Title:
GAMING SYSTEM AND GAMING MANAGEMENT SERVER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming system comprises a first gaming machine, a second gaming machine and a gaming management server. The first gaming machine can execute a game with gaming data, and the second gaming machine also can execute the game with the gaming data. The gaming management server is connected to the first gaming machine and the second gaming machine via a network. The gaming management server includes a processor managing the gaming data for each player, and executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine, and updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process.



Inventors:
Kogo, Junichi (Tokyo, JP)
Application Number:
11/531706
Publication Date:
03/22/2007
Filing Date:
09/14/2006
Assignee:
ARUZE CORP. (Tokyo, JP)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24; A63F13/00; A63F13/33; A63F13/35; A63F13/79; G06Q50/00; G06Q50/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GRAY, BRANDON RAMON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LEYDIG VOIT & MAYER, LTD (Alexandria, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gaming system comprising: a first gaming machine executing a game with gaming data; a second gaming machine executing the game with the gaming data; and a gaming management server connected to the first gaming machine and the second gaming machine via a network, the gaming management server including a processor managing the gaming data for each player, and executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine, and updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process.

2. The gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the processor of the gaming management server transmits expiration notification data to the second gaming machine in order to notify a user that the game is executed with the gaming data whose expiration date has not been updated if the expiration date has not been updated within a notification period for notifying that the expiration date is about to expire.

3. The gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the processor of the gaming management server executes the extending process so that the expiration date after extended by an operation with the second gaming machine becomes shorter than the expiration date after extended by an operation with the first gaming machine.

4. The gaming system according to claim 2, wherein the processor of the gaming management server executes the extending process so that the expiration date after extended by an operation with the second gaming machine becomes shorter than the expiration date after extended by an operation with the first gaming machine.

5. The gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the processor of the gaming management server updates the expiration date when the game is played with the second gaming machine in a charging mode in which the game is charged, and the processor of the gaming management server keeps the expiration date unchanged when the game is not played in the charging mode.

6. The gaming system according to claim 2, wherein the processor of the gaming management server updates the expiration date when the game is played with the second gaming machine in a charging mode in which the game is charged, and the processor of the gaming management server keeps the expiration date unchanged when the game is not played in the charging mode.

7. The gaming system according to claim 3, wherein the processor of the gaming management server updates the expiration date when the game is played with the second gaming machine in a charging mode in which the game is charged, and the processor of the gaming management server keeps the expiration date unchanged when the game is not played in the charging mode.

8. A gaming system comprising: a first gaming machine executing a game with gaming data; a second gaming machine executing the game with the gaming data; and a gaming management server connected to the first gaming machine and the second gaming machine via a network, the gaming management server including a processor managing the gaming data for each player, and executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine, and updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process, wherein the processor of the gaming management server executes the extending process so that the expiration date after extended by an operation with the second gaming machine becomes shorter than the expiration date after extended by an operation with the first gaming machine.

9. The gaming system according to claim 8, wherein the processor of the gaming management server transmits expiration notification data to the second gaming machine in order to notify a user that the game is executed with the gaming data whose expiration date has not been updated if the expiration date has not been updated within a notification period for notifying that the expiration date is about to expire.

10. The gaming system according to claim 8, wherein the processor of the gaming management server updates the expiration date when the game is played with the second gaming machine in a charging mode in which the game is charged, and the processor of the gaming management server keeps the expiration date unchanged when the game is not played in the charging mode.

11. A gaming management server connected to a first gaming machine and a second gaming machine, both for executing a game with gaming data, via a network, the gaming management server comprising: a processor managing the gaming data for each player, and executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine, and updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is based upon and claims the benefit of priority from the prior Japanese Patent Application No. 2005-272648, filed on Sep. 20, 2005; the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a gaming system comprising a commercial gaming machine and a gaming management server, as well as to the gaming management server composing the gaming system.

2. Related Background of the Invention

Techniques for electronically managing an expiration date have been conventionally known. For example, Japanese Patent Application Laid-Open No. Hei. 7-152833 discloses a customer management system capable of preventing member cards from becoming invalid due to neglect of renewal by allowing a grace period to a member card which has expired to extend the expiration date and outpuffing, when the card is used during the grace period, a message prompting the renewal. In addition, Japanese Patent Application Laid-Open No. 2002-366778 discloses a server having the function to extend the available period of attribution for temporally, regionally, and selectively restricting character information about a character.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is to allow extension of the expiration date without the necessity to play the game on an arcade gaming machine in a gaming system comprising a commercial gaming machine and a gaming management server, as well as in the gaming management server composing the gaming system.

The present invention provides a gaming system comprising a first gaming machine for executing a game with gaming data, a second gaming machine for executing the game with the gaming data, and a gaming management server connected to the first gaming machine and the second gaming machine via a network. The gaming management server includes: management means for managing the gaming data for each player; setting processing means for executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data managed by the management means when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine; and update processing means for updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process by the setting processing means.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a system block diagram of a gaming system according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view illustrating a plurality of gaming machines and a card vending machine;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating a whole structure of the gaming machine;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of the gaming machine illustrating mainly the internal configuration;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary internal configuration of an image control circuit;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating a shop server;

FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating a gaming server and a database server;

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating an operation procedure of gaming process from start to end of the game in the gaming machine.

FIG. 9 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of game startup process.

FIG. 10 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of character battle process.

FIG. 11 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of selected stage battle process.

FIG. 12 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of interruption process.

FIG. 13 is a block diagram illustrating a home-use gaming machine.

FIG. 14 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of gaming process from start to end of the game in the home-use gaming machine.

FIG. 15 is a diagram illustrating an exemplary world map.

FIG. 16 is a diagram illustrating an exemplary field map.

FIG. 17 is a diagram illustrating an exemplary field map and battle screen

FIG. 18 is a diagram illustrating an exemplary stronghold maintenance management table.

FIG. 19 is a diagram illustrating a game screen according to a first associated gaming system.

FIG. 20 is a diagram illustrating a game screen according to a second associated gaming system.

FIG. 21 is a diagram illustrating a game screen according to a third associated gaming system.

FIG. 22 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of expiration date extension process in the database server.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments of the present invention will be described below, wherein identical elements are provided with identical reference numerals, and duplicate description will be omitted.

(Overall Configuration of a Gaming System)

FIG. 1 shows a system configuration of a gaming system 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, and FIG. 2 is a perspective view illustrating a plurality of gaming machines 1 and card vending machines 6. The gaming system 100 includes three shop servers in total installed in two amusement shops A and B; one for shop A and the other two for shop B, a plurality (eight in the present embodiment) of gaming machines 1 and card vending machines 6 communicably connected via private lines 3; in-shop routers 7 installed in the amusement shops A and B; and a group of center servers 5 connected to the in-shop router 7 via a communication network 4a and the Internet 4. Furthermore, a base station 110 connected to a cellular phone 111 via a radio link and a home-use gaming machine 112 are connected to the Internet 4.

In each of the game shops A and B, the shop server 2, the gaming machines 1, and the card vending machine 6 are connected by a private line 3 to form an in-shop LAN (Local Area Network), the LAN being connected to the Internet 4 via an in-shop router 7. A commercial gaming system 8 is composed of a shop server 2 and eight gaming machines 1 connected to the shop server 2 by a private line. Here, the amusement shop mentioned mainly refers to a game center, but any other business site would be sufficient as long as a gaming machine can be installed therein.

The gaming system 100, in the form of a gaming system according to the present invention, is provided for a plurality (four in this embodiment) of players of the gaming machines 1 or a home-use gaming machine 112 to participate in a character battle game. For illustrative purposes, however, in the following description, an exemplary case is described wherein one player operates one of the gaming machines 1 installed in the amusement shop A, while another player operates the home-use gaming machine 112, so that the same character battle game is played by the two players together with a CPU player.

The objective of the character battle game is to expand the territory of the home country of each player who governs his/her home country as a warlord and leads his/her military force in an attempt to invade other countries governed by other players. In addition, the character battle game is designed to progress in real time with each player looking at shared images. Here, four types of countries are prepared, namely, Soil-land, Water-land, Fire-land, and Wind-land, one of which the player can choose to be the warlord for.

(Arrangement of the Gaming Machine)

A gaming machine 1, in the form of a stationary commercial gaming machine (first gaming machine) according to the embodiment of the present invention, comprises an image display device for displaying images showing how a plurality of force characters C1-C4 belonging to opposing countries (described below) battle against each other while moving around a field map 125 (described below), and is configured to cause respective force characters C1-C4 to perform actions such as advance, attack, or defend, according to the player's operation (mainly touch operation on a touch panel 11a described below). Note that, although actions of respective force characters C1-C4 are decided according to the player's operation, autonomous actions of respective force characters C1-C4 are determined using AI technology so that actions of respective force characters C1-C4 will not stall in the absence of player's operation.

Each force is made up by soldier characters having a variety of abilities such as those of a warrior, a wizard, or the like. The soldier characters are led by a single leader character. The player controls the force to make various moves by providing the leader character with commands.

Here, the characters C1-C4 indicating the forces (i.e., force character) can be displayed in two ways: as a single character similar to the leader character, or as a plurality of characters including the leader character and the soldier characters, both of which can be switched by arbitrarily changing the display format (see FIG. 17).

The gaming machine 1 has a main display 11 equipped with a liquid-crystal display device, in the front side of the housing 10, as shown in FIG. 3. Additionally, above the main display 11, the gaming machine 1 has a sub-display 12 likewise equipped with a liquid-crystal display device, and speakers 13L, 13R provided at the right and left sides thereof for outputting sounds used for making the game realistic.

The main display 11 is configured to display game images (e.g., field map 120) according to respective stages of the game (described in detail below). The sub-display 12 is configured to display explanation about the character battle game, or images at particular stages of the game.

In addition, the gaming machine 1 has an operation panel 14 under the main display 11 and a table 15 on the near side of the operation panel 14. The operation panel 14 has a coin slot 16 for dropping in a coin (gaming medium such as hard currency or gaming token) required when playing a game, and a card slot 18 for inserting an ID card 17.

Each of the gaming machines 1 composing the gaming system 100 has a machine ID assigned specific to itself. The machine ID includes a server ID specific to each shop server 2 and an ID specific to each gaming machine 1, which are given, for example, such as A01, A02, A03, . . . in the case of respective gaming machines 1 installed in a shop A.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of the gaming machine 1 illustrating mainly the internal structure. The gaming machine 1 comprises a plurality of components, in the center of which is provided a microcomputer 31.

The microcomputer 31 comprises a main CPU (Central Processing Unit) 32, a RAM (Random Access Memory) 33, and a ROM (Read Only Memory) 34. The main CPU 32, which is operated according to a program stored in the ROM 34, receives signals, via an I/O port 39, from respective components provided on the operation panel 14, while communicating signals to and from other components to control the overall operation of the gaming machine 1. The RAM 33 stores data and programs (in this embodiment, application data and gaming data described below) which are used when the main CPU 32 is operated. The ROM 34 stores control programs executed by the main CPU 32 and permanent data.

In addition, the gaming machine 1 includes a random number generator 35, a sampling circuit 36, a clock pulse generating circuit 37, and a divider 38. The random number generator 35 operates according to instructions from the main CPU 32 to generate random numbers within a certain range. The sampling circuit 36, following the instructions from the main CPU 32, extracts an arbitrary random number from those generated by the random number generator 35, and inputs the extracted random number into the main CPU 32. The clock pulse generating circuit 37 generates a reference clock for operating the main CPU 32, and the divider 38 inputs the signal resulted from dividing the reference clock by a constant cycle into the main CPU 32.

Moreover, the gaming machine 1 includes a touch panel 11a, a coin sensor 16a, a card reader 18a, a communication control unit 21, and a communication processing unit 22, and further includes an image control circuit 71 and an audio control circuit 72.

The touch panel 11a, provided so as to cover the display screen of the main display 11, detects the position where the player's finger touched and feeds the position signal corresponding to the detected position into the main CPU 32. The player uses the touch panel 11a to perform input operation mainly to provide the leader character with commands (e.g., letting his/her force characters avoid hostile characters, sending force characters for reinforcement). For example, the touch panel 11a, with the rectangular transparent plate surface having conductive material coated thereon, detects the position where the player's finger touched by applying voltage from electrodes disposed on the four comers of the transparent plate and detecting, through the electrodes, feeble change of electric current due to the player's finger touch.

The coin sensor 16a detects a coin dropped in from the coin slot 16, and outputs, to the main CPU 32, a detection signal corresponding to the detection. The card reader 18a reads card information, such as a player ID being recorded on the ID card 17 inserted into the card slot 18, and feeds the read-out card information into the main CPU 32.

The communication control unit 21 operates according to the instructions from the main CPU 32, and controls the connection and disconnection of the circuit for communicating with the shop server 2. The communication processing unit 22 operates according to the instructions from the communication control unit 21, and transmits and receives data via the private line 3.

The image control circuit 71, controlling the display of images on each of the main display 11 and the sub-display 12, causes the main display 11 to display images showing how the force characters are battling against each other on the field map described below, and causes the sub-display 12 to display explanatory or acting images of the character battle game.

The image control circuit 71 includes an image control CPU 71a,a work RAM 71b, a program ROM 71c, an image ROM 71d, a video RAM 71e, and a VDP (Video Display Processor) 71f, as shown in FIG. 5. The image control CPU 71a determines, based on parameters set by the microcomputer 31, the images to be displayed on the main display 11 and the sub-display 12 in accordance with the image control program (related to the display on the main display 11 and the sub-display 12) which is preliminarily stored in the program ROM 71c. The work RAM 71b is configured as a temporary storage device when the image control CPU 71a executes the image control program.

The program ROM 71c stores image control programs, various selection tables or the like. The image ROM 71d stores dot data used to form the images. The video RAM 71e is arranged as a temporary storage device when forming an image by the VDP 71f. The VDP 71f, including a control RAM 71g, forms images according to the display content of the main display 11 and the sub-display 12 determined by the image control CPU 71a, and outputs respective formed image to the main display 11 and the sub-display 12.

The audio control circuit 72 inputs, into speakers 13L and 13R, audio signal for outputting sound from the speakers 13L and 13R. From the speakers 13L and 13R, sound is output in order to boost the game mood at a suitable timing after the game started, for example.

(Arrangement of the Shop Server, Card Vending Machine, and In-shop Router)

The shop server 2 includes a CPU 201, a ROM 202, a RAM 203, a communication processing unit 204, a communication control unit 205, and a data storage unit 206 for storing application data, as shown in FIG. 6. While the CPU 201 operates to read and write data from and to the RAM 203 according to the program stored in the ROM 202, the communication control unit 205 causes the communication processing unit 204 to operate following the instructions from the CPU 201. Then, via the private line 3, the shop server 2 transmits and receives data to and from respective gaming machine 1 installed in respective amusement shops A and B, executes transmission (down load) of data to respective gaming machines 1, and relays data transmission and reception between respective gaming machines 1 or to and from the center server group 5. Included in the application data is various data (such as image data for the game) to be used in execution of character battle games played on the gaming machine 1.

The card vending machine 6 includes an operation unit by which the player performs input operation of his/her individual information and a card issuing unit, wherein a predefined input operation using the operation unit causes the card issuing unit to issue an ID card 17 storing card information including the player ID specific to each player.

The in-shop router 7 connects the in-shop LAN formed in each of the amusement shops A and B to the Internet 4.

(Arrangement of the Center Server Group)

The center server group 5 includes a plurality of gaming servers (two gaming servers 101 and 102 in FIG. 1) installed corresponding to respective games, and a database server 103, wherein respective gaming servers are connected via the private line 104 to form a LAN, the LAN being connected to the Internet 4 via a router (not shown).

The gaming server 101 includes a CPU 301, a ROM 302, a RAM 303, a communication processing unit 304, a communication control unit 305, and a data storage unit 306, as shown in FIG. 7. While the CPU 301 operates to read and write data from and to the RAM 303 according to the program stored in the ROM 302, the communication control unit 305 causes the communication processing unit 304 to operate following the instructions from the CPU 301.

The gaming server 101 transmits and receives data including information for game to and from the shop servers 2 and home-use gaming machine 112, via the Internet 4. The information for game is the information (e.g., information that a force character of a certain player moved to somewhere, or information that a force character of a certain player used magic) with regard to the current game status (i.e., the latest game status). In other words, the gaming server 101 synchronizes the game, as well as sharing the game status, between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 which are engaged in the battle game, by transmitting and receiving information for game to and from the gaming machine 1 via the shop server 2, and also transmitting and receiving information for game to and from the home-use gaming machine 112.

In addition, the gaming server 101 receives entry data transmitted from the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, accepts the player's participation (entry) to the character battle game and updates the player's participation information, determines the players supposed to become opponents, and transmits the result of determining the opponents to the database server 103.

The gaming server 102 is installed in order to execute another game (e.g., the game according to the second to the fourth embodiment described below), and has an arrangement identical to that of the gaming server 101, although the data and the program stored are different from those for the gaming server 101.

The database server 103, in the form of a gaming management server according to the present invention, includes a CPU 401, a ROM 402, a RAM 403, a communication processing unit 404, a communication control unit 405, and a data storage unit 406. In the database server 103, while the CPU 401 operates to read and write data from and to the RAM 403 according to the program stored in the ROM 402 and operates as a setting processing device, an update processing device, a notification control device, and an update control device characteristic to the present invention, the communication control unit 405 causes the communication processing unit 404 to operate following the instructions from the CPU 401 to transmit and receive data to and from respective shop servers 2 via the Internet 4. In the data storage unit 406, a player ID, a password to be used for player authentication, the type of game, and gaming data are stored for each player. The player ID may be read from the ID card 17 and transmitted by the gaming machine 1, or input and transmitted by the player using the home-use gaming machine 112.

Then, the database server 103 stores the gaming data in the data storage unit 406, while the CPU 401 manages the gaming data by updating the stored gaming data according to the progress status of the game or extension request data described below. In other words, the management unit according to the present invention is constituted by the CPU 401 and the data storage unit 406.

The gaming data includes a battle strength parameter (a value determined by the offense and defense power) on respective force characters described above, and data indicating the play history of the character battle game for respective players. The gaming data, which is transmitted from the database server 103 to the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 at the start of the game to be used in the character battle game, corresponds to the gaming data according to the present invention.

The gaming data are managed by the database server 103 for each player (i.e., in a distinct manner to be identifiable using the player ID). In addition, the gaming data are set with an effective period (e.g., three months after issue) during which the character battle game can be played effectively. As will be described below, the effective period can be extended if the character battle game is played on the gaming machine 1 within the effective period, and the effective period is also extendable using the home-use gaming machine 112 if an extension condition such as transmission of extension request data described below is satisfied. However, the gaming data are designed to be deleted from the data storage unit 406 by an instruction from the CPU 401, if the character battle game is not played on the gaming machine 1 within the effective period and machine date managed by the database server 103 passes the expiration date without satisfying the extension condition.

By including information which can distinguish the type of the terminal used for the game, the player ID can have different content provided for the same player if the device used for playing the game is different, and the gaming data are managed corresponding to respective player IDs. The database server 103 determines, from the player ID received, whether the transmission source device is the gaming machine 1, the home-use gaming machine 112, or a cellular phone 111, and shares the determination result with the gaming server 101.

(Operation of the Gaming Machine)

Operation of the gaming machine 1 will be described next, referring to the flow charts shown in FIGS. 8 to 12.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of the gaming process from start to end of the game in the gaming machine 1. Note that the steps are abbreviated as S in FIG. 8, as well as in FIGS. 9 to 12, 14 and 22 to be described below. In the following description, the player who actually performs the operation is also referred to as the self-player, and the player who will be the opponent of the self-player is also called the hostile-player. The self-player is a player who actually exists, but the hostile-player, besides being an actually existing player, may be a CPU player described below when there is no actual player existing.

When powered on, the gaming machine 1 transmits a down load request of application data to the shop server 2, which, upon receiving the down load request, transmits the application data to the gaming machine 1 which has transmitted the down load request.

Upon receiving the application data, the gaming machine 1 stores the application data in the RAM 33. Then, in the gaming machine 1, the main CPU 32, upon reading the application data, operates as the gaming progress control device to control the progress of the character battle game according to the player's operation input.

Upon starting the gaming process, the process flow proceeds to step 1 where the gaming machine 1 executes the game startup process described below, which includes coin dropping, ID card insertion, password input, as well as a process of receiving the determination result of the opponent by the gaming server 101. In step 2, a force organization process is executed by the player's operation. In the force organization process, soldier characters are organized in a force belonging to a country 1a for which the self-player of the gaming machine 1 plays the role of the warlord (also referred to as “home country” hereinafter, whereas countries 1b, 1c and 1d for which hostile-players play the role of warlords are also referred to as “hostile countries”). Upon completing the force organization process, the force characters to be operated by the self-player of the gaming machine 1 are determined, enabling the self-player of the gaming machine 1 to use the force characters for advance or battle.

Next, the process flow proceeds to step 3 where a character battle process described below is executed. Upon completing the character battle process, it is determined at step 4 whether the victory or defeat has been determined at all of the stages described below, or the self-player of the gaming machine 1 has entered an end-of-game command. If either of the above has been executed, the process flow proceeds to step 5 and, if not, the process returns to step 3 to execute the character battle process again. In step 5, a rank determination process for determining, from the result of the character battle process which have been executed so far, the rank of the players who participated in the character battle game is executed, then in the following step 6, a parameter changing process is executed to change the parameters for respective characters, based on the result of the character battle process.

Furthermore, in step 7, while results of the character battle game such as scorelines are being displayed, a post-processing is executed which transmits data indicating the results of the character battle game to the database server 103 via the shop server 2, in order to update the gaming data in the database server 103. In the following step 8, a card return process is executed, and the gaming process is completed when the ID card 17 which has been inserted by the player of the gaming machine 1 is returned from the card slot 18.

Upon starting the character battle process, the process flow proceeds to step 21, as shown in FIG. 10, where the main CPU 32 executes a world map display control process and causes the main display 11 to display a world map image 90 described below. Then, the world map image 90 is displayed on the main display 11, as shown in FIG. 15. In the following step 22, the process waits until stage selection is executed to specify any of the stage images 91, 92, 93 and 94 included in the world map image 90 to be described below. Upon executing the stage selection, the process flow proceeds to step 23, where stage selection information indicating the stage which has been selected in the stage selection (hereinafter referred to as “selected stage”) is transmitted to the gaming server 101, as well as receiving the stage selection information from the gaming server 101. Next, the process flow proceeds to step 24, where a selected stage battle process is executed. Note that, in order to balance the military power at the start of the game, a same number of stages, for example, are assigned to respective countries 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d.

The selected stage battle process is executed in accordance with the flow chart shown in FIG. 11. Upon starting the selected stage battle process, the main CPU 32 proceeds to step 35 and executes display control of the field map at the selected stage. Now, if, for example, a stage shown by a stage image 91 described below is the selected stage, a field map 120 such as one shown in FIG. 16 is displayed on the main display 11. In the following step 36, it is determined whether or not a battle command has been entered, based on the information entered from the touch panel 11a.

Here, a battle command is a command with regard to a battle between the player's force characters and force characters of other counties. If a battle command is entered, the process flow proceeds to step 37, whereas the process flow proceeds to step 38 without executing step 37 if there is no battle command entered.

In step 37, a character offense and defense process according to the battle command entered in step 36 is executed, which causes a team led by force characters (e.g., force characters of country 1a) to perform offense or defense against force characters of another country (e.g., country 1b) according to the battle command. Next, in step 38, it is determined whether or not a character conflict, i.e., a battle between force characters belonging to different countries (e.g., countries 1a and 1b) occurred, and if a character conflict occurred, the process flow proceeds to step 39 to execute a compulsory battle process, whereas the process flow proceeds to step 40 without executing step 39 if there is no character conflict.

In step 40, it is determined whether or not the selected stage is a home stage described below. If so, the process flow proceeds to step 41 and if not, to step 43 and executes control to change the condition of determining the stronghold winner which composes the battle condition described below.

Then, in step 41, it is determined whether or not the characters of the home country 1a have reached any of the strongholds described below (that the characters of the home country reached any of the strongholds corresponds to the stronghold winner determination condition at the home stage). If characters of the home country 1a reaches any of the strongholds, the winner at the stronghold is determined to be the home country 1a, satisfying the stronghold winner determination condition. In this case the process flow proceeds to step 42 and updates the stronghold maintenance management table 80 described below, and if not, completes the selected stage battle process without executing step 42.

In addition, when the process flow proceeds to step 43 (which is the case that the selected stage is an away stage described below), it is determined whether or not the characters of the home country 1a has succeeded in defeating the characters of any of the hostile countries 1b, 1c, or 1d defending the stronghold and capturing the stronghold (that the character of the home country defeated the characters of a hostile country corresponds to the stronghold winner determination condition at the away stage). If the characters of the home country defeat the characters of a hostile country defending the stronghold, the winner at the stronghold is determined to be the home country, satisfying the stronghold winner determination condition. In this case the process flow proceeds to step 42 and updates the stronghold maintenance management table, but if not, completes the selected stage battle process without executing step 42.

Incidentally, the stronghold winner determination condition is a condition to determine the winner at each stronghold, configured for each stronghold with the content described above. In addition, the stronghold winner determination condition may be configured as different conditions according to whether the selected stage is a home stage or an away stage, not being limited to the above condition. The condition may be to seize the flag raised at each stronghold in the case of the home stage, for example, and, in the case of the away stage, to defeat the characters of a hostile country defending the stronghold and seize the flag.

Upon completing the selected stage battle process, the process flow proceeds to step 25 back in FIG. 10 and executes a battle result reflection process, which reflects, onto the field map 120, the result of the selected stage battle process, updating the field map 120 according to the result of the selected stage battle process. In other words, if a stronghold has been captured, the fact is reflected to the field map 120 by a processing of the main CPU 32, displaying the changed field map on the main display 11.

Next, the process flow proceeds to step 26, where the main CPU 32 determines whether or not the castle stronghold described below is captured and the castle stronghold winner determination condition is satisfied, at the selected stage. If the castle stronghold has not been captured, the process flow proceeds to step 27, whereas if the castle stronghold is captured, in other words, if the winner of the selected stage is determined by the capture of the castle stronghold, the process flow proceeds to step 28 without executing step 27. Additionally, in step 27, it is determined whether or not all the strongholds at the selected stage are captured, and if the winner of the selected stage is determined based on capture of all the strongholds, the process flow proceeds to step 28. Otherwise, the main CPU 32 operates as the special character control device and executes a special character drawing process (step 31), and subsequently returns to step 24 to repeat the above-mentioned process.

In step 28, a victorious country determination process for determining the victorious country at the selected stage is executed to determine the winner of the selected stage by the capture of the castle stronghold or all the strongholds. In this case, the country which captured the castle stronghold or the country with the largest number of captured strongholds becomes the winner of the selected stage.

In order to execute the step 28, it is necessary that an affirmative determination (YES) be made in step 26 or step 27. Thus, the main CPU 32 as the battle condition setting device sets the battle condition using a stronghold winner determination condition and a castle stronghold winner determination condition.

In the following step 29, a reward management table, which is a reward management data for managing rewards gained by respective countries in the selected stage battle process, is updated and a reward gaining process accompanied with the completion of the stage is executed. Furthermore, in step 30, the main CPU 32 operates as an assigning device to newly assign a selected stage to the victorious country, in order to assign the selected stage according to the result of the selected stage battle process (character battle at the selected stage). In this case, the main CPU 32 updates the country area 80b having stronghold name area 80a as the castle stronghold in the stronghold maintenance management table 80 to be the victorious country. In addition, the main CPU 32 executes an updating process to update the world map to one that reflects the content after the assignment, and the world map image 90 after the updating is displayed on the main display 11. Upon completing step 30, the character battle process is completed.

(World Map Image and Stage Image)

Now, a world map image 90 and stage images 91, 92, 93 and 94 will be described. The world map image 90 is an image showing a world map which will be the stage of the character battle game using the gaming machine 1. The world map image is a unit for executing the character battle game and includes a plurality of stages (a plurality of stages such as those indicated by stage images 91, 92, 93 and 94) as battle zones indicating the regions where the character battles take place. Here, the stage images 91, 92, 93 and 94 show the stages assigned to countries 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d, respectively.

In addition, immediately after the character battle game is started, the stages included in the world map are assigned to each country in equal numbers, for example, so that the power balance of each player is antagonistic to each other. The stage assigned to each county is a stage governed by the country (governed stage). As mentioned above, since the assignment of the stages to respective countries is changed and the world map is updated, according to the result of the character battle, the power balance of each country dynamically changes. Since each of the stages is governed by one of the countries, the stage seen from characters belonging to the country governing it is a home stage (home battle zone) governed by the country to which the characters belong and the stage seen from characters belonging to the country not governing it is an away stage (hostile battle zone) governed by the country to which the characters do not belong.

Furthermore, for each stage, a stronghold is set up, which may influence the progress of the character battle game and which may become the target of the offense and defense by the character forces of respective countries. Respective strongholds are deployed in a different manner for each of the stages by the main CPU 32 operating as a stronghold setting device. The strongholds may be set up using, for example, buildings relating to local industry such as ironworks, a woodworking shops or the like so that material may be obtained when a stronghold is brought under control. In addition, the obtained material is registered into the reward management table for management. Every stage has, in the center thereof, a castle of the country governing the stage which is assigned to the country, with the periphery of the castle being surrounded by the strongholds deployed. As shown in FIG. 16, included in stage image (FIG. 16 shows a field map 120 corresponding to the stage indicated by a stage image 91) are a castle image 121 showing the castle in the center, and stronghold images 122, 123 and 124 showing respective strongholds, as well as a pathway image 121a showing the pathway linking the castle image 121 and the stronghold images 122, 123 and 124.

The stronghold maintenance management table 80, being a stronghold maintenance management data, is a table for managing the country which captured the stronghold or the castle stronghold deployed in each stage, that is, the country which has come to satisfy the stronghold winner determination condition or castle stronghold winner determination condition. This stronghold maintenance management table 80 has, for each stage, a management area 80c associating a stronghold name area 80a having stronghold names indicating respective strongholds registered therein with a country area 80b having the countries which captured them registered therein, as shown in FIG. 18, wherein each item has an initial value registered therein at the start of the character battle game. According to the stronghold maintenance management table 80 shown in FIG. 18, the stage shown by the stage image 91 (denoted as stage 91, and stage 92 is the stage shown by the stage image 92) is managed such that a castle stronghold 121 has been captured by country 1a, and strongholds 122, 123 and 124 have been captured by countries 1a, 1b and 1a, respectively. In other words, for the stage shown by the stage image 91, countries 1a, 1b and 1a have come to satisfy respective stronghold winner determination conditions of the strongholds 122, 123 and 124, whereas country la has come to satisfy the castle stronghold winner determination condition.

On the other hand, the main CPU 32 executes an interruption process for interrupting the character battle process periodically with a predefined interval (e.g., 1 ms) according to the flow chart shown in FIG. 12. Upon starting the interruption process, the process flow proceeds to step 111 where the main CPU 32 temporarily saves the currently executing program stored in a storage area (register) within the memory, then the process flow proceeds to step 112. In step 112, the main CPU 32 determines whether or not the battle screen has been touched, and if the battle screen has been touched, the process flow proceeds to step 113 and controls display of the battle screen, and subsequently proceeds to step 114. However, if there is no touch on the battle screen, the process flow proceeds to step 114 without executing step 113. In step 114, it is determined whether or not the field map has been touched, and if the field map has been touched, the process flow proceeds to step 115 and controls display of the field map, and subsequently proceeds to step 116. However, if there is no touch on the field map, the process flow proceeds to step 116 without executing step 115. Then, in step 116, the register of saved program is restored, and the program resumes from the point at which the character battle process was interrupted (saved).

Here, a touch on the battle screen means a touch operation for switching, during the selected stage battle process, the field map displayed on the main display 11 to a battle screen. In addition, a touch on the field map means a touch operation for switching the battle screen to the field map. For example, when a field map 125 as shown on the left hand side of FIG. 17 is displayed on the main display 11, a finger touch on the position indicated by the arrow a (battle message displaying a character string “in battle”) may display a battle screen 126 as shown on the right hand side of FIG. 17. Alternatively, when the battle screen 126 is displayed, a finger touch on the position indicated by the arrow b (map window 127) may display a field map 125.

The field map 125, which is displayed on the main display 11 when the character battle for a selected stage is being performed, is an image for showing, in addition to respective strongholds, that leader characters of respective countries are facing each other on the path shown by the path image 121a. In addition, the battle screen 126, is an image showing the details of the character battle (a situation in which soldier characters of respective countries are engaged in a melee battle) being performed at a position specified by the touch on the battle screen.

As described above, the gaming machine 1 is configured such that the battle condition can be changed according to whether a character belonging to a country is engaged in a character battle in the home stage or engaged in a character battle in the away stage, as shown in steps 40 to 43 in the stage battle process of FIG. 11. Therefore, with the gaming machines 1 the player can change his/her strategy or tactics for the character battle according to whether the stage is home stage or an away stage, when the player is engaged in a character battle in each of the plurality of stages. Therefore, the gaming machine 1 allows for variation of the strategy or tactics (for example, letting the user employ a strategy giving a higher priority to seizing the stronghold in the case of the home stage) which the player may employ, by prompting the player to adapt the commands provided to the leader character to the stage property (whether the stage is the home stage or the away stage) according to whether the stage is home stage or an away stage. The gaming machine 1 can thus enhance the fun and excitement of the character battle game.

Additionally, with the gaming machines 1, since the battle condition is provided using the stronghold winner determination condition and the castle stronghold winner determination condition, i.e., the battle condition being composed of a plurality of conditions, the battle condition itself can have a variety. In this view, the gaming machine 1 can also enhance the fun and excitement of the character battle game.

Furthermore, the gaming machines 1, having a stronghold maintenance management table 80 as a stronghold maintenance management data, manages the country which has come to satisfy the stronghold winner determination condition or the castle stronghold winner determination condition, using the stronghold maintenance management table 80. Therefore, management can be guaranteed with regard to whether or not the stronghold winner determination condition or the castle stronghold winner determination condition is satisfied, or which country has satisfied the condition.

(Game Startup Process)

The game startup process of step 1 is executed in accordance with the flow chart shown in FIG. 9. FIG. 9 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of the game startup process.

Upon starting the game startup process, the process flow proceeds to step 11, where the main CPU 32 executes a message output process to instruct the image control circuit 71 to display predefined messages (request to drop in a coin, request to insert the ID card, and request to enter the password) on the main display 11. Subsequently, the processes of steps 12 and 13 are executed.

In order to start the game, the player drops in a coin from the coin slot 6, inserts the ID card 17 into the card slot 18, and inputs the password using the touch panel 11a or the like. Subsequently, a detection signal of the dropped coin is fed into the main CPU 32 from the coin sensor 16a, and card information stored in the ID card 17 is input from the card reader 18a. Upon completing all these inputs, the process flow proceeds to step 13 and the main CPU 32 instructs the communication control unit 21 to operate the communication processing unit 22 to transmit the read-out card information and the entered password to the shop server 2.

In the following step 14, the process waits until a response signal indicating the result of authentication that the player is a registered player is received from the center server group 5, and upon receiving the response signal, proceeds to step 15. In step 15, the process waits until opponent determination data indicating the result of the opponent determination by the gaming server 101 is received, and upon receiving the opponent determination data, proceeds to step 16. While waiting for reception of the opponent determination data, the gaming machine 1 displays an image indicating the waiting state on the main display 11.

Subsequently, in step 16, it is determined from the received opponent determination data whether or not four players as opponents have gathered, and the game startup process is completed if four players have gathered. If four people have not yet gathered, the process flow proceeds to step 17 where the process waits until a predefined waiting time passes, and upon passing of the waiting time, the process flow proceeds to step 18 where the game startup process is completed when the main CPU 32 adds one or more players (these players are provided by processing of the main CPU 32 and referred to as CPU players) to make up the shortage of the regular number (four).

(Arrangement of the Home-use Gaming Machine)

The home-use gaming machine 112, in the form of a user gaming machine (second gaming machine) according to the embodiment of the present invention, is a dedicated home-use gaming machine with an operating environment connectable to the Internet 4, which may be privately owned or borrowed by the player. The home-use gaming machine 112 has an arrangement substantially similar to the gaming machine 1 so that substantially similar operation as with the gaming machine 1 can be implemented, comprising a CPU 501, a ROM 502, a RAM 503, a communication processing unit 504, a communication control unit 505, a data storage unit 506, a display 507, and an input device 508 (see FIG. 13), and also comprising a gaming progress control device as with the gaming machine 1.

Note that the CPU 501 of the home-use gaming machine 112 corresponds to the main CPU 32 and the image processing CPU 71a of the gaming machine 1, the ROM 502 of the home-use gaming machine 112 corresponds to the ROM 34 and the program ROM 71c of the gaming machine 1, the RAM 503 of the home-use gaming machine 112 corresponds to the RAM 33 and the work RAM 71b of the gaming machine 1. In addition, the communication processing unit 504 and the communication control unit 505 of the home-use gaming machine 112 corresponds to the communication processing unit 22 and the communication control unit 21 of the gaming machine 1, respectively.

The data storage unit 506 of the home-use gaming machine 112 is a hard-disk, having application data stored therein. Various data (such as image data for the game) used for execution of the character battle game played on the home-use gaming machine 112 is included in the application data. The input device 508 is, for example, a game-use controller, a keyboard, or a mouse, which corresponds to the touch panel 11a of the gaming machine 1.

In the home-use gaming machine 112, transmission and reception of data to and from the center server group 5 via the Internet 4 is enabled by the communication control unit 505 which, following the instructions from the CPU 501, operates the communication processing unit 504. On this occasion, the data to be transmitted includes mode data indicating whether the character battle game on the home-use gaming machine 112 will be played under a charging mode which uses the gaming value information (payment information which enables the character battle game), or free-of-charge mode which does not use the gaming value information. Additionally, the home-use gaming machine 112 is configured such that, when the player follows the input operation screen displayed on the display 507 and performs a predefined input operation using the input device 508, the CPU 501 operates to cause the communication processing unit 504 to transmit an extension request data for extending the expiration date of the gaming data, whereby the extension request according to the present invention is executed.

(Operation of the Home-use Gaming Machine)

FIG. 14 is a flow chart illustrating the operation procedure of the gaming process from start to end of the game on the home-use gaming machine 112. As can be seen from the flow chart, the home-use gaming machine 112 operates similarly to the gaming machine 1. In other words, upon starting the gaming process in the home-use gaming machine 112, the CPU 501 executes, in step 51, a game startup process which is substantially similar to the above-mentioned game startup process of the gaming machine 1, including processes such as accepting input of the player's ID and password from the input device 508, or receiving the result of opponent determination by the gaming server 101 (see FIG. 9). In step 52, a force organization process is executed according to the player's operation. In this force organization process, organization of soldier characters is executed in the force belonging to the country for which the self-player of the home-use gaming machine 112 plays the role of the warlord. Upon completing the force organization process, the force characters to be operated by the self-player of the home-use gaming machine 112 is determined, and the self-player of the home-use gaming machine 112 is assumed to perform actions such as advance or battle by the force characters.

Next, the process flow proceeds to step 53, where CPU 501 executes a character battle process substantially similar to the character battle process of the gaming machine 1 (see FIG. 10). Upon completing the character battle process, it is determined in step 54 whether the victory or defeat determination in all of the stages described below has been executed, or the self-player of the home-use gaming machine 112 has input a game ending instruction. If either of the actions has been taken, the process flow proceeds to step 55, but otherwise returns to step 53 to execute the character battle process again. In step 55, a rank determination process for determining the rank of respective players who have participated in the character battle game, from the result of the character battle process executed until then. In the following step 56, a parameter modification process is executed to modify the parameters of respective characters based on the result of the character battle process.

Furthermore, in step 57, while the result of the character battle game such as a scoreline is displayed, a post-processing is executed which transmits data indicating the result of the character battle game to the database server 103 in order to update the gaming data in the database server 103, then the gaming process is completed.

(Operation of the Gaming Server)

Operation of the gaming server 101 will be described in association with the operation of the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, which have been described in detail above.

Upon completing the game startup process, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 start processing the actual game based on the application data stored in each of them. Subsequently, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 respectively transmits information with regard to the latest game status (i.e., information for game) to the gaming server 101 at a timing such as when the game status has changed or a predefined time period has passed. Then, based on the information for game received from the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, respectively, the gaming server 101 transmits the information for game to the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, in order to reflect the latest game status corresponding to the information for game to the other party.

The gaming server 101 repeats the transmission and reception of such information for game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 until the game is over. Therefore, respective players can play the character battle game in real time looking at shared images between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112.

In other words, with the gaming system 100, the gaming server 101 not only transmits and receives information for game to and from the gaming machine 1 installed in the amusement shop A, but also executes transmission and reception of the information for game to and from the home-use gaming machine 112 owned by the user, whereby a character battle game can be implemented between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, as described above.

In other words, with the gaming system 100, a battle between the player of the gaming machine 1 and the player of the home-use gaming machine 112 is enabled. Therefore, not only the player of the gaming machines 1 but also the player of the home-use gaming machine 112 can participate in the character battle game. In this way, with the gaming system 100, since the player of the home-use gaming machine 112 participates in the character battle game, the number of participants may increase compared with conventional gaming systems in which players of the home-use gaming machine 112 could not participate in the character battle game.

It is to be noted that the application data stored in the home-use gaming machine 112 may or may not be partially limited in terms of the functions provided, compared with that stored in the shop server 2 to be executed by the gaming machine 1. If there is a limitation, specifically for example, although the number of the soldier characters composing a single force can be increased up to 100 in the application data of the gaming machine 1, the number that can be increased in the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited to 90. Alternatively, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that items or magic of higher levels which can advantageously alter the situation of the battle cannot be used (or the number of usage is limited), whereas all of the types of item or magic can be used in the application data of the gaming machine 1. Furthermore, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that level of each parameter of the battle strength can only be increased to a maximum value of 9, whereas level of each parameter of the battle strength in the application data of the gaming machine 1 can be increased to a maximum value of 10.

Now, we consider a case wherein the application data of the gaming machine 1 is identical to that of the home-use gaming machine 112, and the player can play the game under the same condition either on the gaming machine 1 or the home-use gaming machine 112. In this case, it is likely that there will be more players who enjoy the game at home using the home-use gaming machine 112, because the player can enjoy the game at home using the home-use gaming machine 112 without managing to spend his time and effort to visit the amusement shop A where the gaming machine 1 is installed. In that case, the amusement shops A and B may be frustrated because, despite their investment to prepare dedicated gaming machines 1 having an operation environment which is suitable for the game, there are few players willing to play the game on the dedicated gaming machines 1.

In this view, if a limitation is applied to the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 as described above so that the functions of the game which can be played on the home-use gaming machine 112 is restricted in comparison with that of the game which can be played on the gaming machine 1, the situation of the battle becomes more favorable when playing the game on the gaming machine 1 than playing the game on the home-use gaming machine 112. Hence, many players who want to gain better results will choose to play the battle game on the gaming machine 1. As a result, players of the home-use gaming machine 112 are encouraged to visit the amusement shops A or B in order to play the game on the gaming machine 1. Note that the management side of the shop can have an advantage in that their income increases as more players of the home-use gaming machine 112 come to play the game on the gaming machine 1, because the player must drop in a coin to the gaming machine 1 every time he/she plays.

Note that, the above description shows only an aspect in which one player operates the gaming machine 1 and another player operates the home-use gaming machine 112, but an aspect in which players of a plurality of gaming machines 1 compete with each other, an aspect in which players of a plurality of home-use gaming machines 112 compete with each other, or an aspect in which players of a plurality of gaming machines 1 compete with players of a plurality of home-use gaming machines 112 may also be possible. Particularly, by adding one or two players of the gaming machines 1 to the above-mentioned aspects, the number of participants may be further increased.

(First Associated Gaming System)

Next, a first associated gaming system whose game content is different from that of the gaming system 100 will be described, referring to FIG. 19.

The game according to the first associated gaming system is a labyrinth battle game as shown in FIG. 19, wherein each of a plurality (e.g., four) of players controls a character 201 to move inside a labyrinth 202 along a route chosen by the player, battle with other characters of other players, compete for items possessed by the characters, collect all the items and defeat the ultimate target character. In this labyrinth battle game, a player who has been qualified as a displacement right holder can insert a displacement wall piece 204 into the labyrinth from a predefined direction a within a time limit 203, whereby the structure of the labyrinth changes as the game progresses, enhancing the interest of the game. Also, a holding score 205 held by respective characters (referred to as “life” hereinafter) increases or decreases according to the result of the battle or the progress status of the game, and the character with no life left becomes the loser.

In the first associated gaming system, as with the gaming system 100, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 start processing of the actual labyrinth battle game based on the application data stored in each machine, upon completing a predefined game startup process.

Subsequently, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 transmits, respectively, information for game to the gaming server 101 at a timing such as when the game status has changed or a predefined time period has passed. Based on the information for game received from the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, respectively, the gaming server 101 then transmits the information for game to the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, in order to reflect the latest game status corresponding to the information for game to the other party.

The gaming server 101 repeats the transmission and reception of such information for game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 until the labyrinth battle game is over. Therefore, the players can play the labyrinth battle game in real time looking at shared images between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112.

In other words, also with the first associated gaming system, the gaining server 101 not only transmits and receives the information for game to and from the gaming machine 1 installed in the amusement shop A but also executes transmission and reception of the information for game to and from the home-use gaming machine 112 owned by the user. In this manner, the labyrinth battle game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 is implemented as described above. Therefore, with this gaming system, likewise the gaming system 100, the number of participants may increase compared with conventional gaming systems in which players of the home-use gaming machine 112 could not participate in the labyrinth battle game.

It is to be noted that, also with the first associated gaming system, the application data stored in the home-use gaming machine 112 may or may not be partially limited in terms of the functions provided, compared with that stored in the shop server 2 to be executed by the gaming machine 1. If there is a limitation, specifically for example, although a critical strike (a strike which can provide the opponent with more damage than a normal offensive) during the battle occurs with a probability of 1/32, the probability in the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited to 1/64. Alternatively, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that the game can be played only in a part of the labyrinths, whereas the game can be played in all of the labyrinths prepared in the application data of the gaming machine 1. Furthermore, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that items or magic of higher levels which can advantageously alter the situation of the battle cannot be used (or the number of usage is limited), whereas all of the types of item or magic can be used in the application data of the gaming machine 1.

Hence, also with the first associated gaming system, many players who want to gain better results will choose to play the battle game on the gaming machine 1 and consequently, players of the home-use gaming machine 112 are encouraged to visit the amusement shops A or B in order to play the game on the gaming machine 1.

(Second Associated Gaming System)

Next, a second associated gaming system whose game content is different from that of the gaming system 100 and that of the first associated gaming system will be described, referring to FIG. 20.

The game according to the second associated gaming system is a satanic wizard battle game as shown in FIG. 20, wherein a plurality (e.g., four) of players, each using his/her card (or a virtual card 301 on the display), summon and control their satanic wizard characters 302 to battle with each other, and compete for the number of opponent satanic wizard characters 303 defeated or the number of captured magical crystals freckled over the battle map.

Also in the second associated gaming system, as with the above-mentioned gaming system 100, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 start processing of the actual satanic wizard battle game based on the application data stored in each machine, upon completing a predefined game startup process.

Subsequently, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 transmits, respectively, information for game to the gaming server 101 at a timing such as when the game status has changed or a predefined time period has passed. Based on the information for game received from the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, respectively, the gaming server 101 then transmits the information for game to the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, in order to reflect the latest game status corresponding to the information for game to the other party.

The gaming server 101 repeats the transmission and reception of such information for game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 until the satanic wizard battle game is over. Therefore, the players can play the satanic wizard battle game in real time looking at shared images between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112.

In other words, also with the second associated gaming system, the gaming server 101 not only transmits and receives the information for game to and from the gaming machine 1 installed in the amusement shop A but also executes transmission and reception of the information for game to and from the home-use gaming machine 112 owned by the user. In this manner, the satanic wizard battle game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 is implemented as described above. Therefore, with this gaming system, likewise the gaming system 100, the number of participants may increase compared with conventional gaming systems in which players of the home-use gaming machine 112 could not participate in the satanic wizard battle game.

Here, also with the second associated gaming system, the application data stored in the home-use gaming machine 112 is partially limited in terms the functions provided, compared with that stored in the shop server 2 to be executed by the gaming machine 1. Specifically, for example, if the battle strength parameter of the satanic wizard summoned by the player is assumed to be 100 in the application data of the gaming machine 1, the battle strength parameter in the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited to 90. Alternatively, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that the game can be played only in a part of the battle maps, whereas the game can be played in all of the battle maps prepared in the application data of the gaming machine 1. Furthermore, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that items or magic of higher levels which can alter the situation of the battle cannot be used (or the number of usage is limited), whereas all of the types of item or magic can be used in the application data of the gaming machine 1.

Hence, also with the second associated gaming system, many players who want to gain better results will choose to play the battle game on the gaming machine 1 and consequently, players of the home-use gaming machine 112 are encouraged to visit the amusement shops A or B in order to play the game on the gaming machine 1.

(Third Associated Gaming System)

Next, a third associated gaming system whose game content is different from those of the gaming system 100, and the first and second associated gaming systems will be described, referring to FIG. 21.

The game according to the third associated gaming system is an action role playing game as shown in FIG. 21, wherein each of a plurality (e.g., four) of players, raising the level of his/her main character 401 through battles with opponent characters 402, controls his/her main character 401 to have a series of adventures according to a prepared scenario and solve the puzzles which are hidden in each scenario.

Also in the third associated gaming system, as with the above-mentioned gaming system 100, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 start processing of the actual game based on the application data stored in each machine, upon completing a predefined game startup process.

Subsequently, the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 transmits, respectively, information for game to the gaming server 101 at a timing such as when the game status has changed or a predefined time period has passed. Based on the information for game received from the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, respectively, the gaming server 101 then transmits the information for game to the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112, in order to reflect the latest game status corresponding to the information for game to the other party.

The gaming server 101 repeats the transmission and reception of such information for game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 until the game is over. Therefore, the players can play the game in real time looking at shared images between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112.

In other words, also with the third associated gaming system, the gaming server 101 not only transmits and receives the information for game to and from the gaming machine 1 installed in the amusement shop A but also executes transmission and reception of the information for game to and from the home-use gaming machine 112 owned by the user. In this manner, the game between the gaming machine 1 and the home-use gaming machine 112 is implemented as described above. Therefore, with this gaming system, likewise the gaming system 100, the number of participants may increase compared with conventional gaming systems in which players of the home-use gaming machine 112 could not participate in the game.

It is to be noted that, also with the third associated gaming system, the application data stored in the home-use gaming machine 112 is partially limited in terms of the functions provided, compared with that stored in the shop server 2 to be executed by the gaming machine 1 (the functions may not be limited, however). Specifically, for example, if the degree of increasing each battle strength parameter when raising the level of the character is assumed to be 10 in the application data of the gaming machine 1, the degree of increasing each battle strength parameter in the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited to 9. Alternatively, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that rare items are not available, whereas the character can obtain all the items including rare items in the application data of the gaming machine 1. Furthermore, for example, the application data of the home-use gaming machine 112 is limited such that selectable professions or costumes of the character are limited, whereas the player can arrange any type of professions or costumes for the character in the application data of the gaming machine 1.

Hence, also with the third associated gaming system, many players who want to gain better results or create characters which match their taste will choose to play the battle game on the gaming machine 1 and consequently, players of the home-use gaming machine 112 are encouraged to visit the amusement shops A or B in order to play the game on the gaming machine 1

(Embodiment Relating to Extending the Expiration Date of the Gaming Data)

Subsequently, an embodiment relating to extending the expiration date of the gaming data according to the present invention will be described. As stated above, an expiration date is set in the gaining data, which will be deleted from the data storage unit 406 when the machine date passes the expiration date. The player who played the character battle game using the gaming data can no longer play the character battle game thereafter. However, wit the gaming system 1, the expiration date can be extended by an expiration date extension process described below, whereby the character battle game can be played even if the machine date passes the expiration date before extension.

The expiration date extension process is executed in accordance with the flow chart shown in FIG. 22 by the CPU 401 (processor) in the database server 103 (gaming management server) operating according to the program stored in the ROM 402. The expiration date extension process is executed by the CPU 401, which interrupts the main process (not shown) periodically with a predefined interval (e.g., 1 ms).

Upon starting the expiration date extension process, the process flow proceeds to step 121, where the CPU 401 temporarily saves the currently executing program stored in a storage area (register) within the memory, then the process flow proceeds to step 122. In step 122, the CPU 401 extracts the gaining data to be extended. In this case, the CPU 401 looks up the expiration date of each of the gaming data stored in the data storage unit 406 and determines a date which is one week before the expiration date, then extracts the gaming data as the target of extension if the determined date matches the machine date. The one-week prior to the expiration date in this case corresponds to the notification period according to the present invention for notifying the passing of the expiration date (of course, the one-week precedence is an example of the notification period, which may be shorter than a week, or may be longer provided that it does not exceed the expiration date).

Subsequently, the process flow proceeds to step 123, where it is determined whether or not there exist any gaming data extracted in step 122. If there exist gaming data extracted, the process flow proceeds to step 124, and otherwise, to step 132. Since the gaming data extracted in step 123 indicates that the expiration date will not be updated within the notification period (one week prior to the expiration date, in this embodiment), the CPU 401 operates as the notification control device to control transmission of expiration notification data, by execution of subsequent step 128 when such gaming data are extracted.

Then, in step 124, it is determined, based on the player ID, whether or not the extracted gaming data are for the home-use gaming machine 112 (i.e., gaming data in accordance with the fact that the player played the character battle game on the home-use gaming machine 112). If the extracted gaming data are that of the home-use gaming machine 112, the process flow proceeds to step 127, and otherwise, to step 125. Step 125 is entered in the case when the player plays the character battle game on the gaming machine 1. In this case, the CPU 401 determines whether or not the character battle game is being played before the expiration date. If the game is being played before the expiration date, the process flow proceeds step 126 and sets a normal extension period (three months in this embodiment), as the extension period for extending the expiration date, then proceeds to step 131, but otherwise, proceeds to step 132.

In addition, in step 127, the CPU 401 operates as the update control device and determines, based on the mode data, whether or not the character battle game is being executed in the charging mode. If the character battle game is being executed in the charging mode, the process flow proceeds to step 128, but otherwise to step 132. Thus the CPU 401 executes a control to allow updating of the expiration date if the character battle game is being executed in the charging mode, but prohibit updating of the expiration date if the game is not being executed in the charging mode (i.e., being executed in the free-of-charge mode).

Next, in step 128, the CPU 401 instructs the communication control unit 405 to operate the communication processing unit 404 to transmit, to the home-use gaming machine 112, expiration notification data for notifying that the expiration date may be passed before long. Upon receiving the expiration notification data, the home-use gaming machine 112 displays, for example, a predefined message (e.g., expiration date will come in a week from now) on the display 507.

Next, in step 129, the CPU 401 determines whether or not extension request data has been received from the home-use gaming machine 112. If extension request data has received, the process flow proceeds to step 130, but otherwise to step 132. Step 130 is entered in the case when the player played the character battle game in charging mode on the home-use gaming machine 112, and also operated the home-use gaming machine 112 to transmit the extension request data to the database server 103.

In other words, with the gaming system 100 in the present embodiment, the extension condition for updating the expiration date by the home-use gaming machine 112 is that the character battle game must be played in charging mode and extension request data must be transmitted to the database server 103. When the extension condition is satisfied, the CPU 401 operates as the setting processing device and executes setting process to provide a period for extending the expiration date. However, in step 130, when the character battle game is played using the home-use gaming machine 112, the CPU 401 provides a shorter extension period (one month for the present embodiment) than the above-mentioned normal extension period so that the effective period becomes shorter than that when using the gaming machine 1.

Then the process flow proceeds to step 131 following step 126 or step 130, where the CPU 401 operates as the extension processing device, and executes an updating process to update the expiration date using the normal extension period or the shortened extension period provided in step 126 or step 130. In this case, for example, the expiration date before updating is Jun. 10, 2005, which will be extended by three months until Sep. 10, 2005 if the player plays the character battle game on the gaming machine 1 before the expiration date. In the case where the expiration date before updating is also Jun. 10, 2005 and the player is playing the character battle game on the home-use gaming machine 112, the expiration date is extended until Jul. 10, 2005 if the character battle game is executed in charging mode and also the extension request data is transmitted within a period from Jun. 3, 2005 to Jun. 10, 2005. However, if the character battle game is executed in the free-of-charge mode and the extension request data was not transmitted within a period from Jun. 3, 2005 to Jun. 10, 2005, the expiration date will not be extended.

As stated above, with the gaming system 100 according to the embodiment of the present invention, if the extension condition such that extension request data is transmitted from the home-use gaming machine 112 is satisfied, the database server 103 provides a shortened extension period of the expiration date, and updates the expiration date of the gaming data using the shortened extension period of the expiration date which is provided. Therefore, not only the players who are playing the character battle game on the gaming machine 1, but also players who are playing the character battle game on the home-use gaming machine 112 can update the expiration date if he/she satisfies extension condition by, for example, transmitting extension request data. Thus, with the gaming system 100, the expiration date can be extended under such circumstances that the player cannot visit the game center or the like because of its being located too far. It is therefore advantageous for a player who wants to keep playing the character battle game in that extension of the expiration date can be done regardless of location, whereby providing the player with an incentive to continuously play the character battle game.

However, since the effective period is made shorter when the player is playing the character battle game using the home-use gaming machine 112 than that when playing the character battle game on the gaming machine 1, extension of the expiration date without using the gaming machine 1 is made shorter, whereby the player who has a strong desire to continuously play the character battle game is encouraged to play the character battle game on the gaining machine 1.

In addition, since updating of the expiration date via the home-use gaming machine 112 is allowed only when the character battle game is played in charging mode, the expiration date can not be updated if the character battle game is played in free-of-charge mode. This prevents players who do not pay money from playing the character battle game continuously for a long time, whereby obstructions to running the game center and the like or the gaming system 100 can be eliminated.

In addition, with the gaming system 1, if the expiration date is not yet extended after the notification period passed, players who cannot visit the game center are informed of the possible expiration so that they pay attention to the passing of the expiration date, since the home-use gaming machine 112 is controlled by the database server 103 to notify the passing of the expiration date, whereby passing of the expiration date due to carelessness or the like can be prevented.

The present invention is not limited to the above-mentioned embodiment, and various modifications are possible. For example, although a home-use gaming machine has been described as an example of a user gaming machine, a cellular phone 111 shown in FIG. 1, a personal computer, a portable game terminal, a portable information terminal or the like may also be used as long as it can execute application data of the game and transmission/reception of the information for game to and from the gaming server 101. In order to allow extension of the expiration date via a cellular phone 111, it suffices to provide the cellular phone 111 with functions of transmitting mode data and extension request data.

The number of commercial gaming machines composing the shop gaming system is not limited to eight but may be suitably increased or decreased provided that the shop gaming system comprises at least a single gaming machine. In addition, the shop gaming system may be a system formed by having at least a single commercial gaming machine and a single shop server integrated therein. Furthermore, the shop gaming system may be a single commercial gaming machine having an equivalent function as the shop server. However, when a plurality of gaming machines are communicably connected to the gaming server via the shop server, it is preferable that network traffic can be reduced as well as time lag of transmission and reception between the gaming machines being suppressed, compared with the case wherein individual gaming machines transmit and receive information for game directly to and from the gaming server.

In addition, although the gaming machine 1 is provided with a main display 11 and a sub-display 12, the main display 11 and the sub-display 12 may be separated.

Although, in the above-mentioned embodiment, transmission of the extension request data via the home-use gaming machine 112 is executed by the player's predefined input operation using the input device 508 in accordance with the input operation screen displayed on the display 507, the data may be transmitted in another manner such as, for example, sending an e-mail from the database server 103 to the home-use gaming machine 112 and regarding the player s transmission of a reply mail to the e-mail as an equivalence of transmitting an extension request data, and the database server 103 may be configured to execute step 130 when data transmission from/to home-use gaming machine 112 is executed. Furthermore, the player's accessing a site opened in the database server 103 and performing a predefined input operation may be regarded as an equivalence to transmission of the extension request data.

Alternatively, the database server 103 may be configured to execute step 130 merely when there is an access from the home-use gaming machine 112 without depending on an active operation by the player such as transmission of the extension request data. In this manner, the expiration date is extended not only when the player sends the extension request data or an e-mail in consideration of extending the expiration date, but also when the database server 103 is accessed from the home-use gaming machine 112 even without consideration of extending the expiration date, whereby extension of the expiration date is executed automatically.

Furthermore, the database server 103 is supposed to manage the gaming data in a segmented manner according to respective attributes, so that when extending the expiration date via the home-use gaming machine 112, not all of the gaming data which are the target of extension but a part of which (e.g., data with regard to characters which can be shared by respective games such as avatars) may be extended.

As described in detail above, it becomes possible, according to the present invention, to extend the expiration date in a gaming system comprising a commercial gaming machine and a gaming management server, and in the gaming management server composing the gaming system, without having to play a game on an arcade gaming machine.

The present invention provides a gaming system comprising a first gaming machine for executing a game with gaming data, a second gaming machine for executing the game with the gaming data, and a gaming management server connected to the first gaming machine and the second gaming machine via a network. The gaming management server includes: management means for managing the gaming data for each player; setting processing means for executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data managed by the management means when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine; and update processing means for updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process by the setting processing means.

In the gaming system, the gaming management server executes a setting process to extend the expiration date of the gaming data when the second gaming machine (user gaming machine) accesses the gaming management server or when data is transmitted from the second gaming machine. Then, after the setting process, the gaming management server executes an update process to update the expiration date of the gaming data. Thus, the expiration date of the gaming data is extended when the gaming management server is accessed, or data transmission such as a request for extension or transmission of an electronic mail is executed by the second gaming machine.

In addition, the gaming management server may further include a notification control means for transmitting expiration notification data to the second gaming machine in order to notify a user that the game is executed with the gaming data whose expiration date has not been updated if the expiration date has not been updated within a notification period for notifying that the expiration date is about to expire.

In this manner, the second gaming machine is configured to execute the expiration notification when the expiration date has not been extended within the notification period.

Furthermore, the setting processing means may execute the extending process so that the expiration date after extended by an operation with the second gaming machine becomes shorter than the expiration date after extended by an operation with the first gaming machine

In this manner, although the expiration date may be extended, when the game is being played using a second gaming machine, a period until the expiration date becomes shorter than that when being played using a first gaming machine (commercial gaming machine).

In addition, the gaming management server may further include update control means for updating the expiration date when the game is played with the second gaming machine in a charging mode in which the game is charged, and for keeping the expiration date unchanged when the game is not played in the charging mode.

In this case, even if the expiration date is to be extended, when the game is being played using the second gaming machine, the expiration date is extended only while being played in the charging mode.

Furthermore, the present invention provides a gaming management server connected to a first gaming machine (commercial gaming machine) and a second gaming machine (user gaming machine), both for executing a game with gaming data, via a network, The gaming management server comprises: management means for managing the gaming data for each player; setting processing means for executing an extending process to extend an expiration date of the gaming data managed by the management means when the gaming management server is accessed by the second gaming machine or when the gaming management server receives extension request data from the second gaming machine; and update processing means for updating the expiration date of the gaming data processed with the extending process by the setting processing means.