Title:
NETWORK DRIVEN BOARD GAME INSTRUCTION GENERATOR AND METHODS FOR INTERACTION WITH PARTICIPANT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Interaction between a telephone system in a multiplayer board game providing real time input to game play in a multi player board game during the course of game play. Players make telephone calls to a special game play service provider at a remote phone number at the start of the game. The service provider then initiates a series of calls to the players' telephones during the course of game play. These calls provide game play input which could impact the outcome of the game. For example while playing a Monopoly board game, players may receive telephone calls during a forty five-minute period. The calls would provide instructions for various game effects, similar to Community Chest or Chance cards. Telephonic instructions also provide additional play experience during game play by occasionally dictating moves and instructions to game players, e.g., to improve the play experience and accelerate the game by driving property into the game and by driving money out of the game.



Inventors:
Baker, Stephen (Long Meadow, MA, US)
Silverman, Gary S. (Wilbraham, MA, US)
Creech, William N. A. (Springfield, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/735902
Publication Date:
10/16/2008
Filing Date:
04/16/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LIDDLE, JAY TRENT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERRY HOFFMAN & ASSOCIATES P.C. (PO BOX 1649, DEERFIELD, IL, 60015, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A game comprising: a game board having a plurality of defined locations; a plurality of game pieces for moving on the game board, at least one game piece for each of a plurality of game players; a selectable game element for directing the players to move the game pieces on the game board; an instruction generator comprising an information processor providing an instruction content to at least one of the game players; and an interface comprising an electronic communications network for coupling the instruction generator for receiving electronic information.

2. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the selectable game element comprises conventional board game selectable game elements, including at least one of a game die, a selection of cards, or a choice selection indicator for directing the players to move the game pieces on the game board.

3. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the instruction generator comprises a telephone and the interface comprises a telephone network.

4. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the instruction generator comprises a telephone and the interface comprises telephone network phone cards, registration or limited time subscriptions for access to a service provider.

5. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the information processor comprises a server and the electronic communications network comprises a computer network.

6. A game as recited in claim 1, comprising a player profile associated with the electronic communications network wherein the player profile comprises information unique to each of the plurality of game players.

7. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the information processor introduces variables into the game play based on the player profile.

8. A game as recited in claim 1, wherein the instruction generator comprises a wireless communications device, and the interface comprises a cellular telephone network with the instruction generator for content including instant messaging (IM) or Short Message Service (SMS) is telecommunications.

9. A game as recited in claim 1, comprising a memory device associated with the information processor for providing game play information to the instruction generator impacting the outcome of the game.

10. A game as recited in claim 9, wherein the memory comprises a look up table (LUT) for use with the instruction generator to provide ordered or random content during game play.

11. A game as recited in claim 10, wherein the content comprises a combination of speech and sound effects stored on the memory device.

12. A game as recited in claim 11, wherein the instruction generator comprises a telephone and the interface comprises a telephone network, and wherein the content provides telephone input during the course of game play.

13. A game as recited in claim 12, wherein the instruction generator comprises a wireless communications device, and the interface comprises a cellular telephone network with the instruction generator for content including short message text communications.

14. A board game having game pieces for moving on a game board, the game directing players to move the game pieces a plurality of defined locations on the game board, comprising: an instruction generator comprising an information processor providing instruction content to at least one of the game players; and an interface comprising an electronic communications network for coupling the instruction generator for receiving electronic information; and said instruction content to the at least one of the game players accelerates the game.

15. A game as recited in claim 14, wherein the instruction generator comprises a telephone and the interface comprises a telephone network.

16. A game as recited in claim 14, wherein the instruction generator comprises a telephone and the interface comprises telephone network phone cards, registration or limited time subscriptions for access to a service provider.

17. A game as recited in claim 14, wherein the instruction generator comprises a wireless communications device, and the interface comprises a cellular telephone network with the instruction generator for content including instant messaging (IM) or Short Message Service (SMS) is telecommunications.

18. A game as recited in claim 14, wherein the instruction content to the at least one of the game players accelerates the game by driving property into the game and by driving money out of the game.

19. A board game method using game pieces for moving on a game board, the game directing players to move the game pieces a plurality of defined locations on the game board, the method comprising: generating electronic information instruction content for impacting game play with respect to at least one of the game players; providing a service provider for delivery of the electronic information instruction content; and communicating the electronic information instruction content over a telecommunications network to at least one of the game players.

20. A method as recited in claim 19, wherein the communicating of the electronic information instruction content to the at least one of the game players accelerates the game, drives property into the game or drive money out of the game.

21. A method as recited in claim 19, wherein the providing of the service provider comprises a telephone interface uses telephone network phone cards, registration or limited time subscriptions for access to the service provider.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention in general relates to board game methods that involve providing instruction generators via an electronic content information interface. More particularly, the invention relates to telephonic and other electronic interfaces for use with board games to provide content for playing a multiplayer game linked or suited for telephonic interactions utilizing the communications capabilities of telephones and the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Various types of board games are known in the art. Board games typically provide a playing surface with a particular playing path marked out, upon which the game players move individualized game pieces. These games often incorporate game die, and one or more card sets that determine exclusively or under particular circumstances how game pieces are moved on the game board. For example, the well known game of Monopoly TM includes a playing path upon which the players moves game pieces where each player rolls a die and moves their game piece the number of spaces indicated on the playing path, occasionally according to the chance of a card drawn from one or more card sets on the board further moves and instructions are dictated to game players.

Multimedia associated with games, e.g., utilizing DVD media are also known to exist. Some include game boards, game piece set up and the like. The prior art generally addresses certain aspects and advantages of using media players which can quickly and accurately access specific content data. DVD players facilitate programming capabilities and may contain information such as scripts and instructions readable and executable by a computer or a DVD media player according to game variables.

As multimedia technology has become more accessible to the public, game manufacturers have begun to incorporate traditional board games and the like with media for multimedia systems such as DVD video machines and televisions. One way of accomplishing participant interaction is by way of the multimedia system seeking answers to questions in audio or video form and having the participant players answer questions, then moving game pieces on a board in response. Players using a multimedia user interface indicate to the multimedia system that they are ready for a question, and the system selects a question and plays the audio or video information corresponding to the question selected.

Sometimes games require the need to content information and instructional information to players of the game. This may be particularly necessary if the purpose of the game is to solve a puzzle. In competitive multiplayer games, there has always been a need for a player to receive information that may establish relative competitive advantages between players in the game. Previous games have attempted to achieve the provision of information through the use of rules, playing cards, or according to the chance of cards drawn from card sets on the board for further moves and instructions dictated to game players.

Single player lottery games are known to provide telephone input for lottery gaming purposes via telephone communication systems, however such is neither suitable for input during the course of multiplayer games nor for the provision of random telephone input during the course of a multiplayer board game. Fore example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,899,329 to Seelig et al. for “Telephone gaming device” issued May 31, 2005 relates to a gaming device that allows the game player to place a telephone call, with a second telephone call placed to a telephone number with a controller generating a prize/multiplier to obtain a total prize.

It would be desirable to provide interactions as between electronics communications or telephony networks on one hand and traditional games on the other hand to make such traditional games more exciting to both younger generations who have become accustomed to communications media systems and to older generations. It would be further advantageous to facilitate telephonic and similar networked electronic communications interfaces for use with games to deliver content information for playing a multiplayer game. The invention described herein addresses these deficiencies of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides electronic communications network content and instruction information receipt in a multiplayer board game environment using or including a conventional land-line or cellular telephone, including such systems and processes for receipt of random or pseudo-random selections with a plurality of game content items provided for game play. A method for an interaction between a player and the game uses a call in telephone service which allows users to call in before starting a board game to trigger a series of calls to be received during the game. The calls create various game effects designed to improve the play experience and accelerate the game, including providing random telephone input during the course of a multiplayer game using a dedicated phone service. Moreover options include initiating the call from a cellular phone that can receive multimedia downloads and utilizing multiple cellular phones in a single game play experience.

In a described embodiment while playing the Monopoly board game, players receive calls during a forty five-minute period. The telephone calls would provide instructions for simple game effects, similar to Community Chest or Chance cards. However, the instructions are designed to provide additional play experience during game play.

Briefly, interaction between a telephone system in the multiplayer board game provides real time input to game play in a multi player board game during the course of game play. The player makes a phone call to a special game play service at a remote phone number at the start of the game. The service would then make a series of calls to the player's phone during the course of game play. These calls would provide game play input which could impact the outcome of the game. The game board has defined locations using a plurality of game pieces for moving, with an instruction generator providing an audible instruction to at least one of the game players and an interface for coupling the instruction generator for receiving electronic information.

The subject inventions may be applied to network communication for several types of content and information delivered via any of a variety of electronic telecommunications media and digital content distributors, such as a cellular phone providers, video on demand (VOD), or an on-line website set up so that the game is played alongside a laptop or an I-Pod™. These and other advantages are realized with the described embodiments. The invention advantages may be best understood from the described embodiments. However, it will be appreciated that numerous changes and modifications will occur to those skilled in the art, and it is intended in the appended claims to cover those changes and modifications which fall within the true spirit and scope of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will now be more particularly described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself as well as the preferred mode of use, further objectives and advantages thereof, is best understood by reference to the following detailed description of the embodiments in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a game board with a plurality of game pieces for moving on the game board, a selectable game element for directing the players to move the game pieces, and an instruction generator providing audible instructions via an interface for coupling the instruction generator for receiving electronic information in accordance with a described embodiment of the present invention illustrating use in connection with the well known game of Monopoly TM; and

FIG. 2 shows a flow chart via a telephonic interface for coupling the instruction generator for receiving electronic information in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In a described embodiment, the invention provides interaction between a telephone system and a multiplayer board game providing random telephone input during the course of the multiplayer board game using a dedicated telephone service. FIG. 1 illustrates the improved board game 10 with an instruction generator 12 via an interface for receiving electronic information. The players interact with the telephone system which provides unique types of interactions as between the players of the board game. The telephone system allows selected players to receive one or more messages during the course of game play, e.g., via a number of telephone calls that may correspond similarly to Chance and Community Chest cards or the like. Thus board games may be offered as being playable without the use of the telephone, while being much enhanced through the use of the telephone. Accordingly the board game product may be promoted through the provision of telephone enhanced gaming.

With reference to FIG. 1, the game has a game board 14 having a plurality of defined locations, a plurality of game pieces 16, 18 for moving on the game board, at least one game piece for each of a plurality of game players. A variety of selectable game elements 20 are provided for directing the players to move the game pieces on the game board, e.g., card sets, dice, timer/ hour glass devices, pointer devices or the like. The instruction generator 12 provides communications of electronic information instruction content, e.g., an audible instruction to at least one of the game players. These include an instruction generator in which a telephone 22 and its interface is provided with a communications network 24 to telephone system 26, with access e.g., via telephone network phone cards, registration or limited time subscriptions for access to a service provider. The information processor is thus provided as a server 28 within the electronic communications network 24, or a computer network for generating electronic information. As illustrated wireless devices such as digital mobile phones 30 and personal digital assistants (PDAs) 32 may be used with the communications network 24, as well as a computer 34 or television 36.

The players call a special number at the beginning of play and during the next forty-five minutes receive six call from, e.g., Mr. Monopoly in the present described of the Monopoly™ board game. Additionally, the communications interface also facilitates player receiving content or messages made to the same phone during the course of play which create a number of game effects designed to improve the play experience and/ or accelerate the game, e.g., by driving property into the game with the first three calls and by driving money out of the game with the last three calls. Interaction between a telephone system in a multiplayer board game providing real time input to game play in a multi player board game during the course of game play. The service provider initiates a series of calls to the players' telephones during the course of game play. These calls provide game play input which could impact the outcome of the game. Telephonic instructions also provide additional play experience during game play by occasionally dictating moves and instructions to game players, e.g., to improve the play experience and accelerate the game by driving property into the game and by driving money out of the game. The calls create various game effects designed to improve the play experience and accelerate the game, including providing random telephone input during the course of a multiplayer game using a dedicated phone service. Moreover options include (1) initiating the call from a cellular phone that can receive multimedia downloads and (2) utilizing multiple cellular phones in a single game play experience.

In a present described embodiment implemented into the Monopoly TM board game, the game contains most of the original elements of the original Monopoly TM board game but now includes one or more electronics communications components for interaction with the players. This experience can be played with a single phone which may be a cellular or standard land line, and phone cards, registration or one time subscriptions and the like may be used to access the service. Contemporary standard features of cellular phones and other personal electronics devices are used, including picture downloads, instant messaging (IM and/or SMS) and multiple devices may be used by individual players. Short Message Service (SMS) provides a telecommunications protocol for sending short text messages, which are available on most digital mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). SMS gateways connect mobile SMS services with instant message (IM) services, the world wide web, desktop computers, and landline telephones. Devices that can connect to mobile phones and PDAs through protocols may also send SMS messages over the wireless network. This kind of service/service provider and associated game can even include games within games where a player may have the chance to solve a mini-puzzle or mini-game in between turns to win a bonus that can then be applied in the real board game being played.

The most common application of the service is person-to-person messaging, but text messages are also often used to interact with automated systems, such as ordering products and services for mobile phones, or participating in contests. There are some services available on the Internet that allow users to send text messages free of direct charge to the sender, although users of North American networks will often have to pay to receive any SMS text message As described herein “content” is provided as specific combinations of speech and sound effects, stored on the server as sound files, then selected based on several parameters and played over the phone, which features:

1—Avoids repeats of the same phone call, guarantees (within defined limits) a different experience every time the game service is accessed.

2—Pro-actively affects the gameplay experience based on the preferences of the purchaser/subscriber. (Such can adjust the chronological progression or “pace” of a game by selecting both frequency of calls, and phone call content which can either advance the game toward a conclusion, or extend the play; or adjust the difficulty of the game.)

3—Provides the purchaser/subscriber these capabilities without requiring the purchase any additional device(s).

4—Ongoing updates and refreshment of the content database enable the games to infuse current relevance, information, and events in real time into the game play of traditional board games, which were formerly limited by the date their cardware was printed.

5—Subscribers can input “customized” information online - names, places, and events which can be woven into the content of the game. For example, players could become characters in a game scenario, and be addressed by name.

Two to eight people may play Monopoly™, and the game dynamics can vary substantially depending upon the number of players. For example, if there are more than six players it is more likely that an individual will not have the opportunity to buy significant property and be bankrupted without ever having been in contention. With four or fewer players, there are not as many possible combinations of property ownership, and the importance of trading and negotiation aspects may be diminished. Such also may be manipulated via the electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls allowing the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game, also introducing a real time element to game play.

Each player is represented by a small pewter token or game piece which is moved around the edge of the board according to the roll of two dice. The twelve playing pieces are used and each player begins the game with their game piece on the Go Square, with $1500 in cash or predetermined denominations. Further standard items include: a pair of six-sided dice; a Title Deed for each property, given to a player to signify ownership, specifying purchase price, mortgage value, cost of building houses and hotels on that property and rent prices depending on how the property is developed. Properties include: 22 streets, divided into 8 color groups of two or three streets. (A player must own all of a color group to have a monopoly and to build houses or hotels; a limited supply of 32 houses and 12 hotels are provided.) A player can also be considered to have a monopoly by having both utilities and/or all four railroads (or stations) during game play.

Players compete to acquire wealth through stylized economic activity involving the buying, rental and trading of properties using play money, as players take turns moving around the board according to the roll of the dice. Monopoly involves a substantial amount of strategy and luck, with the roll of the dice determining whether a player gets to own key properties or lands on squares with high rents. Players take turns in order, with the initial player determined by chance before the game, which may further be provided via electronic communications as described herein. Going last is often a significant disadvantage because one is more likely to land on property which has already been bought and therefore be forced to pay rent instead of having an opportunity to buy un-owned property. The randomized calls via the interface, allows the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game. A player's turn uses selectable game elements for directing the players to move the game pieces on the game board, and includes rolling two dice and advancing on the board the corresponding number of squares clockwise around the track. Depending on where the game piece lands, the player may take a number of actions. If the game piece lands on an un-owned property, railroads or utilities then the player has two options, either buy the property for its listed purchase price, or he can put it up for auction. If the game piece lands on Chance or Community Chest, then the player draws the top card from the respective set of cards. When players roll doubles, they roll again after completing the first turn, but if players roll three sets of doubles in a row, they go to jail. If players land on an owned property they pay the owner an amount of rent set on colored properties and railroads, and multiplies of a dice roll by a certain factor for the utilities. Players may also buy houses for their property if they own all the property in a color group. The rent increases the more houses are on a space. Once there are four houses on a space, the player can build a hotel. The construction or selling back of houses and hotels must be done evenly across all properties in a color group. Thus each property must have first received one house before a second can be constructed, two houses before a third can be constructed, etc. Each of which may further be manipulated via the electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls allowing the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game, as illustrated in connection with Chance and Community Chest 38 within the electronic communications network 24 or server 28.

The Monopoly™ Chance and Community Chest can affect overall game flow. There are 32 cards in the Chance and Community Chest card sets (a deck of 16 Chance cards and a deck of 16 Community Chest cards). Each of which may be augmented or substituted with the described electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls allowing the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game. Players draw these cards when they land on the corresponding squares of the track, and follow the instructions printed on them. The Community Chest is generally positive and Chance is a bit more risky; the cards serve to introduce a random factor in a way similar to the dice. For example, drawing a Take a Walk on Boardwalk card, with its associated rent fees, can often cause bankruptcy of a game player. When players land on a square having the Chance or Community Chest logo they must draw a card and then follow its instructions. The Community Chest content and instructions are mostly financial and can drive money or property into or out of the game: 10 of these cards allow the player to draw money from the bank; a get out of jail free card; and others are bad with costs of, e.g., $300 or instructing a player to go to jail (which may be beneficial to avoid rent fees associated with moving on the game board at certain points in the game play); or pay street repairs, etc. For example, of these cards, one of substantial concern is street repairs, requiring players to pay $40 per house and $115 per hotel which can be hurt any player that has improved properties with little cash reserves. Such also may be manipulated via the electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls allowing the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game.

The Chance card set includes 5 cards having immediate financial impact. There is also a street repairs card in the Chance card set which is slightly less ($25 for a house, and $100 for each hotel). The remainder of the cards have content that directs movement and slightly increase the value of some properties, and because of this they drive property into the game or distribute money within the game which may be manipulated via the electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls and the like. As an enhancement to the railroads, two cards direct the bearer to pay the owner twice the rental. If players land on an owned property they may have to pay the owner a slightly increased value of some properties rent set on colored properties. Players landing on utilities owned by others pay multiplies of a dice roll by a certain factor for the utilities, i.e., the utilities Chance card can set rent at 10 times the roll of the dice. Such factors may be manipulated via the electronic communications interface to the game with randomized calls allowing the instruction generator to provide content that may affect these dynamics of the board game.

With reference to the flow chart of FIG. 2, processes are shown diagrammatically for using a telephonic interface version of the present game suitable for coupling the instruction generator 12 for receiving electronic information. Because of the capabilities of multimedia, the content provided in FIG. 2 may be augmented by spoken quotations or other audio or visual output or similar types of information. A player initiates a game sequence by making a telephone call to a Service Provider to a special number at the start of a game at step 100 for selection of an a first set of game information; or that first game set is determined by the program at random or according to predefined parameters. The games can make use of the following information, along with the processing capabilities of the server to affect the timing, selection and content of server-initiated calls as well as the selection of responses to player-initiated calls.

The players call the special number at the beginning of play and during the next forty-five minutes receive six call from Mr. Monopoly. These calls create simple game effects, similar to Chance and Community Chest cards. However, these effects are designed to improve the play experience and accelerate the game by driving property into the game with the first three calls and by driving money out of the game with the last three calls.

A Player Profile 102 which may be implemented with a look up table (LUT) stored in memory facilitates tailored player content information for selection and content of server-initiated calls as well as the selection of responses to player-initiated calls, as follows:

1—A record of the calls made and received from a given phone number, and the content delivered.

2—Number of participating players—When input as part of a sign-in process.

3—Elapsed time since game start/last call.

4—Which calls the server has placed or is programmed to place.

5—Which phone numbers have been called by players, how many times each has been called, and the content played by the server.

6—Through on-line subscription, enabled board games allow the subscriber to input “customized” information.

7—Ongoing updates and refreshment of the content.

In addition to providing random telephone input during the course of a multiplayer board game, real time aspects use information obtained by the communication provider's server based on the calls it receives. To this end, the player profile and/or a look up table (LUT) stored in memory facilitate tailored player content information with randomness or pseudo-randomness used to appear random to the players, and to this end the timing and content be controlled by software. For example whereas true randomness could result in the same call being made 10 times in a row, at random intervals that turned about to be about 10-30 seconds apart the LUT used with the instruction generator can provide ordered content during game play that appears random.

Thereafter, a series of calls that will be made to the same phone during the course of play is triggered at step 104. At step 106 the service provider instructions generate Content via series of calls to the player's phone during game to affect course/ timing of game play (during the next forty-five minutes receive six call from Mr. Monopoly). The calls provide instructions to create game effects (e.g., similar to Chance and Community Chest cards, these effects are designed to improve the play experience and accelerate the game by driving property into the game and by driving money out of the game) at step 108. Accordingly the board game method directs the players by generating electronic information instruction content for impacting game play with respect to at least one of the game players. The service provider facilitates delivery of the electronic information instruction content, and the electronic information instruction content is communicated over a telecommunications network to at least one of the game players. In the present described embodiment, at step 110, property is driven into the game with the first three calls, and at step 112 money is driven out of the game with the last three calls 112. The game then ends with updates to Player Profile(s) at step 114.

While the features described may also be delivered via any of a variety of electronic telecommunications media and digital content distributors, such as a cellular phone providers, video on demand (VOD), or an on-line website set up so that the game is played alongside a laptop or an I-Pod™.

From the foregoing, it can be seen that there has been provided features for an improved board game with an instruction generator via an interface for receiving electronic information. While a particular embodiment of the present invention has been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the invention in its broader aspects. Therefore, the aim is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. The matter set forth in the foregoing description and accompanying drawings is offered by way of illustration only and not as a limitation. The actual scope of the invention is intended to be defined by subsequent claims when viewed in their proper perspective based on the prior art. Thus, it is intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting and that the following claims, including all equivalents, are intended to define the scope of the inventions.