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Publication numberUSRE35314 E
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 08/254,482
Publication dateAug 20, 1996
Filing dateJun 6, 1994
Priority dateMay 20, 1986
Publication number08254482, 254482, US RE35314 E, US RE35314E, US-E-RE35314, USRE35314 E, USRE35314E
InventorsGeorge E. Logg
Original AssigneeAtari Games Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Multi-player, multi-character cooperative play video game with independent player entry and departure
US RE35314 E
Abstract
A multi-player, multi-character video game where the games rules force the players to cooperate in negotiating the maze at least until the characters reach a portion of the maze where a specific objective is located. Certain limited resources to change the attributes of the characters or to increase their longevity are displayed in a maze. The players may compete to obtain possession of these limited resources when the characters have cooperated in their movements sufficiently to move to the location of the limited resources. Cooperation among the characters is forced by forcing all characters active in the game to remain visible in the displayed window. Players may enter the game at any time, and they may leave the game at any time without affecting the status of the game or the status of the other characters in the game. All active players may simultaneously, independently control their characters so long as they do not attempt to move their characters outside the currently displayed window.
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Claims(36)
What is claimed is:
1. A video game comprising:
a central processing unit;
a video display;
a plurality of sets of controls coupled to said central processing unit;
sofware means run by said central processing unit and coupled to said controls, and to said video display for reading player input from said controls and generating, storing, changing and outputting data for causing said video display to display a maze populated by a plurality of different kinds of characters each having attributes, said maze also being populated by a plurality of attribute-affecting entities including monsters, each said character having attributes including longevity and abilities including the ability to fight and to move, said attributes defined by stored data, said longevity attribute defined by stored data and decreasing over time and when that character is damaged by a monster, and including means for displaying different types of resources having characteristics defined by stored data and displayed on said video display throughout said maze in quantities and loctions established by said software means, said resources increasing the longevity attribute or otherwise affecting the attributes of the first character which is displayed to have obtained possession of them, and for causing said video display to display action by said characters and said monsters in accordance with rules of said game implemented by the following included means:
first means for allowing a plurality of players to each simultaneously and independently control the movements and actions of one of said plurality of characters in the video game via said controls;
second means for allowing any one of said plurality of players to enter the game at any time and simultaneously and independently control the movements and actions of one of said characters independently of when the other players started playing or when any other said player or players stops playing; and
third means for encouraging the players to cooperate during play by displaying on said video display only a window portion of said maze which is related to the relative positions of all the characters being active in that they are controlled by a player at that time and by not allowing any active character to move outside the bounds of said window portion and by moving the window portion to display different portions of said maze only so long as all the active characters are contained in said window portion.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising means for independently changing the stored data regarding the attributes of each character based upon events which happen to that character and actions taken by that character during the game.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein characters which are under control of any player are active characters and further comprising means in said software means for reading player command inputs indicating a desire to cause the character under that player's control to appear on said video display to shoot and for causing the appropriate active character to appear to shoot, and if the character appearing to shoot is displayed on said video display as pointing at other characters or any said limited resource or a monster, for causing the video display to show the character appearing to shoot the other character or said limited resource or monster being pointed at and for causing the stored data corresponding to the other character, monster or limited resource so shot to be altered and to drive said video display according to said altered data so that said limited resource or said monster that was shot appears to be altered or the longevity attribute of the character which was shot is altered.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising fourth means in said software means for allowing any of said plurality of players to stop playing at any time regardless of whether the other players are or are not still playing.
5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein said software means includes means for displaying limited resources and means for reading player control inputs controlling the corresponding character is a manner to appear to take possession on said video display of one or more of said displayed limited resources where taking possession occurs when said character is displayed to have entered an area around the displayed location of said limited resource, and further includes means to alter the stored data associated with that character's attributes by increasing the character's longevity or by otherwise affecting the character's attributes in a positive manner to help avoid reduced longevity of that character resulting from attacks from said monsters, and wherein these effects may be the same on each character which possesses that limited resource, and further comprises means for altering the data associated with said limited resource to alter the availability of said limited resource to other characters who attempt to take possession of said limited resource.
6. The apparatus of claims 5 wherein said software means includes means for displaying a window portion of at least one maze occupied with attribute-affecting entities including said monsters or other entities and for causing said attribute-affecting entities to appear on said video display to attack and otherwise harm said characters by altering the stored data associated with the longevity attribute of each character so attacked or harmed thereby shortening the longevity attribute of any character which is affected by said attribute-affecting entity, and further comprising means in said software means for driving said video display in such a manner as to display only said window portion of said maze, said windown portion selected to encourage the players which are controlling the characters which are active in the game to cooperate with each other to avoid the effect of said attribute-affecting entities by not allowing a player to move his or her controlled character outside the bounds of the currently displayed window portion and by selecting the portion of said maze which will be displayed as said window portion as a function of the collective positions of all the players such that said window portion cannot be moved to encompass the area in said maze where said limited resources are located until all the characters are moved on said video display such that said window portion can encompass all said characters and said limited resource or any other object in the maze which the players desire their characters to be able to reach, wherein said software means moves a character under player control by altering stored data defining the character's position on said video display in accordance with player control inputs indicating the direction to move the controlled character, and wherein said software means includes means for altering the stored longevity data to increase the longevity of any character which first obtains possession of at least one type of said limited resources.
7. The apparatus of claim 6 further comprising means for allowing each player to control his character to either cooperate or compete with the other characters independently of the actions of the other characters in either cooperating or competing with each other.
8. The apparatus of claim 7 further comprising collision means in said software means for allowing a first player to hinder the progress of a second player's character which may independently be attempting to obtain possession of said limited resources or otherwise attempting to move through said maze, said hindrance caused by reading the control inputs of the first player to move the first player's character into the path of the second player's character or to such a position that a wall portion of the maze and the first player's character together block the path of the second player's character, including means to check for collisions between the second player's character and another character or a wall of the maze and to prevent movement of the second player's character if such movement would cause such a collision, said collision means also for allowing one player to impede free movement of the other player's characters throughout the displayed maze by refusing to move so that said window portion cannot move to display another portion of the maze thereby letting the other players move their characters into said other portion of the maze until said first player chooses to move his character so as to allow the window portion to both display said portion of said maze as well as all active characters within the perimeter of said window portion.
9. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein said fourth means includes means to independently calculate said longevity attribute data for each character based at least upon events which happen in the game to each character and wherein said events may include the receipt of new coins for a character, said fourth means also responding to the receipt of new coins for a particular character by increasing that character's longevity attribute.
10. The apparatus of claim 9 further comprising means in said software means for reading each player inputs from said controls indicating that the player desires, the character being controlled to take possession of a limited resource displayed on said video display and to cause said video display to depict a scene wherein said character appears to have taken possession of the limited resource and for causing said attribute data defining the ability to fight and to move for the character taking possession of said limited resource to be altered upon appearing to gain possession of one or more of said limited resources and further comprising means in said software means for establishing multiple levels of maze between which the characters may move.
11. The apparatus of claim 9 further comprising means for independently changing the stored data defining the attributes of each character based upon events which happen to each character and actions taken by each character during the game.
12. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein said software means drives said video display to display at least one maze occupied with entities including said monsters and includes means for altering the longevity data associated with characters attacked by said monsters by shortening the longevity attributes of any character which is affected by any said attribute-affecting entity, and further comprising means in said software means for driving said video display in such a way as to encourage the players which are active in the game to move their characters so as to cooperate with each other to avoid the effect of said displayed attribute-affecting entities in attempting to get to move their characters to an area in said displayed maze where said resources which increase longevity are displayed, but for allowing each player to independently attempt to move his or her character through said displayed maze and avoid the effect of said attribute-affecting entities in an effort to first obtain possession of said resource where possession occurs when the player moves his or her character on the display so to enter an area around the displayed location of said resource.
13. An apparatus as defined in claim 12 further comprising means for displaying at least one exit door and at least one key in said maze for unlocking said exit door.
14. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising means for allowing each player to control his character to either cooperate or compete with the other characters in performing actions in the game including, for example, defeating monsters, obtaining possession of limited resources or moving through the maze independently of the actions of the other players in controlling their characters to either cooperate or compete with the other active characters.
15. A video game comprising:
control means including one set of controls for each of a plurality of characters for generating signals in response to player manipulation of said controls;
means for displaying a maze, limited resources in said maze and the movements and actions of a plurality of characters in a maze;
movement means for receiving player inputs from said control means and for causing said display means to display said maze, limited resources in said maze and one or more characters in said maze, each character with different attributes in terms of ability to move, shoot and otherwise fight in said maze and for independently calculating a longevity attribute and recording same in the form of stored longevity data for each character which decreases with time and decreases with damage from entities and increases with obtaining possession of said limited resources where obtaining possession of a limited resource means moving a character into an area including said limited resource within its perimeter and for causing said display means to stop displaying movement and actions by each said character when said longevity attribute for that character reaches zero, and for causing each said character to move in said maze displayed on said means for displaying in response to player input from a corresponding set of said controls, and including means for controlling said means for displaying to display only a window portion of said maze related to the position of all the characters in said maze, and for restricting movement on said display means of each said character to the bounds of said window portion as determined by the positions of all said characters;
coin accepting means corresponding to each said character and coupled to said movement means for the corresponding character for accepting coins which bring the corresponding character to life by increasing its longevity in the game and allowing said movement means to move said character on said display means in response to player inputs on the corresponding set of controls;
first means in said movement means and coupled to said control means for responding to a plurality of players each having his or her own controls so that each player may independently, simultaneously control the movements and actions of at least one of said plurality of characters in the video game each of which has a longevity attribute independently calculated for that character based upon at least the events which happen in the game affecting that character and for responding to any player who wishes to join the game and control an unused character at any time regardless of when the game started or to leave the game when the player's character's longevity attribute decreases to zero or at any other time;
maze means in said movement means for driving said display means to display said maze through which said characters move and in which are displayed said limited resources in quantities and locations determined by said maze means which affect at least the longevity attribute of any character having said limited resources in its possession, and further driving said display means to display a plurality of different types of entities in said maze which shorten the longevity attributes of said characters if not avoided by said characters; and
second means in said movement means for driving said display means in a limited fashion such that players whose characters have non zero longevity attributes in the game may either cooperate or compete in avoiding said entities to reach the area of said maze where said limited resources are displayed including means for causing possession of the same type of limited resource to affect the attributes of different characters differently, and means for allowing any character to appear on said video display to push any other character to change that character's position on said display means to move said character in said maze against the wishes of the player whose character has been pushed.
16. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising means in said second means for driving said display means in a limited fashion such that said players are encouraged to manipulate their characters so as to cooperate for the good of the group of characters to defeat the entities in said maze until they reach the area of any one or more of said limited resources, but to drive the display means in such a manner as to allow the players to independently decide to manipulate their characters so as to either cooperate or compete with each other to obtain possession of said limited resources when the manipulated character group successfully reaches the location of said limited resources including means for allowing any player's character to destroy the limited resources sought by another character by appearing to shoot said limited resources where said movement means maintains stored data defining the attributes and location of said limited resources and where the movement means includes means to modify the attribute data of any limited resources which have been shot by a character to alter the limited resources in some way such as by rmvoing said limited resources from the displayed maze, and means in said movement means for shortening the longevity on said display means of any character which appears to have been shot or otherwise attacked by any other character by altering stored longevity data defining the longevity attribute corresponding to the character which appears to have been shot or otherwise attacked.
17. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising means for allowing any player to enter an unused character in the game or withdraw a character controlled by a player at that time from the game independently of when the game started, and independently of how many other characters are in the game and further comprising means for allowing any character to independently stay in the game as other characters are placed in or withdrawn from the game.
18. A video game subsystem for providing a facility for game play of a video game involving multiple displayed characters each of which has a set of attributes and each of which may be separately controlled by one of a plurality of players and each of which has a separate longevity attribute in said game defined by corresponding longevity data, comprising:
a computer system including a plurality of control sets each of which corresponds to one of said characters, a display and a plurality of coin receiving mechanisms each of which corresponds to one of said plurality of characters, each of said plurality of control sets, said display and said plurality of coin receiving mechanisms being coupled to a CPU;
software means controlling said CPU for reading player control inputs from said control sets and from said plurality of coin receiving mechanisms and for driving said display to control said game play by displaying a maze and said characters and by moving said characters through said maze and by changing the appropriate longevity data stored for each said character including the following elements:
first means for responding to the control inputs from said plurality of control sets where each said control set is manipulated by one of a plurality of players and where each said player has a separate control set, and for responding to control inputs generated by dropping a coin into any of said plurality of coin receiving mechanisms by altering stored longevity data corresponding to the characater assigned to the coin receiving mechanism in which said coin was dropped, said first means also for driving said display so that each said player may appear to bring a character to life on said display so as to respond to player control commands entered via the corresponding one of said control sets by dropping a coin into a coin receiving mechanism corresponding to the character to be controlled by said player, said first means also for responding to said control inputs from said control sets and from said coin receiving mechanisms so that each player may independently and simultaneously control the displayed movements and actions of a character in said video game and for driving said display such that each said character is displayed as having a plurality of different attributes defining the ability of each said character to move through, fight and shoot in said maze and for separately calculating a longevity attribute for each character based upon at least the events which happen affecting that character in the game and automatically decreasing over time and for appropriately altering said stored longevity data in accordance with said calculation, and for driving said display means so as to display actions by said character only so long as said longevity attribute is satisfying a predetermined criterion;
maze means for driving said display means so as to display a maze through which said characters move and in which are displayed one or more limited resources which affect the displayed attributes of any character having a sought after one of said limited resources in its possession where possession is defined as movement of a characater into an area of the display wherein said sought after one of said limited resources is displayed, and for driving said display means such that possession of said sought after one of said limited resources appears to affect the attributes of different characters differently, and for further driving said display to show entities in said maze which shorten the longetivy attributes of said characters if not avoided by said characters; and
means for driving said display means in such a fashion that the characters displayed are encouraged to cooperate to maximize their longevity attribute to move through the maze until they reach the area of any of said limited resources, said encouragement including driving said display to display only a window portion of said maze, which portion is related to the positions of all the characters, while not allowing any character to move outside the bounds of said window portion, but for driving said display in such a manner as to allow said characters to either cooperate or compete with each other to obtain possession of any of said limited resources by driving said display so as to allow any character to shoot and destroy said limited resources or shoot any other character when the characters collectively move so that said window portion can be moved so as to allow the limited resource being sought to be displayed in said window portion thereby allowing any of said characters to individually reach the area of said maze displayed in said window portion where said limited resource being sought is displayed;
means for driving said display so as to establish different attributes for each character defining each character's characteristics and abilities to move and fight in said maze when manipulated by the player;
means for independently changing the attributes of each character on said display based upon events which happen to each character and actions taken by each character during the game; and
means for driving said display for allowing any player to enter an unused character in the game being displayed or withdraw a player controlled character from the game independently of when the game started, and independently of how many other characters are in the game, and to allow any player to independently stay in the game as other characters are placed in or are withdrawn from the game as long as the player's character still has a longevity attribute which satisfies a predetermined criteria.
19. A video game subsystem for providing a facility to display video game action by a plurality of characters each of which has a changeable longevity attribute which determines how long that character may be manipulated by a player to perform action on a displayed playfield having one or more limited resources displayed thereon comprising:
means for displaying said playfield having resources thereon, the quantities and locations of which are automatically predetermined by said means for displaying;
multiple control means each corresponding to a particular character and each allowing any player manipulating said control means to control the movements and actions of the corresponding character, each said control means for allowing a player manipulating said control means to control the movements and actions of a corresponding character on said display;
means for driving said display means so as to allow each of a plurality of players to join the game and to appear to bring one of a plurality of characters selected by the player to life on said display means at any time by providing a predetermined control input thereby allowing control of the corresponding selected character on said display means, each of said characters having different attributes on said display means including a longevity attribute which decreases automatically with time, and said means for driving also for responding to player inputs from one of said control means by controlling the character corresponding to said control means on said display means simultaneously with control of other characters by other players through manipulation of their respective control means;
means for limiting said display means so that it display only a portion of said playfield at any particular time in a window and for causing said display means to move the window across the playfield in response to the movements of said characters; and
means for driving said display means so as to force all the currently player controlled characters with non zero longevity attributes to remain visible in said window all the time when said game is played and only allowing a character to obtain one or more of said limited resources if a sought after one of said limited resources is showing in said window and for causing the attributes of the first character obtaining the resource to be affected by obtaining possession thereof.
20. A video game subsystem including a display comprising:
first means for allowing a plurality of players to simultaneously and independently control the movements and actions of a plurality of characters each of which has one or more attributes defining said character in a maze in said video game;
second means for allowing any one of said plurality of players to enter the game at any time and to simultaneously and independently control the movements and actions of one of said characters independently of when the other players started playing or when any other said player or players stop playing;
third means for forcing the players to cooperate during play by not allowing any character to move outside a window portion of said maze and by allowing the window to move only in response to the collective positions of all the players, and for providing a facility by which any player may manipulate his or her character to appear to move any other player's character by appearing to push said other player's character on the display and for providing a facility by which a first player's character may appear to damage the character of another player by appearing to shoot and other character on said display, said third means also for causing said display to display one or more limited resources in said maze which alter the attributes of any said character having one or more of said limited resources in the possession of said character, where possession occurs when said character is moved on said display into an area on said display containing one or more of said limited resources, but said third means allowing any said character to take possession of a limited resource only when the sought after limited resource is visible in said window portion; and
coin accepting means for receiving coins for each character in the game and for adding longevity to any character for which coins are received in proportion to the amount of money received.
21. A method of operating a video game having a display and controls comprising the steps of:
displaying a playfield containing different kinds of monsters and one or more characters having attributes including a longevity attribute which characters may be moved on said playfield by players manipulating said controls and displaying predetermined amount of different limited resources on said playfield;
limiting the displayed portion of the playfield in accordance with the collective positions of all said characters which are active in that they have longevity attributes which allow said characters to be moved on said playfield by said players by manipulation of said controls, said limitation of the displayed portion of the playfield being such that all the characters must be visible at all times in the displayed portion of said playfield;
reading control inputs from multiple control mechanisms and controlling the movements and actions of said multiple characters each of which has different attributes including the ability to fight and move and each of which responds to control inputs from a corresponding set of control mechanisms;
reading start data from multiple start mechanisms at the beginning of said game and during said game so as to allow new players to join the game at any time and begin controlling an unused character; and
forcing the players to cooperate during play of the game by limiting the life of each character by decreasing said longevity attribute automatically over time or when the character is damaged by said monsters and by allowing a character to increase its longevity attribute by taking possession of predetermined types of said limited resources where taking possession of any said limited resource is accomplished when a character enters the area on said display where said limited resource is displayed, but only allowing a character to take such possession of a limited resource when the limited resource is showing in the window of said playfield which is currently displayed based upon the collective positions of all the active characters and by not allowing any active character to move to a position on said playfield outside the bounds of the currently displayed portion. .Iadd.
22. A system for multi-player competition, comprising:
a video display;
means for allowing a plurality of players to simultaneously and independently control the movement of a plurality of characters in a playfield displayed on the video display; and
computer means, connected to the video display and the allowing means, for encouraging the players to cooperate during play to reach predetermined objectives on the playfield, the means for encouraging including means for displaying on the video display only a portion of the playfield at any one time, and wherein the portion of the playfield that is displayed is determined by the relative positions of all the characters on the playfield and wherein the characters are restricted from moving outside the bounds of the displayed portion of the playfield. .Iaddend..Iadd.
23. A computerized system for competition, comprising:
a video display;
means for allowing a plurality of players to simultaneously and independently control the movements of a plurality of characters in a playfield displayed on the video display; and
computer means, connected to the video display and the allowing means, for encouraging the players to cooperate during play to reach predetermined objectives on the playfield, the means for encouraging including means for displaying on the video display only a window portion of the playfield which is smaller than the playfield and which has a position on the playfield that is determined by the relative positions of all the characters on the playfield and wherein the position of the window is changed only when all of the characters are simultaneously contained in the window. .Iaddend..Iadd.
24. The system defined in claim 23, further comprising means for allowing any of the plurality of players to start playing at any time by selecting a character to control which is not being controlled by another player. .Iaddend..Iadd.25. The system defined in claim 23, further comprising means for independently calculating attributes, including a longevity attribute, for each character based at least upon events affecting each character, the means for independently calculating also for responding to longevity increasing events relating to a particular character by increasing the character's longevity attribute. .Iaddend..Iadd.26. The system defined in claim 25, further comprising means for displaying a limited resource on the playfield when the position of the limited resource is within the window, and wherein possession of the limited resource by a character changes at least one of the character's attributes. .Iaddend..Iadd.27. The system defined in claim 26, further comprising means for providing on the playfield at least one maze occupied with negative entities for hindering the characters by shortening the longevity attribute of any character which is affected by the entity, and further comprising means for encouraging the players to compete with each other to avoid the effect of the negative entities by allowing each character to independently attempt to move through the maze and avoid the effect of the negative entities while seeking to obtain possession of the
limited resource. .Iaddend..Iadd.28. The system defined in claim 25, further comprising at least one limited resource positioned on the playfield, and wherein the limited resource increases the longevity of a character affected thereby. .Iaddend..Iadd.29. The system defined in claim 28, wherein the means for encouraging players to cooperate includes means for encouraging competition among the players by preventing character access to the limited resource unless all characters move so that the limited resource is within the window, and the means for encouraging players to cooperate also including means for increasing the longevity attribute of any character which first obtains possession of the limited resource. .Iaddend..Iadd.30. The system defined in claim 23, further comprising means for establishing different attributes for each character including characteristics and abilities which are controlled by a player. .Iaddend..Iadd.31. The system defined in claim 30, further comprising means for independently changing the attributes of each character based upon events affecting each character or actions taken by each character. .Iaddend..Iadd.32. The system defined in claim 30, further comprising attribute affecting entities for affecting the characters by changing an attribute of a selected character. .Iaddend..Iadd.33. The system defined
in claim 23, wherein the playfield comprises a maze. .Iaddend..Iadd.34. The system defined in claim 33, further comprising means for displaying at least one key in the maze for unlocking at least one exit from the maze.
.Iaddend..Iadd.35. A multi-player competitive system using a video display, the system comprising:
means for allowing a plurality of players, each player having separate controls, to independently and simultaneously control the movements of a plurality of characters; and
computer means, coupled to the allowing means, comprising:
means for providing on the video display a playfield through which the characters move and in which are placed limited resources; and
means for restricting movements of all the characters to a window portion of the playfield and for moving the window portion based upon the collective positions of all the characters, thereby encouraging the players to cooperate to move the characters through the playfield until they reach positions such that the limited resources are displayed within the window portion, thereby allowing the players to independently decide to either cooperate or compete with each other in moving their characters
to obtain possession of the limited resources. .Iaddend..Iadd.36. The system defined in claim 35, wherein each character has a set of attributes. .Iaddend..Iadd.37. The system defined in claim 36, further comprising means for independently changing the attributes of each character based upon events affecting the character or actions taken by the character. .Iaddend..Iadd.38. The system defined in claim 36, wherein at least one of the limited resources affects at least one of the attributes when one of the limited resources is possessed by one of the characters. .Iaddend..Iadd.39. The system defined in claim 38, further comprising entities on the playfield which affect at least one of the attributes of the characters if the entity is not avoided by the characters. .Iaddend..Iadd.40. The system defined in claim 35, further comprising means for establishing different attributes for each character which determine a limited range for each character's movement and other abilities of the characters which are controlled by the players. .Iaddend..Iadd.41. The system defined in claim 35, further comprising means for allowing any player to enter a character on the playfield or withdraw a character from the playfield independently of when any other player started playing, and independently of how many other characters are on the playfield, and for allowing any player to independently stay on the playfield as other characters are placed on or withdrawn from the
playfield. .Iaddend..Iadd.42. A computerized system for competition, comprising:
means for displaying a playfield;
multiple control means each for allowing a player to control the movements of a corresponding character on the playfield; and
a computer coupled to the display means and the allowing means, comprising:
means for displaying attribute affecting entities and resources on the playfield;
means for displaying only a portion of the playfield at any particular time in a window and for moving the window across the playfield in response to the movements of the characters; and
means for forcing all currently active characters to remain visible in the window at substantially all times when the game is being played by preventing characters from leaving the window and by preventing movement of the window until the collective position of all characters is such that the window may be moved without causing a character to pass outside a pre-determined area and for not allowing any character to take possession of a resource unless the resource is visible within the window.
.Iaddend..Iadd.43. The system as defined in claim 42, further comprising means for allowing characters to enter the playfield at any time, and for bringing an unused character to life and for beginning control of the character simultaneously with continuing control of other characters
already on the playfield. .Iaddend..Iadd.44. A video game comprising:
a video display;
first means for allowing a plurality of players to simultaneously and independently control the movement of a plurality of characters on the video display; and
a computer, coupled to the video display and the first means, comprising:
second means for allowing any one of the plurality of players to enter the game at any time and to simultaneously and independently control the movements of one of the characters on the video display independently of when the other players started playing or when any other player stops playing; and
means for populating a playfield, a window portion of which is displayed on the video display, with resources which affect the characters, and for restricting movements of the characters such that no character can enter any portion of the playfield which is outside the window portion, and for moving the window portion over the playfield as a function of the position of the characters, and for not allowing any character to obtain possession of any resource or reach any other objective on the playfield unless the resource or objective is visible in the window portion, thereby encouraging the players to cooperate during play to reach predetermined
objectives. .Iaddend..Iadd.45. A method of operating a video game having a computer, a video display, multiple control mechanisms and multiple start mechanisms, the method comprising the steps of:
reading control inputs from the control mechanisms;
controlling the movements of multiple characters each of which responds to control inputs from the corresponding control mechanisms and each of which is displayed on the video display;,
reading start data from the start mechanisms at the beginning of the game and during the game so as to allow new players to join the game at any time and select an inactive character simultaneously with control of other characters by other players;
encouraging the players to cooperate during play of the game by displaying on the video display only a portion of the playfield in a window which can be moved by the computer to display different portions of the playfield;
restricting movement of the characters such that no character can venture outside the window; and
moving the window as a function of the positions on the playfield of all active characters. .Iaddend..Iadd.46. The method as defined in claim 45, wherein the encouraging step includes populating the playfield with entities which negatively affect at least one of the characters and with resources which positively affect at least one of the characters when the position of at least one of the characters is in a predetermined relationship to that of one or more of said entities or resources, and allowing each character to be in said predetermined relationship with said resource or entity only when the positions of all the active characters on the playfield are such that the window portion encompasses resource or entity. .Iaddend..Iadd.47. The method as defined in claim 45, further comprising the steps of:
providing each character with certain attributes; and
providing attribute affecting entities in the playfield which will change at least one of the attributes of each character if the character collides with any one of the entities. .Iaddend..Iadd.48. The method as defined in claim 45, further comprising the steps of:
providing a longevity attribute for each character that controls how long that character may be active in the game;
providing limited longevity enhancing resources in the game which may be possessed by each character to thereby increase that character's longevity; and
providing longevity decreasing entities on the playfield which will decrease the longevity of each character if not avoided by the character.
.Iaddend..Iadd.49. A video game, comprising:
a display;
a plurality of controls by which a plurality of players may control the movements and other attributes of a plurality of corresponding characters shown on the display; and
a computer having a memory and coupled to the display and to the controls, comprising a software program executed by the computer for generating data to drive the display and to read the controls and create the characters in the memory, each character having various attributes wherein the program creates in the memory a playfield populated by attribute affecting entities such as at least one limited resource which affects one or more attributes of any character, and wherein the program drives the display of a window portion of the playfield and at least two characters in the window portion, and provides for simultaneously controlling the displayed movements of all the characters in accordance with the manipulations of the corresponding controls, and provides for moving the window portion in accordance with the positions of the characters and restricting the movements of the characters such that no character can travel to any position of the playfield not displayed in the window portion.
.Iaddend..Iadd.50. The video game defined in claim 49, wherein the software program includes means for preventing each character from obtaining possession of a selected limited resource unless the limited resource is displayed in the window portion and for restricting the movement of the window portion to display other portions of the playfield such that the window portion may be moved only to the extent that all characters having a selected attribute status may be simultaneously displayed within the window portion and such that the window portion moves over the playfield subject to the restriction on movement of the characters. .Iaddend..Iadd.51. The video game defined in claim 49, wherein the software program includes program code which defines in the computer memory a playfield having multiple mazes or levels connected by exits on each level, and wherein cooperation of players is forced by restricting movement of each character to a different level until all characters have been moved such that the window portion is over the exit on any particular level of the maze and all characters have been moved through the exit. .Iaddend..Iadd.52. The video game defined in claim 49, wherein the software program includes program code which changes a selected attribute of each character which collides with or is successfully attacked by any one of a plurality of attribute affecting entities. .Iaddend..Iadd.53. The video game defined in claim 49, wherein one of the attributes is character longevity and the software program includes program code to automatically decrease the longevity attribute of each character at selected times. .Iaddend..Iadd.54. The video game defined in claim 53, wherein the software program includes program code to allow characters to increase their longevity attributes by taking possession of certain limited resources, wherein all the players cooperate by moving their characters such that the window portion can be moved to include the limited resource
within the perimeter of the window portion. .Iaddend..Iadd.55. A video game, comprising:
a video display;
a plurality of controllers, each controller independently operable by a player; and
a computer having a memory, the computer connected to the video display and the controllers, the computer comprising program means, stored in the memory, for displaying a window portion of a playfield populated by at least two characters, and for moving the characters over the playfield in response to manipulation by at least two players of the corresponding player controls, and permitting all characters to be simultaneously and independently controlled and to enter and leave the game at will, but restricting the movements of the characters and the window portion over the playfield such that no character can move outside the bounds of the window and such that the window moves with the characters thereby allowing movement of the window to be blocked by any player who refuses to move
their character with the other characters. .Iaddend..Iadd.56. The video game definedin claim 55, wherein each character has a set of attributes including a longevity attribute and wherein the playfield is further populated by a limited number of positive attribute affecting entities which increase the longevity attribute or enhance other attributes of any character affected by one or more of the positive attribute affecting entities, and further populated by negative attribute affecting entities which adversely affect the longevity or other attribUtes of any character affected by one or more of the negative attribute affecting entities. .Iaddend..Iadd.57. The video game defined in claim 56, wherein the program means includes means for calculating and displaying a score for each character and for establishing and updating data defining the status of all attributes for each character based upon events affecting each character during operation of the game. .Iaddend..Iadd.58. The video game defined in claim 56, wherein the program means includes means for restricting the action of the positive attribute affecting entities from affecting any character until the position of the positive attribute affecting entity is within the window portion. .Iaddend..Iadd.59. The video game defined in claim 56, wherein the program means includes means for storing and displaying data defining multiple different levels of the playfield which are connected by at least one path from one level to a different level. .Iaddend..Iadd.60. The video game defined in claim 59, wherein the program means includes means for causing at least some of the negative attribute affecting entities to seek out and attack any character active in the game and further includes means to restrict the movement of one character through a path to another level of the playfield until all the characters have moved to positions on the playfield such that the window portion includes the path within its perimeter. .Iaddend..Iadd.61. The video game defined in claim 56, wherein the program means includes means for selectively increasing the longevity attribute of any character. .Iaddend..Iadd.62. The video game defined in claim 55, wherein each character has a longevity attribute and the program means includes means for automatically decreasing the longevity attribute over time or when a character is affected by a negative attribute affecting entity and means for increasing the longevity attribute of any character taking into its possession a positive attribute affecting entity. .Iaddend.
Description

.Iadd.This is a continuation of 07/473,262, filed Jan. 31, 1990, now abandoned, which is a Reissue of 06/865,387 filed May 20, 1986, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,738,451. .Iaddend.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention pertains to the field of video games, and, more particularly, to the field of video games where multiple players may simultaneously control multiple characters and are encouraged by the game to cooperate in defeating a maze populated by longevity decreasing entities to obtain limited resources in the form of longevity increasing resources.

In prior video games, multi-player games have been available where each player controls a character independently and without being forced to cooperate by the game. One example is Dandy. In this game, each player may control his particular character in a maze, but the characters are not forced by the game to cooperate in negotiating the maze in the sense that each player may independently move his character off the screen to wander blindly, while the other players are manipulating their characters on the screen. In another game, Ali Baba, the players are also allowed to independently control the actions of their characters, but each player is assigned a time slice during play of the game and may control his character only during this time slice. The time slice is rotated so that each player may take a turn, but the players may not all simultaneously control their characters at the same time to independently or cooperatively negotiate the maze or defeat longevity decreasing entities in the maze. The characters do not need to be all in the same portion of the maze. Each character's portion of the maze is displayed independently during the character's time slice. Thus no cooperation between characters to negotiate the maze is forced by the game.

It is useful in a multi-player video game to allow any player to enter the game or leave at any time. This makes the game more social in the sense that a game may be started by any player or players and other players may join at will and begin cooperating or competing with the other players by simultaneously controlling his charater while the other players are manipulating their respective characters. Neither of the aforementioned games allows simultaneous control of all characters, independent entry and departure of players at will and forced cooperation between players. In Ali Baba, the players may enter and leave at any time, but may not all simultaneously control their characters. Further, there is no restriction on the characters wanderings through the maze in the sense that the display changes during each player's time slice to show the particular portion of the maze in which that player's character is located. The characters do not have to all be visible at all times in the same portion of the maze. In Dandy, there is no restriction which prevents the characters from leaving the visible area, and the players must all start at the same time. Thus, no current video game of which the applicants are aware provides the features of allowing the players to join the game or leave at any time and simultaneously control their characters. Further, the games known to the applicants do not encourage the players to cooperate in defeating the maze.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the teachings of the invention, an apparatus and method are provided to fill the above described need. The invention includes known video game apparatus including a computer, typically a microprocessor, which runs a program implementing the rules of the game and which causes the computer to read the controls at each player station and determine how many players are in the game and which characters each player is controlling. The computer provides for multiple characters, each of which may have different attributes such as speed of movement, fighting abilities, magical powers, shot power, shot width and/or other attributes. Each character has a longevity attribute which the computer individually calculates based upon events which happen to that character in the game. In arcade versions of the game, each player may add to the longevity of his character by adding more coins at any time during play of the game. The computer also provides a maze (some embodiments provide multiples mazes with exits between mazes which may be opened if the player's character obtains possession of a key) in which the computer places certain limited resources. Such limited resources may include such things as longevity increasing resources, e.g., food, or other attribute affecting items such as potions which may enhance certain attributes such as magical powers or keys which allow a player to leave one maze through an exit and enter another maze. In some embodiments of the invention, when a character obtains possession of a key, that character may open a door in the maze through which all the characters may pass to enter another maze. In some embodiments, the characters have their longevity attributes increased as they pass through the door. In still other embodiments, the character which first obtains possession of the key gets bonus longevity points added to that character's longevity which is greater than any longevity points, if any, added to the other character's longevity attribute. In still other embodiments, the other characters receive longevity points in accordance with the order in which they exit through a door in the maze to another portion of the maze or to another maze. All these embodiments are equivalent in that they encourage competition among the players to increase their longevity.

The computer also populates the maze with one or more types of longevity decreasing entities which detract from a character's longevity unless the character successfully avoids the effects of the entity. Typically, these entities are monsters which attack the characters but which may be destroyed by the character's actions in fighting the monster or monsters. In some embodiments, there are more than one maze or levels of the same maze, and the monsters may act differently in different mazes or on different levels or in different portions of the same maze. The entities may also be traps, poisoned food or other things. The players move their controls and the computer responds by causing the characters to move through the maze. The players may cause their characters to fight attacking monsters, and to attempt to obtain possession of the limited, longevity enhancing or attribute affecting resources. All of the above action is displayed by the computer on a video display by accessing graphic data stored in a memory, typically a ROM, and causing standard video display driver circuitry to use the graphic data to display the maze, the characters, their shots or other fighting action, the monsters and the limited resources.

The computer allows any player to join the game at any time regardless of how many other players are in the game provided there is an unused character available for a new player to manipulate. Entry of a new player or departure of a player may occur regardless of how long the game has been played or when other players leave the game. In arcade versions of the game, players are forced to depart in the sense that their control inputs are ignored when the player's character dies, i.e., the longevity attribute for that character falls to zero. However, in these embodiments any player may extend the longevity of his character indefinitely by adding more coins to the coin slot dedicated to his character. The computer reads the coin accepting apparatus as a peripheral device and takes the number of coins dropped for each character into account when computing the longevity attribute of each character. Other factors taken into account during the longevity attribute calculation for each character are the number of successful attacks on each character by monsters, and/or the number and magnitude of other longevity decreasing events which have happened to that character during the game. When a particular character's longevity attribute reaches zero, that character is out of the game until more coins are dropped or other revival actions are taken to bring the character back to life. Control of the characters is simultaneous in that all players may simultaneously move their controls and the computer will update the positions or actions of their respective characters on the next video frame or as soon as possible after all computations and comparisons have been made and the proper video data has been accessed and sent to the video driver circuitry.

The computer also encourages the players to cooperate during play by comparing the player's character position or desired position with the current displayed screen limits. The current displayed screen may be thought of as a window on the maze (sometimes herein also called the "playfield") which is larger than the displayed window. The current window is scrolled over the playfield based on the center of the currently active characters or by any other suitable measure which keep all the active characters displayed in the current window. The characters are not allowed to leave the current window. Thus, if three characters are cooperating to fight monsters and move in the same direction toward a longevity enhancing resource, but one player wants his character to go in a direction which would take the character out of the current window where the other characters are, the window will not scroll further when the four characters have reached the window limits and are attempting to move in directions which would require expansion of the window to keep them all on the screen. This feature causes the movements of the other three cooperating players/characters to be stymied until the fourth, non-cooperating player decides to move in a direction which will allow the other players to move their characters in the direction toward their objective or vice versa.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a standard video game system which may be used to implement the invention.

FIG. 2 is a flow diagram of the main loop of the program.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of the substeps in the process of responding to player control inputs in the main loop of the program.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram ofthe substeps in the process for checking for the addition of new coins by existing or new players and for starting new players in the game by placing their characters in the current maze.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of the substeps in the process of checking for and processing of collisions of characters or character shots with monsters, walls, attribute affecting entities, exits, etc.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of the substeps in the collision processing routine for processing collisions with exits.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to FIG. 1 there is shown a block diagram of a typical video game system which may be used to implement the video game of the invention. Such systems are known in the art of video game hardware design and the exact implementation details will be known to practitioners in this art. Other systems will also work to implement the video game apparatus of the invention in other embodiments. For example, the GAUNTLET (trademark of Atari Games Corporation of Milpitas, Calif.) game hardware will work with the object code software of the appendices hereto to implement the invention.

In FIG. 1, various player controls 11 such as joysticks for controlling movements of characters, fire buttons, magic buttons and coin accepting apparatus are coupled to computer 12 by bus 14. In the preferred embodiment, the computer 12 is a Motorola 68010, and the program memory 16 stores the programs of the appendices hereto. Typically, the player controls will be treated as peripheral devices and will either be periodically read in polled systems or will generate interrupt signals to the computer 12 in interrupt systems. In the latter, the service routines for the interrupts will cause the computer 12 to determine which player control caused the interrupt and will cause the computer 12 to read the data from the player control that caused the interrupt. The routines to read the player controls are stored in a program memory 16, and are well known.

The program memory 16 stores the program which controls the actions of the computer 12 and which implements the rules of the game. The control flow of the program to implement the novel features of the video game of the invention will be described in more detail below in connection with the discussion of other figures.

The program in program memory 16 establishes a cast of several characters each of which may have different attributes such as speed of movement, magical powers, fighting ability, movement ability, shot power, shot width, etc. Each character also has its own longevity attribute which is changed by an independent calculation of the computer for each character based upon events which happen affecting that character during play of the game. The program also establishes a maze populated by attribute affecting entities. Some entities adversely affect any character's longevity attribute upon which the entities act and are typically monsters, traps or other things which the characters should avoid to prolong their lives. Hereafter these adverse entities will be called monsters, but this term is to be understood as meaning any entity which reduces longevity of characters it affects. Other attribute affecting entities increase longevity and may take the form of food, resting places, healers, energy sources or any other thing which increases longevity. The longevity attribute might also be expressed to the players by the computer in terms of health, power or some other measure of vitality of a character. Hereafter longevity increasing entities will be referred to as food, but this term is to be understood as meaning any entity which increases a character's longevity attribute.

There are also established by the program certain other attribute affecting entities in the game. Such entities change or enhance an attribute or attributes of any character which comes into possession of same, and may affect the attributes of some characters more than others. Such entities may take the form of keys allowing exit from one maze to another, potions to change or enhance magical powers, objects found in the maze or which have fallen into it, treasures etc. All such attribute affecting entities which affect character attributes in a positive manner in the sense of helping the character in some way to negotiate the maze, defeat monsters or increase longevity will sometimes hereafter be referred to as limited resources. In the preferred embodiment, these limited resources will be limited in the sense that there are not enough of them present in the maze to allow all the characters to have as much of them as they want. In other embodiments, these "limited resources" may not be limited at all.

The computer uses a video data base memory 18 to keep track of all the attributes, positions and longevity of the characters and the positions of monsters, shots and other entities in the maze. The graphics data is stored in a graphics data memory 20. The particular graphics data used in the preferred embodiment is given in the appendices hereto. The graphics data for all moving and nonmoving objects in the game such as maze walls, traps, exits, treasures, limited resources, monsters characters, shots, etc. are stored in the memory 20. Some equivalent embodiments may use a separate memory for maze graphics data and another memory for the character graphics. Separate routines performed by the computer 12 or some dedicated logic would be used to access and display each of the sets of graphic data for the maze and non-moving objects therein and for the characters, their fighting actions, movements, shots, etc.

The computer 12 performs the routines stored in the program memory 16 (see appendices hereto for exact object code of preferred embodiment) to read the player controls, compute longevity attributes for each character, cause the characters to move, determine collisions of the characters with monsters, limited resources, maze walls, exits, and the perimeter of the currently displayed window, or collisions of character shots with monsters, exits or other characters etc. Calculations of attributes affected by these events if any are made, and the computer 12 updates the data records in the data base memory 18.

The proper graphic data is then accessed when it is time to display the objects in the current window at their proper positions in the window. The proper addresses for the desired graphic data are sent to the graphics data memory 20 via the bus 22 from the video data base memory 18 under the control of a video display driver subsystem 26. This control is exercised by the video display driver subsystem 26 via addresses sent to the video data base memory 18 over the bus 27. The 65 addresses of the desired graphics objects to be displayed are then sent to the graphics data memory 20 via the data bus 22. The desired graphics data is output at the proper time on a bus 24 to the video display driver subsystem 26. This is a conventional system which generates the proper raster scanning and synchronization control signals on a bus 28 to control a conventional video display 30. Typically, the video subsystem 26 includes logic to convert the graphic data from the graphics data memory 20 to pixel data suitable for creating a bit mapped display of the desired image. The video subsystem also typically contains a line buffer in which the bit mapped pixel data is stored prior to being displayed. Some embodiments may include one or two frame buffers, the purpose of which is to assemble and store the bit map for the current or next frame's displayed window image. The video subsystem also usually contains counters for keeping track of the current row and column position in the raster scanned image of the electron beam in the video display 30 for purposes of properly accessing the corresponding pixel data for that row and column position. The computer 12 may control or read some of the operating parameters of the video display driver subsystem via the bus 32. All of the foregoing is well known technology and further details will not be given here. Typical hardware systems that will work for the tangible elements of the system are taught in U.S. Pat. No. 4,116,444 to Mayer et al. Other patents which describe hardware systems and subsystems which may be used in implementing the invention are U.S. patents: Nos. 4,054,919; 4,045,789; 3,793,483; and 4,016,362. The disclosures of these patents are hereby incorporated by reference.

Referring to FIG. 2 there is shown a block diagram of the program run by the computer 12 in implementing the preferred, coin operated video game of the invention. The game is started when the first player drops a coin to bring his character to life in an arcade version the game or when a player presses his start button in a home version of the game. The computer first draws a maze and places certain limited resources therein, such as longevity increasing food, keys, potions to affect certain character attributes such as magic, etc., treasures and so on as symbolized by block 33. Such routines are well known and need not be detailed here. The computer 12 does not draw in enough of the limited resources for all the characters in the game to have unlimited extensions of their longevity attributes. Only enough longevity increasing resources are drawn in the maze for some of the characters thereby encouraging competition among the players to obtain possession of these limited resources.

After the maze is drawn, the character or characters which have been brought to life are placed in the maze somewhere in the visible window as symbolized by block 34. The details of this process will be supplied below in connection with a discussion of the flow chart of FIG. 3.

Typically, the graphics data memory 20 has stored therein graphic data for a maze which is larger than the window which can be displayed on the screen. The computer 12 keeps track of where the characters are in the maze by updating the x and y coordinate fields (which define the position of the character in the current window) of each character in the database memory 18. The computer 12 then scrolls the window so as to keep all the characters visible in the window at all times. Only so much of the maze as is visible through the current window location is displayed. In the preferred embodiment, when a game is started, the window is located at some known position in the maze and the characters which have been activated are placed somewhere in the window.

Next, the computer 12 polls the player controls 10 to determine what the first player currently playing is doing with his character in terms of desired movements, fighting action, etc. This is symbolized by block 36 where controls for currently active characters are read. The routines to read player controls are well known to those skilled in the programming of video games. Block 36 represents the process of either polling all controls for all players and storing the data read in memory for processing in block 38 or the process of servicing interrupts from player controls as they occur and storing the data read during the interrupt service routines in menory to await processing by the computer 12.

The computer then attempts to respond as symbolized by block 38. This is a task which involves several sub-tasks which are detailed in FIG. 3. Referring to FIG. 3, the first sub-task the computer 12 performs as indicated by control flow line 37 to block 31 is to pick a character which has not been processed yet. Control then flows on path 40 to a test 41 to determine whether that character is still alive, i.e., in the game. The test of block 41 represents a process of accessing the data record for the character picked in block 31 and reading the longevity attribute field and determining if the character is still in the game. If the character is not still in the game, the control inputs from the player attempting to control the dead character are ignored as symbolized by block 43. Control then flows on path 39 to a block 62. If the the character is still active in the game per the test of block 41, the control inputs from the corresponding player must be processed.

The first step in this process is to decide whether the player has manipulated any special control other than a move control, e.g., is trying to exercise a special attribute of his character. The computer 12 provides predefined characters which the players are allowed to manipulate with controls to cause them to shoot, move, excercise their magical powers, etc. Each character, in the preferred embodiment, has different attributes such as speed, magic powers, shot power, shot width, armor strength, etc. In other embodiments, all characters have the same attributes. Either situation will suffice to practice the invention claimed, and each situation is eqivalent to the other in terms of what is critical to the practice of the invention. In embodiments where all players have the same attributes, the computer 12 need not check for whether a particular player is attempting to exercise an attribute which his character may not have so the next step, test 44 may be skipped. In the preferred embodiment, the computer 12 does check to see whether the player is requesting an action other than move, and does check whether the corresponding character has the attribute the player wants to exercise as symbolized in blocks 42 and 44. If the answer to both questions is yes, then block 46 is entered to cause the character to perform the requested function, e.g., shooting, increasing longevity by receiving new coins, starting a new player's character in the maze or exercise of magic powers. Typically, special attributes would include magical powers that not all characters have. The computer 12 keeps a data base of records defining character attributes and the status of each character in terms of his or her position in the maze, longevity of the character, possession of any limited resources such as keys or potions and other necessary information. Step 42 is merely a reading of the player controls 11 to determine what action, if any, has been requested by the player currently being processed. Step 44 is an access to the data record for the particular character to determine if the special attribute is present or to obtain any other information needed to perform the requested function. Step 46 symbolizes the process of actually carrying out the requested function, and involves accessing the proper graphic data to display the exercise of the special attribute or to place the character in the maze or to show shots or to increase the character's longevity attribute in accordance with the number of new coins received for that character.

Either ater performing block 46, or if the answer to the test of block 42 was no, the computer 12 tests to determine if all the active players requested actions other than move have been processed as symbolized by path 47 and block 48. If not, flow goes back to step 42 to process the control inputs from the next player as shown by line 51. If the answer is yes, control flows to block 50 as shown by line 52.

Block 50 symbolizes the action of the computer 12 polling the current player's movement controls to see if the player is requesting movement of his character or shots from his character. If yes, control flows on line 54 to block 56 to determine if the desired movement would cause a collision. The collision test is to determine if the character's movement or shots would cause collision of the character or his or her shots with walls of the maze, monsters, attribute affecting items such as limited resources, the boundaries of the current window or an exit to another maze or another level of the same maze. If the answer to this test is yes, then control flows on path 58 to a collision action routine 59 which will be detailed below in connection with discussion of FIG. 5. If there is no collision, the computer 12 moves the character or his shot to the desired position by calculating the amount of the desired movement in known fashion and updating the character's record or the shot's record in the data base by changing the x and y coordinate fields in the data record for that character or shot as symbolized by block 60.

After the character or shot has been moved or the collision action routine has been performed, control flows to the test of block 62 to determine whether all the active players have had their control inputs processed. Block 62 is also entered if the answer to the test of block 50 was that the player did not desire to move his character. If all player's control inputs are found in block 62 to have not been processed, control flows on path 64 back to block 31 on FIG. 3 to pick the next character and process the corresponding player's control inputs. Processing then proceeds as described above.

If the answer to the test of block 62 is yes, control flows to a block 68 which will be described below.

Although the computer services only one player's inputs at any particular time, this process is invisible to the players since the processing is so fast that it appears simultaneous to them. There are no assigned time slots for each player during which he or she may operate the character controls where at all other times the controls are "dead". Each player may move his controls at any time, and the computer will appear to respond instantaneously. Of course there are situations to be described in the description of the collision routine where the player may wish to move his character but his character will not move because of a collision with a wall, the screen limits, etc. However, even when this occurs the character may still do whatever other things the character can be controlled to do, and the controls are not "dead".

After all player control inputs have been processed, control flows to block 68 where the window is moved to a new location, if required, corresponding to the new locations of all the active characters, i.e., those characters whose longevity attributes have not been reduced to zero. In the preferred embodiment, the new window location is determined by calculating the center of all the active characters and placing the window such that all the active characters are displayed in the window. However, in other embodiments any other method of determining the new window position will suffice for practicing the invention. It is only critical that whatever method is used be such that all the active characters be visible in the window after it is moved.

After the window has been moved or scrolled across the maze to its new position, the processing of block 38 on FIG. 2 is complete, and control flows on path 39 to point B, block 41 on FIG. 2, This step is to find a monster or a monster generator which has not been destroyed by the characters which may be used by the computer 12 to attack the players. Once a monster or a generator has been found, the computer 12 tests in block 43 whether what has been found is a monster or a generator. If it is not a monster, control flows to block 45 to generate new monsters. If it was a monster, control flows on path 74 to routine 76 to move the monsters to attack the nearest character or characters. The routine at 76 may be any one of several different processes, e.g., the positions of the monsters may be compared to the position of all the characters to determine the closest character and the monsters may be moved only toward the closest character, or the positions of the monsters may be compared to all the characters and the monsters may be split up such that some attack each active character. The process of moving monsters by updating their data records in the video data base and calling up the corresponding graphic data for the monster at the appropriate time is well known and any known code to accomplish this task may be used to practice this aspect of the invention.

Referring again to the main loop flow chart of FIG. 2, after the process of block 76 is performed, control flows on path 78 to the process of block 80. Block 80 represents a test of whether any of the monsters have collided with any of the characters being attacked. If the answer is yes, then control flows to block 82 where the longevity attribute of any character which collided with a monster is reduced. This is a process of accessing the data record for each character which suffered a collision with a monster and updating the longevity field by subtracting some assigned number of longevity units thereform and then rewriting the record in the data base.

After the process of block 82 is performed, control flows to the test of block 84 where it is determined whether all the monsters have been moved to attack characters. If not, control flows back to block 41 to find the next monster or generator, and processing then proceeds as described above. If all the monsters have been moved, then control flows to block 86 where the computer 12 waits for the video display driver subsystem 26 to signal that the current frame has been displayed. This fact may be determined by an interrupt from the video display driver subsystem 26 or by polling of the video display driver subsystem 26 by the computer 12. After the frame is displayed, processing returns to block 34 on FIG. 2, and processing proceeds as described above.

Referring to FIG. 4, there is shown a flow chart for the processing sequence the computer 12 follows for starting a player. The flow chart of FIG. 4 is an expansion of the process represented by block 34 in FIG. 2. Block 34 is the process the computer 12 implements in allowing any one of a plurality of players to enter the game at any time and bring an unused character to life and control that character. This process may occur regardless of how many other players are playing (providing there is an unused character available), regardless of how long they have been playing or when they elect to leave the game or when their characters die. The computer 12 loops through the process of FIG. 4 once for each character.

The first step in the process of FIG. 4 is a test shown at block 100 to determine whether a coin has been dropped for the first character for which the loop is performed. In the preferred embodiment, adding coins allows a character to start or increases the longevity of a currently active character. Accordingly, if the answer to the test of block 100 is yes, block 102 is performed to add to the longevity attribute of the character for which a coin or coins was received. The longevity of the character is increased in proportion to the number of coins which were received. This is done by accessing the character's data record and adding some number of longevity units to the longevity attribute field of the data record.

In the preferred embodiment, the test of block 103 is performed to account for the case where a coin is dropped for a character which is alive and whose player wishes to extend the life of that character. In such a case there is no need to place the character in the maze or to wait for the player to press the start button, so subsequent steps in the process of FIG. 4 will be skipped and control will flow along the path 105 to the test of block 107 to determine if all coin slots have been read to detect the presence of new coins. If the character whose coin slot received a coin was not previously alive before the new coin was received, control flows along the path 109 to the test of block 104.

In block 104, a determination is made whether the start button has been pushed by the player corresponding to the character whose coin slot received the new coin. If it has not, there is no need to place the character on the screen, and control flows along the path 111 to the test of block 107. If the start button has been pressed, the computer 12 accesses the graphics data for the character and creates a data record for that character placing it somewhere in the current window and writing the fields of the data record to reflect its current longevity attribute and position and assigning it the attributes that said character has. This process is symbolized by block 106. The initial values of attributes assigned to the character may be stored in a look up table. In some embodiments, some or all of the attributes of all or selected ones of the characters may have their values changed by the computer 12 based upon prior events which happened in the game, e.g., collisions with treasures, potions, keys, thieves, etc.

After the process of block 106 is performed, the test of step 107 is performed to determine if all the coin slots for all the characters have been processed. If they have not, control flows along path 108 back to block 100. If all coin slots have been read, control flows on path 110 to block 36 in FIG. 2, and processing continues as previously described.

In embodiments suitable for use in the home, steps 100, 102 and 103 are not present as coins are not customarily used in the home environment. In such embodiments the test of block 104 is performed as the first step of the process of FIG. 3.

Referring to FIG. 5 there is shown a flow diagram of the collision processing performed in blocks 56 and 59 on FIG. 3. It is this processing which causes attributes to be affected both positively and negatively and which forces the players to cooperate to at least some extent. If the result of the test of block 50 is that the player does not desire to move his character, then control bypasses block 56, and control flows to block 62 on FIG. 3. If the result of the test of block 50 in FIG. 3 is that the player desires to move the character currently beng processed, control passes along path 54 to a collision test in block 130. If the test of bock 130 indicates that a collision with the edge of the window would result, then control flows on path 132 to block 133 where an appropriate edge of window routine is performed. The exact details of the edge screen routine as to processing of collisions of shots with the edge of the screen is not critical to the invention. In some embodiments, the shots may be allowed to continue past the edge of the screen, and in other embodiments, the shots are caused to disappear when they collide with the edge of the screen, i.e., the window edge. However, if the collision was between s character and the edge of the screen, the character is not allowed to move until the current window position is moved except in certain circumstances. After the process of block 133 is performed, processing flows to block 62 on FIG. 3 along path 66. There, processing proceeds as described earlier. Block 130 is the portion of the program run by the computer 12 which encourages the players to cooperate in the sense that all the active characters must move through the maze toward their objective in such a manner that they all remain simultaneously visible in the current window. For example, assume that one character's longevity is getting low, and thus that player needs to get his or her character to a longevity increasing entity. Such an entity could be food, a power source, a healer, etc. located elsewhere in the maze at a place not currently visible on the screen. Because of the processing at block 130, the character whose longevity is low may not move further than the edge of the current window or screen edge toward the longevity increasing entity until the other characters decide to move with him toward his or her objective. Actually, in the preferred embodiment, the character desiring to move toward the off screen food may only move until the character reaches the current edge of the window and then will be blocked from further movement until the edge of the window moves. Sinde the window center is recomputed every frame based upon the center of the characters, If the characters are cooperating and moving in the general direction of the objective, the window will continue to scroll over the playfield until the objective is within the perimeter of the window. In other embodiments, one character may cause the current window to move by his movements alone in certain circumstances. Those circumstances can be defined to exist when the center of the currently active characters is such that there is room for the window to be scrolled without causing the edge of the window to collide with another character. In such a circumstance, the character may move to the edge of the current window and continue to move thereby causing the edge of the window to move with him or her until the window has moved to a point where another character has collided with an edge of the window. When the window can no longer be moved without causing an active character to disappear from the current window, the characters are under constraints in that they may only move in directions which will keep them in the perimeter of the current window. The foregoing situation persists until cooperation among the players cause them to move in the same general direction such that their collective center is located so as to allow the current window to be moved to a new position with all characters still visible in the window.

After the players have cooperated enough that the current window contains the desird attribute affecting entity within its perimeter, then cooperation is not longer necessary. At that time, the players may begin competing against each other to take possession of the attribute affecting entity for themselves. Each player can decide on an individual basis whether to continue to cooperate and subjugate his self interest to the interest of the group or to act solely in his own self interest.

Other forms of cooperation in the game include the ability of the characters to simultaneously move as a group and to protect each other flanks by fighting all monsters approaching in their assigned zones of defense for the group. Another form of cooperation is the decoy strategy. This strategy relies upon the fact that the monsters are attracted to player's position to attack them, and generally are attracted to the closest player. The decoy strategy is to use one character as a decoy or magnet to attract the monsters while the other characters ambush the monsters from positions further away. Another form of cooperation in the game is the ability of the players to share the limited resources. The players may decide among themselves to allow the weakest character, i.e., the character with the least longevity left, to have all the limited resources. Or, in the case of multiple piles of limited resources, the players may divide them among themselves to best utilize the longevity enhancement effect for the good of the group. Another form of cooperation is to allow the character with a particular attribute to obtain possession of a particular limited resource if that character may use the resource more effectively for the good of the group than the other characters in the group. An example of this would be to let any character with extensive magical powers to obtain a possession of a magic anhancing resource as opposed to having a character with limited or no magical powers take possession of the resource. The portions of the program which implement these other possible forms of cooperation will be described below in connection with, inter alia, block 146, 150, 160 and 178. Certain other aspects of this cooperation feature of the game are implemented by portions of the program described above, e.g., blocks 80, 82, 42, 44 and 46. This cooperation aspect of the game provides for very exciting action and interesting social interplay among the players.

If the test of block 130 indicates no collision with the edge of the window would result from the move (in some embodiments the character is moved, a collision is found, and the character is moved back), then control flows on the path 134 to a test symbolized by block 136. This test determines whether the move would cause the character or his or her shot to collide with an impassable entity such as a wall in the maze. If the answer is yes, control flows on a path 138 to a block 137. There an appropriate routine is performed to implement the effects of the collision. The details of this block 137 are not critical to the invention, and the processing performed in block 137 may cause any type of action the game designer desires. For example, the character my be stopped, the shot hitting a wall or trap may destroy th wall or trap or may cause a cloud of poisonous gas to be released. Any imaginable action may be performed by the block 137. After the processing of block 137, process control flows to block 62 in FIG. 3 via the path 66.

If the answer to the test of block 136 is no, control flows on a path 140 to the test of block 142. This is test to determine if the move would cause a collision between the character or the character's shot with an attribute affecting entity. Such entities may be any typical video game entity such as traps, black holes, time warps, keys, potions, objects which have fallen into the maze, treasures, food, energy or power sources, healers, etc. Neither what the entity .[.or.]. .Iadd.is .Iaddend.nor its affect on attributes is critical to the invention. Typically collisions with such entities do any of the following things: increase longevity; decrease longevity; enhance other attributes such as magical powers; decrease attributes; add new attributes such as different movement abilities, e.g., jumping or flying; change fighting ability; change armor capacity; and/or provide the ability to leave the maze through an exit.

If the answer to the test of block 142 is yes, control flows on a path 144 to a block 146 where the attribute is changed accordingly by accessing the data record for the character and adjusting the field of the attribute affected to implement the change. After this process is completed, control flows on path 66 to block 62 on FIG. 3.

If the answer to the test of block 142 is no, control flows on path 147 to the test of block where a determination is made of whether the proposed move would cause a collision of the character or character shot with another player. In the preferred embodiment, one character may push another character and move that character's position in the maze until such a time as the pushed character begins to push back. In other embodiments, the characters may be able to shoot and damage or destroy each other or otherwise hinder the progress of other characters toward their objectives. This feature provides for the competitive aspects of the game once a desired attribute affecting entity is located within the perimeter of the current window. If the answer to the test of block 148 is yes, control flows to a block 150 along path 152 where the characters have their attributes and/or positions changed in accordance with whatever competitive rule is adopted for the particular embodiment implemented. Of course player competition can take many other forms as well. For example, one character may refuse to move when that character is preventing movement of the current window toward the objective of another player. Further, one character may refuse to cooperate in shooting or fighting monsters which are attacking another character. Also some characters may be faster or be able to jump or fly, and these characters may speed ahead of another character which is headed for a longevity increasing entity and take possession of the entity for itself.

If the answer to the test of block 148 is no, control flows on a path 154 to a block 156. There the proposed move is tested to determine if it would cause the character or character shot to collide with an exit. If the answer is yes, control flows on a path 158 to a block 160. There the appropriate action for the rule adopted for the particular embodiment at hand is performed. The particular rule adopted for processing in block 160 is not critical to the invention. The processing for block 160 in the preferred embodiment is shown in more detail in FIG. 6.

Referring to FIG. 6, the processing of collisions between characters or character shots and exits is detailed for the preferred embodiment. The processing of FIG. 6 is to determine if the game conditions, e.g. attribute status of the character such as possession of a key, are such that the character may pass through the exit, and to determine what to do for a shot/exit collision. Accordingly, the first step in the processing is to determine if a shot/exit collision has occurred as symbolized by block 159. If the answer is yes, processing proceeds to block 160 where an appropriate shot/exit collision routine is performed. In some embodiments, the shot may disappear, and in other embodiments, the exit may be destroyed. The possibilities are numerous, and any may be used in equivalent embodiments of the invention. If the answer is no to the test of block 159, control flows to a test symbolized by a block 161 to determine if predefined conditions for exit by a character are satisfied. The predefined conditions may be anything the game designer desires, and the exact conditions selected are not critical to the invention. For example, in some embodiments a character may not be allowed to leave through an exit until a particular monster holding the key for that exit is destroyed and the character picks up the key. If the answer to the test of block 161 is no, control flows on a path 66 to block 62 of FIG. 3, and now movement of the character through the exit results. If the answer to the test of block 161 is yes, control flows on a path 164 to a block 166 where a test is made to determine if the other characters have left the maze. If the answer is no, the character desiring to exit is allowed to exit and is placed on another level in a safe haven where the character cannot be attacked by monsters as symbolized by block 168. There the character awaits the arrival of the other characters.

If the answer to the test of block 166 is yes, then processing proceeds to block 170 where a new maze is drawn. In some embodiments, the new maze will have different kinds of monsters and attribute affecting entities therein and usually will have exits, monsters and entities placed differently. The character exiting is then placed in the next maze. In some embodiments, the characters may only move forward to new mazes which they have not previously occupied. In other embodiments, the characters may move back to levels or mazes which they have previously occupied. Control then flows on a path 168 to block 33 on FIG. 2 and processing continues as previously described for the new maze. In some embodiments the characters attributes remain the same in the new maze, and, in some other embodiments, the character's attributes are changed. The order of exit may be determine in some embodiments the position the characters will assume in the new maze.

Returning to FIG. 5, if the answer to the test of block 156 is no, control flows on a path 170 to a block 172 where a test is performed to determine whether a character's shots or character have collided with a monster. If the answer is yes, control flows on a path 174 to a block 178 where an attempt is made to damage the monster. In embodiments where the characters have different attributes, often the shots of one character may not be powerful enough to kill a monster whereas the shots of another character may be powerful enough to kill a monster. Further, some monsters may be stronger than others. To account for these embodiments, the process of block 178 is implemented to perform damage routines to monsters which have collided with characters or shots. After the process of block 178 is performed, control flows along path 180 to the test of block 182 to determine if the monster was destroyed. If not, then control flows to block 62 in FIG. 3 along path 184/176 to path 66. If the answer to the test of block 182 was yes, control flows along path 186 to a routine symbolized by block 188 which deletes the monster. Control then flows on a path 176/66 to block 62 and processing continues as described above.

Although the invention has been described in terms of the preferred embodiment herein and the other alternative embodiments, those skilled in the art will appreciate still other equivalent embodiments which may be implemented. All such embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the claims appended hereto. ##SPC1##

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/2, 463/15
International ClassificationA63F9/00, A63F11/00, G06F19/00, A63F13/10
Cooperative ClassificationA63F13/10, A63F2011/0095
European ClassificationA63F13/10
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