Title:
GAMING MACHINE, SYSTEM AND METHOD WITH PROGRESSIVE GAME FEATURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine (100) including a display (106) and a user interface (107) in communication with a game controller (101), which cooperate to provide a game (16), the gaming machine (100) offering at least one jackpot prize and awarding at least one feature game on the occurrence of a predetermined event during play of the game (16). The outcomes of the feature game include a first outcome and a second outcome, wherein the gaming machine (100) causes an increase of the jackpot prize on the occurrence of the first outcome, and causes the award of the jackpot prize on the occurrence of the second outcome. A gaming machine (100) is also described in which an increase to a jackpot prize is variable. Also described are gaming systems (200) including a plurality of linked gaming machines (100) and methods for gaming.



Inventors:
Roukis, George (Yowie Bay, AU)
Bennett, Nicholas Luke (Manly Vale, AU)
Application Number:
12/340690
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
12/20/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KUSUMAKAR, KAREN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCANDREWS HELD & MALLOY, LTD (500 WEST MADISON STREET, SUITE 3400, CHICAGO, IL, 60661, US)
Claims:
1. A method of gaming comprising: conducting a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule; determining during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize; and upon the progressive prize not being awarded, incrementing the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

2. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during a feature, the progressive prize associated with that feature is incremented by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

3. A method as claimed in claim 2, wherein awarding a feature game comprises awarding an entitlement to select a feature game, receiving a feature game selection and awarding the selected feature game.

4. A method as claimed in claim 3, wherein each feature game has a different probability of awarding the associated prize.

5. A method as claimed claim 2, wherein the fixed amount is different for each feature.

6. A method as claimed in claim 2, wherein there are at least three different progressive prizes.

7. A method as claimed in claim 1, comprising conducting play of at least one base game and incrementing at least one progressive prize during at least some play of the base game.

8. A method as claimed in claim 7, comprising incrementing the at least one progressive prize during play of the base game where an ante bet is made on the base game.

9. A gaming system comprising: a jackpot controller arranged to maintain the value of a progressive prize of a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule; and a plurality of game apparatuses communicably coupled to the jackpot controller and playable by players to obtain an award of a feature game, the gaming system configured to determine during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize; and upon the progressive prize not being awarded, increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

10. A gaming system as claimed in claim 9, wherein each gaming apparatus is configured to determine whether to award the progressive prize.

11. A gaming system as claimed in claim 9, wherein the jackpot controller is configured to determine whether to award the progressive prize.

12. A gaming system as claimed in claim 9, wherein the jackpot controller is arranged to apply the fixed increment.

13. A gaming system as claimed in claim 9, wherein each gaming apparatus is arranged to communicate the increment to the jackpot controller.

14. A gaming system as claimed in claim 9, wherein a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during a feature, the progressive prize associated with that feature is incremented by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

15. A gaming system in claim 14, wherein the gaming system awards a feature game by awarding an entitlement to select a feature game, a player operates the player's game apparatus to make a feature game selection and the gaming system awards the selected feature game.

16. A gaming system as claimed in claim 15, wherein each feature game has a different probability of awarding the associated prize.

17. A gaming system as claimed in claim 14, wherein the fixed amount is different for each feature.

18. A gaming system as claimed in claim 14, wherein there are at least three different progressive prizes.

19. A gaming system as claimed in claim 14, wherein each game apparatus is arranged to conduct play of at least one base game and the gaming system increments at least one progressive prize during at least some play of the base game.

20. A gaming system as claimed in claim 19, wherein the gaming system increments the at least one progressive prize during play of the base game where an ante bet is made on the base game.

21. A jackpot controller arranged to maintain the value of a progressive prize of a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule, the jackpot controller arranged to increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount at the conclusion of each awarded feature game wherein it is determined not to award whether to award the progressive prize.

22. A jackpot controller as claimed in claim 21, wherein a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during one of the features, the jackpot controller increments the progressive prize associated with that feature by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

23. A gaming apparatus playable by a player to obtain an award of a feature game during which a progressive prize may be awarded, the gaming apparatus configured to determine during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize, and upon the progressive prize not being awarded, cause a jackpot controller communicably coupled to the gaming apparatus to increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

24. A gaming apparatus as claimed in claim 23, wherein a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during one of the features, the gaming apparatus causes the jackpot controller to increment the progressive prize associated with that feature by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

25. The method of claim 1 and further including a program storage device storing instructions and executable by a computational device.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation in part application of, and claims benefit to, International Application No. PCT/IB07/54118 filed 9 Oct. 2007 the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. Application No. PCT/IB07/54118 is in turn based on, and claims benefit to, Australian Patent Application No. 2006904518 filed 18 Aug. 2006. This application also claims the benefit of Australian Patent Application No. 2007209823 filed Aug. 17, 2007, which is based on the same Australian Patent Application No. 200690458, which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to gaming apparatus and methods of gaming. A particular embodiment of the present invention relates to gaming apparatus and methods of gaming that offer a progressive prize.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

With the increase of gambling at gaming venues has come increased competition between gaming venues to obtain a larger share of the total gambling spend. Gaming venue operators have therefore continuously looked for new variations and types of games in order to attract both new and return customers to their venues.

In response to this need, suppliers of gaming devices and systems have attempted to provide the sought after variety, while still developing games that comply with the relevant regulations in the jurisdiction of the gaming venue operator. Suppliers of gaming devices therefore are faced with restrictions on the types of games and gaming apparatus that are allowable, both in terms of the prevailing regulations and in terms of providing a return on investment to the gaming venue operators.

In addition, it is important that a player be able to understand the operation of a game quickly so that the player can start to quickly play the game and therefore extract maximum entertainment from the game.

Progressive jackpots may be offered on gaming machines. A progressive controller may be programmed to accumulate a percentage of the turnover bet on the machine, that percentage being accumulated in a progressive pool. On the occurrence of a predetermined event, the amount of money in the pool may be awarded to a player.

Recently progressive jackpot gaming systems have been implemented which operate across a group of linked gaming machines, accumulating a percentage of turnover bet on all of the linked machines into one or more progressive pools. Again the contents of a particular progressive pool may be awarded to a player when certain trigger conditions are met.

While the modified player progressive systems have increased player interest, the lack of actual or perceived player involvement in the increment of either standalone or linked progressive systems can mean that players may easily tire of playing these systems.

Any reference in this specification to the prior art does not constitute an admission that such prior art was well known or forms part of the common general knowledge in any jurisdiction.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In a first aspect, the invention provides a method of gaming comprising:

conducting a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule;

determining during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize; and

upon the progressive prize not being awarded, incrementing the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

In an embodiment, a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during a feature, the progressive prize associated with that feature is incremented by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

In an embodiment, awarding a feature game comprises awarding an entitlement to select a feature game, receiving a feature game selection and awarding the selected feature game.

In an embodiment, each feature game has a different probability of awarding the associated prize.

In an embodiment, the fixed amount is different for each feature.

In an embodiment, there are at least three different progressive prizes.

In an embodiment, conducting play of at least one base game and incrementing at least one progressive prize during at least some play of the base game.

In an embodiment, incrementing the at least one progressive prize during play of the base game where an ante bet is made on the base game.

In a second aspect, the invention provides a gaming system comprising:

a jackpot controller arranged to maintain the value of a progressive prize of a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule; and

a plurality of game apparatuses communicably coupled to the jackpot controller and playable by players to obtain an award of a feature game,

the gaming system configured to determine during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize; and

upon the progressive prize not being awarded, increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

In an embodiment, each gaming apparatus is configured to determine whether to award the progressive prize.

In an embodiment, the jackpot controller is configured to determine whether to award the progressive prize.

In an embodiment, the jackpot controller is arranged to apply the fixed increment.

In an embodiment, each gaming apparatus is arranged to communicate the increment to the jackpot controller.

In an embodiment, a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during a feature, the progressive prize associated with that feature is incremented by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

In an embodiment, the gaming system awards a feature game by awarding an entitlement to select a feature game, a player operates the player's game apparatus to make a feature game selection and the gaming system awards the selected feature game.

In an embodiment, each feature game has a different probability of awarding the associated prize.

In an embodiment, the fixed amount is different for each feature.

In an embodiment, there are at least three different progressive prizes.

In an embodiment, each game apparatus is arranged to conduct play of at least one base game and the gaming system increments at least one progressive prize during at least some play of the base game.

In an embodiment, the gaming system increments the at least one progressive prize during play of the base game where an ante bet is made on the base game.

In a third aspect, the invention provides a jackpot controller arranged to maintain the value of a progressive prize of a progressive game where a progressive prize may be awarded during feature games awarded in accordance with at least one game rule, the jackpot controller arranged to increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount at the conclusion of each awarded feature game wherein it is determined not to award whether to award the progressive prize.

In an embodiment, a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during one of the features, the jackpot controller increments the progressive prize associated with that feature by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

In a fourth aspect, the invention provides a gaming apparatus playable by a player to obtain an award of a feature game during which a progressive prize may be awarded, the gaming apparatus configured to determine during each awarded feature game whether to award the progressive prize, and upon the progressive prize not being awarded, cause a jackpot controller communicably coupled to the gaming apparatus to increment the progressive prize by a fixed amount.

In an embodiment, a plurality of progressive prizes may be awarded during the progressive game, each progressive prize being associated with a different one of a plurality of different feature games which may be awarded, and wherein upon the progressive prize not being awarded during one of the features, the gaming apparatus causes the jackpot controller to increment the progressive prize associated with that feature by a fixed amount specified for that feature.

In a fifth aspect, the invention provides a program storage device storing instructions which when executed by a computational device cause the computational device to implement the above method.

Further aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description, given by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1: shows diagrammatically, a view of a gaming machine suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 2: shows a block diagram of gaming apparatus suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 3: shows a block diagram of components of the memory of the gaming apparatus represented in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4: shows diagrammatically, a network gaming system suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 5: shows a screen display of one of a plurality of game features available in a first embodiment of the feature game of the present invention.

FIG. 6: shows a screen display of the results of a game indicating an exemplary feature game has been triggered.

FIG. 7: shows an attract screen display of a game feature which has been triggered from the game of FIG. 4.

FIG. 8: shows a screen display of a game feature of FIG. 5 in its initial configuration.

FIG. 9: shows a screen display of the game feature of FIG. 5 after a number of rounds of the feature game have been played.

FIG. 10: shows a typical underlying reel structure for the safe game feature.

FIG. 11: shows a screen display of the game feature of FIG. 5 in which a player has won.

FIG. 12: shows the attract screen display of FIG. 5 after the player has won.

FIG. 13: shows a typical screen display of the game feature of FIGS. 6a-6c when a player has lost.

FIG. 14: shows an attract screen display of FIG. 5 after the player has lost.

FIG. 15: shows a flowchart of a game process in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 16A and 16B show a flowchart of a further embodiment.

FIG. 17 shows a block diagram of an embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The embodiments provide a method of gaming, a game controller, a gaming device and a gaming system where losing outcomes result in fixed increments to a progressive jackpot pool.

In FIG. 1 of the accompanying drawings, one example of a gaming machine suitable for implementing the present invention is generally referenced by arrow 10.

The gaming machine 10 includes a console 12 having a display 14 on which is displayed representations of a game 16, that can be played by a player. A mid-trim 20 of the gaming machine 10 houses a bank of buttons 22 for enabling a player to play the game 16. The mid-trim 20 also houses a credit input mechanism 24 including a coin input chute 24A and a bill collector 24B. A top box 26 may carry artwork 28, including for example, pay tables and details of bonus awards and other information or images relating to the game. Further artwork and/or information may be provided on the front panel 29 of the console 12. A coin tray 30 is mounted beneath the console 12 for cash payouts from the gaming machine 10.

The display 14 shown in FIG. 1 is in the form of a video display unit, particularly a cathode ray tube screen device. Alternatively, the display 14 may be a liquid crystal display, plasma screen, any other suitable video display unit, or the visible portion of an electromechanical device. In advantageous embodiments, the top box 26 may include a display, for example a video display unit, which may be of the same type as the display 14, or a different type of display.

FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of a gaming apparatus, generally referenced by arrow 100, suitable for implementing the present invention. The gaming apparatus 100 may, for example, operate as a standalone gaming machine of the type shown in FIG. 1. However, the gaming apparatus 100 may alternatively operate as a networked gaming machine, communicating with other network devices, such as one or more servers or other gaming machines. The gaming apparatus 100 may also have distributed hardware and software components that communicate with each other directly or through a network. Accordingly, different reference numerals have been used in FIG. 2 from FIG. 1 for components that may be equivalent.

The gaming apparatus 100 includes a game controller 101, which in the illustrated example includes a computational device 102, which may be a microprocessor, microcontroller, programmable logic device or other suitable device. Instructions and data to control operation of the computational device 102 are stored in a memory 103, which is in data communication with, or forms a part of, the computational device 102. Typically, the gaming apparatus 100 will include both volatile and non-volatile memory and more than one of each type of memory, with such memories being collectively represented by the memory 103. The instructions to cause the game controller 101 to implement the present invention will be stored in the memory 103.

The gaming apparatus may include hardware meters 104 for the purposes of regulatory compliance and also include an input/output (I/O) interface 105 for communicating with the peripheral devices of the gaming apparatus 100. The input/output interface 105 and/or the peripheral devices may be intelligent devices with their own memory for instructions and data.

In the example shown in FIG. 2, the peripheral devices that communicate with the controller are one or more displays 106, user input devices 107 (e.g. buttons or a touch screen), a card and/or ticket reader 108, a printer 109, a bill acceptor and/or coin input mechanism 110 and a coin output mechanism 111. One or more of the displays 106 may include a touch screen, forming part of the user input devices 107 (which may also include buttons). Additional devices may be included as part of the gaming machine 100, or devices omitted as required for the specific implementation.

In addition, the gaming machine 100 may include a communications interface, for example a network card 112. The network card, may for example, send status information, accounting information or other information to a central controller, server or database and receive data or commands from the central controller, server or database. One or more of the peripheral devices, for example the card/ticket reader 108 may be able to communicate directly with the network card 112.

The game controller 101 may also include a random number generator 113, which generates a series of random numbers that determine the outcome of a series of random game events played as part of a game on the gaming apparatus 100. As explained in more detail in relation to FIG. 4, the computational device 102 may include two or more controllers or processors, which may be local or remote from each other and the displays 106. It will be appreciated that the random number generator may generate pseudo-random or true-random numbers depending on how it is configured.

FIG. 3 shows an exemplary block diagram of the main components of the memory 103. The RAM 103A typically temporarily holds program files for execution by the computational controller 102 and related data. The EPROM 103B may hold be a boot ROM device and/or may contain some system or game related code. The mass storage device 103C is typically used to store game programs, the integrity of which may be verified and/or authenticated by the computational controller 102 using protected code from the EPROM 103B or elsewhere.

FIG. 4 shows a gaming system 200. The gaming system 200 includes a network 201, which for example may be an Ethernet network. Gaming devices 202, shown arranged in three banks 203 of two gaming devices 202 in FIG. 4, are connected to the network 201. The gaming devices 202 may be gaming machines 10, as shown in FIG. 1 or form part or all of another gaming apparatus 100. Single gaming devices 202 and banks 203 containing three or more gaming devices 202 may also be connected to the network 201.

One or more displays 204 may also be connected to the network 201. The displays 204 may, for example, be associated with a bank 203 of gaming devices. The displays 204 may be used to display representations associated with game play on the gaming devices 202, and/or used to display other representations, for example promotional or informational material.

Servers may also be connected to the network 201. For example, a game server 205 may generate game outcomes for games played on the gaming devices 202, a database management server 206 may manage the storage of game programs and associated data for downloading or access by the gaming devices 202 in a database 206A, and a jackpot server 207 may control one or more jackpots associated with the gaming devices 202.

Further servers may be provided to assist in the administration of the gaming system 200, including for example a gaming floor management server 208, and a licensing server 209 to monitor the use of licenses to particular games. An administrator terminal 210 is provided to allow an administrator to run the network 201 and the devices connected to the network.

The gaming system 200 may communicate with other gaming systems, other local networks, for example a corporate network and/or a wide area network such as the Internet through a firewall 211.

FIG. 15 shows a process flow diagram 500 of a process performed in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The process may be performed by the network gaming system 200, in which the gaming devices 202 may each comprise part or all of a gaming apparatus 100 and the following description assumes this implementation. However, those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that the process will also be able to be implemented by other gaming systems. The process shown in FIG. 15 is described below with reference to a set of exemplary screen shots of a game.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a screen shot 300 may be displayed on a LCD screen or CRT display occupying the top box 26 and/or may appear on the display 204, which may be located near to gaming devices 202 that can play a game associated with the screen shot 300. In the screen shot 300, a plurality of prize pool amounts are shown 301a to 305a, together with a representation of a corresponding character or ‘bandit’ 301b to 305b. A larger illustration of one of the bandits 301b-305b, in this example the bandit 306, may also be shown, the bandit 306 alternating between different characters as time progresses as an attract screen display.

Display of the screen shot 300 may be under the control of the jackpot server 207, which may communicate directly or indirectly with the display in the top box 26 and display 204. Alternatively, the display in the top box 26 may be controlled by the game controller 101.

A plurality of gaming devices 202 each provide a game, which may be the same game or different games. In a preferred embodiment of the invention as presently contemplated, the game includes a chance to win one of the prize pool amounts 301a to 305a in a feature game. Each prize pool amount 301a to 305a may have its own associated feature game.

The feature game associated may be triggered during play of the game in a number of different ways. An exemplary diagrammatic representation of a game screen 310 is shown in FIG. 6, the game being a spinning reel game with five spinning reels, each of which display three symbols to form outcomes of the game. The outcomes of the exemplary game are the symbols in the pay lines 1 to 3 shown in FIG. 6.

After a bet has been placed at step 501, the spinning reel game may be played (step 502). The spinning reel game may result in the occurrence of a predetermined symbol based trigger event occurring (determined in step 504) in the game. In FIG. 6, the occurrence of five PEDRO symbols in payline 2 may be a trigger event for the feature game and provided the player has purchased play of payline 2, then the feature will be commenced by the jackpot server 207 taking control of a display 106 of the gaming device 202 to display the feature (step 506). In this embodiment, the reels of the spinning reel game include trigger symbols that are associated with the various prize pool amounts 301a to 305a, with particular trigger symbols resulting in play for a particular prize pool.

Alternatively, the feature may be triggered according an event that occurs independently of any particular outcome of the game, for example based on turnover of the game as described in Australian patent number 754689, the contents of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference. In this case there may be only a single prize pool, or alternatively, where multiple prize pools are provided the prize pool that is played for may be selected randomly.

After the base game has been completed and a feature game triggered, the jackpot server 207 may cause the feature screen display 312 of FIG. 7 to be displayed on the display 106, in which the bandit 306 is shown enlarged and an indicator is displayed to highlight the jackpot amount associated with the bandit (eg the arrow 313). A corresponding screen display may be displayed on the display 204. This display may replace the game display on the gaming device 202, or alternatively be presented on a separate display, for example in a display provided in the top box 26.

After a short period of time, the display of FIG. 7 is replaced with the screen display 316 of FIG. 8, shown as one example game feature. The screen display is split into two sections; section 317 showing the bandit character (PEDRO) attempting to access a safe and section 318 showing a series of buildings with windows 319, one window 319 being arbitrarily selected by the computer prior to the commencement of the feature game as a window behind which PEDRO is hiding. Alternatively, whether PEDRO is hiding behind a window 319 may be determined when that window is selected, with a 1 in 15 chance for the first window, a 1 in 14 chance for the second window and so on.

The feature game has two outcomes, a winning outcome in which the player of the gaming device 202 is awarded the prize pool 301a and a losing outcome, in which the player is not awarded the prize pool 301a and the prize pool is incremented. The increment amount may be viewed as an amount that the bandit PEDRO is playing for and the prize pool 301a may be viewed as an amount that the player is playing for in a competition. A consolation prize may be awarded to the player of the gaming device 202 if the losing outcome occurs. Although the examples described herein are for feature games with only two outcomes, the feature game may also have other winning or losing outcomes associated with other game events, such as the award of a fixed value prize or the award of a number of free games.

The amount that the bandit is playing for is displayed as shown at 320 and the award amount 301a is displayed at 321 (step 508). The amount displayed at 320 may be randomly selected from a set of predetermined potential increment amounts or from a range of potential increment amounts. Therefore, the increment amount may vary between occurrences of the feature game. The amount could alternatively be set for every occurrence of the feature game.

The amount that the player is playing for may be determined by the amount of credits bet per line in the game play that triggered the feature game, multiplied by the award amount 301a. In the example shown, the amount shown at 321 is the award amount 301a, as one credit only was bet per line. If two credits per line had been bet in the underlying base game, then the amount shown at 321 in FIG. 8 would be 259,130 credits.

In the game screen displays of FIG. 8, the PEDRO bandit is shown to be attempting to open a safe, which will open when the slots 322 on the safe door 323 have letters spelling out OPEN. The player is represented as attempting to find PEDRO behind one of the fifteen windows 319.

Accordingly, at the start of the feature, the player selects one of the windows 319, and if this window is not the arbitrarily predetermined location of the bandit the words “No bandit” are shown. After each selection (or beforehand if the order of play is reversed), a reel associated with one of the slots 322 is spun and its stopping position randomly determined. The reels associated with the slots 322 may be as shown in FIG. 9, as having half their positions blank and half their positions displaying one of the letters from the word “Open”. Accordingly, for each spin, there is a 50% chance of a letter being displayed. If a letter is displayed, then a reel associated with another of the slots 322 is spun and so on until either the word “Open” is spelled out, in which case the outcome of the feature is a losing outcome, or a blank space is displayed, in which case the player is prompted to select another window.

The result after two trials of this game is displayed in FIG. 10. Two letters have been revealed in slots 322 by the bandit, and two windows 319 have been selected by the player, neither of which resulted in a winning outcome.

This process will continue (step 510) until the player selects the window which the bandit has been assigned as being behind. In this case the award amount 301a is won by the player (step 512) and the screen shot 326 shown in FIG. 11 is displayed. Following this, the award amount 301a is reset to its seed amount (step 514), 100,000 in this example, and the screen shot 328 shown in FIG. 12 is displayed, which is the same as the screen shot 300 of FIG. 5, except that the award amount 301a has been updated. Once the award amount 301a has been reset, control of the display 106 of the gaming device 202 may be returned to the jackpot server 207 or progressive controller (step 518).

If instead the bandit character spells OPEN across the slots 322 the amount displayed at 320 is added to the award amount 301a. This results in the screen shots 330 and 332 shown in FIGS. 13 and 14 respectively, indicating to the player that they have not won the award amount 301a and showing that the award amount 301a has been increased by the amount shown at 320 (step 516). Once the award amount 301a has been increased, control of the display 106 of the gaming device 202 may be returned to the jackpot server 207 or progressive controller 101 (step 518).

Each award amount 301a-305a may be associated with a separate second screen feature game that preferably shows a competition between the player, who is attempting to win one of the award amounts 301a-305a, and a bandit, who is attempting to win an amount to be added to the jackpot. Alternatively, the feature game may not be a second screen bonus and may be played using the same screen format as the game. For example, in the spinning reel game, two separate symbols may be collected each time they are displayed in a series of games, one for the bandit and one for the player, with the first player to collect a number of symbols winning. The series of games may be provided as a feature game, for example a series of free games, or the competition may occur during ordinary play of the game. Alternatively, an animation may occur in the game simply displaying the word “WIN” or “LOSE” to indicate the outcome of the feature game.

In addition to the jackpot prizes that give award amounts 301a-305a, the gaming system may maintain another jackpot prize, which may be a standard progressive based on turnover on a gaming machine or a fixed value prize. In one embodiment, the progressive is designed to have a high value or a high value fixed prize is provided, which is won only if the player “beats” all of the bandits (five the example shown) in their respective feature games.

A number of gaming devices 202 may contribute to the same award amounts 301a-305a and play common feature games to win the award amounts 301a-305a. Alternatively, the award amounts 301a-305a may be provided for a single gaming device 202.

A further embodiment, which includes the feature of incrementing the progressive prize by a fixed amount upon the progressive prize not being awarded is illustrated in FIGS. 16A, 16B and FIG. 17. The embodiment describes an arrangement, where the method of gaming involves conducting a base game. The player can wager on the base game in a conventional manner. The base game may be, for example, a spinning reel game. In the alternative, the player may also place an additional ante bet when initiating a play of the base game. The ante bet provides eligibility for a first level feature game, exemplified below as the “Miss Kitty” feature from which the player can access three second level features as described in further detail below. The three second level features can each result in the award of a different progressive prize. The prize pools for the respective progressive jackpots are only incremented when the ante bet is made. The progressive prize pools are incremented in a number of ways as described below but notably, including increments of the respective prize pool by a fixed amount when a second level feature game is lost. In addition to the progressive jackpot prize, a mystery jackpot is provided which can be won irrespective of whether an ante bet is made.

Referring to FIG. 16A, the method of the embodiment involves receiving 1601a player wager. It is determined 1602 whether the wager includes an ante-bet. If the player does not place the ante-bet, the player is not eligible for the Miss Kitty and second level features games but is still eligible 1603 for the mystery jackpot and accordingly the mystery jackpot pool is increased based on a percentage of the amount bet by the player. As in conventional mystery jackpots, the prize pool can include a seed pool such that when a mystery jackpot is awarded the mystery jackpot can start from a non zero number.

If the bet includes the ante-bet then the player is eligible 1604 for the mystery jackpot, the feature game, and the second level feature games including the progressive jackpots. Accordingly increments apply to both the mystery and progressive jackpots 1605 and there will be increments provided during the base game to both the mystery and progressive jackpot pool. It is determined at the end of each play of the base game whether a trigger condition has been met in respect of this play of the base game. If no trigger occurs, the process proceeds to the start and awaits the receipt 1601 of a player wager.

If a trigger condition occurs then the first level, Miss Kitty, feature game is started 1607. Referring now to FIG. 16B, in this example of a second level feature game, the player and “Miss Kitty” who is an animated fanciful cat each roll a pair of dice. If the player's total equals or exceeds Miss Kitty's total 1620 the player is awarded 1621 bonus credits or some other award which is typically based on the player's score. For example a multiplier of the number of spots shown on the player's dice.

If either the player or Miss Kitty role a double, the player is awarded bonus credits and may select to play any of three feature games as will be described in further detail below. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that the number of feature games can vary and is preferably a plurality of games with the upper limit of games corresponding to a desired number of progressives to be provided by the game. The third alternative 1680 is Miss Kitty's score is greater than the player's score. If this is the case a consolation prize, for example between 150 and 500 credits is awarded, and the progressive jackpot levels are incremented by set amounts of credits. That is each of the three progressive levels is incremented separately by fixed amounts. The amount that each jackpot is incremented may be the same or different. The increment is typically determined and applied at a progressive controller in data communication with a gaming machine on which the game is played. However, persons skilled in the art will appreciate that progressives could if only obtaining contributions from one gaming machine be monitored at the gaming machine. Further, there are two possible modes of operation, one where the gaming machine simply indicates to a controller that there is a need to make an increment and the progressive controller applies the increment and another where the gaming machine determines the progressive amount and communicates it to the progressive controller.

Returning now to FIG. 16B, the player is offered a choice 1631 of three selectable features each of which is associated with a respective one of three progressive jackpots. Typically, the size of the jackpots are different and are commensurate with the probability of winning a jackpot by play of the selected feature such that the player has a higher probability of obtaining award of a jackpot if they choose a lower value progressive jackpot, for example in the range of $100.00 to $200.00 than they have if they choose a game having an associated higher value jackpot, for example in the range of $2,000 to $4,000. Once the player selects the feature, the selected feature is played 1632 and it is then determined whether the player wins 1633. If the player loses then the game involves incrementing the relevant progressive associated with the selected feature by a fixed amount 1635. In the alternative if the player wins then they are awarded the progressive jackpot associated with the selected feature. The progressive jackpot pools may incorporate hidden seed pools in a manner known in the art to enable them to start from non-zero amounts.

In one example, the three features may be as follows: 1) a “granny” feature where the player has five shots determined by random trials to hit bottles displayed on a fence post. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that the reference to “random” above includes pseudo random. Accordingly, the gaming machine determines by random number generator 113 how many bottles the player hits. The gaming machine also determines whether an animated character named “granny” hits the bottles, and if the player's score equals or exceeds granny's score, the granny level progressive jackpot is awarded. Alternatively, if granny's score exceeds the player's score, the granny level progressive jackpot value is incremented by a set amount. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that the odds of the player and granny hitting bottles could be 50/50 for each bottle or weighted in some fashion such that the player and granny need not necessarily have the same odds of hitting a bottle.

The second feature is a “bandito” feature where twelve windows are presented on the screen and the banditos hidden behind one of the twelve windows. The player gets four hits to try and find the bandito. If the player finds the bandito, the player wins the bandito jackpot level value. If the player does not find the bandito, the bandito jackpot level is incremented by a set amount.

The third feature is the “gambler” feature. The gambler is dealt two aces. The player is dealt five cards. If the player's poker hand beats two aces, the gambler progressive jackpot level is awarded. If the player's hand does not beat the pair of aces, the gambler jackpot level is incremented by a set amount.

FIG. 17 is a functional block diagram of a gaming system 1700 of a exemplary embodiment for implementing the method of FIG. 16. FIG. 17 shows a gaming system 1700 having a gaming apparatus 700 and a jackpot controller 70. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that in practice a plurality of gaming apparatus will be connected to the same jackpot controller in order to provide for substantial value jackpot pools. However, a single gaming apparatus 700 is shown in FIG. 17 for ease of exposition. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that the connection between the gaming apparatus and the jackpot controller 70 can be a conventional network connection such as an Ethernet. Persons skilled in the art will also appreciate that the game apparatus 700 can be exemplified in the form of a gaming machine 10, 100 as described in relation to FIGS. 1 and 2 but as indicated elsewhere in the specification, the player interface which the player plays and the game controller need not necessarily be co-located.

Turning now to FIG. 17 the gaming apparatus 700 has a player interface 50 in data communication with a game controller. The player interface includes a credit input mechanism 52, a display 54 and a game play mechanism 56. The game play mechanism includes a number of buttons and/or a touch screen to enable the player to interact with the game controller 60. For ease of exposition, a subset of these is shown including an ante-bet button 56X and feature selection buttons 56A, 56B and 56C.

In the embodiment, a series of modules are implemented by a processor 62 executing program code stored in memory 64. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that these modules could be provided in different ways, including by providing dedicated circuits configured to carry out the functions described below. Further, persons skilled in the art will appreciate that there will be other modules, for example a random number generator and a display controller for controlling the display and that these are omitted for the sake of clarity. The game controller 60 includes a base game module 621 which is arranged to carry out a base game each time the player operates input mechanism to place a wager. The game controller 60 also includes an eligibility module 625 which determines whether than ante-bet has been placed with ante-bet button 56X. When an ante-bet is placed the eligibility module activates progressive contribution module 626 which sends for each play 625a of the game data to the jackpot controller to indicate that its progressive controller 705 should increment the progressive value 721 to 723 which are stored in progressive value database 720. To this end the progressive controller 705 includes a contribution handler 710 which knows the proportional amounts which each of the progressives 721, 722, 723 should be incremented each time there is a play of the game. In addition the eligibility module actives the trigger monitor 623A of the outcome evaluator 623 which is arranged to evaluate the outcomes based on base game data 641.

It will be appreciated there is also a mystery module 628 which operates irrespective of whether the ante-bet has been placed in order to send contributions based on a percentage of turnover to the mystery controller of the jackpot controller. The mystery controller 740 increments the mystery pool 741 accordingly.

The base game data 641 also allows the outcome generator 624A to generate the outcomes which as described above may be, for example, those of a spinning reel game. When the trigger monitor 623A determines that a trigger condition is met, for example, the occurrence of three designated scattered symbols at display positions of the virtual reels of a video spinning reel game, the trigger monitor 623A activates the second level feature module 624. The feature module 624 includes a feature game outcome generator 624A which, in the example given implements the dice game of the Miss Kitty game which generates outcomes based on the feature game data 642 which in turn are evaluated by the feature evaluator 624B based on feature game data 624 which specifies the rules of the Miss Kitty game as described above. The feature module 624 also includes a feature selection module to enable a player to select the feature by operating buttons 56A, 56B, 56C to select one the features described above when the player wins eligibility to the feature. As described above, the feature module 624 is arranged such as to communicate when a loss of the feature game occurs or that the first level features to the contribution handler 710 of the progressive controller 705 so that it can increment the progressive 721, 722, 723 in the manner described above.

When the player wins the first level feature, the feature selection module 624C enables the player to select one of feature A, feature B, or feature C 627A, 627B, 627C; these features being associated respectively with a first progressive 721, a second progressive 722 and a third progressive 723. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that while these features are all shown as being implemented by a second level feature module 627 they could equally be provided as separate modules which are instantiated as required based on the second level data 643 which specifies each of features A, B and C 643A, 643B, 643C and the rules associated with those games. As described above if the player loses any of these features, the progressive that is specifically associated with it is incremented. That is, for example, if feature A 627A is lost by the player then the player's losing amount which is fixed is added the progressive. Thus, giving the impression that the player has lost to the animated character that forms part of the feature as described above. At the end of play or at appropriate points during play the meter data 644 is updated to reflect the outcomes of play the amount wager, any amounts won, etc. This is viewable by player on display 54. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that if the player wins one of the second level features then the award handler 730 awards the progressive to the player. The award handler 730 can function in the same way as typical progressive machines such as to arbitrate when two gaming machines claim a progressive in close proximity which of those is to be awarded the first progressive and which is to be awarded the second progressive.

Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that other arrangements are possible. For example, rather than the second level feature module 627 being implemented within the game controller is could be implemented elsewhere, for example within the jackpot controller. Further, while the mystery and progressive jackpot controllers 740, 705 are shown within a single jackpot controller 70 and this is advantageous in terms of reducing equipment, it is not strictly necessary.

Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that an example of an exemplary trigger of the Miss Kitty feature game could be a so-called “hyperlink” trigger which is based on an amount that is bet by the player. That is, the amount bet gives the person a certain chance of the feature game being triggered.

While the foregoing description has been provided by way of example of the preferred embodiments of the present invention as presently contemplated, which utilise gaming apparatus and machines, those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that the present invention also may have application to internet gaming and/or have application to gaming over a telecommunications network, where handsets are used to display game outcomes and receive player inputs.

It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined in this specification extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.

In the claims which follow and in the preceding description of the invention, except where the context requires otherwise due to express language or necessary implication, the word “comprise” or variations such as “comprises” or “comprising” is used in an inclusive sense, i.e. to specify the presence of the stated features but not to preclude the presence or addition of further features in various embodiments of the invention.