|Publication number||WO1989006405 A1|
|Publication date||13 Jul 1989|
|Filing date||11 Jan 1988|
|Priority date||11 Jan 1988|
|Publication number||PCT/1988/13, PCT/GB/1988/000013, PCT/GB/1988/00013, PCT/GB/88/000013, PCT/GB/88/00013, PCT/GB1988/000013, PCT/GB1988/00013, PCT/GB1988000013, PCT/GB198800013, PCT/GB88/000013, PCT/GB88/00013, PCT/GB88000013, PCT/GB8800013, WO 1989/006405 A1, WO 1989006405 A1, WO 1989006405A1, WO 8906405 A1, WO 8906405A1, WO-A1-1989006405, WO-A1-8906405, WO1989/006405A1, WO1989006405 A1, WO1989006405A1, WO8906405 A1, WO8906405A1|
|Inventors||John Nicholas Reid, Bryan Wallace Bellars|
|Applicant||Countrywide Competitions Limited|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (5), Referenced by (12), Classifications (26), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to an electronic games machine and is concerned in particular with a machine for permitting players distributed over a large geographical area to compete with one another in games of skill.
There is known from WO 81/01664 a remote gaming system for use with a wagering or gambling establishment such as a casino to enable a player's participation in a selected one of a plurality of wagering games from a remote location. This system does not permit competiČ tion between different players, and the outcome of any game is determined by the live data received from a remote croupier station rather than by the skill of the player.
According to the present invention, there is provided an electronic games machine comprising means for receiving payment from a player, a visual display unit having a screen visible by the player, a manual input device, such as keys and/or a joystick, a data processor for processing signals received from the input device and from the payment receiving means and for sending signals to provide a display on the screen of the visual display unit, and a communications link for permitting the data processor to transmit data to, and receive data from, a remote station, characterised in that means are provided for enabling personal identifiČ cation of the player, in that the data processor is programmed to permit the playing of a game of skill in which a score achieved by the player at the end of the game indicates the level of the player's skill, and in that the communications link is arranged to transmit at least the better scores to the remote station to permit a comparison to be effected between players using diffeČ rent machines. The system described in WO 81/01664 does not comprise means for personal identification as this is not of relevance to the system. Payment is received prior to the game and once the game is terminated no further use would be made of such information. In the present invention, however, the winner of a game may not known at the time when any one player has finished since the outcome depends on the skill of the other players who have already competed or have yet to compete in the same game. The identity of the player must therefore be known in order that the result of the game may be commuČ nicated to him or her.
Each game may be completed in a single round, that is to say the highest scores in any round will be deemed to have won, or may comprise several rounds, with only the winners of early rounds progressing to the later rounds.
The other important distinction from the above prior art reference, is that the outcome of the game is based on ability and not just luck. The skills tested may be manual dexterity and speed of reaction, as required for playing of arcade games, strategic planning, as tested by so-called adventure games, or general knowledge. There are currently available coin operated computer games machines in which the player's knowledge or skill is tested. These, however, are amusement machines in which the player only tests his skill against the computer and there is no competition between players and no possibility of winning any significant prizes by excelling at the game. The machine may grant a free turn if a high score is exceeded. However, even if there were facility for paying out, the prizes cannot be large, since the money staked by all the players using a single machine is not sufficient to enable a major prize to be given to the overall winner.
The main element of competition between players in such machines is derived from the fact that the machines may indicate the highest scores obtained by previous players as an inducement to players to continue playing until their name can be entered amongst the top ten players. It is an important aspect of the machine of the invention that it can allow the playing of competitive games over an extended number of machines making it possible for substantial prizes to be paid out. The enjoyment of the game as a test of skill is still present but there is the added excitement of competing with other players in the hope of winning a major prize.
It is preferred, as earlier mentioned, that games of skill and/or knowledge should be played in rounds with the remote computer indicating to the games machine those players who have been eliminated, so that the better players may be invited to compete in the next round. After a number of rounds has been played the total stake money can be significant and from this a substantial prize may be paid or given to the outright winner.
The final round of a game in which the overall winner is decided may be played out in real life by the competitors being invited to attend the final of the competition. The machines of the invention are intended for use in public houses, clubs, and similar venues. The advantages of the machines from the player's viewpoint have already been discussed. From the operator's viewpoint, the machine promotes trade by encouraging players to return for further rounds. The large prizes which can be paid out at the end of such a national competition and the final round can also attract considerable publicity, which again promotes trade.
For personal identification, it is preferred that each player be issued with a magnetic card, as currently used for credit cards, and that the games machine be fitted with a device for both reading data from and writing data onto the card. The purpose of the data which is pre-written on the card is primarily for user identification, as with credit cards. The magnetic strip may carry an encoded number identifying the user uniquely. When using a machine, a user may be asked to enter a number associated with the number on the card and access refused in the event of incorrect identification. Such additional security may be requested only for the later rounds in a competition. This use of the recorded data does not require the entire length of the magnetic strip. Typically, of the order of eighty seven alphanumeric characters may be recorded on the magnetic strip and only eight are required for user identification. By providing each games machine with a writing as well as a reading facility, the remainder of the magnetic strip can be put to several useful purposes.
It is for example convenient to use one character to permit identification of a card being used for the first time. The games machine may then be programmed to ask the user for his name and address so that this information may be stored or relayed automatically to a central computer without manual input from the publican or the machine owner. This makes for user friendliness and simplifies operation for both the player and the operator.
As mentioned earlier, each game may require several rounds to be played. It is advantageous in this case to record the player's best performance in any round on the player's card so that so that the player may play on different machines if so required without the need for each machine to be permanently connected on line to a central computer.
The recording facility can also be used to avoid the need for a mechanism for dispensing change. In place of giving change upon overpayment, a player's card may be credited with the change, this being deducted from the cost of the next game played. If the card provides access to machines run by different operators or owners, the change owed by different machines may be recorded separately with an identification of the machine so that no one operator gives change for another. The amount of change is however likely to be small and on average it is not expected that any operator would be a net winner or loser from giving change.
When a game is formed of several rounds, it is possible that several weeks may lapse before a winner is found. In this context, it is foreseen that each round may last for typically one week and a game may take a month. If each player in the second week needs to have qualified in the first, the numbers of potential players is reduced significantly. Therefore it is preferable to permit different rounds of different games to be played at the same time. Such operation is possible if the machine has a writing facility, since each user may have recorded on his magnetic card the round that has been reached in different games. This feature can also allow late entry into any one game since a player may wish to qualify for the first and second rounds of a game already on its third round.
The collection of data by the communications link permits the scores of all the players to be assessed to permit the levels for qualifying in the different rounds to be assessed in such a manner as to gradually eliminate the weaker players. Several attempts may be made to qualify in any round since the scores are not cumulative but it is the highest score achieved in a single attempt at any one round that is counted.
Because of the possibility of paying large prizes, the possibility of fraud should be addressed. This can be significantly reduced by including a real time clock and recording time information in relation to each game played. A software time lock can also be incorporated into the receiving computer to prevent late fraudulent entries into any competition by computer hackers. In order to safeguard against the possibility of loss of data entered into the machine by players, it is preferred to include in the machine a recording device to provide a non-volatile record of each transaction. Such a recording device may comprise a printer or a magnetic recording device such as a tape recorder or magnetic disk drive.
The invention as discussed above involves the transmission of data through the communication link with the remote computer. It is however also desirable on occasions to employ the communications link to monitor the performance of the games machine itself, testing the extent of its usage and the popularity of the games options. The games machine may additionally include conventional games of skill and/or knowledge which do not rely upon a link to a remote computer. In conventional machines, the software in any machine is fixed and cannot be changed at all or else requires replacement of a programming device such as a programmable read only memory chip. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, if the popularity of a game should wain it is possible to monitor this fact remotely and replace the program and the program selection menu to change the games options through the remote communications link and without physical tampering with the machine. In this case it is programs that are transmitted from the remote computer via the communications link rather than data being transmitted to the remote computer.
The invention will now be described further, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
Figure 1 shows the front plate of a games machine of the invention, and
Figure 2 is a block schematic diagram of a communications network using the machines of the invention. The machine of the invention comprises a self contained housing which may be a floor standing console of table height and table size or preferably an upright floor mounted or possibly wall mounted unit. The housing contains a computer processor with access to read only and random access memory. The display for the games computer is a colour VDU screen 10 and data is entered into the computer from a keyboard 12 and joysticks 14. The machine has a slot 16 for receiving a personal identification card as well as a coin slot 18. Lastly, an output slot 20 provides a printed listing under certain conditions under program control.
Built into the machine and not illustrated is a communications modem with access to a telephone line by means of which the machine may communicate with a remote computer.
Numerous machines may be networked in the manner illustrated schematically in Figure 2. Here the individual machines used by players are designated 50 and they form the base of a pyramid structure comprising regional computers 60 each communicating with several local computers 50 and a national computer 70 communicating with the regional computers 60. Operation of the machine will depend upon the game the competitor wishes to play and these can be divided into two distinct types, namely site restricted games, and monitored games.
Site restricted games will be played much in the same manner as conventional computer games. After selection of the game, the player enters the appropriate coins in the coin slot and at the end of the game, a free turn or a return of the inserted coins may be given as a reward for a high score. In such games, there is no element of inter-player competition and play is purely for entertainment with no chance of major prizes. With site restricted games, the machine does not appear to a player to be different from a conventional arcade machine. However, from the operator's viewpoint, the machine offers the advantage over conventional machines that the usage of any particular game can be monitored and, if unpopular, a game can be replaced by writing a new program into the memory of the local computer from a bank of games stored in the remote computer. Monitored games are competitions covering several individual machines, which test the player's skill and/or knowledge. The games may for example be tests of general knowledge and may be with or without a time element for answering the questions. To play such a game, the player must first provide personal identification. This is important because of the need for security and to safeguard against fraud since there is now a possibility of large prizes.
Personal identification is effected by inserting a personal card into the specially provided slot 16 and if necessary the player may additionally be asked to enter through the keyboard a unique identification number correlating with the data on the card.
After correct personal identification, the player is asked to answer questions on the screen by using the keyboard or if the game is one of testing reactions by using the joysticks. At the end of the game the score achieved by the player under the rules of the game is stored on a magnetic disk drive, not shown, for later transmission to the remote computer and may optionally also be stored in specially designated slots of the magnetic strip of the identification card. As a further possibility against error or fraud, a paper slip may be issued giving the time, machine identification, user identification, the game, the round, and the score achieved; a carbon copy being retained in the machine. When all the scores have been gathered by the regional or national computer, some of the entries are eliminated and the identity of successful players or the succesful scores are relayed back to the site computer. Alternatively, the "pass mark" for the preceding round may be relayed to the computer. When next the player enters his card into the machine, he is informed of his success in the preceding round and invited to compete in the next round. In the case of preliminary rounds, it is possible for the player's score to be compared with a reference pass score stored in the computer and for him to be informed immediately if he has passed on to the following round. Each round of the game requires the player to enter the appropriate amount into the coin slot of the machine and in this case a proportion of the money collected in the machine is passed on to the national organiser so that the eventual winner of the competition can be paid out.
As several rounds may need to be played, it is possible for several games to run simultaneously so that a player need not wait for a long period before being able to join in the competition. The level achieved by any player in a given round can be recorded on the magnetic strip of the identification card.
In all cases where money is inserted in the slot 18, it may be required for change to be given. A mechanism for dispensing change, however, adds to the cost of the machine and it is preferred that a credit be recorded on the player's identification card, accompanied, if required, by an indication of the machine by which change is owed.
The presence of a computer with a communications link can permit other remotely controlled operations to be carried out by the games machine, such as advertising during quiet periods of usage.
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|International Classification||G07F17/32, A63F9/24, A63F3/08, A63F13/12, G07F7/00, G07F7/02|
|Cooperative Classification||A63F2009/2414, A63F2009/2441, A63F2009/248, A63F2009/2404, A63F13/12, A63F2009/2407, G07F17/32, G07F7/02, A63F2009/2438, G07F17/0014, A63F2250/14, A63F2003/086, G06Q20/3437, A63F3/081|
|European Classification||G07F17/32, G07F17/00C, G06Q20/3437, A63F3/08E, A63F13/12, G07F7/02|
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