Title:
INTERNET FAMILY HISTORY GAME INTERACTING WITH DATABASES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An family history game in which progress is measured at least partially by a player's family history research. In some embodiments, the family history game may comprise a computer game that may be played online to facilitate interaction between a player and a database. The player may use avatars that represent real people, who may or may not be related to or otherwise associated with the player. The player may retrieve documents or other information from searching one or more online databases that include information about a real person who corresponds to an avatar used by the player. Multiple players may interact with one another in the family history game through online social media.



Inventors:
Wells, Jeffrey L. (Mapleton, UT, US)
Pugh, Scott C. (West Valley City, UT, US)
Wolfley, Ross S. (Alpine, UT, US)
Application Number:
13/088428
Publication Date:
10/18/2012
Filing Date:
04/18/2011
Assignee:
WELLS JEFFREY L.
PUGH SCOTT C.
WOLFLEY ROSS S.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/42
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LEICHLITER, CHASE E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TRASKBRITT, P.C. (P.O. BOX 2550 SALT LAKE CITY UT 84110)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An online computer game process for interaction between players and an online database, comprising: enabling a player to use avatars, each avatar representing a real person; and retrieving a document or information from a search of an online database that includes information about at least one real person represented by an avatar.

2. The online computer game process of claim 1, comprising a family history game in which retrieving the document or information comprises enabling the player to conduct real life family research.

3. The online computer game process of claim 2, further comprising: enabling the player to establish a family tree including the real person and the document or information about the real person.

4. The online computer game process of claim 1, further comprising: enabling the player to establish a family village populated by a plurality of avatars that are real life relatives of the player.

5. The online computer game process of claim 4, further comprising: enabling the player to improve the family village by: enabling the player to retrieve documents from a search database and; enabling the player to add avatars to the village and to add information about one or more of the plurality of avatars.

6. The online computer game process of claim 2, further comprising: electronically interconnecting a plurality of players so that each player of the plurality: is aware of the family research of other players of the plurality; and can interact with the other players.

7. The online computer game process of claim 6, comprising: electronically interconnecting the plurality of players through an online social medium.

8. The online computer game process of claim 7, further comprising: enabling a visiting player of the plurality of players to visit a village of another, host player of the plurality of players through the online social medium.

9. The online computer game process of claim 8, wherein enabling the visiting player comprises enabling a visiting avatar of the visiting player to interact with a host avatar of the host player whose village is visited.

10. An online family history computer game process for interaction between a player and a database, comprising: enabling a player to use avatars representative of real people associated with the player; and retrieving a document or information from a search of a database that includes information about at least one of the real people.

11. The online family history computer game process of claim 10, further comprising: enabling the player to establish a family tree including information about the real people; and retrieving the documents or information to add the real people and information about the real people to the family tree.

12. The online family history computer game process of claim 10, comprising: enabling the player to establish the a family village populated by avatars that represent real people consisting of relatives of the player.

13. The online family history computer game process of claim 12, wherein retrieving documents or information from the search database enables the player to add at least one avatar to the village or to add information about at least one avatar.

14. The online family history computer game process of claim 12, further comprising: enabling the player to interact with at least one other selected player through a social medium.

15. The online family history computer game process of claim 14, wherein enabling the player to interact with at least one other selected player includes enabling the player to visit a host village of the at least one other selected player with whom the player is associated through the social medium.

16. The online family history computer game process of claim 15, wherein at least one avatar of the player visiting the host village may interact with at least one host avatar of the at least one other selected player.

17. An online family history computer game process for interaction between at least one player and at least one real database, comprising: enabling a player to use online at least one avatar that is representative of a real life relative of the player; enabling the player to establish an area referred to as a village; and enabling the player to provide a function for the at least one avatar in the village.

18. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, wherein enabling the player to provide the function comprises enabling the player to select a job in the village for the at least one avatar.

19. The online family history computer game process of claim 18, further comprising: providing the at least one avatar with game currency that the player can spend in the village upon completion of the job.

20. The online family history computer game process of claim 19, wherein enabling the player to provide the function comprises enabling the player to select a home in the village for the at least one avatar.

21. The online family history computer game process of claim 20, further comprising: enabling the player to spend the game currency to purchase the home for the at least one avatar.

22. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, wherein enabling the player to provide the function for the at least one avatar comprises enabling the player to affect a game level for the at least one avatar.

23. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, wherein enabling the player to provide the function for the at least one avatar comprises enabling the player to affect a status or a morale of the at least one avatar.

24. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, further comprising: enabling the player to retrieve a document or information from a search of an online database that contains information about the relative represented by the at least one avatar, and storing the document or information about the relative in a library associated with the village.

25. The online family history computer game process of claim 24, wherein enabling the player to retrieve the document or information comprises requiring the player to pay game currency or real money for the document or information.

26. The online family history computer game process of claim 24, wherein storing the document or information comprises storing the document or information in a book associated only with the avatar that corresponds to the relative, the library including a plurality of books corresponding to a plurality of different avatars.

27. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, further comprising: enabling the at least one player to select a structure for the village.

28. The online family history computer game process of claim 27, wherein enabling the at least one player to select the structure comprises enabling the at least one player to select a building or a monument for placement in the village.

29. The online family history computer game process of claim 17, further comprising: connecting a first player and a second player online, so that the first player can visit a village of the second player.

30. The online family history computer game process of claim 29, further comprising: enabling the first player to assist the second player in a function of an avatar of the second player.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to processes and means for performing family history, or genealogical, research. More specifically, the present invention relates to methods, means and systems in which family history information is researched and gathered from a variety of sources. In various embodiments, the methods, means and systems of the present invention may be embodied as games for researching and gathering family history information. In a specific embodiment, a game that incorporates teachings of the present invention employs internet-based research.

BACKGROUND OF RELATED ART

In the past, research into family history or genealogy has often been considered a difficult and boring pastime that usually yields only a list of names and dates. With the coming of the computer era, it has become easier to do family history research. However, many are daunted by the task of learning to use a computer and searching through cryptic historic databases on the internet. Consequently, the task of family history research remains a formidable and unwelcome activity for the majority of the masses.

There have been attempts to make family history into a game. See U.S. Pat. No. 3,970,313 (Montemayor) granted Jul. 20, 1976. However, such games usually remain complicated and difficult and do not involve interacting with real historic databases.

SUMMARY

The present invention includes various embodiments of a game in which family history, or genealogical, research is conducted. The present invention includes methods for conducting and/or playing a game, means for conducting and/or playing the game and systems by which the game is offered to individuals who want to play it and played by those individuals.

In a more specific embodiment, a game of the present invention comprises a computer game designed for interaction between a player and a database that includes historical information about a plurality of people. In the game, playing pieces or avatars are used, each of which is representative of a real person. Documents or other information about each person represented in the game may be retrieved from a search of the database.

In an even more specific embodiment of the game, an online family history computer game is designed for interaction between players and online historic databases. In the game, each player uses one or more playing pieces or avatars that are representative of real people, who may, in some embodiments, be related to their corresponding player. Documents or other information about each person represented in the game may be retrieved from searches of online databases that contain information about said real people.

Without limiting the scope of the present invention, means for conducting and/or playing a game that incorporates teachings of the present invention may include a program that causes a processing element, such as a computer, to effect various aspects of the method. A system may include a number of computers used by different individuals, one or more servers that orchestrate game play and provide access to historic databases (e.g., databases that are used in genealogical research, etc.).

Other aspects of the present invention, as well as features and advantages of various aspects, of the present invention, will become apparent to those of skill in the art through consideration of the ensuing description, the accompanying drawings and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

In the detailed description that follows, reference will be made to the following Figures, in which:

FIG. 1 is a computer screen view of an online family village screen according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a computer screen view of an online dashboard with controls and access to other screens, according to the embodiments shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partial view of the computer screen shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a computer screen view of an online family tree screen according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 5, 6, and 7 are computer screen views of an online family tree screen according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a partial computer screen view of an online edit family tree screen according to described embodiments shown in FIGS. 5, 6, and 7;

FIG. 9 is a computer screen view of an online family library screen according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10 a computer screen view of an online family tree search screen according to the embodiments shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a computer screen view of an online comparison search screen according to the embodiments shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 12 is a computer screen view of an online document screen according to the embodiments shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 13 is a flow diagram showing various acts that may be conducted in a search for data related to a male, according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a flow diagram showing various acts that may be conducted in a search for data related to a female, according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a flow diagram showing various acts that may be conducted in a search for according to search parameters that lists results according to results rating, according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 16 is computer screen view of an online family village screen according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 17 is a computer screen of an online store screen, according to described embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 18 and 19 are partial computer screens of a villager, according to described embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 20 is a computer screen of a monument sub-screen of an online store screen, according to described embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention, as described in the following embodiments, provides a number of advantages over the existing prior art. In a specific embodiment, the present invention includes a computer game that accesses one or more databases from which a player can retrieve documents or other information for use in the game.

As part of the game, each player sets up a village with villagers, who may be based on real-life relatives and ancestors of the player or on people who may not be related to the player.

When played, a computer-based embodiment of a game of the present invention may interact with real-world search tools and databases to provide real-world documents and information that can be used in the game. This is done through interaction by the player with historic databases (e.g., databases used to locate family history or ancestral information, etc.), to retrieve various documents and other information regarding each villager in the game.

Among various embodiments are online games. An online game may be accessed and played in connection with a social network website, such as Facebook, thereby involving interactions with others on the social network. Further, in embodiments where the game is played in a social networking environment, different players at remote locations from one another may be interconnected, enabling each player to visit the villages of the other players and interact with those villages. Players are able to enjoy a competitive and cooperative game, called “Family Village,” on a social network on the internet which involves other players in a competitive and cooperative manner and which provides for the retrieval of important real-world documents and information for the actual relatives and ancestors of each game player.

As used herein, the word “he” means “he” or “she” and the word “him” means “him” or “her.”

Overview

Family Village includes several main components, including each player's Family Village, a Family Tree Builder and the player's Family Library. The basic game play consists of immigrating a playing piece or avatar representative of the player and other avatars representative of the player's relatives into the player's Family Village and assigning them jobs to create family prosperity. The avatars or villagers can also pursue career paths chosen by the player and gain status in the village and among the player's Facebook friends.

During the game the player and the game will search for real-world documents about the relatives related to the avatars or villagers. As each player builds his own Family Village at his own computer, he can arrange to make online visits to the Family Villages of other players and assist other players in building their Villages. Each player can play at increasing levels, each level allowing the player to immigrate more villagers.

In Family Village, the player will build out his/her actual family tree, and then immigrate those family members into a village designed and built by the player. The player will assign jobs to the avatars representative of the player's ancestors, to earn money for the player's village to grow. The player can buy homes, cars, pets, and decorations from the time in which his/her ancestors lived. The player can even buy monuments that show off his/her unique ancestral heritage.

As the player's village grows, the game will be working behind the scenes to find family connections and interesting documents such as newspaper articles, yearbook photos, census records, marriage records, maps and many other interesting items that will allow the player to know much more about his/her family. The player will be able to save these documents in the village library and share them with other friends and family as desired.

The Family Village

A player may enter the Family Village Game by accessing a social medium (e.g., Facebook, etc.). The player's personal information is entered into the game (e.g., manually, by importing the same from the social medium, etc.). Such personal information may include the player's name, birth date, and an image. That player becomes the first villager, “villager one,” in the player's Family Village. The player can tailor the look of his avatar (e.g., choose his appearance, including eye and hair color, facial hair (if any), clothing, hat, etc.). Each villager can improve his status in a number of ways that will be detailed hereafter, which in turn will improve the status and prosperity of the village.

Referring to FIG. 1, the Family Village game the player sets up a village 100, having a village green 102 and a center Heritage Tree 104. A dashboard 106 is shown below the village 100 with controls and information that will be explained in more detail later. The player brings or immigrates an avatar representative of a relative to become a villager. The player buys a home and places it in the village in proximity to the library 108 for the villager to live in. The home is purchased using coins provided by the dashboard 106. The villager is then assigned a job and put to work, a process that will described in detail later.

As the player's village is being built, each avatar or villager begins as a poor immigrant at Status 1. The villager's status will increase as he fulfills job assignments given to him by the player and as he meets other requirements. Jobs are located in government, leisure and business buildings and workplaces. With increasing status, the villagers can be assigned nicer homes and better jobs. Typically the status of each villager can be increased by the amount of outside real-world documents and information located and purchased by the player, as discussed more below.

Morale is a measure of how happy the villagers are. Villagers develop increased morale by having good jobs and a nice home. A villager is the happiest when the status of the job matches the status of the villager. The morale of one or more villagers can also be increased as a player locates and purchases real-world documents about the villagers. If the villagers have high morale, they earn bonuses at their jobs. The village is also decorated by the player to increase the morale of the villagers. Monuments are also bought by the players to provide information about the villagers' lives. The presence of monuments in the player's village increases the value of the village when neighboring villagers visit the player's village. Morale is also increased by giving gifts to the villagers.

FIG. 2 shows the dashboard 106 in more detail. The Dashboard is the control center for the game. The upper Dashboard 110 displays the player's coins 111, cash 112, morale 113, heritage points (HP) 114 and Level 115. The lower Dashboard 116 displays the Family Tree icon 117, the Library icon 118, the players (Facebook) friends who are also playing Family Village (the “neighbors”) 119, the X button 120 (to cancel or stop an action), the Storage and Gifts icon 121 (use to store items the player don't want to display in the village right now), the Store icon 122 and the Take a Picture icon 123 (used to take a picture of the village that the player can send to the friends).

Above the X button 120 and the Storage and Gift icon 121 are the +, − and icons 124. The + and − icons are used to zoom the view of the village or Family Tree in and out. The * icon may be selected to expand the lower Dashboard 116. Expanding the lower Dashboard 116 displays the Mute Game Sounds and Toggle Full Screen icons 125, and Mute Music and Display Quality icons 126.

A player can visit a neighbor by clicking the neighbor's image shown in the neighbor bar 119 of the lower dashboard 116 shown in FIG. 2. This action will load the neighbor's village onto the player's screen. When visiting neighboring villages the player can perform several helping tasks for each neighbor each day. These tasks include recovering jobs that have expired, collecting payment for a completed job, and helping complete a job. Accomplishing each task allows the player to share in the income earned by the neighbor. The player may also invite the neighboring villager to visit the player's village.

Family Tree Builder

The Family Tree Builder is a key component of the game that is used to build a family tree for the player's ancestors or other individuals for whom the player seeks information. To progress further, the player must add more villagers to the game. In Family Village, all residents of a player's village are immigrated from his real ancestral family. The Family Tree Builder builds the family tree from which the player's ancestors can immigrate.

Before the player can immigrate villagers to his village they must be entered into his family tree. For the player to increase in heritage points and levels in the game and for the villagers to increase in Status, the player will need to have more information about the villagers in the tree. The Family Village game will always keep all player information secure and will not sell it to anyone. Additional information about the player and his relatives, such as birth date, birth place, death date, death place, etc., allows the game to search in the background for documents possibly about the individuals the player has entered in the Family Tree and immigrated into his village.

Family Tree Builder can automatically import the player's family members from a family tree provided by an external ancestral database owned by FamilyLink. If a player is not a member of FamilyLink, then the player can key in information to the family tree using the Family Tree Builder. The information may be obtained by the player from external sources, such as a printed family tree prepared by the player or others previously, or such as an internet data base provided by Ancestry.com.

The information input into the Family Tree Builder may include, for living family members, the name, birth date, birth place, current residence and email address. For deceased family members the information may include name, birth date, birth place, death date and death place.

Looking now at FIG. 3, at Level 1 of the game, a player can immigrate one additional family member as a new villager 130 into the village 100 from the ship 134 at the immigration dock 135. The player may click on the family tree icon 117 shown in FIG. 2 while in the village mode to access the family tree screen 140, shown in FIG. 4. FIG. 4 shows that each new villager 130 is entered by the player, using names and data 142 on the family tree. The immigration button 143 may then be clicked to immigrate the ancestor. Game funds from coins 111 in upper dashboard 110 shown in FIG. 2 must be paid to make the ancestor a villager.

As also shown in FIG. 4, a friendly wizard 146 is provided to assist the player in editing and adding to the family tree view. An individual in a player's family tree will have one of two different icons located in his information box (not shown). These icons signify that the individual is either eligible to immigrate or signify the Status he has. A dashboard 148 in the family tree screen 140 displays the relatives on the family tree and provides many of the same functions provided by the lower dashboard 116 shown in FIG. 2.

In window 144, the number of vacancies is shown, referring to the number of openings in the Player's village. The player may fill the vacancies by immigrating the family tree members into the village by entering data into window 142. The player may review a list of family members eligible for immigration and select any eligible family member. He will need to pay a predetermined amount of coins for passage and then place the new villager at the immigration dock 135 located at the top of the village plot, as shown in FIG. 3.

In building a family tree, the player first starts with information about himself. To help the player get started in the game, Family Village automatically loads his pedigree with default data into the Family Tree when he starts playing the game. Alternatively, if he is a member of FamilyLink, his FamilyLink Tree will be automatically populated into the Family Tree Builder.

Referring to FIG. 5, to add relatives to a player's family tree, the player enters the family tree builder by clicking button 117 in FIG. 2. If the player is adding a Father or Mother, the player clicks on the upper arrow 152 in FIG. 5, which brings up the Add Father and Add Mother box 153. The player selects the Add Father button 154 to add a father or the Add Mother button 155 to add a mother. The player is then taken to the individual edit screen FIG. 8.

If the player is adding a spouse, the player clicks on the horizontal arrow 156 in FIG. 6, which brings up the Add Husband and Add Wife box 157. To add a husband, the player clicks on the Add Husband button 158 or to add a wife, the player clicks on the Add Wife button 159. The player is then taken to the individual edit screen FIG. 8.

If the player is adding a child, the player clicks on the down arrow 160 in FIG. 7, which brings up the Add Son and Add Daughter box 161. To add a son, the player clicks on the Add Son button 162, or to add a daughter, the player clicks on the Add Daughter button 163. The player is then taken to the individual edit screen, FIG. 8.

In the individual edit screen, FIG. 8, the player may enter or select the following information: Full Name 164, select Gender 165, select Living or Deceased 166, email address 167, Current Location 168, Birth Date 169, and Birth Place 170. Family Village will automatically save the changes from time to time in the Family Tree Builder.

When a villager is immigrated, the player will want to assign a job and a home for him, according to his Status. Homes are purchased using the coins and cash provided at 111 and 112 in FIG. 2. Jobs are also assigned according to villager Status and paid for by the player in coins. As each village accomplishes his job, a pay coin may be provided above his head which must be collected by the player. The player can also use the coins and cash to purchase buildings, trees, roads, monuments and the like to beautify the village and thereby boost the morale of the villagers, as discussed in more detail later.

As a new villager is immigrated into game play, the Family Village game automatically performs a search in the background for the front page of a newspaper corresponding to the new villager's birth date. An icon in the form of a scroll 132 is shown above the head of the villager 130 in FIG. 3, indicating that a real-life document has been found. The player may click on the icon and be presented with the front page of a newspaper corresponding to the villager's birth date. A copy of the front page of the newspaper may be purchased by the player and placed in the villager's book in the player's library, for example, in the manner discussed below.

Typically external documents obtained from real-world search databases are paid for by a player using real funds (e.g., from a credit card, a debit card, electronic transfer of funds from a bank account, etc.). Likewise a real funds may be used to purchase additional game coins and cash.

In addition, as the game progresses, the game may perform background searches, reviewing various outside real-life databases behind the scene. These databases may include the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Find-a-Grave databases, and newspaper archive databases, as well government records, birth records, military records, marriage records, immigration records and foreign records, to name only a few databases.

In each search, the queries are submitted for documents or information associated with each of the villagers/family members immigrated into the Family Village. Each day a document may be presented to the player for up to five of the villagers/family members. The player is then able to determine whether the document presented matches the villager/family member. The player is then given an opportunity to buy the copy.

The Family Library

Referring next to FIG. 9, each player has a family library 171 consisting of a separate book 173 for each villager 130 that has immigrated into the village 100 (FIG. 3). Each real-world document, such as newspaper copies, relating to each villager that has been retrieved from outside databases is stored in the book 173 for that villager.

At any time during the game, the player may go the family library 171 screen and perform specific, direct searches for documents for a specific villager/family member. The family library 171 provides a place to store all documents that the player has found for each villager, and it is a place to search and locate those documents for a villager later in the game.

To search for new documents, the player may use the dropdown menu 175 in the main family library 171 screen to select the villager 130 that he would like to search for. Then the player may click the Go button 176 to initiate a search.

Looking at FIG. 10, the results of the search are displayed in a search results screen 177 showing search result items 179. The player can click on each search results item 179, which is a possible record of the villager 130 being searched, to obtain more detailed information.

By clicking on each search results item 179, the player is taken to a comparison screen 181, shown in FIG. 11, where he can compare the search results data 185 associated with search results item 179 (taken from a located record) to the information on the family tree 183 regarding the villager 130. If the search results data 185 correlates with the family tree information 183, then it is likely that the related document is about the player's relative, and the player can click the Relative button 187. If the search results data 185 does not correlate with the family tree data 183, then the related document is less likely to be about the player's relative, and he may click the Not Relative button 189, so that the located document associated with the search results data 185 will be removed from the player's search results. Then, the data from the next Possible Record, if any, (not shown) will be displayed on the Comparison screen 181.

If the player selects the Relative button 187, he will be taken to a preview screen 191, shown in FIG. 12. There, the player may view the entire document 193 (such as a census certificate) associated with the search results data 183. The Preview screen 191 shows a more detailed description of the document 193 and gives the player the option to purchase the document. If the player selects the Buy Now button 195, the document 193 will be stored in villager 130's book 173 shown in the family library 171 in FIG. 9. If the player selects the Go Back button 197 he will be taken back to the previous screen. If the player wants to return to the search screen, he can click on the Cancel button 199.

In addition to player-initiated searches, the Family Village game will periodically search for documents relating to the player's family members. These searches are performed in the background and do not affect game play. If a suitable match is found, a document icon 132 will appear over the head of one or more of the villagers 173, as shown in FIG. 3.

Because of duplicate names in family history databases, not all documents that Family Village finds in a search for a villager 130 will actually be about that particular villager 130. To see if the document is actually about an ancestor, the player will click on the document icon above the head of villager 130 in FIG. 3. This action opens the document preview screen 180 shown in FIG. 10. If it appears that there is a match with the player's ancestor, he can choose to purchase the document for his villager 130. Buying a document for a villager 130 will substantially increase his Morale, as discussed below.

Flow Diagrams for Searching External Databases

As stated above, searching external databases can be initiated either by the player generating a query or by the Family Village game automatically generating a query at various points in the game. In either case, the following sequence occurs: (1) a query is sent to an external database server containing an instruction, (2) the server receives the query and determines what real-world documents and information meet the criteria of the query, and the (3) server presents the new information and documents to the game for display, comparison, selection and ongoing availability.

For each villager for which a query is created, a number of elements are considered in crafting a query which will return hits relating to that specific individual. With a person's birth date, searches are performed from the birth date forward in time. Inclusion of specific locations where the individual has lived helps narrow the search.

Some databases would not be searched if such a search is illogical. For example, if a villager was not born before 1930, or if he died before 1930, then a query would not be sent to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census database.

After a query has been sent to a server and results have been received by the game, the results are examined and prioritized according to the information known about the villager. If the query results in no results, another query based on less detailed criteria is sent to the server. If the query results in too many hits, then a refined query is sent with more detailed criteria. For example, if the villager has a common name, then more details may be required to narrow down the search.

When the result of a query has a manageable number of potential documents and information, then each piece of information is compared to the data already known about the villager and is given a rating based on that comparison. Each new piece of information is added to a list, sorted from the highest match rating to the lowest, and is presented to the player.

Looking now at FIG. 13, a flow diagram is provided showing an implementation of a search 200 for information about a villager according to the present invention. Where possible, queries should include as much background information as available to help in focusing the search. For example, the birth date, death date (if any), birth and death locations and locations where the individual may have lived may all be helpful in the search.

At Start Search 202, a query is submitted with the above background information, and a preliminary determination is made at reference 204 to determine whether the individual is male or female. If the individual is a female, then the search branches to the female search 205 to be described below. If the individual is male, then a determination is made at reference 206 as to whether the person is living or dead based on information submitted in the search. If the person is living, as provided at reference 207, a determination is made at reference 208 as to whether the person was living during 1930. If not, then searcher bypasses ancestral databases, and a search of one or more other databases, such as the Newspaper Archives database, is made at reference 210. If the individual was living during 1930, then searches of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census database and at least one other database, such as the Newspaper Archives, are made at reference 212. In either event, the search then carries forward to a highest detail review 300 discussed below.

In the event that the individual is now dead, as provided at reference 209, then a determination is made at reference 214 as to whether he died before 1930. If he died before 1930, then he would not have appeared in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, and the search branches to reference 216 to search one or more databases that may provide information about a person who deceased before 1930, such as the Find-a-Grave and Newspaper Archive databases. The search then carries forward to the highest detail review 300 discussed below.

In the event that that the individual died after 1930, then a determination is made at reference 218 as to whether the individual was born in 1930 or before that time. If not, then the person would not be found in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, and a search is made at reference 220 for at least one other database, such as the Find-a-Grave database, the Newspaper Archives, and/or the U.S. Social Security Death Index. If the person was born in 1930 or before that time, then in addition to the searches performed at reference 220, the search also includes a search of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census database, as shown at reference 222.

Referring next to FIG. 14, a search flow diagram is shown for females, beginning at reference 205. At reference 230, a determination is made of the woman's maiden name and married name from the data provided about the woman's spouse and father. If the woman is living, as provided at reference 231, then a determination is made at reference 232 as to whether the person was living during 1930. If not, then searcher bypasses ancestral databases, and a search is made at reference 234 of at least one other database, such as the Newspaper Archives database, looking for the woman's maiden and married names. If the woman was living during 1930, then a search is made at reference 236 of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census database, as well as of other sources, such as the Newspaper Archives. In either event, the search then carries forward to a highest detail review 300, discussed below.

In the event that the woman is now dead, as provided at reference 233, then a determination is made at reference 240 as to whether she died before 1930. If she did, then she would not have appeared in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, and the search branches to reference 242 to search one or more databases that may provide information about the deceased person, such as the Find-a-Grave database, the Newspaper Archives, and/or the U.S. Social Security Death Index. The search then carries forward to the highest detail review 300, discussed below.

In the event that that the woman died after 1930, then a determination is made at reference 244 as to whether the woman was born in 1930 or before that time. If not, then she would not be found in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, and a search is made at reference 246 of at least one other database, such as the Find-a-Grave database, the Newspaper Archives, and/or the U.S. Social Security Death Index, using both her maiden and married names. If the woman was born in 1930 or before that time, then in addition to the searches performed at reference 246, another search also includes a search of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census database, as shown at reference 248. The search then moves onto the highest detail review 300. Note that the game will also allow for input of marriage and divorce dates, so that female searches may be more precise.

Referring now to FIG. 15, the query search is shown for the highest detail search 300. It should be understood that each search query may vary in detail from the least amount of detail (perhaps just the individual's name) to a very high amount of detail (that may include birth and death dates and locations, names of spouse and parents, etc.). Typically, a player would initially want to start with a query having the most or highest detail possible to determine what results might correspond to all the available data. If no results are obtained, then fewer details would be provided in the next search query to broaden out the search, so as to try to obtain some results.

Also, in the database searches, each result is rated at a percentage of similarity to the data included in the query. If there is complete correspondence between the query data and the search result, then the result data is rated at 100%. If there is no correspondence between the query data and the search result, then the result data is rated at 0%. Other results that show some correspondence to the query data may be rated between 1% and 99%, depending on the degree of similarity to query data. Typically, a search would include a threshold percentage that would drop all results below that percentage.

At reference 302, the greatest amount, highest amount or most detail is provided in the initial query that is presented to the desired database, and all results produced that are above a minimum percentage threshold are provided. At reference 304, the results are examined and any results from a prior search are eliminated. At reference 306, if there are no results and there was no minimum threshold, or if there were too many results (after the first round), then a less detailed search query is presented to the initial search reference 300.

If there were no results and there is a next, less detailed search query, then, at reference 308, the less detailed query is sent with the minimum threshold requirement to obtain the search results to reference 304. If there were no results and the least detailed search had been performed, then, at reference 310, the second round of search query would be provided with no minimum threshold.

At reference 304, if the number of results is manageable, then at reference 312 a rating is applied to each result, depending on its correspondence to the data in the search query. This rated search result is then added to a list to present to the player at reference 314. At reference 316, the list is presented to the player, in which the search results are all sorted from the highest rating to the lowest rating.

Other Aspects of the Game

Buying a Home

After a villager 130 has been selected from the family tree and immigrated into the village, the new resident will be waiting for the player at the immigration dock 135 shown in FIG. 3. The player may want to provide the villager 130 with a home and a job as soon as possible. The player can assign the villager 130 a home by clicking and dragging the villager 130 onto a home or by clicking on the villager 130 and selecting “assign home” from the dropdown menu, as seen in FIG. 18.

Looking at FIG. 16, another view of the village 400 is shown. The villager 402 is positioned next to his new home 404 near the village center 406. A wizard 408 stands on the side of the playing field 410 to provide directions of how to put the villager 402 to work.

When a home 404 is selected, an indicator will whether or not the villager 402 can reside there. A villager 402 can live in a home 404 that is at his Status or lower. However, if the player assigns a villager 402 to live in a lower Status home 404, the villager 402's morale will degrade every day. If the villager 402 is assigned to an appropriate Status home, his morale will maintain its current daily level, as discussed in more detail below.

To buy a home 404, the player may click on the store icon shown in FIG. 2 (the icon with a Store front) located on the lower dashboard 116. This action will take the player to the Store screen 450 shown in FIG. 17. There, the player may select the home 452 he would like to purchase by clicking the corresponding Buy button 454. Some of the homes 452 have locks 456 that can only be unlocked in the manner described below

After selecting the home 452, the Store screen 450 will close and the village (e.g., as shown in FIG. 16, etc.) will reappear. The player may move the home 404 to the desired location and can rotate the home 404 by clicking on the home 404 and moving it to the desired orientation. The player will then place the villager 402 in the home 404.

With returned reference to FIG. 17, there are two requirements for unlocking homes 452: (1) Status Unlock: The player must have at least one villager 404 (FIG. 16) with a sufficient Status to occupy the home 452 to unlock that home 452; and (2) Time Period Unlock: The player must have at least one villager 404 born in the time period in which that type of home 452 was built; for example, to unlock an Early home 452, the player must purchase the home 452 on behalf of at least one villager 404 born before 1870. There are three time periods for homes 452: (1) Early: before 1870; (2) Turn of century: 1870 to 1930; and (3) Modern: after 1930.

For homes 452 that must be purchased with coins, a maximum of two villagers 404 can live in each home 452. Homes 452 that must be purchased with cash can have additional villagers 402 living in them. The number of residents that can occupy each home is listed in the store.

Assigning a Job

As shown in FIG. 18, the player can click on a villager 470 and select “Assign Job” in the dropdown menu 472. Alternately, a player can assign a villager 470 a job by clicking and dragging the villager 470 onto a building. Using either method, the selected building color outline will initiate and indicate whether or not the villager 470 can work there.

Villagers 470 can work in jobs that are at or below their Status. If the player assigns a villager 470 to a job below his Status, the villager 470 will be unhappy and his morale will degrade. The best strategy is to assign a villager to a job at his Status. The villagers 470 work as independent contractors. For every job they are assigned they must pay for their own insurance and taxes. The costs of these expenses are deducted at the beginning of the job.

As shown in FIG. 19, once a villager 470 has completed his assigned job, he will have an indication that he is done and a coin 476 will float above his head, meaning that the player can collect that villager 470's wages. The player will have a window of time to collect the villager 470's wages that is equal to twice the duration of the job. The player collects wages by clicking on the coin 476 above the villager 470's head. The player should make sure to return to collect the villager 470's wages when that villager 470's work shift is done. Otherwise, the villager 470 might spend his paycheck on some frivolous activity, such as a night out on the town or a road trip.

If a villager 470 has a coin 476 with an X mark through it, the player did not collect the villager's wages in time. If the player clicks on the coin with an X mark, the job expires and the player will not collect any coins on behalf of that villager 470. However, neighbors who visit the village may be able to recover the expired job; so rather than letting that job and its wages go to waste, the player may ask the neighbors to recover the job for the villager 470.

Strategy for Assigning Jobs

The strategy for assigning jobs will most likely be determined by the player's personal schedule but, in general, there are five elements to consider when choosing the game play strategy:

    • (1) Assign jobs that are of equal Status with that of each villager to prevent his morale from degrading. Happy workers earn a bonus in their jobs (e.g., up to 30%, etc.) which can increase Morale (e.g., up to 90%);
    • (2) Assign jobs that will mature by the time the player logs in again. If the player fails to collect the wages of a villager before his job expires, the villager may spend his money;
    • (3) Shorter jobs yield more experience and coins per minute than long duration jobs;
    • (4) Jobs assigned in buildings that were purchased using cash have a bonus (e.g., a 30% bonus, etc.) associated with them;
    • (5) The player may also gain Heritage Points (HP) when the player purchases certain items from the Store.

Obtaining and Spending Coins and Cash

The coin count and the cash count are both located at the top left corner of the upper dashboard 110 shown in FIG. 2. There are three ways to increase the number of coins the player has: (1) complete a job and collect the wages; (2) visit a neighbor and complete a helping task; and (3) purchase more coins on the Add Coins & Cash tab.

There are three ways to increase the amount of cash the player has: (1) Increase on Level in the game and the player will receive one Cash bill per level; (2) Purchase more cash on the Add Cash & Coins tab using real-life funds, such a credit card; or (3) Purchase more cash on the Add Cash & Coins tab using credits (e.g. Facebook credits, etc.).

The player can spend coins in the store for most basic items. He will also need coins to pay the cost of passage when immigrating villagers and when assigning jobs, so he should keep a good supply of coins available at all times. Cash can only be purchased or earned and cannot be bought with coins. If the player ever runs low on cash, the player can purchase it by going to the add Coins & Cash tab just above the game and using his credit card.

Making Purchases from the Store

Looking at FIG. 20, the Monument Purchase part of the Store screen 490 is shown. To purchase items in the Store, the player may first open the Store screen 490 by clicking the Storefront icon 122 on the Lower Dashboard 116 shown in FIG. 2. Then he may select the Monuments button 492 and purchase the desired monument 494 by clicking the Buy button 496. Some items in the store have a lock 497 and cannot be purchased until they are unlocked. These items have their unlock criteria listed in the item description window. The player unlocks the buildings according to the player's level.

Items may be purchased with either coins or cash. Coins are earned in the game by performing jobs. Cash is earned slowly by increasing the player Level or can also be purchased using real currency.

The player can preview items in full size on the game board prior to finalizing purchase. Any purchase the player makes will not be final until the player actually clicks and places it within the village. Selecting the red X button 120 on the Lower Dashboard 116 (FIG. 2) will cancel the purchase. Clicking on the game board will complete the purchase and place the item at the location where the player clicked. Some items, like roads and plants, will allow the player to purchase more than one of that item at a time. For these items, when the player has finished the purchase, he will click on the red X button 120 located on the lower Dashboard 116, which stops all current action.

Purchasing items from the Store not only increases the standard of living for the villagers, but can also increase their morale. Villagers with higher morale earn employment bonuses every time they complete a job, so that the player progresses faster. If one of the villagers is feeling sad, the player may give him a gift to brighten his day. Heritage monuments increase the villagers' sense of community and identity, as well as the morale of the village. Buildings give the villagers more options for jobs. Homes offer places to live. The player may beautify the village by building it the way that will maximize the morale of the individual villagers and of the entire village.

Premium items are items in the store that give special bonuses to the player in the form of coins, morale or heritage points (HP). Premium items are purchased with cash. Decorations may also be purchased to increase morale. Such decorations include trees, flowers, paths, fences, parks, vehicles and animals.

Monuments are a way of honoring the best of each culture the family is connected to. Whenever the player immigrates a new villager with the birthplace, death place, and/or current residence filled in, the player may unlock a monument that the player can place in the village to show off the heritage. Purchasing a monument will also boost the morale of the village.

As the player accumulates monuments, he can collect coins from the neighbors' visiting villagers. State and country monuments are unlocked in the store when the player has at least one villager that was born, died, or currently lives in that location. Purchasing a monument will increase the morale of the village. Additionally, the number of coins the player collects from visiting villagers increases with each monument purchased.

Villager and Village Status

As indicated previously herein, each villager has an individual Status. When first immigrated, a villager starts with Status 1. Over time, his Status can increase to Status 5. With increasing Status, the player can assign the villagers higher paying jobs and nicer homes. As the player moves a cursor over a villager, that villager's Status will be displayed along with additional information. In addition to individual Status of each villager, there are 5 Status levels in each village.

For a villager to gain individual Status, he must meet certain requirements. He must perform jobs in the village and become a documented citizen. Documentation requirements are different for living and deceased relatives.

Villagers represent the real-world ancestors of the player. Therefore, the documentation requirements include the need for the player to connect with the living relatives in the real world or document the deceased relatives with real-world documents. The player can play Family Village without this effort, but to gain higher status levels, the player needs to engage the real family. The game provides a mechanism for the player to “buy out” of job requirements. This provision is put in place to allow players to have family members in the village who for whatever reason do not have email addresses or not members of a social network (e.g., Facebook, etc.), e.g., younger family members, etc.

Living RelativeDeceased Relative
StatusJob RequirementsRequirementsRequirements
1N/ANone
2Work 4 Status 1 jobsName, Birthplace, BirthName, Birthplace, Birth
(Buy out is 10 cash)datedate
(Buy out is 10 cash)(Buy out is 10 cash)
3Work 8 Status 2 jobsRelative agrees she has this4 ancestors of this person
(Buy out is 12 cash)relationship with playeron the Family Tree.
(Buy out is 12 cash)(Buy out is 12 cash)
4Work 9 Status 3 jobsRelative is a FamilyPerson exists in a primary
(Buy out is 15 cash)Village Playersource, e.g., 1930 U.S.
(Buy out is 15 cash)Federal Census.
(Buy out is 15 cash)
5Work 10 Status 4Relative is at least Level10 ancestors of this person
jobs20on the Family Tree. (Buy
(Buy out is 20 cash)(Buy out is 20 cash)out is 20 cash)

For a relative to agree that he has a relationship with the player, the player may send a request to the relative through Family Village. This request can be in the form of a (Facebook) post or an email. The relative must agree that he is related to the player as outlined in the Family Tree for the villager to gain appropriate Status in the village.

Searches for documents from the 1930 U.S. Federal Census and the U.S. Social Security Death Index can be done directly in the library or may be done in the background by the game.

Villager's and Village Morale

The Morale indicator 113 is located at the top of the screen in the upper Dashboard 110 between the cash count and HP indicator 114, as shown in FIG. 2. Morale is a measure of the happiness and productivity of each of the villagers. If a villager feels neglected his morale will decrease. The Morale of the entire village is a sum of the Morale of all the villagers in the village. The player can see the village's Morale score as a whole by looking at the morale icon at the top of the game screen. The player can see the morale of each villager by positioning the cursor over him.

To increase an individual villager's morale, the player can: (1) keep the villager employed in a job of appropriate Status; (2) keep the villager in a home that is equal to his Status; (3) upgrade the villager's home; (4) buy the villager a document; and/or (5) buy the villager a gift from the Store.

To increase the morale of all the villagers in the village, a player can: (1) add buildings; (2) add monuments; (3) add decorations; and/or (4) water the Family Tree. All these activities will improve the morale of the village and of all of the villagers. Making sure that each villagers has a job and a home appropriate for their Status will maintain that villager's morale at its current level. The morale of an unemployed or homeless villager will drop every day.

As discussed previously, when a villager has high morale, he will receive increased payment for each job he performs. High morale can yield an employment bonus (e.g., up to 30%, etc.) for a villager.

Summary

In summary, a game that incorporates teachings of the present invention, as well as methods, means and systems for effecting the game, provide many advantages. By way of non-limiting example, the otherwise tedious work of family history research and genealogy has been incorporated into a fun and interesting game that motivates players to do family history research (e.g., an online social networks game in competition with others, etc.). Moreover, an online family history game enables the players to conduct real-life family history research and retrieve real-world information and documents while playing the game.

Various changes and additions in the disclosed embodiments can be made within the spirit and coverage of the present invention. It will be understood that the invention may be embodied in other specific forms by one of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit, characteristics or coverage of the present invention. The present example and embodiments are to be considered to be illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not intended to be limited to the details of the described embodiments. Rather, the invention is defined by the claims, and as broadly as the prior art will permit.