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Slot machine with award-dependent animations

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Publication number
US20040229679A1
US20040229679A1 US10437638 US43763803A US2004229679A1 US 20040229679 A1 US20040229679 A1 US 20040229679A1 US 10437638 US10437638 US 10437638 US 43763803 A US43763803 A US 43763803A US 2004229679 A1 US2004229679 A1 US 2004229679A1
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Prior art keywords
pay
symbol
award
combination
line
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Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
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US10437638
Inventor
Peter Anderson
Daniel Fiden
Joel Jaffe
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Bally Gaming Inc
Original Assignee
WMS Gaming Inc
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3204Player-machine interfaces
    • G07F17/3211Display means
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3227Configuring a gaming machine, e.g. downloading personal settings, selecting working parameters
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/34Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting depending on the stopping of moving members in a mechanical slot machine, e.g. "fruit" machines

Abstract

A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine is disclosed. After a player makes a wager, a plurality of symbol-bearing reels are rotated and stopped to place symbols on the reels in a symbol array. If the symbol array includes a symbol combination that yields an award, the symbol combination is identified with an animation that varies with a level of the award. The animation may, for example, include a type of pay line encompassing the symbols of the symbol combination. The type of pay line varies with the level of the award.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention relates generally to gaming machines and, more particularly, to a slot machine with award-dependent animations.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning on each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are most likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting of the machines. Shrewd operators consequently strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines available because such machines attract frequent and extended play and hence increase profitability to the operator. Accordingly, in the competitive gaming machine industry, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to produce new types of games, or enhancements to existing games, which will attract frequent and extended play by enhancing the entertainment value and excitement associated with the game.
  • [0003]
    One type of gaming machine is a video slot machine. Instead of utilizing mechanical reels driven by stepper motors, a video slot machine includes a video display that depicts a number of simulated reels. After a player makes a wager, the simulated reels are rotated and stopped to place graphical symbols on the reels in a symbol array. An advantage of video slot machines over mechanical slot machines is that video slot machines can generally offer more entertaining game play through lively animations, play sequences, and bonus events. A bonus event may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic slot game, which is triggered by a special start-bonus symbol or combination of symbols in the symbol array.
  • [0004]
    Most animations on video slot machines occur during the bonus events, which are generally triggered infrequently during a typical game session. The hit frequency for the bonus events is generally so low (e.g., once every 50 to 100 plays) that a player's gaming experience is essentially the same from one play to the next. This low hit frequency is generally dictated by underlying math models used in the game to select game outcomes. To the extent any animations occur on the simulated reels, the animations are generally repetitive and can quickly lose their entertainment value over the course of a game session. The static nature of the gaming experience can cause boredom among players and deter new players from being attracted to the game. Also, players who wish to experience a bonus event may become frustrated during dry spells in which the bonus event is not triggered. Even if the bonus event is eventually triggered, its duration is limited to the current play and another dry spell is likely to ensue at the conclusion of the bonus event.
  • [0005]
    Accordingly, a need exists for a slot machine that enhances the gaming experience of players through improved use of animations in connection with the reels of a slot machine. Although such animations are primarily intended for use with the simulated reels of a video slot machine, the animations may also be used with the physical reels of a mechanical slot machine if there is a display device or element for depicting such animations.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine is disclosed. After a player makes a wager, a plurality of symbol-bearing reels are rotated and stopped to place symbols on the reels in a symbol array. If the symbol array includes a symbol combination that yields an award, the symbol combination is identified with an animation that varies with a level of the award. The animation may, for example, include a type of pay line encompassing the symbols of the symbol combination. The type of pay line varies with the level of the award.
  • [0007]
    Additional aspects of the invention will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of various embodiments, which is made with reference to the drawings, a brief description of which is provided below.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0008]
    The foregoing and other advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings in which:
  • [0009]
    [0009]FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a slot machine embodying the present invention;
  • [0010]
    [0010]FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a control system suitable for operating the gaming machine;
  • [0011]
    [0011]FIG. 3 is a display image showing a reel symbol combination identified with a first animation and yielding an award at a first level (e.g., low credit amount);
  • [0012]
    [0012]FIG. 4 is a display image showing a reel symbol combination identified with a second animation and yielding an award at a second level (e.g., medium credit amount);
  • [0013]
    [0013]FIG. 5 is a display image showing a reel symbol combination identified with a third animation and yielding an award at a third level (e.g., high credit amount); and
  • [0014]
    [0014]FIG. 6 is a display image showing a reel symbol combination identified with a fourth animation and yielding an award at a fourth level (e.g., bonus event).
  • [0015]
    While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail herein. However, it should be understood that the invention is not intended to be limited to the particular forms disclosed. Rather, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
  • DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS
  • [0016]
    Turning now to the drawings and referring initially to FIG. 1, a gaming machine 10 is operable to play a wagering game. The wagering game includes a basic video reel slot game that uses different animations to differentiate reel symbol combinations that yield different levels of win amounts and bonus events. The gaming machine 10 includes a visual display 12 preferably in the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), liquid crystal display (LCD), plasma, or other type of video display known in the art. The display 12 preferably includes a touch screen overlaying the monitor. In the illustrated embodiment, the gaming machine 10 is an “upright” version in which the display 12 is oriented vertically relative to the player. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be a “slant-top” version in which the display 12 is slanted at about a thirty-degree angle toward the player of the gaming machine 10.
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a control system suitable for operating the gaming machine 10. Money/credit detector 16 signals a central processing unit (“CPU”) 18 when a player has inserted money or played a number of credits. The money may be provided by coins, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. Then, the CPU 18 operates to execute a game program that causes the display 12 to display five simulated symbol-bearing reels. The player may select a number of pay lines to play, an amount to wager, and start game play via the touch screen 20 or the push-buttons 14, causing the CPU 18 to set the reels in motion, randomly select a game outcome, and then stop the reels to display symbols corresponding to the pre-selected game outcome.
  • [0018]
    A system memory 22 stores control software, operational instructions and data associated with the gaming machine 10. In one embodiment, the system memory 22 comprises a separate read-only memory (ROM) and battery-backed random-access memory (RAM). However, it will be appreciated that the system memory 22 may be implemented on any of several alternative types of memory structures or may be implemented on a single memory structure. A payoff mechanism 24 is operable in response to instructions from the CPU 18 to award a payoff to the player in response to certain winning outcomes that might occur in the basic game or bonus events. The payoff may be provided in the form of coins, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. The payoff amounts are determined by one or more pay tables stored in the system memory 22.
  • [0019]
    Referring to FIG. 3, a basic video slot game is implemented on the display 12 on simulated reels 30 that are rotated and stopped to place symbols on the reels 30 in visual association with a number of pay lines 32. In the illustrated example, the number of reels 30 is five and the number of pay lines 32 is nine. The number of reels and pay lines may, however, be varied to be more or less than the number illustrated. Also, the video display 12 may be replaced with a mechanical display including a number of physical reels driven by stepper motors. Each of the pay lines 32 extends through one symbol on each of the reels 30.
  • [0020]
    Generally, game play is initiated by inserting money or playing a number of credits, causing the CPU to activate a number of pay lines corresponding to the amount of money or number of credits played. In one embodiment, the player selects the number of pay lines (between one and nine) to play by pressing a “Select Lines” key 34. The player then chooses the number of coins or credits to wager on the selected pay lines by pressing a “Bet Per Line” key 36. After selecting a number of pay lines and a wager amount, the reels 30 may be set in motion by touching a “Spin Reels” key 38 or, if the player wishes to bet the maximum amount per line, by using a “Max Bet Spin” key 40. Alternatively, other mechanisms such as a lever or push button may be used to set the reels in motion.
  • [0021]
    The CPU uses a random number generator to select a game outcome (e.g., “basic” game outcome) corresponding to a particular set of reel “stop positions.” The CPU then causes each of the simulated reels 30 to stop at the appropriate stop position. Video symbols are displayed on the reels 30 to graphically illustrate the reel stop positions and indicate whether the stop positions of the reels represent a winning game outcome.
  • [0022]
    A pay table identifies winning basic game outcomes (e.g., symbol combinations resulting in an award of credits or a bonus event) and the awards associated with such outcomes. In one embodiment, the pay table is affixed to the machine 10 and/or displayed by the video display 12 in response to a command by the player (e.g., by pressing a “Pay Table” button 42). A winning basic game outcome occurs when the symbols appearing on the reels 30 along an active pay line correspond to one of the winning combinations on the pay table. A winning combination, for example, could be three or more matching symbols along an active pay line, where the award is greater as the number of matching symbols along the active pay line increases. If the displayed symbols stop in a winning combination, the game provides the award identified in the pay table for that combination. If the award is a number of credits, the game typically multiplies that number of credits by the number of credits wagered on the winning pay line. In the illustrated example, the pay table screens and instructional text appear below:
  • [0023]
    Winning line pay combinations pay left to right only.
    [Logo] is wild for all symbols except [Money], [Tree], and [Acorn].
    <LOGO> <Man>
    10000   [S][S][S][S][S] 300  [S][S][S][S][S]
    500  [S][S][S][S] 80 [S][S][S][S]
    100  [S][S][S] 25 [S][S][S]
    10 [S][S]  5 [S][S]
    <Dog> <Moneybag>
    200  [S][S][S][S][S] 120  [S][S][S][S][S]
    60 [S][S][S][S] 50 [S][S][S][S]
    20 [S][S][S] 10 [S][S][S]
     3 [S][S]
  • [0024]
    Winning line pay combinations pay left to right only.
    [Logo] is wild for all symbols except [Money], [Tree], and [Acorn].
    <Pear> <Plum>
    80 [S][S][S][S][S] 80 [S][S][S][S][S]
    20 [S][S][S][S] 20 [S][S][S][S]
     5 [S][S][S]  5 [S][S][S]
    <Apple>
    80 [S][S][S][S][S]
    20 [S][S][S][S]
     5 [S][S][S]
  • [0025]
    Only highest winner paid per winning combination. All line pays are multiplied by the line bet. Wins from left must occur on adjacent reels, beginning with the leftmost reel except for 3 [Acorn] winning combination.
  • [0026]
    Money Scatter Pay:
    3 or more Scattered <Money> awards the Money Scatter.
    200 [S][S][S][S][S]
     25 [S][S][S][S]
     5 [S][S][S]
  • [0027]
    Only highest winner paid per winning combination during Money Scatter Pays. All Money Scatter Pay awards are multiplied by the total bet.
  • [0028]
    Money Tree Bonus:
  • [0029]
    3 [Money Tree] on an active pay line start the Money Tree bonus. Pick money to reveal awards, squirrels, or owls. Find the squirrel increases the value of the money on the tree. Finding an owl removes money from the tree. The bonus ends when there is no more money on the tree.
  • [0030]
    Money Values:
  • [0031]
    Coins 5
  • [0032]
    Bills 10,15,20
  • [0033]
    Moneybags 30,40,50
  • [0034]
    Safes 60,70,80,90,100
  • [0035]
    All Money Tree Bonus values have already been multiplied by the line bet.
  • [0036]
    Plant a Money Tree Bonus:
  • [0037]
    3 [Sapling] on an active pay line trigger the Plant a Money Tree bonus.
  • [0038]
    Bonus pays awards 6-7 money bills that each pay between 5-100 credits. If the plant sprouts an acorn, dog bone, or gold coin, a new tree grows. Up to three trees can be grown in the bonus.
  • [0039]
    All Plant a Money Tree Bonus values have already been multiplied by the line bet. The player may collect the amount of accumulated credits by pressing a “Collect” button 44. In the illustrated example, the winning combinations start from the leftmost reel and span adjacent reels, i.e., winning line pay combinations pay left to right only. In an alternative implementation, the winning combinations start from either the leftmost reel or the rightmost reel and span adjacent reels, i.e., winning line pay combinations pay left to right and right to left.
  • [0040]
    Included among the plurality of basic game outcomes are start-feature outcomes for triggering play of different bonus events. The bonus events may, for example, include the Money Tree Bonus and the Plant a Money Tree Bonus referenced in the above pay table screens. A start-feature outcome may be defined in any number of ways. For example, a start-feature outcome may occur when a special start-feature symbol or a special combination of symbols appears on one or more of the reels 30. The start-feature outcome may require the combination of symbols to appear along an active pay line, or may alternatively require that the combination of symbols appear anywhere on the display (i.e., “scattered”) regardless of whether the symbols are along an active pay line. The appearance of a start-feature outcome causes the CPU to shift operation from the basic game to the associated bonus event. In the illustrated example, a combination of three or more Money Tree symbols along an active pay line 32 triggers the Money Tree Bonus, and a combination of three or more Sapling symbols along an active pay line 32 triggers the Plant a Money Tree Bonus.
  • [0041]
    In accordance with the present invention, the basic video slot game uses different pay line animations to differentiate winning symbol combinations that yield different levels of win amounts and bonus events. For example, the game may identify a winning symbol combination that yields an award at a first level with a first animation; may identify a winning symbol combination that yields an award at a second level with a second animation; may identify a winning symbol combination that yields an award at a third level with a third animation; and may identify a winning symbol combination that yields an award at a fourth level with a fourth animation. The levels may relate to credit amounts won and bonus events. For example, the first level may be a low credit amount (normalized by the line bet); the second level may be a medium credit amount (normalized by the line bet); the third level may be a high credit amount (normalized by the line bet); and the fourth level may be a bonus event. Also, the number of award levels may be less or more than four.
  • [0042]
    [0042]FIGS. 3 through 6 depict examples of different pay line animations that may be used at the following four different award levels/tiers: an award less than 40 credits per credit wagered (FIG. 3), an award ranging from 40 to 99 credits per credit wagered (FIG. 4), an award of 100 credits or above per credit wagered (FIG. 5), and an award of a bonus event (FIG. 6). The animations may become more extravagant as the level of the award increases. This natural hierarchy in animations helps the player know when an extra special event, such as a higher credit amount or a bonus event, has occurred. The animations are also advantageous in that they increase the entertainment value of the slot game, especially in the dry spells between bonus events.
  • [0043]
    [0043]FIG. 3 depicts a traditional pay line animation for identifying a winning combination of three Pear symbols 50 along an active pay line. According to the pay table, this combination yields an award of 5 credits multiplied by the line bet. The traditional animation may, for example, be a flashing solid pay line encompassing each of the Pear symbols 50.
  • [0044]
    [0044]FIG. 4 depicts a first custom animation for identifying a winning combination of four Dog symbols 52 along an active pay line. According to the pay table, this combination yields an award of 60 credits multiplied by the line bet. The first custom animation may, for example, be a wavy pay line encompassing each of the Dog symbols 52.
  • [0045]
    [0045]FIG. 5 depicts a second custom animation for identifying a winning combination of five Man symbols 54 along an active pay line. According to the pay table, this combination yields an award of 300 credits multiplied by the line bet. The second custom animation may, for example, be a sparkled pay line encompassing each of the Man symbols 54.
  • [0046]
    [0046]FIG. 6 depicts a third custom animation for identifying a “winning” combination of three Money Tree symbols 56 along an active pay line. According to the pay table, this combination triggers the Money Tree Bonus. The third custom animation may, for example, be a dashed pay line encompassing each of the Money Tree symbols 56. The same or yet another custom animation may be used to identify a winning combination of three Sapling symbols along an active pay line which, according to the pay table, triggers the Plant a Money Tree Bonus. Other custom animations may be used to identify symbols or symbol combinations that trigger other bonus events, such as special right-to-left line pays and special scatter pays.
  • [0047]
    While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • [0048]
    For example, animations for differentiating award levels may be used for any winning symbol combination, whether it pays as a line pay or as a scatter pay. If the winning combination pays as a scatter pay (e.g., three or more scattered Money symbols), the animation may be applied to a border encompassing each of the scattered symbols.
  • [0049]
    Further, the animations may be used with the physical reels of a mechanical slot machine if there is a display device or element for depicting such animations. The display device may, for example, provide a video image superimposed over the reels. The animations are shown on the video image. Such a display device is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,433 to Loose et al. entitled “Reel Spinning Slot Machine With Superimposed Video Image,” which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
  • [0050]
    Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

Claims (20)

What is claimed is:
1. A method of conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager to play the wagering game;
displaying an array of symbols; and
if the array includes a symbol combination that yields an award, identifying the symbol combination with an animation that varies with a level of the award.
2. The method of claim 1, further including providing the award.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the symbols in the array are randomly selected.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the displaying step includes rotating and stopping a plurality of symbol-bearing reels to place symbols on the reels in the array.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the animation is a first animation when the award is at a first level, the animation is a second animation when the award is at a second level, and the animation is a third animation when the award is at a third level.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the animation is a first animation when the award includes a bonus event and wherein the animation is a second animation when the award does not include the bonus event.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the level of the award relates to a credit amount won.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the level of the award relates to a bonus event being triggered.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the animation includes a type of pay line encompassing the symbols of the symbol combination, the type of pay line varying with the level of the award.
10. A method of conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager to play the wagering game;
rotating and stopping a plurality of symbol-bearing reels to place symbols on the reels in a symbol array; and
if the symbol array includes a symbol combination that yields an award, identifying the symbol combination with an animation, the animation including a type of pay line encompassing the symbols of the symbol combination, the type of pay line varying with a level of the award.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the level of the award relates to a credit amount won.
12. The method of claim 10, wherein the level of the award relates to a bonus event being triggered.
13. A method of conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager to play the wagering game;
displaying a symbol array; and
identifying a winning symbol combination in the symbol array with an animation that varies with a level of an award resulting from the winning symbol combination.
14. A method of conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager to play the wagering game;
displaying a symbol array; and
using different animations to animate winning symbol combinations in the symbol array that yield different levels of an award.
15. A method of conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager to play the wagering game;
displaying a symbol array;
identifying a first winning symbol combination in the symbol array with a first animation, the first winning symbol combination yielding an award at a first level;
identifying a second winning symbol combination in the symbol array with a second animation, the second winning symbol combination yielding an award at a second level; and
identifying a third winning symbol combination in the symbol array with a third animation, the first winning symbol combination yielding an award at a third level.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the awards at the first, second, and third levels include at least one of different credit amounts and a bonus event.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein the awards at the first and second levels include different bonus events.
18. The method of claim 15, further including providing the award.
19. The method of claim 15, wherein symbols in the symbol array are randomly selected.
20. The method of claim 15, wherein the displaying step includes rotating and stopping a plurality of symbol-bearing reels to place symbols on the reels in the symbol array.
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