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Publication numberUS20120088586 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 13/267,126
Publication date12 Apr 2012
Filing date6 Oct 2011
Priority date6 Oct 2010
Publication number13267126, 267126, US 2012/0088586 A1, US 2012/088586 A1, US 20120088586 A1, US 20120088586A1, US 2012088586 A1, US 2012088586A1, US-A1-20120088586, US-A1-2012088586, US2012/0088586A1, US2012/088586A1, US20120088586 A1, US20120088586A1, US2012088586 A1, US2012088586A1
InventorsOliver Watkins, JR., Yousuf Chowdhary, Jeffrey Brunet, Ravinder (Ray) Sharma
Original AssigneeXMG Studio Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Linkable and extensible virtual characters
US 20120088586 A1
Abstract
A method is provided of virtual gameplay with linked characters in a game environment. In an interactive game environment, a request is received to link a first player character with a second character. If it is determined that the first player character is qualified to be linked with the second character, a link is created between the first player character and the second character. The actions of the linked characters are then monitored in the game environment, and statistics are stored for at least the first player character. At least one statistic of the second character can be automatically increased or decreased as a function of at least one of the stored statistics.
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Claims(20)
1. A method of providing virtual gameplay with linked characters in a game environment, the game environment being in communication with a storage means, the method comprising the steps of:
providing a game environment accessible by a plurality of players, wherein the players are able to interact with at least one game and each other via characters;
receiving a request to link a first player character with a second character;
determining if the first player character is qualified to be linked with the second character;
creating a link between the first player character and the second character; and for characters so-linked:
monitoring the actions of the first player character and the second character in the game environment;
storing on the storage means statistics related to at least the first player character, the statistics being one or a combination of: (i) pre-set by the player, (ii) pre-set by the game, and (iii) resulting from the monitored actions of the characters in the game environment; and
automatically increasing or decreasing, on the storage means, at least one statistic related to the second character as a function of at least one of the stored statistics of the first player character.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the request to link the first player character with the second character is triggered by a player.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the request to link the first player character with the second character is triggered by an automatically detected event.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising automatically affecting gameplay performance or behavior of the second character based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic.
5. The method of claim 1, further comprising enabling, unlocking or triggering a new non-default behavior or action of the second character based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising detectably weakening or strengthening the second character based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising detectably increasing or decreasing a speed of at least an aspect of the second character based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the first player character and the second character comprise avatars of a single player.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the first player character and the second character are characters in separate games in the game environment.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein the first player character is an avatar of a first player and the second character is an avatar of a second player.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein the increasing or decreasing step comprises combining the at least one statistic of the second character with the at least one statistic of the first player character.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the increasing or decreasing step comprises averaging the at least one statistic of the second character and the at least one statistic of the second character.
13. The method of claim 11, wherein the combining includes a weighting factor.
14. A virtual gameplay system with linked characters in a game environment, comprising:
a game engine programmed for:
providing a game environment accessible by a plurality of players, wherein the players are able to interact with at least one game and each other via characters;
receiving a request to link a first player character with a second character;
determining if the first player character is qualified to be linked with the second character;
creating a link between the first player character and the second character; and
for characters so-linked, monitoring the actions of the first player character and the second character in the game environment;
a storage means in communication with the game engine for:
storing statistics related to at least the first player character, the statistics being one or a combination of: (i) pre-set by the player, (ii) pre-set by the game, and (iii) resulting from the monitored actions of the characters in the game environment; and;
wherein at least one statistic related to the second character is automatically increased or decreased based on at least one of the stored statistics of the first player character.
15. The system of claim 14, wherein the game engine is provided by a central game server.
16. The system of claim 14, wherein the game engine is a software program stored on or accessible to a game console.
17. The system of claim 14, wherein the storage means is provided by one or a combination of: a local fixed memory, a local removable memory, a remote fixed memory, a remote removable memory, and a virtual memory.
18. The system of claim 15, wherein the storage means is co-located with the central game server.
19. The system of claim 14, wherein the statistics related to the second character are stored together with the statistics related to the first player character on the storage means.
20. The system of claim 14, wherein linking comprises combining statistics related to the first player character with statistics related to the second character.
Description
    RELATED APPLICATION
  • [0001]
    This application claims priority to U.S. Patent Application No. 61/404,566, filed Oct. 6, 2010, entitled “Linkable and extensible virtual characters”, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety herein.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention is related to video game applications in general and linkable and extensible virtual characters for video game applications in particular.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    A virtual world is a computer simulated environment. A virtual world may resemble the real world, with real world rules such as physical rules of gravity, geography, topography, and locomotion. A virtual world may also incorporate rules for social and economic interactions between characters. Users may be represented as avatars, two or three-dimensional graphical representations. Virtual worlds may be used for massively multiple online role-playing games, for social or business networking, or for participation in imaginary social universes.
  • [0004]
    A limitation of certain existing virtual worlds is that they are isolated and cannot interact with other virtual worlds. This is true for games (virtual worlds) played on consoles like the Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft X-Box 360, Nintendo Wii or engaged on mobile devices like iPhone or iPad, or the ones that exist on online servers. Thus prior art virtual characters belonging to the aforementioned virtual worlds are isolated and confined to their respective virtual worlds (games). It would provide a richer game experience if the virtual characters of one virtual world could affect the virtual characters of another virtual world.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0005]
    Prior art virtual characters are non-extensible and confined (isolated) to their respective virtual worlds (games). The present disclosure describes methods and systems for extensible and linkable virtual characters that provide a richer gaming experience for the players. Thus using the methods and systems disclosed in this application a first virtual character from a first virtual world (game) can be linked to a second virtual character of a second virtual world. Since the virtual world characters are extensible, by linking them, statistics from the first virtual character of the first virtual world can be used to extend the second virtual character of the second virtual world and vice versa. Thus playing a first virtual character of a first virtual world has an effect on a second virtual character of a second virtual world and vice versa when the said virtual characters are linked.
  • [0006]
    According to a first aspect of the invention, a method is provided for providing virtual gameplay with linked characters in a game environment. The game environment is in communication with a storage means. A game environment is provided which is accessible by a plurality of players, and the players are able to interact with at least one game and each other via characters. A request is received to link a first player character with a second character. It is determined whether the first player character is qualified to be linked with the second character. If so, a link is created between the first player character and the second character. The actions of the virtual characters so-linked are then monitored in the game environment. On the storage means, statistics are stored related to at least the first player character (one or a combination of statistics: (i) pre-set by the player, (ii) pre-set by the game, and (iii) resulting from the monitored actions of the characters in the game environment). At least one statistic related to the second character is automatically increased or decreased on the storage means as a function of at least one of the stored statistics of the first player character.
  • [0007]
    The request to link the first player character with the second character may be triggered by a player (e.g. the player wishes to define/select/download a new character, the player starts a new game in which a new character must be defined or selected, or the player opts to purchase (or retrieve/redeem through credits) a character or a linking option by accessing a specific service); or by an automatically detected event (e.g. the new character may be unlocked or reached at a certain point in gameplay (by gaining sufficient experience, passing certain tests or difficulty levels, or scoring sufficient points), or another character may enter the game which is suitable to be linked with the first character). The user may also be able to select in what respect(s) or to what extent the characters are linked. For example, a character may possess one or more traits, abilities, or skills which are not appropriate for the current game setting, or the game setting lacks support for a character's signature traits, abilities, or skills and disables them by default. In this way, a player may elect to retain their character's signature jump attack, even though the current game does not include a jump attack and it is unnecessary to use when defeating enemies.
  • [0008]
    The determining step may simply determine that two valid characters are available and meet basic eligibility for linking (e.g. characters not dead/inactive/withdrawn, not previously linked, not flagged as un-linkable) before creating the link. Or, more detailed business rules may be used to evaluate the compatibility of the characters. For example, the system may refuse to link characters with no statistics in common, or characters having insufficient common statistics (e.g. male character and female character, puzzle-doing character with a race-car-driving character). The determining step may also prompt a further input from the player (e.g. “This linkage will cause your character to start with lower-than-default strength. Are you sure (Y/N)?”)
  • [0009]
    As a result of the linking, gameplay performance or behaviour of the second character may be automatically affected based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic. As one example of the effect of the linkage, a new non-default behaviour or action of the second character may be enabled, unlocked or triggered based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic. The second character may be detectably weakened or strengthed, for example, based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic. To take another example, some aspect of the second character may have detectably increased or decreased speed based on the increased or decreased at least one statistic.
  • [0010]
    Many player/character configurations are possible. For example, the first player character and the second character may comprise avatars of a single player (in one game/virtual world or separate games). The first player character and the second character may also be characters in separate games/virtual worlds in the game environment. The first player character may be an avatar of a first player and the second character may be an avatar of a second player.
  • [0011]
    The calculation for the increasing or decreasing step may take many forms, some of which are described and illustrated elsewhere in this disclosure. In one embodiment, the at least one statistic of the second character is combined with the at least one statistic of the first player character. One method of combining is averaging the at least one statistic of the second character and the at least one statistic of the first character. This may or may not include a weighting factor (e.g. to offset or acknowledge differences in the difficulty of different games, or to provide a “handicap” for characters of different skill or experience levels.) Another method of combining is choosing the highest value between that of the second character and the first character for a given statistic. Likewise, the lowest value of a given statistic may be chosen from the first two characters. Other methods of combining also exist, such as collecting all statistics from multiple sources when few statistics overlap, or applying any combination of the above.
  • [0012]
    It should be noted that “combined” statistics do not necessarily lose or replace their original (pre-combined) values. Further, resulting or combined statistics may or may not be stored in the form of values as such (e.g. they may be represented algorithmically), although combined statistics which are stored in the form of values as such and presented to the player may be considered derived statistics, even when they are derived from a single base statistic.
  • [0013]
    According to a second aspect of the invention, a virtual gameplay system is provided with linked characters in a game environment. The system comprises a game engine and a storage means (in communication with the game engine). The game engine is programmed for:
      • providing a game environment accessible by a plurality of players, wherein the players are able to interact with at least one game and each other via characters;
      • receiving a request to link a first player character with a second character;
      • determining if the first player character is qualified to be linked with the second character;
      • creating a link between the first player character and the second character; and
      • for characters so-linked, monitoring the actions of the first player character and the second character in the game environment.
        The storage means stores statistics related to at least the first player character (one or a combination of: (i) pre-set by the player, (ii) pre-set by the game, and (iii) resulting from the monitored actions of the characters in the game environment).
  • [0019]
    The system allows at least one statistic related to the second character to be automatically increased or decreased based on at least one of the stored statistics of the first player character. Numerous configurations of the system are possible. The game engine may be provided by a central game server. The game engine may be a software program (or suite or series of programs) stored (in whole or in part) on or accessible to a game console. The game console may be standalone or may also be in communication with a central game server.
  • [0020]
    The storage means likewise can take many forms. Some specific examples are discussed elsewhere in the present disclosure. For example, the storage may be provided by one or a combination of: a local fixed memory, a local removable memory, a remote fixed memory, a remote removable memory, and a virtual memory. In one embodiment, the storage means is co-located with the central game server.
  • [0021]
    Preferably, the statistics related to the second character are stored together with the statistics related to the first player character on the storage means. Preferably, linking comprises combining statistics related to the first player character with statistics related to the second character.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0022]
    The invention is illustrated in the figures of the accompanying drawings which are meant to be exemplary and not limiting:
  • [0023]
    FIG. 1 is a flow chart representing a first general concept of the invention.
  • [0024]
    FIG. 2 is a flow chart representing the steps of gameplay using a first linkable and extensible virtual character.
  • [0025]
    FIG. 3 is a flow chart representing the steps of gameplay using a second linkable and extensible virtual character.
  • [0026]
    FIGS. 4-7 are illustrative notional data structures showing statistics of a virtual character and possible combinations of statistics of multiple virtual characters.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0027]
    Methods and arrangements for linkable and extensible virtual characters of gaming and virtual worlds are disclosed in this application. Thus using the methods and systems disclosed in this application a virtual character from one virtual world (game) can be linked to a virtual character of a second virtual world. Since the virtual world characters are extensible, by linking them usage statistics from the first game can be used to extend the virtual characters. Thus usage in the first game has an effect on the second game and vice versa.
  • [0028]
    By linking the virtual characters of different virtual worlds certain statistics and or gameplay statistics can be shared between the virtual characters of diverse first and second virtual worlds. Thus the statistics of one virtual character in the first virtual world can have a positive and/or negative effect on a linked virtual character of a second virtual world. Statistics and gameplay statistics of linkable and extensible virtual characters of two different virtual worlds can be combined to provide a more complex and richer gaming experience.
  • [0029]
    For example a first virtual character (a soccer player) from a first virtual world (soccer game) can be linked to second virtual character (a sniper) of a second virtual world (a sharp shooter game). Thus when these virtual characters are linked, they have an effect on each other. For example if a player engaged in too much gameplay of the soccer game using the first virtual character of soccer game, when the user plays the linked virtual character in a sharp shooter the fatigue from the earlier soccer game may affect the aim of the sniper.
  • [0030]
    Before embodiments of the invention are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the examples set forth in the following descriptions or illustrated drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or carried out for a variety of applications and in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.
  • [0031]
    Before embodiments of the software modules or flow charts are described in details, it should be noted that the invention is not limited to any particular software language described or implied in the figures and that a variety of alternative software languages may be used for implementation of the invention.
  • [0032]
    It should also be understood that many components and items are illustrated and described as if they were hardware elements, as is common practice within the art. However, one of ordinary skill in the art, and based on a reading of this detailed description, would understand that, in at least one embodiment, the components comprised in the method and tool are actually implemented in software.
  • [0033]
    As will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, the present invention may be embodied as a system, method or computer program product. Accordingly, the present invention may take the form of an entirely hardware embodiment, an entirely software embodiment (including firmware, resident software, micro-code, etc.) or an embodiment combining software and hardware aspects that may all generally be referred to herein as a “circuit,” “module” or “system.” Furthermore, the present invention may take the form of a computer program product embodied in any tangible medium of expression having computer usable program code embodied in the medium.
  • [0034]
    Computer program code for carrying out operations of the present invention may be written in any combination of one or more programming languages, including an object oriented programming language such as Java, Smalltalk, C++ or the like and conventional procedural programming languages, such as the “C” programming language or similar programming languages. The program code may execute entirely on the user's computer, partly on the user's computer, as a stand-alone software package, partly on the user's computer and partly on a remote computer or entirely on the remote computer or server. In the latter scenario, the remote computer may be connected to the user's computer through any type of network, including a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN), or the connection may be made to an external computer (for example, through the Internet using an Internet Service Provider).
  • [0035]
    A “virtual world” as used herein need not be a “game” in the traditional sense of a competition in which a winner and/or loser is determined, but rather that the term “game” incorporates the idea of a virtual world. Moreover, a person or entity who enters the virtual world in order to conduct business, tour the virtual world, or simply interact with others or the virtual environment, with or without competing against another entity is still considered to be “playing a game.”
  • [0036]
    Virtual worlds can exist on game consoles for example Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii, etc. or on online servers, or on mobile devices (e.g. an iPhone or an iPad) or on a PC (personal computer) running MS Windows, or MacOS, Linux or another operating system. A personal computer, or a game console that enables a user to engage with a virtual world, including a memory for storing a control program and data, and a processor (CPU) for executing the control program and for managing the data, which includes user data resident in the memory including a set of gameplay statistics. The computer, or a game console, may be coupled to a video display such as a television, monitor, or other type of visual display while other devices may have it incorporated in them (iPad). A game or other simulations may be stored on a storage media such as a DVD, a CD, flash memory, USB memory or other type of memory media. The storage media can be inserted to the console where it is read. The console/PC/mobile device can then read program instructions stored on the storage media and present a game interface to the user.
  • [0037]
    Typically, a user or a player manipulates a game controller to generate commands to control and interact with the virtual world. The game controller may include conventional controls, for example, control input devices such as joysticks, buttons, touch screens, keyboard or mouse and the like. Using the controller a user can interact with the game, such as by using buttons, joysticks, and movements of the controller and the like. This interaction or command may be detected and captured in the game console. The user's inputs can be saved, along with the game data to record the game play. In one embodiment, the gameplay data can include usage statistics captured to record the user's experience as they progress from one level of the game to the next.
  • [0038]
    The term “player” is intended to describe any entity that accesses the virtual world, regardless of whether or not the player intends to or is capable of competing against other players. Typically, a player will register an account with the game console within a peer-to-peer game and create or select virtual characters that can interact with other virtual characters of the virtual world.
  • [0039]
    A “virtual character” may include a persona created by a player or chosen from a list in the virtual world. Typically virtual characters are modeled after the humans whether living or fantasy (e.g. characters from mythology). However, virtual characters can also be non-human entities (e.g. an animal, a tree, a house or building (like a haunted house), a weapon (such as a magic sword)) that are controlled in some respect by a player. Even a collective thing can be a “virtual character” (e.g. an army, a fleet, or an entire sports team), provided that the entity is controlled in some respect by a player.
  • [0040]
    A virtual character is represented by one or more gameplay statistics, which encapsulate some meaning to connect the virtual (and digital) reality of the game to the real world. Many of these statistics are not apparent to the user as such, but are instead encoded within the framework of the game or composed together to form a script. In role-playing games (RPGs) and similar games, these statistics may be explicitly exposed to the user through a special interface, often with added meaning which provides context for the user's actions.
  • [0041]
    “Primary statistics” represent assigned, abstract qualities of a virtual character, such as Strength, Intelligence, and so on. Partially defined by convention and partially defined by context, the value of a primary statistic corresponds to a few direct in-game advantages or disadvantages, although a higher statistic is usually better. In this sense, primary statistics can only really be used for direct comparison or when determining indirect advantages and disadvantages.
  • [0042]
    “Derived statistics” represent measured, concrete qualities of a virtual character, such as maximum carry weight, perceptiveness, or skill with a weapon. Such a stat is derived from some function of one or more of a character's primary stats, usually addition or multiplication. These stats then serve an important function in turn, providing a fair means by which to arbitrate conflicts between virtual characters and the virtual environment. For example, when two virtual characters are in violent conflict, Strength, a primary statistic, might be used to calculate damage, a derived statistic, with the loser being the character that has taken the most damage.
  • [0043]
    Other factors may affect derived statistics, such as other derived or primary statistics, or even environmental factors, such as weather conditions. In these cases, the environment can be modeled as a virtual character with its own primary statistics or it may be given a special role in conflict resolution. Whatever-the-case, the role of primary statistics should remain clear because this is the primary interface by which players understand their interactions within the virtual world.
  • [0044]
    Some statistics deserve special mention. “Health (or Hit Points) vs. Damage,” describes a gameplay mechanic that has fixated the current generation of games. Damage refers to a primary or (usually) derived statistic that represents a character's ability to destroy or cause harm to the environment or virtual characters. Likewise, Health (or Hit Points) refers to a primary or (usually) derived statistic that represents a character's ability to withstand damage and continue to function normally. Each time a character suffers damage, that amount of damage is subtracted from their remaining health or hit point total, and if this total is now zero or less, the character is eliminated or the player loses.
  • [0045]
    A “statistic” (stat) in role-playing games (RPG) is a datum which represents a particular aspect of a virtual character. Most virtual worlds separate statistics into several categories. The set of categories actually used in a game system, as well as the precise statistics within each category may vary greatly from one virtual world to another. Many virtual worlds also use derived statistics whose values depend on other statistics, which are known as primary or basic statistics. Derived statistics often represent a single capability of the character such as the weight a character can lift, or the speed at which they can move. Derived statistics are often used during combat, can be unitless numbers, or may use real-world units of measurement such as kilograms or meters per second.
  • [0046]
    A virtual character may have any combination of statistics. A virtual character's statistics affects how it behaves in a virtual world. For example, a well-built muscular virtual character may be more powerful and be able to throw certain virtual objects farther, but at the same time may lack dexterity when maneuvering intricate virtual objects. The most often used types of statistic include but are not limited to the following: attributes; abilities; traits; skills; and advantages/disadvantages.
  • [0047]
    An “attribute” describes to what extent a virtual character possesses a natural, in-born characteristic common to all virtual characters in the game. Many games use attributes to describe a virtual characters' physical and mental characteristics, for example their strength or wisdom. Many games also include social characteristics as well, for example a character's natural charisma or physical appearance which often influence the chance to succeed in a particular challenge. Some games work with only a few broad attributes, while others may have several more specific ones. Important to the definition of an attribute is that it represents an abstract, otherwise immeasurable quantity that may be compared, contrasted, or combined with other attributes to determine certain qualities of a virtual character. These may also be called Ability Scores, Special Stats, Primary Stats, etc. in the prior art.
  • [0048]
    “Traits” may be stable personal characteristics (i.e., temperament or physical endowment) that are additional qualities that help define a virtual character. Traits can be positive or negative. Traits also affect the ability to build particular skills. For instance, an active virtual character will find it easier to develop a more muscular body than an inactive one. Generally a trait represents a broad area of expertise of a character. Some traits are numeric and associated with attributes, while others are more qualitative and not associated with attributes. These may also be called properties, features, descriptors, etc. in the prior art.
  • [0049]
    A “skill” represents the learned knowledge of a virtual character Skills provide further benefits over abilities and traits. During the creation of a virtual character, skills are generally chosen from a list. A virtual character may have a fixed number of starting skills, a player can acquire them by spending game points, or skills can be attributed to players throughout gameplay. Each skill has an associated attribute and can be improved upon by practicing. For example if a virtual character has the ability to wield a sword and has the trait of being physically strong then the skill of being a swordsman can be accomplished by practicing wielding the sword. As opposed to abilities few games set a player's skills at the start of the game, instead allowing players to increase them by playing the game and spending game points or during moving from a low level to a higher level in the game. Some skills are likely to be more useful than others therefore different skills often have different costs in terms of game points. In some games, skills serve primarily to increase the efficiency, decrease the risk or restrictions, or provide advantageous side effects to the use of certain traits or abilities. Skills may also be called Talents, Training, etc. in the prior art.
  • [0050]
    An “advantage” is a physical, social, intellectual, or other enhancement to a virtual character, while a “disadvantage” is an adverse effect. Advantages are also known as virtues, merits or edges and disadvantages as flaws or hindrances. Many games encourage or even force players to take disadvantages for their characters in order to balance their advantages or other positive statistics. Sometimes advantages are contrasted with other traits, skills, or abilities by being described as very situational. Whereas traits, skills, and abilities apply their benefits whenever used, advantages and disadvantages depend on circumstances more than the characters themselves, per se. For example, a Rogue might have a trait, Backstab, that allows them to deal more damage to an unaware opponent from behind. The state of catching an opponent unaware and being able to strike from behind might be termed “Stealth Advantage,” and would only be available in those specific circumstances whether or not a virtual character possessed the Backstab trait.
  • [0051]
    “Abilities/Powers” represent unique or special qualities of a virtual character and often grant the virtual character the potential to gain or develop certain advantages or to learn and use certain skills. These abilities defines a quality in a virtual character to perform certain actions, for example wield a sword or to run. A character without an ability is disabled, whereas one with an ability is enabled in some way. The term Power is sometimes used to describe abilities which are beyond the norm, such as extraordinary abilities, supernatural abilities, or spell-like abilities, among others.
  • [0052]
    The term “avatar” is used herein to describe at least the physical embodiment of a virtual character in the virtual world. For example, a virtual character may have an avatar that has a certain appearance and graphical representation in the virtual world. This also applies to the audio representation of a character, or any other sense used to describe virtual characters in a virtual world.
  • [0053]
    For the purpose of this application the term “gameplay statistics” refers to any one or any combination of gameplay frequency, gameplay time, number of times game played, percent game complete etc. as result of engaging in gameplay.
  • [0054]
    The term “engage in gameplay” generally implies to playing a game whether it is for the purpose of competing, beating, engaging with other players. It also means to enter a virtual world in order to conduct business, tour a virtual world, or simply interact with others or a virtual environment, with or without competing against another entity.
  • [0055]
    Most devices where virtual worlds exist provide a mechanism to save the state of the game, so that the game can be played from the same point where it was left off. Methods for saving the state of the game include but are not limited to the examples cited here, for example a gaming console may provide internal memory chips, or a port where a user can connect user supplied memory; while games played over the Internet may provide online memory. The aforementioned memory space can also be used for saving the statistics/gameplay statistics of linked linkable and extensible virtual characteristics of more than one virtual world. Thus the statistics/gameplay statistics of one virtual world are stored as XML code and when another virtual world is evoked the XML code from the first virtual world can be incorporated into the game play and have an effect on the gameplay. XML is but one possible data structure for this kind of record-keeping. As described in further detail below, the data structure may be a file e.g. an XML file, or a table, or a database, or a string.
  • [0056]
    FIG. 1 shows a first conceptual flow 100 of the invention. A linkable and extensible first virtual character is provided in a first virtual world 101. A linkable and extensible second virtual character is provided in a second virtual world 102. For the purpose of this application, a linkable and extensible virtual character is a virtual character that can be linked to another virtual character of another virtual world. The linkable and extensible first virtual character of the first virtual world can then be linked to a linkable and extensible second virtual character of a second virtual world 103.
  • [0057]
    There may be several methods to link the linkable and extensible virtual characters. Without limiting the scope of this application, some exemplary methods are described. A player may use a menu in a first virtual world to make the link.
  • [0058]
    A player may use a match making service in order to find another suitable virtual character to link to it. Such a match making feature or service may be available for either the internal virtual characters e.g. those played on a mobile device or a gaming console or external virtual characters e.g. linking virtual characters from a gaming console to virtual characters of an online virtual world. A user may opt to link the virtual character to either similar kind of virtual characters e.g. link villain to villain and hero to hero, or dissimilar virtual characters e.g. a hero to a rogue.
  • [0059]
    In one embodiment the player chooses the virtual characters to link. In another embodiment of the invention the system may automatically link the virtual characters based on compatibility or other user defined criteria.
  • [0060]
    FIG. 2 provides a flow diagram representing steps of gameplay 200 using a first linkable and extensible virtual character.
  • [0061]
    The player engages in gameplay of the first virtual world utilizing the linked linkable and extensible first virtual character 201. Player uses conventional methods like picking a character from a list etc. Gameplay proceeds with the first virtual character selected or defined by the player.
  • [0062]
    After a gameplay session or in the course of the gameplay, statistics (such as gameplay or usage statistics) related to the first virtual character of the first virtual world are saved in a memory location that is accessible to other virtual worlds 202. Certain statistics may also be default values or values pre-set by the game or the player. The memory location may be the local data storage (internal memory) of a game console including one for the linked linkable and extensible virtual character. The local data storage can be local inbuilt memory (for example on board memory) or user provided (for example a USB device, a Flash Memory SD card etc.) such that the memory is accessible to other virtual worlds. The removable memory card or cartridge may be transferred from one console system to another. In another embodiment the memory location may be an online server.
  • [0063]
    One embodiment of the invention, provides a method to record and maintain statistics and usage statistics of one or more virtual characters associated with the virtual worlds ever engaged by a specific player on that particular device, (e.g. a mobile device like an iPhone, or a gaming console like XBox 360) including details related to virtual worlds engaged with, including for example, number of times game played, number of points gained, number of lives lost, number of puzzles solved and the time it took to solve these puzzles. The occurrence and outcome of special bonus features, the amounts wagered on any bets, the outcomes for any intermediate game stages, the results of any player decisions made during the game, bonus plays and their outcomes, the final game outcomes etc.
  • [0064]
    FIG. 3 provides a flow diagram representing steps of gameplay 300 using a second linkable and extensible virtual character.
  • [0065]
    The player engages in gameplay within the second virtual world utilizing the linked linkable and extensible second virtual character 301. Player uses conventional methods like picking a character from a list etc. Gameplay proceeds using the second virtual character selected or defined by the player.
  • [0066]
    The statistics of the first virtual character of the first virtual world are retrieved from the accessible memory location and incorporated with the statistics of the linked linkable and extensible second virtual character of the second virtual world 302.
  • [0067]
    In the course of gameplay, the behavior of the linked linkable and extensible second virtual character of the second virtual world will be affected by incorporation of the statistics and/or usage statistics of the corresponding linked linkable and extensible first virtual character of the first virtual world 303.
  • [0068]
    In order to implement the effect of linkage of linkable and extensible virtual characters from different virtual worlds, there may be more than one method, some exemplary ones are described here. In particular, it will be appreciated that while situations of two players playing separate virtual characters in separate virtual worlds are illustrated and described here, the method and system further applies with appropriate modifications to situations where a single human player plays linked virtual characters in a single virtual world, or in separate virtual worlds.
  • [0069]
    A script defines the default behavior of a virtual character. If there is no external stimulus (for example no linkage between virtual characters), a virtual character acts as per the default script. When a first virtual character of the first virtual world is linked to a second virtual character of a second virtual world, this linkage may alter the existing default scripts of one or both of the virtual characters, to reflect the effect of the linkage.
  • [0070]
    Just as with statistics, different scripts can refer to different behaviors. Even with a default script of a single virtual character, many behaviors are possible. In fact, the manner by which derived statistics are calculated can itself be defined by a particular script, rather than a simple function. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a derived statistic refers more to a particular measurable quality or the behavior that defines that quality. For example, a skill may be represented by a statistic where a higher value corresponds to a higher degree of skill in some particular endeavor. However, a trait may refer to the behavior that defines that trait, rather than simply a statistic. In this way, it is important to distinguish when skills, traits, abilities, and other game components are represented by statistics or behaviors.
  • [0071]
    In one embodiment of the invention the linking of two or more virtual character from two or more virtual worlds may invoke additional scripts. These additional scripts, which may be distinct from the default scripts, may affect the behavior of the linked virtual characters and can take many different forms. Without limiting the application, some examples of how these additional scripts can change the linked virtual characters are given below:
      • make a virtual character express a given emotion, or change an emotion
      • make a virtual character perform an action, alter the intensity of an action,
      • alter the character dialogue, alter speech patterns, or alter speech e.g. speak incomprehensibly or speak faster than normal,
      • alter action rate or timeframe e.g. move slower or faster after the linkage,
      • alter the avatar e.g. render an avatar younger or older as a result of a linkage, render them stronger or weaker, tired or more alert.
  • [0077]
    In one embodiment the additional scripts that can affect the behaviour of a first virtual character once it is linked to a second virtual character of a second virtual world are already embedded in a first virtual world (game) but are dormant and are invoked once a link is made between the first virtual character and the second virtual character of a first and second virtual worlds respectively.
  • [0078]
    In another embodiment the additional scripts can be imported/exported between two virtual worlds (game) when their virtual characters are linked. In yet another embodiment the additional scripts can be downloaded from a central server that acts as a repository for additional scripts for compatible virtual worlds.
  • [0079]
    In another embodiment the user may have to pay when downloading these additional scripts from the remote server.
  • [0080]
    In yet another embodiment a default script may be altered or an alternate script may now be associated with the linked linkable and extensible virtual character. There may be other methods obvious to persons skilled in the art.
  • [0081]
    In one embodiment of the invention, the gameplay statistics of a first virtual character of a first virtual world may be incorporated with the gameplay statistics of the second virtual character of a second virtual world to affect the default scripts of said virtual characters when they are linked. This can be exemplified by taking the earlier example of the linked virtual characters of a soccer player and the sniper from two different virtual worlds. When the gameplay statistics (for example how long the game is played) of the soccer game are incorporated into the sharp shooter game, this may invoke an existing script in the sharp shooter game that reflects poorer aim thus simulating the effect of the fatigue derived from the soccer game.
  • [0082]
    In another embodiment of the invention, the statistics of a first virtual character of a first virtual world may be incorporated with the statistics of the second virtual character of a second virtual world to affect the default scripts of said virtual characters when they are linked.
  • [0083]
    The statistics or gameplay statistics are shared/exchanged between virtual worlds, for example they may be saved to a memory location that is accessible to the said virtual worlds, from where these virtual worlds can access and share these statistics. One such example of accessible memory location is the internal memory of a gaming device, another example is user provided memory detachably attached to a gaming device (USB key or an Flash memory card), and yet another example is an online server accessible to the device where the game is being played, such as over a LAN (local area network) or the Internet.
  • [0084]
    In one embodiment of the invention, a method of linking the virtual characters of the first virtual world with the virtual characters of a second virtual world, may use a certain data structure to define the statistics of the virtual characters in each of the virtual worlds. One such method to save the statistics is to use an XML structure that is accessible by multiple virtual world (games).
  • [0085]
    In one embodiment of the invention, the presence or absence of a Skill, Ability, Trait, Advantage, Disadvantage or Power is represented by a “1” or a “0” respectively. One exemplary data structure that may be used to define a virtual character's statistics is shown in FIG. 4.
  • [0086]
    The data fields may be arranged in a given order, so that the statistics from one virtual character from one virtual world correspond to the same statistics of another virtual character of another virtual world. In another embodiment there may be a mapping mechanism that may translate the statistics of one virtual character to that of another.
  • [0087]
    The data structure may be a file e.g. an XML file, or a table, or a database, or a string.
  • [0088]
    The data structure fields may be ordered to allow virtual characters to correspond uniformly to one another. For example, “Strength” may be the first field in this ordering, and “Wisdom” the second field and so on. Therefore when two virtual characters are linked, statistics for the relevant data fields are composed by some function, in this case Strength is added to Strength, and Wisdom is added to Wisdom etc.
  • [0089]
    In another embodiment of the invention, there is mapping that allows the data structure fields to be mapped indirectly from one to the other so that the relevant data fields correspond with each other. This is especially relevant for derived statistics. For example, if the “Dodge Skill” in one virtual world is composed of the “Dexterity” primary statistic and a “Dodge Training” secondary statistic, and the “Reflex Save” derived statistic in another virtual world is composed of “Dexterity” and “Perception” primary statistics, then the “Dodge Skill” and “Reflex Save” can be composed when virtual characters possessing these statistics are linked by composing the two functions—in which case the new derived statistic will depend on “Dexterity” and may depend on “Dodge Training” and/or “Perception,” depending on which statistics are supported in a given virtual world.
  • [0090]
    In another embodiment, where there is a non-uniform number of data fields (say one set of statistics has 5 data fields and the other set of statistics has 8 data fields) the mapping allows for the relevant data fields to correspond. This applies much like set intersection, where all shared fields are retained and non-shared fields are retained depending on the level of support for these fields or statistics in a given virtual world.
  • [0091]
    For each of the statistics that are present in a virtual character there may be a corresponding value that defines the extent of that particular statistic. For some statistics the possible range of values may include positive numbers, zero and negative numbers. Thus when the value is a positive number there may be a beneficial effect (positive effect), while a zero implies no effect and a negative number implies a negative effect. One such exemplary data structure showing the statistics of a first virtual character of a first virtual world is shown in FIG. 5. Top row shows the presence or absence of a particular statistic while the second row shows a value that defines the quality of that particular statistic if it is present.
  • [0092]
    Another exemplary data structure showing the statistics of a second virtual character of a second virtual world is shown in FIG. 6. Top row shows the presence or absence of a particular statistic while the second row shows a value that defines the quality of that particular statistic if it is present.
  • [0093]
    In one embodiment when a first virtual character of a first virtual world is linked to second virtual character of a second virtual world, the resultant statistics may be an addition (super-set) of the two previous individual statistics of the first and second virtual characters when these virtual characters were not linked. FIG. 7 show the resultant statistics when statistics of a first virtual character of a first virtual world (FIG. 5) is linked to a second virtual character of a second virtual world (FIG. 6). Thus in FIG. 7, the top row statistics are a super-set of the individual statistics of the FIG. 5 and FIG. 6.
  • [0094]
    Similarly the values of the individual statistics that were present in both virtual characters may get added (as in this example). Thus values of certain statistics would get reinforced (if both individual values of a certain statistic were either positive or negative) while values of certain other statistics may get negatively impacted (if one value was positive and the other value was negative) due to the linking of the virtual characters.
  • [0095]
    There may be more methods of combining the statistics for example in one embodiment while some statistics are added, others are deleted or subtracted as a result of linking the two virtual characters.
  • [0096]
    In another embodiment the combined statistics are derived by taking an average of the individual statistics of the linked virtual characters.
  • [0097]
    In another embodiment the combined statistics are derived by taking a weighted average of the individual statistics of the linked virtual characters, with preference (weight) given to any one of the virtual characters where the preference can be either user defined or system driven.
  • [0098]
    In one embodiment of the invention the statistics and/or gameplay statistics can be sent from one virtual world (game) to another say over a network (e.g. LAN or Internet) so that they can be stored locally.
  • [0099]
    One embodiment of the invention may preferably also provide a framework or an API (Application Programming Interface) that allows a game developer to create linkable and extensible virtual characters. Using such a framework or API allows for a more uniform virtual character generation, and eventually allows for more complex and extensive ability to link a given virtual character to a larger set of virtual characters.
  • [0100]
    The examples noted here are for illustrative purposes only and may be extended to other implementation embodiments with a different set conventions and techniques. While several embodiments are described, there is no intent to limit the disclosure to the embodiment(s) disclosed herein. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications, and equivalents obvious to those familiar with the art.
  • [0101]
    It should be understood that although examples related to gaming consoles, personal computers, mobile devices and the like are described here; the intent of this application is to cover all devices and methods where such games can be engaged in by users.
  • [0102]
    It should be understood that although the term game has been used as an example in this application but in essence the term may also imply any other piece of software code where the embodiments of the invention are incorporated. The software application can be implemented in a standalone configuration or in combination with other software programs and is not limited to any particular operating system or programming paradigm described here. For the sake of simplicity, we singled out game applications for our examples. Similarly we described users of these applications as players. There is no intent to limit the disclosure to game applications or player applications. The terms players and users are considered synonymous and imply the same meaning. Likewise, games and applications imply the same meaning. Thus, this application intends to cover all applications and user interactions described above.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/42
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationA63F13/69, A63F2300/5533, A63F13/35
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