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Publication numberUS20090275392 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/112,734
Publication dateNov 5, 2009
Priority dateApr 30, 2008
Publication number112734, 12112734, US 2009/0275392 A1, US 2009/275392 A1, US 20090275392 A1, US 20090275392A1, US 2009275392 A1, US 2009275392A1, US-A1-20090275392, US-A1-2009275392, US2009/0275392A1, US2009/275392A1, US20090275392 A1, US20090275392A1, US2009275392 A1, US2009275392A1
InventorsAaron Lewis
Original AssigneeBally Technologies, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Encouraging multiple player participation in primary or secondary bonus games
US 20090275392 A1
Abstract
A gaming method and system for networked gaming machines to award a cooperative prize is described. The method comprises networking a plurality of gaming machines and operating a primary game on each of the plurality of networked gaming machines. The primary game has a normal state that is engaged after a wager is received and before awarding a prize. The method then proceeds to trigger a cooperative feature state that corresponds to awarding an initial prize when a first networked gaming machine triggers the cooperative feature state. The cooperative feature state is then communicated to at least one other gaming machine. The initial prize is increased when two or more networked gaming machines enter the cooperative feature state.
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Claims(21)
1. A first gaming machine configured to award a cooperative prize, the first game machine comprising:
at least a primary game configured to operate on the first gaming machine;
a cooperative award state configured to operate on the first gaming machine, wherein the cooperative award state is invoked upon the occurrence of a designated game play event;
a networking component operably disposed in the first gaming machine, the networking component configured to send and receive data, including sending an indication that the first gaming machine is in the enhanced award state when the designated game event occurs; and
where the first gaming machine is configured to determine an enhanced award associated with the cooperative award state using a value received via the network component, the received value based on a number of gaming machines that entered the cooperative award state during a time period associated with the cooperative award state.
2. The first gaming machine of claim 1 wherein the indication of entering the cooperative award state sent over the network component is further configured for reception by a server that communicates the cooperative award state to other networked game machines.
3. The first gaming machine of claim 2, wherein the cooperative award state is triggered by the first gaming machine, further comprises a timer that is also triggered by the first gaming machine, wherein the timer provides the time period.
4. The first gaming machine of claim 3, wherein after the duration of the time period associated with the first cooperative award state, either an initial prize or the enhanced prize is awarded by the first gaming machine.
5. The first gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the indication of entering the cooperative award state sent over the network component is further configured for reception by a server and where the network component receives a communication from the server that at least one other gaming machine entered the cooperative award state before the first gaming machine.
6. The first gaming machine of claim 5, wherein the cooperative award state is triggered by another gaming machine, further comprises a timer that is initiated by the other gaming machine, wherein the timer provides the time period.
7. The first gaming machine of claim 6, wherein after the duration of the first cooperative award state, either no prize or an enhanced prize is awarded by the first gaming machine.
8. A gaming system configured to award a cooperative prize, the gaming system comprising:
a plurality of networked gaming machines, wherein each networked gaming machine comprises at least a primary game;
a cooperative award state configured to operate on each networked gaming machine, wherein the cooperative award state is invoked upon the occurrence of a designated game play result;
a networking component in operable communication with each networked game machine; and
a cooperative award communicable to each networked gaming machine that enters the cooperative award state during a time period, the time period established as a result of a first networked gaming machine entering the cooperative award state when no cooperative award state is current, and where the cooperative award is based on a total number of gaming machines that enter the cooperative award state during the time period.
9. The gaming system of claim 8 further comprising a server that is communicatively coupled to each networked gaming machine, wherein the server is informed that one of the networked gaming machines has entered the cooperative award state.
10. The gaming system of claim 9 wherein the server is configured to communicate the cooperative award state to each networked gaming machine eligible to participate in the current cooperative award state.
11. The gaming system of claim 10 wherein the eligible gaming machines are those within a geographically localized area.
12. The gaming system of claim 11, wherein the cooperative award state that is triggered by one of the networked gaming machines, further comprises a timer supplied by the server that provides a duration for the cooperative award state.
13. The gaming system of claim 12, wherein each networked gaming machine that enters the cooperative award state during the duration of the cooperative award state is updated by the server about changes to the cooperative prize.
14. The gaming system of claim 12, wherein after the duration of the cooperative award state, the cooperative prize value, or a factor usable to calculate the cooperative prize value, is propagated to each of the networked gaming machines that were in the cooperative award state.
15. A gaming method for networked gaming machines to award a cooperative prize, the method comprising:
networking a plurality of gaming machines;
operating at least a primary game on each of the plurality of networked gaming machines, where there is a game play result which comprises triggering entry into a cooperative award state;
triggering a cooperative award state;
determining a time period for the triggered cooperative award state;
determining when gaming machines enter the cooperative award state during the time period; and
determining a cooperative award based on a total number of gaming machines that entered the cooperative award state during the time period, due to the occurrence of an eligible game play event on each gaming machine that enters the cooperative award state.
16. The gaming method of claim 15 further comprising communicatively coupling a server to each networked gaming machine, wherein the server is informed when one of the networked gaming machines enters the cooperative award state.
17. The gaming method of claim 16 wherein the server is configured to communicate the cooperative award state to each networked gaming machine that forms a predetermined set of gaming machines.
18. The gaming method of claim 17 wherein the predetermined set of gaming machines comprise networked gaming machines within a geographically localized area.
19. The gaming method of claim 18 further comprising configuring the timer by the first gaming machine to enter the cooperative award state.
20. The gaming method of claim 18 further comprising configuring the timer by the server.
21. The gaming method of claim 16 further comprising triggering the cooperative award state by the server and determining the time period by the server.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The invention relates to a system and method for enhanced game awards using networked gaming machines. More particularly, the invention relates to increasing prize amounts based on the number of gaming machines enrolled or participating during the pendency of a special game state.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0002]
    Gaming machines such as slot machines always include a primary game. The primary game is begun when a coin, credit, coupon, cash or other financial instrument is input into the gaming machine. A player is then given an opportunity to place a wager, after which a game result is determined based on a random event.
  • [0003]
    The wager selection process for the primary game can be relatively complicated depending on the type of game. For example, in a typical slot machine the player has to select the amount to wager, the number of paylines to play, and possibly even evaluate a choice of paytables. The player then proceeds to “pull” the slot handle by either pulling a physical handle, or, on most modern slot machines, by pushing a button that initiates game play for the primary game.
  • [0004]
    There are a variety of different awards that a player may win in the primary game such as credits, a progressive, or, in some games, the ability to play a bonus game. The player is awarded a prize based on the paytable and an underlying random event which is mapped into primary game results. For those games offering a progressive jackpot win event, a portion of the player's wagers from a plurality of gaming machines are placed in a “pot” and each player playing on a participating gaming machine has an opportunity to win the progressive jackpot by making a specially designated wager.
  • [0005]
    One type of primary game award or prize is entry into a secondary game, also called a bonus game. A winning game outcome in the bonus game may result in awarding a bonus prize that is added to the prize won in the underlying primary game. Alternatively, a winning game outcome in the bonus game may result in multiplying the prize in the underlying primary game. A more detailed discussion of a bonus game feature is provided in U.S. Pat. No. 7,351,144 entitled BONUS GAME USING A SUBSET OF REELS, currently commonly owned and hereby incorporated in full, by reference.
  • [0006]
    Generally, prizes that are awarded as a result of secondary game play are based on players competing for the same prize, such as the progressive jackpot awards, or players competing for fixed prizes offered just in the particular gaming machine being played.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0007]
    A first gaming machine configured to award a cooperative prize is described. The first game machine comprises a primary game, a cooperative feature state, a networking component, and an increased prize. The primary game is configured to operate on the gaming machine and includes a normal game state that is engaged after a wager is received and before awarding a prize. The cooperative feature state is also configured to operate on the gaming machine and awards an initial prize. The first gaming machine also has a networking component configured to communicate the cooperative feature state to another networked gaming machine having the same primary game. The initial prize is increased to an increased prize in the cooperative feature state when the other networked gaming machine enters the cooperative feature state. Thus, when two or more networked gaming machines enter the cooperative feature state, the initial prize is increased. In one illustrative embodiment, the cooperative feature state is associated with a timer and has a fixed duration during which the cooperative feature state is active. In another embodiment, the cooperative feature state is associated with a location such as a slot bank.
  • [0008]
    Additionally, a gaming system configured to award a cooperative prize is also described. The gaming system comprises a plurality of networked gaming machines, a cooperative feature state, a networking component and an increased prize. Each networked gaming machine comprises a primary game having a normal state that is engaged after a wager is received and before awarding a prize. The cooperative feature state is configured to operate on each gaming machine and awards an initial prize. The networking component associated with each networked gaming machine is configured to communicate the cooperative game feature state to another networked gaming machine having the same primary game. The initial prize is increased when at least two networked gaming machines enter the cooperative feature state.
  • [0009]
    Furthermore, a gaming method for networked gaming machines to award a cooperative prize is described. The method comprises networking a plurality of gaming machines and operating a primary game on each of the plurality of networked gaming machines. The primary game has a normal state that is engaged after a wager is received and before awarding a prize. The method then proceeds to trigger a cooperative feature state that corresponds to awarding an initial prize when a first networked gaming machine triggers the cooperative feature state. The cooperative feature state is then communicated to at least one other gaming machine. The initial prize is increased when two or more networked gaming machines enter the cooperative feature state.
  • DRAWINGS
  • [0010]
    The present invention will be more fully understood by reference to the following drawings which are for illustrative, not limiting, purposes.
  • [0011]
    FIG. 1 shows an illustrative gaming system configured to award a cooperative prize.
  • [0012]
    FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of an illustrative gaming machine having a processor and networking component suitable for interfacing with the illustrative system in FIG. 1 that is configured to award the cooperative prize.
  • [0013]
    FIG. 3 shows an illustrative operational sequence for an illustrative client gaming machine and server.
  • [0014]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B show an illustrative flowchart of a method for networked gaming machines to award the cooperative prize.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0015]
    Persons of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the following description is illustrative and not in any way limiting. Other embodiments of the claimed subject matter will readily suggest themselves to such skilled persons who also have the benefit of this disclosure. It shall be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the devices described hereinafter may vary as to configuration and as to details, and the methods may vary as to details and the order of the actions without departing from the newly disclosed material herein.
  • [0016]
    The gaming machine, systems and methods described herein encourages as many players as possible to enter a unique and special game play sequence during a proscribed period, where the awards made during the period are enhanced based on the number of gaming machines participating. This unique state is called an enhanced award state, and may be implemented as a primary game enhanced award state or a secondary or bonus game enhanced award state. Player participation is encouraged because, during the enhanced award state, the amount of any base award (the non-enhanced award) is enhanced based on the number of additional gaming machines that enter the enhanced award state after the initial gaming machine triggers an enhanced award state.
  • [0017]
    The unique characteristics of the enhanced award state encourage “cooperative” behavior between players in the sense that once the enhanced award state is triggered by one machine, or is otherwise enabled for a set of machines (for example, by a server for a bank of machines), other players have an incentive to try and trigger an enhanced award state on other participating gaming machines, where they will automatically get enhanced awards. Because this type of game play encourages “cooperative” behavior, it is also called the cooperative award state. As used in this disclosure, enhanced award state and cooperative award state mean the same state.
  • [0018]
    The gaming machine, systems and methods described herein are configured to award an enhanced value of a game win event, based on the number of gaming machines that enter a cooperative award state concurrently. In one embodiment, the cooperative award state is enabled for entrance by a designated set of gaming machines for a fixed duration, and in another embodiment the cooperative award state remains open until a designated number of machines enter the qualifying bonus game. In a further embodiment, the cooperative prize is awarded within a particular location such as a slot bank. In the combined embodiment described, the cooperative award state is enabled for a fixed duration and within a particular location. Thus, the gaming machine, system and method described herein enable a community of players to wager cooperatively and be awarded a larger prize per win event in each gaming machine, instead of competing against one another for a single prize, e.g. progressive jackpot.
  • [0019]
    As used herein, “cooperative prize”, “cooperative award”, “enhanced award”, “enhanced prize” or similar descriptions are understood to mean any increase in value over a value of a specified or eligible win event awarded when the gaming machine is not in an enhanced ward state, and further where the increased value is based on the number of gaming machines that have entered into an enhanced award state (cooperative award state) during a determinable period. The start of the determinable period may be determined by a gaming machine or by a server, depending on the embodiment. Likewise, the extent of the determinable period may be determined by a gaming machine or by a server, depending on the embodiment.
  • [0020]
    An additional advantage of the gaming systems and method described herein is that it encourages more people to play designated sets of gaming machines, an example of which is a slot bank, since more active machines result in an increased cooperative prize. The systems and methods described herein also readily adjust or “scale” so that as more gaming machines participate in the cooperative game, the greater the cooperative prize.
  • [0021]
    Referring to FIG. 1 there is generally shown an illustrative gaming system 1 suitable for use when implementing cooperative award state systems. The system 1 comprises a plurality of local area servers 2 a, 2 b and 2 c that are each communicatively coupled to networked gaming machines or player terminals (PT), also called electronic gaming machines (EGMs), via a local network 5 a, 5 b, and 5 c, respectively. The servers may be any serviceable type, running the server software constructed to implement the functions described herein, and may include but are not limited to IBM 4000 or 6000 series, Microsoft Servers, Linux servers, etc. Typically the network connections will be implemented using industry standard Ethernet LAN networking technology, but any electronic or wireless network technology may be used. The application software embodying the functional aspects of the present invention will communicate with the PTs using the same underlying communications protocols as are currently in use for other functions such as player card systems, gaming machine monitoring and reporting, etc.
  • [0022]
    For the illustrative system embodiment, the local network 5 a supports a multiplayer bank of networked gaming machines 10 a, 10 b and 10 c that is also referred as a “slot bank” 15 that is configured to enable use of the cooperative award state and its associated enhanced awards. The total number of gaming machines in the slot bank 15 varies; however, the gaming machines are typically adjacent to one another. The network gaming machines 10 a, 10 b and 10 c in the slot bank 15 are communicatively coupled to the local area server 2 a or “central handler.” Note, the illustrative local area server 2 a in FIG. 1 is confined to a geographic location such a slot bank on the slot floor of a casino property, but in general may be remote from the gaming machines.
  • [0023]
    An illustrative cooperative prize display 7 a, 7 b and 7 c is communicatively coupled to the local area server 2 a, 2 b, and 2 c, respectively, for display of an initial prize 40 and a cooperative prize 42. As described in more detail below, the initial prize 40 is the base or non-enhanced bonus game win amount for an eligible bonus game. This will be displayed in a manner appropriate to each specific implementation. For example, if the eligible gaming machines all have eligible bonus games having the same payouts and paytables, an absolute amount may be shown. An example might be: “Your Normal Bonus Win Is $5.00! See How Many Other Players You Can Get Involved So All Can Win Higher Amounts!” In this example the absolute amount is the single base win amount for all the gaming machines that can participate, or $5.00. In other implementations the base bonus payout will differ. For example, some eligible machines might be penny machines with a base eligible game play event (also a designated game play result) having a value of $1.00, while other eligible machines might be $1.00 machines with a base eligible game play event having a value of $100.00. In this example, initial prize 40 may list each type of machine's base bonus prize in a list or by similar means, or, may reference the player to a certain part of the display on the individual gaming machines.
  • [0024]
    The cooperative prize 42 is awarded to all gaming machines that participate in an enhanced game state session and whose game (either the primary game or a bonus game) hits an eligible game event. Note that in general, an eligible game event that qualifies for an enhanced award while a gaming machine is in an enhanced award state will be a small subset of all the game events that yield a win. As with the initial or base bonus amount 40, the way in which the enhanced payout 42 is displayed will vary depending on each implementation or embodiment.
  • [0025]
    The simplest case is when the enhanced value is a fixed amount per added gaming machine. For example, for a given bank of gaming machines the enhanced award may be an additional $5.00 for each gaming machine that enters the enhanced award state after the initial gaming machine triggers the state (put differently, all participating gaming machine minus one, which is the number of additional gaming machines participating in an enhanced award state). This could be displayed as single current value, incremented as additional gaming machines become participating gaming machines until the enhanced award state expires. Alternatively, the amount 42 may be expressed as a calculation of the gaming machine's base pay amount. One example of such a calculation might be, “We now have 2 additional players, so you will win 4 times your normal win amount!” This allows for gaming machines having different base pay amounts to participate in a same enhanced award state. Note that like 40, 42 may be expressed as a list of two or more values corresponding to the different base bonus pay gaming machines that are eligible to participate in the enhanced bonus game play.
  • [0026]
    Awards 40 and 42 may be funded by play of the gaming machines 10 a 10 b, and 10 c (e.g., a percentage of wagers, or from the pay table). Other means for funding the enhanced awards further include funding through a marketing budget. In another embodiment the cooperative prize 42 may also be funded using “expired” awards (e.g., expired points, coupons, etc.), or by any other means selected by a casino. If funds for the enhanced awards are derived from a source other than a portion of player's wagers, the presently described enhanced award state and the associated enhanced awards may be more easily enabled for use in class II gaming establishments, described further below.
  • [0027]
    The illustrative local area servers 2 a, 2 b, and 2 c may further be coupled to a wide area server 6 via a suitable communication connection (e.g., wide area network, frame relay). Under such an arrangement, each of the gaming machines 10 a, 10 b and 10 c in each network 5 a, 5 b and 5 c may be awarded a cooperative award. By way of example and not of limitation, the illustrative local area networks 5 a, 5 b and 5 c may reside at a separate site or casino location from the other local networks, thereby allowing broader participation among players visiting the various sites or locations. Additionally, with greater participation, the cooperative award 42 may also increase. Other server systems 11 may also be communicatively coupled to each illustrative network 5 a, 5 b and 5 c. For example, other server systems 11 may include player tracking systems or accounting systems.
  • [0028]
    The illustrative gaming system 1 comprises a plurality of networked gaming machines 10 a, 10 b and 10 c that support a cooperative award state resulting in an increased cooperative award. Embodiments include, but are not limited to, the networking of standalone class III gaming machines, the networking of class III gaming machines where the display portion and the gaming engine portion of each logical machine do not physically reside on the same physical machine, and the networking of class II gaming machines.
  • [0029]
    FIG. 1's servers (2 a, 2 b, and 2 c) will typically have installed thereon software that performs the functions described herein, for the networked portion of the presently disclosed enhanced game state and associated enhanced awards. If the PTs are traditional class III gaming machines, where the game logic as well as presentation/graphics and other logic all reside on each machine, the servers primarily coordinate the enhanced game state invocation, its time duration, the addition of other eligible gaming machines during the time periods including keeping track of each eligible game win event on the eligible gaming machines, and finally the value of any final award amounts (this may be passed to each gaming machine as a factor to be used by each gaming machine in making a final value determination).
  • [0030]
    If the PTs are class III gaming machines with separated game logic, a game engine associable with each PT may reside on one or more of the servers, as well as the software that enables the functionality described in the present disclosure.
  • [0031]
    If the PTs are class II gaming machines, the servers have thereon the software needed to run the pooled games needed for class II gaming establishments, in addition to the software described above to enable the functionality disclosed herein. They need not be on the same server. For example, the enhanced award state software could be on server 11 in FIG. 1, while the class II pooled prize selection software could be on servers 2 a, 2 b, and 2 c. Unlike class III game results, class II game results are selected from a fixed pool of results, where each game play corresponds to the selection of an element from a shared pool. The game results are then sent to the gaming machine, which must represent the already determined game result in a manner that appears to the player as if it were a random event on the gaming machine. Described are two possible embodiments of the enhanced award state in class II casinos.
  • [0032]
    A first embodiment funds the enhanced award state from a different source than the underlying pools. When a game event (pool element selection) indicates entrance into an enhanced award state, the pool server sends an indicator to both the individual gaming machine it is currently serving, and the enhanced award state server (which may be the same server). The enhanced award state server determines a time period for which the enhanced award state will be active. For those gaming machines in the set of gaming machines that may participate in the enhanced award state, any individual game play event (in class II gaming this means the selection of a pool element) which results in the selection of an enhanced award state element during the time period which puts that gaming machine into the enhanced award state.
  • [0033]
    After the time period ends, the number of gaming machines in the enhanced award pool is used to calculate an additional win amount for each participating gaming machine. In class II casinos, banks of machines typically have primary games with the same basic payout amounts (due to the common pool being used). It is expected that a common embodiment of the enhanced award state is a simple constant adder, corresponding to the value of the underlying games. For example, in a bank of quarter ($0.25) gaming machines, the enhanced award state would multiply each gaming machine entrant by an even multiple of $0.25. The funding for the amount given to each gaming machine after the time period for the enhanced award state ends does not come from the pooled games, but rather from a marketing budget, an unclaimed awards pool, or other external (to the primary game pool) funding source.
  • [0034]
    In a second embodiment, the enhanced award state may be funded by a secondary pool of game results. This embodiment is more complex than the first, as it may require players to “pay for” a secondary pool element upon the entrance of each additional gaming machine. The secondary pool may be set up as a “loss pool”, where the cost of a pool element (once the gaming machine is eligible to draw from the pool by entrance into the enhanced award state) is either free (requiring, perhaps, the player to bet by pushing a confirm button) or nominal ($0.01), and where the value of each pool element is a set amount plus the nominal bet amount, therefore appearing to the player as a fixed added win amount for each new gaming machine that enters the enhanced award state.
  • [0035]
    The ways in which the class II embodiments can be implemented will depend heavily on the laws of the jurisdiction where each casino is located. The two embodiments given above are understood to be two generally exemplar embodiments which will need to be modified, perhaps extensively, as needed for any particular jurisdiction. Other class II embodiments will come to the mind of those skilled in the art of implementing class II gaming systems, who also have the benefit of the present disclosure.
  • [0036]
    The details for implementing each of the three gaming architectures just described (class III standalone, class III with remote gaming engines, and class II) are known to persons of skill in their respective gaming system implementation arts (skill in class III gaming systems, or skill in class II gaming systems). The material of the present disclosure is usable with any of these known systems, as well as to any mix (for example, a casino with some standalone class III machines and some remote gaming engine class III machines), as well as with systems not explicitly described.
  • [0037]
    Each networked gaming machine is configured to operate a primary game in a normal state. During game play, a designated game event occurs which places the game into an enhanced game award state. Note that this game event may occur in a primary game, a secondary game, a tertiary game, a bonus game, or any other reachable game event. When the cooperative award state is triggered, the cooperative award is an initial prize 40 that is displayed on display 7 a. Additionally, when the cooperative award state is triggered, the cooperative game state may be communicated to other networked gaming machines eligible to participate in this enhanced award state. In this case, each gaming machine will then know that if game play results in an eligible game event, an enhanced award will be made. Alternatively, the server may not notify each gaming machine, in which case each gaming machine, upon the occurrence of an eligible game event, will query the server to see if an enhanced award state is to start or is already in progress. If it is already in progress, the gaming machine simply waits for the server to tell it when the enhanced award state is over, and what amounts or factors to use in making its enhanced award.
  • [0038]
    Thus, the base or initial prize is increased when at least two networked gaming machines enter the cooperative award state, and a resulting cooperative prize value 42 is displayed on display 7 a.
  • [0039]
    The cooperative award state may be triggered by one of the networked gaming machines, local area servers 2 a, 2 b and 2 c, or other server systems 11. Although a client-server architecture is described in FIG. 1, a peer-to-peer network, combination of client-server and peer-to-peer, or other such system architecture may also be employed. In the case of a pure peer-to-peer network, the software that would have been run on a server will be run on a designated gaming machine, with the designated gaming machine taking on the functional role of the server.
  • [0040]
    By way of example, after the cooperative award state has been triggered by illustrative gaming machine 10 a, the illustrative server 2 a communicates that the cooperative feature state has been “opened” to the remaining networked gaming machines 10 b and 10 c. Thus, the networked gaming machines in the slot bank 15 have entered the cooperative feature state.
  • [0041]
    The cooperative feature state is associated with a timer and has a fixed duration during which the cooperative feature state is active. The cooperative feature state may also be communicated to the limited group of networked gaming machines 10 a, 10 b and 10 c within a local geographic area, such as a slot bank. In the illustrative embodiments described herein, the cooperative prize is increased each time an additional networked gaming machine enters the cooperative feature state. The cooperative prize may be increased by a multiplier or by adding a fixed or dynamic number of credits to the initial prize 40.
  • [0042]
    In operation, if a player interacting with the illustrative primary game associated with a first networked gaming machines, e.g. slot machine, is awarded a prize because an illustrative feature symbol has been hit, then the first networked game machine enters a cooperative award state. The cooperative award state may be triggered by either the local server 2 a or one of the networked gaming machines. The cooperative award state comprises a timer that provides a duration for the cooperative award state. Each networked gaming machine that enters the cooperative award state during the duration of the cooperative award state is updated by the server about changes to the cooperative award. The increases to the cooperative award 42 are displayed on display 7 a, the networked gaming machines 10 a, 10 b, 10 c, or any combination thereof. The increased cooperative award 42 is then awarded to each of the networked gaming machines in the cooperative award state. If, during the limited time of the cooperative award state, another networked gaming machine also hits the illustrative cooperative award symbol, the cooperative award for both networked gaming machines is modified by doubling, a multiplier, an added increment or any other such increase in award. The increase of the award is dependent on the number of networked gaming machines that obtain a winning cooperative award symbol. After the limited time has passed, all machines return to a normal play state. Thus, after the cooperative award state closes, each of the networked gaming machines that entered the cooperative award state return to the state it was in prior to entering the enhanced award state. If, for example, the gaming machine was in a bonus game, the gaming machine returns to the normal bonus game state and proceeds to evaluate its current status, including determining if it is triggered to return to the primary game, a secondary game, another bonus game play event, etc.
  • [0043]
    The illustrative embodiment described herein could also be implemented in software using a multiplayer protocol. For example, it shall be appreciated that the illustrative system described herein may be implemented with software downloads using the download and configuration server system and slot management system described in patent publication 2008/0064501 entitled DOWNLOAD AND CONFIGURATION CAPABLE GAMING MACHINE OPERATING SYSTEM, GAMING MACHINE AND METHOD, currently commonly owned and hereby incorporated in full, by reference.
  • [0044]
    Referring to FIG. 2, there is generally shown a block diagram of an illustrative networked gaming machine 10 a having a processor 12 coupled to a memory 14 configured to allow a cooperative prize to be awarded. The illustrative networked gaming machine 10 a further comprises an input/output (I/O) interface 16 which is coupled for communication with the processor 12. The I/O interface 16 allows a player to interact (i.e., provide input controls and receive output signals) with the game 30 executed by the processor 12 via a plurality of devices, generally designated as controls 18, display device 20, status indicator 22, network interface device 26, and other I/O devices 28 each of which are operatively coupled for communication to the I/O interface 16. The controls 18 generally comprise input buttons, switches, touch-screen controls, and/or other input controls to allow a player to provide game input to the gaming machine 10 such as player options, selections, game commands, among others. The display device 20 generally comprises a monitor or other video output device (e.g., LCD panel) for communicating game output information to the player.
  • [0045]
    The status indicator 22 indicates status information to the player (e.g., cooperative prize state enabled, time remaining for cooperative award state). The network device 26 generally comprises a communication device such as a network card or serial device for communicating with other network devices such a local area server 2 a or other server systems 11 via a network which is generally coupled to the network device 26. Other I/O devices 28 may also be provided, such as speakers, lights, alarms, etc. The enrollment module 32 which is executed by the processor 12 carries out several operations to track and maintain the gaming machine's status in the enhanced award state, as well as a player's status if applicable.
  • [0046]
    The illustrative enrollment module 32 monitors the networked gaming machine 10 to determine whether the requirements for entry to the cooperative award state and the eligibility for the cooperative prize have been met. The enrollment module 32 also indicates the gaming machine's status through the status indicator 22. The enrollment module 32 further notifies the player when the cooperative award state is about to expire or change.
  • [0047]
    The game 30 generally includes a primary (or base) game and may also include a secondary (or bonus) game. The game 30 and the enrollment module 32 are normally provided as software instructions stored on a memory (such as an EPROM or other storage) which is read and executed by the processor 12 during operation. The game 30 operating on the networked gaming machine 10 a may include a slot machine game, poker game, keno game, bingo game, video lottery game, and other like game.
  • [0048]
    The enhanced award state and associated enhanced awards described herein may also be embodied in a system where a server causes or detects a trigger event instead of, or in addition to, a trigger event from a gaming machine. In this embodiment, a server may have its own method of triggering the enhanced award state. An example of such a method includes the use of a timer which measures the time passed since the last invocation of the enhanced award state. If, for example, more than 24 hours has elapsed since the last time the server participated in an enhanced award state, the server may randomly, or at preset intervals, enable the enhanced award state to encourage game play on its bank of gaming machines. In this case, each gaming machine that thereafter enters the enhanced award state will be awarded an enhanced payout based on the total number of gaming machines in the enhanced state, without subtracting itself. This accounts for the fact that that, functionally, the gaming machine bank is acting as if an anonymous gaming machine triggered the enhanced game play state and therefore all gaming machines entering the enhanced state during the pendency of this bonus game count towards the additional payout amount. Any similar method of handling the fact the server, and not a gaming machine, triggered the round may also be used. The use of the server to entice players to a specific slot bank or other collection of gaming machines may be enhanced by displaying enticing graphics and associated sounds on both the large display 7, as well as at each gaming machine that is now in an enhanced award state. This is useful to enable players to quickly identify gaming machines in the enhanced award state.
  • [0049]
    In operation, a first networked game machine such as gaming machine 10 a is configured to initiate a primary game. The primary game is configured to operate on the networked gaming machine 10 a and includes a normal game state that is engaged after a wager is received. The resulting game play event may result in the networked gaming machine 10 a entering a cooperative feature state that begins with an initial prize and may result in an increased cooperative prize. The gaming machine 10 a is configured to communicate the cooperative feature state to at least one networked gaming machine; but more typically the cooperative feature state is communicated to a plurality of networked gaming machines.
  • [0050]
    The cooperative award state is typically triggered by a game event that is also a win event having an initial prize, but the initial prize is increased when another networked gaming machine enters the cooperative feature state resulting in a cooperative prize. Thus, when two or more networked gaming machines enter the cooperative award state, the initial prize is increased, and that same increased cooperative prize is awarded to the plurality of networked gaming machines that entered the cooperative award state.
  • [0051]
    In one operative embodiment, the cooperative award state is triggered by the first networked gaming machine 10 a, and the cooperative award state corresponding to the illustrative first networked gaming machine is communicated to illustrative server 2 a which, in turn, communicates the cooperative award state to other networked game machines configured to be enabled in the same shared enhanced award state. Generally, after the cooperative award state is triggered by the first networked gaming machine 10 a, a timer is also triggered that provides a duration for the cooperative award state. After the duration of the cooperative award state has been completed, either the initial award 40 or the increased cooperative award 42 is awarded to the first networked gaming machine. Note that if a cooperative award state had already been established and was further within its time period, this would be called a current cooperative award state and would be used to disallow the establishment of a second parallel cooperative award state. The current cooperative award state must expire (for a given set of gaming machines) before a next cooperative award state is established.
  • [0052]
    In another operative embodiment, the cooperative award state is triggered by another networked gaming machine 10 a, and the cooperative award state corresponding to the first gaming machine is communicated to illustrative server 2 a and the server 2 a informs the first gaming machine 10 a that at least one other gaming machine entered the award state before the first gaming machine 10 a (e.g. networked gaming machine 10 b). Similar to the previous operative embodiment, after the cooperative award state is triggered by the other gaming machine 10 b, a timer that has been triggered by gaming machine 10 b controls the duration of the cooperative award state. After the cooperative award state has expired, either no prize or the increased cooperative prize is awarded to the networked gaming machine 10 a.
  • [0053]
    Referring to FIG. 3 there is shown an illustrative operational sequence 100 for an illustrative networked client gaming machine and server. In operation, the illustrative networked client 101 begins a normal play state 102, in which a wager has already been placed and the determination is made whether to award a prize. At block 104, the networked client gaming machine enters a cooperative feature state (note: for the purposes of this disclosure, “cooperative feature state” and “cooperative award state” have equivalent meaning).
  • [0054]
    In the illustrative example, the networked client 101 is awarded a prize because an illustrative feature symbol has been hit at block 104 and communicates the beginning of the cooperative feature state at arrow 106 to server 107 that begins with the server 107 announcing to other networked clients (not shown) that the cooperative feature state has been triggered at block 108. By way of example and not of limitation, the triggering event for beginning the cooperative feature state may vary and may include triggering by a feature game state, awarding a prize to the slot bank, triggering by one or more players' point collection, or other such triggering event for a primary game, bonus game, or combination thereof.
  • [0055]
    The operational sequence then continues to arrow 110 where the server informs the client gaming machine 101 of the prize that the client 101 may be awarded. If the client is the first to hit the cooperative feature state, the initial prize corresponding to the cooperative feature state is communicated to the client 101. If another gaming machine has already entered the cooperative feature state, then arrow 110 informs the client 101 that the client has entered an existing feature state and an increased cooperative prize has been awarded to the client 101.
  • [0056]
    At block 112, a countdown timer is initiated by the server 107, and the server determines whether more EGMs have entered the cooperative feature state at block 114. At block 116, the countdown timer is ended and the duration of the cooperative feature state has expired. If more EGMS has entered the cooperative feature state at block 114 then the cooperative prize is increased. By way of example and not of limitation, the cooperative prize is incremented at block 118. The cooperative prize may also be doubled or have an associated multiplier. Note, that if the client 101 had not entered the cooperative feature state 104 during a game session, then the client would not receive the cooperative prize.
  • [0057]
    The updated cooperative prize is communicated from the server to the client by arrow 120 resulting in the client 101 receiving the illustrative increased cooperative prize. After the countdown timer has expired and the prize has been awarded or limited time has passed, the cooperative feature state ends and all machines return to a non-enhanced play state.
  • [0058]
    By way of example and not of limitation, the illustrative operational sequence 100 is related to an illustrative slot bank embodiment operating in a local area network environment. Additionally, this illustrative operation sequence may be expanded to include an entire casino property and across multiple slot banks. Furthermore, the gaming system could operate in a wide area network that ties together networked gaming machines in different properties and supports awarding the cooperative prize.
  • [0059]
    Referring to FIGS. 4A and 4B there is shown an illustrative flowchart 200 of a method for networked gaming machines to award the cooperative prize. The method is initiated at block 202 where an illustrative player obtains credits that are wagered in a networked gaming machine at block 204. The illustrative gaming machine is the networked gaming machine 10 a described in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. After wagering credits the player initiates a normal game playing state 206 during which a player may select the game to play, the number of paylines to play, analyze a paytable, or any other such activity associated with a normal game playing state for a primary game. Thus, the gaming machine operates a primary game having a normal state that is engaged after a wager is received.
  • [0060]
    The method then proceeds to decision diamond 208, where a determination is made to award the player a prize. The determination may be made by engaging a random number generator (RNG) and using the RNG output to determine a corresponding paytable entry, thereby determining whether the player is awarded a prize for that particular game session. If no prize is awarded, the player returns to block 204 and starts another game session. However, if the player is awarded a prize at decision diamond 208, the method continues to decision diamond 210 where a determination is made whether the player has entered a feature game state (enhanced award state).
  • [0061]
    If the player has not entered the feature game state (enhanced award state), the method proceeds to block 212 where the player is awarded a prize according to the game rules for the primary game, or a bonus prize according to the rules for the bonus game, or a combination thereof.
  • [0062]
    If the player has entered the feature game state (enhanced award state), the method proceeds to block 216 in FIG. 4B and the triggering event for the feature game state (enhanced award state) is verified for the particular networked gaming machine. In a peer-to-peer embodiment, the triggering event for the feature game state (enhanced award state) is communicated to a plurality of peer-to-peer networked gamine machines. The triggering event for the group play varies and may be dependent on the primary game or bonus game. Regardless the triggering event results in the player entering the cooperative award state.
  • [0063]
    In general, the cooperative feature state is communicated to each networked gaming machine within a localized geographic area such as a slot bank. However, there may be alternative embodiments where the localized geographic area is expanded to a single casino property or a plurality of casino properties.
  • [0064]
    At decision diamond 218, an illustrative group play server such as local server 2 a described in FIG. 1 determines whether the group play server is already in the cooperative award state. If the cooperative feature state has already been initiated (i.e. the countdown timer has already been initiated), the method proceeds to block 220 where the cooperative prize is modified based on the number of networked gaming machines that are already in the cooperative feature state. The initial prize is increased when two or more networked gaming machines enter the cooperative feature state. Thus, the greater the quantity of networked gaming machines that have entered the cooperative feature state, the greater the cooperative prize. The method then proceeds to block 222 where the countdown timer described above counts down until the duration of cooperative feature state has been completed.
  • [0065]
    Returning to decision diamond 218, if the cooperative feature state has not been previously initiated, the method proceeds to block 224 where the group play server begins the countdown timer. Additionally, in block 224 the initial award is displayed as previously described in FIG. 1. The method then continues to block 222 where the countdown timer continues the countdown process and waits for other networked gaming machines to enter the cooperative feature state. During the cooperative feature state, the illustrative server 2 a updates each of the networked gaming machines about changes to the cooperative prize.
  • [0066]
    After the duration of the cooperative feature state has expired, the method continues to block 226 where the cooperative prize is awarded to all the networked gaming machines that entered the cooperative feature state. After awarding the cooperative prize at block 226, the game session is ended and a new game session is initiated at block 204. When generating or determining the prize awards, either an award is calculated for each gaming machine based on that gaming machine's base or initial prize amount, or, an award is calculated as a same-amount-adder award to each gaming machine based on the number of machines that were in the cooperative game state when the timer expired (does not use the gaming machine's base pay amount). An example of an award amount based on each gaming machine's initial or base award amount might be ((number-of-machines-in-cooperative-award-state)(initial-amount)), calculated for each gaming machine in the cooperative award state. An example of an award that is the same-amount-adder type is ((number-of-machines-in-cooperative-award-state)(fixed-dollar-amount)), which is calculated once, and that amount awarded to each participating gaming machine. Clearly these are just examples; the formulas may be as simple or complex as needed for each particular implementation.
  • [0067]
    In summary, the gaming machine, systems and methods described herein are configured to award a cooperative prize. In the illustrative combined embodiment described above, the cooperative prize is awarded for a fixed duration and for a particular set of gaming machines. Thus, the gaming machine, system and method described herein enable a community of players to wager cooperatively and be awarded a larger prize, instead of competing against one another for a single prize, e.g. progressive jackpot. An additional advantage of the gaming systems and method described herein is that it encourages more people to play in a given slot bank since more active machines result in an increased cooperative prize. The systems and methods described herein also can adjust or “scale” so that as more gaming machines participate in the cooperative game, the greater the cooperative prize.
  • [0068]
    It is to be understood that the detailed description of illustrative embodiments are provided for illustrative purposes. The scope of the claims is not limited to these specific embodiments or examples. The gaming machine, systems and methods described herein support a group play style of game where winning is cooperative as opposed to players competing for the same prize, such as a progressive award, or where players compete for fixed prizes that correspond to the particular gaming machine. Various structural limitations, elements, details, and uses can differ from those just described, or be expanded on or implemented using technologies not yet commercially viable, and yet still be within the inventive concepts of the present disclosure. The scope of the invention is determined by the following claims and their legal equivalents.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3283, G07F17/32, G07F17/3274
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32M8B, G07F17/32M8H
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