Title:
REMOTE GAME SYSTEM AND REMOTE GAME MACHINE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A remote game system has a game machine, which has a manual operation unit receiving a manual operation instruction, and a remote controller. The remote controller communicates with the game machine through a communication network, and controls operation of the game machine through the communication network. The game machine has an exclusion unit, and when one of a remote operation instruction for playing a game from the remote controller and a manual operation instruction for directly playing the game from the manual operation unit has been received, inhibits one of the remote operation instruction or the manual operation instruction.



Inventors:
Nagata, Takashi (Osaka, JP)
Nanba, Yuuji (Osaka, JP)
Enomoto, Shuichi (Osaka, JP)
Natsumi, Tooru (Osaka, JP)
Kimura, Kazuo (Osaka, JP)
Takeuchi, Shigehiro (Osaka, JP)
Ikeda, Tomohiro (Osaka, JP)
Tanaka, Hiroyuki (Osaka, JP)
Application Number:
12/036432
Publication Date:
03/05/2009
Filing Date:
02/25/2008
Assignee:
Fujitsu Limited (Kawasaki, JP)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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20040087377Laser gun for recreationMay, 2004Liu
20080064491Method for gambling games of variable durationMarch, 2008Taylor
20060252521Table game trackingNovember, 2006Gururajan et al.
20070060327Creating, playing and monetizing user customizable gamesMarch, 2007Curtis
20060211498Information display faceplate for a video game controllerSeptember, 2006Higgins et al.
20050187001Geography based card game and method of playAugust, 2005Fishel
20090227379Link System and Playing Method of Card GameSeptember, 2009Yoshizawa



Primary Examiner:
WEATHERFORD, SYVILA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STAAS & HALSEY LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A remote game system comprising: a game machine having a manual operation unit receiving a manual operation instruction; and a remote control device having a communication unit communicating with the game machine through a communication network, and a remote operation unit operating the game machine through the communication network, wherein the game machine comprises an exclusion unit, when one of a remote operation instruction for playing a game from the remote control device and a manual operation instruction for directly playing the game from the manual operation unit has been received, inhibiting one of the remote operation instruction or the manual operation instruction.

2. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the remote control device further comprises: a receiving unit receiving a reservation for the game, the reservation designating the game machine; and a requesting unit requesting establishment of connection with the game machine based upon the received reservation.

3. The remote game system according to claim 2, wherein the exclusion unit comprises: a refusing unit , when the manual operation instruction to play the game has been received from the manual operation unit, refusing the request for the establishment of the connection from the remote control device; a receiving unit receiving the reservation by permitting the requested establishment of the connection; and a inhibiting unit, when the connection has been established, inhibiting the manual operation instruction for the game from the manual operation unit.

4. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the remote control device further comprises: a search condition receiving unit receiving a search condition relating to a game machine; and a search result display unit for displaying game machine information indicating a game machine that satisfies the received search condition.

5. The remote game system according to claim 4, wherein the remote control device further comprises a connection unit establishing connections with a plurality of game machines.

6. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the game machine further comprises: a video-image capturing unit capturing a displayed video image visually indicating a status of the game; a acquisition unit acquiring sound from around the game machine; and a communication unit transmitting to the remote control device video image information based on the video image captured by the video-image capturing unit and sound information based on the sound acquired by the acquisition unit.

7. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the game machine further comprises: a detecting unit detecting a status of the game has been shifted to a predetermined status; and a transmitting unit transmitting to the remote control device status information indicating the detected status.

8. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the game machine further comprises video-image capturing unit capturing a displayed video image visually indicating a status of the game, and wherein the remote control device further comprises: a display displaying a video image based on received video image information; an output unit outputting sound based on received sound information; and a video image capture operating unit operating the video-image capturing unit of the game machine.

9. The remote game system according to claim 1, wherein the remote control device further comprises a control unit for, when video image information is received from a plurality of game machines, preferentially displaying a video image based on video image information received from one of the plurality of game machines, from which status information has been received.

10. A game machine in communication via a communication network with a remote control device, comprising: communication unit receiving a remote operation instruction from the remote control device through the communication network; a manual operation unit receiving a manual operation instruction; and a inhibiting unit, when one of a remote operation instruction for playing a game through the communication unit and a manual operation instruction for playing the game from the manual operation unit has been received, inhibiting one of the remote operation instruction or the manual operation instruction.

11. The game machine according to claim 10, further comprising: a video-image capturing unit capturing a displayed video image visually indicating a status of the game; an acquisition unit acquiring sound from around the game machine; and a transmitting unit transmitting to the remote control device video image information based on the video image captured by the video-image capturing unit and sound information based on the sound acquired by the acquisition unit.

12. The game machine according to claim 10, further comprising: a detecting unit detecting a status of the game has been shifted to a predetermined status; and a transmitting unit transmitting to the remote control device status information indicating the detected status.

13. A method of remotely playing a game on a game machine, comprising: receiving a manual game machine operation instruction directly at the game machine; communicably via a network receiving a game machine remote instruction at the game machine; inhibiting one of the game machine remote operation instruction or the manual game machine operation instruction; and transmitting visual image information of a video image displayed at the game machine, upon permitting the game machine remote operation instruction according to the inhibiting.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to and claims priority to Japanese patent application no. 2007-45955 filed on Feb. 26, 2007 in the Japan Patent Office, and incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

1. Field

The embodiments relate to a gaming method, a computer-readable medium thereof, and a game system including a game machine, such as a pinball machine, and a remote control device for establishing connection with the game machine through a communication network and controlling the game machine through the communication network, and to the game machine used in the game system. More particularly, the embodiments relate to a remote game system capable of allowing a player to operate a game machine installed in a game parlor without requiring the player to go to the game parlor, and to the game machine.

2. Description of the Related Art

Games using game machines, such as pinball machines, have become popular for amusement. Japanese Unexamined Patent Application Publication No. 2000-189666 discloses a game system that provides a game using, instead of an actual game machine, a virtual game machine through a communication network.

In a game system including a virtual game machine, a remote control device, such as a personal computer or a video game machine having a communication function, is connected to a game server on a communication network, and a player operates, through the remote control device, the virtual game machine, which is provided by the game server. In the case of operating the virtual game machine, since a video image and sound relating to the game machine are distributed from the game server, the player is able to play the game while viewing the video image and listening to the sound.

In addition, the pamphlet of International Publication No. 95/30463 discloses a system that allows a player to play a game while savoring the sense of reality since a video image and sound of an actual game machine are transmitted to a remote control device.

SUMMARY

According to an aspect of an embodiment, a system includes a game machine having manual operation unit for receiving a manual operation instruction, and a remote control device having communication unit for communicating with the game machine through a communication network and remote operation unit for operating the game machine through the communication network. The game machine further comprises exclusion unit for, when one of a remote operation instruction for playing a game from the remote control device and a manual operation instruction for directly playing the game from the manual operation unit has been received, inhibiting the other one of the remote operation instruction and the manual operation instruction.

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

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 schematically illustrates a game system according to an embodiment;

FIGS. 2A and 2B are external views of a game machine used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 3 is an external view of a remote control device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing internal structures of devices installed in a parlor in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the internal structure of the remote control device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram showing internal structures of devices provided in a service business unit used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 7 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of an area-name database provided in an integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 8 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of a parlor database provided in the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 9 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of a machine-type database provided in the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 10 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of a game-machine database provided in the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 11 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of a reservation database provided in the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 12 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of a status-information database provided in the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 13 is a flowchart showing a status-information recording process performed by an in-parlor recording device and the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 14 is a flowchart showing a connection establishing process performed by the remote control device, a connection control device, and the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 15 is a flowchart showing the connection establishing process performed by the remote control device, the connection control device, and the integrated recording device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIGS. 16A and 16B schematically show code conversion performed by an in-home connection device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 17 is a flowchart showing an exclusion process performed by the game machine used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 18 is a flowchart showing a reservation process performed by the connection control device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 19 illustrates video images output from the remote control device used in the game system according to the embodiment;

FIG. 20 is a flowchart showing a video-image switching process performed by game machines and the remote control device used in the game system according to the embodiment; and

FIG. 21 is a flowchart showing a disconnection process performed by the remote control device and the connection control device used in the game system according to the embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments will be described with reference to the drawings. FIG. 1 schematically illustrates a game system according to an embodiment. Referring to FIG. 1, game machines 1, such as pinball machines or pachinko machines are installed in game parlors located in various areas and places. The game machines 1 each have a communication function. With the communication function, each of the game machines 1 is connectable to a communication network 100, such as a dedicated IP network or the Internet, through an in-parlor connection device 2, such as a session initiation protocol terminal adapter (SIP-TA), installed in a corresponding parlor. A remote control device 4, such as (without limitation) a personal computer, for performing remote control of the game machines 1 is connected to the communication network 100 through a in-home connection device 3, such as an SIP-TA. In-parlor recording devices 5 which have databases for recording various statuses of games provided by the game machines 1 are installed in the parlors.

A connection control device 6, such as an SIP server computer, for controlling connection between the game machines 1 and the remote control device 4 is provided in the communication network 100. Various communication devices, such as an authentication device 7 used for authentication for establishing connection, a charging device 8 for performing charging processing relating to connection, and an integrated recording device 9 which has a database for recording various types of information on the game machines 1 in accordance with communication with the in-parlor recording devices 5 installed in the parlors, are connected to the connection control device 6. A service relating to the game system according to this embodiment is provided using the various communication devices. The various communication devices implementing the game system do not necessarily have individual functions, as illustrated in FIG. 1. A single apparatus may have all the functions. In FIG. 1, an example in which various communication devices are connected to the communication network 100 through an in-business-unit communication network, such as a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN), built in a service business unit that provides a service, is illustrated.

External appearances of main devices used in the game system according to this embodiment will be described. FIGS. 2A and 2B are external views of a game machine 1 used in the game system according to this embodiment. FIG. 2A is a front view of the game machine 1. FIG. 2B is a side view of the game machine 1. The game machine 1 includes a game unit 10, an operation unit 11, a sound acquisition unit 12, a video-image capturing unit 13, and a movable supporting unit 14. A player is able to view the status of a game on the game unit 10. The operation unit 11 includes a handle or the like and receives an operation instruction from the player. The sound acquisition unit 12 includes microphones or the like for acquiring sound around the game machine 1. The video-image capturing unit 13 includes a camera or the like and has a function of capturing a video image indicating the status of the game provided by the game unit 10. The movable supporting unit 14 movably supports the video-image capturing unit 13 and includes a movable arm. When the movable supporting unit 14 operates, the video-image capturing unit 13 moves near the game unit 10 such that all or part of the game unit 10 falls within an image-capturing range (see FIG. 2B). In a case where a player goes to a parlor in which the game machine 1 is installed and operates the operation unit 11 to play the game, the movable supporting unit 14 operates to move the video-image capturing unit 13 to a side of the game unit 10. Thus, the player is able to view the entire game unit 10.

FIG. 3 is an external view of the remote control device 4 used in the game system according to this embodiment. The remote control device 4 includes an input unit 40, which serves as an input user interface, and a video output unit 41 and a sound output unit 42, which serve as output user interfaces. The input unit 40 includes a keyboard, a remote controller, and the like. The video output unit 41 includes a monitor and the like. The sound output unit 42 includes speakers and the like. The remote controller, which is used as the input unit 40, includes operation unit 40a, video-image-capturing operation unit 40b, game-ending unit 40c, browsing unit 40d, and an emergency button 40e. The operation unit 40a corresponds to the operation unit 11 provided in the game machine 1. The video-image-capturing operation unit 40b is used for operating the video-image capturing unit 13 and the movable supporting unit 14 to perform operations, such as shift, magnification, and contraction of the image-capturing range of the video-image capturing unit 13. The game-ending unit 40c is, for example, a game-ending button for ending the game of the game machine 1 that is being operated. The browsing unit 40d is, for example, a data-browsing button used for browsing the status of the game machine 1 that is being operated. The emergency button 40e is, for example, a staff call button used for calling staff in the parlor in a case where, for example, a ball gets stuck in the game machine 1.

Hardware structures of main devices used in the game system according to this embodiment will be described. FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing internal structures of devices installed in a parlor in the game system according to this embodiment. The game machine 1 includes control unit 15, such as a control board, for controlling the entire game machine 1. The control unit 15 includes a read-only memory (ROM) 15a in which information on a game program and various data are recorded, a random-access memory (RAM) 15b for temporarily storing information, and a central processing unit (CPU) 15c for reading the game program recorded in the ROM 15a, storing the read game program into the RAM 15b, and executing the game program.

The game machine 1 further includes first communication unit 16, second communication unit 17, video-image-capturing control unit 18, and operation exclusion unit 19. The first communication unit 16 is a unit for connecting the game machine 1 to the communication network 100 through the in-parlor connection device 2. The second communication unit 17 is a unit for connecting the game machine 1 to the in-parlor recording device 5 through an in-parlor connection network, such as a LAN. The video-image-capturing control unit 18 is a unit for controlling operations of the video-image capturing unit 13 and the movable supporting unit 14. The operation exclusion unit 19 is a unit for performing exclusive control for a remote operation by the remote control device 4 and a direct operation by the operation unit 11.

For example, in the case of Japanese pachinko machines, the control unit 15 performs detection and control relating to the status of a game, such as the number of won balls, the number of jackpots, the number of ready situation to jackpots, and the like. In addition, the control unit 15 records status information indicating the detected status into the in-parlor recording device 5 through the second communication unit 17. The operation exclusion unit 19 includes a mechanical mechanism and an electronic control mechanism. For example, in the case of the pachinko machine, when a reservation for the game is received from a player through the remote control device 4 or when an operation signal is received from the remote control device 4, the operation exclusion unit 19 performs a simulated operation based on the received operation signal, such as, an operation for shooting a ball with a strength corresponding to the received operation signal. At the same time, the operation exclusion unit 19 inhibits an operation instruction received through the operation unit 11 by fixedly or mechanically interrupting transmission of the operation instruction. In addition, when a direct operation instruction has been received from a player using the operation unit 11, the operation exclusion unit 19 inhibits an operation instruction received from the remote control device 4 by refusing a request for establishing connection from the remote control device 4.

The in-parlor recording device 5 includes control unit 50, such as a CPU, recording unit 51, such as a hard disk, a ROM, or a RAM, first communication unit 52 for connecting the in-parlor recording device 5 to the game machines 1 through the in-parlor communication network, and second communication unit 53 for connecting the in-parlor recording device 5 to the integrated recording device 9 through the communication network 100. Part of the recording region of the recording unit 51 is used as status-information database (DB) 51 a for recording status information transmitted from the game machines 1 installed in the parlors. The in-parlor recording device 5 periodically transmits to the integrated recording device 9 status information recorded in the status-information database 51a.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the internal structure of the remote control device 4 used in the game system according to this embodiment. The remote control device 4 includes control unit 43, such as a CPU, recording unit 44, such as a hard disk or a RAM, communication unit 45 for connecting the remote control device 4 to the communication network 100 through the in-home connection device 3, an input-interface (I/F) 46 for allowing connection with the input unit 40, and an output interface (I/F) 47 for allowing connection with the video output unit 41 and the sound output unit 42. Information on various programs, including an application program providing a service relating to the game system according to this embodiment, and data are recorded in the recording unit 44 provided in the remote control device 4.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram showing internal structures of the devices provided in the service business unit used in the game system according to this embodiment. The connection control device 6 includes control unit 60, recording unit 61, and communication unit 62. With the function of the SIP server computer, the connection control device 6 controls streaming communication between the game machines 1 and the remote control device 4 in accordance with a protocol, such as a session initiation protocol (SIP). Part of the recording region of the recording unit 61 is used as a communication database (DB) 61a for recording, as communication entries, information, such as a media access control (MAC) address, an SIP address, a communication status, and media, of a device for which connection implementing streaming communication has been established. The connection control device 6 is connected to the communication network 100, the authentication device 7, the charging device 8, and the integrated recording device 9 through the communication unit 62.

The integrated recording device 9 includes control unit 90, recording unit 91, and communication unit 92. The integrated recording device 9 is connected to the connection control device 6 and the in-parlor recording device 5 through the communication unit 92. Part of the recording region of the recording unit 91 is used as various databases, such as an area-name database (DB) 91 a and a parlor database (DB) 91 b for recording information relating to an area in which a parlor is located, a machine-type database (DB) 91c for recording the type of a game machine 1 installed in the parlor, a game-machine database (DB) 91d for recording information indicating the game machine 1, a reservation database (DB) 91e for recording a reservation status, and a status-information database (DB) 91f for recording status information received from the in-parlor recording device 5 installed in the parlor.

FIG. 7 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the area-name database 91a provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the area-name database 91a, an area name indicating an area and an area code assigned to the area are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. The correspondence between an area name and an area code can be recognized by referring to the area-name database 91a. An “area” may be a state, a county, or a ward. However, an “area” is not necessarily an administrative regional unit, it may be a predetermined area.

FIG. 8 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the parlor database 91b provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the parlor database 91b, an area name, a parlor name indicating a parlor, and a parlor code assigned to the parlor are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. A parlor located in a desired area can be recognized by referring to the parlor database 91b.

FIG. 9 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the machine-type database 91c provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the machine-type database 91c, a parlor name, a machine-type name indicating the machine type of a game machine 1, and a game-machine-type code assigned to the machine type are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. The name of the machine type of a game machine 1 installed in a desired parlor can be recognized by referring to the machine-type database 91c.

FIG. 10 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the game-machine database 91d provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the game-machine database 91d, a machine-type name, a game-machine number assigned to a game machine 1, and a game-machine code assigned to the game machine 1 are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. A desired game machine 1 can be specified by referring to the game-machine database 91d.

FIG. 11 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the reservation database 91e provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the reservation database 91e, a game-machine code and reservation information, such as IP addresses for identifying remote control devices 4 by which reservations for a game machine 1 have been made, are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. As reservation information, in FIG. 11, in an unlimiting example, IP addresses of at most five remote control devices 4 for each game machine 1 are recorded in association with priorities for reservations. A reservation having the highest priority represents a state in which establishment of connection with a game machine 1, for which a reservation has been made, is being waited. Thus, reservations having the second and subsequent priorities are recorded as reservation information in the reservation database 91e. That is, reservation information indicating reservations having the second to sixth priorities are recorded as IP addresses of corresponding remote control devices 4 for each game machine 1. When no reservation has been made, “NULL” is recorded in a field of corresponding reservation information.

FIG. 12 schematically illustrates the recorded contents of the status-information database 91f provided in the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. A case where a Japanese pachinko machine is used will be described as an example. In the status-information database 91f, a game-machine code and status information of a game machine 1, including the number of jackpots of two day ago, the number of jackpots of one day ago, the number of rotations after a jackpot occurred, the total number of rotations, and a connection status, are recorded in association with each other as a record unit. A “jackpot” represents a particular status in which the status of the game machine 1 is advantageous to a player. For example, in a case where the game machine 1 is a pachinko machine including three drums each indicating information, such as a number or an image, a jackpot is a status in which after the three drums are rotated and stopped, information indicated by all the drums become the same. In the jackpot status, a hole for collecting shot pachinko balls with a high probability opens widely, and a significantly increased number of pachinko balls can be acquired. The number of jackpots of two days ago and the number of jackpots of one day ago represent the number of times in which the jackpot status occurred on the date two days before the current date and the number of times in which the jackpot status occurred on the date one day before the current date, respectively. The number of rotations after a jackpot occurred represents the number of rotations of drums after the last jackpot occurred. The total number of rotations represents the total number of rotations of the drums on the current date. The connection status represents the number of times in which the connection with the game machine 1 has been established. Times at which the connections were established, as well as the number of times in which connection has been established, may be included in the connection status.

Processes performed by various devices used in the game system according to this embodiment will be described. FIG. 13 is a flowchart showing a status-information recording process performed by the in-parlor recording device 5 and the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. The in-parlor recording device 5 collects statuses of the game machines 1 through the in-parlor communication network, and records the collected statuses in the status-information database 51a. Under the control of the control unit 50, the in-parlor recording device 5 transmits status information recorded in the status-information database 51 a with predetermined intervals, such as ten minutes, to the integrated recording device 9 via the second communication unit 53 (S101). All the status information recorded in the status-information database 51a is not transmitted to the integrated recording device 9. Since only differences from the status information transmitted last time are transmitted to the integrated recording device 9, the amount of information transmitted to the integrated recording device 9 can be reduced.

Under the control of the control unit 90, the integrated recording device 9 receives, via the communication unit 92, the status information (S102).

Then, the integrated recording device records the received status information into the status-information database 91f (S103). As described above, the integrated recording device 9 collects status information of the game machines 1 installed in the parlors.

FIGS. 14 and 15 are flowcharts showing a connection establishing process performed by the remote control device 4, the connection control device 6, and the integrated recording device 9 used in the game system according to this embodiment. A player operates the remote control device 4 to start an application program providing a service relating to the game system according to this embodiment. The remote control device 4 receives an operation instruction from the player, and displays a predetermined screen for receiving a search condition for the game machine 1. The player enters a search condition in a predetermined entry field on the displayed screen. A search condition is, for example, an area name, a parlor name, a machine name, a game-machine number, the status of a game machine 1, a connection status, or the like, or any combinations thereof. The status of a game machine 1 represents information, such as the number of rotations after the last jackpot occurred. The connection status represents the number of times in which connection has been established. Recently, in Japan, systems allowing players to browse information on each pachinko machine, which relates to the number of jackpots, the number of rotations, and the like, have become widely used. The game system according to this embodiment is capable of allowing players to browse connection statuses, as well as information on games themselves, and to set search conditions relating to the connection statuses. As connection statuses, various statuses, including the number of times in which connection has been established, an average connection establishment duration, and the cumulative number of reservations for establishing connection, or any combinations thereof can be presented.

Under the control of the control unit 43, the remote control device 4 receives, via the input unit 40, a search condition for a game machine 1 (S201), and transmits, via the communication unit 45, the received search condition to the in-home connection device 3, so that the search condition can be transmitted to the connection control device 6 (S202).

The in-home connection device 3 receives the search condition, for example, encodes the received search condition into a predetermined format, and generates an INVITE packet, which complies with a protocol, such as an SIP, using the coded search condition as a destination. The in-home connection device 3 transmits the search condition as the INVITE packet to the connection control device 6. The processing for encoding a search condition performed by the in-home connection device 3 is processing for converting the search condition into a code recorded in a corresponding database provided in the integrated recording device 9. Since a search condition and a code are recorded in advance in association with each other, the in-home connection device 3 is capable of acquiring the correspondence between the search condition and the code by referring to the integrated recording device 9 through the connection control device 6 when necessary.

FIGS. 16A and 16B schematically illustrate some code conversions performed by the in-home connection device 3 used in the game system according to this embodiment. FIGS. 16A and 16B illustrate examples of encoding performed by the in-home connection device 3. In the example shown in FIG. 16A, in a case where search conditions are “Hokkaido”, “ABC”, “mammoth”, and “111111111101”, the search conditions are encoded into a code “01_0001_1004_111111111101_none_none_none_none_none”. In the example shown in FIG. 16B, in a case where search conditions are “Hokkaido”, “mammoth”, “20”, “10”, “5”, “100-150”, and “3-5”, the search conditions are encoded into a code “01_0000_1004_none_020_010_005_005_002”. As shown in FIGS. 16A and 16B, search conditions are not necessarily entered for all the fields. For a field in which no search condition is entered, a dummy value “none” or the like is used. In addition, in the case of designating a value, such as the number of jackpots, the number of rotations after a jackpot occurred, or a connection status, when a numeric value is designated, the designated numeric value is converted into a code indicating the designated numeric value or a code that is associated in advance with a range including the designated numeric value. When a range is designated, the designated range is converted into a code corresponding to the range or a code indicating a numeric value representing a representative value in the range.

Referring back to the flowcharts shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives, via the communication unit 62, the search condition as the INVITE packet (S203), performs authentication processing for the received INVITE packet (S204), and transmits the INVITE packet as the search condition to the integrated recording device 9 (S205). The authentication processing in S204 is performed by comparing an authentication code of the in-home connection device 3 contained as header information in the INVITE packet with the recorded contents of the authentication device 7. If the authentication processing in S204 has been performed unsuccessfully, that is, if it is determined that the INVITE packet indicates invalid access, the connection control device 6 cancels the subsequent processing and transmits to the remote control device 4 information indicating that the authentication processing has been performed unsuccessfully.

Under the control of the control unit 90, the integrated recording device 9 receives, via the communication unit 92, the search condition as the INVITE packet (S206), and searches for one or more game machines 1 that satisfy the search condition by comparing the received search condition with the recorded contents of the area-name database 91a, the parlor database 91b, the machine-type database 91c, the game-machine database 91d, and/or the status-information database 91f (S207).

Under the control of the control unit 90, the integrated recording device 9 transmits, via the communication unit 92, to the connection control device 6 communication information on the one or more game machines 1, which serves as search results, for example, in the form of an SIP 302 Moved Temporarily response (S208). As communication information on the one or more game machines 1, which serves as search results, for example, TA numbers identifying in-parlor connection devices 2, which are SIP-TAs, to which the one or more game machines 1 are connected, are transmitted. The TA number of an in-parlor connection device 2 can be acquired by recording the TA number and a corresponding game machine 1 in association with each other in advance in the game-machine database 91d or by sending a query to a corresponding in-parlor recording device 5. In a case where it is determined in S207 that no game machine 1 satisfies the search condition, the processing in S208 is not performed. The integrated recording device 9 transmits to the connection control device 6, for example, an SIP 404 Not Found response. The connection control device 6 transmits to the remote control device 4 through the in-home connection device 3 a SIP 404 Not Found error. The remote control device 4 displays information indicating that no game machine 1 satisfies the search condition.

Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives, via the communication unit 62, the communication information serving as search results, such as TA numbers of the in-parlor connection devices 2 for the one or more game machines 1 (S209). The connection control device 6 transmits to the in-parlor connection device 2 connection requests for requesting establishment of connection in accordance with the received communication information (S210). A connection request transmitted in S210 is an INVITE packet in which the destination of the INVITE packet received from the in-home connection device 3 is rewritten as identification information, such as an SIP address, for identifying an in-parlor connection device 2 specified by a TA number, which serves as communication information. Identification information, such as an SIP address, of an in-parlor connection device 2, can be acquired by recording the SIP address in advance or by sending a query to another device, such as the integrated recording device 9, in which the SIP address is recorded.

The in-parlor connection device 2 receives the connection request, and detects the use status of the corresponding game machine 1. If it is detected that the game machine 1 is not being used, the in-parlor connection device 2 transmits to the connection control device 6, for example, as an SIP 200 OK response, a connection response indicating that the requested connection is acceptable. The connection response transmitted as a 200 OK response from the in-parlor connection device 2 to the connection control device 6 contains various types of information, such as an SIP address, relating to the game machine 1. When a connection response indicating that requested connection is acceptable is transmitted, the game machine 1 is treated as a game machine that has received a reservation for a game. If the game machine 1 is being used, the in-parlor connection device 2 transmits to the connection control device 6, for example, as an SIP 486 Busy Here response, a connection refusal response indicating that the requested connection is refused.

Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives a connection response as a 200 OK response via the communication unit 62 (S211). Then, the connection control device 6 transmits the received connection response to the in-home connection device 3, so that the connection response can be transmitted to the remote control device 4 (S212). If the connection control device 6 receives a connection refusal response as a 486 Busy Here response, the connection control device 6 transmits to the in-home connection device 3 information indicating that the game machine 1 is being used, so that the information can be transmitted to the remote control device 4.

The in-home connection device 3 transmits to the remote control device 4 a search result indicating the game machine 1, which is indicated by the received connection response. Under the control of the control unit 43, the remote control device 4 receives the search result based on the connection response via the communication unit 45 (S213), the remote control device 4 outputs the received search result from the video output unit 41 (S214). If connection responses relating to a plurality of game machines 1 are received, game machine information indicating each of the game machines 1 is output as a search result. If the remote control device 4 receives information indicating that a game machine 1 is being used, the remote control device 4 indicates that the game machine 1 is being used, and game machine information is output as a search result from the video output unit 41.

The player selects, from a list of game machine information output as search results from the in-home connection device 3, game machine information indicating one or more game machines 1 the player wants to operate. Then the player enters an instruction to select the game machine information.

Under the control of the control unit 43, the remote control device 4 receives, information indicating the selection status of game machine information via the input unit 40 (S215). Then, the remote control device 4 transmits, via the communication unit 45, to the in-home connection device 3 the selection information indicating the received selection status, so that the selection information can be transmitted to the connection control device 6 (S216).

The in-home connection device 3 transmits the received selection information to the connection control device 6. For example, in a case where a game machine 1 is selected as a game machine to be operated, the in-home connection device 3 transmits SIP-ACK signal as selection information for the game machine 1, which indicates a request for establishment of connection. In a case where a game machine 1 is not selected as a game machine to be operated, the in-home connection device 3 transmits SIP-Cancel signal as selection information for the game machine 1, which indicates that connection is refused. However, in a case where the game machine 1 that is being used is selected as the game machine to be operated, selection information indicating that the game machine 1 that is being used is selected is transmitted, and reservation processing starts, as described below. If the game machine 1 that is being used is not selected as a game machine to be operated, no particular processing is performed for the game machine 1.

Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives, via the communication unit 62, selection information for the game machines 1 as SIP-ACK or SIP-Cancel (S217). In accordance with the received selection information, the connection control device 6 establishes connection between a game machine 1 and the remote control device 4 (S218), and a game is started by remote control (S219). The game machine 1 for which connection is established in S218 is a game machine whose selection information indicates SIP-ACK signal. Connection with a game machine 1 whose selection information indicates SIP-Cancel signal is disconnected. When disconnection is completed, a reservation for the game machine 1 is canceled.

Connection (session) between the game machine 1 and the remote control device 4 is established in accordance with a protocol, such as transmission control protocol/user datagram protocol (TCP/UDP), and interactive information communication is performed in real time. Information transmitted from the remote control device 4 to the game machine 1 is an operation signal indicating the details of an operation the remote control device 4 receives through the operation unit 40a, the video-image-capturing operation unit 40b, the game-ending unit 40c, the browsing unit 40d, or the emergency button 40e of the input unit 40. The game machine 1 performs various types of processing, such as processing relating to a game operation, such as ball shooting, processing relating to operations of the video-image capturing unit 13 and the movable supporting unit 14, and processing for contacting parlor staff, in accordance with operation signals. Information transmitted from the game machine 1 to the remote control device 4 includes video image information indicating a video image captured by the video-image capturing unit 13, sound information indicating sound acquired by the sound acquisition unit 12, and status information indicating the status of the game. In the remote control device 4, a video image based on the video image information is output from the video output unit 41, sound based on the sound information is output from the sound output unit 42, and various types of processing based on the status information are performed. As described above, the player is able to perform remote control of the game machine 1.

In the above-described connection establishing process, the player is able to reserve a game provided by a game machine 1 only by entering a search condition. Thus, the remote control device 4 receives an input of a search condition and a reservation for the game as a common operation. Processing relating to searching and processing relating to a reservation for a game may be separated from each other, so that the processing relating to searching and the processing relating to the reservation can be received as independent operations.

FIG. 17 is a flowchart showing an exclusion process performed by the game machine 1 used in the game system according to this embodiment. In the above-described connection establishing process, the in-parlor connection device 2 receives a connection request from the integrated recording device 9, and performs, as processing for detecting the use status of the game machine 1, transmission of the connection request, which requests establishment of connection and has been received from the remote control device 4, to the game machine 1. Under the control of the control unit 15, the game machine 1 receives, via the second communication unit 17, the connection request (S301). The operation exclusion unit 19 determines whether an operation instruction has been received from an in-parlor player, who plays a game in a parlor in which the game machine 1 is installed (S302). In a case where it is assumed that no operation instruction has been received from the in-parlor player but the game machine 1 has been occupied by the in-parlor player for a predetermined period of time since the last operation instruction was received, as well as a case where an operation instruction has been received through the operation unit 11, it is determined in S302 that an operation instruction has been received. For Japanese pachinko machines, a case where balls are stored corresponds to the above-mentioned case.

If it is determined in S302 that no operation instruction has been received (if the determination in S302 is NO), under the control of the control unit 15, the game machine 1 transmits to the in-parlor connection device 2 a connection permission response indicating that connection is permitted (S303). Then, the operation exclusion unit 19 inhibits reception of an operation instruction through the operation unit 11 (S304). When the connection permission response is transmitted in S303, the in-parlor connection device 2 detects that the game machine 1 is not being used and the requested connection is acceptable. In addition, when the connection permission response is transmitted, the game machine 1 enters a status in which a reservation for remote control has been received. The processing for inhibiting reception of an operation instruction through the operation unit 11 in S304 is processing for inhibiting, using a mechanical mechanism and/or an electronic control mechanism, an operation instruction through the operation unit 11 by fixedly or mechanically and/or electronically interrupting transmission of the operation instruction. The processing for inhibiting reception of an operation instruction through the operation unit 11 is continued as long as the reservation for remote control is received or the connection is established, and is canceled when disconnection is completed. Since the video-image capturing unit 13 captures a video image of the game unit 10 of the game machine 1 during the execution of remote control, the in-parlor player is able to recognize, without touching the operation unit 11, that any operation through the operation unit 11 is inhibited.

If it is determined in S302 that an operation instruction has been received (if the determination in S302 is YES), under the control of the control unit 15, the game machine 1 transmits to the in-parlor connection device 2 a connection refusal response indicating that establishment of connection is refused (S305). When the connection refusal response is transmitted in S305, the in-parlor connection device 2 detects that the game machine 1 is being used and that the requested connection is not acceptable. Even in a case where an operation instruction has not been received through the operation unit 11, when a reservation has been received from another remote control device 4, which is different from the remote control device 4 from which the connection request has been received, or an operation instruction has been received from the different remote control device 4, the requested connection is refused. However, when a reservation or an operation instruction has been received from the different remote control device 4, the in-parlor connection device 2 or the connection control device 6 is capable of detecting that the reservation or the operation instruction has been received from the different remote control device 4. Thus, in this case, a connection request is not necessarily transmitted to the game machine 1.

As described above, the exclusion processing is processing for, when one of an operation instruction for playing the game from the remote control device 4 and an operation instruction for playing the game through the operation unit 11 is received, inhibiting the other one of the operation instructions.

FIG. 18 is a flowchart showing a reservation process performed by the connection control device 6 used in the game system according to this embodiment. When the connection control device 6 receives from the in-home connection device 3 selection information indicating that one or more game machines 1 that are being used are selected as game machines to be operated in the above-described connection establishing processing, the connection control device 6 starts the reservation process. Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 provides the order of the selection information, that is, connection requests from the remote control device 4 for connection with the one or more game machines 1, and records reservation information as a queue, which represents priorities, into the reservation database 91e (S401). A state in which a game machine 1 is being used represents a state in which the game machine 1 serving as a game machine to be operated receives an operation instruction through the operation unit 11, a state in which the game machine 1 receives a reservation from another remote control device 4, which is different from the remote control device 4 from which a connection request has been received, or a state in which the game machine 1 receives an operation instruction from the different remote control device 4.

The connection control device 6 transmits, with predetermined time intervals, connection requests to an in-parlor connection device 2 relating to a game machine 1 corresponding to reservation information recorded in the reservation database 91e. However, when it is clear that the game machine 1 is establishing connection, a connection request is not transmitted.

A video image output from the video output unit 41 of the remote control device 4 will be described. FIG. 19 illustrates video images output from the remote control device 4 used in the game system according to this embodiment. As described in the explanation of the connection establishing process, the remote control device 4 is capable of establishing connection with one or more game machines 1. FIG. 19 illustrates the state where the remote control device 4 has established connection with four game machines 1. In this example, the remote control device 4 is capable of operating only one of the game machines 1 in real time, however, the embodiments are not limited to such a configuration and one or any number of a plurality of game machines 1 may be operated simultaneously in real-time. Operations for the other game machines 1 might be fixed (paused). Referring to FIG. 19, the largest video image represents the game machine 1 that is being operated in real time. When a player operates the remote control device 4, all or a desired part of the game unit 10 can be displayed. The other video images represent the game machines 1, which are connected to the remote control device 4 as game machines to be operated, but for which operations are fixed. The video images each represent only a drum portion of the game unit 10. The game machine 1 that can be operated in real time can be changed according to need. In a case where communication with another remote control device 4 is established, information exchange can be performed by chatting system or the like. In a bottom right portion of the screen shown in FIG. 19, an image used for chatting system is displayed.

FIG. 20 is a flowchart showing a video image switching process performed by game machines 1 and the remote control device 4 used in the game system according to this embodiment. The video image switching process is a process for automatically switching video images in a case where video images relating to a plurality of game machines 1 are displayed, as shown in FIG. 19. Under the control of the control unit 15, the game machine 1 detects a status relating to a game. When the game machine 1 detects that the status of the game has been shifted to a predetermined status, that is, in this case, when the game machine 1 detects that the status of the game has been shifted to a jackpot status (S501), the game machine 1 transmits status information indicating the detected status (S502). The status information is transmitted to the remote control device 4 through the in-parlor connection device 2, the communication network 100, and the in-home connection device 3.

Under the control of the control unit 43, the remote control device 4 receives, via the communication unit 45, the status information (S503), and preferentially displays a video image based on video image information of the game machine 1 from which the status information has been received (S504). The processing for preferentially displaying a video image in S504 is processing for displaying the video image as the largest video image as shown in FIG. 19, and a real-time operation of the game machine 1 can be achieved. That is, a player is able to preferentially view the game machine 1 in which a jackpot has occurred and to operate the game machine 1 in real time.

FIG. 21 is a flowchart showing a disconnection process performed by the remote control device 4 and the connection control device 6 used in the game system according to this embodiment. When a player operates the game-ending unit 40c, such as a game-ending button, the remote control device 4 starts the disconnection process. Under the control of the control unit 43, the remote control device 4 receives through the game-ending unit 40c of the input unit 40 an instruction to end a game (S601). Then, the remote control device 4 transmits, via the communication unit 45, to the in-home connection device 3 the received instruction to end the game, so that the instruction can be transmitted to the connection control device 6 (S602).

The in-home connection device 3 receives the instruction to end the game, and generates a BYE packet, which indicates a request for disconnection, in accordance with the received instruction to end the game. The in-home connection device 3 transmits the BYE packet as a disconnection request to the connection control device 6.

Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives, via the communication unit 62, the disconnection request as a BYE packet (S603). The connection control device 6 transmits to the in-parlor connection device 2 a disconnection request as a BYE packet, which indicates a request for disconnection, in accordance with the received disconnection request (S604).

When the in-parlor connection device 2 receives the disconnection request, the in-parlor connection device 2 performs disconnection processing for ending the game of the game machine 1. Then, the in-parlor connection device 2 transmits to the connection control device 6, for example, as an SIP 200 OK response, a disconnection completion notification, which notifies that the disconnection has been completed. The disconnection completion notification transmitted as a 200 OK response from the in-parlor connection device 2 to the connection control device 6 contains various types of information, such as the game-machine code, the number of rotations, the number of jackpots, the balance between the number of won balls and the number of lost balls, and the like of the game machine 1, as statuses relating to the ended game. The information is transmitted to the remote control device 4.

Under the control of the control unit 60, the connection control device 6 receives, via the communication unit 62, the disconnection completion notification as a 200 OK response (S605), and transmits a disconnection request to the in-home connection device 3 (S606). The connection control device 6 performs various types of game ending processing, such as total accounting relating to charging processing, in accordance with the received disconnection completion notification. The connection control device 6 receives an ACK packet, which indicates that the in-home connection device 3 completes disconnection, and transmits an ACK packet to the in-parlor connection device 2. Accordingly, complete disconnection can be achieved.

In the case of starting the disconnection process, in addition to a player's voluntary operation for disconnection, for example, transmission of a notification indicating a status, such as the passage of a predetermined period of time or entering to a predetermined state in which all the balls owned by the player are consumed, from the connection control device 6 to the remote control device 4 may be performed, so that a determination of whether to perform disconnection can be performed.

In the above-described embodiment, only one of many embodiments has been explained. The embodiments are not limited to the above-described embodiments. Various changes and medications can be made to the embodiments as long as a game machine that can be operated by an in-parlor player who is in a game parlor in which the game machine is installed can also be controlled by a remote control device and when one of an operation instruction from the in-parlor player and an operation instruction from the remote control device is received, the other one of the operation instructions can be inhibited. Thus, features, such as the type of a game, a system configuration, a protocol, an operation method, and a method for exclusion control, may be changed according to need. The embodiments are implemented in computing hardware and/or software (computer readable recording media and/or communication media, such as carrier wave signals). Further, any combinations of the described features/functions/operations can be provided.

The many features and advantages of the embodiments are apparent from the detailed specification and, thus, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such features and advantages of the embodiments that fall within the true spirit and scope thereof. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the inventive embodiments to the exact construction and operation illustrated and described, and accordingly all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope thereof.