Title:
Video game controller with expansion panel
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A video game controller is provided to be used with a video gaming system. The controller may include at least one body segment with control inputs, and an expansion panel with additional control inputs. The controller may have an open position and a closed position, with the expansion panel accessible only when the controller is in the open position. Moving the controller between open and closed positions may switch video game execution between a play mode and a configuration mode. In the configuration mode, the user may set programming values or change the configuration of the video game being played. Moving the controller between open and closed positions may instead or in addition provide the user more resources to play the game. The user's character may get additional powers or the user may be provided a clue or hint to pursue game play.



Inventors:
Pohlman, Kip (Hickory, NC, US)
Andrews, Michael (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Barthold, Mark (Torrance, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/593143
Publication Date:
08/02/2007
Filing Date:
11/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
JONES, MARCUS D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLISCH HARTWELL, P.C. (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A remote game device to be used with a game processor executing video game software comprising: a first body segment including a first body control input; and a panel slidably connected to and retained by the first body segment including an expansion panel control input; the remote game device configured to allow manual movement of the panel relative to the body between: a first position where the panel control input is covered by the first body segment and inaccessible to a user; and a second position where the panel control input is uncovered and accessible to the user.

2. The remote game device of claim 1 further comprising a second body segment where the panel is slidably connected to and retained by the second body segment in addition to the first body segment.

3. The remote game device of claim 2 wherein in the first closed position panel control input is covered by one or both of the first body segment and the second body segment.

4. The remote game device of claim 1 wherein in response to moving the remote game device to the first position, game execution switches to a first mode, and in response to moving the remote game device to the second position, game execution switches to a second mode.

5. The remote game device of claim 1 wherein with the remote game device in the second position, game execution switches to a second mode in response to user input at the panel control inputs.

6. The remote game device of claim 4 wherein the first mode of game execution is a game play mode and the second mode of game execution is a configuration mode.

7. The remote game device of claim 4 wherein the second mode of game execution provides additional game play resources to the user or game avatar than the resources available to the user or game avatar in the first mode of game execution.

8. The remote game device of claim 1 wherein the remote device responds to signals transmitted from a game assembly that includes a game processor.

9. A video game system comprising: a remote game device including: a body including at least one body control input; and a sliding panel, connected to and retained by the body, and including at least one expansion panel control input; a game assembly including: a manually removable memory element with game commands and audiovisual content; a display including a speaker; a game processor including a microprocessor and means to access the memory element, the game processor configured to: respond to remote game device control inputs; and execute game commands stored on the memory element.

10. The video game system of claim 9 wherein the sliding panel slidably moves relative to the body between a first position with the panel control input uncovered and a second position with the panel control input covered by the body.

11. The video game system of claim 10 wherein the game is executed in a first mode in response to moving the remote game device to the first position and the game is executed in a second mode in response to moving the remote game device to the second position.

12. The video game system of claim 10 wherein the game is executed in a second mode in response to user input at the panel control inputs with the remote game device in the first position.

13. The video game system of claim 10 wherein the body includes a first segment and a second segment, the first segment slidably connected to a first end of the panel and the second segment slidably connected to a second end of the panel and where in the second position, both the first body segment and the second body segment cover the panel control inputs and the first and second body segments are proximate to each other.

14. The remote game device of claim 9 wherein the remote device responds to command signals transmitted from the game assembly.

15. A method of video game play using a remote game device with a sliding panel including expansion panel control inputs and with open and closed positions, the method comprising: providing a portable memory device including game instructions and audiovisual content; accessing and executing the game instructions and audiovisual content stored on the memory device at a game processor; in response to moving the remote game device to a closed position, executing the game instructions on the game processor in a first mode of game execution; in response to moving the remote game device to an open position and accessing the panel control inputs, executing the game instructions on the game processor in a second mode of game execution.

16. The method of video game play of claim 15 wherein in the first mode of game execution the game is played and in the second mode of game execution game parameters are configured.

17. The method of video game play of claim 15 wherein execution of game instructions in the second mode provides to at least one player additional resources for game play.

18. The method of video game play of claim 15 wherein execution of game instructions in the second mode provides a game avatar additional resources for game play.

19. The method of video game play of claim 15 wherein accessing panel control inputs includes user input to the game processor at panel control inputs.

20. The method of video game play of claim 15 further comprising transmitting from the game processor an electronic signal; converting the transmitted electronic signal to a sonic signal at a display; receiving the sonic signal at the remote game device; selecting data related to game play from a memory on the remote game device in response to the received sonic signal; and displaying the selected data on the remote game device.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/733,376, filed Nov. 3, 2005, and entitled “Video Game Controller with Expansion Panel,” and U.S. Utility application Ser. No. 11/383,124 filed on May 12, 2006 and entitled “Remote Game Device for DVD Gaming Systems,” incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

The present disclosure relates generally to video game controllers to be used with video game systems, and more specifically to controllers for use with user-reprogrammable video games that may facilitate rapid switching between a play mode and a programming mode during use.

Examples of user-reprogrammable video games include “Dark Basic” and “FPSCreator” by GameCreators Ltd. Examples of video game controllers are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,518,164; 5,375,831; 5,667,220; 5,781,180; 5,820,462; 5,919,092; 6,327,459; 6,475,083; 6,512,511; 6,524,188; 6,752,719; 6,773,349; 6,786,826 6,811,491 6,966,837, U.S. Patent Publication Nos. 2003/0220142; 2004/0224763; 2004/0229695; 2005/0187024; 2005/0288098 and G.B. Patent Application GB 2,310,481. Examples of user-reprogrammable video games are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,306,036; and 6,582,308. The complete disclosures of the above patents and applications are herein incorporated by reference for all purposes.

SUMMARY

A video game controller is provided for use with a video game system. The game system may include a display and a game processor configured to execute game software. The controller may include a main body having at least one body segment with control inputs and an expansion panel with additional control inputs. The controller may move between open and closed positions. In the open position, the expansion panel may be visible with controls on the panel available to the user. In the closed position, the panel may be obscured or covered by the body segment with panel control inputs not available to the user.

With the video game controller in a first closed position during game play, the user may control game flow and decision making using body control inputs. The user may manipulate and move characters or avatars in the game environment and/or select options at decision points presented during game play. Body control inputs may include conventional joystick, push-button, slider and/or knobs.

Moving the game controller to a second open position may provide access to additional modes of game execution. The game may switch between configuration mode and game play mode in response to accessing the panel. Configuration modes made available by extending the panel may allow the player to reconfigure a game character or reconfigure how the game is played.

Alternatively, moving the panel to the open position may cause the game to switch to a second of two game play modes. Multiple game play modes associated with opening and closing the controller may provide alternate methods of game play during game execution. Extending the panel may provide additional tools for use by the game avatar, such as defensive weapons or skills that can only be utilized when the expansion panel is extended.

Moving the controller to a closed position may shift game execution or game play back to a first mode. Closing the controller may also serve as an access control to ensure that modifications are not accidentally made to the game environment.

In moving the controller to a closed position, the expansion panel may slide and retract into controller body segments. The expansion panel may slide and retract into the controller body, or it may slide and retract behind one or more body segments.

The expansion panel may have a video screen and tactile and/or speaker outputs and may respond to signals from the game processor. The expansion panel video screen may display information originating at the game processor. The controller screen may show hints to answering a game question that one or more players have access to without other players seeing the hints.

The advantages of the present invention will be understood more readily after a consideration of the drawings and the detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a video game system in use including a game processor, a display, a first video game controller shown in an extended position and a second video game controller shown in a retracted position.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an exemplary video game controller in a retracted position showing body control inputs.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the video game controller of FIG. 2 in an extended position showing the sliding expansion panel, expansion panel control inputs and body control inputs.

FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of an exemplary video game controller showing a first body segment, a second body segment, a sliding expansion panel and body and expansion panel control inputs.

FIG. 5 is a front elevation view of the video game controller of FIG. 4, showing the controller in a retracted position, with the sliding expansion panel retracted into the first body segment as indicated by dotted lines, and the extended position of the first body segment indicated by dotted lines.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of a video game controller in a retracted position, showing the expansion panel retracted into the first and second segments as indicated by dotted lines, and extended positions of the first and second body segments indicated by dotted lines.

FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of an exemplary video game controller, with a first body segment and an expansion panel in an extended position.

FIG. 8 is a front elevation view of the video game controller of FIG. 7, with the expansion panel shown retracted inside the first body segment with retracted portions indicated by dotted lines.

FIG. 9 is a bottom elevation view of the video game controller of FIG. 7, with the sliding expansion panel shown retracted inside the first body segment with retracted portions indicated by dotted lines.

FIG. 10 is a bottom elevation view of another example of the video game controller of FIG. 7, with the sliding expansion panel shown in a retracted position on the back of and external to the first body segment.

FIG. 11 is a bottom elevation view of another example of a video game controller, similar to the controller shown in FIG. 4, with the sliding expansion panel shown in a retracted position on the back of and external to both the first body segment and the second body segment.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a video game system in use showing a game processor, a display including a speaker and a video game controller responding to a signal from the display speaker with a text message on a sliding panel display.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a game system is shown generally at 10, including game processor 12, removable media 13, a video panel display or television 14, a first video game controller 16 held by a user 18 and a second video game controller 16′ held by a user 18′. Video game controller 16 is shown in a retracted or closed configuration. Video game controller 16′ is shown in an extended or open configuration. Controller 16 is shown connected to processor 12 by a wireless connection and controller 16′ is shown connected to processor 12 by a cable. Controller 16 or 16′ may be used alone with no additional controllers.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an exemplary video game controller 16 in a retracted position showing a first body segment 20, a second body segment 22 and body control inputs 24.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of video game controller 16 of FIG. 2 in an open or extended position. Video game controller 16 is shown with first body or housing segment 20 and second body or housing segment 22. An expansion panel 26 is shown between first body segment 20 and second body segment 22. First body segment 20 may have one or more body control inputs 24 including thumb control 24A and button 24B. Expansion panel 26 may have one or more expansion panel control inputs 28 including button 28A and slider 28B.

Body control input 24 and expansion panel control input 28 may be a joystick, a toggle, a button, or any of a number of input devices used in video controllers. Body control input 24 and expansion panel control input 28 may each comprise a plurality of individual control inputs.

Body segments 20 and 22 and expansion panel 26 may be connected and configured to move between open and closed positions by translating and sliding without substantial rotation. First and second body segments may be proximate and adjacent in the closed position, obscuring the expansion panel with expansion panel controls not accessible.

User 18 may move controller 16 to the open or expanded position by grasping the first and second body segments and pulling them apart to a fully extended position. The sliding mechanism may comprise openings in the body segments sized to admit the expansion panel. The ends of expansion panel 26 may be positioned in the body segment openings and may include stops (not shown) to prevent detachment of the body segments from the panel. The stops may define the extended position of controller 16. Controller 16 may be included with additional components configured to maintain alignment of the body segments and expansion panel.

Controller 16 may be moved to a closed position by the user grasping the body segments and pushing them together. Expansion panel 26 may move through the body segment openings until the body segments are adjacent and proximate. In the extended position, all input controls of expansion panel 26 may be uncovered and available to the user. In the retracted position, the body segment input controls 24 may be available to the user and expansion panel control inputs 28 may be covered and not available to the user.

Controller components may be configured so pushing and pulling is not required. Components may be spring biased so that opening and/or closing is initiated by a button or a trigger.

Game processor 12 may be either a dedicated gaming system, such as gaming systems known by the proprietary names PlayStation™ or Xbox™, or may be a computer, a DVD player, or other microprocessor based component configured to execute game software and respond to video game controller 16. Game system 10 may use localized gaming hardware and/or removable media 13 as shown, or may be implemented through hardware distributed at remote locations. System 10 may be interconnected by the Internet or other communication system, and accessed by multiple players remotely located from each other.

Removable media 13 may be a CD disk, a DVD disk, a game cartridge or other media that stores digital commands and audio visual content and can be accessed and executed by game processor 12.

FIGS. 4-11 show examples of component configurations for controller 16 in open and closed positions. For clarity and ease of understanding, a single body control input and a single expansion panel control input are shown in the figures. This is an example for illustration and should not be construed as a limitation.

FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of an exemplary video game controller 16 similar to controllers in FIG. 1. Video game controller 16 is shown in an extended or open position, showing first body segment 20, second body segment 22, expansion panel 26, body control inputs 24 and expansion panel control inputs 28.

FIG. 5 is a front elevation view of an exemplary configuration of the video game controller 16 of FIG. 4 shown in a retracted position. For clarity, similar numbering is used here and in figures below as used in previous figures. Expansion panel 26 is shown by dashed lines. In the retracted position, expansion panel 26 is shown enclosed by first body segment 20. The open position of first body segment 20 is shown by dashed lines also. Expansion panel 26 and expansion panel control input 28 may be covered and obscured from view in the closed position.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of an exemplary configuration of the video game controller 16 of FIG. 4, shown in a closed position. Retracted expansion panel 26 is shown enclosed by both first body segment 20 and second body segment 22 with expansion panel 26 and expansion panel control input 28 covered. Dashed lines show the location of expansion panel 26 stored in the segments. Dashed lines also show the position of first body segment 20 and second body segment 22 in the extended configuration.

FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of another exemplary configuration of video game controller 16 in an open position. Controller 16 is shown with a first body segment 20 including control input 24 and expansion panel 26.

FIG. 8 is a front elevation view of video game controller 16 of FIG. 7 shown in a closed position. Dotted lines again show the position of expansion panel 26 in its retracted position. Expansion panel 26 is substantially enclosed by first body segment 20 with expansion panel 26 and expansion panel control input 28 covered. In the retracted position, a portion of expansion panel 26 may remain exposed to provide a grip to pull expansion panel 26 from first body segment 20. Alternatively, expansion panel 26 in the retracted or closed position may be fully enclosed by first body segment 20.

FIG. 9 is a bottom elevation view of video game controller 16 of FIGS. 7 and 8 shown with expansion panel 26 in the closed position. Again, dotted lines are used to indicate the hidden portions of expansion panel 26 enclosed by primary section 20.

Expansion panel 26 in the closed or retracted position may be external to and on the back or obverse side of first body segment 20, rather than internal to segment 20. FIG. 10 is a bottom elevation view of video game controller 16 of FIG. 7 showing expansion panel 26 in the retracted position on the back of primary section 20. In the retracted position, expansion panel control input 28 and expansion panel 26 may be substantially obscured from the view of the user during game play similar to previously described configurations.

FIG. 11 is a bottom elevation view of controller 16 of FIG. 4 showing a first body segment 20, second body segment 22 and expansion panel 26. In the retracted position, expansion panel 26 may be external to and on the back or obverse side of first body segment 20 and second body segment 22. In this closed position, expansion panel 26 and expansion panel control input 28 may be substantially obscured from the view of the user during game play similar to previously described configurations.

Alternatively, expansion panel 26 in the retracted position may be in a recess on the back of both of the sections. Alternatively, expansion panel 26 in the retracted position may be in a recess on the back of only one of two body segments or on the back of one of only one body segment. Expansion panel 26 may be partially or completely obscured from the view of the user with controller 16 closed.

Video game controller 16 may be connected to game processor 12 by a wire or fiber optic cable. Video game controller 16 may be wireless and may transmit signals and/or receive signals from other components of gaming system 10 using infrared, acoustic or radio signals or other means. Expansion panel 26 may have functionality for communicating with game processor 12 separate from the communication system of the first body segment 20 and/or second body segment 22 of video game controller 16.

Controller 16 may include a front side and a back or obverse side. A front side of controller 16 may include control inputs visible to user 18 during game play. The back side may have additional controls but may not be visible to user 18 during game play.

Expansion panel 26 may include a video screen and not have any control inputs. Expansion panel 26 may include a video screen and expansion panel control inputs 28. First body segment 20 or second body segment 22 may integrate a video screen in place of or together with control inputs 24.

Expansion panel 26 may be operably connected to first body segment 20. Expansion panel 26 may be operably connected to second body segment 22. Expansion panel 26 may be connected to first body segment 20 and/or second body segment 22 by slide contacts or a ribbon cable. Alternatively, expansion panel 26 may not have any operable connection to other segments, only the physical slide connection.

The configurations shown are examples. Placement, type and number of control inputs and segment shapes can vary from those shown and still fall within the scope of this disclosure.

Operation

The video game may have first and second modes of game execution. In the first mode, the game may be configured and in the second mode the game may be played. Game execution may instead or in addition include first and second modes of game play. Moving controller 16 to an extended or open position may change the mode of the game execution and may provide a user interface at display 14 to modify game play or to modify the game environment. Retracting expansion panel 26 may return the game to a previous point of game play.

Video game controller 16 may be configured to work with specific game software to enhance game play. Video game controller 16 may work with a game programmed to allow the player to design and modify the game environment and avatars used in game play. Moving controller 16 between retracted and extended positions may switch the game from a first game play mode to a second configuration mode for defining the game environment, defining avatar characteristics or other game functions.

Moving controller 16 between retracted and extended positions may instead or in addition switch from a first game play mode to a second game play mode to provide the user with additional resources in game play. The user in this second mode may get additional information or resources or an avatar controlled by the user may get additional powers or additional game play resources. Other players may not be provided with additional resources to pursue game play while controller 16 is extended.

Retracting expansion panel 26 may return the game to the first game play mode. Expansion panel control input 28 may be obscured and not available in this first game play mode. Only body control inputs 24 may be used for game play in the closed, retracted position.

A configuration mode may be separate and distinct from game play mode and may provide the user a system administration level of privileges for the game. Configuration mode may allow modification to how the game is played. Functions that may be modified in configuration mode include number of players, level of game difficulty, rules, character or avatar skills or appearance.

For example, in configuration mode a player may select body parts, skill sets and/or tools for an avatar. A player may select a game theme, backgrounds, environments and other game factors. The avatar and/or environments selected in configuration mode may be applied to the game play mode.

Configuration mode may be separate from game play mode. Game play mode may be a competition with scores and may have time limits in which to score. Game play may be suspended or frozen in order to shift to a configuration mode. Game play may resume at the point of suspension on resuming game play mode from configuration mode.

Game execution may instead or in addition have multiple game play modes. As an example of switching between game play modes, in a Superman game, while expansion panel 26 is retracted and game play is in a first mode, only the Clark Kent guise may be available for game play. The player may access the Superman role by extending expansion panel 26.

Extending expansion panel 26 may move game play to a second mode causing Clark Kent to run to a phone booth and change clothes. On Superman emerging from the phone booth, the player may be able to access Superman's powers such as flying and strength with expansion panel control inputs 28. On retracting the panel, expansion panel control inputs 28 may be substantially or completely covered and the game may return to the first mode. Superman may return to the guise of Clark Kent in the game. The game may limit the number of times Superman mode may be used in a game so the player must decide when to use it.

Controller 16 may respond to signals and commands from game processor 12 or from other controllers in use during game play or configuration. Controller 16 may respond to infrared, local area network or acoustic signals from game processor 14.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of an exemplary game system at 50 in use showing a game assembly 58 including game processor 12, removable media 13, television or display 14 including a speaker 52. Remote game device 16 shown may include a microphone 56 and expansion panel 26 with a display 54. Game processor 12 may transmit an acoustic signal by generating an electronic signal at processor 12 that is converted at speaker 52 to acoustic signal S1.

Controller 16 may receive acoustic signal S1 from game assembly 58 at microphone 56. Controller 16 may respond to the received signal by modifying the configuration of controller 16, displaying data from memory or displaying data received in the signal. Changing configuration of controller 16 may include modifying the function of individual control inputs. Controller 16 may also transmit wireless signals S2 to game processor 12 to control game flow.

Video game controller 16 including microphone 56 and game assembly 58 including display 54 and speaker 52, may be used in a game with activities and challenges presented to the players. An activity during game play may involve a guessing game. A picture of Abraham Lincoln may be displayed on a screen in a first mode of game play. A player may request a clue to help them name the person displayed. The player may request a clue by extending controller 16 to switch to a second mode of game play.

Opening controller 16 may transmit a request signal S2 to game system 10. Game assembly 58 may transmit an information signal S1 to video game controller 16 and display 54 may show the words “This person ended slavery.” Retracting the expansion panel 26 and extending it again may provide an additional clue on display 54.

While embodiments of a remote device and methods of use have been particularly shown and described, many variations may be made therein. This disclosure may include one or more independent or interdependent inventions directed to various combinations of features, functions, elements and/or properties, one or more of which may be defined in the following claims. Other combinations and sub-combinations of features, functions, elements and/or properties may be claimed later in this or a related application. Such variations, whether they are directed to different combinations or directed to the same combinations, whether different, broader, narrower or equal in scope, are also regarded as included within the subject matter of the present disclosure. An appreciation of the availability or significance of claims not presently claimed may not be presently realized. Accordingly, the foregoing embodiments are illustrative, and no single feature or element, or combination thereof, is essential to all possible combinations that may be claimed in this or a later application. Each claim defines an invention disclosed in the foregoing disclosure, but any one claim does not necessarily encompass all features or combinations that may be claimed. Where the claims recite “a” or “a first” element or the equivalent thereof, such claims include one or more such elements, neither requiring nor excluding two or more such elements. Further, ordinal indicators, such as first, second or third, for identified elements are used to distinguish between the elements, and do not indicate a required or limited number of such elements, and do not indicate a particular position or order of such elements unless otherwise specifically stated.