US20110207520A1 - Systems, Apparatuses and Methods for Changing Symbols in Gaming Systems - Google Patents

Systems, Apparatuses and Methods for Changing Symbols in Gaming Systems Download PDF

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US20110207520A1
US20110207520A1 US12/850,815 US85081510A US2011207520A1 US 20110207520 A1 US20110207520 A1 US 20110207520A1 US 85081510 A US85081510 A US 85081510A US 2011207520 A1 US2011207520 A1 US 2011207520A1
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symbols
state
symbol
states
alive
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US12/850,815
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Bradley Berman
Jacob Lamb
Peter Berman
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KING SHOW GAMES Inc
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KING SHOW GAMES 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
    • G07F17/34Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting depending on the stopping of moving members in a mechanical slot machine, e.g. "fruit" machines

Abstract

Symbols are randomly arranged on a gaming machine. The random arrangement represents initial states of the symbols for purposes of applying a cellular automata rule. The cellular automata rule is applied to the symbols such that each of the symbols to a subsequent state independently of a value of the symbols. The subsequent state of each symbol may be based at least on the initial state of each symbol and the initial state of another of the symbols. A payout condition may be evaluated based on the subsequent states of the symbols.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims the benefit of Provisional Patent Application No. 61/231,949, filed on Aug. 6, 2009, to which priority is claimed pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §119(e) and which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD
  • This invention relates in general to games, and more particularly to systems, apparatuses and methods for changing symbols in gaming activities.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Many gaming activities, such as slot machine games, involve mechanical or electronic/virtual reel strips having various symbols associated therewith. A paytable is typically provided, which notifies the player of the payout that will be provided when a consecutive number of particular symbols are presented during play. For example, the paytable may indicated that a payout of six credits will be awarded if three consecutive cherry symbols appear along a pre-established payline; twenty credits will be awarded if three consecutive plum symbols appear along a pre-established payline; and so forth. In order for the player to receive a payout, the reels are “spun” (whether mechanically or otherwise randomly selected in an electronic system having a video display), and the symbol combinations presented on established paylines are compared to the possible winning combinations in the paytable. The player typically receives payouts for matching symbol combinations presented on established paylines, some of which correspond to predetermined symbol combinations and accompanying payout criteria in a paytable.
  • Thus, manners of presenting winning payouts and providing corresponding payouts are often based on whether matching symbols fall on an established payline. Other manners are also known, such as a scatter pay, which is awarded when some minimum number of a certain symbol occurs during game play. For example, if three star symbols are presented in any of the display segments in response to a reel spin, the player may receive a payout.
  • In these and other payout methodologies, the end of the gaming event that may produce a payout typically ends once the symbols have been presented. For example, payout analysis occurs after the presentation of the requisite number of symbols for a scatter pay, or the after the occurrence of a predetermined symbol combination on a payline. Thus, the anticipation of payout awards ends upon the initial placement of symbols in a gaming grid such as a multi-reel (video or mechanical) slot game.
  • It is desirable to provide captivating gaming opportunities for game players to maintain player interest, particularly where there are multiple chances of winning and/or increasing payout awards. In furtherance of the need to attract participants to particular gaming machines, there is a continuing need to further the excitement and anticipation in the participation of gaming activities. The present invention fulfills these and other needs, and offers advantages over prior art gaming approaches.
  • SUMMARY
  • The present disclosure relates to systems, apparatuses and methods for changing symbols in gaming activities, such as slot games or other games involving symbol combinations in which payouts may be awarded. In one embodiment, methods, systems, apparatuses, and/or computer readable media causes a random arrangement of symbols of a gaming machine. The random arrangement represents a initial state of the symbols for purposes of applying a cellular automata rule. The cellular automata rule is applied to the symbols, such that the cellular automata rule changes the symbols to at least one subsequent state independently of a value of the symbols. A payout condition is evaluated based on the subsequent state of the symbols, and a payout is conditionally provided based on the payout condition.
  • In one configuration, the cellular automata rule is deterministic. In another configuration, the states of the symbols include binary states. In such a case, the cellular automata rule may changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of at least one neighboring symbol. Further in such a case, the binary states may include alive states and dead states, and in the initial state, particular symbols are set to the alive state and the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state as follows: a) if the symbol is currently in the alive state and a first number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol remains in the alive state, otherwise the symbol changes to the dead state; and b) if the symbol is currently in the dead state and a second number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol changes to the alive state, otherwise the symbol remains in the dead state. In configurations that utilize binary states, evaluating the payout condition may involve changing to a wild symbol any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states and/or randomly generating a new symbol to replace any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states.
  • In other arrangements, the cellular automata rule may change each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of each symbol all neighboring symbols. In another arrangement, the subsequent state may include a plurality of sequentially evaluated states. In such a case the cellular automata rule causes the symbols to change respective state for each of the time steps based on a) a previous state of each symbol and b) a previous state of another of the symbols. Further in such an arrangement, the sequentially evaluated states may be evaluated until at least one of the following occurs: a) all of the symbols are at a same state; and b) an infinitely repeating sequence of states is detected for at least a portion of the symbols.
  • In another embodiment of the invention, methods, systems, apparatuses, and/or computer readable media cause a random arrangement of symbols to be rendered via a gaming apparatus. At a first time step, an active state is assigned to a subset of the symbols and an inactive state is assigned to others of the symbols. For each of a plurality of additional time steps, the following is performed for each symbol: a) determining whether to set the symbol to the active or inactive state for the additional time step via a rule that is based on 1) the state of the symbol at a previous time step, and 2) the state of neighbors of the symbol at the previous time step; b) determining whether the collective states of the symbols results in a terminating condition; and c) if the terminating condition is detected, ceasing to apply the rule. A payout evaluation is performed based on the states of the symbols for at least one of the first and additional time steps.
  • In one configuration, performing the payout evaluation may involve changing to a wild symbol any symbols in the active state and/or generating a new symbol to replace any symbols in the active state. In another configuration, the terminating condition may include one or more of a) determining that all of the symbols are at the inactive state; and b) detecting an infinitely repeating sequence of states for at least a portion of the symbols and a portion of the time steps. In yet another configuration, the active state may be assigned to a subset of the symbols based on a value of the symbols. In some configurations, the rule may include a non-random, cellular automata rule.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • Representative embodiments are described in connection with the following diagrams.
  • FIG. 1A is a block diagram illustrating cellular automata rules according to a representative embodiment;
  • FIG. 1B illustrates a representative example of a gaming reel set;
  • FIG. 2A illustrates a subsequent state of the representative reel set shown in FIG. 1B;
  • FIG. 2B illustrates a representative variation where the reel symbols that correspond to CA sites in the alive state are re-spun while reel symbols with a corresponding dead CA remain unchanged;
  • FIG. 3A illustrates a representative variation where the reel symbols in the alive state are collapsed to cause affiliated symbols to fall into their place while reel symbols with a corresponding dead CA state remain unchanged;
  • FIG. 3B illustrates a representative variation where the reel symbols that correspond to CA sites in the alive state are evaluated as a subset of the original symbol set;
  • FIGS. 4A-4B illustrate another representative variation in accordance with an embodiment;
  • FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram of a representative example of a rule-based symbol generation;
  • FIG. 6 illustrates a representative embodiment where ignited symbols are spread out enough such that the CA sites die out in only two time steps;
  • FIG. 7 illustrates another example where predetermined symbols are initially presented in different locations to trigger the bonus;
  • FIGS. 8-9 illustrate another example where one or more predetermined symbols are initially presented in different locations to trigger the bonus;
  • FIGS. 10A-10B illustrate additional representative embodiments implementing other CA rule sets;
  • FIG. 11 illustrates a representative embodiment of a casino-style gaming device in which the principles described herein may be applied;
  • FIG. 12 illustrates representative computing system capable of carrying out operations in accordance with the invention; and
  • FIGS. 13 and 14 are flowcharts illustrating procedures according to example embodiments.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • In the following description of various exemplary embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration various embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized, as structural and operational changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.
  • As indicated above, some gaming payouts are provided when mechanical or video reels are “spun,” and the presented symbol combinations occurring on established paylines are compared to possible winning combinations in a paytable. The player receives payouts for any presented symbol combinations on the established paylines that match the payout criteria in the standard paytable. Once this occurs, the next gaming activity using additional wagers is initiated. In such systems, the symbol combinations that are presented and used to determine winning payouts are determined through the use of random number generators. The term “symbol” as used herein may refer to any indicia of conventional significance, including shapes, colors, textures, sounds, and any other object that may be rendered to the user for determining a payout based on patterns/arrangements of the objects.
  • Generally, the present disclosure relates to systems, apparatuses and methods for providing at least some symbol combinations that are driven by a rule set or sets, which may or may not originate in a first symbol combination that was generated randomly. The following describes various embodiments of the present invention, which utilizes one or more Cellular Automata-type rule sets to change gaming symbols such as used in slot machines and similar gaming devices involving symbol combinations.
  • Cellular automata (CA), as the term is used herein, refers to mathematical systems which can be used to describe many types of interactions. They may include a regularly ordered lattice of discrete sites, each of which has a state taken from a finite set. The state of each site in the lattice evolves over time according to a set of rules. These rules at least take into account the current state of the site being analyzed along with the current state of at least one other site in the lattice/grid in order to determine the next state of the analyzed site. For example, in particular examples described below, the CA rules take into account the current state of the site as well as the states of other neighboring sites.
  • In accordance with embodiments of the invention, such principles may be applied to gaming devices and systems, such as slot machines and other gaming devices. While any CA rule set can be utilized for these purposes, particular examples of rules are set forth below to facilitate an understanding of aspects of the invention. In FIG. 1A, a block diagram includes a grid 100 that illustrates CA rules according to one embodiment of the invention. The illustrated grid 100 is part of a two-dimensional (2-D) rectangular grid of M×N rectangular elements. The grid 100 includes nine elements 101-109, which may be the entire grid, or merely representative elements of a larger grid.
  • It will be appreciated that the rectangular grid configuration of FIG. 1A is presented for purposes of example, and not of limitation. The concepts discussed below regarding the grid 100 may be equally applicable to geometric constructs having fewer or greater dimensions, such as lines, cubes, spheres, etc. Similarly, the grid shapes and/or elements need not be rectangular. The CA concepts discussed below may be applicable to other grid-type constructs, including honeycomb/hexagons, graphs, trees, radial grids, brick patterns, etc.
  • In the illustrated example, each grid site/element 101-109 may take on one of two states, which in this case are designated as “alive” or “dead,” although other terminology may be used to designate analogous binary states, e.g., active/inactive, on/off, white/black, one/zero, etc. It should also be noted that the grid elements 101-109 each include symbols that utilized for particular gaming purposes, e.g., for determining payouts based on matching a pattern of symbols. Each symbol may be considered to have a value represented by the shape, color, indicia, or and/or other human perceivable feature of the symbol that distinguishes it from other symbols. In the present disclosure, the term “symbol” and “symbol value” may be used interchangeably to indicate this aspect of the symbol. This may be distinguished from the state of the element in which the symbol is shown, which may also be considered a state associated with the symbol itself. Thus, the terms “symbol state,” “state of the symbol,” etc., generally refer to a CA state associated with the current location of the symbol, and may be determined independently/separately from the symbol value at that location.
  • The state of each element 101-109 may change over time, and may be evaluated for each of a plurality of time steps. The initial state of each element may be chosen randomly or may be set using a predetermined formula. At each time step, the state of a particular element is updated based upon an equation that takes into account its own current state as well as the current states of one or more of its neighbors. This recognition of the state of neighboring elements/cells (at least from the viewpoint of cell 105) is indicated by arrows overlaid on the grid 100.
  • In one example, the rules for determining state at element 105 may be expressed as follows: 1) if the cell 105 is currently alive, and some number of its neighbors are also alive (exactly two or three neighbors in the example of FIG. 1A), the cell 105 remains alive for the next time step; 2) if the cell 105 is currently dead, and some number of its neighbors are alive (exactly two neighbors in the example of FIG. 1A, although in other embodiments exactly three neighbors have been used), it will come to life for the next time step; and 3) all other situations will render the cell 105 dead for the next time step. This latter case includes situations where more than three neighboring cells are alive. These same rules may also be applied to all the other cells 101-104, 106-109 during each time step.
  • Border cells may have additional/different rules. For example, the condition 1) above may be modified for corner cells to read “if a cell is currently alive, and exactly one or two of its neighbors are also alive, the cell remains alive for the next time step.” This reflects that the corner cell has three neighbors, as opposed to eight for an interior cell, and is therefore “blocked” in by live neighbors more quickly than is an interior cell.
  • Similar modifications may be made to edge cells, although particular corner/edge rules are not detailed for purposes of the present discussion. In other cases, the edges of the grid may be considered to be “wrapped around.” For example, if cells 101-109 form the entire grid, cells 101, 104, and 107 may be modeled as sharing an edge with cells 103, 106, 109, and cells 101-103 may be modeled as sharing an edge with cells 107-109.
  • It should be noted that, while the states may initially be assigned to a particular symbol based on the value of the symbol, the CA rules may subsequently operate independently of the values of the symbols. In some embodiments, the CA rules may operate purely on the states of the cells/sites containing the symbols without consideration of the values of the symbols contained in the cells. The states may be used at some later point to affect the symbols, e.g., changing symbols values to determine a potential payout, but in these cases the symbol values themselves do not affect CA states associated with the symbol locations.
  • In some embodiments however, the CA rules may take into account the value of the symbols as part of the rules. For example, some CA rules may be considered to be based on a scarcity of resources model. In such a case, some neighboring cells need to be alive to provide conditions that will bring a dead cell to life, but too many alive cells in one area depletes local resources. Thus, alive cells may go to the dead state of there are too many neighbors that are also alive. In this context, the symbol values may be used to designate areas of richer or poorer resources, such that cells can enter alive or dead states using different criteria than in other symbol locations.
  • Applying these rules can cause complex interactions when applied to lattices of sufficient size and initial state. A system utilizing these CA rules may evolve to one of any number of states. For example, one possible outcome is that the CA system will cause the lattice sites all to reach the dead state. Another possible outcome is that the CA system will cause the lattice sites to reach a periodic cycle in which the states will repeat themselves in an infinite loop. Still another possible outcome is that the CA will cause the lattice sites to reach a state of unpredictable and chaotic state changes. Yet another possible outcome is that the CA will cause the lattice sites to create complex and sometimes long lived structures.
  • A single set of CA rules can generate each of the various outcome types when acting on different state input. In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, outcome-based rules may be applied to gaming devices such as slot machines, whereby the player does not know what to expect when the CA system begins evolving. Such rule-based evolution provides payout opportunities that may continue for short durations or long durations.
  • Current gaming systems (e.g., slot machine concepts) involve gaming events that generate results on randomness, such as an algorithm utilizing a random number generator. This may be enhanced through the use of gaming event outcomes that are dependent on one or more previous states of the system. Among other things, the present embodiments may involve enhancing player anticipation and excitement by applying rules that cause presented symbols to change states based on one or more prior states of one or more symbols. The changing states present new symbol combinations/patterns by which payout opportunities can be provided.
  • In some embodiments of the invention, application of such rule sets to a slot machine grid involve binary rule sets (alive/dead, on/off, etc.) though this should not be considered a limiting factor. Rule sets in the present embodiments may utilize any number of possible site states. For example, state of a given site could be represented as a discrete or continuous numerical value, or other non-numerical values (e.g., red/green/blue, cold/cool/warm/hot, etc.). This CA rules may be applied to grids of various sizes, or dynamically varying sizes. The CA rules may be symmetric (e.g., equally applied regardless of the relative location of neighboring cells) or asymmetric (e.g., calculated differently depending on relative location/direction of neighboring cells).
  • In one embodiment of the invention, CA rules may be applied to slot machines in such a way that CA affects a state of each reel position in a reel set, though this should not be considered a limiting factor. In other embodiments, a CA rule set may be applied to a detached lattice (e.g., separate from the gaming symbols/reels) to generate events which in turn affect the game play. A representative example of a gaming reel set 120 is shown in the block diagram of FIG. 1B according to an example embodiment of the invention. Each reel symbol in the reel set 120 may correspond to a site in a 3×5 CA lattice with binary state values (e.g., alive/dead). When the reels have been evaluated, an initial state for the reels set 120 is evaluated.
  • This initial evaluation may designate some set of the symbol locations as being alive and dead for the purposes of further CA evaluation. For example, certain symbols or symbol locations may be designated as alive either through the currently displayed symbol, random selection or some other selection criteria. In such a case, all other symbol locations may be designated as being dead. For purposes of the following discussion, the state of reel set 120 may be considered being in an initial state, with symbol locations 121-124 being considered as “alive” at the initial state, and all others as “dead.”
  • After this initial evaluation, the CA applies one time step to the lattice 120, changing the states of the symbol locations (which may be modeled as corresponding to CA sites) according to the CA rules and the initial states. One example of the next state of the reel set 120 according to an embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 2A. As indicated by the dark outline in this example, symbol locations 201-204 are each in the alive state at this time due to having been touching (either at a side or a corner) with exactly two previously alive locations 121-124 at the previous time step. At this time step, the reel symbols 201-204 that correspond to the alive state have become wild, while reel symbols with a corresponding dead CA state return to the symbol that resulted from the initial state (which in this example causes no change to symbols in locations 121-124). After the all the reel symbols are evaluated in response to the first time step, payouts may be made based on the reel states shown in FIG. 2A. The CA may then apply another time step to the lattice, and if any CA sites in exist in the alive state, a re-evaluation of symbols and subsequent payout may occur as before. Otherwise, if no CA sites exist in the alive state, the evaluation ends.
  • In other variations, an initial state is determined as before, wherein the symbol locations may be determined as alive or dead according to the CA rules and the initial site states as seen in the lattice 120 of FIG. 1A. The CA then applies at least one time step to the lattice 120, changing the states of the CA sites in accordance with the variations described below. In all of these variations, the CA criteria results in locations 201-204 being in the alive state as was described in relation to FIG. 2A, although the resulting application of live states to the gaming symbols may vary. One variation is shown in FIG. 2B, where the reel symbols 201-204 that correspond to CA sites in the alive state are re-spun while reel symbols with a corresponding dead CA remain unchanged.
  • In another variation shown in FIG. 3A, reel symbols in the alive state are “collapsed,” causing the symbols above them (or adjacent to them, or otherwise affiliated with them) to fall into their place while reel symbols with a corresponding dead CA state remain unchanged. Resulting empty locations are filled in with symbols falling into the reel area from above, as represented by symbol locations 301-304. In yet another of these variations which is shown in FIG. 3B, reel symbols that correspond to CA sites in the alive state are evaluated as a subset of the original symbol set. The appearance of certain symbol combinations within this subset can result in payouts. Thus, in FIG. 3B, this may mean that pattern formed by locations 201-204 may form a payline, even if the locations 201-204 are discontinuous. In such a case, if a combination of symbols resides in the alive locations, the same payout may be available as if, for example, the same combination had been arranged on a traditional payline.
  • Yet another variation is shown by way of example in FIGS. 4A-4B. In the initial state, before any determination of alive or dead sites is made, all reel symbol edges are considered to be non-colored. When the initial alive states are determined (e.g., as represented by locations 121-124 in FIG. 1B), reel symbol edges of the symbols in the alive state are colored, indicated in FIG. 4A by way of hatching at the edges of the symbol locations. In FIG. 4A, the locations 201-204 have next been determined to be alive, and so those locations 201-204 also have colored edges, as well as having a darker outline to indicate a current “alive” state. In FIG. 4B, one more time step has progressed, with additional shading indicating newer locations that have been set to the alive state thereby coloring the borders of the symbol locations. At the end of the some predetermined time or event (e.g., some number of time steps, some predetermined activity pattern, etc.) if a certain number (perhaps all but not limited to all) or configuration of the symbol edges have been colored during repeated applications of the previous steps, a pay or bonus event occurs. This evaluation could also occur at any time during the evolution of the CA.
  • The diagrams of FIGS. 4A-4B also illustrate another variation according to an embodiment of the invention. At the upper right of each location is a circle with a counter indicating the number of time steps in which the corresponding CA site has been set to the alive state during the sequence represented by FIGS. 1B, 4A, and 4B. Additional counters (not shown) may similarly determine how many time steps in which each location/site has been in the dead state. At some predetermined time or event the state counters are evaluated and a payout evaluated. Payouts could be triggered by certain counts being reached, combinations of counts, or any mathematic relationship or distribution of counts. This evaluation may also occur at any time during the evolution of the CA.
  • Note that the rules for ending the previous examples do not have to be limited to the absence of any alive CA sites. Other end conditions could include reaching a predetermined maximum number of evaluations, e.g., a predetermined, fixed amount and/or some number of steps that are paid for via wagering. Another possible end condition could be the detection of a cycle in the CA states. These and/or other desired end conditions may be implemented, either alone or in combination. Furthermore, the detection of a cycle may result in the random addition of an alive/dead CA site to disrupt/excite the cycle or any other corrective measure. It should also be noted that in this and other examples, more than one time step may be applied between reel evaluations and/or payout opportunities (e.g., every other time step, every third time step, random time steps, etc.).
  • In reference now to FIG. 5, a block diagram illustrates another example of the rule-based symbol generation in accordance with an example embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment, a 5×5 grid is presents slot game symbols. Cellular automata rules are used to propagate “wild” symbols during a bonus event. While the invention is equally applicable to main/primary gaming activities, it is used in the context of a secondary or “bonus” event in this example. In this embodiment, the CA model includes a lattice of cells, which in this case are symbols or display segments of the grid, where each of the symbols/segments is in one of a finite set of states. Each cell has a neighborhood, which is the set of one or more surrounding cells which can influence its state. At each time step (e.g., successive step dictated by the rules), the state of each cell is computed according to the rule which takes into account the state of the cell and the state of its neighbors.
  • In this exemplary game, a bonus is triggered when a predetermined symbol (e.g., a red seven in this example) lands in one location on each of the five reels. When this occurs, the reels may first be evaluated normally for payouts, and then red sevens (or other predetermined symbols) ignite on the display. In one embodiment, a multi-layer display is implemented where the sevens effect some animation such as appearing to ignite on the top screen as an overlay image. The ignited sevens cause neighboring symbol locations to ignite on the screen (or perhaps a front screen in a multi-screen environment) following a CA rule set. At each time step, the ignited symbols are treated as a wild symbols, and the reels are evaluated (which may involve payouts at each evaluation, or at less than all of the reel evaluation periods). In one embodiment this process continues until: 1) a time step results in no ignited locations; 2) a cycle is detected in the pattern of ignited locations; or 3) X number of spins occurs.
  • As seen in a first screen 501 in FIG. 5, the special symbols (sevens) each land in a particular location on each of the five reels, such as at least one special symbol on each vertical reel. When this occurs, the reels may optionally be evaluated normally for payouts, and then the sevens appear to ignite on the screen 501, represented here by border shading of the symbol location. The ignited sevens cause neighboring symbol locations to ignite on the screen following a CA rule set, as seen in the next time step represented by screen 502. The process repeats for time steps as seen in screens 503-506. At each time step 501-506, the ignited symbols may be treated as a wild symbols, and the reels are evaluated. This may involve determining payouts at each evaluation, or determining payouts at less than all of the reel evaluation periods.
  • Another example sequence according to an embodiment of the invention is shown in screens 601-603 of FIG. 6. In this example, the ignited symbols in screen 601 are spread out enough such that the CA sites die out in only two time steps, with the possible exception of symbol locations 604-607. Assuming that the CA rules in this example set a cell alive if two neighboring cells are alive, and make no other provision for corners/edges (e.g., a dead corner cell changes to the alive state based on the same number of adjacent cells being alive as is used for interior/edge cells), the sequence of state changes in locations 604-607 seen in screens 601 and 602 could repeat indefinitely if left unchecked. If this is detected, the locations 604-607 may all be set to the dead state as seen in the final screen 603.
  • In reference now to FIG. 7, screens 701-706 illustrate another example where predetermined symbols are initially presented in different locations to trigger the bonus according to an example embodiment of the invention. In this example, the arrangement of sevens along the diagonal in screen 701 may coincide with a pay line, thereby resulting in a payout. This may also trigger activation of additional alive symbols for the CA simulation, such as indicated by the graphic 708 in screen 702 which results in the additional shaded symbol 710 as seen in screen 703. Thereafter, the CA rules may play out over time steps such as seen in screens 704-706. The sequence may include a final screen (not shown) where no symbols are shaded, thereby terminating the sequence.
  • In reference now to FIGS. 8-9, screens 801-806 and 901-905 illustrate another example where a predetermined symbol (or symbols) are initially presented in different locations to trigger the bonus according to an example embodiment of the invention. The screen 901 of FIG. 9 continues the sequence from screen 806 of FIG. 8. In these examples, even though the resulting patterns may appear to be somewhat random to the casual observer, the illustrated sequences may be deterministic and repeatable. The various embodiments need not be limited to deterministic, non-random CA rules however. For example, random variations may be introduced into the CA algorithms that cause the outcomes to vary (e.g., in some statistically predictable manner) given the same initial conditions.
  • Traditional slot games may change reel symbols through the use of an independent agent which traverses the reel grid and makes changes independently of the state of the reels themselves. Such an agent may affect the reel space according to a movement algorithm that uses a random number generator. In embodiments of the present invention, the CA rule applied to the state of the reel positions and the states of their neighbors determines the subsequent states at each step. Thus, embodiments of the present invention may use state rules, not random-driven algorithms to determine changes to the reel set. In such a case, the events that change symbols need not be guided at every step by the application of an algorithm that uses a random number generator. Games such as slot games in accordance with the present invention may exhibit a behavior that is driven by a non-random mathematic principle, even though the initial states of such behaviors may still be randomly determined.
  • It should be noted that the principles described in regards to the illustrated embodiments are applicable to grids of varying sizes and/or shapes. Further, the described embodiments may utilize any number of CA rule sets, and/or be applicable to CA systems with more than two states (e.g., not only alive/dead, but also others such as red/blue/green; cold/cool/warm/hot, etc.). Some possible variations according to embodiments of the invention are illustrated in FIGS. 10A-B.
  • In FIG. 10A, a 3×3 grid 1001 is at an initial state, e.g., the random portion of play has resulted in the illustrated arrangement of symbols, in response to which payouts may be determined. For the CA portion of the game (which may be part of the main game and/or a bonus event) each symbol location/cell is then divided into four segments, indicated here by dashed lines. Each of these quarter segments is treated as a CA site, with shading indicating those sites in an “alive” state. Every symbol may have at least some portion of its containing cell/site being in an alive state. In this embodiment, each symbol has a specific pattern of CA sites associated with its containing cell/site. For example, the single “bar” symbols all have the lower left quarter of the symbol location rectangle in the alive state, with the other three quarters of the symbol location being in the dead state.
  • Screen 1002 shows a progression of one time step, which may utilize CA rules similar to those previously discussed. When all quarters of a symbol location are in the alive state, such as shown for location 1004, then some event may occur such as described above. For example, the location 1004 may be changed to a wild symbol. In such a case, when the sequence has come to an end, the grid may be reevaluated for payouts using any and all newly added wild symbols that result from the CA sequence.
  • In FIG. 10B, a 3×3 grid 1011 is at an initial state, e.g., the random portion of play has resulted in the illustrated arrangement of symbols, after which payouts are determined. For the CA portion of the game (which may be part of the main game and/or a bonus event) each symbol location/cell may take on one of two colors. A first color is associated with the “seven” symbol, and a second color is associated with the cherry symbol. Both of these colors may indicate CA cells that are alive, however may be evaluated independently of other colored cells.
  • For example, each cell may determine separately whether it is in the alive state with regards to each different color. In such a case, a neighboring cell of the first color may be considered as “dead” when evaluating whether a cell is alive for the second color, and vice versa. If the evaluation determines that the cell is alive for both colors, then it could be set to one of the colors by default. In this example, cells 1014 and 1016 each neighbor two cells of each color, and in this case the second color is always chosen when there is a tie, as seen in screen 1012. In other variations, the cell could be considered dead if it is alive for both colors, the winning color could be randomly chosen, etc. In yet other variations, a neighboring cell of the first color may be considered as “alive” when evaluating whether a cell is alive for the second color, and vice versa. In such a case, other rules may be introduced to determine what color the cell should take if it is adjacent to at least two cells of two different colors.
  • The present invention may be used in connection with slot machines, computing devices and/or other gaming devices. In reference now to FIG. 11, a block diagram illustrates a representative embodiment of a casino-style gaming device in which the principles of the present invention may be applied. For purposes of explanation, the description of the gaming device is FIG. 11 is provided in terms of a kiosk or “slot machine” 1100. However, the present invention is analogously applicable to other computer-based systems.
  • The illustrated gaming machine 1100 includes a computing system (not shown) to carry out operations according to the invention. The illustrated gaming machine 1100 includes a display 1102, and a user interface 1104, although some or all of the user interface may be provided via the display 1102 in touch screen embodiments. The user interface 1104 allows the user to control and engage in play of the gaming machine 1100. The particular user interface mechanisms associated with user interface 1104 is dependent on the type of gaming machine. For example, the user interface 1104 may include one or more buttons, switches, joysticks, levers, pull-down handles, trackballs, voice-activated input, or any other user input system or mechanism that allows the user to play the particular gaming activity.
  • The user interface 1104 may allow the user to enter coins, bills, or otherwise obtain credits through vouchers, tokens, credit cards, tickets, etc. Various mechanisms for entering such vouchers, tokens, credit cards, coins, tickets, etc. are known in the art. For example, coin/token input mechanisms, card readers, credit card readers, smart card readers, punch card readers, and other mechanisms may be used to enter wagers. It is through the user interface 1104 that the user can initiate and engage in a gaming activity in accordance with the invention. For example, the user can use the user interface 1104 to operate the gaming device and make gaming decisions (e.g., bet max, bet special payout, etc.) that will otherwise make the user eligible for a feature in accordance with the invention. While the illustrated embodiment depicts various buttons for the user interface 1104, it should be recognized that a wide variety of user interface options are available for use in connection with the present invention, including pressing buttons, touching a segment of a touch-screen, entering text, entering voice commands, or other known user entry methodology. The embodiments described herein are not dependent on any particular user interface mechanism.
  • The display device 1102 may include one or more of an electronic display, a mechanical display, and fixed display information such as information such as paytable information associated with a glass/plastic panel 1108 on the gaming machine 1100.
  • The winning symbol combinations and/or other indicia associated with the play of the game may be presented via mechanical and/or electronic display mechanisms, as depicted in the gaming area 1110.
  • A display segment or panel 1114 may also be provided to display information such as the accumulated credits, current bet amount such as “10” credits per payline (where credits may represent, for example, coins, tokens, dollars, etc.), the number of paylines played, the special wager (if any) to be eligible for participation in the inventive features, total bet, the number of credits paid out or “won” on a particular play, etc. A wager acceptor 1116 is operative to receive wager tokens, coins, bills, credit/debit cards, coupons, smart cards, prepaid casino cards, electronic fund transfer (EFT), tickets, and the like.
  • As may now be readily understood, the device 1100 of FIG. 11 may be programmed to play various embodiments of the invention. The present invention may be implemented as a casino gaming machine such as a slot machine or other special purpose gaming kiosk as described in FIG. 11, or may be implemented via computing systems operating under the direction of local gaming software, and/or remotely-provided software such as provided by an application service provider (ASP). The casino gaming machines utilize computing systems to control and manage the gaming activity. An example of a representative computing system capable of carrying out operations in accordance with the invention is illustrated in FIG. 12.
  • Hardware, firmware, software or a combination thereof may be used to perform the various gaming functions, display presentations and operations described herein. The functional modules used in connection with the invention may reside in a gaming machine as described, or may alternatively reside on a stand-alone or networked computing device/system. The computing structure 1200 of FIG. 12 is an exemplary computing structure that can be used in connection with such electronic gaming machines, computers, or other computer-implemented devices to carry out operations of the present invention.
  • The example computing arrangement 1200 suitable for performing the gaming functions in accordance with the present invention typically includes a central processor (CPU) 1202 coupled to random access memory (RAM) 1204 and some variation of read-only memory (ROM) 1206. The ROM 1206 may also represent other types of computer readable storage media to store programs, such as programmable ROM (PROM), erasable PROM (EPROM), etc. The processor 1202 may communicate with other internal and external components through input/output (I/O) circuitry 1208 and bussing 1210, to provide control signals, communication signals, and the like.
  • Chance-based gaming systems such as slot machines, in which the present invention is applicable, are governed by random numbers and processors. A display device 1211 is used to display the gaming activity as facilitated by one or more random number generators (RNG). RNGs are well-known in the art, and may be implemented using hardware, software operable in connection with the processor 1202, or some combination of hardware and software. The present invention is operable using any known RNG, and may be integrally programmed as part of the processor 1202 operation, or alternatively may be a separate RNG controller 1240.
  • The computing arrangement 1200 may also include one or more data storage devices, including hard and floppy disk drives 1212, CD-ROM drives 1214, and other hardware capable of reading and/or storing information such as DVD, FLASH drives, etc. In one embodiment, software for carrying out the operations in accordance with the present invention may be stored and distributed on a CD-ROM 1216, diskette 1218, DVD, FLASH device or other form of computer readable storage media capable of portably storing information. These storage media may be inserted into, and read by, devices such as the CD-ROM drive 1214, the disk drive 1212, etc. The software may also be transmitted to the computing arrangement 1200 via data signals, such as being downloaded electronically via a network, such as the Internet. Further, as previously described, the software for carrying out the functions associated with the present invention may alternatively be stored in internal memory/storage of the computing device 1200, such as in the ROM 1206.
  • The computing arrangement 1200 is coupled to the display 1211, which represents a display on which the gaming activities in accordance with the invention may be presented. The display 1211 may be any type of known display or presentation screen, such as LCD displays, plasma display, cathode ray tubes (CRT), etc. Where the computing device 1200 represents a stand-alone or networked computer, the display 1211 may represent a standard computer terminal or display capable of displaying multiple windows, frames, etc. Where the computing device is embedded within an electronic gaming machine (see FIG. 11), the display 1211 corresponds to the display screen of the gaming machine/kiosk. A user input interface 1222 such as a mouse, keyboard/keypad, microphone, touch pad, trackball, joystick, touch screen, voice-recognition system, etc. may be provided.
  • The computing arrangement 1200 may be connected to other computing devices or gaming machines, such as via a network. The computing arrangement 1200 may be connected to a network server 1228 in an intranet or local network configuration. The computer may further be part of a larger network configuration as in a global area network (GAN) such as the Internet. In such a case, the computer accesses one or more web servers 1230 via the network/Internet 1232.
  • Other components directed to gaming machine implementations include manners of gaming participant payment, and gaming machine payout. For example, a gaming machine including the computing arrangement 1200 may also include a hopper controller 1242 to determine the amount of payout to be provided to the participant. The hopper controller may be integrally implemented with the processor 1202, or alternatively as a separate hopper controller 1242. A hopper 1244 may also be provided in gaming machine embodiments, where the hopper serves as the mechanism holding the coins/tokens of the machine. The wager input module 1246 represents any mechanism for accepting coins, tokens, coupons, bills, electronic fund transfer (EFT), tickets, credit cards, smart cards, membership cards, etc., for which a participant inputs a wager amount.
  • Additionally, the computing arrangement 1200 may include a transmitter (TX) 1250, and may include a receiver (RX) 1252. These TX 1250 and RX 1252 components may be discrete components, or aggregated such as in the case of a transceiver. The receiver function provided by the RX 1252 can be configured to receive information from any type of network, such as a local area network (LAN), wireless LAN (e.g., 802.11a/b/g), wired network (e.g., Internet), wireless network (e.g., Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service (GSM/GPRS), proximity networks (e.g., Bluetooth, peer-to-peer networks), and/or other wired/wireless network technologies. For example, the RX 1252 may receive server-based information via the web server 1230, server 1228, etc. Information such as wager information or other data used by a server to establish or adjust the winning amounts can be provided to the appropriate server 1228, 1230 or other device or network entity via the TX 1250.
  • Among other functions, the computing arrangement 1200 provides an interactive experience to players via input interface 1222 and output devices, such as the display 1211, speaker 1229, etc. These experiences are generally controlled by gaming software 1234 that controls a primary gaming activity of the computing arrangement 1200. The gaming software 1234 may be temporarily loaded into RAM 1204, and may be stored locally using any combination of ROM 1206, drives 1212, or media player 1214. The primary gaming software 1234 may also be accessed remotely, such as via the server 1228 or the Internet 1232. The processor(s) 1202 and/or other circuitry may be used, either alone or via software 1234, to execute rule sets, such as a CA rule set, in order to perform functions in accordance with the present invention. It should also be recognized that the computing arrangement 1200 of FIG. 12 may be implemented in a gaming apparatus, or in a server or other network entity that determines and provides functionality in accordance with the invention.
  • In reference now to FIG. 13, a flowchart illustrates a procedure according to an example embodiment of the invention. Symbols are randomly arranged 1302 on a gaming machine. The random arrangement represents initial states of the symbols for purposes of applying a cellular automata rule. The cellular automata rule is then applied 1304 to the symbols. The cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to a subsequent state independently of a value of the symbols. The subsequent state of each symbol may be based at least on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of another of the symbols. A payout condition is evaluated 1306 based on the subsequent states of the symbols. If the condition indicates 1308 a payout, then a payout is provided 1310.
  • In reference now to FIG. 14, a flowchart illustrates a procedure according to another example embodiment of the invention. A random arrangement of symbols is rendered 1402 on a gaming machine. At a first time step, an active state is assigned 1404 to a subset of the symbols and an inactive state to all others of the symbols. A first loop 1406 is iterated for each of a plurality of additional time steps, and a second loop 1408 is iterated for each symbol. For each symbol, it is determined 1410 whether to set the symbol to the active or inactive state for the current time step. This determination may be based on a) the state of the symbol at the previous time step, and b) the state of neighbors of the symbol at the previous time step.
  • After all symbols have been considered, loop 1408 terminates and it is determined 1412 if a payout is to be considered at this time step. If so, a payout evaluation is performed 1414 based on the states of the symbols. The evaluation will be performed 1414 for at least one of the time steps. Whether or not a payout is considered, it is next determined 1416 whether the collective states of the symbols results in a terminating condition. If the terminating condition is detected, the determination 1410 is no longer applied as indicated by terminating block 1418. If the terminating condition is not detected, loop 1406 continues for another time step.
  • The foregoing description of the exemplary embodiment of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. For example, the present invention is equally applicable in electronic or mechanical gaming machines.

Claims (28)

1. A method comprising:
causing a random arrangement of symbols to be rendered via a gaming apparatus;
at a first time step, assigning an active state to a subset of the symbols and an inactive state to others of the symbols;
for one or more additional time steps, performing for each symbol:
a) determining whether to set the symbol to the active or inactive state for the additional time step via a rule that is based on 1) a state of the symbol at a previous time step, and 2) a state of neighbors of the symbol at the previous time step, wherein the state of the symbol and the state of the neighbors are selected from the active and inactive states;
b) determining if the collective states of the symbols results in a terminating condition; and
c) if the terminating condition is detected, ceasing to apply the rule for additional time steps; and
performing a payout evaluation based on the states of the symbols for at least one of the first and additional time steps.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein performing the payout evaluation comprises changing any symbols in the active state to wild symbols.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein performing the payout evaluation comprises randomly generating new symbols to replace any symbols in the active state.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the terminating condition comprises one or more of a) determining that all of the symbols are at the inactive state; and b) detecting an infinitely repeating sequence of the states for at least a portion of the symbols and a portion of the time steps.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the active state is assigned to a subset of the symbols based on a value of the symbols.
6. A non-transitory computer readable storage medium storing instructions that are executable by a processor to cause an apparatus to perform the method of claim 1.
7. A gaming apparatus comprising:
a processor and memory storing instructions that are executable by a processor to cause the gaming apparatus to perform the method of claim 1.
8. A method comprising:
causing a random arrangement of symbols of a gaming machine, wherein the random arrangement represents a initial state of the symbols for purposes of applying a cellular automata rule;
applying the cellular automata rule to the symbols, wherein the cellular automata rule changes the symbols to at least one subsequent state independently of a value of the symbols;
evaluating a payout condition based on the subsequent state of the symbols; and
conditionally providing a payout based on the payout condition.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the cellular automata rule comprises a deterministic rule.
10. The method of claim 8, wherein the states of the symbols comprise binary states.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of at least one neighboring symbol.
12. The method of claim 11, wherein the binary states comprise alive states and dead states; and wherein, in the initial state, particular symbols are set to the alive state; and wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state as follows:
if the symbol is currently in the alive state and a first number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol remains in the alive state, otherwise the symbol changes to the dead state; and
if the symbol is currently in the dead state and a second number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol changes to the alive state, otherwise the symbol remains in the dead state.
13. The method of claim 10, wherein evaluating the payout condition comprises changing to a wild symbol any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states.
14. The method of claim 10, wherein evaluating the payout condition comprises randomly generating a new symbol to replace any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states.
15. The method of claim 8, wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of at least one neighboring symbol.
16. The method of claim 8, wherein the subsequent state comprises a plurality of sequentially evaluated states, wherein the cellular automata rule causes the symbols to change respective state for each of the time steps based on a) a previous state of each symbol and b) a previous state of another of the symbols.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein the sequentially evaluated states are evaluated until at least one of the following occurs:
a) all of the symbols are at a same state; and
b) an infinitely repeating sequence of states is detected for at least a portion of the symbols.
18. A non-transitory computer readable storage medium storing instructions that are executable by a processor to cause an apparatus to perform the method of claim 8.
19. A gaming apparatus comprising:
a processor; and
memory coupled to the processor, wherein the memory stores instructions operable by the processor to cause the apparatus to:
cause a random arrangement of symbols rendered via the gaming apparatus, wherein the random arrangement represents initial states of the symbols for purposes of applying a cellular automata rule;
apply the cellular automata rule to the symbols, wherein the cellular automata rule changes the symbols to at least one subsequent state independently of a value of the symbols;
evaluate a payout condition based on the subsequent state of the symbols; and
conditionally provide a payout based on the payout condition.
20. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the cellular automata rule comprises a deterministic rule.
21. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the states of the symbols comprise binary states.
22. The gaming apparatus of claim 21, wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of at least one neighboring symbols.
23. The gaming apparatus of claim 22, wherein the binary states comprise alive states and dead states; and wherein, in the initial state, particular symbols are set to the alive state; and wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state as follows:
if the symbol is currently in the alive state and a first number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol remains in the alive state, otherwise the symbol changes to the dead state;
otherwise if the symbol is currently in the dead state and a second number range of neighboring symbols are in the alive state, the symbol changes to the alive state, otherwise the symbol remains in the dead state.
24. The gaming apparatus of claim 21, wherein evaluating the payout condition comprises changing to a wild symbol any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states.
25. The gaming apparatus of claim 21, wherein evaluating the payout condition comprises generating a new symbol to replace any symbols in the subsequent states that correspond to a selected one of the binary states.
26. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the cellular automata rule changes each of the symbols to the subsequent state based on a) the initial state of each symbol and b) the initial state of at least one neighboring symbol.
27. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the subsequent state comprises a plurality of sequentially evaluated states, wherein the cellular automata rule causes the symbols to change respective state for each of the time steps based on a) a previous state of each symbol and b) a previous state of another of the symbols.
28. The gaming apparatus of claim 27, wherein the sequentially evaluated states are evaluated until at least one of the following occurs:
a) all of the symbols are at a same state; and
b) an infinitely repeating sequence of states is detected for at least a portion of the symbols.
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Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BERMAN, BRADLEY;LAMB, JACOB;BERMAN, PETER;SIGNING DATES FROM 20100804 TO 20100805;REEL/FRAME:024997/0336