spins, game spaces or the like) that the player is afforded in the CBGF. The CBGF may be any known bonus or underlying-type game play event known in the industry, such as a preferred video game with an array of numerous masked symbols (for instance, 50 masked symbols), wherein the player is prompted to utilize his number of chances (for instance, 5 picks) to reveal that same number of prizes. The prizes may be and preferably are accumulative, and the player wins the total of the prizes after the last pick is completed. The player then returns to base game play, with the communal bonus game feature now displaying the revealed prizes along with the remainder of the masked symbols. When the CBGF is triggered again (for the same player or a different player), that player selects his picks from the remainder of the masked symbols, receives the accumulation of prizes, and returns to the base game. The communal bonus game feature remains displayed, showing a now larger set of revealed symbols and a smaller set of masked symbols. Play continues as above until a single unique grand prize symbol or unique collective set of symbols is revealed. Once the grand prize is picked and awarded, the said bonus game is terminated, and a next bonus game is displayed with a new array of masked symbols.
The game play may be described as follows. A base game among communal players enters a bonus stage with multiple players being capable of entering the bonus stage, collectively or one at a time. The bonus stage comprises a collection of exposable frames with hidden symbols in the frames. At least each player entering the bonus stage will be able to expose a number (less than all, unless there are very few or a single frame left) of remaining unexposed frames. Until a bonus game ending event occurs, the communal bonus game has fewer and fewer exposable (hidden) frames. Different intermediate awards and bonuses may be achieved until the highest level jackpot is achieved or another bonus round event occurs. Once a bonus round ending event occurs, a new bonus round event occurs. The number of selections offered to a player may be a function of or result of the number of credits wagered on a particular event, the average number of credits being wagered over time, a particular winning event, combinations of these factors and the like.
Mechanical, electromechanical reels or a video monitor screen controlled by a processor (local remote or internet access) is provided on which symbols may be provided for use in an underlying slot or video poker machine game. The symbols may be positioned in a grid, preferably as a matrix of rows and columns, or may be positioned in other symmetric, asymmetric or random patterns or shapes. Individual slot machines utilizing the present invention may be or are linked together in a network or banked, for example in a bank of games within a single casino, among a chain of casinos, within a particular gaming district, intrastate or interstate jurisdiction or internationally through the internet. Each gaming machine in the network comprises a first monitor screen displaying a mechanical reel array or video symbol array (“base game”) and a second monitor screen displaying a video symbol array (“bonus game”) disposed in a separate area from the base game. The bonus game display may be on a separate screen on each of the linked machines, or on a single display screen viewable by and electronically linked to all of the individual machines (e.g., a communal screen). The base games may or may not be identically themed games, while the bonus game depicted is a same exact game in the same real-time stage of play for all players who have paced a wager in the CBGF. (It should be noted that, depending on the number of players on the network, a multiple of similar bonus games may be playable at any one time, with a predetermined maximum amount of players on the network playing any one single game. Alternately, all of the bonus games may be the same type bonus game, but in different stages of play. It may be a requirement for participation in the CBGF that at the time when the first symbol is revealed in the bonus event, any player who is to participate in the bonus event must already have entered the CBGF opportunity by at least one previous wager (e.g., when the bonus event first symbol is provided) or that players who had not entered the CBGF opportunity by at least one previous wager, enter the CBGF with a wager from then on and/or contribute a significant amount (5× ante) to reenter the CBGF.) The player makes a wager to play the underlying base game and an additional wager or “side bet” is preferably required for the opportunity to play the CBGF. After the wagers are made, the base game is initiated, and a final symbol result is shown. The final symbol result is analyzed for winning symbol combinations, and any winning combinations are paid according to a predetermined paytable. If a predetermined triggering symbol or symbol set is displayed in the final symbol result according to predetermined rules, the CBGF is triggered for that player and possibly all other players who are currently making CBGF wagers. Preferably the predetermined symbol or symbol set indicates a particular value or amount in the bonus play, the amount specifying the number of chances (picks, spins, game spaces or the like) that the player is afforded in the CBGF. Optionally, all other players presently making wagers may be provided a same or lesser number of bonus plays or amounts. For example, in a final spin result of a 3-row×5-column base game, if a “Play Bonus” symbol is displayed on the first reel, and a “Pick 5” symbol is displayed on the fifth reel, the communal bonus game feature will be triggered for that player, with that player being afforded 5 picks. The CBGF may be any suitable game that may be played in segments or stages, and that may terminate with a singular event such as a completion of a set of symbols or alphanumerics, reaching and end of bonus result, reaching a completion (win) of bonus event, at the maximum or intermediate level, etc. The number of chances (if a number of chances is awarded) determines a gaming segment and qualified players play their game segments one at a time in sequential order. Upon the completion of his or her gaming segment, the player collects awards and returns to the base game. If at any time a predetermined special symbol or event has been activated during a gaming segment in the bonus game, the game is terminated, and a next bonus game is initiated. In a shared event, the triggering player may be provided with a portion (or even all) of the bonus if that triggering player effects the bonus winning event, and a guaranteed minimum if another player provides the bonus winning event. The other players may win portions of the bonus award dependent upon the size of their wagers, how many bonus event CBGF wagers they have placed during the bonus event, how long they have been playing at the connected games, how many intermediate symbols they have provided and any other measurable and determinable basis that may be recorded by a processor receiving player information and/or individual game apparatus information.
A base game among communal players enters a bonus stage with multiple players being capable of entering the bonus stage, collectively or preferably one at a time. The bonus stage comprises a collection of exposable frames with hidden symbols in the frames. At least each player entering the bonus stage will be able to expose a number (less than all, unless there are very few or a single frame left) of remaining unexposed frames. Until a bonus game ending event occurs, the communal bonus game has fewer and fewer exposable (hidden) frames. Different intermediate awards and bonuses may be achieved until the highest level jackpot is achieved or another bonus round event occurs. Once a bonus round ending event occurs, a new bonus round event occurs.
An exemplary bonus game constitutes a video array (columns and rows, randomly spaced frames, crossword puzzle arrays, honeycomb arrays, and the like) of numerous masked symbols (for instance, 50 masked symbols), and the player is prompted to utilize his amount of chances (for instance, 5 picks) to reveal that same number of prizes. This game play is commonly known in the art as “pick-a-tile.” The prizes are cumulative or individually awardable in advance of a jackpot, and the player(s) may win some or all of the total of the prizes displayed up to the point of the bonus round ending event or after the last pick is completed. The player(s) then (after exercising their display frame awards) returns to base game play, with the communal bonus game feature remaining displayed and with the revealed prizes preferably being shown along with the remainder of the masked symbols. When the CBGF is triggered again (for the same player or a different player), that player selects his picks from the remainder of the masked symbols, receives any awarded accumulation of prizes, and returns to the base game. The communal bonus game feature is still displayed, with a now larger set of revealed symbols and a now smaller set of masked symbols. Play continues as above until a grand prize symbol is revealed or a bonus round ending event occurs, there being only one grand prize symbol in the 50-symbol array. Once the grand prize is picked and awarded, a next game is displayed with a new array of 50 masked symbols. If a bonus round ending event other than the jackpot occurs, then the jackpot may further accumulate and/or otherwise increase. If the player who picks the grand prize symbol has remaining picks, he may use those picks in the next game. At any time the CBGF is triggered for play by a first player, and the game is currently actively being played by a second player, the first player may have to wait until the second player completes his play. The first player may or may not continue to play the base game while waiting to play the CBGF.
A fluid math model is preferably utilized in the play of the present invention. An exemplary embodiment comprises the base game displaying a 3-row×5-column array of symbols, and the player wagering to play the base game by designating an amount of paylines, at a designated amount of credits per payline. For instance, it may cost 100 credits to play 20 paylines at 5 credits per payline. The additional wager (or “side bet”) is a predetermined specific amount of credits that is or may be required to be wagered for the opportunity to play the communal bonus game feature; a minimum base game wager may or may not be required as well. Preferably, the gaming establishment or “house” retains a percentage of each side bet, with the remainder funding the awards in the communal bonus game feature. For instance, each required side bet of 10 credits, with the house retaining 20% thereof, would add 8 credits to the total credits available for wins in the CBGF. An initial “seed” funding may also be needed at the beginning of a first or each communal bonus game feature, which the house would provide in order to begin the numerous awards at levels that are attractive to players. The seed funding would then be divided into various awards of various credit amounts to fill the total amount of masked award areas. For example, the casino may provide an initial 1000 credits to fund a first communal bonus game feature with 50 masked award areas, with 25% being designated for the one grand prize award of 250 credits, 50% being designated for five 100-credit awards, and the other 25% being divided into various amounts of credits to fill the remaining 44 masked award areas. (An alternate method may include some award areas of “0-credit” awards, so that the credit awards in the remainder of award areas could be larger. Another method may provide that at least one award area may be a multiplier, X amount of extra picks, lose next picks, or the like.) As the side bet monies are constantly added to the initial seed funding monies, the masked awards will constantly grow in value. Side bet monies may be added in the same percentages as the initial seed funds, or in any other fashion that the game designer deems suitable. Whether or not an initial seed funding is provided, the values of the awards will constantly change, growing larger as more and more side bet monies are added. As more masked awards are revealed and paid to a player, the remaining masked awards will grow even larger, as new side bet monies now are divided into fewer masked award areas. This dynamic math model ensures that ever-increasing values will be available, increasing expectations and excitement for the player. As soon as the grand prize award is revealed, the game is terminated, and a next game with a new array of 50 masked award areas is displayed. Any award credits that were not won in the terminated game are added to the total funds available in the next game. The house may or may not provide an initial seed fund to this next game. Play then continues in the same fashion, as one communal bonus game feature is played to termination, and a next communal bonus game feature is initiated. The jackpot may be a progressive jackpot within a bonus round or, when as described above there is a bonus ending event that does not award the jackpot, between consecutive bonus rounds. The number of selections offered to a player may be a function of or result of the number of credits wagered on a particular event, the average number of credits being wagered over time, a particular winning event, combinations of these factors and the like. In the situation where the Player may be able to elect wagers of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 units (as an example), Wagering 1 unit may enable a payout of 1 frame selection in the bonus, wagering 2 credits may enable selection of 2 frames in the bonus, etc., with a wager of 5 credits enabling a selection of 5 or even more frame selections (as a bonus for making a maximum wager). Alternatively all wagers less than the maximum may get only a single (1) triggered frame selection or no frame selections, and only with a wager of the maximum number of credits can the bonus selections be won. Alternatively, the processor may average the size of the wagers and the total amount wagered over time and award bonus picks based on an internal paytable, offering more picks because of larger wagering amounts/time. For example, even if a player is wagering a maximum of 3 credits per time and another player is averaging 4 units/time, the first player may be playing faster and deserve more consideration (larger selection awards) in the bonus. A more standard award format would be for the use of different triggering events providing different numbers of selections. The different events may be independent of the amount of credits (e.g., every three-of-a-kind gets three selections) or may be tied to the wager (e.g., every three-of-a-kind gets three times the number of units wagered as the number of selections).
A particular feature of the present invention may provide that the one grand prize award, or any other predetermined special event, being revealed serves as the termination of any communal bonus game feature, assuring that each player at any particular time always has a chance of winning the grand prize. Since a next game with a new masked symbol array is offered immediately after the grand prize is won in one game, and there is always exactly potentially one grand prize award or special event in each bonus game (which is not awarded if the bonus ending event is not necessarily the award of the jackpot), there is always a grand prize award in play. As stated above, non-revealed symbols that remain after a game is terminated are added to the award total of the next game, so that even when the grand prize is awarded early in the game sequence, the players not only do not forfeit other lucrative award opportunities, but will play for larger awards in the next game.
An additional feature of the present invention may include the option of selecting one of at least two versions of the bonus game, the versions differing by risk/reward factors. As aforementioned, the masked award areas in the described 50-award pick-a-tile game may include some areas in which the award is “0-credits”. To illustrate the bonus game choices, Game 1 would be the least risky, providing no “0” pays and 50 small credit amounts. Game 2 would be more risky, providing 10 “0” pays and 40 larger credit amounts. Game 3 would be the riskiest, providing 25 “0” pays and 25 largest credit amounts. The choice of game versions may be a random selection or weighted random selection by the machine processor, or the choice may be a player selection. Risk/reward information is preferably revealed to all of the players, and the player who won the grand prize and therefore the player to end the previous game may preferably be the player to choose the next version.
Reference to the Figures will assist in further understanding of the practice of the present invention.
The bonus ending event does not have to be, and preferably is not, display of all available frames or symbols or spaces on a pick-and-reveal screen. For example, in some wagering events such as pull-tabs, all tabs must be removed before a new sheet is provided. This may be undesirable if a large or the large jackpot is paid before the last tab has been removed. Similarly in the present game, it is desirable to maintain the availability of the largest jackpot in the game at all times. The use of a bonus ending event, even without award of the jackpot or an alternative to the jackpot, can keep the jackpot available to all communal players at all times, which offers significant attractive advantages to players, especially in a fixed rather than progressive jackpot. With a progressive jackpot, even though it eventually become large, it may start small, even too small for some players. Although specific examples and specific images have been provided in this discussion, these specifics are intended to be only support for the generic concepts of the invention and are not intended to be absolute limits in the scope of the technology discussed.