Title:
Program, game system, and game process control method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A game system performs processing for playing a time-trial racing game or a ranking racing game while allowing a plurality of players to operate moving objects and changing the moving objects in a relay. A right to participate in a race is relayed from a moving object participating in the race to another moving object which is a target of the relay and standing by at a relay line on a racetrack by causing the moving object to touch the other moving object.



Inventors:
Shimada, Kenichi (Tokorozawa-shi, JP)
Application Number:
11/889136
Publication Date:
02/14/2008
Filing Date:
08/09/2007
Assignee:
NAMCO BANDAI GAMES INC. (TOKYO, JP)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/14; A63F13/00; A63F13/45; A63F13/5252; A63F13/5258; A63F13/55; A63F13/577; A63F13/847
View Patent Images:



Other References:
Power-Up, Wikipedia April 5, 2005 available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20050405234448/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power-up.
Primary Examiner:
HOANG, BACH V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OLIFF PLC (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A program stored in a computer-readable information storage medium and used for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the program causing a computer to function as: a moving object control section which moves the moving object according to the operation by the player; and a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object having a right to participate in a race in the object space, causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restriction on the operation is cancelled.

2. The program as defined in claim 1, wherein the relay processing section determines that the predetermined relay condition is satisfied when the relay processing section detects that the moving object participating in the race has touched the other moving object or the moving object participating in the race has passed across a relay point previously set in the object space.

3. The program as defined in claim 1, the program further causing the computer to function as: a touch determination section which determines whether or not the moving object has touched to the other moving object, wherein, when a state of the other moving object is changed to the second state, the touch determination section excludes the moving object which has from a target of the touch determination.

4. The program as defined in claim 1, the program further causing the computer to function as: a touch determination section which, when a plurality of teams each including a plurality of moving objects are used to play the racing game, determines whether or not the moving objects have touched each other, wherein the touch determination section excludes a moving object belonging to one of the teams to which a specific moving object belongs from a target of the touch determination, and sets a moving object belonging to one of the teams differing from the team of the specific moving object to a target of the touch determination.

5. The program as defined in claim 1, wherein, when the moving object participating in the race has passed across a call point previously set in the object space, the relay processing section causes the other moving object to stand by at a specific point in the object space.

6. The program as defined in claim 5, the program further causing the computer to function as: a virtual camera control section which controls a position and an orientation of a virtual camera along with movement of the moving object participating in the race; and an image generation section which generates an image of the object space viewed from the virtual camera, wherein, when the moving object participating in the race has passed across the call point in the object space, the virtual camera control section sets the virtual camera so that the virtual camera observes the other moving object standing by at the specific point in the object space.

7. The program as defined in claim 1, wherein the relay processing section causes the other moving object which is to receive the right to participate in the race from the moving object to stand by at a specific point in the object space according to a predetermined operation by the player.

8. The program as defined in claim 1, wherein the relay processing section sets a start condition for starting movement control of the other moving object according to a game situation of the time when the moving object relays the right to participate in the race to the other moving object.

9. The program as defined in claim 3, wherein the relay processing section sets a start condition for starting movement control of the other moving object according to a touch state of the moving object participating in the race and the other moving object.

10. A program stored in a computer-readable information storage medium and used for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the program causing a computer to function as: a moving object control section which moves the moving objects according to the operation by the players; and a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causes the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players, the relay processing section determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

11. A game system for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the game system comprising: a moving object control section which moves the moving object according to the operation by the player; and a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object having a right to participate in a race in the object space, causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restriction on the operation is cancelled.

12. A game system for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the game system comprising: a moving object control section which moves the moving objects according to the operation by the players; and a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causes the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players, the relay processing section determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

13. A game process control method for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the method comprising: moving the moving object having a right to participate in a race according to the operation by the player; and causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object in the object space, by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restrictions on the operation are cancelled.

14. A game process control method for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the method comprising: moving the moving objects according to the operation by the players; when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causing the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players; and determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

Description:
Japanese Patent Application No. 2006-220890, filed on Aug. 14, 2006, is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a program, a game system, and a game process control method.

In recent years, a game system has been used in practice which generates an image of an object (e.g. character) disposed in a virtual three-dimensional space (hereinafter called “object space”) and viewed from a virtual camera (a given view point) as a game image.

Such a game system is very popular as a game system which allows a player to experience virtual reality, and has attracted attention as a means for improving the player's interest in the game.

For example, when implementing a racing game using such a game system, a single player or a plurality of players can virtually enjoy a race by operating a moving object.

In recent years, a game system has been known which allows a plurality of players to enjoy a racing game by taking turns in operating one moving object (car or machine). For example, the game system in segaGT Online, Sega's s online software game catalogue from the web pages (http://sega.jp/x/segagtol/) retrieved through Jul. 12, 2006 search, has been known.

The above game system allows the moving object to be selected in team units. However, since all players in a single team must participate in a race using a single moving object, a player cannot enjoy the racing game by operating a desired moving object.

SUMMARY

According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a program stored in a computer-readable information storage medium and used for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the program causing a computer to function as:

a moving object control section which moves the moving object according to the operation by the player; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object having a right to participate in a race in the object space, causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restriction on the operation is cancelled.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a program stored in a computer-readable information storage medium and used for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the program causing a computer to function as:

a moving object control section which moves the moving objects according to the operation by the players; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causes the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players,

the relay processing section determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a game system for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the game system comprising:

a moving object control section which moves the moving object according to the operation by the player; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object having a right to participate in a race in the object space, causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restriction on the operation is cancelled.

According to a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided a game system for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the game system comprising:

a moving object control section which moves the moving objects according to the operation by the players; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causes the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players,

the relay processing section determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

According to a fifth aspect of the invention, there is provided a game process control method for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the method comprising:

moving the moving object having a right to participate in a race according to the operation by the player; and

causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object in the object space, by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restrictions on the operation are cancelled.

According to a sixth aspect of the invention, there is provided a game process control method for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the method comprising:

moving the moving objects according to the operation by the players;

when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causing the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players; and

determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a functional block diagram showing a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate a relay process of a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 3A and 3B are examples of an image generated in connection with a relay process.

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate a relay process of an image generation system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate touch determination target/exclusion car objects during a relay process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrate a standby process of a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is an example of an image generated in connection with a standby process.

FIGS. 8A and 8B illustrate normal virtual camera control of a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 9A and 9B are examples of an image generated based on normal virtual camera control.

FIG. 10 illustrates control of a next car virtual camera in a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 11A and 11B are examples of an image generated based on control of a next car virtual camera.

FIGS. 12A and 12B illustrate a modification of a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a flowchart showing an example of a race management process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 14 is a flowchart showing an example of a race management process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 15 is a flowchart showing an example of a start condition setting process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 16 is a flowchart showing a modification of a standby process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 17 is a flowchart showing a modification of a start condition setting process according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 18 is a diagram showing an example of another system (a client/server system) for a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 19 is a diagram showing an example of yet another system (a peer-to-peer system) for a game system according to one embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENT

The invention has been achieved in view of the above-described problem. An objective of the invention is to provide a program, a game system, and a game process control method capable of attracting player's attention by improving enjoyment of a racing game.

(1) According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a game system for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the game system comprising:

a moving object control section which moves the moving object according to the operation by the player; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object having a right to participate in a race in the object space, causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restriction on the operation is cancelled.

According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a program causing a computer to function as the above-described sections. According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided an information storage medium storing the above-described program.

The term “first state” refers to a state in which some or all of the operations for moving the moving object are not accepted, and the “second state” refers to a state in which the operation operations for moving the moving object which are not accepted in the first state are accepted.

According to the above embodiments, when the predetermined relay conditions have been satisfied along with the movement of the moving object (e.g. car, ship, or airplane) participating in the race in the object space, a moving object can be caused to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object by canceling the restrictions on the operation of the other moving object.

Therefore, the above embodiments allow the player to enjoy the racing game while causing the right to participate in the race to be relayed between the moving objects selected by the player.

As a result, the above embodiments can provide a novel interesting racing game in which the player operates a plurality of moving objects in a relay while allowing not only the player's skill in operating the moving object, but also the properties of each moving object to be reflected in the racing game by providing a plurality of moving objects which differ in moving capability and outward appearance, thereby attracting the player's attention.

(2) In each of the above-described game system, program and information storage medium,

the relay processing section may determine that the predetermined relay condition is satisfied when the relay processing section detects that the moving object participating in the race has touched the other moving object or the moving object participating in the race has passed across a relay point previously set in the object space.

This allows the right to participate in the race to be relayed when the moving object participating in the race has touched the other moving object to which the moving object relays the right to participate in the race or the moving object participating in the race has passed across a predetermined relay point.

According to this feature, the right to participate in the race can be relayed by using a novel method in which the moving objects come in contact. Moreover, even if the moving objects cannot come in contact, the right to participate in the race can be relayed when the moving object participating in the race has passed across the relay point.

As a result, this feature can provide a wide variety of players including an experienced player and an inexperienced player with interest of a relay, and can smoothly proceed with the racing game by allowing the relay to be appropriately completed.

(3) The above-described game system may further comprise:

a touch determination section which determines whether or not the moving object has touched to the other moving object,

wherein, when a state of the other moving object is changed to the second state, the touch determination section excludes the moving object which has from a target of the touch determination.

Each of the above-described program and information storage medium may cause the computer to function as the touch determination section.

According to this feature, since the moving object irrelevant to the race is not handled as an obstacle, the race can be prevented from being hindered due to an unnecessary obstacle which occurs in the object space along with the relay of the right to participate in the race, whereby it becomes possible to smoothly proceed with the racing game.

(4) The above-described game system may further comprise:

a touch determination section which, when a plurality of teams each including a plurality of moving objects are used to play the racing game, determines whether or not the moving objects have touched each other,

wherein the touch determination section excludes a moving object belonging to one of the teams to which a specific moving object belongs from a target of the touch determination, and sets a moving object belonging to one of the teams differing from the team of the specific moving object to a target of the touch determination.

Each of the above-described program and information storage medium may cause the computer to function as the touch determination section.

According to this feature, since the moving object irrelevant to the race of at least a single team is not handled as an obstacle, even if a plurality of teams participate in the race, the race can be prevented from being hindered due to an unnecessary obstacle which occurs along with the relay of the right to participate in the race, whereby it becomes possible to smoothly proceed with the racing game.

(5) In each of the above-described game system, program and information storage medium,

when the moving object participating in the race has passed across a call point previously set in the object space, the relay processing section may cause the other moving object to stand by at a specific point in the object space.

According to this feature, a problem can be prevented in which the other moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed stands by in the object space for a long period of time to hinder the race. Moreover, since the player can reliably identify the other moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed, it becomes possible to smoothly proceed with the racing game.

(6) The above-described game system may further comprise:

a virtual camera control section which controls a position and an orientation of a virtual camera along with movement of the moving object participating in the race; and

an image generation section which generates an image of the object space viewed from the virtual camera,

wherein, when the moving object participating in the race has passed across the call point in the object space, the virtual camera control section sets the virtual camera so that the virtual camera observes the other moving object standing by at the specific point in the object space.

Each of the above-described program and information storage medium may cause the computer to function as the virtual camera control section and the image generation section.

According to this feature, when the moving object participating in the race has passed across the call point set in the object space, the virtual camera is set at a position at which the other moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed is observed.

Therefore, this feature enables the player to reliably identify the standby state of the moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed by displaying the other moving object on the screen for the player who operates the other moving object or displaying the other moving object on part of the screen which displays the progress of the race, whereby the operation interface environment of the player can be improved.

(7) In each of the above-described game system, program and information storage medium,

the relay processing section may cause the other moving object which is to receive the right to participate in the race from the moving object to stand by at a specific point in the object space according to a predetermined operation by the player.

This allows the relay timing of the right to participate in the race to be appropriately controlled while taking the intention of the player into consideration, whereby the strategic characteristics of the racing game can be improved.

(8) In each of the above-described game system, program and information storage medium,

the relay processing section may set a start condition for starting movement control of the other moving object according to a game situation of the time when the moving object relays the right to participate in the race to the other moving object.

According to this feature, various start conditions including the moving capability (e.g. initial speed and acceleration) of the moving object when starting to control the movement of the moving object in the object space can be set depending on the state when the right to participate in the race is relayed between the moving objects such as when the moving object participating in the race has touched the other moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed at a speed equal to or higher than a predetermined speed, or when the player performs a predetermined operation when the moving objects come in contact, for example. Therefore, this feature can improve the player's interest with respect to the operation when the right to participate in the race is relayed between the moving objects.

(9) In each of the above-described game system, program and information storage medium,

the relay processing section may set a start condition for starting movement control of the other moving object according to a touch state of the moving object participating in the race and the other moving object.

According to this feature, various start conditions including the moving capability (e.g. initial speed and acceleration) of the moving object when starting to control the movement of the moving object in the object space can be set depending on the speed of the moving object participating in the race when the moving object participating in the race has touched the other moving object to which the right to participate in the race is relayed, for example. Therefore, this feature can improve the player's interest with respect to the operation when the right to participate in the race is relayed between the moving objects.

(10) According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a game system for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the game system comprising:

a moving object control section which moves the moving objects according to the operation by the players; and

a relay processing section which, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causes the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players,

the relay processing section determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a program causing a computer to function as the above-described sections. According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided an information storage medium storing the above-described program.

According to the above embodiment, a moving object can be caused to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object by causing the moving object (e.g. car, ship, or airplane) participating in the race to move in the object space and touch the moving object for another player which is moved in the object space according to the operation of another player, or approach the moving object for another player within a predetermined distance range. Therefore, the above embodiment can proceed with the racing game while replacing various moving objects in a relay.

As a result, the above embodiments can provide a novel interesting racing game in which the player operates a plurality of moving objects in a relay while allowing not only the player's skill in operating the moving object, but also the properties of each moving object to be reflected in the racing game by providing a plurality of moving objects which differ in moving capability and outward appearance, thereby attracting the player's attention.

(11) According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a game process control method for a racing game in which a moving object is moved in an object space according to operation by a player, the method comprising:

moving the moving object having a right to participate in a race according to the operation by the player; and

causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object which newly participates in the race, when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of the moving object in the object space, by changing a state of the other moving object from a first state in which the operation by the player is restricted to a second state in which the restrictions on the operation are cancelled.

(12) According to one embodiment of the invention, there is provided a game process control method for a racing game played by a plurality of players in which moving objects are moved in an object space according to operation by the players, the method comprising:

moving the moving objects according to the operation by the players;

when a predetermined relay condition is satisfied by movement of one of the moving objects having a right to participate in a race and operated by a specific player in the players in the object space, causing the moving object of the specific player to relay the right to participate in the race to another one of the moving objects moving in the object space according to operation by another one of the players; and

determining whether or not the predetermined relay condition is satisfied according to a positional relationship between the moving object of the specific player and the other moving object of the other player.

Embodiments of the invention will be described below. Note that the embodiments described below do not in any way limit the scope of the invention laid out in the claims herein. In addition, not all of the elements of the embodiments described below should be taken as essential requirements of the invention.

1. Configuration

The configuration of a game system (image generation system) according to one embodiment of the invention is described below with reference to FIG. 1.

FIG. 1 shows functional configuration of the game system according to this embodiment. The game system according to this embodiment may have a configuration in which some of the elements (sections) shown in FIG. 1 are omitted.

An operation section 160 (game controller) allows a player to input operation data. The function of the operation section 160 may be implemented by a direction key, an analog stick, a button, a lever, a steering wheel, a microphone, a touch panel display, a casing, or the like.

A storage section 170 serves as a work area for a processing section 100, a communication section 196, and the like. The function of the storage section 170 may be implemented by a RAM or the like. The storage section 170 includes a main storage section 172 used as a work area for the processing section 100, and a drawing buffer 174 used when generating an image.

An information storage medium 180 (computer-readable medium) stores a program, data, and the like. The function of the information storage medium 180 may be implemented by an optical disk (CD or DVD), a magneto-optical disk (MO), a magnetic disk, a hard disk, a magnetic tape, a memory (ROM), or the like.

A program (data) for causing the processing section 100 to perform various processes according to this embodiment is stored in the information storage medium 180. Specifically, a program for causing a computer to function as each section according to this embodiment (program for causing a computer to perform the process of each section) is stored in the information storage medium 180.

A display section 190 outputs an image generated according to this embodiment. The function of the display section 190 may be implemented by a CRT, an LCD, a touch panel display, a head mount display (HMD), or the like.

A sound output section 192 outputs sound generated according to this embodiment. The function of the sound output section 192 may be implemented by a speaker, a headphone, or the like.

A portable information storage device 194 stores player's personal data, game save data, and the like. As examples of the portable information storage device 194, a memory card, a portable game device, and the like can be given.

The communication section 196 performs various types of control for communicating with the outside (e.g. host device or another game system). The function of the communication section 196 may be implemented by hardware such as a processor or a communication ASIC, a program, and the like.

The program (data) for causing a computer to function as each section according to this embodiment may be distributed to the information storage medium 180 (storage section 170) from an information storage medium included in a host device (server) through a network and the communication section 196. Use of the information storage medium of the host device (server) is also included within the scope of the invention.

The processing section 100 (processor) performs a game process, an image generation process, a sound generation process, and the like based on operation data from the operation section 160, a program, and the like. The processing section 100 performs various processes using the main storage section 172 of the storage section 170 as a work area. The function of the processing section 100 may be implemented by hardware such as a processor (e.g. CPU or DSP) or ASIC (e.g. gate array), a program, and the like. The processing section 100 includes a game processing section 110, an image generation section 120, and a sound generation section 130.

The game processing section 110 performs the game processes based on operation data input from the operation section 160 or set in the game processing section 110, a program, and the like.

The game processes include a process of starting a game when game start conditions have been satisfied, a process of proceeding with a game, a process of disposing an object such as a character or a map, a process of displaying an object, a process of calculating game results, a process of finishing a game when game finish conditions have been satisfied, and the like.

The game processing section 110 according to this embodiment performs various processes for executing a racing game in which moving objects (e.g. car, ship, or airplane) individually compete for the fastest time (hereinafter called “time-trial racing game”) or a racing game in which the moving objects compete for ranking (hereinafter called “ranking racing game”).

The game processing section 110 according to this embodiment performs various processes for allowing a single team or a plurality of teams to participate in a race along a racetrack formed in the object space by controlling the movement of the moving object based on the operation of the player.

The game processing section 110 according to this embodiment performs a process of proceeding with the time-trial racing game or the ranking racing game by allowing a single player to operate a plurality of moving objects and causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object, or by allowing a plurality of players to operate different moving objects in team units and causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object in a relay in team units.

The game processing section 110 performs various processes for causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object when the moving object participating in the race has touched (hit) the moving object which stands by at a predetermined point (relay point) on the racetrack, or when the moving object participating in the race has passed across a predetermined point on the racetrack. The processes for causing the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object may be performed each time the moving object has completed a racetrack circuit a predetermined number of times.

The game processing section 110 includes an object space setting section 111 which disposes an object group including the moving object in the object space, an input processing section 112 which accepts data input from the operation section 160, and a moving object control section 113 which calculates the movement/action of the moving object in the object space.

The game processing section 110 also includes a touch determination section 114 which determines whether or not the moving object has touched another object (including another moving object) during the race (hit check), a relay processing section 115 which causes the moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object and the like, a time measurement control section 116 which measures various times in the racing game, and a communication control section 119 which controls transmission and reception of data by the communication section 196. Note that the game processing section 110 may have a configuration in which some of these sections are omitted.

The object space setting section 111 disposes various objects (objects formed by a primitive surface such as a polygon, a free-form surface, or a subdivision surface) representing display objects such as a character, a car, a ship, a building, a tree, a pillar, a wall, or a map (topography) in the object space.

Specifically, the object space setting section 111 determines the position and the rotational angle (synonymous with orientation or direction) of an object (model object) in a world coordinate system, and disposes the object at the determined position (X, Y, Z) and the determined rotational angle (rotational angles around X, Y, and Z axes).

The input processing section 112 is associated with the operation section 160, and accepts (monitors and detects) an operation input which is input by the player using the operation section 160.

Specifically, the input processing section 112 accepts the player's operation input for controlling the movement of the moving object during the race, such as the operation of a steering wheel, an accelerator, or a brake of a car, for example.

The moving object control section 113 calculates the movement/action (movement/action simulation) of the object such as the moving object (e.g. car, ship, or airplane).

Specifically, the moving object control section 113 causes the moving object to move in the object space or to perform an action (motion or animation) based on the operation data input by the player using the operation section 160, a program (movement/action algorithm), various types of data (motion data), and the like.

In more detail, the moving object control section 113 according to this embodiment performs a simulation process of sequentially calculating movement information (position, rotational angle, speed, or acceleration) and action information (position or rotational angle of part object) of the moving object in frame units ( 1/60 sec).

The frame is a time unit for performing the object movement/action calculation (simulation process) and the image generation process.

When each moving object participating in the race (hereinafter called “racing moving object”) has touched another moving object participating in the race (hereinafter called “another moving object”) or an object which is an obstacle to the racing moving object (hereinafter called “obstacle object”) such as a wall or a block of the racetrack, the moving object control section 113 performs a simulation process for causing the racing moving object to move or perform an action based on the touch state of the moving object.

The touch determination section 114 performs a touch determination process (hit check) of detecting touch between the moving objects or touch between the moving object and another object.

Specifically, the touch determination section 114 performs a touch determination process (first touch determination process) of determining whether or not the racing moving object has touched a standby moving object which stands by at the relay point in the object space (moving object to which the racing moving object relays the right to participate in the race) when the moving object relays the right to participate in the race to another moving object, and a touch determination process (second touch determination process) of determining whether or not the racing moving object has touched the obstacle object or the like during the race (e.g. during travel).

For example, the touch determination section 114 according to this embodiment detects whether or not the racing moving object has touched the standby moving object, to which the racing moving object relays the right to participate in the race, at the relay point.

When the racing moving object has touched the standby moving object, the touch determination section 114 detects the state of the racing moving object and the standby moving object such as the speed of the racing moving object at the time of touch and the touch portion of each moving object.

The touch determination section 114 detects whether or not the racing moving object has touched another moving object, an obstacle object, or a racing moving object in another team when a plurality of teams participate in the race.

When the racing moving object has touched another object, the touch determination section 114 detects the state of the racing moving object such as the speed or the touch portion of the racing moving object.

In this embodiment, a hit volume (hit box, hit area, or simple object) which simply represents the shape of each moving object or a hit volume which simply represents the orbit of the portion of the object (e.g. bumper of car) may be used when performing the touch determination process (hit check).

The relay processing section 115 causes the racing moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to the standby moving object during the race. The term “relay the right to participate in the race” means canceling the restrictions on the operation of the moving object to which the racing moving object relays the right to participate in the race to allow this moving object to freely move in the object space and to be controlled with respect to the progress of the race (ranking race or time-trial race) (e.g. the moving object is subjected to time control (race time measurement) by the time measurement control section 116).

Specifically, when the racing moving object has passed across a predetermined call point on the racetrack on which the race is executed, the relay processing section 115 causes the standby moving object to stand by at a predetermined relay point (standby process). The relay processing section 115 may cause the standby moving object to stand by at a relay point specified depending on the timing at which a predetermined operation is performed using the operation section 160 during the race.

When the racing moving object has touched the standby moving object or passed across the relay point, the relay processing section 115 changes the state of the standby moving object from a first state in which the operation of the player is restricted to a second state in which the restrictions on the operation of the player are cancelled (relay process) as the process of causing the racing moving object to relay the right to participate in the race to the standby moving object.

When the racing moving object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the standby moving object, the relay processing section 115 sets start conditions (e.g. moving capability) of the moving object when starting the movement (start condition setting process).

For example, the relay processing section 116 sets the start conditions of the standby moving object based on the touch state of the racing moving object and the standby moving object (e.g. touch speed, touch angle, and touch portion).

The time measurement control section 116 controls time measurements when performing the time-trial racing game and various measurements when managing the race such as various types of process control.

The virtual camera control section 118 controls a virtual camera (view point) for generating an image viewed from a given (arbitrary) view point in the object space. Specifically, the virtual camera control section 118 controls disposition of the virtual camera in the object space and the position (X, Y, Z) or the rotational angle (rotational angles around X, Y, and Z axes) of the virtual camera (controls the view point position and the line-of-sight direction).

The communication control section 119 causes the communication section 196 to transmit and receive data and instructions (commands) necessary for executing each game when executing the time-trial racing game or the ranking racing game with a server device or another communication terminal device such as a game device or a personal computer.

The image generation section 120 performs a drawing process based on the results of various processes (game processes) performed by the processing section 100 to generate an image, and outputs the generated image to the display section 190.

When generating a three-dimensional game image, the image generation section 120 according to this embodiment performs a geometric process such as coordinate transformation (world coordinate transformation or camera coordinate transformation), clipping, or perspective transformation, and creates drawing data (e.g. position coordinates of vertices of a primitive surface, texture coordinates, color data, normal vector, or alpha value) based on the processing results.

The image generation section 120 draws an object (one or more primitive surfaces) after perspective transformation (geometric process) in the drawing buffer 174 (frame buffer or work buffer) based on the created drawing data (primitive surface data). The image generation section 120 thus generates an image viewed from a given view point (virtual camera) in the object space.

The sound generation section 130 performs a sound process based on the results of various processes performed by the processing section 100 to generate game sound such as background music (BGM), effect sound, or voice, and outputs the generated game sound to the sound output section 192.

The image generation system according to this embodiment may be configured as a system dedicated to a single-player mode in which only one player can play a game, or a system which is also provided with a multiplayer mode in which two or more players can play a game.

When two or more players play a game, game images and game sound provided to the players may be generated using one terminal, or may be generated by a distributed process using two or more terminals (game devices or portable telephones) connected through a network (transmission line or communication line), for example.

2. Method According to this Embodiment

The method according to this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 2A to 12B. The following description is given taking an example in which the moving object is an object representing a car (hereinafter called “car object”) and the type of race is a ranking racing game in which two or more teams participate in the race.

2.1 Relay Process

The relay process of the game system according to this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 2A to 5B.

In the relay process according to this embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2A, when a car object P participating in the race (hereinafter called “present car object (corresponding to the racing moving object)”) has touched a car object N which stands by at a relay point B (hereinafter called “relay line”) (hereinafter called “next car object (corresponding to the standby moving object)”) as the replacement target in the same team as the car object P, the car object which participates in the race is changed from the present car object P to the next car object N.

This embodiment employs a method in which, when it is determined that the present car object P has touched the next car object N in the same team which stands by at the relay line B set in the object space in the relay process, the present car object P is caused to relay the right to participate in the race to the next car object N, as shown in FIG. 2B.

In more detail, when the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N, the next car object N which has been set in a state in which the movement operation of the player is not accepted so that it is substantially impossible to operate the next car object N (hereinafter called “first state (restricted state)”), as shown in FIG. 2A, is set in a state in which the movement operation of the player is accepted so that the next car object N can be operated (hereinafter called “second state (restriction-free state)”), as shown in FIG. 2B.

As shown in FIG. 2B, when the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N, the present car object P is excluded from the target of the touch determination of the objects including the car object of another team, and is semitransparently displayed (hereinafter called “ghost display”).

In this embodiment, the present car object P is caused to disappear from the object space after a predetermined operation (e.g. after the second state has been maintained for a few seconds (e.g. three seconds) from the time at which the entire car has passed across the relay line B).

In this embodiment, it suffices to determine that part (e.g. front) of the present car object has touched part (e.g. rear) of the next car object for the touch determination, and detailed determination is not made using the size of the touched surface or the touch portion of each car object. On the other hand, the movement start conditions (start conditions) of the next car object can be changed based on the speed of the present car object and the like when the present car object touches the next car object.

In this embodiment, when an image viewed from the virtual camera is generated in player units, an image including the present car object, the relay line B, and the next car object is generated for the player who operates the present car object immediately before relay, as shown in FIG. 3A. An image which represents a state in which the present car object touches the next car object is generated at the time of relay, as shown in FIG. 3B, for example.

In this embodiment, the movement of the next car object can be controlled after relay based on the operation of the player so that the next car object can participate in the race. The racing game can be caused to proceed while allowing the player to operate various car objects in a relay.

Therefore, the method according to this embodiment allows not only the player's capability in operating the car object, but also the properties of the car object to be reflected in the racing game by providing two or more car objects which differ in machine setting (e.g. tire, gear ratio, or transmission type), moving capability, and outward appearance.

As a result, since the method according to this embodiment can provide a novel game incorporating the relay method in which the moving object is replaced with another moving object, the method according to this embodiment ensures interest which differs from that of a racing game in which a plurality of players take turns in operating a single moving object.

When the next car object is in the first state, a predetermined operation of the player such as idling the engine by operating the accelerator may be enabled, or all of the operations may be disabled, for example. The present car object may be set in the first state from the second state immediately after the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object.

In this embodiment, even if the present car object P has not touched the next car object ON due to anther present car object OP, another next car object ON, and the like, as shown in FIG. 4A, it is determined that the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N when the entire present car object P has passed across the relay line B, as shown in FIG. 4B.

In this case, the next car object N is set in the second state from the first state in the same manner as in the case where the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N, and the present car object P is caused to disappear from the object space after a predetermined process, as shown in FIG. 4B.

As described above, the method according to this embodiment allows the car object to be replaced with another car object when the present car object has passed across the relay line, even if the present car object has not touched the next car object to which the present car object relays the right to participate in the race.

Therefore, the method according to this embodiment can provide the player with novel interest by allowing the player to cause the moving objects to come in contact in the racing game to relay the right to participate in the race, and can smoothly proceed with the race by allowing the relay to be reliably completed independent of the player's operation skill.

In the example shown in FIG. 4, it is determined that the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object when the entire present car object has passed across the relay line. Note that it may be determined that the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object when part of the present car object has passed across the relay line.

This embodiment employs a method of setting the touch determination target in car object units in order to allow the car object to relay the right to participate in the race to another moving object by causing the car objects to come in contact and to smoothly proceed with the race.

In this embodiment, the car object is excluded from the touch determination target or set to be the touch determination target based on the timing at which the present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the next car object.

Specifically, with regard to an arbitrary present car object P before relay shown in FIG. 5A, the present car object OP in another team before relay and the next car object N in the same team as the present car object P are set to be touch determination target car objects (hereinafter simply called “determination target objects”).

On the other hand, with regard to an arbitrary present car object P after relay shown in FIG. 5B, the present car object OP in another team after relay and the next car object ON in another team before relay are set to be touch determination exclusion car objects (hereinafter simply called “determination exclusion objects”).

In this embodiment, with regard to an arbitrary next car object N before relay shown in FIG. 5A, only the present car object P in the same team as the next car object N is set to be the determination target object.

On the other hand, with regard to an arbitrary next car object N after relay shown in FIG. 5B, the present car object OP in another team after relay, the next car object ON in another team before relay, and the present car object OP in another team after relay are set to be the determination exclusion objects, and only the next car object ON in another team after relay is set to be the determination target object.

In this embodiment, when an image viewed from the virtual camera provided in player units is generated, the car object set to be the determination exclusion object is displayed as a ghost. In this case, an image for each player is generated while determining whether or not to perform ghost display depending on whether or not the car object is the determination target object based on the car object operated by each player.

For example, when generating an image based on an arbitrary present car object or an arbitrary next car object, a ghost display drawing process is performed in which the car object set to be the determination exclusion object in the touch determination process with respect to the present car object or the next car object is semitransparently displayed.

When the car object is changed to the determination target object from the determination exclusion object or changed to the determination exclusion object from the determination target object due to relay, the ghost display drawing process is performed corresponding to each case.

However, when an image viewed from the virtual camera is generated for the player who has completed the race or a person who watches the race, an image for displaying all the car objects may be drawn without ghost display.

2.2 Standby Process

The standby process of the image generation system according to this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 6A, 6B, and 7.

This embodiment employs a method in which the next car object to which the present car object relays the right to participate in the race is caused to stand by at the relay point at which the car object is replaced with another car object (i.e., relay line) when the present car object participating in the race has passed across a predetermined point (hereinafter called “next car object call point”) on the racetrack on which the race is executed.

Specifically, as shown in FIG. 6A, a predetermined point on the racetrack from which a predetermined period of time (e.g. 10 seconds) is required for the present car object traveling on the racetrack at the maximum speed to reach the relay line B is set to be a next car object call point C.

As shown in FIG. 6B, when the present car object P has passed across the next car object call point C, the next car object N in the same team as the present car object P is caused to stand by at the relay line B.

In this embodiment, as shown in FIG. 7, when the present car object has passed across the next car object call point, a screen on which the name of the next car object set in advance is displayed (i.e., screen having next display T) is drawn.

The next car object which stands by at the relay line is set to be the target object of the hit check of only the present car object in the same team during standby (i.e., until relay occurs).

An image is generated in which the next car object which stands by at the relay line is displayed as a ghost, as described above.

Therefore, the method according to this embodiment can prevent a problem in which the next car object stands by at the relay line for a long period of time to hinder the race, and allows the next car object, to which the present car object relays the right to participate in the race, to reliably stand by at the relay line. This makes it possible to smoothly proceed with the race.

In this embodiment, the next car object is caused to stand by at the relay line when the present car object has passed across the next car object call point. Note that the next car object may be caused to stand by at the relay line based on a predetermined operation of the player who operates the present car object or a predetermined operation of the player who will operate the next car object, for example. This allows the standby timing at which the next car object is caused to stand by to be controlled by the operation of the player, whereby the interest in operating the moving object in the race can be improved by causing the next car object to hinder other teams by increasing the standby time or increasing the degree of difficulty of the operation of the player by adding the operation for causing the next car object to stand by.

2.3 Start Condition Setting Process

The start condition setting process according to this embodiment is described below.

This embodiment employs a method in which the movement start conditions when the next car object is set in the second state are set based on the state of the present car object and the next car object when the present car object touches the next car object when relaying the right to participate in the race to the next car object.

For example, whether or not to permit rapidly accelerated movement (or a starting dash) when starting to operate the next car object is set based on the speed of the present car object immediately before the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object.

Specifically, when the speed of the present car object immediately before the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object is 200 km/h or more, the rapidly accelerated movement of the next car object is permitted. When the speed of the present car object immediately before the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object is 200 km/h or less, the rapidly accelerated movement of the next car object is not permitted (i.e., only the movement at a normal acceleration is permitted).

When the speed of the present car object immediately before the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object is 200 km/h, and (1) when the speed of the present car object when relaying the right to participate in the race to the next car object has reached the maximum speed by a special operation (known as “nitro operation”), rapid acceleration of the next car object is set at the maximum level, (2) when the speed of the present car object is lower than the maximum speed but is higher than a predetermined speed, rapid acceleration of the next car object is set at a normal level, and (3) when the speed of the present car object is lower than the predetermined speed, rapid acceleration of the next car object is set at a low level.

In this embodiment, the rapid acceleration level including whether or not to permit rapid acceleration is set as a flag, and the rapidly accelerated movement is permitted based on the flag according to the operation of the player when the next car object has been set in the second state, for example.

This improves the player's interest with respect to the operation of replacing the car object with another car object, whereby a novel game can be provided which incorporates the relay method when replacing the car object with another car object.

Whether or not to permit rapid acceleration when starting to operate the next car object or the rapid acceleration level may be set based on the speed of the present car object immediately before the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object and the state of the next car object.

For example, even if the rapidly accelerated movement is permitted and the rapid acceleration level is set based on the speed of the present car object which relays the right to participate in the race to the next car object, rapid acceleration may be performed only when the accelerator operation of the next car object has been performed at the same time as the relay timing (e.g. within one second from relay). Rapid acceleration may be performed only when the touched surface of the present car object with the next car object is equal to greater than a predetermined area (e.g. ⅔ or more of the rear touchable surface of the next car object), for example. Alternatively, whether or not to permit rapid acceleration when starting to operate the next car object and the rapid acceleration level may be set depending on whether or not a predetermined operation other than the accelerator operation has been performed by the player of the present car object at the time of relay, for example.

2.4 Virtual Camera Control

The virtual camera control of the image generation system according to this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 8A to 11B.

In this embodiment, in order to display the progress of the race at various angles, each present car object participating in the race can be displayed using each virtual camera set at a predetermined position in the object space.

For example, an image in which the object space is viewed from each virtual camera is generated, as shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B, based on a virtual camera VC1 which follows a predetermined present car object from behind (hereinafter called “following virtual camera”) or a virtual camera VC2 set at a predetermined point on the racetrack (hereinafter called “fixed virtual camera”), as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B.

In this embodiment, when executing the standby process, the next car object is caused to stand by at the relay line, and a virtual camera VC3 which observes the next car object (hereinafter called “next car virtual camera”) is set at a predetermined position in the object space in addition to the above cameras, as shown in FIG. 10.

When a display means for displaying the progress of the race is provided for each player, an image for displaying the next car object which stands by at the relay line is provided as a next car screen for the player who operates the next car object, as shown in FIG. 11A.

In this embodiment, when displaying the progress of the race using a common display means for each player, an image for displaying the next car object which stands by at the relay line is incorporated in part of the main screen (or a screen for the player who operates the car object which has completed the race) as the next car screen, as shown in FIG. 11B.

The method according to this embodiment enables the standby state of the next car object to be provided to the player (particularly the player who operates the next car object), whereby an appropriate operation of the player can be supported when the car object is replaced with another car object.

In this embodiment, after the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object, the next car virtual camera set during the standby process is used as a following camera.

According to the method according to this embodiment, since the next car object becomes the present car object after the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object, the next car virtual camera can be directly used as the following virtual camera.

Note that an image is generated in which the car object set to be the determination exclusion object before and after relay is displayed as a ghost (semitransparent object), as described above.

2.5 Modification

A modification of the image generation system according to this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 12A and 12B.

In this modification, the present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the next car object by setting the next car object after relay from the first state to the second state during the standby process. The movement of the next car object may be controlled so that the next car object can make an approach run in an area near the relay line when causing the next car object to stand by. In this case, the approach run of the next car object may be controlled based on the operation of the player, or may be automatically controlled according to a predetermined algorithm.

As shown in FIG. 12A, when the present car object has passed across the next car object call line, the next car object N is caused to stand by so that the next car object N can travel only in the travel direction in an area A (hereinafter called “relay area”) from the relay line B to a predetermined point E (hereinafter called “area end line”).

As shown in FIG. 12A, the image generation system performs the relay process according to the operation of the player during each of a process of controlling the travel of the present car object P1 and the travel of the next car object N1 according to the operation of each player (approach run stage), a process of determining relay between the present car object P2 and the next car object N2 (relay stage), and a process of displaying the present car object P3 as a ghost and controlling the start of the next car object N3 (start stage).

In this modification, the next car object N is controlled so that the next car object N can be moved only in one direction from the relay line B toward the area end line E in the area from the relay line B to the area end line E at which the relay area A ends.

As shown in FIG. 12B, when the next car object N has reached the area end line E before relay, the next car object N may be stopped at the area end line E. Alternatively, when the next car object N has reached the area end line E before relay, the next car object N may stand by at the area end line E. As shown in FIG. 12B, even if the present car object P has not touched the next car object N within the relay area A, it may be determined that the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N when the present car object P has passed across the area end line E. Even if the present car object P has not touched the next car object N within the relay area A, it may be determined that the present car object P has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object N when the present car object P has been positioned within a predetermined distance range from the next car object N (i.e., the present car object P and the next car object N have formed a predetermined positional relationship).

In this modification, when determining touch between the objects, the determination target object and the determination exclusion object may be set in the same manner as in the above embodiment. In this modification, when the next car object makes an approach run, the next car virtual camera set for the next car object may be caused to follow the approach run.

In this modification, the next car object may be set at the relay line during the standby process in a state in which the next car object cannot be operated, and may be set in a state in which the next car object can make an approach run when the present car object has passed across a predetermined point, and the starting dash capability may be set during the start condition setting process taking into account the speed of the next car object at the time of relay.

In this modification, the next car object is not permitted to exit the relay area. The next car object may be determined to be disqualified when the next car object has exited the relay area before relay without prohibiting the next car object from exiting the relay area.

3. Process According to this Embodiment

3.1 Race Management Process for Present Car Object

The entire race management process (start to finish) including the relay process (hereinafter called “race management process”) according to this embodiment is described below. FIG. 13 is a flowchart showing an example of the race management process according to this embodiment.

The race management process is executed as a race management process for each present car object. In particular, the race management process is executed as a process regarding the race which proceeds along with the movement of the present car object.

Accordingly, the race management process is independently executed for each present car object participating in the race, and the present car object can be basically operated by the player during the race management process.

Various processes based on the operation of the player (e.g. touch with another present car object, touch with the obstacle object, and movement control of the present car object based on the touch) are appropriately executed.

The following description is given taking an example of a ranking racing game in which the car object travels along a predetermined racetrack based on control lines (i.e., finish line and relay line), and the car object operated by each player in each team and its order have been determined.

A main process including a process of starting the ranking racing game which is executed before the race management process includes a process of resetting ghost display flag information of all car objects to disable ghost display as an initial setting.

When the image generation system has detected instructions to start the racing game or instructions to start the race management process in the relay process (step S1), the image generation system determines whether or not the present car object subjected to the race management process is the first car object in the race (step S2).

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is the first car object, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S3. When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is the second or subsequent car object, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S4.

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is the first car object in the process in the step S2, the image generation system sets the car object in the second state (step S3).

In this case, the image generation system detects the timing at which the player whose car object has been set in the second state performs a predetermined button operation based on the timing at which the car object has been set in the second state (racing game start timing in a strict sense), and sets whether or not to allow a starting dash operation and the starting dash level as a flag based on the detection result.

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is not the first car object in the process in the step S2, the image generation system cancels the ghost display setting of the car object (step S4).

Specifically, when the present car object is the second or subsequent car object, since a flag has been set which indicates that the present car object subjected to the race management process is displayed as a ghost in the standby process described later, the image generation system sets a flag which indicates disabling ghost display.

The image generation system determines whether or not to allow the starting dash operation (step S5). Specifically, when the present car object subjected to the race management process is the first car object, the image generation system determines whether or not to allow the starting dash operation based on the flag information set in the process in the step S3. When the present car object subjected to the race management process is the second or subsequent car object, the image generation system determines whether or not to allow the starting dash operation based on a flag set in the start condition setting process described later.

When the image generation system has determined to allow the starting dash operation in the process in the step S5, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S6. When the image generation system has determined to prohibit the starting dash operation, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S7.

The image generation system sets the starting dash level based on a flag set in the replacement process described later (step S6).

The image generation system determines whether or not the present car object subjected to the race management process is the final car object in the team to which the present car object belongs (step S7).

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is the final car object, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S8. When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is not the final car object, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S11.

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is the final car object in the process in the step S7, the image generation system determines whether or not the present car object has passed across the finish line (i.e., control line) at predetermined timings (step S8).

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process has passed across the control line, the image generation system determines the ranking of the team to which the present car object belongs (step S9), and finishes this operation.

Upon completion of this operation, the image generation system determines the final ranking of each team after the final car object of each team participating in the racing game has completed the race, and displays the ranking of each team. The image generation system then produces the end of the race, and finishes the racing game.

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process is not the final car object in the process in the step S7, the image generation system determines whether or not the present car object has passed across the next car object call line at predetermined timings (step S10).

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process has passed across the next car object call line, the image generation system issues instructions to start the standby process described later (step S11).

Specifically, in order to cause the present car object subjected to the race management process to relay the right to participate in the race to the next car object, the image generation system sets the next car object in the same team as the present car object at the control line (i.e., relay line).

The image generation system determines whether or not the present car object subjected to the race management process has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object in the same team as the present car object at predetermined timings (step S12).

Specifically, the image generation system determines whether or not the present car object subjected to the race management process has touched the next car object in the same team as the present car object or has passed across the control line.

When the image generation system has determined that the present car object subjected to the race management process has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object in the same team as the present car object, the image generation system issues instructions to start the start condition setting process described later (step S13).

The image generation system sets the present car object subjected to the race management process to be displayed as a ghost (step S14).

For example, the image generation system sets a flag indicating that the present car object is a ghost display object. When this flag is set, the present car object is displayed as a ghost depending on the player's screen.

The image generation system determines whether or not a predetermined period of time has elapsed after the present car object subjected to the race management process has been set to be a ghost display object at predetermined timings (step S15). When the image generation system has determined that the predetermined period of time has elapsed, the image generation system causes the present car object to disappear from the object space (step S16), and finishes this operation.

When the image generation system causes the present car object subjected to the race management process to disappear from the object space in the step S16, the image generation system also causes the following virtual camera which has followed the present car object to disappear.

3.2 Standby Process

The standby process according to this embodiment is described below. FIG. 14 is a flowchart showing an example of the standby process according to this embodiment.

The following process is performed when initiation of the process is directed in the race management process performed for each present car object.

When the image generation system has detected instructions to start the standby process (step S101), the image generation system identifies the order of the present car object subjected to the race management process in which initiation of the standby process has been directed (step S102).

For example, the image generation system identifies the order of the present car object in the process in the step S102 based on the flag, information indicating the number of car objects in each team which have participated in the race after the race has started, or the like.

The image generation system sets the car object in the same team as the present car object subjected to the race management process which is set to participate in the race subsequent to the present car object at the control line (i.e., relay line) as the next car object (step S103).

In this case, the image generation system enables the player's operation (e.g. idling operation) other than the operation of causing the car object to move in the object space.

The image generation system sets the next car object set at the relay line to be a ghost display object (step S104).

For example, the image generation system sets flag information indicating that the next car object is displayed as a ghost. When this flag information is set, the next car object is displayed as a ghost depending on the player's screen.

The image generation system sets the next car virtual camera behind the next car object (step S105).

The image generation system issues instructions to draw an image according to the set next car virtual camera (step S106), and finishes this operation.

When the process in the step S106 has been performed, an image for displaying the next car object which stands by at the relay line is generated on the screen for the player who operates the next car object (or, part of the main screen) as the next car screen.

3.3 Start Condition Setting Process

The start condition setting process according to this embodiment is described below. FIG. 15 is a flowchart showing an example of the start condition setting process according to this embodiment.

The following process is performed when initiation of the process is directed in the race management process performed for each present car object.

When the image generation system has detected instructions to start the start condition setting process (step S201), the image generation system determines whether or not the speed of the present car object subjected to the race management process (hereinafter called “managed present car object”) immediately before relaying the right to participate in the race to the replacement target next car object (hereinafter called “target next car object”) in the same team as the managed present car object is equal to or higher than a predetermined speed (e.g. 200 km/h) (step S202).

When the image generation system has determined that the speed of the managed present car object immediately before relaying the right to participate in the race to the target next car object is equal to or higher than 200 km/h, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S203. When the image generation system has determined that the speed of the managed present car object immediately before relaying the right to participate in the race to the target next car object is lower than 200 km/h, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S205.

The image generation system then enables the starting dash operation of the target next car object (step S203). For example, the image generation system sets a flag indicating that the starting dash operation is enabled.

The image generation system determines the starting dash level based on the speed of the managed present car object immediately before relaying the right to participate in the race to the target next car object, and sets the determined starting dash level as the flag (step S204).

For example, the image generation system sets the starting dash level at the maximum level, a normal level, or a low level based on the maximum speed and the predetermined speed (e.g. 200 km/h or more), as described above.

The image generation system changes the state of the target next car object from the first state to the second state (step S205), and changes the next car virtual camera to the following virtual camera which follows the target next car object which participates in the race (step S206).

The image generation system issues instructions to perform the race management process using the target next car object as the present car object (step S207), and finishes this operation.

3.4 Modification

A modification of this embodiment is described below with reference to FIGS. 16 and 17.

In this modification, the next car object on standby can make an approach run. This modification merely differs from the above-described race management process as to part of the standby process and the start condition setting process. The remaining processes are the same as in the above-described race management process. The following description focuses on only the standby process and the start condition setting process according to this modification.

Standby Process

FIG. 16 is a flowchart showing the modification of the standby process according to this embodiment.

When the image generation system has detected instructions to start the standby process (step S301), the image generation system identifies the starting order of the present car object subjected to the race management process in which initiation of the standby process has been directed (step S302).

For example, the image generation system identifies the starting order of the present car object in the process in the step S302 using a flag or a counter for counting the number of present car objects of each team which have participated in the race.

The image generation system sets the car object in the same team as the present car object subjected to the race management process which is set to participate in the race subsequent to the present car object at the control line (i.e., relay line) as the next car object (step S303).

In this case, the image generation system enables the player's operation (e.g. idling operation) other than the operation of causing the car object to move in the object space.

The image generation system changes the state of the next car object from the first state to the second state (step S304).

The next car object can be basically operated after this step. However, the next car object cannot be moved backward in the relay area, and cannot be caused to pass across the area end line.

The image generation system sets the next car object set at the relay line to be displayed as a ghost (step S305).

For example, the image generation system sets a flag indicating that the next car object is displayed as a ghost. When this flag is set, the next car object is displayed as a ghost depending on the player's screen.

The image generation system sets the next car virtual camera behind the next car object (step S306).

The image generation system issues instructions to draw an image according to the set next car virtual camera (step S307), and finishes this operation.

When the process in the step S307 has been performed, an image for displaying the next car object which stands by at the relay line is generated on the screen for the player who operates the next car object (or, part of the main screen) as the next car screen.

Start Condition Setting Process

FIG. 17 is a flowchart showing the modification of the start condition setting process according to this embodiment.

When the image generation system has detected instructions to start the start condition setting process (step S401), the image generation system determines whether or not the speed of the present car object subjected to the race management process (hereinafter called “managed present car object”) immediately before the managed present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the next car object (hereinafter called “target next car object”) in the same team as the managed present car object is equal to or higher than a predetermined speed (e.g. 200 km/h) (step S402).

When the image generation system has determined that the speed of the managed present car object immediately before the managed present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the target next car object is equal to or higher than 200 km/h, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S403. When the image generation system has determined that the speed of the managed present car object immediately before the managed present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the target next car object is lower than 200 km/h, the image generation system transitions to a process in a step S405.

The image generation system then enables the starting dash operation of the target next car object (step S403). For example, the image generation system sets a flag indicating that the starting dash operation is enabled.

The image generation system determines the starting dash level based on the speed of the managed present car object immediately before the managed present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the target next car object, and sets the determined starting dash level in the flag (step S404).

For example, the image generation system sets the starting dash level at the maximum level, a normal level, or a low level based on the maximum speed and the predetermined speed (e.g. 200 km/h or more), as described above.

The image generation system sets the target next car object in the second state in which the target next car object can move from the relay area (step S405), and changes the next car virtual camera to the following virtual camera which follows the target next car object which participates in the race (step S406).

The image generation system issues instructions to cause the target next car object to start the operation of the race management process as the present car object (step S407), and finishes the operation.

4. Application Example

4.1 Client/Server System

The game system according to this embodiment is configured so that a single device performs each game process. The game system according to this embodiment may also be applied to a system including a server device and a plurality of client devices (hereinafter called “client/server system”).

As shown in FIG. 18, the client/server system includes a server device S which performs a basic game process, and a plurality of client devices C, each of which receives the operation data from each player participating in the time-trial racing game or the ranking racing game and transmits and receives necessary data and instructions to and from the server device.

In this example, the server device S performs data communication with each client device C by broadcasting or the like to perform various processes necessary for executing the racing game such as a process of starting the game when game start conditions have been satisfied and a process of proceeding with the game.

Specifically, the server device S transmits and receives data and instructions to and from each client device C when executing each racing game based on identification data for identifying each client device C.

The server device S performs various processes such as receiving the operation data from each player, executing the replacement process, the standby process, or the start condition setting process for executing each racing game, and transmitting data for displaying a game image on the display section 190 based on the identification data of each client device C.

The server device S receives the player's operation data which is input to the client device C through the operation section 160, and controls the operation of the corresponding car object in the object space based on the received operation data.

When the server device S has detected that the present car object has relayed the right to participate in the race to the next car object when performing the relay process, the server device S transmits a command indicating that the present car object has been set in the first state to the client device C for operating the present car object (hereinafter called “present car client device”), and transmits a command indicating that the next car object has been set in the second state to the client device C for operating the next car object (hereinafter called “next car client device”).

When the server device executes the start condition setting process, the server device controls the next car object based on the start conditions set when the present car object relays the right to participate in the race to the next car object and the operation data transmitted from the next car client device C.

The server device transmits and receives various types of data for displaying an image appropriate for each client device C. For example, the server device S transmits data for drawing an image mainly containing the present car object to the present car client device C, and transmits data for drawing an image mainly containing the next car object during the standby process or the like to the next car client device C.

In this case, the server device S transmits data for drawing an image for watching the racing game to the present car client device C which does not participate in the racing game and the client device C other than the next car client device C.

Each client device C transmits the operation data received through the operation section 160 to the server device S together with the identification data. Each client device C receives data for drawing various images, and displays the images on the display section 190.

4.2 Peer-to-Peer System

The game system according to this embodiment is configured so that a single device performs each game process. The game system according to this embodiment may also be applied to a system which includes only a plurality of terminal devices and in which the terminal devices execute the game process in cooperation (hereinafter called “peer-to-peer system”).

As shown in FIG. 19, the peer-to-peer system includes a plurality of terminal devices T which can control each game process in cooperation while transmitting and receiving necessary data and instructions and individually executing the game process.

Each terminal device T performs various processes necessary for executing the racing game such as a process of starting the game when game start conditions have been satisfied and a process of proceeding with the game in cooperation with other terminal devices T.

Specifically, each terminal device T transfers data and instructions when executing each racing game based on identification data for identifying other terminal devices T. Each terminal device T performs various processes such as receiving operation data from each player, executing the replacement process, the standby process, or the start condition setting process for executing the time-trial racing game or the ranking racing game, and drawing a game image based on the identification data.

When the player's operation data is input to each terminal device T through the operation section 160, each terminal device T executes various game processes based on the input operation data, and transmits the input operation data to other terminal devices T.

Each terminal device T controls the operation of the corresponding car object based on the operation data input through the operation section 160, and controls the operations of other car objects in the object space based on the operation data transmitted from other terminal devices T.

In the peer-to-peer system, each terminal device T receives the operation data of the car objects other than the car object of which the operation data is input to each terminal device T (i.e., corresponding car object) from other terminal devices T, and executes various game processes based on the operation data input through the operation section 160 and the received operation data.

In the above peer-to-peer system, each terminal device T executes various game processes based on the operation data input through the operation section 160 and the received operation data. Note that each terminal device T may transmit and receive data (hereinafter called “control data”) of various processes such as the replacement process, the standby process, or the start condition setting process, and control the operation of each car object based on the operation data and the control data.

For example, each terminal device T may transmit and receive data indicating whether or not the present car object has touched the next car object, and the terminal device T for operating the next car object may execute the replacement process based on the received data.

Each terminal device T may transmit and receive data indicating that the present car object has passed across the next car object call point, and the terminal device T for operating the next car object may execute the standby process based on the received data.

Each terminal device T may transmit and receive data indicating the state of the next car object and the present car object at the time of touch, and the terminal device T for operating the next car object may execute the start condition setting process based on the received data.

The invention is not limited to the above-described embodiments, and various modifications can be made. Any term cited together with a different term having a broader meaning or the same meaning at least once in this specification or drawings can be replaced by the different term in any place in this specification and drawings.

The relay process, the standby process, and the start condition setting process are not limited to those described in the above embodiments and modifications. A method equivalent to those described above is also included within the scope of the invention.

The above embodiments have been described taking an example of the car racing game in which a plurality of teams participate. Note that the invention is not limited thereto. The invention may also be applied to a racing game in which a single player participates, games involving various moving objects such as a ship or an airplane, and the like.

The invention may be applied to various games. The invention may be applied to various image generation systems such as an arcade game system, a consumer game system, a large-scale attraction system in which a plurality of players participate, a simulator, a multimedia terminal, a system board which generates a game image, and a portable telephone.

Although only some embodiments of this invention have been described in detail above, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible in the embodiments without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of this invention. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the invention.