Title:
GAMING MACHINE WITH ENHANCED FEATURE INDICATOR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine 10 has a display 14 and a game controller arranged to control images of symbols displayed on the display 14. The game controller is arranged to play a game 16 wherein at least one random event is caused to be displayed on the display and, if a predefined winning event occurs, the machine 10 awards a prize. The gaming machine 10 comprises a bonus feature that is triggered when a trigger condition occurs in a base game and an indicator incorporated in the bonus feature indicates to the player that the chance of winning during the bonus feature is higher than in the base game that triggered the bonus feature.



Inventors:
Bennett, Nicholas Luke (Rosebery, AU)
Application Number:
13/450117
Publication Date:
10/11/2012
Filing Date:
04/18/2012
Assignee:
BENNETT NICHOLAS LUKE
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F13/00; A63F13/10; G06F19/00; G07F17/32; G07F17/34; A63F; G09F
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MOSSER, ROBERT E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCANDREWS HELD & MALLOY, LTD (500 WEST MADISON STREET SUITE 3400, CHICAGO, IL, 60661, US)
Claims:
1. A gaming machine comprising a game controller arranged to facilitate a play of a first game and a play of a second game, the play of the second game being initiated as a consequence of the play of the first game, the first game being based on a plurality of separate first game reel strips each of which comprises a plurality of first game symbols, at least one of the first game reel strips comprising a special symbol, the second game being based on a plurality of separate second game reel strips each of which comprises a plurality of second game symbols, at least one of the second game reel strips comprising at least two separate instances of the special symbol, each one of the instances of the special symbol being adjacent another one of the instances of the special symbol such that there is no non-special symbol interposed between any two adjacent instances of the special symbol, the at least two instances of the special symbol being such that they contribute to the second game having an improved probability of awarding a prize relative to the first game.

2. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 1, wherein the play of the second game comprises a series of rounds of the game and for each of the rounds an additional one of the special symbols is added to thereby increase a total number of the instances of the special symbol.

3. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 2, wherein for each of the series of rounds the additional one of the special symbols is added to the same one of the second game reel strips.

4. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 2, wherein in response to the additional one of the special symbols being added a total number of symbols associated with at least one of the second game reels strips is increased.

5. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 2, wherein in response to the additional one of the special symbols being added a total number of symbols associated with all of the second game reel strips remains unchanged.

6. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 1, wherein each of the first game reel strips comprises only one of the special symbol.

7. The gaming machine as claimed in claim 1, wherein the second game reel strips are based on the first game reel strips.

8. A method for use with a gaming machine comprising a display and a game controller arranged to control images of symbols displayed on the display, the method comprising the step of causing the game controller to facilitate a play of a first game and a play of a second game, the play of the second game being initiated as a consequence of the play of the first game, the first game being based on a plurality of separate first game reel strips each of which comprises a plurality of first game symbols, at least one of the first game reel strips comprising a special symbol, the second game being based on a plurality of separate second game reel strips each of which comprises a plurality of second game symbols, at least one of the second game reel strips comprising at least two separate instances of the special symbol, each one of the instances of the special symbol being adjacent another one of the instances of the special symbol such that there is no non-special symbol interposed between any two adjacent instances of the special symbol, the at least two instances of the special symbol being such that they contribute to the second game having an improved probability of awarding a prize relative to the first game.

9. The method as claimed in claim 8, wherein the play of the second game comprises a series of rounds of the game and for each of the rounds an additional one of the special symbols is added to thereby increase a total number of the instances of the special symbol.

10. The method as claimed in claim 9, wherein for each of the series of rounds the additional one of the special symbols is added to the same one of the second game reel strips.

11. The method as claimed in claim 9, wherein in response to the additional one of the special symbols being added a total number of symbols associated with at least one of the second game reels strips is increased.

12. The method as claimed in claim 9, wherein in response to the additional one of the special symbols being added a total number of symbols associated with all of the second game reel strips remains unchanged.

13. The method as claimed in claim 8, wherein each of the first game reel strips comprises only one of the special symbol.

14. The method as claimed in claim 8, wherein the second game reel strips are based on the first game reel strips.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to, and is a continuation of, co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/752,773 having a filing date of Jan. 6, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference, and which claims priority to Australian Patent Application No. 2003900134, having a filing date of Jan. 14, 2003, which is also incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[Not Applicable]

MICROFICHE/COPYRIGHT REFERENCE

[Not Applicable]

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a gaming machine. More particularly, the invention relates to a gaming machine and to an improvement to a game played on such a gaming machine.

Players who regularly play gaming machines quickly tire of particular games and therefore it is necessary for manufacturers of these machines to develop innovative game features which add interest to the games. In so doing, it is hoped to keep players amused and therefore willing to continue playing the game as well as to attract new players.

Also, with the growth that has occurred in the gaming machine market, there is intense competition between manufacturers to supply various existing and new venues. When selecting a supplier of gaming machines, the operator of a venue will often pay close attention to the popularity of various games with their patrons. Therefore, gaming machine manufacturers are keen to devise games and/or game features which are popular with the players as a mechanism for improving sales, retaining customers and attracting new customers.

Still further, these days it is becoming increasingly common to provide bonus features associated with games to enhance player enjoyment and to maintain player interest. These features are becoming increasingly complex to the extent that gaming machines these days often have “Help” screens to explain to players how the features operate and what they entail. A large percentage of players do not have the inclination to read such screens and would rather just play the game. Hence such screens could be a disincentive to a player to play that particular gaming machine. This could have adverse consequences for the revenue of an operator of the venue in which the gaming machine is installed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a gaming machine having a display and a game controller arranged to control images of symbols displayed on the display, the game controller being arranged to play a game wherein at least one random event is caused to be displayed on the display and, if a predefined winning event occurs, the machine awards a prize, the gaming machine comprising a bonus feature that is triggered when a trigger condition occurs in a base game and an indicator incorporated in the bonus feature that indicates to the player that the chance of winning during the bonus feature is higher than in the base game that triggered the bonus feature.

Preferably, the format of the bonus feature is the same as that of the base game apart from the indicator incorporated in the bonus feature. Thus, the base game may be a spinning reel game with the bonus feature being a series of free spinning reel games.

The indicator may be a variable device that indicates to the player that, as the bonus feature, i.e. the series of free games, progresses, the potential return to player percentage increases. The indicator may be related to the occurrence of a special symbol on the display of the gaming machine during play of the bonus feature. More particularly, the indicator may be the quantity of a special symbol that occurs during the bonus feature, i.e. on at least one of the reels of the games of the series of free games. The occurrence of the special symbol may increase on the at least one reel as the bonus feature, being the series of free games, progresses.

The controller may provide the variability of the indicator by causing a special symbol to be added in respect of each event of the bonus feature. Each event may be one of the free games and one special symbol may be added in respect of each free game, egg. prior to the free game. Instead, the special symbol may only be added after completion of a predetermined number of events in the bonus feature, i.e. after a predetermined number of free games of the series of free games. Still further, the special symbol may be added randomly or upon the occurrence of some outcome in the bonus feature.

As indicated above, the base game may be a spinning reel game and the bonus feature may be a series of free spinning reel games and the special symbol may be added to at least one of a plurality of reel strips so that the at least one reel strip increases in length. Instead, the special symbol may be added in substitution for existing symbols on at least one of a plurality of reel strips so that the at least one reel strip retains the same length as the other reel strips. Thus, the special symbol may be added to a middle reel strip of a five reel game or, instead, the special symbol may be added to each of a plurality of the reel strips, egg. the second, third, fourth and fifth reel strips of the game.

The special symbol may be a substitute symbol. The substitute symbol may, for example, occur on a middle reel such as the third reel of a five reel game. With the occurrence of an increasing number of substitute symbols during the series of free games, the chances of obtaining a prize winning combination with the substitute symbol substituting are increased.

Preferably, any additional substitute symbol is positioned adjacent a prior occurrence of the substitute symbol on the reel strip so that it becomes, visually, readily apparent to the player that at least one further substitute symbol has been added.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating a gaming machine, the gaming machine having a display and being controlled by a game controller arranged to control images displayed on the display, the method comprising triggering a bonus feature when a trigger condition occurs in a base game and incorporating an indicating means in the bonus feature to indicate to the player that a potential return to player percentage of the bonus feature is higher than that which is applicable in the base game that triggered the bonus feature.

The gaming machine is to be understood to include a gaming apparatus that does not require the wagering of a stake in order to play the game and further includes apparatus which is connectable to a network.

The format of the bonus feature may be the same as that of the base game apart from the indicator incorporated in the bonus feature.

The method may include implementing the indicator as a variable device that indicates to the player that, as the bonus feature progresses, the potential return to player percentage increases. More particularly, the method may include relating the indicator to the occurrence of a special symbol on the display during play of the bonus feature.

The indicator may be the quantity of a special symbol occurring during the bonus feature and the method may include increasing the occurrence of the special symbol as the bonus feature progresses.

The method may include providing the variability of the indicator by causing a special symbol to be added in respect of each event of the bonus feature.

Thus, the method may include adding the special symbol after completion of a predetermined number of events in the bonus feature. Instead, the method may include adding the special symbol randomly or upon the occurrence of some outcome in the bonus feature.

The game includes a base game which is a spinning reel game and the bonus feature may be a series of free spinning reel games and the method may include adding a special symbol to at least one of a plurality of reel strips so that the at least one reel strip increases in length. Instead, the method may include adding the special symbol in substitution for existing symbols on at least one of a plurality of reel strips so that the at least one reel strip retains the same length as the other reel strips.

The special symbol may be a substitute symbol. The method may include positioning any additional substitute symbol adjacent a prior occurrence of the substitute symbol on the reel strip so that it becomes, visually, readily apparent to the player that at least one further substitute symbol has been added.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

An embodiment of the invention is now described by way of example with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings in which:—

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a gaming machine, in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of a control circuit of the gaming machine;

FIG. 3 shows a screen display after a base game of a game played on the gaming machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows a screen display after a first game of a bonus feature of the game following the base game; and

FIG. 5 shows a flow chart of the game, including the bonus feature.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In FIG. 1, reference numeral 10 generally designates a gaming machine, including a game, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The machine 10 includes a console 12 having a display means in the form of a video display unit 14 on which a game 16 is played, in use. The video display unit 14 may be implemented as a cathode ray screen device, a liquid crystal display, a plasma screen, or the like. The game 16 is a spinning reel game which simulates the rotation of a number of spinning reels 18. A midtrim 20 of the machine 10 houses a bank 22 of buttons for enabling a player to play the game 16. The midtrim 20 also houses a credit input mechanism 24 including a coin input chute 24.1 and a bill collector 24.2.

The machine 10 includes a top box 26 on which artwork 28 is carried. The artwork 28 includes paytables, details of bonus awards, etc.

A coin tray 30 is mounted beneath the console 12 for cash payouts from the machine 10.

Referring to FIG. 2 of the drawings, a control means or control circuit 32 is illustrated. A program which implements the game and user interface is run on a processor 34 of the control circuit 32. The processor 34 forms part of a controller 36 that drives the screen of the video display unit 14 and that receives input signals from sensors 38. The sensors 38 include sensors associated with the bank 22 of buttons and touch sensors mounted in the screen of the video display unit 14. The controller 36 also receives input pulses from the mechanism 24 to determine whether or not a player has provided sufficient credit to commence playing. The mechanism 24 may, instead of the coin input chute 24.1 or the bill collector 24.2, or in addition thereto, be a credit card reader (not shown) or any other type of validation device.

Finally, the controller 36 drives a payout mechanism 40 which, for example, may be a coin hopper for feeding coins to the coin tray 30 to make a pay out to a player when the player wishes to redeem his or her credit.

The game 16 played on the gaming machine 10 is a spinning reel game having five reels 18. Further, the game 16 includes a bonus feature where, upon the occurrence of a predetermined trigger condition in a base game of the game 16, a series of free games is awarded.

The bonus feature includes an indicator, as will be described in greater detail below, which clearly indicates to a player that the potential return to player percentage in the bonus feature is higher than that which is applicable in respect of the base game of the game 16.

In the description which follows, it is assumed that wins, both in the base game and in the free games of the bonus feature, pay from left-to-right.

For the game 16 described in this example, it is assumed that the set of symbols applicable to the reel strips is as follows:

DIAMOND (substitute)

SYM_A

SYM_B

SYM_C

A

K

Q

10

9

S (scatter)

The DIAMOND symbol 58 (FIG. 4) is a substitute symbol which substitutes for all other symbols, apart from scatters in making up winning combinations.

For each symbol, apart from the DIAMOND symbol 58, there will be a paytable of prizes that applies for certain winning combinations. For example, 5 SYM_A on a payline pays 500 credits (multiplied by the bet per line), 4 SYM_A appearing in a left-to-right combination pays 100 credits (multiplied by the bet per line) and so on. Similarly, 5 scatter symbols S (the scatter symbol) appearing anywhere on the screen pays 20 credits (multiplied by the total bet), 4 scatter symbols S appearing anywhere on the screen pays 15 credits (multiplied by the total bet) and so on. The occurrence of at least 3 scatter symbols S also functions as a trigger condition to award the bonus feature, as will be described below.

For each winning payline combination, one of the applicable symbols may be substituted by the DIAMOND symbol 58 to make up the winning combination.

The simplified reel strips for the reels 18 for the base game of the game 16 are as follows:

PositionReel 1Reel 2Reel 3Reel 4Reel 5
1SYM_ASYM_BSYM_C10A
2AKKSYM_ASYM_C
3K 9 9QJ
4SYM_BSYM_CAA10
5QQ1010 9
6DIA-DIA-DIA-DIAMONDDIAMOND
MONDMONDMOND
710A 9QA
8A 9SYM_ASYM_CSYM_C
9 9SYM_AKKQ
10SYM_CSYM_ASYM_BASYM_A
1110SYM_AQSYM_BA
12JSYM_A10QK
13A10KJSYM_C
1410JJAJ
15SCATSCATSCATSCATSCAT
16 910 9 9A
1710A10QSYM_B
18A 9KSYM_BJ
19 910 9KSYM_C
20JA10AJ

Hence, the base game of the game 16 may have some occurrences of the same symbol positioned next to each other for visual effect such as, in the case of reel strip 2, four occurrences of the top award symbol, SYM_A, are arranged next to one another in positions 9-12.

As indicated above, the occurrence of three scatter symbols S in the base game of the game 16 triggers the bonus feature being, as described above, a series of ten free games.

FIG. 3 of the drawings shows a screen display 50 of the base game where it is assumed that the reels 18 have stopped at reel strip positions 15, 11, 14, 16 and 13, respectively, on the first payline.

The occurrence of the three scatter symbols S results in a win of ten credits (multiplied by three credits being the total bet) for a total win of thirty credits. This is displayed on a win meter 52 of the gaming machine 10.

A message 54 is displayed on the screen display indicating that the bonus feature has been awarded and that ten free games are remaining.

Prior to each free game of the series of free games, one DIAMOND symbol 58 (FIG. 4) is added to the third reel strip. The additional DIAMOND symbol 58 is added adjacent another occurrence of the DIAMOND symbol 58 on the third reel strip. Accordingly, prior to the first free game, the reel strips will change to the following:

PositionReel 1Reel 2Reel 3Reel 4Reel 5
1SYM_ASYM_BSYM_C10A
2AKKSYM_ASYM_C
3K 9 9QJ
4SYM_BSYM_CAA10
5QQ1010 9
6DIA-DIA-DIAMONDDIA-DIAMOND
MONDMONDMOND
710ADIAMONDQA
8A 9 9SYM_CSYM_C
9 9SYM_ASYM_AKQ
10SYM_CSYM_AKASYM_A
1110SYM_ASYM_BSYM_BA
12JSYM_AQQK
13A1010JSYM_C
1410JKAJ
15SCATSCATJSCATSCAT
16 910SCAT 9A
1710A 9QSYM_B
18A 910SYM_BJ
19 910KKSYM_C
20JA 9AJ
2110

That is, reel strip 3 has been extended by one position and a further DIAMOND symbol 58 has been inserted at position 7 adjacent to the other occurrence of the DIAMOND symbol 58 on the third reel strip.

Assuming that in the first free game the reels 18 stop at reel strip positions 3, 2, 6, 2 and 2, the screen display is as shown in FIG. 4 of the drawings and is designated generally by the reference numeral 60.

For the winning combination of 3×K (with the DIAMOND symbol 58 substituting) on payline 1, a prize of 25 credits, the player playing one credit per line, is awarded and displayed on the win meter 52. There are then nine free games remaining as indicated by the message 54.

After the tenth free game, ten additional DIAMOND symbols 58 have been added to the third reel strip so that the reel strips now appear as follows:

PositionReel 1Reel 2Reel 3Reel 4Reel 5
1SYM_ASYM_BSYM_C10A
2AKKSYM_ASYM_C
3K 9 9QJ
4SYM_BSYM_CAA10
5QQ1010 9
6DIA-DIA-DIAMONDDIA-DIAMOND
MONDMONDMOND
710ADIAMONDQA
8A 9DIAMONDSYM_CSYM_C
9 9SYM_ADIAMONDKQ
10SYM_CSYM_ADIAMONDASYM_A
1110SYM_ADIAMONDSYM_BA
12JSYM_ADIAMONDQK
13A10DIAMONDJSYM_C
1410JDIAMONDAJ
15SCATSCATDIAMONDSCATSCAT
16 910DIAMOND 9A
1710A 9QSYM_B
18A 9SYM_ASYM_BJ
19 910KKSYM_C
20JASYM_BAJ
21Q
2210
23K
24J
25SCAT
26 9
2710
28K
29 9
3010

Accordingly, as the free games progress, the player's chances of winning are greatly increased because of the higher chance of getting a substitute symbol on the third reel strip. The DIAMOND symbol 58 is designed to stand out from the remaining symbols on the reels 18 so that, as the reels 18 spin, the player has a readily identifiable visual effect of seeing the DIAMOND symbols 58 spinning past. Hence, as extra DIAMOND symbols 58 are added to the third reel, the player has the visual confirmation that the potential return to player percentage is increasing due to the increased number of DIAMOND symbols 58 spinning past. It will be appreciated that, by the later games of the series of free games, there is a very high chance of one or more DIAMOND symbols 58 being displayed when the third reel 18 stops spinning.

Instead of the reel strip associated with the third reel 18 being increased in length by the addition of further DIAMOND symbols 58, the reel strip associated with the third reel 18 could remain the same length as the other reel strips by substituting the DIAMOND symbol 58 for other symbols presently on the reel strip of the third reel 18.

In another embodiment of the invention (not shown), additional DIAMOND symbol 58 are added to each of the second, third, fourth and fifth reels 18 as the free games of the series of free games progresses therefore increasing the likelihood of a winning outcome being obtained even further, particularly, in the later games of the series of free games.

It is also not necessary that the positioning of the other symbol on the reel strips remain completely constant during all the free games of the series of free games. Their distribution may alter.

It is a particular advantage of the invention that an indicator is provided which readily indicates to a player that the potential return to player percentage for the free game is higher and increases during the bonus feature. Hence, the player need not, if the player does not wish to do so, consult a “Help” screen of the gaming machine 10 to ascertain how the bonus feature works. The applicant believes that this will enhance player enjoyment of the game. It will also enhance revenue for operators of a venue in which the gaming machine 10 is installed as players will be less reticent about playing the game if they know, in a simplified manner, how the bonus feature works and that it is not necessary to consult a “Help” screen should they not wish to do so.

Another major benefit of the invention is that, as the bonus feature progresses, the chances of winning increases. Hence, the last impression that is left in the mind of the player is likely to be a good one as the player is more likely to end the feature with one or more winning games and higher payouts than non-winning games and lower payouts.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive.