CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application claims priority under 35USC§119(e) of U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/473,256, filed May 27, 2003, the specification of which is hereby incorporated by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to a casino-style gaming machine and a method of applying special features to the game played on these gaming machines.
The field of casino-style games and gaming machines is in constant evolution. Players are always demanding new features that may incite them to play. Such implemented features include multihand pokers, progressive jackpots, multiline slot machine games and mystery prizes. A problem the game designers face when developing new features is to maintain balance between providing appealing prizes, controlling the return payout to the player, keeping the game hit rate in an interesting range, and applying a simple feature that must be easy to understand by the players.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, improvements in this field are desired.
The invention consists in a method of providing a wild feature in a gaming environment. Moreover, it consists in providing a player with a game structure comprising a plurality of substructures, each substructure being suitable to establish an outcome involving a plurality of game indicia. It further consists in identifying which of the drawn indicia triggers the activation of a wild feature. When such an indicium is drawn, it is not associated with a substructure but placed aside until a predetermined wild feature application criterion is met. Upon positive evaluation of this criterion, played substructures are evaluated with the wild feature to determine the manner in which the wild feature may be optimally used within each substructure, and the wild feature is used accordingly in at least one of the played substructures. Then, the play continues or ends depending on the state it reached. At the end of said state, the substructures are evaluated to establish the play outcome.
Furthermore, the invention consists in a gaming machine suitable for the application of the above described method. This gaming machine includes display means presenting a game layout comprising a plurality of playing substructures characteristic of the game with each substructure being responsible for establishing an individual result. The gaming machine comprises input means for the player to play the game, and game controller means providing said game to the player. Furthermore, the game controller is adapted to (a) draw indicia to be used in the game; (b) judge the drawn indicia to evaluate their values as either regular or special indicia; (c) use the regular indicia to yield a regular outcome; (d) evaluate the activation of the wild feature according to its best use; and (e) establish a payout accordingly.
The invention also consists in codes adapted to control a machine such as a computer to complete the present method; the codes are stored on suitable media such as computer readable media, or communicated through an electrical or an electromagnetic carrier signal for instance.
Accordingly, an aspect of the invention is to provide a feature in a gaming environment creating a positive incentive.
Thus, an object of the invention is to provide a feature that addresses this problem while respecting the characteristics of a balanced game: a) a balanced payout, b) an interesting hit rate, and c) appealing prize values.
Another object is to provide such a feature in a gaming environment wherein its advantages may easily be understood and recognized by the player.
Another object is to allow this feature to be easily carried out in a plurality of games, for instance bingo and poker games.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In this specification, the term “wild feature” is intended to mean “any feature with the advantage of having a plurality of potential values or effects”. The terms “structures and substructures” are intended to mean “organizations of elements, with each substructure being suitable to be involved in establishing a play result”. The term “indicia” for its part is intended to mean “gaming elements in any suitable form”.
Further features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, taken in combination with the appended drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram showing a perspective view of a gaming machine suitable for the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating the components of the gaming machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of a bingo layout with bingo elements simulating the play of a bingo game embodying the feature of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating the steps involved in the play of the bingo game illustrated in FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a schematic representation of a poker layout with card representations simulating the play of a poker game embodying the feature of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating the steps involved in the play of the poker game illustrated in FIG. 4; and
FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating some components of the gaming machine of FIG. 2 in a functional manner in order for said gaming machine to carry out the feature of the present invention.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
It will be noted that throughout the appended drawings, like features are identified by like reference numerals.
The present invention is preferably carried out on a gaming machine, such as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. Gaming machine 10 comprises display means 12, such as a video screen, an LCD screen, or mechanical reels; credit-receiving means 14, such as a card reader or a coin and/or bill acceptor; input means, 16 such as buttons, levers, or a touch screen; awarding means 18, such as a ticket printer, a card reader or a hopper; memory means 20; and game controller means 22. Functionality and interaction between components of FIG. 2 will be further described below.
The invention may also be applied to a computer program, or to a remote terminal, the game information being distributed through a network, such as linked machines or the Internet, or broadcasted using an electrical or electromagnetic signal.
To provide a good understanding of the present invention feature and of its application to a gaming environment, two embodiments are provided: a) a bingo game, and b) a poker game. The two embodiments have the advantage of illustrating the feature in a different environment (different game) while using the same particularities that are characteristic of the invention.
FIG. 3 illustrates a schematic representation of a bingo layout 30 and a representation of the bingo game during its play. As can be seen, the game comprises four (4) bingo cards 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, and 32 d bearing numbers. Each of the cards 32 may be individually activated or deactivated by the player. In FIG. 3, three (3) cards 32 a, 32 b, 32 c are activated while the last one is not (illustrated with its numbers replaced by a logo of the game). Beside the cards 32, balls 34 also bearing numbers are displayed. To establish a bingo card result, the ball numbers are compared with the card numbers, and the matching numbers are daubed on the bingo cards 32. At the end of the play, the card daubing is evaluated as a pattern and compared with a pay schedule 36 to determine the play outcome.
As also illustrated in FIG. 3, special balls 34′ may appear among the drawn balls 34. These balls 34′ are used to activate the wild feature. When such a special ball 34′ is drawn, its action is postponed until a predetermined state is reached in the play. In this example, the wild feature is activated only when the draw is complete. At this time, each bingo card 32 is evaluated to determine where on the card a special daubing may be used optimally. In consequence, the special daubing may take different values in the different bingo cards. In this example, using the special daubing in its optimal manner refers to the way the bingo card may have the most value when evaluated.
Afterwards, the gaming machine establishes on which bingo card(s) 32 the special daubing is most effectively used and performs that daubing. Then, the cards 32 are evaluated to establish the play outcome.
In a second version of the above bingo game, the card numbers are displayed in three colors: blue, red, and yellow. The special balls 34′ also come in different colors: blue, red, yellow, and white. When a colored special ball 34′ is drawn, only a bingo-card number of the corresponding color may be daubed. However, when a white special ball is draw, any bingo-card number may be daubed, regardless of its color. Accordingly, wild features having different effects may be activated.
In another version, the wild feature may necessitate the draw of two special balls 34′ to be activated. Therefore, the activation of the wild feature would become less frequent while the anticipation of its occurrence would increase.
In addition, another version may include a counter 36 that tallies the number of activations of the wild feature over a plurality of plays. When the counter 36 reaches a predetermined value, the player is awarded a multiplay feature that may take the form of a multiplied payout of the play outcome when the feature is activated.
Accordingly, generating a result in the above bingo game may be described through a series of steps. FIG. 4 illustrates these steps through a flow chart. First, cards are activated (step 50). Such a step may include the player selecting the bingo-card numbers, a card with predetermined numbers, a bet level, cards to be activated, etc. Afterwards, the ball draw starts (step 52). Each ball is evaluated (step 54) as either a regular or a special ball. If it is a regular ball, matching numbers are daubed on the active bingo cards (step 56). If a special ball is drawn, the activation of the wild feature is postponed (step 58). An evaluation of draw completion takes place (step 60) and the draw continues (return step 52) until its completion. At this time, if a special ball has been drawn, the wild feature is activated. Alternatively, the play process skips directly to the evaluation of the feature activation (step 62). If the wild feature is activated, the gaming machine evaluates the feature optimal use for each card, establishes on which card(s) the feature will be applied, and completes the daubing on the cards (step 64). A standard way is to apply the wild feature on a number of randomly selected cards corresponding to the number of active cards in the play, regardless of the activity status of the card receiving the special daubing. It results in an incentive to activate the maximum number of cards. Then, each active card is evaluated to establish its result. The player is rewarded with the sum of the evaluated results: the play outcome (step 66).
An available variation of the above described game is to evaluate when a special ball is drawn and to determine its use according to this evaluation. For instance, in a bingo game wherein forty (40) balls are drawn, the threshold establishing the manner in which the wild feature is used may be that the special ball must be drawn within the first thirty (30) balls. Within the first thirty (30) balls drawn, the feature is used as described above. Within the last ten (10) balls drawn, the player has to decide which card(s) and card number(s) will receive the special daubing.
FIG. 5 illustrates a layout 70 and a poker game suitable for the invention. Characteristics of the poker game include the player receiving three (3) hands of poker 72 a, 72 b, 72 c, each one associated with a bet 74 a, 74 b, 74 c. The pay schedule 76 associated with the game includes a first pay subschedule 78 a associated with the first hand, and a second pay subschedule 78 b associated with the second and the third poker hands. During the play, if a wild card 80 is drawn, it is placed beside the hand. Once the wild feature is activated, the second and third pay schedules may be potentially affected with a multiplier feature depending partially on the result of the preceding hand. Accordingly, when the wild feature is deactivated, the poker hands 72 a, 72 b, 72 c are individually evaluated according to their respective pay schedule 78. When the wild feature is activated, the poker hands may be evaluated individually or the hands 72 a, 72 b, 72 c may be evaluated in combination depending on the optimal result for the player. In this example, when the wild feature is activated and the hands 72 a, 72 b, 72 c are evaluated together, the player is awarded the first-hand regular payout, twice the second-hand 72 b regular payout if the first hand 72 a is at least equal in value tc a “three of a kind” in its ranking evaluation, and eight (8) times the third-hand 72 c payout if the first hand 72 a and the second hand 72 b are both at least equal in value to a “three of a kind” in their respective ranking evaluation. However, if the preceding hand criterion is not fulfilled, the current hand has no value even if it is a winning hand.
The play of this game follows the subsequent steps. The player places the bets, a hand bet being always of less value than the preceding hand bet value. The player receives third hand initial cards; he or she holds cards and the discarded cards are transferred to the preceding hand. Positions of the discarded cards receive new cards. If a wild-feature triggering card is drawn during the process, the card is placed aside (such as a community card); the wild feature activation is postponed. For the second hand, cards are drawn to complete the hand already composed of discarded third-hand cards. Once again, the player selects cards to be held, the others being moved to the first hand. The second hand is completed. The initial first hand is completed the same way: the player selects cards to be held and discards the other ones, and the final first hand is completed with last drawn cards.
If no wild feature is activated, the three poker hands are individually evaluated, a payout is established for each of them, and the player is rewarded with the sum of these payouts.
However, if the wild feature is triggered, the card placed aside may be used as a community wild card for the three poker hands if they are evaluated in combination (multiplier feature), or as a single poker hand wild card affecting only the hand played when it was drawn. Each of the hands is evaluated on the basis of the multiplier feature to establish a multiplier-feature payout. Another evaluation is made when the wild card is effective only in one hand and the hands are individually evaluated, after which their payouts are summed up. The multiplier-feature and the individual-evaluation payouts are compared and the player is rewarded with the most valuable one.
Through a flow chart, illustrated in FIG. 6, the play process comprises the following steps. Bets are placed (step 90). Cards are drawn (step 92) and evaluated (step 94) to determine if they activate the wild feature. If the evaluation is negative, the card takes its place in the hand. Otherwise, the card is placed aside (step 96). The player selects cards to be held (steps 98 to 102). The hand is completed with correct use of discarded cards. Evaluation of the play completion is done (step 106), resulting in either the play switching to the preceding hand (step 108) or the evaluation of the wild feature (step 110). The preceding steps (steps 92 to 108) are repeated for the second and first hands. If there is no wild feature waiting to be activated (step 110), the process skips directly to the hand evaluation (step 112), followed by the player being rewarded (step 114). If a wild feature is activated, determination of the best use of the wild feature (individual-evaluation or multiplier-feature payout) is completed (steps 116 to 120), and the player is rewarded according to the best use (step 112).
A variation of the above described poker game is to allow the player to establish, through his bet strategy, the number of hands he wants to play (for instance with the same limitation of having a hand bet value lower than the preceding hand bet value). Therefore, the player could decide the number of hands he wants to play (up to 5 hands in the preferred embodiment), with the multiplier feature becoming increasingly interesting as the number of hands increases.
While the wild feature has been described above through games, some specifications of a gaming machine 10 suitable to carry out the feature of the invention may be represented through the block diagram of FIG. 7. In a gaming machine 10, a display means 12 is characterized by its ability to provide a game layout in a game structure comprising a plurality of substructures with each substructure being suitable to generate individual results. Game controller means 22 is adapted to perform functional operations on the basis of a program stored in memory means 20, these functions being (a) a storage function 122 controlling the storing of indicia in storage means 20, (b) a drawing function 124 determining indicia taking part in the game, (c) a judging function 126 evaluating the drawn indicia to determine the category to which they pertain: regular or wild triggering indicia, (d) a feature-application function 128 evaluating the wild-feature activation, using the wild feature when activated and establishing which use offers the best result, and (e) an outcome-evaluation function 130 establishing the play outcome. Awarding means 18 may reward the player with the play outcome in a suitable form at the end.
While illustrated in the block diagrams as groups of discrete components communicating with each other through distinct data signal connections, it will be understood, by those skilled in the art, that the preferred embodiments are provided by a combination of hardware and software components, with some components being implemented by a given function or operation of a hardware or software system, and many of the data paths illustrated being implemented by data communication within a computer application or operating system. The structure illustrated is thus provided to better explain the preferred embodiment.
It should be noted that the present invention can be carried out as a method, or be embodied in a system, a computer readable medium, or an electrical or electromagnetic signal.
The embodiments of the invention described above are only intended to serve as examples. The scope of the invention is therefore intended to be limited solely by the scope of the appended claims.