US20060058100A1 - Wagering game with 3D rendering of a mechanical device - Google Patents

Wagering game with 3D rendering of a mechanical device Download PDF

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Publication number
US20060058100A1
US20060058100A1 US10940866 US94086604A US2006058100A1 US 20060058100 A1 US20060058100 A1 US 20060058100A1 US 10940866 US10940866 US 10940866 US 94086604 A US94086604 A US 94086604A US 2006058100 A1 US2006058100 A1 US 2006058100A1
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Prior art keywords
gaming
game
rendered
mechanical
terminal
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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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US10940866
Inventor
Larry Pacey
Alfred Thomas
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Bally Gaming Inc
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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
    • 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

Abstract

A stand-alone or server-linked gaming terminal that displays on a plasma display in the top-box area a 3D-rendered mechanical device that is pre-rendered or rendered in real time using a 3D-graphics processor or the like. The 3D-rendered mechanical device depicts the game outcome or a bonus game displayed in the top box display. The images or animation representing the 3D-rendered mechanical device may be stored on a digital video recorder (DVR) within the gaming terminal or downloaded remotely from a storage device coupled to the gaming terminal. The DVR outputs the mechanical device images as analog video, and is capable of receiving analog video input, converting the analog video to a digital format such as MPEG, and storing the converted video on a storage media. Additional structural elements such as a frame may be arranged about the top-box display to add depth or dimensionality to the 3D-rendered images displayed thereon.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application is related to (1) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/657,650, filed Sep. 8, 2003, titled Gaming Machine Performing Real-Time 3d Rendering Of Gaming Events, which is a conventional of U.S. Application No. 60/410,039, filed Sep. 12, 2002 (Attorney Docket No. 47079-00134USPT), (2) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/400,239, filed Mar. 27, 2003, titled “Gaming Machine Having A 3D Display” (Attorney Docket No. 47079-00151USPT), and (3) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/401,246, filed Sep. 27, 2003, titled “Gaming Machine Having A Persistence-Of-Vision Display” (Attorney Docket No. 47079-00184USPT), each of which is incorporated herein and made a part hereof by reference in its entirety.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates generally to wagering games and, more particularly, to a wagering game having a secondary display that displays a 3D-rendered mechanical device.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    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 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.
  • [0004]
    Consequently, shrewd operators strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines available because such machines attract frequent play and, hence, increase profitability to the operator. 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 play by enhancing the entertainment value and excitement associated with the game.
  • [0005]
    One approach to enhance the entertainment value and excitement of a game is to portray part or all of the game outcome or a bonus game in the top box area of a gaming machine. The top box area may include a mechanical device such as a mechanical reel that is constructed from physical mechanical structures. Players are often drawn to a particular gaming machine because of its top-box features, which provides a context or a theme for the game. A drawback of incorporating a mechanical device in the top box area is that the device cannot be easily changed or replaced if it becomes obsolete or damaged. To do so, an operator would have to take the gaming machine offline and possibly remove it from the casino floor to avoid disruption to the players on the floor. In addition, mechanical devices wear out and eventually break or require labor-intensive servicing or replacement. However, they are desirable because mechanical devices obey mechanical rules and laws of physics, which creates the illusion of uninfluenced randomness (even though the actual game outcome is calculated in advance by a random number generator).
  • [0006]
    It is also desirable to provide various different games with different top-box features to the players to reduce player boredom and encourage extended game play. However, each gaming machine occupies floor space in the casino, and accordingly, if a player desires to play a game having a different top-box feature, the player must seek out and walk to a different gaming machine. Or, a casino may perceive by monitoring player activity that a certain top-box feature appears to be more popular with the players. With traditional gaming machines, the casino would have to remove existing gaming machines and replace them with new ones having the popular top-box feature or free up floor space to install new machines.
  • [0007]
    What is needed, therefore, is a system and method that presents a realistic-looking top-box presentation on a gaming machine and allows the top-box presentation to be changed on-the-fly with minimal operator intervention. The embodiments described below satisfies these and other needs.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0008]
    According to an embodiment of the present invention, a gaming apparatus adapted to display at least one randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player, includes a display in a top box area of the gaming apparatus. The top-box display is adapted to display at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device that can be pre-rendered or rendered in real time. The 3D-rendered image can be downloaded to the gaming apparatus or stored on a storage device in the gaming apparatus. In a specific embodiment, the gaming apparatus includes a digital video recorder that stores the 3D-rendered image(s) and converts them into analog video signals for display on the top-box display. New 3D-rendered images of mechanical devices may be downloaded onto the digital video recorder in analog video format for display on the top-box display.
  • [0009]
    According to a method of displaying a 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device on a gaming apparatus, at least one randomly selected outcome is selected from a multiple outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player. A 3D-representation of a mechanical device is rendered to form at least one 3D-rendered image of the mechanical device. The 3D-rendered image is displayed on a display located in the top box area of the gaming apparatus. The following additional acts or steps may be performed in any order and in any combination with other acts or steps. The 3D-rendered image may be stored on a device such as a digital video recorder, and may be pre-rendered or rendered in real time in the gaming apparatus or remote from the gaming apparatus on a server or host computer, for example. The player may be presented with multiple bonus game selections, and depending on the bonus game selected by the player, the 3D-rendered image or image sequences (animation) associated with the player's selection are displayed with the outcome. In the case of an animation, one or more special effects may be employed.
  • [0010]
    The above summary of the present invention is not intended to represent each embodiment or every aspect of the present invention. The detailed description and Figures will describe many of the embodiments and aspects of the present invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0011]
    The foregoing and other advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings.
  • [0012]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a typical video gaming terminal.
  • [0013]
    FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the gaming terminal of FIG. 1.
  • [0014]
    FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a gaming network according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0015]
    FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a digital video controller according to a specific embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 5 is a block diagram depicting a plurality of pre-rendered 3D game sequences stored on a storage device according to a specific embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a secondary display displaying a 3D-rendered mechanical device according to a specific embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 7 is a flow chart of a method in accordance with an aspect of the present invention.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 8 is a flow chart of a method in accordance with another aspect of the present invention.
  • [0020]
    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. It should be understood, however, 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.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0021]
    FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a typical gaming terminal 10 used by gaming establishments, such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming terminal 10 may be any type of gaming terminal and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming terminal 10 may be a mechanical gaming terminal configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electromechanical or electrical gaming terminal configured to play video slots or a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, etc.
  • [0022]
    As shown, the gaming terminal 10 includes input devices, such as a wager acceptor 16 (shown as a card wager acceptor 16 a and a cash wager accepter 16 b), a touch screen 21, a push-button panel 22, and an information reader 24. For outputs, the gaming terminal 10 includes a payout mechanism 23, a main display 26 for displaying information about the basic wagering game, and a secondary display 27 that may display an electronic version of a pay table, and/or also possibly game-related information or other entertainment features. While these typical components found in the gaming terminal 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming terminal.
  • [0023]
    The wager acceptor 16 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination. The cash wager acceptor 16 a may include a coin slot acceptor or a note acceptor to input value to the gaming terminal 10. The card wager acceptor 16 b may include a card-reading device for reading a card that has a recorded monetary value with which it is associated. The card wager acceptor 16 b may also receive a card that authorizes access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming terminal 10.
  • [0024]
    Also included is the payout mechanism 23, which performs the reverse functions of the wager acceptor. For example, the payout mechanism 23 may include a coin dispenser or a note dispenser to output value from gaming terminal 10. Also, the payout mechanism 23 may also be adapted to receive a card that authorizes the gaming terminal to transfer credits from the gaming terminal 10 to a central account.
  • [0025]
    The push button panel 22 is typically offered, in addition to the touch screen 21, to provide players with an option on how to make their game selections. Alternatively, the push button panel 22 provides inputs for one aspect of operating the game, while the touch screen 21 allows for inputs needed for another aspect of operating the game.
  • [0026]
    The outcome of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the main display 26. The main display 26 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, LED, or any other type of video display suitable for use in the gaming terminal 10. As shown, the main display 26 includes the touch screen 21 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the gaming terminal 10 may have a number of mechanical reels to display the game outcome, as well.
  • [0027]
    In some embodiments, the information reader 24 is a card reader that allows for identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. Currently, identification is used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's players' club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player-identification card reader 24, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming terminal 10. The information reader 24 may also include a keypad (not shown) for entering a personal identification number (PIN). The gaming terminal 10 may require that the player enter their PIN prior to obtaining information. The gaming terminal 10 may use the secondary display 27 for providing the player with information about his or her account or other player-specific information. Also, in some embodiments, the information reader 24 may be used to restore assets that the player achieved during a previous game session and had saved.
  • [0028]
    As shown in FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming terminal 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 30 (such as a microprocessor or microcontroller). To provide the gaming functions, the CPU 30 executes a game program that allows for the randomly selected outcome. The CPU 30 is also coupled to or includes a local memory 32. The local memory 32 may comprise a volatile memory 33 (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory 34 (e.g., an EEPROM). It should be appreciated that the CPU 30 may include one or more microprocessors. Similarly, the local memory 32 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories.
  • [0029]
    Communications between the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10 and the CPU 30 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 35 a. As such, the CPU 30 also controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10. Further, the CPU 30 communicates with external systems via the I/O circuits 35 b. Although the I/O circuits 35 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 35 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.
  • [0030]
    In some embodiments, the CPU 30 may not be inside the gaming terminal 10. Instead, the CPU 30 may be part of a game network 50 (FIG. 2) and may be used to control numerous gaming terminals 10. In these embodiments, the CPU 30 will run the basic games for each of the gaming terminals 10, and may also be used to link the gaming terminals 10 together. The game network 50 can include progressive jackpots that are contributed to by all or some of the gaming terminals 10 in the network (e.g., terminal-level jackpots that only each terminal 10 contributes to, bank-level jackpots that are contributed to by all of the terminals 10 in a particular bank, and wide-area jackpots that are contributed to by a larger number of terminals 10, such as multiple banks). Alternatively, the game network 50 can allow the player to retrieve assets obtained while playing one terminal 10 at a different gaming terminal that is also part of the game network. Assets may be any number of things, including, but not limited to, monetary or non-monetary awards, features that a player builds up in a bonus or progressive game to win awards, etc.
  • [0031]
    In some embodiments, the CPU 30 is also used with the information reader 24 to restore saved assets. For example, in one embodiment, the information reader 24 is adapted to receive and distribute tickets. The tickets each include a unique identifier. The unique identifier links the ticket to a file contained within the local memory 32 or a system memory 52 located in the game network 50. The file includes the assets that are being stored from a previous game. Monetary awards include game credits or money, while the non-monetary awards can be free plays (e.g., free spins), multipliers, or access to bonus and/or progressive games.
  • [0032]
    When a player inserts a ticket into the information reader 24, the CPU 30 obtains the unique identifier and causes the appropriate memory 32, 52 to be searched, and the file containing the unique identifier matching the identifier on the ticket is retrieved. Any assets or other information contained in this file are then transmitted to the gaming terminal 10, and the player regains any assets that were saved during a previous game. This allows the player to keep assets even after a particular gaming session ends, which increases player commitment to a game and decreases vulturing (and possibly even ends it).
  • [0033]
    In other embodiments, the information reader 24 may include a card reader, and the unique identifier provided at the gaming terminal 10 may be stored on a personal identification card, such as one described above. Or, the gaming terminal 10 includes a radio frequency identification device (RFID) transceiver or receiver so that an RFID transponder held by the player can be used to provide the unique identifier of the player at the gaming terminal 10 without the need to insert a card into the gaming terminal 10. RFID components can be those available from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (under the United States Department of Energy) of Richland, Wash.
  • [0034]
    In other embodiments, the information reader 24 may include a biometric reader, such as a finger, hand, or retina scanner, and the unique identifier may be the scanned biometric information. Additional information regarding biometric scanning, such as fingerprint scanning or hand geometry scanning, is available from International Biometric Group LLC of New York, N.Y. Other biometric identification techniques can be used as well for providing a unique identifier of the player. For example, a microphone can be used in a biometric identification device on the gaming terminal so that the player can be recognized using a voice recognition system.
  • [0035]
    In other embodiments, the player may simply have to enter in a unique identification code and password into the gaming terminal 10. In these embodiments, the player would not have to insert a physical object (such as a card or ticket) into the gaming terminal, but would instead use the information reader as an input device, such as a keyboard.
  • [0036]
    In summary, there are many techniques in which to provide a unique identifier for the player so that the assets accumulated by the player during one wagering session can be stored in either the system or local memory 52, 32, thereby allowing the player to subsequently access those assets at the same gaming terminal 10 or a different gaming terminal within the network 50. Various assets related to the wagering game features and formats can be stored after one gaming session and used in a subsequent gaming session(s) to enhance the gaming experience for the player.
  • [0037]
    FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of a plurality of gaming terminals 10 a, 10 b, . . . 10 n and an optional peripheral 11 according to the present invention linked to a network 40 that is connected to a server 50. In the embodiment shown, the gaming terminals 10 a, 10 b, . . . 10 n and peripheral 11 are linked together in a parallel configuration, but in other embodiments, they are linked together in a peer-to-peer configuration. Each gaming terminal 10 a, 10 b, . . . 10 n and peripheral 11 shown in FIG. 3 may be configured as the gaming terminal 10 shown and described in connection with FIGS. 1 and 2. Although three gaming terminals are shown, in other embodiments, two or more than three gaming terminals may be networked together, or a stand-alone gaming terminal may be provided.
  • [0038]
    By networking the gaming terminals 10 a,b,n and peripheral 11 together, the server 50 can monitor and modify aspects of the game(s) being played on each gaming terminal. For example, in various embodiments, game or top-box software can be downloaded from the server 50 to the gaming terminal 10 a or game or top-box software may be executed on the server 50 and displayed on the gaming terminal 10 a.
  • [0039]
    In some embodiments, the server 50 is programmed to download software data associated with a single wagering game to more than one piece of gaming equipment. For example, graphics or video data associated with a single wagering game may be downloaded to the gaming terminal 10 a and audio and instruction data associated with the same game may be downloaded to the peripheral 11. In an embodiment, the peripheral 11 includes signage that may include a controller (not shown) and a memory device (not shown) for storing data, such as any combination of audio, video, graphics, and instruction data. The signage may include a display (such as the secondary display 27 according to the present invention) that displays graphics or video data or an audio system that plays audio data. In another embodiment, the peripheral 11 includes a gaming terminal having a controller. In such an embodiment, the peripheral 11 (gaming terminal) would be triggered when players at the networked gaming terminals 10 a,b,n achieves a particular outcome. Graphics, audio, and instruction data associated with the triggered presentation would be downloaded to the peripheral 11 while (though not necessarily concurrently) different graphics data (for example) are downloaded to the players' gaming terminals 10 a,b,n.
  • [0040]
    The controller of the peripheral 11 is programmed to make decisions about which portions of data associated with a wagering game are disseminated to various pieces of gaming equipment. The data may include audio, video, graphics, or instruction data. Instruction data may include, for example, audio instructions (such as an instruction to play a particular audio file on a specific piece of gaming equipment), video instructions (such as an instruction to play a particular video file on a specific piece of gaming equipment), and game instructions (such as instructions governing game play).
  • [0041]
    FIG. 4 depicts a functional block diagram of a system incorporating a digital video recorder 60 according to a specific embodiment of the present invention. The digital video recorder 60 is controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) via a communications interface 68. The CPU may reside in the gaming terminal 10 or in a server or host computer remote from the gaming terminal 10 on a network 40. In alternate embodiments, the digital video recorder 60 may be disposed in the top box area of the gaming terminal 10 or may reside within the peripheral 11 to display graphics or an animation on the signage. The digital video recorder 60 includes a storage device 62, the communications interface 68, and a video out connector 70. The storage device 62 stores at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device for display on the secondary display 27, which is located in the top box area of the gaming terminal 10. By “3D-rendered” as used herein, it is meant that a 3D object is rendered as a 2D image. The communications interface 68 may utilize a conventional RS-232 protocol to enable communications between the digital video recorder 60 and the CPU. Alternately, the communications interface 68 may utilize a wireless communications protocol such as that defined by the IEEE 802.11 or Bluetooth standards. In a specific embodiment, the at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device is rendered using RenderWare®, a 3D graphics toolkit commercially available from Criterion Software. In other embodiments, any other suitable 3D-rendering software may be used to render the at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device.
  • [0042]
    The 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device stored on the storage device 62 is encoded by the digital video recorder 60 into a video signal that is transmitted over video cable 64 to the secondary display 27 located in the top box area of the gaming terminal 10. In some embodiments, the video out connector 70 is a composite, analog component or an S-Video connector, and the video signal is encoded according to the NTSC or PAL standards. Thus, the output of the digital video recorder 60 can be directly connected to and viewed on, for example, a television or computer monitor without any intervening decoder. In the case of motion implementations, the storage device 62 stores multiple sequences of images (an animation), which when displayed rapidly (24 or 30 frames-per-second, for example), create the perception of motion. In this manner, all or portions of the mechanical device may be animated to move as an actual mechanical device would in the physical world and/or may be animated using one or more special effects. For example, the mechanical device may be animated to appear to morph from one device to another. Other effects that may be employed include motion blur, frame-blending, and fading, or the device may be made to disappear and reappear. In a specific embodiment, a sequence of images may be animated according to the motion JPEG standard. It should be understood that the present invention is not limited to the particular image or motion standard utilized.
  • [0043]
    The digital video recorder 60 optionally includes a video input 66 that receives a video signal, which is decoded by the digital video recorder 60 and stored on the storage device 62. In this manner, live video or video sequences that have been pre-rendered and pre-animated may be recorded directly as video onto the digital video recorder 60 for playback as video on the secondary display 27. Accordingly, the time-consuming rendering or animation work can be performed offsite without having to take the gaming terminal 10 offline. When the graphics or animations have been completed offsite, they are converted to a video format and downloaded onto the digital video recorder 60 via the video input 66 for playback on the secondary display 27. An advantage to converting the 3D-rendered mechanical device into a video format is that the image or images created by the rendering can be easily displayed directly on a display device such as a television screen without the need for any special hardware or software.
  • [0044]
    In a specific embodiment, the communications interface 68 of the digital video recorder 60 utilizes RS-232 control (Sony/Odetics Protocol) to interface with the gaming terminal 10. The communications interface 68 receives commands from the gaming terminal 10 or the server 50 to display the 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device on the secondary display 27 via the video out connector 70.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 5 is a block diagram depicting a number N of pre-rendered 3D game sequences 80, 82, 84 stored as video on the storage device 62. The pre-rendered 3D game sequences may represent one or more video images of a mechanical device associated with a different bonus round of a wagering game. For example, in one embodiment, the wagering game may be presented to the player in a multi-game aspect, wherein the player selects a primary game and one of various bonus rounds, each having a different associated game sequence 80, 82, or 84. If the player selects a primary game having a bonus round associated with game sequence 82, for example, when the bonus round is triggered during game play, the pre-rendered 3D game sequence 82 is retrieved from the storage device 62 and caused to be displayed on the secondary display 27. In one embodiment, the game sequences 80, 82, 84 are organized like chapters or bookmarks on a DVD, each chapter or bookmark representing a particular outcome or bonus game. In the event that the game sequence is not animated, the digital video recorder 60 may be instructed to output the same game sequence repeatedly until instructed otherwise.
  • [0046]
    Although FIGS. 4 and 5 have been explained with reference to a digital video recorder 60, it should be understood that aspects of the present invention can be implemented in other ways. For example, instead of pre-rendering images of a mechanical device, the mechanical device may be 3D-rendered in real time using a 3D graphics processor or the like, implementing a physics engine that realistically renders mechanical devices within a simulation world corresponding to a game, such as described in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/657,650, filed Sep. 8, 2003, titled “Gaming Machine Performing Real-Time 3D Rendering Of Gaming Events,” previously incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. In one embodiment disclosed therein, a stator of a roulette game is modeled in 3D to simulate computationally the behavior of a ball launched onto the stator until the ball comes to rest in one of the pockets at the periphery of the stator.
  • [0047]
    One or more sequences of pre-rendered images of mechanical devices in accordance with the present invention may be stored on the server 50 and downloaded to the gaming terminal 10 via the communications interface 68 or other suitable interface in embodiments lacking the digital video recorder 60. Because the mechanical devices are now realized as software, they can be replaced or updated easily without having to take the gaming terminal 10 offline or otherwise remove it from service for an extended period of time. The new or updated images are loaded onto the server 50 which transmits them to the gaming terminal 10 and optionally stores them on the server 50. New gaming software may also be updated on the server 50 or gaming terminal 10 to present the new images as additional selections to the player. Thus, instead of being presented with 3 bonus games from which to play, the player may be presented with 4 bonus games, the fourth perhaps representing a new bonus game that the player has not previously experienced.
  • [0048]
    FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary 3D game sequence displayed on the secondary display 27. The game sequence may be pre-rendered or rendered in real time. The secondary display 27 displays a swinging pendulum 86 and rotating gears 88, which cooperate together like a pendulum clock would in the physical world. The pendulum 86 and gears 88 are mechanical devices that may be modeled using a physics engine to simulate their behavior in the physical world. About the secondary display 27 are structural elements 90, 92, which add depth or dimensionality to the mechanical devices 86, 88 displayed on the secondary display 27. Thus, the 3D-rendered images of a mechanical device on the secondary display 27 together with the physical structural elements disposed about the secondary display 27 create an overall impression of three-dimensionality such that the player would have difficulty discerning physical structural elements from simulated ones. The impression can be further cemented by morphing the mechanical devices or otherwise causing them to behave contrary to the way they would behave in the physical world. Preferably, the secondary display 27 is a flat plasma display, achieving a crisp, bright picture viewable from many angles, but other displays such as LCD displays, lenticular 3D displays, true 3D, and persistence-of-vision displays are contemplated. The 3D-rendered mechanical devices are preferably rendered to resemble, as much as possible, physical hardware, such as traditionally implemented on conventional gaming machines. Additional examples of mechanical devices within the contemplation of the present invention include a stator, rotating wheels, flipping tiles, mechanical die, and mechanical reels, to name a few.
  • [0049]
    In a specific embodiment, the mechanical devices such as the 3D-rendered pendulum 86 and gear 88 images are involved in at least partially depicting the game outcome. In other words, the mechanical device or devices displayed on the secondary display 27 according to the present invention are not superfluous game elements (“bells and whistles,” so to speak), but rather are integral to the depiction of the game outcome. In other embodiments, the mechanical device is a mechanical bonus indicator that indicates a bonus or a potential bonus to the player via a mechanical device.
  • [0050]
    FIGS. 7 and 8 are block diagrams of methods of displaying a pre-rendered 3D-rendered mechanical device and a real-time 3D-rendered mechanical device, respectively, according to embodiments of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 7, a pre-rendered image (or animation) representing a 3D-rendered mechanical device is stored (100). The 3D-rendering may be carried out using any conventionally known technique, such as by using a physics engine and a 3D graphics processor to simulate the mechanical device's behavior in the physical world. The image (or animation) may be stored in a server remote from the gaming terminal or in the gaming terminal. The image or animation may be a raw or compressed image (such as TIFF or JPEG) or video format (such as Motion JPEG, MPEG, or QuickTime®) or in an analog video format, such as one suitable for display according to the PAL or NTSC standards. As noted above, the animation (or image sequence) may employ one or more special effects on the 3D-rendered mechanical device such as morphing, fading, disappearing and reappearing, and so forth.
  • [0051]
    A wagering game on the gaming terminal is initiated (102), and the wagering game is displayed on a primary display of the gaming terminal (104) to the player. A game outcome for the wagering game is determined (106) by a controller residing in the gaming terminal or remote from it such as in a server. The pre-rendered image is retrieved (108) and is associated with the game outcome (110) in either order. Thus, the pre-rendered image depicts at least a portion of the game outcome and is displayed on a secondary display of the gaming terminal (112). As described above, in other embodiments, the pre-rendered image depicts a bonus from a bonus game displayed on the secondary display.
  • [0052]
    The player may also be presented with a selection of multiple games, each having a different bonus game. Depending on the selection, a pre-rendered image(s) or animation associated with the selected bonus game is identified so that it can be displayed as part of the bonus game selected by the player.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 8 describes a method of displaying on a secondary display of a gaming terminal a mechanical device that has been 3D-rendered in real time as opposed to being pre-rendered. A wagering game is initiated on a gaming terminal (200) under the control of a processor running game software that resides on the gaming terminal or on a remote server or host computer. The wagering game is displayed on a primary display of the gaming terminal (202), and a game outcome is determined for the wagering game (204). The game outcome may be determined by a processor residing in the gaming terminal or by a remote server or host computer. An image representing a 3D-rendered mechanical device is rendered in real time (206) either by a 3D-graphics processor or the like that resides in the gaming terminal or in a remote server or host computer communicatively linked with the gaming terminal. The mechanical device image being rendered in real time is associated with the game outcome (208) and is displayed on a secondary display in the top box area of the gaming terminal (210). As described above, in other embodiments, the real-time mechanical device image depicts a bonus from a bonus game displayed on the secondary display.
  • [0054]
    Conventional gaming machines employing physical mechanical devices in the top box area lack the flexibility afforded by the present invention because the mechanical devices cannot be easily replaced with another mechanical device. If a player becomes bored with the game or otherwise tires of playing the game, the player must leave the gaming machine and seek out another game. The apparatus and method of the present invention increases the overall excitement and interest level of the player by any combination of the following: presenting to the player a selection of choices of bonus games, each with its own 3D-rendered image or animation of a mechanical device, displaying on the secondary display of the gaming terminal a 3D-rendered mechanical device that closely resembles its physical counterpart and yet may behave in ways that its physical counterpart cannot, and encouraging the player to play additional bonus games if for no other reason than to satisfy a curiosity as to what the 3D-rendered image or animation for a particular bonus game looks like. The realistic-looking images on the secondary display in the top box area adds a “wow” factor to the game, increasing its attractiveness to the player and heightening the player's sense of intrigue and curiosity. The “illusion” may be further cemented through the use of sculptured frames or other structures that add depth or dimensionality to the 3D-rendered mechanical device(s) being displayed on the secondary display. Realistic sounds of gears turning, reels rotating, die rolling, or the like may be played through the speakers of the gaming terminal to further create the impression that the player is observing physical hardware in action.
  • [0055]
    The present invention also provides numerous advantages to the casino operator. First, it saves floor space by providing multiple bonus games on a single machine. Traditionally, two different bonus games employing a mechanical device had to be incorporated into separate gaming machines. It also allows new top box images to be readily loaded into the gaming terminals. If interest wanes in a particular game, for example, rather than replacing the gaming terminals built to play the particular game, the top box images can be replaced with new ones according to the present invention.
  • [0056]
    An important aspect to all embodiments of the present invention is the display in the top box area of a gaming terminal a 3D-rendered mechanical device. Traditionally, mechanical devices in the top box area of gaming machines have been just that—mechanical. As contrasted with simple non-mechanical objects such as balloons, fruit, and the like and human-like or animal characters, mechanical devices are more complex in that they involve the interaction of several parts that obey various mechanical rules and laws of physics. As mentioned above, examples of mechanical devices include rotating wheels, flipping tiles, mechanical die, and mechanical reels. These devices include various mechanical parts that mutually cooperate in 3D-space to impart motion. Because the movement of the device obeys rules and laws, mechanical devices are well-suited for presenting a primary or bonus outcome. Although a computer calculates the outcome using a random-number generator, a sense of randomness is visually conveyed by using a mechanical device because its behavior must follow conventional rules and laws, and therefore one can be confident in the randomness of the outcome. Any sense by the player that the outcome has been influenced by outside forces will foment skepticism and loss of interest in the game.
  • [0057]
    Thus, traditionally, the mechanical devices have been implemented in physical hardware, which creates the impression to the player that the mechanical device is randomly presenting the outcome (even though it is actually calculated by a processor). For this reason, replacing the physical hardware with simulated hardware is no trivial matter. The player must still be assured through the visual presentation of the game outcome or bonus game that the outcome is truly randomly generated. The present invention maintains this assurance by preserving the realism of traditional mechanical hardware while taking advantage of the increased flexibility offered by software, such as allowing the player to select multiple bonus games or other top-box features without leaving the gaming terminal or utilizing special effects to enhance the visual appearance.
  • [0058]
    Another important aspect to the present invention is the ability to modify existing images or present new images to the player without having to take the gaming terminal 10 offline or otherwise remove it from service for an extended period of time. In various embodiments, the new or replacement images may be pre-rendered and downloaded to the gaming terminal 10 (in an encoded digital video format or as analog video, for example) or may be stored on a remote server 50 or host computer for transmission to the gaming terminal 10. This aspect provides maximum flexibility in controlling how the top box area is presented to the player and what is presented in the top box area.
  • [0059]
    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. 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 (40)

  1. 1. A gaming apparatus adapted to display at least one randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player, comprising a display in a top box area of said gaming apparatus, said display adapted to display at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device.
  2. 2. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a primary display, the at least one randomly selected outcome being displayed on said primary display.
  3. 3. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one randomly selected outcome is displayed on said display in said top box area.
  4. 4. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a communications interface coupled to the display, the communications interface being adapted to receive data indicative of the at least one randomly selected outcome.
  5. 5. The gaming apparatus of claim 4, wherein the communications interface is wireless.
  6. 6. The gaming apparatus of claim 4, wherein the communications interface is coupled to a gaming network.
  7. 7. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one 3D-rendered image is stored on a remote apparatus communicatively coupled to the gaming apparatus.
  8. 8. The gaming apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a storage device, the at least one 3D-rendered image being stored on said storage device.
  9. 9. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one randomly selected outcome is determined by a remote apparatus communicatively coupled to the gaming apparatus.
  10. 10. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one 3D-rendered image is pre-rendered.
  11. 11. The gaming apparatus of claim 10, further comprising a digital video recorder adapted to store the pre-rendered at least one 3D-rendered image.
  12. 12. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one 3D-rendered image is rendered in real time.
  13. 13. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein the mechanical device is a mechanical bonus indicator.
  14. 14. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said display is a plasma display.
  15. 15. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is an animation employing a motion blur effect.
  16. 16. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is an animation employing a frame-blending effect.
  17. 17. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is an animation employing a fading effect.
  18. 18. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is an animation that appears to morph said mechanical device.
  19. 19. The gaming apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is an animation that causes said mechanical device to disappear and reappear.
  20. 20. A method of displaying at least one 3D-rendered image on a gaming apparatus comprising:
    selecting at least one randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player;
    rendering a 3D representation of a mechanical device to form at least one 3D-rendered image of said mechanical device; and
    displaying said at least one 3D-rendered image on a display in a top box area of said gaming apparatus.
  21. 21. The method of claim 20, further comprising storing said at least one 3D-rendered image.
  22. 22. The method of claim 20, wherein the rendering is carried out substantially in real time.
  23. 23. The method of claim 20, further comprising associating said at least one 3D-rendered image with said outcome.
  24. 24. The method of claim 20, wherein the rendering is carried out remote from the gaming apparatus.
  25. 25. The method of claim 20, further comprising downloading said at least one 3D-rendered image to said gaming apparatus.
  26. 26. The method of claim 20, further comprising:
    presenting the player with at least two bonus game selections;
    responsive to said presenting, receiving a signal indicative of the player's selection; and
    selecting said at least one 3D-rendered image based on the player's selection.
  27. 27. The method of claim 20, further comprising outputting to said display an analog video signal representative of said at least one 3D-rendered image.
  28. 28. The method of claim 20, further comprising animating said at least one 3D-rendered image to form an animation.
  29. 29. The method of claim 28, further comprising storing said animation as video data and converting said video data to an analog video signal.
  30. 30. The method of claim 28, wherein said animation employs a special effect.
  31. 31. The method of claim 20, further comprising storing said at least one 3D-rendered image on a digital video recorder.
  32. 32. A gaming apparatus having a top box area, comprising:
    a primary display adapted to display at least one randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player of said gaming apparatus;
    a secondary display in the top box area of said gaming apparatus, said secondary display being adapted to display at least one 3D-rendered image of a mechanical device; and
    a communications interface adapted to receive data indicative of the at least one randomly selected outcome.
  33. 33. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, wherein said secondary display is a plasma display
  34. 34. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, wherein said secondary display is a lenticular display.
  35. 35. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, wherein said mechanical device is selected from the group consisting of a stator, a wheel, a flipping tile, a mechanical die, and a mechanical reel.
  36. 36. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, further comprising a non-flat structural frame disposed about at least a portion of the periphery of said secondary display.
  37. 37. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, further comprising a coder adapted to convert said at least one 3D-rendered image into an analog video representation thereof.
  38. 38. The gaming apparatus of claim 37, wherein said analog video is formatted according to the NTSC standard.
  39. 39. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is at least two 3D-rendered image sequences, each of said 3D-rendered image sequences being selectable by the player of said gaming apparatus.
  40. 40. The gaming apparatus of claim 32, wherein said at least one 3D-rendered image is rendered in real time by a 3D-graphics processor.
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