US20130190096A1 - Usable Ghosting Features in a Team-Based Game - Google Patents

Usable Ghosting Features in a Team-Based Game Download PDF

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Publication number
US20130190096A1
US20130190096A1 US13/353,792 US201213353792A US2013190096A1 US 20130190096 A1 US20130190096 A1 US 20130190096A1 US 201213353792 A US201213353792 A US 201213353792A US 2013190096 A1 US2013190096 A1 US 2013190096A1
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user
ghost
game
team
recited
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US13/353,792
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Eyal Ronen
Doron Nir
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STEAMGO Ltd
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STEAMGO Ltd
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Priority to US13/353,792 priority Critical patent/US20130190096A1/en
Assigned to STEAMGO LTD reassignment STEAMGO LTD ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: NIR, DORON, RONEN, Eyal
Publication of US20130190096A1 publication Critical patent/US20130190096A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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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
    • A63F13/35Details of game servers
    • 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
    • A63F13/45Controlling the progress of the video game
    • A63F13/49Saving the game status; Pausing or ending the game
    • A63F13/497Partially or entirely replaying previous game actions
    • 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
    • A63F13/50Controlling the output signals based on the game progress
    • A63F13/53Controlling the output signals based on the game progress involving additional visual information provided to the game scene, e.g. by overlay to simulate a head-up display [HUD] or displaying a laser sight in a shooting game
    • A63F13/537Controlling the output signals based on the game progress involving additional visual information provided to the game scene, e.g. by overlay to simulate a head-up display [HUD] or displaying a laser sight in a shooting game using indicators, e.g. showing the condition of a game character on screen
    • A63F13/5375Controlling the output signals based on the game progress involving additional visual information provided to the game scene, e.g. by overlay to simulate a head-up display [HUD] or displaying a laser sight in a shooting game using indicators, e.g. showing the condition of a game character on screen for graphically or textually suggesting an action, e.g. by displaying an arrow indicating a turn in a driving game
    • 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
    • A63F13/80Special adaptations for executing a specific game genre or game mode
    • A63F13/847Cooperative playing, e.g. requiring coordinated actions from several players to achieve a common goal
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/38Protocols for telewriting; Protocols for networked simulations, virtual reality or games

Abstract

A system and method are disclosed for providing a ghost in an asynchronous game. Data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user is recorded during asynchronous gameplay. At least one ghost to be displayed to a second user is generated with the recorded data associated with the first user. The at least one ghost is configured for use by the second user in performing at least one action.

Description

    COPYRIGHT NOTICE
  • A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material, which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
  • CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • The present application is being filed concurrently with U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ (Attorney Docket: 264-002) titled “ASYNCHRONOUS TEAM-BASED GAME”, the entirety of which is herein incorporated by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present principles are directed to playing games over a network, and more particularly, to an asynchronous, multiplayer gaming platform.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • A variety of different game types are currently in use that permit users to play as a team. For example, games have been developed for personal gaming consoles (e.g., Microsoft's Xbox™, Sony's Playstation™ or Nintendo's Wii™), personal computers, handheld gaming devices and mobile devices (e.g., cell phones and personal digital assistants). Many of these games can be played over a network such as the Internet. The games can be classified into different categories.
  • One category of games is referred to as massive multiplayer online games (MMO or MMOG). These games can support hundreds, or even thousands, of users playing a game over the Internet, and these games are typically played from a personal computer. An example of such game is the well-known World of Warcraft™ developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
  • Personal gaming consoles, such as Xbox™ and Playstation 3™, provide functionalities which permit users to connect to a network and play games over the Internet. For example, Xbox Live™ is an online multiplayer gaming service offered by Microsoft™ to users at an additional cost.
  • Social networking games represent another category of games which are played over the Internet. These types of games are played through social networks. Exemplary social networking games include Farm Town™, Green Patch™, Mob Wars™ and The Sims Social™
  • Although the idea of playing a game as a team may exist on current platforms, existing platforms only permit team play in a synchronous manner.
  • Furthermore, it is pointed that some of the games described above may implement “ghosting” features. Generally speaking, the ghosting features indicate to a user of a team the actions which were engaged in by other players on the user's team. However, while the ghosting features provided in existing team games may provide some indication as to the actions taken by other team members, existing team games do not permit users to interact or utilize the ghosting features during gameplay.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present disclosure relates a new genre of gaming which facilitates a novel level of collaboration among players that form a virtual team. Amongst other things, members of the virtual team can cooperate to complete team tasks, exercise joint ownership over virtual goods in a shared inventory, and jointly earn team accolades. Users may play the game asynchronously at different times. Every time a user plays the game, data associated with the user's gaming session is recorded on a centralized server which is accessible to players on the user's team. This data may be utilized to generate and present ghosting features on a gaming canvas displayed to other team members. Amongst other things, the ghosting features may indicate gaming activities engaged in by the user, and can be utilized by the other team members in various ways (e.g., to complete tasks, obtain objects or earn accolades).
  • In accordance with the present principles, a method is disclosed for providing an asynchronous game. Shared elements (e.g., a shared canvas, shared object or a shared inventory) of a game are stored on a computer readable storage medium that is accessible to the players of the team over the network. Data is received from a first player of the team which is indicative of gaming activities modifying the shared elements. The shared elements are updated with the data received from the first player to generate an updated game state. Update data representing the updated game state is transmitted to at least one other player on the team.
  • In accordance with another embodiment of the present principles, a system disclosed for providing an asynchronous game. A memory stores shared elements of a game that is accessible to players of a team over a network. A server is configured to receive data from a first player of the team indicative of gaming activities altering or modifying the shared elements, and to update the shared elements with the data received from the first player to generate an updated game state. The server is further configured to transmit update data representing the updated game state to at least one other player on the team.
  • In accordance with an embodiment of the present principles, a method is disclosed for providing a ghost in an asynchronous game. Data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user is recorded during asynchronous gameplay. At least one ghost to be displayed to a second user is generated with the recorded data associated with the first user. The at least one ghost is configured for use by the second user in performing at least one action.
  • In accordance with an embodiment of the present principles, a system is disclosed for providing a ghost in an asynchronous game. The system includes a database for storing recorded data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user during asynchronous gameplay. A ghost controller is configured to utilize the recorded data associated with the first user to generate at least one ghost for display to a second user, and to configure the at least one ghost for use by the second user in performing at least one action.
  • These and other features and advantages will become apparent from the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments thereof, which is to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
  • The invention is illustrated in the figures of the accompanying drawings which are meant to be exemplary and not limiting, in which like references are intended to refer to like or corresponding parts, and in which:
  • FIG. 1 is a system for implementing an asynchronous, team-based gaming platform in accordance with one embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 2 is a detailed view of a client for facilitating an asynchronous gaming platform in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 3 is a detailed view of a server for facilitating an asynchronous gaming platform in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 4 is a method for retrieving an updated game status at a client in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 5 is a method for transmitting an updated game status to a server in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 6 is a method for operating an asynchronous, team-based gaming platform in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 7 is a method for creating a team in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 8 is a method that illustrates how a shared environment can be implemented between two players in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 9 is a canvas for a game that illustrates an exemplary manner of using a ghost of a teammate during gameplay.
  • FIG. 10 is a canvas for a game that includes ghosting features to indicate actions taken by teammates or other players in accordance with one embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 11 is a canvas for a game that includes ghosting features to indicate actions taken by teammates or other players in accordance with another embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 12 a method for inserting a ghost into a canvas in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 13 a diagram illustrating a team task that is distributed among a plurality of team members in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • FIG. 14 a system for providing a joint inventory that is shared among a plurality of team members in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS
  • In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.
  • Referring now to the drawings in which like numerals represent the same or similar elements and initially to FIG. 1, a system 100 is disclosed for implementing an asynchronous, team-based gaming platform in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles. As illustrated in this figure, the system 100 includes a server 120 that is connected to a plurality of clients 110 via a network 140 (e.g., the Internet, a local area network (LAN), intranet or other network). Clients 110 connect to the server 120 via the network 140 to play the game 125. Clients 110 may connect to the server 120 using any type of wired or wireless connection.
  • In an embodiment, the game 125 may be embodied as a program, application or module associated that includes a set of instructions that can be executed by a processor. The game 125 may be any type of game, e.g., a military game, strategy game, puzzle, city building game, simulation game, etc. The game 125 can be played in variety of different formats including: (1) an “ad-hoc format” in which users join teams to accomplish a specific task or mission; (2) an “exclusive team format” in which each user is a member of a single team at any time; (3) a “non-exclusive format” in which a user can be part of multiple teams at a given time; (4) a “one time format” in which users that are already playing the game can join as a team for a particular session; or (5) a “team vs. team” format in which a first team of players compete or collaborate with one or more additional teams. Other formats and game types may also be utilized.
  • A plurality of clients 110 may collaboratively play the game 125 together as a virtual team 115. Users that are part of a virtual team 115 may work together or cooperate to complete tasks, missions or achievements. In addition, virtual teams 115 may share an inventory (e.g., weapons or health elixirs), and exercise joint ownership over virtual goods (e.g., can buy, sell, upgrade or use items in the inventory). While each user can still have individual tasks or achievements, users are part of a larger team-based gameplay progression.
  • A team 115 can move between different games 115. Hence, the notion of a team 115 is not necessarily based on a specific game. Rather, a team 115 may play several games 125 together. In certain embodiments, the information associated with a team 115 in one game 125 can be accessed and utilized by other games 125.
  • No direct connection between the team members is required to create a virtual team 115. However, in certain embodiments, the clients 110 may be directly connected each other (e.g., using a wired or wireless connection). In addition, when playing the game as part of a virtual team 115, it is not necessary for all members of the team to be playing the game 125 simultaneously. Although users are permitted to play the game 125 at the same time, asynchronous gameplay is provided to permit users to play the game at different times. Each user utilizes a client 110 to connect to the server 120 to play the game 125. When starting the game 125, the client 110 retrieves the current status of the game 125. Amongst other things, the data retrieved includes all of the relevant actions, activities, tasks, achieved progress, outcomes, etc. undertaken by the user's teammates while the user was not connected to the game 125.
  • As the user plays the game 125, all data associated with the user's gaming session may be recorded by the user's client 110 and stored on the server 120. When other users (e.g., teammates) play the game 125, the recorded data may be retrieved and utilized to generate and display ghosting features on the gaming canvas displayed to other team members. Amongst other things, the ghosting features may indicate gaming activities engaged in by the user. The ghosting features be utilized by the other team members in various ways (e.g., to complete tasks, obtain objects or earn accolades).
  • The data recorded and stored for a user's session may include data associated with a variety of different gaming activities. As used herein, a “gaming activity” generally refers to any type of action or activity the user engages in within the confines of the game 125. For example, a gaming activity may represent the situation where a user progresses to a new level in a game 125, engages in battle with an opponent, unlocks an achievement, completes a task or sub-task assigned to the user, utilizes a virtual good or item in the inventory, or any other activity in which the user engages in while playing the game 125.
  • As a user plays the game 125, everything that the user does may be recorded, including all gaming activities engaged in the user, and the information associated with each recorded session may be stored on the server database 130 (although the client 110 may temporarily save this data locally before transmission to the server 120). When saving information related to a user's session to the database 130, a variety of different parameters may be saved with each activity including time stamps, information indicating the type of activity that took place (e.g., opened a crate, opened a door or added a building), specific parameters associated with the activity (e.g., an identification number for a door that was opened), movement data (e.g., vectors and locations), information indicating the speed of an activity or player, outcomes related to the data (e.g., whether a trophy was achieved or whether a new level was attained), current location of the player or activity, game specific data (e.g., pertaining to a task or level), or objects used in performing the activity (e.g., a club or car). Any other data related to a gaming activity may also be saved to the database 130. In certain embodiments, this data may be saved based on time intervals (e.g., every few seconds all activity data is uploaded to the server 120) or based on the occurrence of particular actions or activities (e.g., activity data is uploaded to the server 120 after the user completes particular activities or tasks).
  • At any moment, the server 120 stores all of the users' gaming activities (except for possibly the last few actions that are yet to be transmitted). This information is referred to as the “current state” or “current status” of a game. The current status of a game may be retrieved by a client 110 when starting a game 125 and periodically as a user plays the game 125.
  • FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate a detailed implementation of a server 120 and a client 110 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. While the server 120 and the client 110 may generally be described in terms of modules which represent separate and distinct entities, it should be recognized that the functions performed by the modules may overlap and that the modules may be combined in in any manner whatsoever (e.g., all of the modules may be implemented as part of a single program). While the modules may be described as software modules, it should be recognized that each of the modules may be implemented in software, hardware or any combination of the two. Furthermore, in certain embodiments, components or modules running on the server 120 may alternatively be performed by the client 110, and vice versa.
  • Initially addressing FIG. 2, an exemplary system 200 for implementing a client 110 is disclosed. The client 110 may include a content retriever 205, a content updater 210, a local memory 215 and a merger 220. In certain embodiments, the client 110 and its related components may be implemented as a piece of software that is run on a device (e.g., desktop computer, tablet, cell phone, personal digital assistant, laptop, etc.) which is operated by a user. The client 110 may represent a website, flash module, game disk, (e.g., a compact disk or computer disk), mobile application, console game, or the like. All user interaction with the game 125 is done through the client 110. Some actions are handled locally by the client 110, while other are sent to the server 120 that processes the associated data and returns a response.
  • The content retriever 205 may represent an application, program routine or software module that is configured to pull data from the server 120 to obtain an updated status of a game 125, or may be configured to receive data that is pushed to the client 110 indicating the updated status of the game 125. The content retriever 205 may be responsible for all communication between the client 110 and the server 120, as well as any communication with external entities (e.g., the website for Facebook™ or other social network). Data retrieved from the server 120 may be stored in a local memory 215, which may represent a data structure or collection of data that is stored on a storage medium (e.g., RAM) residing on the same device that is running the client 110.
  • A merger 220 may represent an application, program routine or software module that is configured to analyze the retrieved content to determine the content that is to be displayed by the client 110 to the user. Specifically, the merger 220 merges all of the various data associated with the game 125 into a single presentation for display. For example, the merger 220 consolidates all the data that may affect the appearance of the canvas and the use of a team's inventory. This may include consolidating all data associated with providing ghosting features (discussed below) or other elements on the canvas.
  • The merger 220 is also configured to correctly determine and present information that is relevant to a particular user. Certain information may be relevant to one team member, while it is not relevant for other team members. The merger 220 identifies and incorporates the information which is relevant for a particular user into a unified presentation. The unified presentation produced by the merger 220 is then provided to be displayed.
  • As a user plays the game 125, data associated with the users' activities may be recorded in the local memory 215. The content updater 210 may retrieve this data from the local memory 215 and transmit the data to the server 120 as the game 125 is being played or when a user terminates a gaming session. The data may be transmitted periodically or upon the occurrence of particular activities or actions that occur during the game 125.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary method 400 for configuring the content retriever 205. The content retriever 205 may represent an application, program routine or software module that is configured to retrieve data from the server 120 indicating the current status of the game (block 401). As the user plays the game 125, the client 110 sends a request to a server 120 for updates associated with the game 125 (block 405). The request may be sent periodically (e.g., every few seconds), in response to certain gaming activities (e.g., when a new level is achieved), in response to an explicit indication by the user (e.g., the user selects a “retrieve updates” button) or for other reasons.
  • A determination is made as to whether updates are available (block 410). If no updates are available, then the method 400 proceeds back to block 405. However, if updates are available, then the updated data is retrieved (block 415). Any retrieved updates may be stored in a local memory 215 by the content retriever 205. A merger 220 then analyzes the retrieved data and decides what relevant status needs to be presented for displaying the current status of the game 125 (block 420). The method 400 proceeds back to block 405.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary method 500 of operation for the content updater 210. A user loads the game 125 via the client 110 to begin gameplay (block 505). As the user plays the game 125, all gaming activities associated with the game 125 are recorded by the client 110 (block 510). Data associated with the activities may be stored a local memory 215 by the client 110.
  • A determination is made as to whether there are any updates to be transmitted to the server 120 (block 515). It should be noted that it may not be necessary to transmit all data which is indicative of a user's activities. Rather, in certain embodiments, only certain activities require updates to be sent to the server 120. If there are no updates to be transmitted, the method 500 proceeds back to block 510. On the other hand, if updates are available, then the updates are transmitted to the server 120 for storage (block 52) and the method proceeds back to block 510.
  • Having described the operation of the client 110 and its associated components, an exemplary system 300 for implementing the server 120 is now provided with reference to FIG. 3. As shown therein, the server 120 may include a memory 301 that includes a plurality of software components, applications or modules which are executable by a processor 360. An asynchronous team play controller 305 is configured to manage and facilitate the operations relating to providing an asynchronous gaming platform for users that play a game 125 as part of virtual team 115. For example, the asynchronous team play controller 305 may be responsible for storing updates received from clients in the gaming database 350 at the server 120, and for ensuring that each client 110 that is connected to the server 120 during gameplay maintains the current status of the game.
  • The asynchronous team play controller 305 may also be configured to handle gameplay when two or more team members are simultaneously logged in to the game 125. While two or more team members are permitted to play the game 125 at the same time, the game 125 is played in an asynchronous manner. Depending on the game, the asynchronous team play controller 305 can transmit updates periodically or in response to certain criteria (e.g., requests from clients 110 or upon completion of certain gaming activities). When multiple clients 110 are playing the game simultaneously, it is likely the update data that should be transmitted to each of the clients 110 will differ. For example, if players A, B and C are playing the game, player A may only need the update data associated with players B and C, while player B may only need the update data associated with players A and C. The asynchronous team play controller 305 is configured to determine the appropriate updates to be sent to each client 110, and to transmit the updates to each of the clients 110.
  • One can imagine that problems may arise when multiple users are playing the game 125 simultaneously due to the fact that the gaming database 350 is continuously being updated by more than one user. Thus, to ensure that updates are made atomically and in the appropriate manner, the asynchronous team play controller 305 may utilize a locking mechanism (e.g., semaphores and/or mutex locks), which permits only one user to update the database at any given time (e.g., a time interval defined by a few milliseconds). The asynchronous team play controller 305 resolves any potential activity “collisions” if two or more users are trying to send colliding data to the server 120.
  • The team controller 310 is configured to handle operations related to managing a virtual team 115. Depending upon the particular game 125 being played and make-up of a particular team 115, the configuration of the team controller 310 may vary. The team controller 310 may be configured to add members to a team 115, remove members from a team 115, or edit existing members that are part of a team 115.
  • Before a user is permitted to play a game 125, the user may be required to setup a user profile 353. In other cases, the server 120 automatically creates a user profile 353 for a user. For example, the server 120 may automatically generate a user entity and associated user profile 353 when a user enters a game 125, or the server 120 may utilize information from an external entity (e.g., Facebook™) to establish a user profile 353. The user profile 353 includes descriptive information about a user (e.g., name, location, user ID, email address, etc.) and may also specify gaming content (e.g., avatars) that is to be associated with the user during gameplay.
  • When adding or removing users from a team 115, the team controller 310 may associate or disassociate a user profile 353 with an instance of a team profile 354 stored in the gaming database 350. The team profile 354 may store all data related to a team (e.g., team members, games being played by the team, etc.) Likewise, when editing an existing member of a team 115, the team controller 310 may modify the team profile 354 and/or user's profile 353 stored in the gaming database 350.
  • The team controller 353 may also be responsible for enforcing a set of rules associated with a particular team or game. For example, consider an exemplary game 125 that requires three team members in order to play and which assigns each of the players to a specific role (e.g., a wizard, warrior and princess) that has abilities and functions which are unique to the role. In this scenario, the team controller 353 may be responsible for enforcing rules on the composition of the team (e.g., there must be at least three team members) and the rules associated with the roles assigned to each team member (e.g., the wizard can attack with magic and the warrior can attack with a sword).
  • In certain embodiments, the team controller 310 may also be responsible for the manner in which a team interacts with mercenaries. Generally speaking, the term “mercenary” refers to a user that is not a part of the team 115 or social graph, but who plays with the team for specific reason. A mercenary may be hired for a specific period of time, for a specific task or to assist with specific gaming activities. In certain embodiments, mercenaries may be hired and paid with virtual goods to fulfill a temporary or permanent position. For example, User X and User Y may play a game 125 as a team 115. To complete a particular level, User Z may be added to the team 115 as a mercenary to assist User X and User Y. To reward User Z for participating and assisting the team 115, User X and User Y may pay User Z with virtual goods in the team's joint inventory. After completing the level, User Z is no longer part of the team 115.
  • A mercenary is typically controlled by a human user. However, in certain embodiments, a mercenary may not be controlled by a human user, but rather controlled by the game 125, a program or artificial intelligence.
  • Virtual teams may play the game 125 on a “shared canvas” 352 which is controlled, maintained and managed by a shared canvas controller 315. Generally speaking, the canvas 352 represents a drawing board and associated set of rules that permit a team of players to jointly carry out tasks or jointly manage (e.g., own, edit, manage, delete, upgrade, use, grow, etc.) elements on the canvas. The canvas 352 is the playing ground for a game, and is similar to the well-known Tamagotchi™ digital pet in the sense that it may progress, change, produce outputs, and require a user to take care of it. The canvas 352 can be a 3D environment, a 2.5D isometric ground, a flat 2D environment, a drawing board, a game board, or other similar gaming environment.
  • The canvas 352 is typically tailored to the particular type of game 125 being played. For example, in the scenario where the game 125 being played is a game 125 directed toward constructing cities, the canvas 352 may represent a piece of land where users insert buildings and roads. Alternatively, in the case that the game 125 being played is a military game, the canvas 352 may represent a battlefield where players engage in battle.
  • In certain embodiments, when players form a virtual team 115, all of the players comprising the team play the game on the same shared canvas 352 (assuming that the particular game being played includes a shared canvas 352). The shared canvas 352 allows all the team members to interact with the canvas as if they were playing a single player game. However, instead of having one user that plays the game on a single canvas, a team plays the game 125 on a single joint canvas 352. When a team member engages in gaming activities or actions that alter or modify the canvas 352, the shared canvas controller 315 ensures that the changes are displayed to everyone on the team.
  • Depending upon the particular game, teams may be permitted to play the game 125 together on the same canvas 352 when the game 125 is being played in “team vs. team” mode. Regardless of how many teams 115 are sharing a single canvas 352, the shared canvas controller 315 consistently maintains the canvas 352 for each player and ensures that all changes to the canvas 352 are displayed to everyone playing the game 125.
  • In addition, if two or more members of a team are playing the game 125 at the same time, the shared canvas controller 315 may assist in periodically providing updates to the canvas 352. Updates to the canvas 352 can be pushed to clients 110 or can be transmitted to clients 110 in response to received requests. The role of the shared canvas controller 315 may overlap with the role of the asynchronous team play controller 305 to some extent. While the update information is being transmitted to the server 120 for a specific user, the shared canvas controller 315 may lock the access to the canvas 352 to prevent other users from updating the canvas 352.
  • For example, consider the situation in which two users are both playing the game 125 at the same time. If the first user performs an action that affects the canvas 352, the shared canvas controller 315 identifies the action as one that requires updating the canvas 352. Thereafter, the shared canvas controller 315 may lock access to the canvas 352 while the update is performed (thus, preventing the second user from updating the canvas at the same time) and unlock access to the canvas 352 after the canvas is updated. The shared canvas controller 315 may also ensure that the canvas 352 displayed to the second user is updated accordingly by transmitting the update information to the second user.
  • To further illustrate the concept of a shared canvas 352, consider the exemplary shared canvas 352 depicted in FIG. 11 (which is discussed in further detailed below in describing ghosting features of the game 125). The canvas 352 is provided for a military game and is being played by a team of three members consisting of Players A, B and C. Player A controls an army 1110, Player B controls an air force 1120, and Player C controls a navy 1130. The members of the team 115 work together to conquer and control a group of cities 1140 that are defended by enemy forces.
  • Assume the canvas 352 is being displayed to Player A, who is in control of the team's army 1110. When Player A performs an activity which alters the canvas (e.g., moves the army to a new location or attacks opposing forces), the client 110 being utilized by Player A records all of the activities and transmits data associated with the activities to the server 120 for storage in the database 350. When Player B or Player C loads the game 125 at a later time, the current status of the game 125 is retrieved from the server 120 and Players B and C are be able to see all changes which have been made to the canvas 110 by player A. If Players B and C are playing the game 125 simultaneously with Player A when the server 120 updates the game data 351 or shared canvas 352 with the data received from Player A, the shared canvas controller 325 ensures that their associated clients 110 maintain the current status of the game 125 during gameplay by transmitting updates to Players B and C.
  • The shared canvas controller 315 may work in conjunction with the ghost controller 320 to determine operations relating to “ghosting”. As used herein, a “ghost” represents the aggregation and playback of the actions a user or teammate has performed while playing a game 125. Ghosts can be used for a wide variety of different purposes. For example, ghosts can be used to indicate a recent location or action undertaken by another player, to assist a user in completing a task, to assist a user in reaching new areas of the board that are not accessible without team collaboration, to assist a player in earning accolades, or to assist a player in acquiring an object. As used herein, a “usable ghost” refers to any ghost that can be interacted with by a user playing the game 125, or that can be utilized by the player to perform certain actions, activities or tasks.
  • Staying with the above example, when Player A loads the game 125 and is provided with the exemplary canvas 352 illustrated in FIG. 11, Player A can view a ghost 1120 for Player B and a ghost 1130 for Player C. In this particular game 125, multiple ghosts are included for each teammate of Player A. The ghosts 1120 and 1130 are included at the most recent location of the players (e.g., the last location before ending a gaming session or, if the player is playing simultaneously with Player A, the last location of the player which was transmitted to the server 120). Additional ghosts may also be included on a canvas 352 that is displayed to Player A at a location where gaming activities that were previously undertaken by Players B and C occurred. For example, a ghost 1121 is included on the canvas 352 at location in the North Atlantic indicating that Player B previously deployed planes to attack the enemy's navy. Similarly, a ghost 1131 of Player C is included at location south of Australia indicating that a naval battle took place between Player C and the enemy.
  • Any of the ghosts displayed to Player A may permit Player A to view the activities previously engaged in by Player B or Player C. For example, if Player A moves his army during gameplay near the ghost 1121 of Player B, Player A is able to view the Player B's air force attacking the enemy's navy, thus giving Player A the feeling that he is playing together in real-time or in real collaboration with Player B. Likewise, the ghost 1131 of Player C may replay the actions that were undertaken by Player C while engaged in the naval battle.
  • Any of the ghosts inserted into the canvas 352 of FIG. 11 can be configured to be usable by other players. For example, the ghosts may be utilized to assist a user in attacking enemy forces or to transport a user's forces to a new area on the canvas.
  • Further details regarding the operation of the ghost controller 320 are discussed below with reference to FIGS. 9 through 12.
  • The inventory manager 325 is configured to maintain a joint inventory of virtual goods for members of a team 115. Virtual goods are non-physical objects that may be acquired while playing the game 125. Depending upon the particular game, the virtual goods in a team's inventory may vary. For example, the joint inventory may include ammunition or weapons in a military game, while the joint inventory for a city constructing game may include bricks, concrete and other materials to be used in constructing a city.
  • Virtual goods can be acquired in various ways including, but not limited to, using virtual currency, using real money in a game store, receiving a gift from friend, requesting a gift and receiving a positive reply, completing a task or mission, picking up or activating objects which randomly appear when playing the game, jointly purchasing a virtual good, obtaining an achievement or trophy in game, virtually betting on an item with another team or user, or by responding to a wall post in a social forum. Virtual goods can be obtained in other ways as well.
  • The inventory manager 325 facilitates team ownership of virtual goods by permitting players to share all or part of their inventory. When the inventory is shared, virtual goods acquired by a team member are available for all other members of team 115. Each member of the team 115 will be able to use, place, delete, sell, upgrade, etc. a shared virtual good as if the was his own. However, in certain embodiments, there may be some limitations placed in each game 125 to avoid loss of virtual goods.
  • In some embodiments, virtual goods in the inventory may include “living virtual goods”. A user may be permitted to use, develop or otherwise interact with the living virtual goods. An example of a living shared virtual good would be a dog, acquired by User X and placed in his joint apartment with User Y. Both User X and Y can now feed the dog, watch the dog grow, play with the dog and share the responsibility in jointly owning a dog.
  • In some embodiments, the inventory may also include “jointly acquired virtual goods”. Jointly acquired virtual goods represent virtual goods that can only be obtained in a joint effort by all (or part) of the team members. Jointly acquired virtual goods can be obtained in various ways. For example, a virtual good can be jointly purchased by team members using real money or virtual money from a game store associated with a game 125 (e.g., each team member buys a piece of a virtual good), or can be obtained as gifts or prizes from jointly completing tasks.
  • To further illustrate the concept of a jointly acquired virtual good, consider a team 115 that is seeking to purchase a car together. User X buys the car body, but is not permitted to purchase the tires or the engine. User Y obtains the tires as a prize for completing a task, and subsequently acquires the engine from the game store. Each time a portion of the jointly acquired virtual good is acquired, a notification may be transmitted (e.g., by the socializer 340) to the players on the team. After the team has obtained all the necessary pieces of the car, the car is completed and can be used by any of the team members.
  • The task manager 330 is responsible for managing tasks or missions that are part of the game 115. The task manager 330 is configured to handle both individual tasks and team tasks. An individual task represents a task that can be completed by a single player. A single task may be comprised of a set of sub-tasks. For example, a single task may comprise the following sub-tasks: gather five logs; get a pipe from you friend; send 2 gifts to friends.
  • A team task represents a task that is completed by the actions of two or more players. A team task may be divided into sub-tasks that are completed by different team members. The team tasks can be can be comprised of a regular group of sub-tasks that can be achieved together. For example, any player can contribute to any of the sub-tasks relating to gathering five logs, retrieving a pipe and sending a gift.
  • In other embodiments, the sub-tasks that comprise a team task may only be able to be performed by certain team members based on the role assigned to a team member. For example, consider a game that includes a task that involves breaking into a locked room. Player A is assigned the role of a locksmith, while player B is assigned the role of a trained soldier. In order to break into the room and complete the task, the team has to complete sub-tasks such as disarming a guard and picking a lock to the room. The task manager 330 may configure the task such that Player B has to neutralize the guard, while Player A has to pick the lock. When both players complete the sub-tasks assigned to their character, the team task is complete.
  • In certain embodiments, a team task (like many other elements in the game 125) is asynchronous, and can be completed by different users in no particular order or in no particular period of time. In other embodiments, the sub-tasks associated with a particular team task have to be executed in a particular order to complete the team task. Trophies, achievements, bonuses, etc. may be unlocked or awarded to players upon the completion of a task. If the task is a team task, the same can be awarded to the team.
  • The content management system 335 represents a set of administrative functions that permits a game creator, programmer or other person to edit, insert or remove certain features that are part of a game 125. For example, the content management system 335 may include functions for editing the canvas, virtual goods, tasks, advertisements, tutorials or help features in a particular game 125. The content management system 335 may perform additional operations related to the content of a game 125.
  • The socializer 340 is configured to handle operations relating to facilitating communication between a player and at least one other person. The socializer 340 may permit certain types of communication among teammates, opposing teams, or even persons have not played the game. The socializer may be configured to transmit notifications or communications automatically in response to a user activity during gameplay, or may wait for a specific on-demand socializing request from a user (e.g., when a user clicks on a “share my score” button).
  • Amongst other functions, the socializer 340 may be configured to: (1) transmit invitations (e.g., a player can invite other players or non-players to start a game, complete a tasks or engage in some type of gaming activity); (2) post information on the wall of a user in a social forum (e.g., “click here to play” or “send virtual good”); (3) send gifts or virtual goods to a friend or group of friends; (4) send notifications to players or teams (e.g., indicating a new call for action or indicating that information was posted on the user's wall); or (5) provide a ticker function which provides a short textual notification about gaming activities. The socializer 340 may be configured to provide additional means of communicating as well.
  • In certain embodiments, the server 120 may further include a communication adaptor 345. The communication adaptor 345 permits the back-end or server 120 to communicate with clients 110 of different types (e.g., clients for a desktop computer, tablet, cell phone, personal digital assistant, laptop, etc.). For example, the communication adaptor 345 may utilize an adaption layer to translate and adapt communications between the server 120 and the client 110 according to the particular type of client 110 be utilized by a user. In this manner, the communication adaptor 345 assists in providing a “platform agnostic system” that is capable of communicating with various types of clients 110 from a single back-end system. FIG. 6 illustrates a general method 600 for playing a team-based asynchronous game in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles. The method 600 begins when a user initializes or creates a new game 125 (block 605). A user may accomplish this by submitting a request via the user's client 110 to the server 120.
  • After a game 125 has been initialized, a team 115 comprising at least two players is created (block 610). The operations related block 610 may be implemented by the team controller 310 described above. During the creation of a team 115, roles may be assigned to specific players. A role may include a set of parameters, functions, features, abilities, etc. which are not available to other players participating in the game 115. Referring back to the example provided above with respect to FIG. 11, three players may be assigned different roles (i.e., an army commander, an air force commander and a naval commander), and each of the roles may be associated with a distinct subset of functionalities and attributes (e.g., only the air force commander can attack with planes, and only the naval commander can move in water).
  • The creation of a team 115 may also include creating or selecting mercenaries to be a member of the team 115. As explained above, a mercenary can either be an AI or another player which is not on the same team. In certain games, a mercenary may automatically be included as a member of a team regardless of the team's composition. In other games, a mercenary may be added to a team 115.
  • FIG. 7 discloses one exemplary method 700 for configuring a team controller 310 to create a team 115. One or more users can access a set of operations for establishing a team 115 (block 705). Upon accessing the team setup operations, the user is presented with several options for a modifying a team (block 710). Specifically, the user can choose to hire a mercenary team member (block 715), to add a user to the team (block 725) or to modify an existing team member (block 720).
  • If the user opts to add a mercenary to the team (block 715), the socializer 340 may transmit a notification to each of the team members. After hiring the mercenary, a new team entity is created for the team (block 745), and the user is provided with a prompt or interface that inquires whether the user would like to continue modifying the team (block 750).
  • If the user wishes to further modify the team 115, the method proceeds back to block 710 and the user is presented with the options for further modifying the team 115. If the user selects the option relating to adding a team member (block 725), an invitation or notification is sent to the invitee (e.g., via electronic mail). If the invitee confirms the invitation, a new team entity is created for the invitee and the invitee is added to the team (block 745). Each time a new entity is added to a team 115, additional notifications may be transmitted to notify each of the team members.
  • A user can also choose to modify an existing member (block 720). Specifically, the user may be presented with options for removing a member from a team 115 (block 730) or for editing data (e.g., avatar, role, name, etc.) associated with an existing team member (block 735).
  • At some point, the user determines that no further modifications are necessary (block 750) and the team is ready for gameplay (block 755)
  • Referring back to the method 600 illustrated in FIG. 6, after the team 115 is ready to begin gameplay, an asynchronous multiplayer game 125 is created (block 615). The operations associated with creating the game 125 may be carried out by the asynchronous team player controller 305 described above in cooperation with other modules.
  • When creating the game 125, the server 120 may initialize a shared canvas 352 that provides a platform or virtual game board for users to play the game 125. This may include inserting avatars into the canvas 352 for each player that is a member of the team and determining a set of rules to control the interaction between the players. The creation of the game 125 may further include initializing a joint inventory of virtual goods which can be jointly used, managed, manipulated, etc. by each of the players on the team 115, establishing team tasks which can be performed by the players when playing the game 125, and configuring the canvas to display ghosting features. In performing these operations, the asynchronous team play controller 305 may cooperate or communicate with the team controller 310, the shared canvas controller 315, the ghost controller 320, the task manager 330 or other entity described above.
  • Once the game 125 and associated parameters have been initialized, each member of the team can begin playing the game 125 (block 620). Players are not required to play the game 125 at the same time. Rather, players can login into the game 125 at different times and complete tasks or sub-tasks as they please. In some cases, users are permitted to start the game without a team, and subsequently join or create a team at a later time.
  • As the user engages in gaming activities while playing the game 125, the client 110 for each user records all associated information and transmits this information for storage on a server 120. The gaming activity information being stored on the server 120 may be used to update the canvas 352, joint inventory, tasks or other game data 351 associated with the game 125.
  • FIG. 8 discloses an exemplary method 800 illustrating how two users, User X and User Y, can utilize the information stored on the server 120 to provide a shared canvas 352, joint inventory, and team tasks.
  • The method 800 begins when User X opens the game 125 (block 805). Upon opening the game 125, the current status of the game is retrieved from the server 120 (block 810). This may include downloading information to User X's client 110 that indicates the most up-to-date display of a shared canvas 352, the status of the team's joint inventory, and any information relating to the completion, or lack thereof, of tasks or sub-tasks.
  • Next, User X makes changes to the canvas 352 and objects in the team's inventory while playing the game (block 820). For example, in a game 125 related to constructing cities, User X may add buildings to the shared canvas 352, and may add construction materials (e.g., brick and steel) to the team's inventory. Data indicative of such gaming activities (as well as other gaming activities) is transmitted to the server 120 for storage (block 825).
  • User Y then opens the game 125 (block 830), and loads the current status of the game 135 including data relevant to the current state of the shared canvas 352, shared inventory and team tasks (block 835). After loading the game 125, User Y engages in gaming activities that modify the shared canvas 352 (block 840). For example, User Y may add a bridge to the canvas 352 that connects two pieces of land separated by a body of water. User Y also completes a portion of a team task. These activities are transmitted to the server 120 for storage (block 845).
  • The current status of the game is stored on the server 120 at any given time (block 850). At this point, the server 120 stores, inter alia, data that indicates the changes that have been made to the canvas 352 by Users X and Y, the updated inventory that was supplemented by User X, and the team task that was completed by User Y.
  • Further details are now provided with reference to FIGS. 9 thorough 12 to illustrate how ghosting features can be utilized in providing an asynchronous multiplayer game 125. Any details discussed below with respect to providing the ghost features may be implemented by the ghost controller 320.
  • As explained above, a ghost may be created from the recorded contents of a user's gaming session. A ghost that has been inserted into the canvas 352 for a particular user can be configured to interact with users and to assist users in performing a variety of different actions, activities or tasks. For example, a ghost may be inserted to assist a user in completing a task, to assist a user in acquiring a virtual good or object, to assist a user in completing a level or to assist a user in earning an accolade.
  • The representation of a ghost can vary dramatically. Ghosts can be represented statically (e.g., using a graphic) or dynamically (e.g., using an animation or video). For example, a static graphic may be inserted at a particular location to indicate to a user that the user's teammate completed part of task. In other examples, the ghost of a teammate may be dynamic in the sense that a ghost actually recreates the actions of a user, or in the sense that the ghost is configured to follow the user and trail the user at all times during gameplay. In either case, the user may interact with the ghost to complete the remaining portion of the task.
  • FIG. 9, which illustrates an exemplary canvas 352 for a game 125, demonstrates how a ghost of a teammate can be utilized by a user in a game 125. In the game depicted therein, assume that User X is playing the game 125 on a team 115 with User Y. In this level of the game 125, the team 115 is running through the canvas 352 and breaking any boxes 930 which they come across in order to maximize the team's score. However, in order to break a box 930, a box 930 must be kicked by at least two team members.
  • During a previous gaming session, User Y ran through the board and kicked each box once. All of User Y's activities were recorded while User Y was playing the game and were stored on a server 120. Subsequently, when User X begins playing the level illustrated in FIG. 9, the information stored by User Y is retrieved and utilized to recreate the actions undertaken by User Y. Specifically, ghost controller 320 displays a ghost 920 of User Y and configures the ghost to re-run the board in the same or similar manner as previously done while User Y was playing the game. User X controls his character or avatar 910 to follow the ghost 920 of User Y. Each time User X sees the ghost 920 of User Y kick one of the boxes 930, User X may instruct the avatar 910 to do the same. When a box 930 is kicked a second time by User X, the box 930 will break and the team 115 will be awarded points.
  • In certain embodiments, 320 the ghost controller may include a time shifter application or module that is configured to shift ghost actions forward or backwards in time to create a better synchronization and gameplay and to allow the user to avoid “losing” the ghost when playing the game 125. For example, in the game 125 illustrated in FIG. 9, the ghost 920 of User Y may be shifted back in time if it the ghost 920 runs too far ahead of User X during gameplay. In other cases, such as when User X is running faster that the ghost 920 of User Y, the ghost 920 of User Y may be shifted forward in time.
  • Better gameplay may also be provided by synching the activities of the different ghosts and the user. For example, if a box was broken by a first ghost, there is no need to show it being destroyed again by another ghost. Therefore, the ghost controller 320 may ensure that all activities are synched and makes sense in terms of game play.
  • The above example demonstrates how the ghost 920 of a teammate can be configured to assist a user in completing a task or earning an accolade. It should be recognized that this one simple example and that the manner in which ghosts are configured to be usable can vary greatly from game to game.
  • Consider the example discussed above with reference to FIG. 11 once again. Player A may utilize any of the ghosts for Player B or Player C during gameplay. In this example, Player A may move the army under his control to the location of one of the ghosts 1120 and 1130 to use one of the ghosts to transport Player A's army across the Atlantic Ocean. For example, Player A may move his army to Location X. Once at Location X, the army may board the transport ships in Player C's navy and utilize the ghost 1130 of Player C to transport the army across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • In certain embodiments, the ghosting controller 320 may also insert ghosts on a canvas 352 in a location where a user has engaged in a particular gaming activity (e.g., unlocked a door, complete a task or sub-task, or received a trophy). In determining whether to insert a ghost to indicate activities engaged in by a player, the ghost controller 320 may analyze a list of predetermined triggers that indicate if a ghost is to be inserted into the canvas 352 for a particular activity.
  • FIG. 11 includes two additional ghosts 1121 and 1131 that indicate activities recently engaged in by Players B and C. A ghost 1121 located in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean indicates that Player B attacked a fleet of the enemy's naval ships with aircraft under the control of Player B. Similarly, a ghost 1131 located south of Australia indicates that Player C engaged in a naval battle with the enemy. Using the data stored on the server 120 by the teammates, the user may be permitted to view the previous actions of teammates as if they were occurring in real-time. The user may further be permitted to interact with the ghosts to perform gaming activities such as completing tasks or obtaining objects (or any other gaming activity). In certain embodiments, a user may be permitted to view additional details relating to an activity engaged in by a teammate by scrolling over or clicking on the ghosts.
  • The ghost controller 320 may utilize certain criteria or gaming activities to determine the manner in which a ghost can be utilized by a user. For example, the ghost controller 320 may determine that the ghost 1130 of Player C is usable by Player A when the ghost 1130 is located within a predetermined distance from the land. Since Player C's ghost 1130 is located directly adjacent to the tip of Africa on the canvas 352, Player A may move his army to Location X and utilize the ghost of Player C to transport his army across the Atlantic Ocean. However, if Player C's ghost 1130 was not located near a piece of land which is accessible by Player A, the ghost controller 320 may determine that the ghost 1130 of Player C cannot be used by Player A to transport his army.
  • It should be recognized that the ghost controller 352 may apply different criteria for each player in determining whether a ghost is usable or the manner of using a ghost. For example, although the ghost 1130 of Player C may be usable by Player A when located in the proximity of a piece of land which is accessible by Player A, the same might not be true for Player B. Rather, a different set of rules may be applied to determine whether the ghost of Player C can be used by Player B.
  • Staying with this example, assume that the air force under the control of Player B can only attack the enemy within a limited range defined by the dotted circle 1150. However, the ghost 1130 of Player C may be usable by player B to extend the attack range of Player B, when the ghost of Player C is located within the circle 1150. For example, if the ghost 1130 of player C was located at Location Y within the circle 1150, Player B may be permitted to land airplanes on the aircraft carrier of Player C, thus allowing the airplanes to refuel and extend the attack range of Player B to include the additional area covered by circle 1160.
  • Another exemplary application of utilizing ghosts in a game 125 is provided with reference to FIG. 10. As shown therein, a canvas 352 is provided for a detective game in which members of team 115 collaborate to solve mysteries or puzzles. Assume that the team 115 consists of Player C and Player D, and that only Player C is currently playing the game 125.
  • When the avatar 1010 of Player C enters the room displayed by the canvas 352, the canvas includes a door 1160 that has two keyholes 1030 and 1040. The door 1060 can only be opened when the team 115 obtains two keys and inserts the keys into the two keyholes 1030 and 1040 on the door. Above the door 1060, there is a vase 1050 located on a shelf. The vase 1050 contains the key needed to unlock one keyhole 1040. A single user cannot reach the vase 1150 and get the key inside without the assistance of a teammate.
  • A ghost 1020 for Player D is inserted into the canvas 352 at a location adjacent to one of the keyholes 1030 indicating that Player D has unlocked the keyhole 1030. The ghost controller 320 may configure the ghost 1020 for Player D to be usable in two different ways. First, the ghost 1020 of Player D can be utilized to boost the avatar 1010 of Player C to reach the vase 1050 and obtain the key hidden inside. After Player C obtains the key, the ghost controller 320 may also reconfigure to the ghost 1020 of Player D to be usable to assist Player C in opening the door 1060.
  • As another example of using the ghost of teammate, consider a team that includes three users, each of which plays the game 125 in a different time period: past, present, future. That is, the three users are in the same place in the game, but in different times. The user in the future must reach the top of the mountain to accomplish a task. In order to reach the top of the mountain, the user from the past plants a tree and the user in the present waters that tree so that grows. As the user in the future plays the game, the user can see actions taken by his teammates (i.e., planting and watering the tree) which facilitate growth of the tree, and the user in the future can then climb the tree to reach the top of the mountain. In this manner, the future user interacts with the ghosts of teammates to accomplish the task.
  • In view of the above discussion, it should be recognized that the ghost controller 320 can be configured to handle anything related to providing a ghost in a particular game 125. This may include determining how many ghosts are to be inserted, where the ghosts are to be inserted and how the inserted ghosts are to be configured. In certain games 125, it may be preferable to only include certain types of ghosts. Likewise, in certain games 125, it may be preferable to only include a single ghost for each player, while in other games 125 it may be preferred to include multiple ghosts for each player. Regardless of how ghosting features are implemented in a particular game 125, the ghost controller 320 can be configured to handle all related operations.
  • FIG. 12 discloses a method 1200 for inserting a ghost feature into a canvas 352 for a game 125 that is being played by multiple users in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles. The method 1200 begins when a user loads the game 120 and engages in gaming activities during gameplay (block 1205). As the user plays the game 125, the user's client 110 records and stores data associated with the first user's gaming activities to the server (block 1210).
  • The information may be utilized by the ghost controller 320 to determine the number of ghosts to be inserted into the canvas 352, and the locations for inserting ghosts on the shared canvas 352 (block 1215). For each ghost that is to be inserted into the canvas 352, the ghost controller 320 may further determine how the ghost may be configured to be used by a particular player (block 1220). As explained above, a ghost may be configured to be usable based on a variety of different criteria (e.g., based on the location of the ghost, based whether particular tasks or sub-tasks have been complete, etc.).
  • For every other player engaged in a gaming session (e.g., teammates or members of opposing teams 115), the data stored on the server 120 is retrieved by a client 110 connected to the server 120 (block 1215). The retrieved data is used to display the ghosts on the canvases 352 for the other players, and the ghosts are configured to be “usable” if applicable.
  • Although it is not necessary, the ghosting features described above may be advantageous in the case where members of team have to collaborate to accomplish a team task. As explained above, a “team task” generally refers a task that is subdivided into a plurality of subtasks that are completed by different members of a team 115.
  • FIG. 13 is a diagram 1300 that illustrates how a game 125 may be configured to implement team tasks in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles. A team 115 is comprised of a plurality of team members X, Y through N.
  • User X receives or activates a new team task while playing a game 125. As shown therein the team task is comprised of a plurality of subtasks (block 1310). In this example, each subtask is assigned to a team member that is to complete the task. For example, subtask 1 is assigned to User X, subtask 2 is assigned to User Y, and it is shown that additional subtasks N can be assigned to additional members N of the team 115. In certain embodiments, the sub-tasks may be executed in a particular order to complete the task.
  • After User X completes subtask 1 (block 1320), a determination is made as to whether all of the subtasks have been completed (block 1370). At this point, only one portion of the task (i.e., subtask 1) has been completed. Therefore, a determination is made that there are still pending subtasks that have not been completed by the team 115 (block 1380).
  • A notification may be sent to all or some of User X's teammates indicating the completion of the subtask (block 1385). The notification may also indicate any remaining subtasks that are yet to be completed by the teammates. Notifications may be transmitted by the socializer 340 described above
  • When User Y subsequently plays the game 115, User Y's client 110 retrieves data from the server 120 associated with the pending task (block 1330). The retrieved data indicates that User X has completed subtask 1, but the remaining subtasks are yet to be completed by User Y or the remaining team members N.
  • After User Y completes subtask 2 (block 1340), a determination is made as to whether all of the subtasks have been completed (block 1370). At this point, only two portions of the task (i.e., subtask 1 and subtask 2) have been completed. Therefore, a determination is made that there are still pending subtasks that have not been completed by the team 115 (block 1380). Once again, the socializer 340 or other component may transmit a notification to User Y's teammates to indicate that the subtask was completed and that pending subtasks still remain (block 1385).
  • Thereafter, User N, which represents any remaining members of the team 115, retrieves data associated with the task from the server 120 (block 1350). The retrieved information indicates that subtasks 1 and 2 have been completed by Users X and Y, respectively, and that the remaining subtasks N has have not been completed.
  • User N completes subtask N (block 1360). A determination is made as to whether any subtasks are pending (block 1370). Since all subtasks have been complete, the task is determined to be completed (block 1390). A notification is sent to all members of the team indicating that the task has successfully been completed (block 1395).
  • FIG. 14 discloses a system 1400 for providing a joint inventory that is shared among a plurality of team members in accordance with an embodiment of the present principles. As shown therein, a virtual team 115 comprises a plurality of users that collaboratively play a game 125 together. As explained above, when a user plays the game 125, the user may acquire virtual goods or objects that are incorporated into a joint or shared inventory 1420 for the virtual team 115. The objects included in the joint inventory 1420 can be obtained individually by a single team member, or can be jointly acquired by collaboration between members of the team 115 (e.g., each player acquires a piece of an object and the object can be used when all subcomponents have been acquired).
  • An inventory manager 325 facilitates the joint ownership of objects in the joint inventory 1420. The inventory manager 325 includes a variety of different components and associated functions for controlling objects stored in the joint inventory 1420. Each of the components and functions associated with the inventory manager 325 may be utilized by any of the team members to manipulate objects in the joint inventory 1420.
  • Specifically, the inventory manager 325 may include functionality permitting each of the users to add objects to the joint inventory 1420. Once an object is added to the inventory 1420, the object is commonly owned by all players on the team 115, and each player can utilize the object as he or she pleases. The inventory manager 325 may also include functions for removing objects from the joint inventory 1420. An object may be removed from the joint inventory 1420 in a variety of different situations, such as when the object has been used by a player or in response to explicit designation from a player to discard the object.
  • The inventory manager 325 may also include functions for permitting players or teammates to upgrade the status of an object in the joint inventory or to utilize objects in the joint inventory 1420. For example, in certain games, a user can pay (e.g., using a virtual currency) to upgrade an object or an object may be upgraded based upon reaching new levels or accomplishing particular achievements.
  • Depending upon the particular object, the manner in which an object is utilized may differ. For example, a user can utilize a sword in the joint inventory 1420 by equipping the user's character with the sword and using the sword for battle, while a user can utilize a health elixir to restore the energy or life of the user's character.
  • In should be recognized that while inventory manager 325 generally permits players to manipulate the objects in the inventory without restriction, limitations may be placed on the users in certain embodiments. For example, in certain embodiments may prevent all players from deleting or removing a particular object stored in the joint inventory 1420. In addition, while the inventory manager 325 depicted in FIG. 14 includes components for adding, deleting, upgrading and using objects in the shared inventory 1420, the inventory manager 325 may be configured to handle any operation related to maintaining, managing or manipulating objects that are included in the joint inventory 1420.
  • The figures in this disclosure are conceptual illustrations allowing for an explanation of the present invention. It should be understood that various aspects of the embodiments of the present invention could be implemented in hardware, firmware, software, or combinations thereof. In such embodiments, the various components and/or steps would be implemented in hardware, firmware, and/or software to perform the functions of the present invention. That is, the same piece of hardware, firmware, or module of software could perform one or more of the illustrated blocks (e.g., components or steps).
  • In software implementations, computer software (e.g., programs or other instructions) and/or data is stored on a machine readable medium as part of a computer program product, and is loaded into a computer system or other device or machine via a removable storage drive, hard drive, or communications interface. Computer programs (also called computer control logic or computer readable program code) are stored in a main and/or secondary memory, and executed by one or more processors (controllers, or the like) to cause the one or more processors to perform the functions of the invention as described herein. In this document, the terms “machine readable medium,” “computer program medium” and “computer usable medium” are used to generally refer to media such as a random access memory (RAM); a read only memory (ROM); a removable storage unit (e.g., a magnetic or optical disc, flash memory device, or the like); a hard disk; or the like.
  • Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention may be practiced in network computing environments with many types of computer system configurations, including mobile telephones, PDA, pagers, hand-held devices, laptop computers, personal computers, multi-processor systems, microprocessor-based or programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and the like. The invention may also be practiced in distributed computing environments where local and remote computer systems, which are linked (either by hardwired links, wireless links, or by a combination of hardwired or wireless links) through a communication network, both perform tasks. In a distributed computing environment, program modules may be located in both local and remote memory storage devices.
  • Notably, the figures and examples above are not meant to limit the scope of the present invention to a single embodiment, as other embodiments are possible by way of interchange of some or all of the described or illustrated elements. Moreover, where certain elements of the present invention can be partially or fully implemented using known components, only those portions of such known components that are necessary for an understanding of the present invention are described, and detailed descriptions of other portions of such known components are omitted so as not to obscure the invention. In the present specification, an embodiment showing a singular component should not necessarily be limited to other embodiments including a plurality of the same component, and vice-versa, unless explicitly stated otherwise herein. Moreover, applicants do not intend for any term in the specification or claims to be ascribed an uncommon or special meaning unless explicitly set forth as such. Further, the present invention encompasses present and future known equivalents to the known components referred to herein by way of illustration.
  • The foregoing description of the specific embodiments so fully reveals the general nature of the invention that others can, by applying knowledge within the skill of the relevant art(s) (including the contents of the documents cited and incorporated by reference herein), readily modify and/or adapt for various applications such specific embodiments, without undue experimentation, without departing from the general concept of the present invention. Such adaptations and modifications are therefore intended to be within the meaning and range of equivalents of the disclosed embodiments, based on the teaching and guidance presented herein.
  • While various embodiments of the present invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example, and not limitation. It would be apparent to one skilled in the relevant art(s) that various changes in form and detail could be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents.

Claims (23)

What is claimed is:
1. A method for providing a ghost in an asynchronous game, comprising:
recording data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user during asynchronous gameplay, wherein the data is stored on a computer readable storage medium;
generating at least one ghost to be displayed to a second user with the recorded data associated with the first user; and
configuring, with a processor, the at least one ghost for use by the second user in performing at least one action.
2. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein configuring the at least one ghost for use by the second user includes configuring the at least one ghost to assist the second user in accomplishing a task.
3. The method as recited in claim 1, further comprising storing the recorded data with a time stamp and an identifier associated with a particular gaming activity.
4. The method as recited in claim 1, further comprising shifting the at least one ghost forward or backward in time while the second user plays the game.
5. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein configuring the at least one ghost for use by the second user includes configuring the at least one ghost to assist the second user acquiring an object in the game.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising determining a set of actions for configuring the at least one ghost based on the satisfaction of predetermined criteria, said predetermined criteria accounting for one of a most recent location of the first user or tasks that have been completed by the first user.
7. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the at least one ghost is a dynamic ghost that progresses with the second user during a portion of the game.
8. The method as recited in claim 1, further comprising inserting the at least one ghost on a canvas displayed to the second user during gameplay.
9. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the at least one ghost affects a shared canvas associated with the game during gameplay for the user first user.
10. A system for providing a ghost in an asynchronous game, comprising:
a database for storing recorded data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user during asynchronous gameplay, wherein the recorded data is stored on a computer readable storage medium; and
a ghost controller configured to utilize the recorded data associated with the first user to generate at least one ghost for display to a second user, and to configure the at least one ghost for use by the second user in performing at least one action.
11. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the ghost controller configures the at least one ghost to assist the second user in accomplishing a task.
12. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the database stores the recorded data with a time stamp and an identifier associated with a particular gaming activity.
13. The system as recited in claim 10, further comprising a time shifter for shifting the at least one ghost forward or backward in time while the second user plays the game.
14. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the ghost controller configures the at least one ghost to assist the second user in acquiring an object in the game.
15. The system of claim 10, wherein the ghost controller determines a set of actions for configuring the at least one ghost based on the satisfaction of predetermined criteria, said predetermined criteria accounting for one of a most recent location of the first user or tasks that have been completed by the first user.
16. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the at least one ghost is a dynamic ghost that progresses with the second user during a portion of the game.
17. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the ghost controller is configured to insert the at least one ghost on a canvas displayed to the second user during gameplay.
18. The system as recited in claim 10, wherein the at least one ghost affects a shared canvas associated with the game during gameplay for the user first user.
19. A non-transitory computer storage medium comprising a computer readable program for providing an asynchronous game, wherein the computer readable program when executed on a computer causes the computer to:
record data indicative of gaming activities engaged in by a first user during asynchronous gameplay;
generate at least one ghost to be displayed to a second user with the recorded data associated with the first user; and
configure the at least one ghost for use by the second user in performing at least one action.
20. The computer storage medium as recited in claim 19, wherein the at least one ghost is configured to assist the second user in accomplishing a team task.
21. The computer storage medium as recited in claim 19, wherein the at least one ghost is configured to assist the second user in acquiring an object.
22. The computer storage medium as recited in claim 19, wherein the at least one ghost is a dynamic ghost that progresses with the second user during a portion of the game.
23. The computer storage medium as recited in claim 19, wherein the at least one ghost affects a shared canvas associated with the game during gameplay for the user first user.
US13/353,792 2012-01-19 2012-01-19 Usable Ghosting Features in a Team-Based Game Abandoned US20130190096A1 (en)

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US20140024462A1 (en) * 2012-07-23 2014-01-23 Zynga Inc. Rewarding Participating Players on a Collaborative Game Task in an Online Game
US20140024461A1 (en) * 2012-07-23 2014-01-23 Zynga Inc. Replacing Players on a Collaborative Game Task in an Online Game
US20140121025A1 (en) * 2012-10-26 2014-05-01 Nob Hill Studio Limited Method and apparatus for asynchronous mobile multi-player gaming
US9352226B2 (en) 2012-12-21 2016-05-31 Sony Interactive Entertainment America Llc Automatic generation of suggested mini-games for cloud-gaming based on recorded gameplay
US9242176B2 (en) 2012-12-21 2016-01-26 Sony Computer Entertainment America Llc Remote control of a first user's gameplay by a second user
US10188945B2 (en) 2012-12-21 2019-01-29 Sony Interactive Entertainment America Llc Generation of gameplay video based on social network sharing
US9364743B2 (en) 2012-12-21 2016-06-14 Sony Interactive Entertainment America Llc Generation of a multi-part mini-game for cloud-gaming based on recorded gameplay
US20140187318A1 (en) * 2012-12-27 2014-07-03 Sony Computer Entertainment America Llc Systems and Methods for Enabling Shadow Play for Video Games Based on Prior User Plays
US9233309B2 (en) * 2012-12-27 2016-01-12 Sony Computer Entertainment America Llc Systems and methods for enabling shadow play for video games based on prior user plays
US20170182420A1 (en) * 2013-01-23 2017-06-29 Zynga Inc. Shared social asset in game
US20140206452A1 (en) * 2013-01-23 2014-07-24 Kathryn Bambino Shared social asset in game
US9630115B2 (en) * 2013-01-23 2017-04-25 Zynga Inc. Shared social asset in game
US10252166B2 (en) * 2013-01-23 2019-04-09 Zynga Inc. Shared social asset in game
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US10071315B2 (en) * 2013-07-10 2018-09-11 Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. Content providing method, content providing server, and content providing system
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US9665901B2 (en) 2013-08-20 2017-05-30 Ricoh Company, Ltd. Mobile information gateway for private customer interaction
US20150059002A1 (en) * 2013-08-20 2015-02-26 Ricoh Company, Ltd. Mobile Information Gateway for Service Provider Cooperation
US10089684B2 (en) 2013-08-20 2018-10-02 Ricoh Company, Ltd. Mobile information gateway for customer identification and assignment
US10095833B2 (en) 2013-09-22 2018-10-09 Ricoh Co., Ltd. Mobile information gateway for use by medical personnel
US9763071B2 (en) 2013-09-22 2017-09-12 Ricoh Company, Ltd. Mobile information gateway for use in emergency situations or with special equipment
US10398975B2 (en) * 2014-02-13 2019-09-03 Nintendo Co., Ltd. Information sharing system, information-processing device, storage medium, and information sharing method
US10252172B2 (en) * 2014-02-13 2019-04-09 Nintendo Co., Ltd. Game system with shared replays
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US20150224409A1 (en) * 2014-02-13 2015-08-13 Nintendo Co., Ltd. Information sharing system, information-processing device, storage medium, and information sharing method
EP3129111A4 (en) * 2014-04-08 2018-03-07 Eon Reality, Inc. Interactive virtual reality systems and methods
US9600963B2 (en) * 2015-06-05 2017-03-21 Jimmie Ray Kilby Gaming machine, gaming system, and gaming method presenting games with artificially intelligent players
WO2018067600A1 (en) * 2016-10-03 2018-04-12 App Onboard, Inc. Video-tree system for interactive media reproduction, simulation, and playback

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