US20070093294A1 - Method and device for supporting wireless multi-player gaming with a multi-player game hub - Google Patents

Method and device for supporting wireless multi-player gaming with a multi-player game hub Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070093294A1
US20070093294A1 US10570526 US57052603A US2007093294A1 US 20070093294 A1 US20070093294 A1 US 20070093294A1 US 10570526 US10570526 US 10570526 US 57052603 A US57052603 A US 57052603A US 2007093294 A1 US2007093294 A1 US 2007093294A1
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Prior art keywords
game
wireless
multi
player
devices
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Abandoned
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US10570526
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Reza Serafat
Peter Decker
Juha Lampela
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Nokia Oy AB
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Nokia Oy AB
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/30Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers
    • A63F13/31Communication aspects specific to video games, e.g. between several handheld game devices at close range
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/12Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions involving interaction between a plurality of game devices, e.g. transmisison or distribution systems
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/30Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers
    • A63F13/32Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using local area network [LAN] connections
    • A63F13/327Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using local area network [LAN] connections using wireless networks, e.g. Wi-Fi or piconet
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/40Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterised by details of platform network
    • A63F2300/402Communication between platforms, i.e. physical link to protocol
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/40Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterised by details of platform network
    • A63F2300/406Transmission via wireless network, e.g. pager or GSM
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/50Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterized by details of game servers

Abstract

The present invention relates to wireless multi-player gaming with mobile game devices. It also relates to a method and a device capable of reducing the communication load of mobile game devices in wireless multi-player gaming. The method of the present invention is provided to support wireless multi-player gaming with a multi-player game hub, wherein in said method said hub is setting up wireless connections to at least two mobile game devices by performing an initialization procedure according to an initialization protocol. These connections form a hub-to all wireless network, wherein each connected game device is wirelessly connected as a slave device in said wireless network. In the method the hub further comprises controlling the transfer of game execution data between said at least two game devices. Thereby a method and a game system is provided to separate the communication load from the game execution load keeping the processing resources of the gaming devices clear for executing the game software in wireless multi-player gaming.

Description

  • [0001]
    The present invention relates to wireless multi-player gaming with mobile game devices. It also relates to a new possibility to reduce the communication load of mobile game devices in wireless multi-player gaming. This invention deals with central server based multiparty gaming services and their usage scenario. In this scenario a central server acts as the main part of a game serving different game participants and manages the communication and data exchange between the game participants. This invention proposes a novel generic multi-player games server/hub preferably used for local networks.
  • [0002]
    Presently, there are different kinds of mobile game devices available. There are e.g. the SEGA™ GAMEGEAR™, the ATARI™ LYNX™ and the commercially successful NINTENDO™ GAMEBOY™. All these devices provide a possibility to play electronic games from an inserted mass memory device storing the game software. Presently, there are mobile game devices that enable users in case of some games to play against each other by using a link cable. A cable link enables users to connect game devices of the same type with each other and play against each other in competitive or strategy games.
  • [0003]
    Conventionally, the game devices are connected via wired connection and one or each of said devices requires a mass memory device storing the game software, depending on the complexity of said game.
  • [0004]
    Presently, it is possible to connect a mobile game device with a game console or video game via a respective cable to use the mobile game device as a controller for said game console. This connection can also be used to exchange data between a console version and a mobile version of the same video game. Presently, there is also an adapter available enabling a user to use a mobile version of a video game stored in a solid state memory device with a game console. In a mobile application the gaming functionality and interfaces are a compromise between usability and portability. With such an adapter a user can play a game which is optimized for mobile gaming on a TV screen at home, for a more convenient visual interface than a 6×6-cm LCD screen of a mobile gaming device.
  • [0005]
    Wireless game examples are presently only available as wireless controllers for conventional game consoles to replace a cable connection to a user input interface by a wireless infrared or radio connection. This connection is usually a one-way from the controller to the game console.
  • [0006]
    Other examples of mobile game devices that are connected via a wireless connection are e.g. described in the document WO 93 23125 and in the U.S. Pat. No. 5,618,045. Both documents refer to portable game devices that can be used for multi-player gaming.
  • [0007]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,618,045 discloses a communication topology, in which each device communicates with each other device, in an ad hoc wireless all-to-all broadcast network. By using an all-to-all wireless all-to-all broadcast network, each of said devices has to handle the communication to each of the other devices. Therefore, each of said devices has to provide a considerable amount of its processing resources for the communication and thus these resources are not available for the execution of the game itself, reducing the complexity of the game. It has to be noted that each device requires more processing power for handling the communication to the other devices, the higher the number of game devices is that participate. Thus in the case of two connected game devices the execution of the game might not suffer significantly from the handling of the communication messages. However, if e.g. more than four devices are connected the processor might be overloaded by handling the communication messages and executing the game. This overload can obviously disturb the execution of the game itself what the user may notice by slow done and/or unsteadiness of the game execution.
  • [0008]
    The document WO 93 23125 discloses a mobile game device that is capable of playing multi-player games using a star topology type communication architecture. This architecture reduces the expenditure for providing the communication for all devices, expect for the one having the master role in the communication. This star topology eases the data traffic for each of said slave devices at the expense of the device in the master role. Thus, it may happen that the master device reaches its computational limits, which may result in a slowing down of the game execution. Additionally, the power consumption of the mater device is considerably increased leading to a shorter playtime and a battery caused limitation of the maximum playtime for a multi-player game.
  • [0009]
    All the above approaches for mobile wireless multi-player gaming have in common that they are not fully suitable for the use with mobile terminal devices as the computational load for providing the communication considerably reduces the game experience due to low computing/communicating power or low battery capacity. Therefore, a wireless multi-player gaming architecture/system is needed to overcome these problems.
  • [0010]
    According to a first aspect of the present invention a method for supporting wireless multi-player gaming at a wireless multi-player game hub is provided. It is to be noted, that the expression ‘wireless’ in the context of this specification refers only to the data connections between the games hub and the game devices. Thus, the ‘wireless games hub’ may actually comprise e.g. a power supply cable, or may comprise cable connections to external display or audio devices. The method of the present invention comprises at said wireless multi-player game hub setting up wireless connections to at least two mobile game devices, and controlling the transfer of game execution data between said at least two game devices.
  • [0011]
    Said setting up of wireless connections, e.g. radio or e.g. infrared (IR) connections to at least two mobile game devices is performed by an initialization procedure according to an initialization protocol. By setting up wireless connections to at least two devices a wireless network is formed, wherein said wireless network is a hub-to-all wireless network. In said hub-to-all network each said connected game device is wirelessly connected as a slave device in said wireless network. In said hub-to-all network there are no direct connections between said game devices. It may be noted that the wireless multi-player game hub in case of two devices may appear to act as a repeater or as a relay station that simply receives and retransmits game execution data, but this is not the case. In fact, the wireless multi-player game hub device actually serves as a communication controller coordinating the data flow between more than two respective devices, so that each of said devices merely needs to communicate with one device i.e. the hub.
  • [0012]
    The wireless multi-player game-hub coordinates the game data exchange between wirelessly connected mobile gaming devices and therefore the hub itself actually does not need to know the contents of said data or their effects in the game. Basically, the hub itself does not need to interpret the game data and therefore does not need to have specific information of the game, therefore the hub does not need to have any game programs loaded. Thus, the hub needs no user interface (except e.g. for controlling a power supply), no interface to access mass storage devices and no processing unit to execute game software.
  • [0013]
    In this basic implementation it is assumed that all devices that are connected to said hub device can access compatible gaming software. This software may be downloaded from a dedicated game server or may be provided in form of a pluggable memory module.
  • [0014]
    In an example embodiment of said method, said setting up of a wireless connection comprises sending initialization messages, receiving identification message and setting up a connection.
  • [0015]
    By sending initialization messages, the wireless multi-player game-hub device searches for game devices, e.g. following an initialization procedure. The initialization procedure may be performed according to an initialization protocol used in a radio or infrared interface. By receiving identification messages from said game devices said hub device can determine the presence of fuirther game devices. Having found at least two devices, the hub can set up connections to said game devices to start the communication between said game devices. In the initialization process it may be necessary to determine which kind of game software is actually present in the game device, whereby it can be assured that the actually used game hard/software is actually compatible. The initialization process may be combined with an authorization step e.g. combined with a user confirmation. By a confirmation process, it can be assured that only devices being part of said gaming party can join a running game. Additionally, a confirmation can increase the reliability of the data transfer, as faulty recognized devices can not participate in the data communication.
  • [0016]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention said method further comprises connecting a mass storage and reading data contained in said mass storage. It may be noted that the mass storage can be connected directly to the hub device, or indirectly by a (e.g. wirelessly) connected mobile gaming device.
  • [0017]
    The mass storage device can be a removable or interchangeable mass storage device like MMC (Multi Media Card) or other kind of flash memory cards that could be read by the mobile terminal or games hub directly or from the games hub indirectly via a connection to a mobile terminal.
  • [0018]
    The data may be read via a reader interface or a reader device. The hub device is not necessarily subjected to the limitations of mobile devices, thus a reader may also comprise e.g. a CD (Compact Disc) or DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) reader to access a mass storage device.
  • [0019]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention said read data comprise initialization control data and transfer control data for performing said connection setup and said game data transfer. The hub device can receive additional information to provide an improved data transfer. The initialization control data and transfer control data for performing said connection setup can be used to software-configure a wireless mobile game device to perform the hub procedures. The software may be embodied in a hardware memory device usually used to store a game. It is possible to configure a wireless multi-player game device to act as a hub, when a mass storage is inserted that only comprises communication procedure data and no game data.
  • [0020]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention said read data comprise game data and said method further comprises transferring said game data to each of said connected slave devices via a wireless radio or infrared interface.
  • [0021]
    By using this embodiment, the hub can download and forward game software from one of said connected slave devices to the other connected slave devices. That is, when playing games with a reduced complexity such as ‘Tetris’ the whole software may be transferred via said wireless connection from one of the connected game device to the others. A game software transfer can be used to play a game in a multi-player version without the need to actually equip each of said devices with a mass storage having stored the game software. In case of very complex games this is rather improbable, as the transfer time for a software transfer increases with the number of connected devices and the software complexity. It is also possible to read and forward game software from the hub device to the other connected slave gaming-devices.
  • [0022]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention said method further comprises generating a video/audio output according to said game data from said connected mass storage and according to said transferred game execution data. Mobile gaming devices such as e.g. Nokia N-Gage™ will always be optimized for portability reasons to be small and pocketable. A non-mobile home hub does not have this limitation and can therefore provide means to accommodate cheap mass storage means such as CD or DVD and furthermore connections to fit in home equipment. To allow the portable gaming device to access storage means or interfaces that are not space optimized (e.g. TV or home stereo connectors) a wireless games hub could provide a link of mobile to non-mobile electronic applications. Depending on the processing power of said mobile game device and of said hub, it can be estimated that the user interface may not reach the visual quality of a proprietary home game console. The hub can be provided with a game specific video enhancing software to be able to provide a TV suitable video interface. That is, the game is still executed at the mobile devices, but the hub can provide a video output signal adapted to fit the requirements of a large screen, i.e. a higher resolution.
  • [0023]
    In another example embodiment said method further comprises executing said game data received from said connected mass storage according to said transferred game execution data. By executing game data, the hub device can provide an additional output interface having e.g. a panorama view of a game scenery or a map like diagram. Another application resides in the possibility to use said mobile wireless gaming devices as controllers for a game actually running at said hub device.
  • [0024]
    In yet another example embodiment of the present invention said setting up of a wireless connection and said transferring of game execution data is performed according to a Bluetooth protocol. In yet another example embodiment of the present invention said setting up of a wireless connection and said transferring of game execution data is performed according to a wireless local area Network (WLAN) protocol.
  • [0025]
    By using W-LAN and Bluetooth, the present invention can be implemented without the need to develop wireless interfaces or even new data exchange protocols.
  • [0026]
    According to another aspect of the present invention a method for operation a game system comprising a hub and mobile gaming devices is provided. Said method comprises the hub-based procedures of the preceding specification. Additionally, the method comprises receiving a user input at said mobile gaming devices, executing a game software according to said received user input, generating game execution data to be transferred to other mobile gaming devices, and transferring said data to said hub via a wireless connection. The method further comprises receiving game execution data from other mobile gaming devices via said hub and executing said game software according to said received game execution data. The method can also comprise the exchange of initialization data, identification data and game data between said mobile gaming devices and said wireless game hub. The expression ‘wireless merely relates to wireless connections between hub and mobile gaming devices. The ‘wireless game hub’ actually may comprise e.g. a power supply cable or a video/audio-out cable or connector.
  • [0027]
    According to yet another aspect of the invention, a software tool is provided comprising program code means for carrying out the method of the preceding description when said program product is run on a computer or a network device.
  • [0028]
    According to another aspect of the present invention, a computer program product is provided that is downloadable from a server for carrying out the method of the preceding description, which comprises program code means for performing all of the steps of the preceding methods when said program is run on a computer or a network device.
  • [0029]
    According to yet another aspect of the invention, a computer program product is provided comprising program code means stored on a computer readable medium for carrying out the methods of the preceding description, when said program product is run on a computer or a network device. This can be embodied e.g. as a mass storage device for the use in a wireless mobile game device, comprising only an initialization engine and a game communication control engine. When inserting such a mass storage in conventional wireless multi-player game device, it can be configured to act as a hub only, without the ability to simultaneously execute game software.
  • [0030]
    According to another aspect of the present invention a computer data signal is provided. The computer data signal is embodied in a carrier wave and represents a program that makes the computer perform the steps of the method contained in the preceding description, when said computer program is run on a computer, or a network device.
  • [0031]
    According to another aspect of the present invention a wireless multi-player gaming hub is provided. Said multi-player game hub comprises a wireless interface, an initialization engine and a game communication control engine.
  • [0032]
    Said wireless (e.g. radio or IR) interface is adapted to simultaneously provide a connection to at least two mobile wireless gaming devices. Said wireless interface is connected to said initialization engine in a way such that said initialization can perform initialization procedures to subsequently contact at least two mobile wireless gaming devices. The initialization engine uses a star-type communication topology wherein said hub is always set as the master of the local wireless network and wherein each connected mobile wireless gaming device is logged in said network as a slave device.
  • [0033]
    The initialization engine alone may be implemented analogously as disclosed e.g. in WO 93 23125 and the game communication control engine alone can be embodied analogously to the document U.S. Pat. No. 5,618,045.
  • [0034]
    Currently, game servers are only dedicated to one specific game and have to include both game logic as well as communication protocol and thus are not flexible and need installation/de-installation for each game. In contrast to the state of the art, the present invention proposes a general-purpose multiparty game hub, which takes over the communication task between the different gaming devices, to reduce the communication expense for each of said devices to a single connection to a game hub. With other words, the basic idea of this invention is based on separating the game logic from game data and communication management in case of multiparty games. According to the invention all gaming devices actively participating in a multi-player game are relieved from the task to manage the communication between the devices.
  • [0035]
    According to an embodiment of the present invention, said wireless multi-player game hub further comprises a processing unit and an interface for a mass storage, wherein said processing unit is connected to said mass storage interface and to said wireless interface. Thus, the game hub can read e.g. game software and transfer the software via a wireless interface to wirelessly connected mobile game devices. The extended ability of the game hub can also be described as a game server, and therefore in the following the expression ‘game hub’ is used for a communication device and ‘game server’ is used for a game hub with the ability to execute game software. If the mass storage interface is compatible with mass storage devices used in said wireless mobile game devices, it may be sufficient to use a single mass storage device in said hub to transfer a game software to said devises. Thus, a single mass storage device containing a game can be sufficient to provide multi-player gaming capability to all connected game devices.
  • [0036]
    In yet another additional example embodiment of the present invention, said wireless multi-player game hub/server, further comprises a display controller and a display interface, wherein said display controller is connected to said display interface and to said processing unit. A display or video controller enables the hub to connect to home entertainment devices such as TV- or stereo sets. In a mobile application the gaming functionality and interfaces are a compromise between usability and portability. When playing the device at home, said hub could overcome the disadvantages caused by the portability restriction similar to a docking station of a laptop. To keep it most convenient, this is implemented wirelessly.
  • [0037]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention said wireless multi-player game hub further comprises a user interface. As already stated above, a wireless multi-player game device can be configured to act as a mobile wireless multi-player game hub. This mobile wireless game hub may be battery-operated to be fully mobile. The mobile wireless game hub can be based on a wireless multi-player game device, which is provided with a user interface and thus the mobile wireless game hub can also comprise a user interface. The user interface can be used to perform identification and authorization procedures. It may also help to change the settings for a connected TV screen, which may be operated at 50 Hz, 60 Hz or even 100 Hz. Computer monitors provide even more different possible display parameters, which may be selected via said user interface.
  • [0038]
    In another example embodiment of the present invention, said wireless multi-player game hub further comprises a desktop charger unit. The desktop charger unit is provided to insert a wireless game device to be charged into said hub to connect it to a power source in said hub. The charger unit of said hub device can provide a ‘docking station’ for said mobile terminal device providing a combined charger stand and multi-player hub. It is also possible to provide the desktop charger with more than one charger stands. The hub device can comprise 2, 3 or even more than 3 device charger stands or slots to enable a simultaneous multi-player charging for e.g. more than one family member.
  • [0039]
    The mechanic and electric interface provided by the desktop charger of said hub can also provide an electric data interface for transferring data. Thus, a user can be enabled to place the mobile gaming device on/into said hub and press a key to authenticate/authorize said device for game playing. It is also possible to provide the desktop charger interface with additional contacts to enable the hub device to access data stored e.g. in a mass storage plugged into said mobile game terminal inserted in said desktop charger interface. This provides an easy and fast access to game software stored in said mass storage. This feature can also be used to transfer game data from one device to another, by slotting the first device into the charger, activating a game data/software mirroring to an internal memory of said hub device. The stored game data/software can then be loaded to a next mobile game device by slotting it into said charger stand and uploading said software/data.
  • [0040]
    In yet another example embodiment said wireless multi-player game hub further comprises a modem. A modem can be provided for accessing the Internet for surfing via said modem and a Bluetooth connection to the wireless multi-player game device. If the device is also provided with a display controller and a video output, user may use his wireless multi-player game device as an input device for surfing the internet and a connected display/TV-screen for displaying selected internet pages. The hub can also comprise a memory, enabling said hub to download game software for the use in multi-player gaming.
  • [0041]
    In yet another example embodiment said wireless multi-player game hub is implemented in a wireless mobile game device. Said wireless multi-player game hub can be implemented in a way that a wireless mobile game device comprises an independent wireless multi-player game hub, wherein a hard wired connection can be provided between the hub and the game device, to economize an inter-device radio or IR connection. Said wireless multi-player game hub can also be implemented as a clip-on or plug-in module for a wireless mobile game device, enabling a user to carry only one composed device for experiencing multi-player gaming. Such a plug-in or clip-on module can be provided with auxiliary power supply to take higher power consumption into account. Said wireless game device can also comprise a mobile telephone.
  • [0042]
    According to just another aspect of the present invention a wireless multi-player game system is provided. Said wireless multi-player game system comprises a multi-player game hub according to the preceding specification and wireless mobile game devices. Said wireless mobile game devices are connectable to said hub via a wireless communication links, wherein said hub is in the master role of said links and said mobile game devices are each in a slave role of said links. Said devices are provided to execute game software and communicate game execution data via said connected hub.
  • [0043]
    In the following, the invention will be described in detail by referring to the enclosed drawings in which:
  • [0044]
    FIG. 1 shows a conventional wireless multi-player network architecture,
  • [0045]
    FIG. 2A shows a wireless multi-player network architecture according to one embodiment of the present invention,
  • [0046]
    FIG. 2B shows the wireless multi-player network architecture of FIG. 2A provided with a wireless multi-player game device in a hub role,
  • [0047]
    FIG. 3 shows another wireless multi-player network architecture according to an embodiment of the present invention,
  • [0048]
    FIG. 4 shows a basic embodiment of a wireless multi-player game hub according to an embodiment of the present invention,
  • [0049]
    FIG. 5 shows another embodiment of a wireless multi-player game hub/server according to another embodiment of the present invention,
  • [0050]
    FIG. 6 shows a flowchart of a method for supporting wireless multi-player gaming at a wireless multi-player game hub.
  • [0051]
    Generally, server based multiparty games need a central server including the main game application, the predefined data exchange protocol used for data exchange between different game clients running on devices of the game participants. The client server can run either on mobile devices such as mobile game consoles, or on stationary devices like personal computers or home game consoles. In all current cases the server has to know exactly about the game logic and communication protocol. This kind of knowledge are either hard coded inside the software modules of server or stored on the mass memory storage (like e.g. hard disc drives) of the server machine. Accordingly, the actual needed software modules of the game server have to be pre-installed on the server machine. This is of course beneficial in case of complex wide area network based multiparty games servers, where the games include a very complex logic and/or the number of the game attendees to be served during playing the games are considerably large (e.g. more than 8) and accordingly the communication protocol are very complex. In such use cases the pre-installation of the game logic on a powerful game server machine is very useful, because on the one hand the game participants can start to play game almost immediately without —performing a long installation procedure—every time they want play a round. The powerful server machine on the other hand takes care about the communication management between client devices, so that the client devices do not have to spend a considerable amount of their computational power for communication management. The computational performance of the client devices can rather be used for implementing more complex audiovisual experience of the game content itself.
  • [0052]
    However, the problem in such configuration is the fact that the game has to be pre-installed on a server machine and actually for each game a dedicated server is needed. Such server machines are normally stationary and not very flexible in usage. If a new game should be supported on a server machine, the new game has to be installed and depending on the memory capacity of the server machine. It is sometimes necessary to de-install other software modules or games to release more memory for new games, which needs a relatively long period of time for performing the installation and de-installation procedure. The current game servers are only dedicated to one specific game and have to include both game logic as well as communication protocol. They are not flexible and need installation/de-installation for each game. Besides, in multiparty games that are based on a local network one or all of the wireless multi-player game devices have to act as a game server.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 1 depicts a wireless multi-player game network comprising wireless multi-player game devices 40, 42′ and 42″. The wireless multi-player game devices are connected via a wireless radio connection 44. Each of said devices are provided with a mass storage 46, to provide the game logic software to each of said devices 40-42″. In FIG. 1 the wireless multi-player game device 40 acts as a game server, accordingly this device has to reserve considerable amount of its performance for communication monitoring. Accordingly, the user game experience of this wireless multi-player game device 40 will suffer from that. An increased communication load does not affect the other devices 42 to 42″. To prevent that the wireless multi-player game device 40 or its player has a disadvantage in regard to the other devices/players, a convoy principle can be used, wherein the device with the slowest game execution determines the game execution speed of all connected wireless multi-player game devices. This results in a reduced game experience to all players. Thus, in conventional multi-player gaming with wireless multi-player game devices, the complexity or the execution speed of the games is limited by capabilities of the wireless multi-player game device acting as game server. FIGS. 2A and 2B show a wireless multi-player network architecture according to embodiments of the present invention. In FIG. 2A, the proposed network of this invention offers a possibility to have a general-purpose multiparty game server. The current invention proposes a generic wireless multi-player game server 50 for wireless multi-player games, which controls only the communication between client devices but does not take care about the game logic itself. The wireless multi-player game server 50 can be operated as a wireless multi-player game hub, capable of providing solely the communication between a number of wireless multi-player game devices 42 to 42″′.
  • [0054]
    The game logic 46 will be implemented (e.g. as a mass storage) on each wireless multi-player game device 42 to 42″′ and each client software presents the game state of all participants depending on the status data of the game participants distributed through the generic wireless multi-player game server 50.
  • [0055]
    With other words, the basic idea of this invention is based on separating the game logic from game data and communication management in case of multiparty games. The generic wireless game server 50 will only take care about the communication management as well as service discovery and game participant management. Besides, the generic game server is not limited to a specific (pre-defined) communication scheme. Accordingly, it is neither limited to one dedicated game, nor to a certain genre of games.
  • [0056]
    The main assumption for FIG. 2A is that each involved mobile game device has a removable mass memory medium (such as a multi media card (MMC)) including the actual game data and engine. But the generic wireless multi-player game server 50 does not have necessarily any means to read a removable mass memory medium. The generic wireless game server 50 includes two intelligent engines namely the initialization engine and a game communication control engine.
  • [0057]
    The initialization engine is based on a pre-defined protocol. If a user wants to start a multiparty game using the generic wireless multi-player game server 50, one of the game participants has to connect its mobile wireless game device 42-42″′ to the generic wireless multi-player game server 50 and send the needed game data to the game server. The data exchange will be based on a pre-defined protocol e.g. a text-based mark-up language.
  • [0058]
    The game data that are sent to generic game server 50 will deal with the user interface-application and possible game options such as maximum number of game devices 42-42″′, supported levels and configuration etc. The sent game data will deal also with game specific events and states that can occur while playing the game. The game events reflect the game input created by game participants and the game states reflect the situation dependent events such as game over, achieved next level, etc.
  • [0059]
    After finishing the initialization the server 50 is ready to serve a group 42-42″′ that want to play a round together. The game participants 42-42″′ will register themselves to the game server 50 using the wireless connection for a game round and start playing game. Thereafter, the generic game server 50 is responsible to hold up the game service. It receives the input events and game events from each game participants 42-42″′ and transmits them to the other participants 42-42″′ periodically (e.g. up to 50 times per seconds). Each mobile wireless multi-player game device 42-42″′ involved in game receives an updated data packet from generic game server 50 periodically. This data packet includes the input events and game state of all involved parties in the game. Accordingly the game engines implemented on the mobile wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′, which include the actual game logic, update the game situation by presenting the audiovisual signals (display frame and audio game signals) depending on the received data.
  • [0060]
    In FIG. 2A the generic wireless game server 50 provides only the communication between the wireless multi-player game devices. The server can be implemented by using components from wireless multi-player game devices.
  • [0061]
    FIG. 2B shows the wireless multi-player network architecture of FIG. 2A, wherein the wireless hub is provided by a wireless multi-player game device in the hub role. In FIG. 2B a wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 replaces the generic wireless game server 50 of FIG. 2A. The wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 provides only the communication between the wireless multi-player game devices. In contrast to the architecture disclosed in FIG. 2A, only one type of game devices is used. There is no proprietary hub device required, thus eliminating the production and development costs for the hub device. Similar to FIG. 1 the network architecture of FIG. 2B is provided for four participating players. In contrast to the architecture of FIG. 1 five instead of only four wireless multi-player game devices are required.
  • [0062]
    This may be implemented by using a wireless multi-player game device that is provided e.g. with a mass storage comprising only a software to configure a wireless multi-player game device to act as a wireless multi-player game server 50 of FIG. 2A. The physical prerequisites are already provided in a wireless multi-player game device, and the communication control only software can be provided e.g. stored in a mass storage module. In this case the wireless multi-player game system comprises five wireless multi-player game devices, wherein four 42-42″′ actively execute game software and interact with playing users and one executes wireless multi-player game server software. This includes that one conventional multi player game device 54 and the multi player game devices 42 to 42″′ are the same from the hardware point of view.
  • [0063]
    Similar to FIG. 2A the game logic 46 can be implemented (e.g. as a mass storage) on each wireless multi-player game device 42 to 42″′. The generic wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 only takes care of the communication management as well as service discovery and game participant management. The wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 can not be used to participate in the multi-player game, which is indicated by the crosses 54 over the user input interfaces of the wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52. Although this terminal can not be used as an active game member, the game scenario can be displayed on this device, which would e.g. enable to have one passive game observer acting as a judge.
  • [0064]
    Besides, the wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 is not limited to a specific (pre-defined) communication scheme, a dedicated game, or to a certain genre of games.
  • [0065]
    The wireless multi-player game device in the hub role 52 includes two intelligent engines namely the initialization engine and a game communication control engine, such as the generic multi-player game server 50 of FIG. 2A. The game execution and the data exchange protocols can be implemented similarly as in FIG. 2A.
  • [0066]
    FIG. 3 shows another wireless multi-player network architecture according to another embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 3 wireless multi-player game server 52 acts as communication manager as well as games logic distributor.
  • [0067]
    The main assumption in this case is the fact that the wireless multi-player game server 52 is equipped with a removable mass memory 48 including the game data and logic. The wireless multi-player game device 42-42″′ do not necessarily have means to read such mass memory medium.
  • [0068]
    In FIG. 3 the wireless multi-player game server 52 is equipped with more intelligence (software complexity). This is necessary, because it is not only controlling the game execution by managing the communication between mobile devices, as described in FIG. 2, but also hosts the actual mass memory medium 48 including the game logic. In this case game communication data does not have to be transferred from one of the mobile wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′ to the server 52. The wireless multi-player game server 52 has to send the actual game logic to the mobile wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′, because they do not have the logic internally. The distribution of the game logic to the mobile wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′ will also be based on a pre-defined protocol e.g. a text-based mark-up language.
  • [0069]
    The game control engine of the generic wireless game server 52 has the same responsibility as described in FIG. 2. It is responsible for service discovery and set-up of a multiparty game round. The persons who like to play have to register themselves to this engine using wireless connection such as Bluetooth (BT) or wireless local area network (W-LAN). After this step, the wireless multi-player game server 52 will send the actual game logic retrieved from the mass storage 48 to the involved devices. The wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′ send an acknowledgement back to the server 52 as soon as they received the game logic completely. Thereafter, the actual game will start and the generic game server 52 will take care about the game communication management as described in FIG. 2. It receives the input events and game events from each game participants and broadcast them to other participants periodically (e.g. up to 50 times per seconds). Each mobile wireless multi-player game device 42-42″′ involved in game receives an update data packet from generic game server 52 periodically. This data packets include the input events and game states of all involved parties in game. Accordingly, the game engine on the mobile game console, which includes the actual game logic, updates the game situation by presenting the audiovisual signals (display frame and audio game signals) depending on the received data.
  • [0070]
    In both cases in FIGS. 2 and 3, the server 50, 52 can be implemented as a stand-alone device with integrated BT and/or W-LAN capability. The main functionality of the generic game server is—as mentioned before—the control and the execution of the communication and data exchange.
  • [0071]
    The generic game server 50,52 controls also presence/absence of game participants during the game play. If one game participant wants to leave or to join the game party, it has to send a signal from the wireless multi-player game device 42-42″′ to the generic game server 50,52 indicating the intention of leaving/joining from/to game party.
  • [0072]
    FIG. 4 shows a basic embodiment of a wireless multi-player game hub according to an embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 4 the generic wireless game hub 2 is embodied as a game communication controller. In FIG. 4 the game communication server simply acts as data transfer provider, therefore the term ‘hub’ is used to underline the mainly communicative implementation of the wireless multi-player game server.
  • [0073]
    The implementation is based on two parts. A stand-alone wireless multi-player game hub 2 requires enough computational power as well as a memory (not shown). The hub device 2 is equipped at least with one wireless connection means like BT or W-LAN. The hub 2 is equipped with an initialization engine 8 and a communication engine 9 for exchanging of game communication data in a pre-defined manner. Both engines require a data exchange protocol. Both engines are connected to a transceiver 4 provided with an antenna 6.
  • [0074]
    This could be implemented in a generic way using e.g. a text-based mark-up language. The protocol design can be optimized with respect to load time (required time for initialization) by using a binary protocol.
  • [0075]
    If a Bluetooth connection is used it needs to be considered that a Bluetooth piconet can support up to 8 Bluetooth devices connected to each other. If for example two Bluetooth modules are implemented in a games hub 50, both Bluetooth modules could take a masters role in two piconets which are connected to a Bluetooth scatternet. This enables to connect 14 wireless mobile game devices to the games hub 50 without any disturbance of the game execution itself from the coordination of game execution data.
  • [0076]
    The protocol has to be known to the game developer, who wants to develop multiparty games using the generic game server. For this purpose an application protocol interface (API) set reflecting the needed functionality can be prepared and implemented as a dynamic load library. This library can be provided to the game developers for further usage. The library should at least cover functionality to communicate following information to the generic game server such as a maximum number of attendees, a number of events, a list of available events, user interface options, available game states and levels and a basic exceptional handling in case of communication error.
  • [0077]
    FIG. 5 shows another embodiment of a wireless multi-player game server 2 according to another embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 5 the generic wireless game server 2 comprises a communication controller as well as a game logic distributor. In FIG. 5 the generic game server is be equipped with more computational power. The game server 2 works not only as communication server but can also be the only device in the local network equipped with a removable mass memory medium 22 including the actual game logic. In FIG. 5 the game server 2 is a stand-alone device equipped with the required internal memory and computational power.
  • [0078]
    Also in this case the server 2 requires a wireless connection means such as BT or W-LAN this is provided by a transceiver 4 connected to an antenna 6. The server will be based on two software engines. The connection control engine or initialization engine 8 is responsible for dealing with game service discovery as well as monitoring of the availability of the connected devices while playing game. The server 2 is also equipped with a game control engine 10, monitoring the game flow during playing game. It is also responsible for managing the game communication, namely collecting the input events of all devices involved in multiparty game and super distribution of these events so that every device get periodically a synchronization data packet including all events generated by involved devices.
  • [0079]
    The software engine 10 is responsible for super-distribution of the game logic to the involved mobile gaming devices in a game party. For this purpose a pre-defined communication protocol based on a mark-up language (similar to FIG. 4) can be used.
  • [0080]
    The wireless multi-player game server 2 can be linked to wireless multi-player game devices 42-42″′ via a Bluetooth module 4. The wireless multi-player game server 2 can comprise controllers 16 and connectors for multiple stationary devices such as TV-out, stereo audio line out, Ethernet and LAN.
  • [0081]
    The wireless multi-player game server 2 can comprise an interface 14 for a mass storage device 22 such as a MMC slot and/or a CD/DVD-R/RW drive. The wireless multi-player game server 2 comprises a central processing unit (CPU) 12 and an internal RAM (not depicted).
  • [0082]
    The wireless multi-player game server 2 does not require a built in user interface. The game server 2 can be controlled from a user via a wireless connection via at least one of the connected wireless multi-player game devices.
  • [0083]
    The games content can be transferred from the wireless multi-player game server 2 to the wireless multi-player game devices and vice versa. Audio and control signals can be transferred over Bluetooth from wireless multi-player game devices to the wireless multi-player game server 2. The game server 2 has a processing unit 12 to run a mirror implementation of the game software.
  • [0084]
    The wireless multi-player game server can be implemented also in a way that the wireless multi-player game devices just transfer the key-control wirelessly to the multi-player game server and the whole game is run on the server. In case of a multi-player game, the game server needs to run server software to combine the different screens.
  • [0085]
    A special rights management system can be implemented to allow both processors (in the server and in the game devices) to run with the same game mass storage.
  • [0086]
    The wireless multi-player game server 2 can be implemented as a wireless (Bluetooth or WLAN) station that serves with CD/DVD R/RW storage means and I/O connectors. The wireless multi-player game server can be used to serve the following usage scenarios:
    • The server can play a game/or demo from an inserted CD/DVD.
    • The server can backup/store games from a mobile wireless multi-player game device.
    • The server can be connected to more powerful user interface elements such as a TV set or home stereo sets, to achieve a richer gaming experience when used at home.
    • The server can display competition screens of in a multi-player game session.
  • [0091]
    The wireless multi-player game server allows the users to use the same physical mobile wireless game devices and game contents in a mobile and a stationary environment. This is a benefit from investment point of view and from learning different devices.
  • [0092]
    The depicted wireless multi-player game server further comprises a modem 20. The modem 20 can provide a connection 26 for accessing the Internet for surfing via said modem and a wireless connection to a connected mobile multi-player game device.
  • [0093]
    The depicted wireless multi-player game server 2 further comprises a desktop charger unit 18. The desktop charger unit 18 is provided to charge mobile multi-player game devices that are connected to said wireless multi-player game server 2. The charger unit 18 can be provided as a ‘docking station’ for said mobile terminal device providing a combined charger stand and multi-player server. It is also possible that the desktop charger unit 18 is connected to the processor unit 12 to perform computer-controlled charging for high performance rechargeable batteries. For the sake of clarity a power supply is not depicted in FIGS. 4 and 5.
  • [0094]
    FIG. 6 shows a flowchart of a method for supporting wireless multi-player gaming at a wireless multi-player game server. The method comprises at the server the setting up of wireless (e.g. radio or IR) connections to at least one mobile game device by performing an initialization procedure according to an initialization protocol. The initialization procedure comprises a device discovery procedure 30 followed by the initialization itself. In the discovery procedure a device is detected via an air interface and a preliminary data exchange is performed to determine, if said device is actually game device. During the initialization procedure 32 device and game communication data are exchanged to prepare the game data exchange. During the initialization procedure a server-to-all wireless network is formed, wherein each said connected game device is wirelessly connected as a slave device. That is the server device is in the master role and controls the communication between all connected devices. This assumes that at least two devices are actually connected to the server device.
  • [0095]
    If at least two devices are connected and a multi-player game is started, the server device controls 34 the transfer of game execution data between said at least two game devices. In case of two connected mobile game devices the gain in the performance compared to a standard procedure in which a device simultaneously executes the game software and the communication is relatively small. However in case of e.g. 7 connected mobile game devices the execution of the communication requires a considerable amount of processing power that would otherwise not be available for executing the game.
  • [0096]
    The present invention can provide the following advantages:
    • Fast access to new games is enabled, as new games do not need to be installed on the game communication server.
    • The use of wireless local networks such as Bluetooth-based or W-LAN-based connections reduce the run-time cost for gamers, as they do not have to pay for the airtime.
    • A better exploitation of the computational capabilities of the mobile game devices is achieved, since the generic game server takes the load of communication and cares about the communication during the game play.
    • The invention can be implemented without standard changes, when just BT, auxiliary video (AV) and Serial Port profiles are applied.
    • Additionally, other mobile enhancement manufacturers can provide compatible devices.
  • [0102]
    These advantages can be provided by a single additional dedicated server hardware.
  • [0103]
    This application contains the description of implementations and embodiments of the present invention with the help of examples. It will be appreciated by a person skilled in the art that the present invention is not restricted to details of the embodiments presented above and that the invention can also be implemented in another form without deviating from the characteristics of the invention. The embodiments presented above should be considered illustrative, but not restricting. Thus the possibilities of implementing and using the invention are only restricted by the enclosed claims. Consequently various options of implementing the invention as determined by the claims, including equivalent implementations, also belong to the scope of the invention.

Claims (21)

  1. 1. Method for supporting wireless multi-player gaming with a multi-player game hub, said method comprising at said hub:
    setting up wireless connections to at least two mobile game devices by performing an initialization procedure according to an initialization protocol, forming a hub-to-all wireless network, wherein each of said connected game devices is wirelessly connected as a slave device in said wireless network, and
    controlling the transfer of game execution data between said at least two game devices.
  2. 2. Method according to claim 1, wherein said setting up of a wireless connection comprises:
    sending initialization messages, to search for new wireless mobile game devices,
    receiving identification messages from said game devices, and
    setting up a connection to said game devices.
  3. 3. Method according to claim l, further comprising
    connecting a mass storage, and
    reading data contained in said mass storage.
  4. 4. Method according to claim 3, wherein said reading of data comprises initialization control data and transfer control data for performing said connection setup and said game data transfer.
  5. 5. Method according to claim 3, wherein said read data comprises game data, and said method further comprises
    transferring said game data to each of said connected slave devices via a wireless interface.
  6. 6. Method according to claim 5, further comprising generating a video/audio output according to said game data from a connected mass storage, and according to said transferred game execution data.
  7. 7. Method according to claim 5, further comprising executing said game data received from said connected mass storage according to said transferred game execution data.
  8. 8. Method according to claim 1, wherein said setting up of a wireless connection and said transferring of game execution data is performed according to a Bluetooth protocol.
  9. 9. Method according to claim 1, wherein said setting up of a wireless connection and said transferring of game execution data is performed according to a WLAN protocol.
  10. 10. Method for performing wireless multi-player gaming at a wireless multi-player game system comprising a game hub and at least two mobile gaming devices, wherein said method comprises the hub based procedures of claim 1 and further comprises at said mobile gaming devices,
    receiving of user input,
    executing a game software according to said received user input,
    generating game execution data to be transferred to other mobile gaming devices,
    transferring said data to said hub via a wireless connection,
    receiving game execution data from other mobile gaming devices via said hub, and
    executing said game software according to said received game execution data.
  11. 11. Software tool comprising program code means stored on a computer readable medium for carrying out the method of claim 1 when said software tool is run on a computer or network device.
  12. 12. Computer program product comprising program code means stored on a computer readable medium for carrying out the method of claim 1 when said program product is run-on a computer or network device.
  13. 13. Computer program product comprising program code, downloadable from a server for carrying out the method of claim 1 when said program product is run on a computer or network device.
  14. 14. Multi-player game hub comprising a wireless interface, initialization engine and a game communication control engine, wherein said wireless interface is connected to said initialization engine and said game communication control engine.
  15. 15. Multi-player game hub according to claim 14, further comprising a processing unit and an interface for a mass storage, said processing unit being connected to said mass storage interface and to said wireless interface.
  16. 16. Multi-player game hub according to claim 15, further comprising a display controller and a display interface, wherein said display controller is connected to said display interface and to said processing unit.
  17. 17. Multi-player game hub according to claim 14, further comprising a user interface.
  18. 18. Multi-player game hub according to claim 14, further comprising a desktop charger unit.
  19. 19. Multi-player game hub according to claim 14, further comprising a modem.
  20. 20. Multi-player game hub according to claim 14, wherein said multi-player game hub is implemented in a wireless mobile game device.
  21. 21. Multi-player game system, wherein said game system comprises a multi-player game hub according to claim 14, and wireless mobile game devices being connectable to said multi-player game hub via a wireless communication links, wherein said multi-player game hub is in the master role of said links and said mobile game devices are each in a slave role of said links.
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