US 20020047238 A1
A gaming machine of the type that displays an array of randomly arranged symbols and pays winnings upon the occurrence of certain winning combinations of symbols appearing in any portions of the array that occur in a bet. The gaming machine being configured such that when two or more predetermined symbols appear in the array adjacent each other they are displayed as a single oversized symbol.
1. A gaming machine comprising:
a display for presenting an array of symbols selected randomly from a set of symbols; and
means adapted to pay winnings on any winning combination appearing in a portion of the array carrying a bet such that when two or more predetermined symbols from the set appear in the array adjacent each other, the symbols are displayed as a single oversized symbol.
2. A gaming machine according to
3. A gaming machine according to
4. A gaming machine according to
5. A method of operation for a gaming machine having a display for presenting an array of symbols randomly selected from a set of symbols, the method comprising the steps of:
forming an array of randomly selected symbols and paying winnings on any winning combinations appearing in a portion of the array carrying a bet; and
upon two or more pre-determined symbols from the set appearing in the array adjacent each other, presenting the symbols as a single oversized symbol.
6. A method of operating a gaming machine according to
7. A method of operating a gaming machine according to
8. A method of operating a gaming machine according to
 The present invention relates to gaming machines. The invention has been developed primarily for computerised gaming machines and will be described herein with reference to that application. However, the invention is not limited to that particular field of use and may be suitable for many other applications.
 Gaming machines have long been known and are now one of the most common forms of gambling. Usually, gaming machines will simulate a well known game of chance. One of the oldest and best known forms of gaming machine is the rotating reel type “poker machine”. In light of its popularity, the present invention will be described with reference to this type of gaming machine. Poker machines use a series of three, four or five reels, each reel having symbols on its peripheral edge. The reels are rotated upon the placement of a wager and then stopped to produce a random arrangement of the symbols. Winnings are paid if the random arrangement of symbols matches one of the predetermined winning combinations.
 Gaming machines can “pay winnings” in a variety of ways. These include dispensing money, dispensing tokens that can be redeemed for money and adding credits to a credit meter that can be used for placing bets or redeem money. The winnings may even entail awarding the player one or more “free games” whereby the machine operates without the player needing to place a bet. Therefore, throughout the specification the use or terminology such as “winnings are paid”, “pay winnings” and so on will denote the award of some type of benefit or desirable outcome to the player.
 More recently, these gaming machines have been computerised with a video screen replacing the physically rotating reels. Typically, the display screen presents an array of symbols in five columns and three rows equating to the symbols that would normally be seen on the five reels of the old style mechanical machines.
 Computerised machines have allowed players to bet on symbols appearing in one or more rows or columns instead of just the middle row which was traditionally the only row available for betting on in the old style mechanic machines. Eventually, all the practical “paylines” of symbols available in the five column, three row of array were exhausted. In an ongoing effort to further enhance the gaming experience, “wildcards” have been introduced into the array of symbols. Wildcards are well known in many card games. They are cards that have been designated as being able to substitute for other cards and thereby increase a player's chances of forming a winning hand. Similarly, a wildcard symbol is symbol that can substitute for any of the other symbols. The appearance of a wildcard in an array of symbols shown on a computerised gaming machine is even more advantageous because it is usually in more than one of the “paylines”. Despite this, players are now very familiar with the wildcard feature and its appearance in the array of symbols no longer provides a strong sense of bonus for many seasoned players.
 In accordance with the present invention there is provided a gaming machine which overcomes or ameliorates at least one of the disadvantages of the prior gaming machines, or provides a useful alternative.
 Further in accordance with the present invention, there is provided a gaming machine comprising a display for presenting an array of symbols selected randomly from a set of symbols and means adapted to pay winnings on any winning combination appearing in a portion of the array carrying a bet such that when two or more predetermined symbols from the set appear in the array adjacent each other, the symbols are displayed as a single oversized symbol.
 Still further in accordance with the present invention, there is provided a method of operation for a gaining machine having a display for presenting an array of symbols randomly selected from a set of symbols, the method comprising the steps of:
 forming an array of randomly selected symbols and paying winnings on any winning combinations appearing in a portion of the array carrying a bet; and
 upon two or more pre-determined symbols from the set appearing in the array adjacent each other, presenting the symbols as a single oversized symbol.
 Preferably, the predetermined symbols are wildcards which can substitute for any 15 of the other symbols in order to form any of winning combinations.
 In a further preferred embodiment, the oversized symbol has an associated bonus that is awarded in addition to the winnings from any winning combination in the array. The bonuses associated with the oversized symbol may include extra credits to be added to credits normally awarded for the 20 winning combinations incorporating the oversize symbol; doubling, tripling or otherwise multiplying the credits normally awarded for the winning combinations incorporating the oversized symbol; a set number of free games whereby the machine operates without requiring the placement of a wager, and combinations thereof.
 Gaming machines using the present invention not only incorporate the standard wildcard feature but also an enlarged wildcard formed from the combination of several standard wildcards so that they appear on the display as a single oversized symbol. The appearance of an oversized symbol in the array carries with it much greater visual impact and tends to reinforce a sense of bonus within the player. Furthermore, the oversized symbol can be assigned additional benefits which will add to the players enjoyment of the game.
 These and other advantages will be apparent upon the reading and understanding of the specification.
 A preferred embodiment of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 shows a schematic representation of an array of symbols incorporating standard wildcards; and
FIG. 2 shows an array of symbols incorporating an oversized symbol formed from the combination of the standard wildcards.
 Referring to FIG. 1, a schematic representation of a gaming machine display 10 is shown. Randomly selected symbols are arranged in a five column, three row array, shown as 11, 12, and 13. The machine is adapted to accept bets on predetermined “paylines” (not shown) running through the array and paying winnings on the occurrence of a winning combination appearing on any of the paylines carrying a bet. The array also includes predetermined wildcard symbols N, W and I which can substitute for any of the other symbols in order to form a winning combination.
 Referring to FIG. 2, the machine is adapted such that whenever the wildcards are configured such that they are vertically stacked and extend downwardly in the order W, I, N, then the machine is adapted to graphically represent the three wildcards as a single oversized symbol. Of course, the machine can also be adapted to display the wildcards as an oversize symbol when they appear horizontally adjacent each other in the left to right order of W, I, N.
 The larger dimension of the oversize symbol makes it more visually striking than the other symbols in the array which tends to make players more conscious of the presence of the wildcards.
 To further enhance the players' favourable reaction to the oversize symbol, in a preferred embodiment, the gaming machine suitably provides an additional bonus. The bonus may be a set amount of extra credits or multiplication of the normal winnings for any combinations incorporating the oversize symbol by a factor greater than one or a set number of free games whereby the machine operates without requiring the placement of a wager. Using the multiplying factor as the bonus feature associated with the oversize symbol encourages the player to bet on more of the available paylines as the oversize symbol is likely to intersect most, if not all, of the available paylines. or a set number of free games whereby the machine operates without requiring the placement of a wager.
 By using different bonuses or benefits associated with the appearance of the oversize symbol, the game designer is provided with a convenient and visually appealing means of raising the ‘volatility’ of the machine. The ‘volatility’ of a gaming machine is a reference to the average amount of any winnings paid around the frequency that the winning combinations appear in the array. All gaming machines must, over time, return a percentage of all bets received as winnings. This percentage is usually set by government regulation. A high volatility gaming machine will return this percentage of bets through relatively fewer wins of greater average amounts and conversely a low volatility gaming machine will return the set percentage of bets through a higher frequency of lower value wins. The desired level of volatility is a matter of personal preference for individual players and therefore it is advantageous for game designer's to be able to adjust volatility levels to provide a range of different machines set at different levels. Adjustments to the bonuses associated with the oversize symbol are a convenient way of achieving this and they are inherently reinforced by the extra visual impact of a bigger symbol.
 The invention has been described herein by way of example only. It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive. Other features and aspects of this invention will be appreciated by those skilled in the art upon reading and comprehending this disclosure. Such features, aspects, and expected variations and modifications of the reported results and examples are clearly within the scope of the invention where the invention is limited solely by the scope of the following claims.