Title:
Computer-implemented question and answer game
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A computer-implemented question and answer game based on using opinion polls that have already been carried out on a representative sample of people. Results of the opinion polls and predefined questions are stored in a knowledge base associated with the system, which is typically implemented on an Internet site. Players connecting via the Internet are asked to guess what they think the opinion poll results were, and are scored by the computer-implemented system according to the correspondence between their guesses and the information stored in the knowledge base, with prizes being distributed on the basis of the score.



Inventors:
Moreno, Roland (Paris, FR)
Application Number:
11/138393
Publication Date:
12/14/2006
Filing Date:
05/27/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
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Primary Examiner:
APPLE, KIRSTEN SACHWITZ
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JACOBSON HOLMAN PLLC (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of allocating a prize to at least one individual using a computer system having at least one host computer terminal for presenting and collecting -data, a question engine for sending a battery of successive predefined questions to the individual, and a knowledge base storing a predetermined reference answer for each question, said predefined questions being questions of an opinion poll previously carried out on a representative sample of a population, said reference answers being results obtained by the poll, said method comprising the steps of: a) on the host terminal, presenting the individual with one of the questions from the battery of predefined questions; b) asking the individual to guess the reference answer, the answer as given being a quantified value for said guess; c) collecting the answer made from said individual; d) comparing the answer given with the corresponding reference answer stored in the knowledge base and evaluating a difference value representative of the difference between the answer given and the reference answer; e) incrementing or decrementing a score value as a function of said difference value; f) comparing the incremented or decremented score with a predefined threshold; g) if the score exceeds the threshold, giving the individual a choice between continuing with the sequence of questions, iterating the preceding steps from step b) with another question from the battery of questions; or allocating a prize; and i) if the score does not exceed the threshold, iterating the preceding steps from step b) with another question from the battery of questions.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the prize allocated in step g) is a prize of a value that depends on the difference between the predefined threshold and the score.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the prize is a number of points awarded to the individual.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the prize is a tangible item.

5. The method of claim 2, wherein the prize is a service to be performed for the individual.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein step c) further includes obtaining the answer that the individual would have given personally to the question.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the predefined questions are questions having a closed set of answers of the multiple choice type.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the answer given by the individual in step b) includes classifying a plurality of said multiple choices.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the answer given by the individual in step b) is an answer selected from a limited subset of the set of different combinations that are possible amongst said multiple choices.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising a prior stage of establishing said reference answers from a population of said individuals, said prior stage comprising the successive steps of: i) on the host terminal, presenting the individual with a question from the battery of predefined questions, asking the individual to give his or her own opinion on said question as an answer and collecting said answer; ii) repeating step i) iteratively with a plurality of questions from the battery of questions; iii) repeating steps i) and ii) with other individuals; and iv) statistically processing the collected answers so as to set up said reference answers and storing said reference answers in the knowledge base.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein step a) comprises selecting a question from said battery of predefined questions by means of a random draw.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein step a) includes selecting a question from said battery of predefined questions by means of the individual selecting a parameter.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein step a) includes selecting a question from said battery of predefined questions by means of the individual selecting a parameter.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein steps a) and b) are implemented via a graphical interface having a series of fields displayed on a screen of said host terminal, the fields being movable by controlled action of the individual so as to cause them to slide on the screen and form a stack representative of the answer given.

15. The method of claim 1, further comprising before step a), the step of initially allocating, by the host terminal, a starting score value to the individual, said starting score value being the score value incremented or decremented in step e).

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a game in which a series of questions is put to a player and the player is scored and may earn a prize.

2. Description of the Related Art

Very many games have already been proposed that are based on questions and answers.

In a first type, knowledge games, questions are presented to players in binary form (answers of the true/false type) or in the form of a multiple choice questionnaire, etc. in order to test a player's degree of knowledge in a given field. The operator, i.e. the game organizer, compares the answers given by the player with known reference answers, corresponding to various true facts and allocates a corresponding score.

That first type of game is a game of deterministic type (the player's answers are compared with intangible reference answers that are known in advance), and the game does not require some minimum number of players to participate.

Another type of question-and-answer game is that comprising games of the “voting” type in which the operator asks for a player's opinion on some person, show, etc. Under such circumstances, the answers are no longer deterministic, but merely represent the opinion of the player. The game generally lies in drawing lots once a sufficient number of players has given their answers, with some kind of prize being given to certain players. “Voting” type questions can also be combined with deterministic type questions so as to begin by selecting from amongst the answers provided by the players and then, at the lot-drawing stage, to continue by retaining only players who have answered at least some of such questions correctly.

This second type of game includes a random element (drawing lots) and presents a collective nature, since some minimum population of players is necessary before it is possible to envisage drawing lots.

Many different interactive electronic games are known, such as, e.g., as found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,758,754 (“System and method for interactive game-play scheduled based on real-life events”), U.S. Pat. No. 6,783,460 (“Method and apparatus for coordinating an interactive computer game with a broadcast television program”), U.S. Pat. No. 6,322,074 (“Interactive quiz game system and method”), U.S. Pat. No. 6,227,974 (“Interactive game system”), U.S. Pat. No. 6,210,272 (“Multi-player interactive electronic game for health education”), U.S. Pat. No. 5,791,991 (“Interactive consumer product promotion method and match game”), U.S. Pat. No. 5,679,075 (“Interactive multi-media game system and method”), U.S. Pat. No. 6,267,379 (“Electronically interactive location-based multimedia game system and method”), and U.S. Pat. No. 6,299,535 (“Method of processing interactive game, program product and game system for the same”), the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing, one object of the present invention is to provide a game that can be played by one or more players accessing a computer-implemented site controlled by a game operator.

The present invention proposes a novel type of game based on questions and answers, which game is deterministic (with only a minimum random content) and individual, but which is not necessarily a knowledge game, i.e. it can be accessible to most people, insofar as the idea is merely for the player to be entertained with some hope of winnings, as opposed merely to testing players' general knowledge.

More precisely, the game of the present invention is based on using opinion polls that have already been carried out in the appropriate manner on a representative sample of a population of people. The polls may be polls that have already been carried out in public, or they may be carried out specifically for the game of the invention, or they may possibly be carried out by implementing the invention as described below.

The results of the polls may be expressed in numerical form such as percentages of positive or negative opinions, or possibly percentages of don't knows or, indeed, in accordance with a particularly advantageous characteristic of the invention, they may be in the form of making a classification by preferences; in all cases they are expressed unambiguously.

The results (percentages, classifications, etc.) are grouped together in a knowledge base and stored as a series of predetermined reference answers in association with a corresponding battery of predefined questions.

The idea on which the invention is based consists in presenting these various questions in succession to the players and in asking them to not to give their own opinions, i.e., not asking the players themselves to vote. Rather, the players are asked to guess what they believe other people think. In other words, players are asked to make their own estimates of the reference answers that are known to the game operator but unknown to the players.

An answer made by a player is then compared with the reference answer stored in the knowledge base, and the player's score is modified upon application of predetermined rules as a function of the result of the comparison.

Change in a player's score depends only on that player's astuteness in giving the most pertinent answers possible, and no random element influences the score since the score is modified solely as a function of known elements constituted by the knowledge base and the predetermined score-varying rules.

A first implementation of the present invention comprises asking the user to select and/or classify a certain number of headings as a function of the player's estimate of the preference of the largest number of people. For example, the player can be asked to select from a list of twenty songs to produce the player's estimate of the three (or four, or five) songs that are preferred by a given population of people, e.g., teenagers. The selection made by the player and/or the order in which the selections are classified is then compared with the reference answer stored in the knowledge base, and the player's score is modified as a function of the pertinence of the answer given.

In a second implementation of the game of the present invention, a comparison is made between numerical values, and the score is modified as a function of the difference between the answer given and the expected answer, i.e. the reference answer. The reference answer may be constituted, for example, by a percentage of favorable opinions as obtained by an earlier poll of a given population of people, and the score given to the player increases with decreasing difference between the percentage estimated by the player and the real percentage. Above some threshold difference, a player's score may even be lowered, so as to penalize a player who gives answers that are not sufficiently pertinent.

The game thus continues with a battery of questions, the player's score varying up or down as the player answers. Once the score reaches a certain threshold, then the operator proposes giving the player a prize, either determined, or variable as a function of the final score obtained.

In a variant implementation, the questioning sequence is itself used in a first stage to constitute the knowledge base and to determine for each question the corresponding reference answer that is to be used in a second stage for playing the game proper. Thus, two questions are put to players: firstly to give their own opinions on the question, and secondly to give their estimates (in accordance with a main characteristic of the invention) of what they think will be the opinions of others, i.e. the population of players answering the question during the first stage.

These together with other objects and advantages which will become subsequently apparent reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

An implementation of the invention is described below in greater detail with reference to the accompanying figures.

FIG. 1 is a flow chart showing the sequence of various steps in the game of the invention.

FIGS. 2 and 3 are screen captures showing an example of how a question can be presented and how the player can answer it.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In describing a preferred embodiment of the invention illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terms so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.

The present invention may advantageously be implemented via a distributed computer network such as the Internet. According to a preferred embodiment, the player connects to an Internet site using a computer, but this configuration is not limiting in any way, and the present invention can be implemented wherever it is possible to perform a two-way exchange of data that is interactive between the player and a central site run by a game operator. In particular, the invention may be implemented by means of mobile telephones that receive the questions, display them on their screens, and return the answers to the central site. It is also possible to implement the invention by means of a television set provided with a return path (e.g., a return via a telephone line or via the Internet), with questions being presented to players on the TV screen and with the players answering them by means of their remote controls.

In order to implement the invention, the game operator has an existing knowledge base containing a battery of questions, which are the questions of an opinion poll previously carried out on a sample that is representative of a population in application of conventional polling techniques. The knowledge base also stores, for each question, a corresponding reference answer which is the result obtained by means of the poll.

According to a first embodiment, the game is implemented on an Internet site to which players are connected, and the different steps are as summarized in FIG. 1.

After waiting for a player to connect to the network (step 10) and as soon as the player is connected (step 12), preferably via a direct access without an intermediate portal, the game operator looks to see whether the player is already known or whether the player is a new player. This verification is performed by testing (step 14) whether the visitor is or is not already registered, or whether the player's computer contains a “cookie” that has already been installed in the computer by the operator.

In the absence of any registration (or cookie) the operator registers the player in the database and simultaneously installs a cookie in the player's computer so as to be able to recognize that player subsequently (step 16). In the absence of a cookie, the game site tests its own player database to determine whether the pseudonym and the associated password are already part of the game.

At the beginning of a session the player also receives an advance or “chip”, e.g. 1000 points. The advance is interest free and is not reimbursable. The initial score corresponds to the value of the chip.

The following step (step 20) includes displaying the questions on the player's screen and then selecting the questions one after another and, for each of them, receiving the answer(s) made by the player (step 22). The questions may be predetermined, or they may be a series of questions depending on some particular choice expressed by the player or depending on other conditions as explained below.

A first question is then put to the player who gives a numerical estimate of what the player thinks is the answer given by the poll. By way of example, the choice offered to the player may be presented in the form of a grid with a series of boxes, and with the player clicking in some particular box in order to make a choice.

In its simplest form, the question is a binary question (“Do you prefer Charlie Chaplin or Woody Allen?”) and the answer is quantified by a percentage value for this answer (e.g. 75% for “75% of people prefer Charlie Chaplin”).

Naturally, other forms of questions are possible. Thus, in an advantageous variant, instead of asking the player to provide a numerical estimate of the result of a poll, the player is asked to classify some number of headings that are shown to the player. For example, the player may be asked to classify song titles as a function of the popularity which the player assumes general opinion gives to those songs. The questions may also ask the player to select from a longer list. For example, the player can be asked to select and/or classify three, four, or five titles from a list of twenty shown to the player, like punters betting on the first three, four, or five horses in a race. Naturally, the more pertinent the selection and/or the classification, the greater the increase in the score, and vice versa.

In order to make the game more attractive, it is possible to allow the player to put greater or smaller stakes on certain answers, by applying a multiplicative coefficient to the gain or the loss that will be applied to the score. Thus, if a player believes the chances of giving a good answer are high, then the player can opt to double the winnings to be allocated after the next answer. Conversely, if the answer is not pertinent, then the loss to the player's score will be amplified similarly.

In a variant implementation, the player may also be asked not only to give what the player believes to be the right answer, i.e., what the player believes the result of the opinion poll will indicate, but also to give the player's own opinion on the question.

The answer is then processed and a new score is computed (step 24). At this time, the game operator updates the database in which players are registered to note that, for the player in question, such-and-such a question has already been asked. This record of questions already asked is maintained to avoid asking the same question subsequently, particularly if the game runs over a plurality of sessions separated by connections and disconnections. A player can thus leave the game temporarily, and return to it subsequently during another free moment, secure in the knowledge that the game can be restarted from the previously-achieved score and the same questions will not be asked again.

As a variant on implementation of the present invention, the player may receive positive or negative points, i.e. points which are added to or subtracted from the existing score, depending on the difference between the answer given by the player and the reference answer stored in the knowledge base. For example:

+15 points for a difference between the two answers lying in the range 0 to 5 percentage points;

+10 points for a difference in the range 5 to 10;

+5 points for a difference in the range 10 to 15;

+2 points for a difference in the range 15 to 20;

−2 points for a difference in the range 20 to 25;

−5 points for a difference in the range 25 to 30; and

−20 points for a difference greater than 30 points.

This rule can be expressed by the meta-language flow chart given below, purely by way of illustration:

repeat until (answer = OK) or (number of tests < 6)
if question rank < > 1 then display messages (“Too low”)
(“Too high”)
end if
input answer
end repeat
case answer 0-5 then score = score + (15 * stake)
case answer 5-10 then score = score + (10 * stake)
case answer 10-15 then score = score + (5 * stake)
case answer 15-20 then score = score + (2 * stake)
case answer 20-25 then score = score + (−2 * stake)
case answer 25-30 then score = score + (−5 * stake)
otherwise score = score + (−20 * stake)

In this flow chart, the first three lines correspond to a particular variant in which the player is guided in making an answer. Once the player has given an estimate, the game operator informs the player if the estimate is above or below the reference answer (which the player does not know), thus giving the player the option of trying to get closer by successive approximations, naturally with a limited number of iterations.

Furthermore, this flow chart includes the above-mentioned option given to the player of modifying the stake bet on a given question, thus having the effect of amplifying the gain or the loss applied to the current score on evaluating the answer. All of these variable implementations relating to successive approximation of the answer and scoring on the basis of closeness to the reference answer are optional additions and are not necessary to practice the underlying basis of the present invention.

Other questions are put to the player and the score changes, going up or down with the answers made by the player. If the score reaches a given threshold, e.g. 1020 points, the game operator gives the player the option of either receiving a prize, in which case the chip is reset to zero, or else of continuing in order to attempt to increase the score even more.

The prize is advantageously a prize of varying size, depending on the difference observed between the score obtained and the value of the chip. For example, a difference of 1020−1000=20 points gives the player the right to purchase the equivalent of 20 points' worth of goods in a shop, or to receive 20 minutes of free calling via a telephone operator, or to gain free access to a normally paid-for Internet site, etc. The prize can also be the award of additional points.

To allocate a desired prize type, the game operator asks the player (step 28) to give information suitable for individualizing the player, and also data that might be useful in the “data mining” context underlying the game.

It should be observed that the game can be implemented either anonymously or with named players. There is no need for the player to give the operator a true identity, but the operator may nevertheless desire this for commercial reasons.

Individualization data may comprise the player's name (or a pseudonym if anonymity can be preserved), a password, and possibly a simplified questionnaire (male or female, age, socio-professional category, etc.).

In addition to giving a prize, the game operator may perform more global treatment (step 30) amongst a plurality of players. For example, the game operator may organize a periodic championship (daily, weekly, etc.) amongst the best players, or allow them to draw lots for exceptional prizes, etc.

In a preferred variant of the invention, the questions and the way in which answers are given can be presented in the manner shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 so that, in accordance with a particularly advantageous implementation of the invention, the game can be performed solely by using a mouse to answer the questions, without using the keyboard.

In the example shown in FIG. 2, the question consists in asking the player to classify the assumed order of preference of four Beatles songs whose titles are presented in no particular order on the player's screen (fields 50 to 56). The player can respond by dragging the fields so as to make a stack of them, with the preferred title being at the top of the stack, as shown in FIG. 3. A button 58 marked “this is my guess” serves to enter the answer and send it to the operator.

A button 60 marked “tell me the answer” gives the user the option of skipping this question and asking the operator to give the true answer. The fields 50 to 56 then become animated on the screen so as to reconstruct a stack illustrating the reference answer, i.e., the answer which the player should have given. Naturally, under such circumstances, the player is penalized by reducing the score, or by stopping the game if the player skips more than a threshold number of questions.

The player's screen also has a display 62 of the current score together with an indication 64 of the time that has elapsed since starting, it being possible for the game to be time-limited, e.g., by applying a “time-out” so as to force the player to react quickly.

The player's screen may also have a button marked “PRIZES” that is normally grayed out (i.e. inactive) and that becomes transformed into an active button (e.g. a red button) as soon as, and for as long as, the player's score is greater than 1020 points.

The topics of the questions asked can be highly varied, and the battery of questions is not necessarily unchanging.

The questions may optionally relate to topics that are frequently updated, such as “the personality of the week” or “the event of the week” so as to enable questions to be renewed quickly, making the game more attractive to potential players and also to the media.

The player may also select particular themes, such as, e.g.:

by subject: films, songs, etc. or by selecting a particular word (“music”, “war”, etc.) that appears in the question, and/or

by operator (the word “operator” being used in its formal logic sense) : classified by order of preference or a binary operator of the “more dangerous than”, “better than”, “more useful than”, etc. type. By way of example, this selection can be performed using pull-down menus made available to the player, which are presented on the screen before the beginning of the game or while the game is underway.

The questions may also be generated automatically as a function of choices made by the user and by using a question generator of the combinatory type; under such circumstances, the questions are no longer predefined but are generally generated on the basis of selections made by players, thus making it possible to greatly increase the variety of questions.

Other criteria for selecting questions can also be envisaged, for example choosing between “long” questions or “short” questions, depending on the number of words in the text of the question. Questions may also be selected on the basis of the average length of the words in the question, the number of syllables, etc. Furthermore, the questions may be selected using pull-down menus that present, for example, just the first words (or letters) of the question, the last words (or letters) of the question, or certain words within the questions.

Question selection can also include a chance contribution, by introducing selection that is partially or completely random and based in particular on the type of question, for example a simple question (a binary question or a multiple choice question) or a combinatory question (where the player is asked to classify a plurality of elements). The question itself may be selected from all of the questions available in the battery of questions. For a question that is combinatory, the number of elements that the player needs to classify can be varied, e.g., the player may be asked to list the best three, four, or five elements.

Furthermore, for a question of the combinatory type, the number of possible combinations quickly becomes very large, for example 4!=24 possible combinations with four elements, i.e. four elements can be classified in 24 different ways, giving a spectrum of 24 possible answers. Under such circumstances, it may be desirable to introduce a parameter that makes the game easier by reducing the spectrum of possible answers. The player must then give an answer from a smaller number of potential answers, e.g., 24/2=12 or 24/4=6 possibilities only, where these twelve or six possible answers are displayed on the screen so as to enable the player to select them.

The foregoing descriptions and drawings should be considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. The invention may be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes and is not limited by the dimensions of the preferred embodiment. Numerous applications of the present invention will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Therefore, it is not desired to limit the invention to the specific examples disclosed or the exact construction and operation shown and described. Rather, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.