Title:
Structured gaming system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automated system is described for organizing and operating multi-player and multi-game and/or multi-round competitions. Players purchase game software and interact through their player microprocessors PMP1 (103), PMP2 (105), PMP3 (107), PMP4 (109), PMP5 (111), PMP6 (113) to connect to a master controller (MC)(101) to register for game play. The players each player is uniquely identified and receives instructions on how to proceed. MC (101) matches players and sets up a schedule of time slots for each of the players to play each other. Hosts are designated. MC (101) notifies each of the players and the hosts of the schedule. The hosts are notified of which players are authorized to play, and the authorized time slots. The hosts only allow authorized players to login and play during the authorized time slots. The host reports the results of the games played. After playing a specified number of games, MC 101 creates at least one additional round based upon the results of the results of the prior games. The winners are published and they are rewarded with a prize or other item of value.



Inventors:
Mcmaster, Jason (Olyphant, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/492190
Publication Date:
01/31/2008
Filing Date:
07/25/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MOSSER, ROBERT E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Charles L. Riddle, Esq. (434 Lackawanna Ave Suite 200, Scranton, PA, 18503, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An automated system for structuring and operating video game competitions comprising: a) host microprocessor (MPH) adapted to: i. operate a multi-player video game allowing more than one player to play a game, ii. identify authorized players, iii. allow play by authorized players during designated time slots; b) a master controller (MC) (101) in communication with the MPH, adapted to: i. interactively receive registrations of a plurality of players, ii. uniquely identifying each player, iii. create a structured competition matching at least one player against at least one opponent player; iv. designating time slots when a player will play an opponent player, v. authorizing players to play during designated time slots; vi. communicate this information to the MPH indicating the players authorized to play and times slots that they are authorized to play; c) plurality of player microprocessors (PMPs) each assigned to a player, each in communication with MPH and the MC (101), each adapted to: i. identify themselves to the MPH; ii. interact with their assigned player and the MPH allowing the player to play the game against their opponent player during the authorized time slots.

2. The automated system of claim 1 wherein the MC (101) performs the functions of the MPH hosting the games.

3. The automated system of claim 1 wherein, one of the PMPs (105) performs the functions of the MPH hosting the games.

4. The automated system of claim 1 wherein each player is uniquely identified and authorized by providing a designated identification number (ID) to the host.

5. The automated system of claim 1 wherein each player is uniquely identified and authorized by a storing a unique file on at least one of the players PMPs that is read by the host for identification purposes.

6. The automated system of claim 1 wherein each player is uniquely identified by providing a unique hardware ID on at least one PMP used by a player that is later read by the host for identification purposes.

7. A structured on-line gaming system for matching a plurality of players against each other to play a video game over a network comprising: a) a master controller (MC) adapted to receive registration information from players who would like to play the game, the MC adapted to: iv. create a round of play in which registered players are matched together to play each other in a game in a given time slot; v. notify the players of whom they are matched against, and during which time slot they should play and contact information allowing the player to contact the opponent player; vi. receive results from the players of the games played; vii. match players for at least one subsequent round based upon the results of the games played; b) a plurality of player microprocessor (PMP) each for interacting with one of the players, at least one PMP being adapted to: viii. communicate with the MC to receive information designating the player that they are matched against, the time slot they should play; ix. login to a designated host during the designated time slot; x. interact with the designated host and the player to allow the matched players to play a game during the designated time slot; and xi. report the results of the game play to the MC.

8. The structured on-line gaming system of claim 7 wherein the PMPs are further adapted to: interact directly with other PMPs of the system.

9. The structured on-line gaming system of claim 7 wherein: a) the MC is adapted to communicate contact information of each of the matched player to the other matched player; and b) the PMPs of each of the matched players are adapted to interact with each other to designate a host for the game.

10. The structured on-line gaming system of claim 7 wherein the MC is further adapted to: a) designate the host for the game; and b) the MC communicates this information to the PMPs of each of the matched players.

11. The structured on-line gaming system of claim 7 wherein the PMPs are further adapted to: send registration information from the players to the MC.

12. The structured on-line gaming system of claim 7 wherein the PMPs are further adapted to: directly receive information from the MC of the player whom they are matched against, the time slot scheduled for play.

13. A method of organizing and running structured multi-player game competitions comprising the steps of: a) identifying a game to be played; b) identifying players desiring to compete in the identified multi-player game; c) setting up a round of play in which a plurality of players desiring to play are matched with designated opponent players and authorized to play at designated time slots; d) notifying players of their designated opponent players and designated time slots to play each of these players; e) identifying at least one host capable of allowing the players to play the identified game during designated time slots; f) connecting authorized players to the identified host and allowing the players to play the identified games during the designated time slots to arrive at results of each game; i) repeating steps “c” through “f” for at least one additional round.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “identifying players” comprises the step of: creating a unique login for each player and notifying the host of the unique logins.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “setting up a round” comprises the step of: employing a master controller to set up rounds and send the information regarding the rounds to each player by a network connection.

16. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “setting up a round” comprises the step of: employing a master controller to set up rounds and e-mail information regarding the rounds to each player.

17. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “identifying at least one host” includes the step of: employing a master controller to identify the host.

18. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “identifying at least one host” includes the step of: having the players interactively identify the host.

19. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of “connecting authorized players” comprises the step of: a) providing a unique login for each player, for a designated hosts during designated time slots; b) providing the same login and designated time slots to the designated hosts; c) allowing connection to a host by a player during designated time slots for player logins matching those received by the host.

20. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of: reporting the results of the games.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Fields of the Invention

The invention relates to an automated system for structuring and operating multi-player, multi-game, multi-level video game competitions.

2. Description of Related Art

Video games are available which allow multiple players to play the same game. These may be sports games, such as simulated basketball, football, hockey and baseball, fighting games, role playing games, strategy games, racing games, war games and other games. These may also be set up for the player to join other players on different teams in which the teams compete against each other.

The players typically enter and exit games with little or no outside control. These games are not designed to provide an overall structure or competition. Therefore, there can be no eliminations and playoffs, or games to qualify players for later rounds.

Therefore, there is a current need for a multiple-player system which provides an organized structure for video game competition.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an automated system for structuring and operating video game competitions comprising:

    • a) host microprocessor (MPH) adapted to:
      • i. operate a multi-player video game allowing more than one player to play a game,
      • ii. identify authorized players,
      • iii. allow play by authorized players during designated time slots;
    • b) a master controller (MC) (101) in communication with the MPH, adapted to:
      • i. interactively receive registrations of a plurality of players,
      • ii. uniquely identifying each player,
      • iii. create a structured competition matching at least one player against at least one opponent player;
      • iv. designating time slots when a player will play an opponent player,
      • v. authorizing players to play during designated time slots;
      • vi. communicate this information to the MPH indicating the players authorized to play and times slots that they are authorized to play;
    • c) plurality of player microprocessors (PMPs) each assigned to a player, each in communication with MPH and the MC (101), each adapted to:
      • i. identify themselves to the MPH;
      • ii. interact with their assigned player and the MPH allowing the player to play the game against their opponent player during the authorized time slots.

The present invention may also be embodied as a structured on-line gaming system for matching a plurality of players against each other to play a video game over a network comprising:

    • a) a master controller (MC) adapted to receive registration information from players who would like to play the game, the MC adapted to:
      • i. create a round of play in which registered players are matched together to play each other in a game in a given time slot;
      • ii. notify the players of whom they are matched against, and during which time slot they should play and contact information allowing the player to contact the opponent player;
      • iii. receive results from the players of the games played;
      • iv. match players for at least one subsequent round based upon the results of the games played;
    • b) a plurality of player microprocessor (PMP) each for interacting with one of the players, at least one PMP being adapted to:
      • i. communicate with the MC to receive information designating the player that they are matched against, the time slot they should play;
      • ii. login to a designated host during the designated time slot;
      • iii. interact with the designated host and the player to allow the matched players to play a game during the designated time slot; and report the results of the game play to the MC.

The present invention may also be embodied as a method of organizing and running structured multi-player game competitions comprising the steps of:

    • a) identifying a game to be played;
    • b) identifying players desiring to compete in the identified multi-player game;
    • c) setting up a round of play in which a plurality of players desiring to play are matched with designated opponent players and authorized to play at designated time slots;
    • d) notifying players of their designated opponent players and designated time slots to play each of these players;
    • e) identifying at least one host capable of allowing the players to play the identified game during designated time slots;
    • f) connecting authorized players to the identified host and allowing the players to play the identified games during the designated time slots to arrive at results of each game;
    • g) repeating steps “c” through “f” for at least one additional round.

In one embodiment, the MC (101) performs the functions of the MPH hosting the games. In another embodiment, one of the MPs (105) performs the functions of the MPH hosting the games.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features and advantages of the apparatus of the invention are highlighted by the following description of some preferred embodiments of same, illustrated by way of non-limiting examples in the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a multi-game playoff system consistent with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 2 through 5 are a flowchart which illustrates the functioning of the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention relates to a gaming system which provides structured competition to multi-player and multi-game and/or multi-round competitions.

As discussed above, prior art games are usually set up on an ad hoc basis in which players join and leave multi-player games randomly. Even those which require play for an entire game do not have structured eliminations or a game schedule. Typically, a winner of a single multi-player game is determined and/or the scores are displayed to the players. A listing of the past high scores may be displayed. These games lack a structured organization and lack competitions based upon multiple games, eliminations based upon performance, and multi-level (multi-game) competition.

General Overall Design

The present invention employs elements lacking in the prior art and are required for structured competition. For example, one embodiment of the present invention employs a 1. Registration Stage; 2. Qualification Stage; 3. Regular Season Stage; and 4. Playoff Stage.

In order to structure the competitions, players register, select teams they plan to join and are provided an indication of when and where (which host) to play, and are provided a unique login allowing the host to identify the proper players and teams.

Play may be set that eliminations of players/teams may occur after a set number of games or rounds are completed. Eliminations are based upon performance. Based upon the results of one (single elimination) or more games played (a double elimination or a complete regular season), players/teams are eliminated to result in a final winner for each class.

After a player/team is beaten for a specified number of games, they are dropped from the competition. Eliminations may be made, for example, after one game, two games or an entire regular season of play. Players/teams that have not been eliminated continue on to playoffs which results in a single winning player/team. The present invention provides an automated system for setting up tournaments and for accomplishing these and other objectives.

It is envisioned that a tournament would be advertised for a specific game well in advance of the first game played. It is advertised when the game software will first be offered for sale and when the tournament will begin. For example, the tournament may start one month after the game goes on sale. Players buy the game software and are allowed to practice until the first scheduled game. This then allows a maximum amount of time for practice, placing most players on the same level.

One embodiment of the present invention is described below, for exemplary purposes. It includes several stages of play.

1. Registration Stage

A player buys the game software and is provided with instructions on how to register to enter structured competition. For example, one may register at the store where the game software was purchased, or login to an on-line server and register. Alternatively, one may register on the telephone. A code written on the game software instructions is entered by the player and sent to the server during registration, and a username and/or password (login) is provided back to the player. Alternatively, the code itself may suffice as the login. This login is used later to enter the competitions.

The on-line server may alternatively employ other known technologies to uniquely identify each player, such as cookie technology.

If the players register on-line, the server may make note of the speed and capacity of the computer and connection used to register. This may be useful later in designating computers to host the games. Alternate methods of determining the host may also be employed, with or without the use of the on-line server.

Registrations may be categorized into classes based upon some factor identified during registration, such as age, gender, and/or ability.

Registration continues a fixed period of time or number of registrations, or registrations per class. Then play may continue into a Qualification Stage.

2. Qualification Stage

In this stage, if present, players join a team of their choice. For example, a player would like to qualify for the Philadelphia Eagles team. Since many more players in a class would like to be on the Philadelphia Eagles team than are allowable, the number would have to be reduced. Therefore they join tryout teams. Teams in the same or similar classes are paired to play each other.

A host for the game is selected, such as a server (master controller, MC), or one of the machines the players are operating. Faster machines having the proper capacity, with a fast connection will be chosen as a host machine.

A time slot is also designated in which to play each game. The time slot is defined as a maximum time period to play the game. The total of all games scheduled for a time slot is considered a “round”. In typical play, all players are expected to play the same number of games. In certain cases there is an exception, such as an uneven number of players in a class or division. In this case, the unopposed player receives an automatic win.

In the Qualification Stage, all teams are set to play. There may be eliminations after a single game, or eliminations after several games based upon the records of the teams. The games are played at the designated time slots. In team play, if less than a minimum number of players login to play during an allocated time slot and the competing team has more than the minimum amount of logged in players, it is determined to be a forfeit.

After the time slots for all scheduled games, for all rounds of play have expired, the Qualification Stage has ended.

The results of the games are collected and the teams are reduced to a desired number based upon their performance during the rounds of play.

Alternatively, eliminations may occur after a single game. When the number of teams is reduced to a desired number, the Qualification Stage is over.

3. Regular Season Play Stage

The teams/individuals surviving the Qualification Stage are now scheduled against each other in the Regular season of play. A schedule of a predetermined number of games for a regular season in which the teams are paired for games, the time slots and the hosts for each game are determined and sent to the hosts and the players. Alternatively, the players may interact to determine the times to play and the hosts to play upon.

The regular season games are played as described above, and the game results collected.

The game results are then used to eliminate teams and allow the remaining teams to continue onto the Playoff stage.

4. Playoff Stage

After the Regular Season Play Stage, the teams advance to the Playoff Stage. Playoffs reduce the teams down to a single winning team. Eliminations may be made based upon the game results of any number of games played.

For example, a team may be eliminated after a single loss, as in single-elimination playoffs. A schedule is determined for the remaining regular teams after teams have been eliminated. The games are played again and more teams are eliminated until there is only one team.

There may be alternate embodiments where teams play a number of games and the winner is determined by the game results.

Hardware—FIG. 1

Referring now to the Figures, FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a structured gaming system I consistent with one embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, a plurality of players (player1, player2, player3, player4, player5, player6) each purchases game software either in person or on-line. The players load their game onto their respective player microprocessor devices (PMP1, PMP2, . . . PMP6). PMP1, PM2, . . . PMP6 may be a typical desktop computer, or a device specifically designed to play video games having the ability to connect to a local network, wide-area network, and/or the Internet.

The PMPs may be used to login to a master controller MC 101 and register for structured game play as specified above.

The PMPs also may be allowed to communicate via e-mail, instant messaging, or other means with each other through MC 101 which routes signals between the PMPs. For example, in FIG. 1, PMP1 103 can send signals to PMP2 105 through MC 101. In this arrangement, MC 101 may also function to filter out inappropriate or destructive content, such as viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, spyware, etc.

In an alternative and potentially faster configuration, PMP2 105 connects directly to PMP1 103 via a LAN connection or through the Internet. This becomes important when one of the PMPs is selected to host a game.

Flowchart—FIGS. 2-5

FIGS. 2 through 5 show a flowchart of the functioning of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1. The process starts at step 200. In step 201, the same electronic game is purchased by the players.

The registration stage occurs in the block designated 210.

In step 203, the players receive the instructions to register a code or other identification (ID) allowing them to become part of the structured competition.

In step 205 each of the players contacts MC 101 (FIG. 1) and provides information including their IDs to indicate that they would like to enter the structured competition.

In step 207, MC 101 publishes to each player the competitions available to each player, based upon the passwords entered. This is because MC 101 may be controlling more than one competition, and the game software purchased may offer several different types of competition. The logins may indicate players' abilities. For example, a player who paid more for a deluxe version of the game may be given additional strength, endurance, weapons, etc.

In step 209, each player selects one of the competitions, such as “Double Elimination NFL Football”. Players may make further choices, such as selecting the team for which the player would like to qualify, the number of previous competitions in which the player has participated, the skill level of the player, and other preferences. These choices may be used to place a player in a specific class and allow MC 101 to match comparable opponents against each other.

MC 101 also requests input as to the best time slots for competition. This may be done by selecting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices of many possible choices listed. MC 101 stores all player input.

For example, the player may want to qualify for the “Philadelphia Eagles” team. The player provides a means to be contacted when the schedule is set, such as an email address. Alternative contact means such as instant messaging may also be employed inside of the game. MC 101 then provides a unique login to each player for use when logging into the host to play the game.

In step 211, it is determined if there are more players to process. If so, (“yes”) then steps 201 through 209 are repeated for additional players. Players may be signed up during a pre-defined sign-up period coinciding with dates of a tournament indicated when the game was purchased.

In step 211, if there are no other players to be processed (or the sign-up period has ended) (“no”), then the Registration Stage has been completed, and the Qualification Stage begins at step 213.

In the Qualification Stage (220), players or groups notify MC 101 for which team they are trying to qualify, in step 213.

MC 101 then matches teams/individuals against opponents, sets time slots for each game and identifies computers to host each game. MC 101 may host games, or delegate hosting to one of the player's microprocessors in step 215. If MC 101 is to delegate hosting, then one of the most robust microprocessors, and/or the one having the fastest network connection is selected as the host.

In step 215, MC 101 indicates to each of the players the schedule of play and the time slots for the play. MC 101 also indicates the host of each game and the address of the host. MC 101 also indicates the unique identification number (ID) and/or password to login to the host for the game play.

Alternatively, other methods may be used to uniquely identify players/PMPs. Also, as stated before, the players/PMPs may interact to determine the exact time within the slot to play and the host to host the game. This may be the MC, or any of the PMPs, most probably, one currently being used by the players matched to compete.

For example, in FIG. 1, PMP2 105 is selected to host a game (MPH 105), and player1, PMP1 103 and player2, PMP2 105 are placed on a first team 115 for their next game on the MPH 105, having an IP address of 3.1.4.24 at a time slot of 4-6 pm, Saturday Jul. 30, 2005. Player1 and player2 are placed on a team 115 by MC 101. Player3 and player4 are placed on a second team 117 by MC 101. MC 101 selects a time slot of Sunday, Jul. 31, 2005 from 8 p-10 p for the game.

In step 217, the players are notified of their unique player logins. The logins are also sent from MC 101 to host MPH 105. Also, MC 101 sends identification of the players on each team allowed to play during each time slot to MPH 105.

The program running in PMP2 MPH 105 is designed to receive the output from MC 101 and enable game play for the specified players having the specified logins at the specified time period as shown in step 219. Host MPH 105 runs the game and keeps score of the game.

Upon completion of the game or expiration of a maximum time period (time slot), the scores are sent to MC 101 as shown in step 321. If a player fails to log on in time to play, this will be considered a loss. A predetermined score will be sent to MC 101. In step 323, either MC 101 or host MPH 105 publishes the results of the first round of play.

In step 325, if it is not the end of the Qualification Stage (“no”), steps 219 through 325 are executed.

In step 325 it is determined if the Qualification Stage has ended. If so (“yes”), then teams/individuals are identified by MC 101, and appropriate teams/individuals are deactivated in step 327. In some types of multiple eliminations, it is possible that no team/individuals are eliminated after a given round.

Processing continues wherein a Regular Season Stage 330 begins.

In step 329, the players/teams which have not been deactivated, continue to play in the regular season as a regular team.

In step 331, MC 101 sets a regular season schedule for all of the teams/individuals. As before, this includes a matching of the remaining regular teams, setting time slots for each game, and identifying an MPH to host the competition. Since this is a regular season schedule, there will be several rounds of games. One example is a fourteen-week season with all teams playing a game a week (round). Also since this is regular season play, there are no eliminations until after the last game of the regular season has been played.

In step 333, MC 101 notifies the players and MPHs of the ladder, including the team an individual has qualified for, teams they are scheduled to play, identification of the members of the teams they are scheduled to play, time slots they are to play. The hosts may be identified by MC 101 or, as stated above, interactively determined by the teams/individuals playing. MC 101 may also send logins and matching logins to the hosts, if designated. Teams/individuals may also be identified automatically by cookies or MAC addresses of their PMPs. These alternate types of identification may require that the players use the PMPs that they used for registration since they are hardware-specific.

Please note that each player only receives their own secret login(s) for the games and does not receive that of the other players.

In step 335, the players login to the appropriate host during the appropriate time slot with the correct login to play the game.

In step 437, the results of the games are provided to MC 101.

In step 439, the results of the games played are published to all players.

In step 441 it is determined if the regular season has ended. If it has not (“no”) then steps 335 through 441 are executed again.

In step 441 if it has been determined that the regular season has ended, (“yes”), and then teams/individuals are deactivated in step 443. This is done by notifying MPHs that the logins tied to the individuals are no longer active. When one of these deactivated individuals tries to log on to a MPH for a game, it is denied access.

The winning teams/individuals (those which have not been deactivated) advance to another round of competition (the Playoff Stage 440).

Processing continues at step 445 in which the MC 101 sets up the next round. The playoff schedule is defined identifying teams playing, their time slots and the hosts MPHs.

In the playoffs, teams may be eliminated after a predefined number of losses and deactivated. A single elimination structure would deactivate a team after a single loss. A double elimination structure would deactivate a team after two losses.

In step 447, MC 101 notifies the players and MPHs of the schedule and their logins.

In step 449, hosts MPHs allow valid players to login and run the game during the proper time slot.

In alternative embodiments, the actual video game competition may be broadcasted ‘live’ to all interested spectators, including future opponents. Also, these may be archived for later viewing, like NFL tape archives.

In step 451, the results of the games are forwarded to MC 101.

In step 553, the results of the games are published to all players.

In step 555, MC notifies MPHs of which teams/individuals are still active and may compete. If a player is not on the list or the login does not match that of an active player, they are not allowed to compete and are deactivated.

Setting up the elimination structure may be done by adjusting the number of games to be played, or the number of losses in step 555, before deactivating teams.

In step 557 it is determined if additional games must be played. If so, (“yes”), then another round of Playoff games is scheduled and played in steps 445 through 557.

If no additional games are required (“no”), then processing continues at step 559.

Upon reaching step 559, one or more ultimate winning teams for each class is determined and published to all participating players.

In step 561, the winning team for each class is provided with an award which may be credit for additional play, or gift certificates from participating sponsors. The competition ends in step 563.

The type of eliminations, number of rounds, number of regular season games, number of classes, etc. are adjustable to simulate a variety of types of competition.

The present invention could easily be used to automate game competition similar to fantasy football. Players can compete to be on one of several NFL teams. The teams will have a schedule set up by the MC 101 for an entire season, possibly having playoffs after normal season play. This will closely resemble the current NFL competition.

The example above was described for team competition; however the teams may be replaced with an individual competing in place of a team.

The present invention will work equally well on other types of games such as war games, role playing games, and racing games. Competitions may be battles, events, or races with eliminations based upon points accrued over one or more competitions.

The competitions may also be segmented into several classes based upon a parameter, such as age of the player. There may also be one or more winners decided per class.

The examples, flowcharts and diagrams provided are intended to be illustrative of the inventions. However, other variations, embodiments and methods which will be obvious to one of one skilled in the art are also deemed to be within the scope of the invention.

Any number of known types of electronic game may be automated and simulated for structured competition by the present invention thereby bringing the excitement of tournament competition to on-line gaming. The competition may be structured in many ways, being individual, team, single elimination, double elimination, regular season play, etc.

In alternative embodiments of the present invention, the PMPs may employ a standard game controller that is provided with the system. Alternatively, the system may employ a universal game controller which resembles existing game controllers from X-Box® produced by the Microsoft Corporation, PlayStation® produced by the Sony Corporation or GameCube® produced by Nintendo Corporation.

In larger systems, more than one MC may be employed such as a dedicated MC to handle all football gaming, a separate MC to handle basketball gaming, etc. The functions performed by the MC may be broken across class lines, where one MC handles all gaming for competition of the 6-12 year old player class, one for 13-16 year old player class, etc.

The system may also be used in a conventional multi-player mode. Having thus described the invention, what is desired to be protected by a Letters Patent is presented in the appended claims.