Title:
Method, apparatus and computer program product for providing a consistent virtual entity
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for providing a consistent virtual entity includes a historical event element and a communication element. The historical event element is configured to store historical information based on previously played games related to a virtual entity. The communication element is in communication with the historical element and configured to receive an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application. The communication element is configured to provide a message including template content and the historical information to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication.



Inventors:
Arrasvuori, Juha (Tampere, FI)
Application Number:
11/413478
Publication Date:
11/15/2007
Filing Date:
04/28/2006
Assignee:
Nokia Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080045347QUICK CHANGE GLASS MOUNTING ARRANGEMENT FOR GAMING CABINETFebruary, 2008Stephenson et al.
20090275371Competition Game System and Game ApparatusNovember, 2009Takahashi et al.
20080102960GAME PLATFORM AND MATCH METHOD FOR TERMINAL TYPE OF CLIENT END IN ONLINE GAMEMay, 2008Jiao et al.
20090104963LASER LOT GENERATORApril, 2009Burman et al.
20070184886Video based strategic board gameAugust, 2007Floden
20070293291Using the binary system in an interactive DVD titleDecember, 2007Harris
20070238526Methods and devices for exchanging messages in an always-on networkOctober, 2007Chandranmenon et al.
20090011811Puzzle Poker Electronic Video Card GameJanuary, 2009Ducharme et al.
20070123343Reel type game machineMay, 2007Inoue
20070202937Method and System for a Game of Knowledge For Multiple Players Including WageringAugust, 2007Peires et al.
20100048298SUBSTANTIALLY TRANSPARENT ELECTRICAL COMPONENTS WITHIN A WAGERING GAME MACHINEFebruary, 2010Bleich et al.



Primary Examiner:
CHAN, ALLEN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ALSTON & BIRD LLP (BANK OF AMERICA PLAZA, 101 SOUTH TRYON STREET, SUITE 4000, CHARLOTTE, NC, 28280-4000, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method comprising: receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application; and providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication, the message including template content and historical information based on a previous performance associated with a virtual entity.

2. A method according to claim 1, further comprising an initial operation of receiving input to define a communication style of the virtual entity.

3. A method according to claim 2, wherein receiving input to define the communication style of the virtual entity comprises receiving input defining a scaled value for each of a plurality of communication dimensions.

4. A method according to claim 2, further comprising modifying the communication style of the virtual entity during execution of the particular game application.

5. A method according to claim 1, further comprising storing data related to the particular game application for use as historical information in future game applications.

6. A method according to claim 1, further comprising receiving one of changes or additions to the template content.

7. A method according to claim 1, further comprising defining a specific template content as being eligible for selection for inclusion in the message in response to each particular game related event.

8. A method according to claim 1, wherein providing the message comprises providing the message including the historical information defined by information related to past games involving one of the player or the virtual entity independent of the particular game application.

9. A method according to claim 1, further comprising selecting particular items from preprogrammed content via a probabilistic determination based on the communication style of the virtual entity.

10. A computer program product comprising at least one computer-readable storage medium having computer-readable program code portions stored therein, the computer-readable program code portions comprising: a first executable portion for receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application; and a second executable portion for providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication, the message including template content and historical information based on a previous performance associated with a virtual entity.

11. A computer program product according to claim 10, further comprising a third executable portion for an initial operation of receiving input to define a communication style of the virtual entity.

12. A computer program product according to claim 11, wherein the third executable portion includes instructions for receiving input defining a scaled value for each of a plurality of communication dimensions.

13. A computer program product according to claim 11, further comprising a fourth executable portion for modifying the communication style of the virtual entity during execution of the particular game application.

14. A computer program product according to claim 11, further comprising a fourth executable portion for selecting particular items from preprogrammed content via a probabilistic determination based on the communication style of the virtual entity

15. A computer program product according to claim 10, further comprising a third executable portion for storing data related to the particular game application for use as historical information in future game applications.

16. A computer program product according to claim 10, further comprising a third executable portion for receiving one of changes or additions to the template content.

17. A computer program product according to claim 10, further comprising a third executable portion for defining a specific template content as being eligible for selection for inclusion in the message in response to each particular game related event.

18. A computer program product according to claim 10, wherein the second executable portion includes instructions for providing the message including the historical information defined by information related to past games involving one of the player or the virtual entity independent of the particular game application.

19. An apparatus comprising: a historical event element configured to store historical information based on previously played games related to a virtual entity; and a communication element in communication with the historical element and configured to: receive an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application; and provide a message including template content and the historical information to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication.

20. An apparatus according to claim 19, further comprising an entity management element in communication with the communication element and the historical event element receiving input to define a communication style of the virtual entity.

21. An apparatus according to claim 20, wherein the entity management element is capable of receiving input defining a scaled value for each of a plurality of communication dimensions.

22. An apparatus according to claim 20, wherein the entity management element is configured to enable modification of the communication style of the virtual entity during execution of the particular game application.

23. An apparatus according to claim 20, wherein the communication element is configured to select particular items from preprogrammed content via a probabilistic determination based on the communication style of the virtual entity.

24. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the historical event element is configured to store data related to the particular game application for use as historical information in future game applications.

25. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the communication element is configured to receive one of changes or additions to the template content.

26. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the communication element is configured to enable definition of a specific template content as being eligible for selection for inclusion in the message in response to each particular game related event.

27. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein providing the message comprises providing the message including the historical information defined by information related to past games involving one of the player or the virtual entity independent of the particular game application.

28. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the apparatus is embodied as a mobile terminal and the message is capable of being provided for a plurality of game applications related to the same virtual entity.

29. An apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the apparatus is embodied as a network device and the message is capable of being provided via a plurality of host devices for a plurality of game applications related to the same virtual entity.

30. An apparatus comprising: means for receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application; and means for providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication, the message including template content and historical information based on previous performance associated with a virtual entity.

Description:

TECHNOLOGICAL FIELD

Embodiments of the present invention relate generally to gaming technology and, more particularly, relate to a method, apparatus, and computer program product for providing a consistent virtual entity such as a virtual opponent.

BACKGROUND

The modem communications era has brought about a tremendous expansion of wireline and wireless networks. Computer networks, television networks, and telephony networks are experiencing an unprecedented technological expansion, fueled by consumer demand. Wireless and mobile networking technologies have addressed related consumer demands, while providing more flexibility and immediacy of information transfer.

Current and future networking technologies continue to facilitate ease of information transfer and convenience to users. One area in which there is a demand to increase ease of information transfer relates to the delivery of services to a user of a mobile terminal. The services may be in the form of a particular media or communication application desired by the user, such as a music player, a game player, an electronic book, short messages, email, etc. The services may also be in the form of interactive applications in which the user may respond to a network device in order to perform a task or achieve a goal. The services may be provided from a network server or other network device, or even from the mobile terminal such as, for example, a mobile telephone, a mobile television, a mobile gaming system, etc.

Gaming applications have become common on mobile telephones and other mobile terminals. Additionally, certain mobile terminals such as mobile gaming systems specialize in delivery of gaming applications to mobile terminal users. Users of such mobile terminals may engage in games involving other human players, computer players known as virtual players, or combinations of human and virtual players. Such virtual players may be implemented, for example, using artificial intelligence. In such gaming applications, it is common for a user's enjoyment of a game to at least partly be influenced by interaction with other players. For example, human players have quite varied skill levels and styles of play. Additionally, human players generally improve over time and may even alter their style of play at any given time. Such variety often improves the game playing experience.

Accordingly, when playing a game with one or more virtual players, a significant aspect of the game playing experience may be lost. In an attempt to rectify some of the shortcomings of virtual players, current game developers have attempted to create more complex virtual players by giving the virtual players a “personality” which defines a style of play for the virtual players. For example, some virtual players may be aggressive, while others are conservative. Additionally, virtual players may improve in skill as they continue to play. However, such virtual players are often confined to a single game or platform. Additionally, there are still other aspects of the gaming experience that such virtual opponents are currently not able to mimic. For example, human players might verbally (through text or audio) challenge, complement, tease or otherwise engage the user in conversation related to the gaming experience. Such conversation may be related to past experiences with a particular player and often enriches the game playing experience by adding to the interest level of those involved in the game. Additionally, such conversation may impact the game play since certain players may alter their style of play based on the conversation. Virtual players typically lack such conversational skills.

Accordingly, it may be desirable to develop a virtual opponent that does not suffer from the limitations described above in order to enrich the game playing experience of those human players playing a particular game.

BRIEF SUMMARY

A method, apparatus and computer program product are therefore provided to create a consistent virtual opponent which can generate conversation related to past events involving a human player. In particular, a method, apparatus and computer program product are provided that allow a user, for example, of a mobile terminal or other gaming device, to create a virtual player or opponent that can be consistent throughout various different games or even various gaming platforms. The virtual player can generate communications directed at one or more human players which are related to past events involving the one or more human players. Accordingly, the game playing experience of human players may be enriched.

In one exemplary embodiment, a method of providing a consistent virtual opponent is provided. The method includes receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application, and providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication. The message includes template content and historical information related to a virtual entity.

In another exemplary embodiment, a computer program product for providing a consistent virtual opponent is provided. The computer program product includes at least one computer-readable storage medium having computer-readable program code portions stored therein. The computer-readable program code portions include first and second executable portions. The first executable portion is for receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application. The second executable portion is for providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication. The message includes template content and historical information related to a virtual entity.

In another exemplary embodiment, an apparatus for providing a consistent virtual opponent is provided. The apparatus includes a historical event element and a communication element. The historical event element is configured to store historical information based on previously played games related to a virtual entity. The communication element is in communication with the historical element and configured to receive an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application. The communication element is configured to provide a message including template content and the historical information to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication.

In another exemplary embodiment, an apparatus for providing a consistent virtual opponent is provided. The apparatus includes means for receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application, and means for providing a message to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication. The message includes template content and historical information related to a virtual entity.

Embodiments of the invention may provide a method, apparatus and computer program product for advantageous employment in a gaming environment, such as on a mobile terminal capable of executing gaming applications. As a result, for example, mobile terminal users may enjoy an improved game playing experience.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING(S)

Having thus described embodiments of the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of a mobile terminal according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of a wireless communications system according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a block diagram of portions of a system for providing a consistent virtual entity according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a block diagram according to an exemplary method for providing a consistent virtual entity according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the invention are shown. Indeed, embodiments of the invention may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like reference numerals refer to like elements throughout.

FIG. 1 illustrates a block diagram of a mobile terminal 10 that would benefit from embodiments of the present invention. It should be understood, however, that a mobile telephone as illustrated and hereinafter described is merely illustrative of one type of mobile terminal that would benefit from embodiments of the present invention and, therefore, should not be taken to limit the scope of embodiments of the present invention. While several embodiments of the mobile terminal 10 are illustrated and will be hereinafter described for purposes of example, other types of mobile terminals, such as portable digital assistants (PDAs), pagers, mobile televisions, gaming devices, laptop computers and other types of voice and text communications systems, can readily employ embodiments of the present invention.

In addition, while several embodiments of the method of the present invention are performed or used by a mobile terminal 10, the method may be employed by other than a mobile terminal. Moreover, the system and method of embodiments of the present invention will be primarily described in conjunction with mobile communications applications. It should be understood, however, that the system and method of embodiments of the present invention can be utilized in conjunction with a variety of other applications, both in the mobile communications industries and outside of the mobile communications industries.

The mobile terminal 10 includes an antenna 12 in operable communication with a transmitter 14 and a receiver 16. The mobile terminal 10 further includes a controller 20 or other processing element that provides signals to and receives signals from the transmitter 14 and receiver 16, respectively. The signals include signaling information in accordance with the air interface standard of the applicable cellular system, and also user speech and/or user generated data. In this regard, the mobile terminal 10 is capable of operating with one or more air interface standards, communication protocols, modulation types, and access types. By way of illustration, the mobile terminal 10 is capable of operating in accordance with any of a number of first, second and/or third-generation communication protocols or the like. For example, the mobile terminal 10 may be capable of operating in accordance with second-generation (2G) wireless communication protocols IS-136 (TDMA), GSM, and IS-95 (CDMA), or with third-generation (3G) wireless communication protocols, such as UMTS, CDMA2000, and TD-SCDMA.

It is understood that the controller 20 includes circuitry required for implementing audio and logic functions of the mobile terminal 10. For example, the controller 20 may be comprised of a digital signal processor device, a microprocessor device, and various analog to digital converters, digital to analog converters, and other support circuits. Control and signal processing functions of the mobile terminal 10 are allocated between these devices according to their respective capabilities. The controller 20 thus may also include the functionality to convolutionally encode and interleave message and data prior to modulation and transmission. The controller 20 can additionally include an internal voice coder, and may include an internal data modem. Further, the controller 20 may include functionality to operate one or more software programs, which may be stored in memory. For example, the controller 20 may be capable of operating a connectivity program, such as a conventional Web browser. The connectivity program may then allow the mobile terminal 10 to transmit and receive Web content, such as location-based content, according to a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), for example.

The mobile terminal 10 also comprises a user interface including an output device such as a conventional earphone or speaker 24, a ringer 22, a microphone 26, a display 28, and a user input interface, all of which are coupled to the controller 20. The user input interface, which allows the mobile terminal 10 to receive data, may include any of a number of devices allowing the mobile terminal 10 to receive data, such as a keypad 30, a touch display (not shown) or other input device. In embodiments including the keypad 30, the keypad 30 may include the conventional numeric (0-9) and related keys (#, *), and other keys used for operating the mobile terminal 10. Alternatively, the keypad 30 may include a conventional QWERTY keypad arrangement. The keypad 30 may also include various soft keys with associated functions. In addition, or alternatively, the mobile terminal 10 may include an interface device such as a joystick or other user input interface. The mobile terminal 10 further includes a battery 34, such as a vibrating battery pack, for powering various circuits that are required to operate the mobile terminal 10, as well as optionally providing mechanical vibration as a detectable output.

The mobile terminal 10 may further include a universal identity element (UIM) 38. The UIM 38 is typically a memory device having a processor built in. The UIM 38 may include, for example, a subscriber identity element (SIM), a universal integrated circuit card (UICC), a universal subscriber identity element (USIM), a removable user identity element (R-UIM), etc. The UIM 38 typically stores information elements related to a mobile subscriber. In addition to the UIM 38, the mobile terminal 10 may be equipped with memory. For example, the mobile terminal 10 may include volatile memory 40, such as volatile Random Access Memory (RAM) including a cache area for the temporary storage of data. The mobile terminal 10 may also include other non-volatile memory 42, which can be embedded and/or may be removable. The non-volatile memory 42 can additionally or alternatively comprise an EEPROM, flash memory or the like, such as that available from the SanDisk Corporation of Sunnyvale, Calif., or Lexar Media Inc. of Fremont, Calif. The memories can store any of a number of pieces of information, and data, used by the mobile terminal 10 to implement the functions of the mobile terminal 10. For example, the memories can include an identifier, such as an international mobile equipment identification (IMEI) code, capable of uniquely identifying the mobile terminal 10.

Referring now to FIG. 2, an illustration of one type of system that would benefit from embodiments of the present invention is provided. The system includes a plurality of network devices. As shown, one or more mobile terminals 10 may each include an antenna 12 for transmitting signals to and for receiving signals from a base site or base station (BS) 44. The base station 44 may be a part of one or more cellular or mobile networks each of which includes elements required to operate the network, such as a mobile switching center (MSC) 46. As well known to those skilled in the art, the mobile network may also be referred to as a Base Station/MSC/Interworking function (BMI). In operation, the MSC 46 is capable of routing calls to and from the mobile terminal 10 when the mobile terminal 10 is making and receiving calls. The MSC 46 can also provide a connection to landline trunks when the mobile terminal 10 is involved in a call. In addition, the MSC 46 can be capable of controlling the forwarding of messages to and from the mobile terminal 10, and can also control the forwarding of messages for the mobile terminal 10 to and from a messaging center. It should be noted that although the MSC 46 is shown in the system of FIG. 2, the MSC 46 is merely an exemplary network device and embodiments of the present invention are not limited to use in a network employing an MSC.

The MSC 46 can be coupled to a data network, such as a local area network (LAN), a metropolitan area network (MAN), and/or a wide area network (WAN). The MSC 46 can be directly coupled to the data network. In one typical embodiment, however, the MSC 46 is coupled to a GTW 48, and the GTW 48 is coupled to a WAN, such as the Internet 50. In turn, devices such as processing elements (e.g., personal computers, server computers or the like) can be coupled to the mobile terminal 10 via the Internet 50. For example, as explained below, the processing elements can include one or more processing elements associated with a computing system 52 (two shown in FIG. 2), origin server 54 (one shown in FIG. 2) or the like, as described below.

The BS 44 can also be coupled to a signaling GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) support node (SGSN) 56. As known to those skilled in the art, the SGSN 56 is typically capable of performing functions similar to the MSC 46 for packet switched services. The SGSN 56, like the MSC 46, can be coupled to a data network, such as the Internet 50. The SGSN 56 can be directly coupled to the data network. In a more typical embodiment, however, the SGSN 56 is coupled to a packet-switched core network, such as a GPRS core network 58. The packet-switched core network is then coupled to another GTW 48, such as a GTW GPRS support node (GGSN) 60, and the GGSN 60 is coupled to the Internet 50. In addition to the GGSN 60, the packet-switched core network can also be coupled to a GTW 48. Also, the GGSN 60 can be coupled to a messaging center. In this regard, the GGSN 60 and the SGSN 56, like the MSC 46, may be capable of controlling the forwarding of messages, such as MMS messages. The GGSN 60 and SGSN 56 may also be capable of controlling the forwarding of messages for the mobile terminal 10 to and from the messaging center.

In addition, by coupling the SGSN 56 to the GPRS core network 58 and the GGSN 60, devices such as a computing system 52 and/or origin server 54 may be coupled to the mobile terminal 10 via the Internet 50, SGSN 56 and GGSN 60. In this regard, devices such as the computing system 52 and/or origin server 54 may communicate with the mobile terminal 10 across the SGSN 56, GPRS core network 58 and the GGSN 60. By directly or indirectly connecting mobile terminals 10 and the other devices (e.g., computing system 52, origin server 54, etc.) to the Internet 50, the mobile terminals 10 may communicate with the other devices and with one another, such as according to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), to thereby carry out various functions of the mobile terminals 10.

Although not every element of every possible mobile network is shown and described herein, it should be appreciated that the mobile terminal 10 may be coupled to one or more of any of a number of different networks through the BS 44. In this regard, the network(s) can be capable of supporting communication in accordance with any one or more of a number of first-generation (I G), second-generation (2G), 2.5G and/or third-generation (3G) mobile communication protocols or the like. For example, one or more of the network(s) can be capable of supporting communication in accordance with 2G wireless communication protocols IS-136 (TDMA), GSM, and IS-95 (CDMA). Also, for example, one or more of the network(s) can be capable of supporting communication in accordance with 2.5G wireless communication protocols GPRS, Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), or the like. Further, for example, one or more of the network(s) can be capable of supporting communication in accordance with 3G wireless communication protocols such as Universal Mobile Telephone System (UMTS) network employing Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) radio access technology. Some narrow-band AMPS (NAMPS), as well as TACS, network(s) may also benefit from embodiments of the present invention, as should dual or higher mode mobile stations (e.g., digital/analog or TDMA/CDMA/analog phones).

The mobile terminal 10 can further be coupled to one or more wireless access points (APs) 62. The APs 62 may comprise access points configured to communicate with the mobile terminal 10 in accordance with techniques such as, for example, radio frequency (RF), Bluetooth (BT), infrared (IrDA) or any of a number of different wireless networking techniques, including wireless LAN (WLAN) techniques such as IEEE 802.11 (e.g., 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.1 in, etc.), WiMAX techniques such as IEEE 802.16, and/or ultra wideband (UWB) techniques such as IEEE 802.15 or the like. The APs 62 may be coupled to the Internet 50. Like with the MSC 46, the APs 62 can be directly coupled to the Internet 50. In one embodiment, however, the APs 62 are indirectly coupled to the Internet 50 via a GTW 48. Furthermore, in one embodiment, the BS 44 may be considered as another AP 62. As will be appreciated, by directly or indirectly connecting the mobile terminals 10 and the computing system 52, the origin server 54, and/or any of a number of other devices, to the Internet 50, the mobile terminals 10 can communicate with one another, the computing system, etc., to thereby carry out various functions of the mobile terminals 10, such as to transmit data, content or the like to, and/or receive content, data or the like from, the computing system 52. As used herein, the terms “data,” “content,” “information” and similar terms may be used interchangeably to refer to data capable of being transmitted, received and/or stored in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. Thus, use of any such terms should not be taken to limit the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Although not shown in FIG. 2, in addition to or in lieu of coupling the mobile terminal 10 to computing systems 52 across the Internet 50, the mobile terminal 10 and computing system 52 may be coupled to one another and communicate in accordance with, for example, RF, BT, IrDA or any of a number of different wireline or wireless communication techniques, including LAN, WLAN, WiMAX and/or UWB techniques. One or more of the computing systems 52 can additionally, or alternatively, include a removable memory capable of storing content, which can thereafter be transferred to the mobile terminal 10. Further, the mobile terminal 10 can be coupled to one or more electronic devices, such as printers, digital projectors and/or other multimedia capturing, producing and/or storing devices (e.g., other terminals). Like with the computing systems 52, the mobile terminal 10 may be configured to communicate with the portable electronic devices in accordance with techniques such as, for example, RF, BT, IrDA or any of a number of different wireline or wireless communication techniques, including USB, LAN, WLAN, WiMAX and/or UWB techniques.

An exemplary embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 3, in which certain elements of a system for providing a consistent virtual opponent are displayed. The system of FIG. 3 may be employed, for example, on the mobile terminal 10 of FIG. 1. However, it should be noted that the system of FIG. 3, may also be employed on a variety of other devices, both mobile and fixed, and therefore, embodiments of the present invention should not be limited to application on devices such as the mobile terminal 10 of FIG. 1. For example, the system of FIG. 3 may be employed on a network device such as a server, which may be a game server. Alternatively, any network device of FIG. 2 may employ embodiments of the invention. It should also be noted, however, that while FIG. 3 illustrates one example of a configuration of a system for providing a consistent virtual player or entity, numerous other configurations may also be used to implement embodiments of the present invention. Furthermore, although FIG. 3 will be described in the context of a virtual opponent, embodiments of the present invention need not necessarily be practiced in the context of adversarial gaming, but instead applies to gaming involving any virtual entity that may interact with a human player during a gaming experience. Thus, embodiments of the present invention may also be practiced in other exemplary applications such as, for example, in the context of a virtual assistant, teammate, dealer, referee, official, etc., and communications originating at the virtual opponent should be understood as being capable of origination from any of the virtual entities above. Additionally, it should be noted that in an exemplary embodiment, communications from the virtual opponent may be made through, for example, text, video or audio.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a system for providing a consistent virtual opponent is provided. The system described hereinafter may be used, for example, with existing artificial intelligence schemes in order to implement a consistent virtual entity across a plurality of game applications or gaming platforms. The system includes an entity management element 70, a historical event element 72 and a communications element 74. Each of the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 may be any device or means embodied in either hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software capable of performing the respective functions associated with each of the corresponding elements as described below. In an exemplary embodiment, the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 are embodied in software as instructions that are stored on a memory of the mobile terminal 10 and executed by the controller 20. However, each of the elements above may alternatively operate under the control of a corresponding local processing element or a processing element of another device not shown in FIG. 3. A processing element such as those described above may be embodied in many ways. For example, the processing element may be embodied as a processor, a coprocessor, a controller or various other processing means or devices including integrated circuits such as, for example, an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit).

It should be noted that although FIG. 3 illustrates the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 as being separate elements, any two or all of the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 may also be collocated or embodied in a single element or device capable of performing the corresponding functions of the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74. Additionally, as stated above, embodiments of the present invention are not limited to application in mobile terminals. Thus, the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 may be disposed at any fixed or mobile device capable of executing game applications, or at a server or other mass storage device from which applications may be executed by devices accessing the game applications at the server or other mass storage device. Accordingly, any device or means capable of performing the functions associated with each of the elements above may employ the system of FIG. 3.

In general, the entity management element 70, the historical event element 72 and the communications element 74 provide a mechanism by which a virtual entity 76 associated with at least one game application 78 may interact with a player of a particular game application in response to an event associated with the particular game application in which the interaction is based upon a historical event associated with the player. The interaction may be through communication such as, for example, text, video or audio communication. The entity management element 70 enables user interface in order to create, modify, import, delete or otherwise control each virtual entity. In an exemplary embodiment, the virtual entity 76 is a consistent virtual opponent that is associated with the player and may engage the player in a plurality of game applications over either a single platform or multiple platforms. The historical event element 72 records historical events associated with the player for incorporation into communications from the virtual entity 76 to the player. The historical events may relate to any of various game applications with which the virtual entity 76 is capable of being utilized. As such, the historical event element 72 may record, for example, final game results, scores, or particular events which occur during the course of any of the various game applications with which the virtual entity is capable of being utilized. The communications element 74 stores information such as communication templates for integration with historical event information from previously played games the player has participated in to form communications with the player that are completed or selected when triggered by occurrence of an event in a current game.

It should be noted that the game application 78 may be stored, for example, at the mobile terminal 10 or any other fixed or mobile gaming device. Alternatively, the game application 78 may be stored at a network device, such as a game server, that is accessible to the mobile terminal 10 or other fixed or mobile gaming device.

The entity management element 70 is capable of providing a user interface mechanism by which the user can setup, modify, or otherwise manage the virtual entity 76. In this regard, the entity management element 70 may be capable of managing a plurality of virtual entities such as the virtual opponent, all of which may be associated with a particular human player and are consistent across various game applications and potentially consistent across various platforms. In other words, the virtual entity 76 of an embodiment of the present invention is associated with the particular human player and can “follow” the particular human player to various different game applications. As such, the particular human player may encounter the virtual entity 76 as a virtual opponent, for example, in each of the various different game applications. Furthermore, in an embodiment in which the system of FIG. 3 is employed at a network device, the particular human player may encounter the virtual entity 76 in a game application hosted at one of various different host devices or platforms which are capable of accessing the game application at the network device.

In one embodiment, the entity management element 70 may correspond directly to a particular human player and list all (if more than one are present) of the virtual entities associated with the single human player. For example, the particular human player may create, import, or otherwise have an ability to modify characteristics of a plurality of virtual entities. Alternatively, the particular human player may create, import, or otherwise have an ability to modify characteristics of one particular virtual entity, such as the virtual entity 76. In this regard, the particular human player may initially create or modify characteristics related to the virtual entity 76 such as, for example, name, skill, experience, playing style, etc., and in particular the communication style of the virtual entity 76. In situations where more than one virtual entity is associated with the particular human player, the particular human player may have an option to select one or more of the virtual entities to participate in any given gaming application. For example, the particular human player may select one or more of the virtual entities to act as a virtual opponent and one or more of the virtual entities may also be selected to act as a virtual teammate.

Alternatively, the entity management element 70 may be capable of providing multiple human players or users with an ability to manage corresponding virtual entities. Each human player may be identified, for example, by a user name or some other identification mechanism. Accordingly, a first group of one or more virtual entities may be associated with a first human player and a second group of one or more virtual entities may be associated with a second human player. Virtual entities in the first and second groups may be exclusive to the first and second human players, respectively. In other words, a particular virtual entity may not be capable of inclusion in both the first and second groups. Thus, each of the first and second human players may have the ability to manage virtual entities (if more than one are desired) in their corresponding groups. Alternatively, virtual entities may be shared between players. For example, the virtual entity 76 may be in both the first and second groups. In such a situation, for example, one of the first and second human players may be designated as having managing authority to alter or otherwise modify characteristics of the virtual entity 76 while the other has only access privileges to interact with the virtual entity 76. In any case, historical information for each game application may be stored to be associated with the virtual entity 76 and/or the respective human player.

As yet another alternative, multiple entity management elements may be stored on a particular platform or network device, in which each of the entity management elements corresponds to a particular player. Thus, one or more virtual entities may be stored for each player in a corresponding entity management element. However, as will be understood from the above exemplary embodiments, the virtual entity 76 may be associated with one or more players and thus, historical events related to game experiences involving the virtual entity 76 may be recorded or otherwise stored in association with the corresponding players for use in communications via the communication element 74.

Identities and characteristics of each virtual entity may be stored in a memory of the entity management element 70 or in a memory device that is otherwise accessible to the entity management element 70. In this regard, although the identities and characteristics of each of the virtual entities may include any of, for example, name, skill, experience, playing style, etc., in an exemplary embodiment, the virtual entities include at least the communication style of the virtual entity 76. The communication style defines which types and degrees of communication the virtual entity 76 may employ. In an exemplary embodiment, the communication style of the virtual entity 76 may be scaled in any number of communication dimensions such as, for example, tone of voice, volume or projection, aggressiveness, formality, discretion, etc. For example, the tone of voice dimension may be scaled from “sarcastic” to “sincere”, the volume dimension may be scaled from “boisterous” to “shy”, the assertiveness dimension may be scaled from “aggressive” to “reserved”, the formality dimension may be scaled from “slang” to “proper”, and the discretion dimension may be scaled from “raunchy” to “sublime”. It should be noted that the preceding dimensions are merely exemplary and in no way limiting in terms of types of dimensions and scaling within the dimensions. Thus, for example, a numerical or other scale may also be employed. The communication style may also define, at least in part, events in response to which the virtual entity 76 communicates. For example, an aggressive virtual entity 76 may be more likely to comment immediately before a game begins or a hand is dealt with a comment such as, “Are you ready to get beaten like last night?”, while a reserved virtual entity 76 may be more likely to comment immediately after the game ends or the hand is played, “That reminds me of how I beat you last night.” In this regard, communication from the virtual entity 76 may be drawn from preprogrammed content, and selection of particular items from the preprogrammed content may be made via a probabilistic determination made by the communication element 74 based on the communication style of the virtual entity 76.

Thus, in an exemplary embodiment, upon creation of the virtual entity 76, the name, skill, experience, playing style, etc. may be defined. At least the communication style of the virtual entity 76 may also be defined using the entity management element 70. For example, the entity management element 70 may enable the user to input such characteristics in various fields of an information control console or other interface mechanism. Furthermore, the entity management element 70 may enable the user to make changes to a profile of an existing virtual entity either upon importation of the virtual entity from the profile of another player, from another platform, or from a network such as the internet. Alternatively, changes may be made to an existing virtual entity “on the fly” or during a particular game. In other words, if the user is playing a game with a virtual opponent and the user wishes to alter characteristics of the virtual opponent, such changes may be made during the game. Accordingly, after changes are made to characteristics of an existing virtual entity or a new virtual entity is created, the existing or newly created virtual entity may communicate via the communications element 74 in accordance with the changed characteristics as defined by the communication style of the virtual entity 76.

The entity management module 70 may be in communication with the game application 78 in order to communicate with a human player in response to events associated with the game application 78. In an exemplary embodiment, the entity management module 70 may be configured to communicate with each of a plurality of game applications stored on or otherwise accessible at a particular platform such as the mobile terminal 10. In an alternative embodiment, the entity management module 70 may be configured to communicate with a plurality of game applications stored on or otherwise accessible at a particular server or network device. In other words, the entity management module 70 may be configured to communicate with a plurality of game applications over a plurality of platforms. Since historical information may be gathered for each game in which the virtual entity 76 is capable of interaction, the virtual entity 76 may be consistent as between the various platforms and game applications.

In order to generate communications in response to a particular event or occurrence during a game application, the communications element 74 sends a message 80 to human players via, for example, text, video or audio. The message 80 has content including historical information 82 from the historical event element 72 and template content 84 which may be stored at the communications element 74 or otherwise accessible to the communications element 74, for example, from a memory device external to the communications element 74.

The historical information 82 is information regarding past events associated with the virtual entity 76 and/or the human player from past game applications in which either or both of the virtual entity 76 and the human player were involved. For example, the historical information 82, which is stored in the historical event element 72, may include such information as game results (i.e., win or lose), game score, statistics related to player performance, or particular events within a game such as results of a particular hand in a card game, scoring of a game winning goal or point, etc. In an exemplary embodiment, the historical information 82 may be related to past events associated with the human player and the virtual entity 76. In other words, the virtual entity 76 may comment on experiences common to both the virtual entity 76 and the human player such as, “I'm going to beat you just like I did last night.” However, in an alternative embodiment, the historical information 82 may be related to past events associated with just the human player, or with just the virtual entity 76 if the virtual entity 76 is associated with the human player and one or more other human players associated with the human player. For example, if a first player and a second player each interact with the same virtual entity, the virtual entity may produce a message 80 during a game with the first player in which the message 80 includes historical information 82 related to past events associated with only the virtual entity such as, “That move was almost as poor as the one ‘second player’ made against me last night.” As an alternative example, the virtual entity may produce a message 80 during a game with the first player in which the message 80 includes historical information 82 related to-past events associated with only the first player such as, “That move was almost as poor as the one you made against ‘second player’ made last night.”

Accordingly, the historical event element 72 may store information related to past events in a storage device of or otherwise accessible to the historical event element 72 during each game associated with a game application with which the virtual entity 76 is either capable of participating or actually selected for participation. The stored information may then be accessed for inclusion as historical information 82 in the message 80 sent by the communication element 74. The historical event element 72 may also store current game information 86 related to events, statistics, etc. occurring in the current game application for use as historical information in future game applications. It should also be apparent that the message 80 may be sent during a game of a first game application which includes historical information 82 that may have been gathered responsive to previous games of the first game application, or of previous games of a second game application. Furthermore, the first and second game applications may be launched via either the same or different platforms. As another alternative, historical information 82 could include past events from a current game application which were previously stored while playing the current game application.

As stated above, the communication element 74 may select a particular communication in response to probabilistic determinations made by the communication element 74 based on the communication style of the virtual entity 76. In this regard, the communication element 74 may construct the message 80 including the historical information 82 and the template content 84. The template content 84 may include various standard phrases with portions of each standard phrase that are left blank in order to receive the historical information 82 to complete the message 80. For example, the template content 84 may include a standard phrase such as “So (blank 1), are you ready to get beaten like you did (blank 2) in (blank 3)?” Thus, blank 1 may be a reserved field for identity information related to the player such as a name, user id, login, etc. Meanwhile, blank 2 may be a reserved field for time information, such as the date and/or time of a particular game related event and blank 3 may be a reserved field for information related to an identity of the particular game in which the game related event occurred. Accordingly, an exemplary embodiment of the message 80 may include the probabilistically selected template content 84 above with historical information 82 randomly selected from, for example, a database accessible to the historical event element 72. Thus, the message 80 may be, for example, “So Player 1, are you ready to get beaten like you did yesterday in poker.”

As can be seen from the example above, each template of the template content 84 may include predefined fields corresponding to particular information stored in the historical event element 72. Thus, for example, the historical event element 72, may store information related to player identity, game identity, a particular event, statistic or other information associated with the identified game, and time information related to occurrence of the particular event or other information associated with the identified game. As such, all or portions of the stored information may be included as the historical information 82 which is combined with the template content 84 to form the message 80.

The message 80 may take any suitable form such as, for example, text, audio, video or any combination of text, audio and video. In this regard, in situations where the message 80 includes audio, the message 80 may be produced via, for example, a text-to-speech element. However, prerecorded template content and synthetically produced audio historical information may also be employed. In an exemplary embodiment, the template content 84 may be divided or otherwise organized such that particular template content may be associated with particular current game events. In other words, a particular situation in a current game may be associated with particular template content, such that the particular template content is eligible for inclusion in a message in response to the occurrence of the particular situation. For example, in a card game, there may be particular template content that may be eligible for inclusion in a message following the dealing of a particular hand, while other particular template content may be eligible for inclusion in a message in response to completion of or beginning of the card game. In an exemplary embodiment, the message 80 could take the form of haptic feedback such as, for example, force feedback or causing vibrations in a game controller.

In an exemplary embodiment, the template content 84 may be preprogrammed such that with respect to messages, a predetermined number of template content items may exist while the historical information 82 may increase over time. Since the database or other storage device maintaining the historical information 82 may have limited storage space, the historical event element 72 may be configured to delete older information in order to make room for newer information on a routine basis, or in response to an indication that the database lacks sufficient room to add the newer information without deletion of the older information.

In an alternative exemplary embodiment, the template content 84 may be modified by players. For example, a player may create new template content or customize existing template content. Alternatively, a storage location for the template content 84, for example, at a network device such as a server, may be accessed by players to download additional template content which may be created by network operators or other players having the capability to author template content and store such authored content at the storage location. In this way, a virtual entity such as the virtual opponent may grow an expanding vocabulary which can reflect current trends and the current vernacular.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart of a system, method and program product according to exemplary embodiments of the invention. It will be understood that each block or step of the flowcharts, and combinations of blocks in the flowcharts, can be implemented by various means, such as hardware, firmware, and/or software including one or more computer program instructions. For example, one or more of the procedures described above may be embodied by computer program instructions. In this regard, the computer program instructions which embody the procedures described above may be stored by a memory device of the mobile terminal and executed by a built-in processor in the mobile terminal. As will be appreciated, any such computer program instructions may be loaded onto a computer or other programmable apparatus (i.e., hardware) to produce a machine, such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable apparatus create means for implementing the functions specified in the flowcharts block(s) or step(s). These computer program instructions may also be stored in a computer-readable memory that can direct a computer or other programmable apparatus to function in a particular manner, such that the instructions stored in the computer-readable memory produce an article of manufacture including instruction means which implement the function specified in the flowcharts block(s) or step(s). The computer program instructions may also be loaded onto a computer or other programmable apparatus to cause a series of operational steps to be performed on the computer or other programmable apparatus to produce a computer-implemented process such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable apparatus provide steps for implementing the functions specified in the flowcharts block(s) or step(s).

Accordingly, blocks or steps of the flowcharts support combinations of means for performing the specified functions, combinations of steps for performing the specified functions and program instruction means for performing the specified functions. It will also be understood that one or more blocks or steps of the flowcharts, and combinations of blocks or steps in the flowcharts, can be implemented by special purpose hardware-based computer systems which perform the specified functions or steps, or combinations of special purpose hardware and computer instructions.

In this regard, one embodiment of a method of providing data clustering and mode selection, as shown in FIG. 4, includes receiving an indication of a particular game related event occurring in a particular game application at operation 110. The particular game related event may be, for example, any occurrence, situation or event occurring during execution of a particular game application. At operation 120, a message including template content and historical information related to a virtual entity is provided to a player of the particular game application in response to receipt of the indication. The historical information includes information related to past performances or games involving one of the player or the virtual entity. The past performances or games may be related to the particular game application or any other game application with which the virtual entity is associated. Thus, the virtual entity may be consistent across a plurality of game applications and/or a plurality of platforms capable of hosting the game applications. In an exemplary embodiment, an initial operation 100 includes receiving input such as player input to define the communication style of the virtual entity. The player input received may include input defining a scaled value for each of a plurality of communication dimensions. At optional operation 130, data related to the particular game application may be stored for use as historical information in future game applications. The method may also include an optional operation 140 of defining a specific template content as being eligible for selection for inclusion in the message in response to each particular game related event.

The above described functions may be carried out in many ways. For example, any suitable means for carrying out each of the functions described above may be employed to carry out embodiments of the invention. In one embodiment, all or a portion of the elements of the invention generally operate under control of a computer program product. The computer program product for performing the methods of embodiments of the invention includes a computer-readable storage medium, such as the non-volatile storage medium, and computer-readable program code portions, such as a series of computer instructions, embodied in the computer-readable storage medium.

Many modifications and other embodiments of the inventions set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which these embodiments pertain having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the inventions are not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.