Title:
Networked gaming system with skill influenced prize mapping
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A server in a network receives a player's game play request from a player station that is located remotely from the server in the network. In response to the player's game play request, a display of the player station generates an image prompting a player to enter a player input at the player station. The player input, which is at least partially skill dependent, is ultimately evaluated at the server to produce a game result. The game result is then communicated back to the player station and presented to the player in some fashion.


Inventors:
Lind, Clifton (Austin, TX, US)
Lind, Jefferson C. (Austin, TX, US)
Application Number:
10/922475
Publication Date:
02/23/2006
Filing Date:
08/19/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080220843GAME SYSTEM AND CONTROL METHOD THEREOFSeptember, 2008Kido
20040106449Method and apparatus for deriving information from a gaming deviceJune, 2004Walker et al.
20080045334Method for progressive card game tournamentFebruary, 2008Shvili
20070191102Tournament matchups for a multiplayer environmentAugust, 2007Coliz et al.
20060052150Merchandising and gaming method and systemMarch, 2006Hedrick et al.
20070184900ELECTRONIC GAME WITH OVERLAY CARDAugust, 2007Matsumoto et al.
20050153769Gaming machine having a shuffle feature and a simultaneous multiple award featureJuly, 2005Casey et al.
20090036208REEL AND VIDEO COMBINATION MACHINEFebruary, 2009Pennington et al.
20090227379Link System and Playing Method of Card GameSeptember, 2009Yoshizawa
20060154727Data based awards for an electronic gaming deviceJuly, 2006Okuniewicz
20080182641BINGO OVERLAY GAMES SYSTEM AND METHODJuly, 2008Malone et al.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
The Culbertson, Group P. C. (1114 LOST CREEK BLVD., SUITE 420, AUSTIN, TX, 78746, US)
Claims:
1. A method including: (a) prompting a player at a player station to enter a skill-based player input at the player station and receiving the skill-based player input at the player station; and (b) identifying a game result for the skill-based player input, the game result being identified at a server located in a network with the player station where the server is separate from the player station, and the game result being at least partially dependent on the skill-based player input.

2. The method of claim 1 further including communicating the game result from the server to the player station.

3. The method of claim 1 further including identifying a time value at the player station for the skill-based player input, the time value comprising a difference in time between a first time when an image appears on a display of the player station and a second time when the skill-based player input is received at the player station.

4. The method of claim 3 further including comparing the time value with a predetermined time value to identify the result for the skill-based player input.

5. The method of claim 3 further including comparing the time value with another time value of another player to identify the result for the skill-based player input.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying the game result further includes comparing the skill-based input with a standard unrelated to inputs from other players on the network.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying the game result further includes comparing the skill-based input with a skill-based input entered by another player from another player station on the network.

8. A method including: (a) receiving a first skill-based input for a first player at a first player station and an additional skill-based input for an additional player at an additional player station; (b) grouping the first skill-based input and the additional skill-based input into a game group; and (c) evaluating the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player at a server separate from the first player station and the additional player station to identify a result for the first skill-based input and a result for the additional skill-based input.

9. The method of claim 8 further including prompting the first player at the first player station to make the first skill-based input and prompting the additional player at the additional player station to make the additional skill-based input.

10. The method of claim 8 wherein evaluating the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player includes comparing an input speed measurement associated with the first skill-based input for the first player and an input speed measurement associated with the additional skill-based input for the additional player.

11. The method of claim 8 wherein evaluating the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player includes comparing a knowledge indicator associated with the first skill-based input for the first player and a knowledge indicator associated with the additional skill-based input for the additional player.

12. The method of claim 8 wherein evaluating the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player includes evaluating both the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player against a given standard.

13. The method of claim 8 wherein evaluating the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player includes ranking the first skill-based input for the first player and the additional skill-based input for the additional player in a relative order.

14. A system including: (a) at least two player stations, each player station including a respective player input device and a respective display device, each player station also being configured to receive a respective skill-based input; (b) a result identifying component in a communication network with each player station, the result identifying component for receiving a representation of the respective skill-based input received by each respective player station, for identifying a respective result for each respective skill-based input where the respective result is based at least in part on the respective skill-based input, and for communicating the respective result for each respective skill-based input to the respective player station at which the respective skill-based input was received.

15. The system of claim 14 wherein the result identifying component is configured to identify the result for each respective skill-based input based upon a comparison of the respective skill-based input with some standard unrelated to the skill-based input from any other player station.

16. The system of claim 14 wherein each respective player station is configured to present a prize at the respective display, the prize being associated with the result for the respective skill-based input received at the respective player station.

17. The system of claim 14 further including a grouping component for grouping the skill-based inputs from the respective player stations into a game group and wherein the result identifying component identifies the result for each respective skill-based input based at least in part on each other skill-based input in the game group.

18. A program product stored on at least one storage medium, the program product including a set of machine-readable instructions that when executed are configured to: (a) prompt a player at a player station to enter a skill-based player input at the player station and receive the skill-based player input at the player station; and (b) at a server located in a network with the player station and separate from the player station, identify a game result for the skill-based player input received at the player station, the game result being at least partially dependent on the skill-based player input.

19. The program product of claim 18 wherein the set of machine-readable instructions are executable to compare the skill-based player input and at least one additional skill-based player input received at an additional player station.

20. The program product of claim 18 wherein the set of machine readable instructions are executable to compare the skill-based player input against a standard unrelated to a skill-based player input at any other player station.

21. The program product of claim 18 wherein the game result identified for the skill-based input modifies a result in an initial game.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to electronic gaming systems enabling players from many different gaming locations to participate in various games. More particularly, the invention is directed to apparatus, methods, and program products for awarding prizes in a networked gaming system based on a player's performance in a skill game conducted through the network.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines such as mechanical slot machines and even early video slot machines and video poker machines were stand alone gaming machines in which a result for a game play was determined at the gaming machine itself in some fashion. Commonly, the gaming machine produced some random result in response to a game play request at the gaming machine. This random result was mapped to some prize that would then be awarded to the player. Many mechanical and video slot machines and other gaming machines still produce or determine the result of a game play at the gaming machine itself.

Certain modern gaming systems include gaming machines or player stations that are connected through some communications link to a some other system component that is responsible for determining or identifying game play results. That is, although the game play requests are entered at the player stations, those requests are communicated to some other system component which determines or identifies a result for each game play. For example, some modern video lottery systems employ a server that receives game play requests from different player stations and assigns a predetermined lottery record and associated result for each game play request. U.S. Pat. No. 6,733,385 describes one such “central determinant” lottery system. Certain modern bingo gaming systems also include player stations and a separate server for actually conducting the bingo games and identifying results for each play in such a bingo game. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/456,721, now U.S. patent application publication No. ______, describes such a networked bingo gaming system.

One problem with stand alone gaming machines is that it is difficult to provide the player with a sense that their actions or inputs have any influence on their results. Giving the player the sense that his or her inputs at the gaming machine can effect the result of play is even more difficult with central determinant video lottery games and networked bingo games. Many players prefer to have the sense of competition and excitement generated in live table games and other traditional casino games.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides apparatus, methods, and program products for producing, determining, looking up, or otherwise identifying a result for a player based at least partially on a skill-based input from the player. In one embodiment, a server in a network receives a player's game play request from a player station that is located remotely from the server in the network. In response to the player game play request, an image prompting the player to enter a player input at the player station is generated at a display of the player station. The player input, which is at least partially skill dependent, is ultimately evaluated at the server to produce a game result. The game result is then communicated back to the player station and presented to the player in some fashion.

As used in this disclosure and the accompanying claims, a skill-based input refers to an input that provides some measure of player skill, knowledge, or ability or is dependent upon the player's skill, knowledge, or ability. A skill game as referenced in the present disclosure and accompanying claims refers to a game that requires or permits some skill-based input from the player participating in the game. Examples of skill-based inputs include inputs that provide some measure of, or that are influenced by, the player's eye-hand coordination, hand speed, memory, knowledge of various subjects, or ability to predict various occurrences or outcomes. Under this definition, the simple activation of a switch, button, lever, or other device by itself would not constitute a skill-based input. The activation of a switch, button, lever, or other device as measured against some standard or value is to be considered a skill-based input under the present definition. The activation of a switch, button, lever, or other control in coordination with some event or to control some object such as an animated object on a display device, is also to be considered a skill-based input as the designation is used in this disclosure and the accompanying claims.

One form of the invention includes receiving at least two player game play requests at a server in a network. Each game play request is submitted from a respective player station located in the network separate from the server. After the player game play requests are received at the server, an image is generated at a display at each of the respective player stations. The image at each display prompts the respective player to enter a skill-based player input at the respective player station. The skill-based player input at each respective player station is ultimately evaluated against some standard in some fashion at the server to produce a respective game play result for each player. Each player's game play result is then communicated back to the respective player station and presented to the player in some way, such as through some graphic presentation at the player station display.

In another form of the present invention, a first player and at least one additional player each submit a respective game play request to a server remote from their respective player station. The game play requests received at the server are grouped at the server such that the players are included in a multi-player skill game, that is, a game in which player skill-based inputs from multiple players are used in identifying a result for each player. Each player is then prompted for a skill-based input at their respective player station and the server ultimately uses the skill-based inputs to identify a result for each game play request in the multi-player skill game.

Each of the skill games according to the present invention may be a primary game or may be a secondary or bonus game associated with some other primary game. In particular, one preferred form of the invention uses the game play result of the skill game to modify the result of a primary game that is not necessarily a skill game.

A system embodying the principles of the present invention may include a network having at least two player stations and a server. Each player station is configured to accept respective inputs to generate or result in a game play request which is communicated to the server. Each player station also includes a respective player input device to allow the player at the respective player station to enter a game input in the game and a display to present a game play result to the player. The server is coupled to each of the player stations to receive the various game play requests and player inputs. A game result identifying component that may be implemented with the server identifies a result for each game play request and then the server communicates each respective result back to the respective player station. A grouping component may also be implemented with the server to group the various game play requests received at the server into various multi-player game groups.

The present invention also includes a program product stored on at least one storage medium. The program product includes a set of machine-readable instructions that are configured to carry out the methods described herein.

These and other advantages and features of the invention will be apparent from the following description of preferred embodiments, considered along with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a high level diagrammatic representation of a gaming system embodying the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic representation of a portion of the system shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic representation of the input device shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating a gaming method embodying principles according to the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating another gaming method embodying principles according to the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram illustrating yet another gaming method embodying principles according to the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a flow diagram illustrating still another gaming method embodying principles according to the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a gaming system 100 including a central game server (CGS) 101 that cooperates with a number of other components to enable players, preferably at many different remote gaming sites on a network, to participate in skill games. Each gaming site or casino in the illustrated system includes a local area server (LAS) 102 and a number of electronic player stations (EPSs) 103. As will be discussed in detail below, a player at any EPS 103 in the system may participate in a skill game alone or together with one or more players at any of the other EPSs 103 in the system. The skill game may add an element of excitement due to the fact that results are based at least in part on a player's skill. Competition between players in the skill-based games may make game play even more exciting in system 100.

According to the present invention, the identification of a result for a game play request based at least in part on an evaluation of the player's skill-based input in a game, is performed by a system component separate from the respective EPS 103 from which the game play request was initiated. In one embodiment, the CGS 101 may serve as a game result identifying component. In other embodiments, the gaming sites such as the LAS 102 may serve as the game result identifying component.

Some games that may be implemented according to the present invention comprise single-player skill games. In a single-player skill game, the game result identifying component such as CGS 101 or LAS 102 evaluates the player's skill-based input against some predetermined, random, or pseudo-random standard to identify a result for the player's participation in the game. The methods described in detail below with reference to FIGS. 4 and 7 represent two different methods for providing single-player skill games according to the invention.

Other games that may be implemented according to the present invention may include grouping players for participating in multi-player skill games. In these multi-player games the game result identifying component such as CGS 101 or LAS 102 uses the skill-based inputs from other players to evaluate a given player's skill-based input and identify a result of the given player's participation in the game. In a multi-player skill game according to the invention, a grouping component groups players for the various games. Such a grouping component may be implemented with CGS 101 or LASs 102 in system 100. The methods described in detail below with reference to FIGS. 5 and 6 represent two different methods for providing multi-player skill games according to the invention.

Preferred gaming systems according to the present invention support both single player and multi-player skill games. That is, one or more players at the different gaming sites in the system may participate in single player skill games while other players in the system are concurrently participating in multi-player skill games. A single centralized component such as CGS 101 may serve as the result identifying component for both the single player and multi-player skill games. Alternatively, a centralized component such as CGS 101 may serve as the result identifying component and grouping component for multi-player skill games and a gaming site component such as each LAS 102 may serve as the result identifying component for single player skill games played at the respective LAS's EPSs 103.

CGS 101 and each LAS 102 included in system 100 as shown in FIG. 1, may comprise one or more computer systems each having one or more processors, nonvolatile memory, volatile memory, a user interface arrangement, and communications interface, all connected to a system bus. These computer system details are omitted from the present drawings so as not to obscure the present invention in unnecessary detail. In one preferred form of system 100, the processor or processors associated with CGS 101 are programed with operational program code to implement the game result identifying component in the system. The CGS processing arrangement in this form of system 100 is also preferably programed to implement the grouping component if the system supports multi-player games according to the invention. Where CGS 101 is programed to implement the result identifying component or both the result identifying component and the grouping component, each LAS 102 is configured with suitable operational program code to transfer or relay information from its respective EPSs 103 to CGS 101 and transfer or relay information from the CGS to the LAS's respective EPSs. Each LAS 102 according to the present invention may be programed to act as the result identifying component and grouping component (where such grouping is supported in the system) with the ability to take over those functions under certain circumstances from CGS 101. For example, where one LAS 102 serves a large number of EPSs 103, the LAS may group players or game play requests from its respective EPSs during a time of high player activity, identify results based at least partially on the various player inputs, and return results to the EPSs rather than having the CGS 101 perform these tasks. Also, each LAS 102 may be configured to perform the tasks normally performed by CGS 101 in the event the communications link between the respective LAS and CGS is severed or degraded below a certain level.

It will be appreciated that the particular configuration of devices shown in FIG. 1 is shown only for purposes of example. A gaming system according to the present invention may omit some or all of the separate LAS's 102 at the various gaming facilities so that the EPSs 103 communicate directly with CGS 101. Also, various regions or different gaming facilities may be divided up into separate systems each having a respective CGS such as CGS 101. A system according to the invention may also be configured such that any one of several different CGSs could service a given EPS 103 anywhere in the system.

FIG. 2 shows a portion 200 of the complete system 100 shown in FIG. 1. System portion 200 includes CGS 101 and a single LAS 102 with several EPSs 103 operatively connected for communications with the LAS. EPSs 103 are each illustrated as having a processor 201 and a player interface arrangement made up of input device 202 and display 203. In preferred forms of the invention, volatile and nonvolatile memory (not shown) associated with processor 201 in a respective EPS 103 may store computer program code that may be executed by the processor 201 to cause the processor 201 to perform or direct the various functions provided by EPS 103. In particular, processor 201 will receive various player inputs from input device 202 associated with the respective EPS 103, and direct the respective display 203 to generate or produce graphics consistent with game play. These graphics shown at display 203 may facilitate or prompt various player inputs through input device 202 and may present game results to the respective player. In a preferred form of the invention, display 203, or at least a portion of the display, will comprise a touch screen display that may be thought of as part of input device 202.

It will be appreciated that FIG. 2 provides only a very diagrammatic representation of each EPS 103 and does not show many elements that may be included in such a player station that may be used in a system according to the present invention. In particular, it will be appreciated that an EPS 103 may have a separate graphic processor controlled through processor 201 to cause various graphics to be displayed on display 203. One or more touch screen controllers may be associated with display 203. Also, each EPS will commonly include a sound system for providing high quality audio output at the EPS and a visual alerting device such as a light mounted at the top of the EPS. Each EPS will also commonly include one or more input and/or output devices used to implement a game accounting or player tracking system used in the gaming system. For example, each EPS 103 will commonly include a player card reader and/or a device adapted to receive or output value in some form, such as currency, tokens, or vouchers. It will also be appreciated that an EPS 103 that may be used in the present invention may include more than a single display. Thus, display 203 may comprise multiple separate display devices such as CRTs, LCDs, plasma displays, or any other suitable types or combination of displays. It should further be noted that the EPSs 103 need not be identical throughout system 100. Rather, there may be wide variations in the various components included in each respective EPS 103. The additional details of the EPS such as a sound system, visual alerting device, card reader, or value in/out devices are unnecessary for a description of the present invention and are thus not shown in the figures.

FIG. 3 shows further details of input device 202 shown first in FIG. 2. Input device 202 may include multiple types of player input elements such as a button panel 301, a track ball 302, a keyboard 303, a mouse 304, etc. Each type of input element may serve a different function relating to a player's skill. For example, the button panel 301 may have multiple buttons 305, that illuminate one at a time in an arbitrary order and the player may be prompted to press the buttons 305 in the same order of their previous illuminations to test that player's memory skills and measure that player's ability against another player at another input device 202 or against a predetermined standard. The input device 202 may include one or more or even all of the input elements, and in some embodiments, the input device 202 may include multiple versions of one of the input elements. Also, certain virtual input elements may be represented on display 203 if the display comprises or includes a touch screen display. Of course, it will be appreciated that numerous combinations of input device elements and skill games are enabled by the present disclosure and should be understood to be included in embodiments of the present invention.

The operation of system 100 according to various forms of the present invention may be described with reference to the flow diagrams of FIGS. 4 through 7. It will be appreciated that the references to components in system 100 in the following discussion are references to the corresponding components shown in FIGS. 1 through 3. The physical components mentioned with reference to the flow diagrams are not shown in the flow diagrams.

FIG. 4 shows a flow diagram illustrating a gaming method 400 embodying principles according to one preferred form of the present invention. This embodiment may be implemented in a gaming system such as system 100 shown in FIG. 1. As indicated at process block 402, a player may enter a game play request at a player station such as EPS 103 on the network. The game play request comprises a request to enter a skill game in which results are determined at least partially based on a skill-based input from the player and prizes or awards are assigned accordingly.

In response to the game play request entered at the EPS 103, the EPS prompts the player for a skill-based input at the EPS 103. For example, the game may have a horse racing or other racing theme and the player may be asked to spin the track ball 302 associated with the EPSs input device 202. EPS 103 may generate an image of a race horse on the EPS display 203 which proceeds across the display based the player's skill or ability to spin the track ball 302. As illustrated at process block 404, the system produces, determines, or otherwise identifies a result for the player's participation in the game based at least in part on the player's skill-based input. Continuing with the horse race example, the player's result in the game may be determined based at least in part on the speed with which the player “races” the horse across the display 203, that is, operates the trackball or other control device to move the horse across the display. The player may also be required to maneuver the horse around obstacles such as other horses in addition to move the horse as quickly as possible through the graphic display.

In one embodiment of the horse race example, the faster the player races the horse across the display 203, the more favorable the player prize becomes. On the other hand, if the player's horse crosses the display 203 slowly, the player may be awarded a lesser prize or no prize at all. In this embodiment, the result identifying component, either CGS 101 or LAS 102 identifies the result based at least in part on comparing the player's skill input to a some speed standard set at the server regarding the speed that the horse crossed the display 203. For example, the speed standard may be a time range from 5-8 seconds for a first prize, a range of 9-15 seconds for a second prize, etc. The standard may be fixed, fixed at different levels for different wagers, or random.

Regardless of how the game result is identified at the server implementing the game result identifying component, at process block 405 in FIG. 4, the server communicates the result of the game play to the EPS 103 from which the game play request and skill input was entered. At process block 406 the result and any associated prize is presented to the player in some manner such as through an image on EPS display 203 and/or sounds from the EPS sound system. Any prize associated with the player's result may be dispensed from the value in/out device of the EPS 103, according to the operation of that device and the game accounting system used in gaming system 100.

The horse race example described above is an example of a game according to the invention requiring a skill-based input that is related to a player's physical abilities. Other games according to the invention may measure other physical abilities such as eye-hand coordination or any other physical ability or set of physical abilities. Other skill-based games according to the present invention may require skill-based inputs related to the player's knowledge of various subject matter, the player's memory, or some combination of these, perhaps combined with some physical ability, or perhaps combined with some random result generated in a lottery-type game, slot machine, or a bingo-type game, and measured against some standard. For example, a paper/rock/scissors game may be played between a single player and the result identifying component, with the result identifying component randomly choosing paper, rock, or scissors for comparison with the player's input. As another example, a single player skill game may be evaluated in terms of the number of correct answers provided by the player in a trivia game or the speed at which the player answers trivia questions. As yet another example, a single player skill game may evaluate the player's input in terms of the ability of the player to match a pattern of flashing lights against some set standard. For games that involve a measurement of the speed at which a player acts, the speed is preferably measured by first noting a time at which a player response prompting image is first generated on the player station display 203 (as indicated by the graphic generating instruction being communicated to the display). The time between that start time and the time at which the player station receives the player's input or inputs is then measured, and this time represents the player action time or response time. This response time or some representation of the response time may then be communicated from the EPS 103 to the result identifying component such as CGS 101 or LAS 102.

The nature of communications between the various components in system 100 in order to implement the method shown in FIG. 4 will depend in part on the type of skill game being played. In particular, the skill-based input at an EPS 103 may be initially evaluated or measured at the EPS (as in the player speed example described in the previous paragraph) and this initial measurement may be communicated from the EPS to the result identifying component. The result identifying component may then evaluate the received measurement against the applicable standard or other applicable value, identify a result for the game play, and communicate the result back to the EPS 103. The result is preferably communicated to EPS 103 in the form of a code or index value that is acted upon appropriately by the EPS. It will be appreciated that the initial game play request in the method shown in FIG. 4 need not comprise a communication to the result identifying component, or any communication from the EPS 103 for that matter. Rather, the game play request may merely cause the respective EPS to start a game, that is, prompt the player for the skill-based input and this input will be collected at the EPS and ultimately evaluated at the result identifying component to identify a result for the player. In other forms of the invention, each game play request results in a communication to some system element remote from the EPS 103, and this remote element may then communicate an instruction back to the EPS which causes the EPS to prompt the player for the skill-based input. Thus, where a player prompt for a skill-based input is required in a given game implementation, the instruction to prompt the player may originate from CGS 101 in FIG. 1, LAS 102 or at the respective EPS 103. In yet other forms of the invention, no separate game play request is necessary. Rather, the EPS 103 may reside in a state in which the player may immediately make a skill-based input for a game without a separate game play request as indicated at block 402 in FIG. 4. In these forms of the invention, there may be no prompting of the player for a skill-based input as shown at block 403 in FIG. 4, or at least such a prompting step is not performed in response to a game play request entered at the player station.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating another gaming method 500 embodying principles according to the present invention. Gaming method 500 begins at process block 503 where players at different EPSs 103 in the system 100 enter game play requests. At process block 504, a server such as the CGS 101 implementing a grouping component may collect the players' game play requests from EPSs 103 into a game group. At process block 505 the players in the game group, that is players having submitted game play requests that are collected into the game group, are prompted for a skill-based input at their respective EPS 103. The respective EPS 103 may prompt the player at the EPS 103 for the input and may collect a local result produced from each players' input. The respective EPSs 103 may then forward the local result to a server such as the CGS 101 or LAS 102 which implements a result identifying component where the local results from each of the EPSs 103 are compared in some way so that each participating players' result is identified or determined based on the comparison. At process block 506, the server communicates the respective player's result to their respective EPS 103, with the result preferably in the form of a code or index value that the EPS may use to look up an associated prize value and/or result graphic. Upon receipt of the player's result from the game conducted for the game group, the respective EPS 103 presents the result to the player either through an image or other interaction with the player and shows the player any prize or award that may be associated in some fashion with the result.

As described in reference to FIG. 4, it is possible to implement games according to the present invention in which no game play request is required separate from the player skill-based input. Multi-player or grouping games such as described with reference to FIG. 5 may also be implemented where no game play request is required separate from the player skill-based input. In this case, no separate prompting step is required as shown at block 505 in FIG. 5. Rather, the player's skill-based input itself represents a game play request grouped as indicated at block 504 in FIG. 5. In this arrangement, the skill-based inputs themselves are grouped as indicated at block 504. In yet other forms of the invention, the skill-based inputs themselves may be grouped in a separate step after block 505 in FIG. 5, and this grouping is performed instead of grouping the game play requests as shown at block 504. The player skill-based inputs may be grouped to form a game group according to the invention, even where the players make separate game play request.

In one embodiment, for example, the players in the group may each be prompted to respond to a knowledge-based question appearing on the player's respective EPS display 203. The players may read the question on the display 203 and type or otherwise enter a response to the question through input device 202. The player correctly responding to the server prompt the quickest may be awarded a prize while other players receive nothing or a reduced prize depending on how quickly their response was received at the EPS 103.

In another embodiment, the game may comprise an interactive video game in which the players may battle each other in an animated presentation on respective EPS displays 203. The players may each be assigned a particular character in the animation and may control the character's movements via respective input device 202. The game result identifying component, either LAS 102 or CGS 101, may identify a winning result for the player or players that “win” the battle or supply inputs that produce certain results in the battle, and may identify a losing result for the other players in the game group. Of course, variations of the input device 202 and the interactive game will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art and viewing the present disclosure.

Many other forms of games may use skill-based inputs from a number of players in a group to identify a game result for each player in the group. The group game may also comprise a paper, rock, scissors type game, or a prediction type game for example. In a prediction type game, each player may be prompted to predict something such as a randomly generated value or set of values. A prediction type game may alternatively require each player in the group to predict how many players in the group submit a correct answer to a trivia or other similar question. It will be noted that the multi-player games may be competitive or non-competitive. In competitive multi-player games, the player's result will be determined relative to other players' skill-based inputs. In non-competitive multi-player games, each player's result will be determined relative to some standard and not relative to the other players' respective skill-based input. The standard may, however, be affected by the skill-based inputs from the various players in the group. For example, the game may require two skill-based inputs from each player, one may be an answer to a trivia question and another may be a prediction of what percentage of players in the group answer correctly. Each player's result in the game may be determined by how close their prediction is to the actual percentage according to some standard and not relative to the predictions of the other players in the group.

The nature of communications required in the system 100 to implement a multi-player game according to the method shown in FIG. 5 are different than for non-grouping games such as that shown in the method of FIG. 4. In particular, each game play request or a representation of a game play request must be communicated to the grouping component in the system or at least to some component that participates in player grouping with other components. The result identifying component must also receive information on each game group in order to properly compare or evaluate the various skill-based inputs and properly identify a result for each game play request. Preferred forms of the invention implement the grouping component and result identifying component in a common system processing arrangement in order to minimize communications overhead in the system. For example, CGS 101 preferably implements both the grouping component and result identifying component according to one form of the present invention. Regardless of where in the system the result identifying component is implemented with respect to the grouping component, the result identifying component receives information on each player's skill-based input or inputs for each player in the group and uses that information according to the game rules to identify a result for each player or game play request. Game results are communicated to the various EPSs 103 preferably in the fashion described above with reference to FIG. 4.

In a preferred form of the invention, game play requests in the method shown in FIG. 5 are grouped in any of the fashions disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/456,721, entitled “Method, System, and Program Product for Conducting Multiple Concurrent Bingo-Type Games.” The entire content of this prior application is hereby incorporated herein by this reference. As disclosed in that prior application, game play requests may be collected in a queue or register until some predetermined standard is met for the number of collected game play requests. Once this standard is reached, the collected game play requests are considered a game group and the multi-player game is played or conducted so that results may be identified

It will be appreciated that a system implementing the multi-player forms of the present invention may rapidly group players and start one game after another so that multiple games may be in play at any given time. That is, once a first group of players has been assigned to participate in a skill game offered through the system, such as system 100, the system may proceed to simultaneously or concurrently administer another skill game for another skill game group. A system according to the present invention may not necessarily wait for one skill game to be completed before starting to collect players for, and actually beginning play in, another skill game. The number of players grouped for the play of skill games according to principles of the present invention may be limited to reduce the time required for grouping players. If a certain number of players or game play requests in a skill game is required, the number may be referred to as a quorum of players or game play requests. For example, each skill game offered through gaming system 100 shown in FIG. 1 may be limited to between 2 to 20 players, with the preferred number of players for any given game being from 10 to 15. A quorum may be when 10 players enter game play requests for a particular game. Also, various characteristics of players may be considered when forming a quorum for a game. For example, various player's may be associated with a skill level or a wager level and game play requests from these players may be grouped together exclusively. In any case, it will be appreciated that where system 100 includes a large number of EPSs 103 at the various remote locations, several thousand EPSs for example, hundreds of individual skill games may be in process at any given time through the gaming system. It will also be noted that the system may support any number of different multi-player games and the grouping component may be required to distinguish the various game play requests and group them into the appropriate game groups to play the requested game. Thus, the communication representing a game play request in the present invention may include an index or other value that indicates what type of game is requested. In some forms of the invention, player grouping may be entirely transparent to the players and the players will not be aware that their game play requests are being grouped for any purpose.

FIG. 6 shows a method 600 embodying the present invention. Gaming method 600 begins at process block 604 where players across the network in the system 100 of FIG. 1 may enter their respective game play requests at a respective EPS 103. At process block 606, a server such as CGS 101 or LAS 102 implementing the grouping component identifies common game play requests for a game, and the server groups the players' game play requests for the particular game that is requested. At process block 608, the server implementing the result identifying component then carries out the game that the grouped players had requested and identifies a result for each game play included in the group. A prize for the result may be identified at the server or elsewhere in the system. In any event, this first result may be considered to be a result for a first game which may be a skill game or a non-skill game. At process block 610, the players are prompted for an additional game input. The input for which the players are prompted is for either a multi-player skill game using the same game group already identified or a single player skill game. This skill game may be considered an additional or bonus game or simply a part of the earlier game. At process block 612, the server implementing the result identifying component may adjust the player result or prize in the initial or first game based on the player action that is taken at process block 610 in the skill game. The first game prizes may be improved, reduced, or remain the same based on the player action or performance in the skill game. The calculation of the prize adjustment may occur across a network such as the network in the system 100 of FIG. 1 where the CGS 101 or the LAS 102 may produce the final result before communicating the result back to the respective EPS 103.

FIG. 7 is a flow diagram illustrating another gaming method 700 embodying principles according to the present invention. The gaming method begins at process block 704 where a player may enter a game play request from an EPS 103 on a network such as system 100 of FIG. 1. At process block 706, a server implementing a first game result identifying component on the network located apart from the EPS 103 such as CGS 101 or LAS 102 identifies a result in a first game based on the player's game play request at process block 704. A result index may be communicated to the respective EPS 103 at this point. At process block 708, a prize that maps to the result, possibly through the result index, is identified and may be communicated to the player through various communication mediums, for example, through the EPS display 203. Regardless of whether the prize or result is then communicated to the player, at process block 710, the player is prompted for an input in a skill game at their respective EPS 103. The player may take action in response to the prompt and, at process block 712, the server implementing the first game result identifying component or another result identifying component may adjust the player prize according to the player action in the skill game. After performing the prize adjustment, if any, the server communicates the result or prize as modified by the skill game result back to the respective EPS 103 as indicated at process block 714.

Numerous variations are possible within the basic method steps shown in FIG. 7. For example, the player may be allowed to decline the second game or skill-based input prompted for at block 710 and receive the result from the first game. The first game itself may be a skill game or a non-skill game. The result identifying component for the first game need not be the same element as the component that adjusts the prize/result in response to the input in the second game. Also, it is possible to perform a skill game first according to the invention and the result in the skill game may be modified by a result in a second or bonus non-skill game.

As will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art and viewing the disclosed embodiments, further variations for prize mapping and distribution in a skill game are possible and are within the scope of the appended claims. The above described preferred embodiments are intended to illustrate the principles of the invention, but not to limit the scope of the invention. Various other embodiments and modifications to these preferred embodiments may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention.