Title:
Gaming Machine Providing Awards Corresponding to Ranking in the Order of the Cumulative Numbers of Specific Symbols Rearranged on a Scroll Line Selected During a Free Game
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine 13 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition, determines a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines, and rearranges the symbols. Then, the gaming machine 13 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the scroll lines in each free game, and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged. The gaming machine 13 repeats the abovementioned operations until the free game is, terminated. When the free game is terminated, the gaming machine 13 determines the ranking of scroll lines in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the scroll lines, and provides an award corresponding to the ranking.



Inventors:
Yoshizawa, Kazumasa (Tokyo, JP)
Application Number:
12/391069
Publication Date:
09/10/2009
Filing Date:
02/23/2009
Assignee:
Aruze Corp. (Tokyo, JP)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
SHOOK, DANIEL P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
POLSINELLI PC / WATCHSTONE LLP (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gaming machine comprising: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining one or more single symbol display blocks among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in the one or more symbol display blocks determined in the operation (b) in each free game, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols thus rearranged; and (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, providing an award corresponding to the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in the operation (f).

2. A gaming machine comprising: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll, lines when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games are executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (h) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (g).

3. A gaming machine comprising: a first display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; a second display for displaying a plurality of types of character images; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines when switching to the free game; (c) displaying a character image corresponding to the single scroll line and a plurality of types of character images corresponding to a plurality of scroll lines other than the single scroll line on the second display; (d) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the first display corresponding to a random number generated; (e) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the first display; (f) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (g) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines in each free game, each number being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged, and displaying an image corresponding to the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added on the second display; (h) when the predetermined number of free games are executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (i) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (h).

4. A gaming machine comprising: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines and outputting a signal indicating a type of a scroll line; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among the plurality of scroll lines when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (h) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (g).

5. A gaming machine comprising: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display block among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (g).

6. A gaming machine comprising: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single symbol display block among a plurality of symbol display blocks and outputting a signal indicating a type of symbol display block; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display block corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (g).

7. A gaming machine comprising: a display for displaying a plurality of symbol display blocks arranged in matrix and variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single symbol display block group among a plurality of symbol display block groups and outputting a signal indicating a type of symbol display block group; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display )lock group corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among the plurality of symbol display block groups when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display block groups in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block group thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block group thus determined in the operation (g).

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Nos. 61/034,414, 61/034,316, 61/034,332, 61/034,407 and 61/034,416 respectively filed Mar. 6, 2008, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a gaming machine which provides an award corresponding to ranking in the order of the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged on a scroll line selected during a free game.

2. Related Art

Conventionally, in slot machines, a game is started when a player bets a certain amount of credits. Then, a plurality of reels on which a plurality of symbols are depicted start to rotate, and are stopped after a predetermined lapse of time. As a result, a certain award is provided to the player based on a symbol combination which is displayed statically. U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,433 describes that an award is provided corresponding to a predetermined number of symbols rearranged on a winning line.

However, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,433, although symbols are rearranged, the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged over a predetermined number of games is not targeted for provision of an award. Therefore, a player cannot win any award, even though a specific symbol is rearranged many times during a predetermined number of games, thereby feeling dissatisfied.

The present invention provides a gaming machine with novel entertainment properties which determine a single scroll line and provide a greater award if the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged on a single scroll line thus determined are greater than the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged in the other scroll lines during a predetermined number of free games, thereby enhancing the player's interest.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In an aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining one or more single symbol display blocks among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in the one or more symbol display blocks determined in the operation (b) in each free game, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols thus rearranged; and (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, providing an award corresponding to the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in the operation (f).

In another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games are executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (h) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (g).

In still another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a first display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; a second display for displaying a plurality of types of character images; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines when switching to the free game; (c) displaying a character image corresponding to the single scroll line and a plurality of types of character images corresponding to a plurality of scroll lines other than the single scroll line on the second display; (d) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the first display corresponding to a random number generated; (e) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the first display; (f) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (g) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines in each free game, each number being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged, and displaying an image corresponding to the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added on the second display; (h) when the predetermined number of free games are executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (i) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (h).

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups corresponding to each of a plurality of scroll lines; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines and outputting a signal indicating a type of a scroll line; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single scroll line corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among the plurality of scroll lines when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each symbol display block corresponding to each of the plurality of scroll lines, in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games are is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of scroll lines in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of scroll lines; and (h) providing an award for the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single scroll line thus determined in the operation (g).

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display block among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (g).

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a display for variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single symbol display block among a plurality of symbol display blocks and outputting a signal indicating a type of symbol display block; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display block corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among a plurality of symbol display blocks when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display blocks in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display blocks; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block thus determined in the operation (g).

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine includes: a display for displaying a plurality of symbol display blocks arranged in matrix and variably displaying each of a plurality of symbol groups; an input device for accepting a player's selecting operation to select a single symbol display block group among a plurality of symbol display block groups and outputting a signal indicating a type of symbol display block group; and a controller executing the following operations of: (a) starting a game and causing the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition; (b) determining a single symbol display block group corresponding to the signal outputted from the input device among the plurality of symbol display block groups when switching to the free game; (c) determining a symbol to be rearranged on the display corresponding to a random number generated; (d) variably displaying each of the plurality of symbol groups on the display; (e) rearranging the symbol thus determined; (f) while executing a predetermined number of free games, repeating the following operations of counting a number of specific symbols rearranged in symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups in each free game, each of the numbers being fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups, and then, cumulatively adding the number of specific symbols rearranged; (g) when the predetermined number of free games is executed and then terminated, determining the ranking of each of the plurality of symbol display block groups in an order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the plurality of symbol display block groups; and (h) providing an award for the single symbol display block group thus determined in the operation (b) corresponding to the ranking of the single symbol display block group thus determined in the operation (g).

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a flowchart showing processing in a game executed in a gaming machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the appearance of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged front view showing a display area of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a display/input controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a flowchart showing basic game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a flowchart of free game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8 and 9 are examples of display screens executed by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 10 to 13 are examples of display screens displaying rendered effects executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1A is a flowchart showing processing in a game executed in a gaming machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A is a perspective view showing the appearance of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3A is an enlarged front view showing a display area of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4A is a block diagram of a controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5A is a block diagram of a display/input controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6A is a flowchart showing basic game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7A is a flowchart of free game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8A to 11A are examples of display screens executed by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 12A to 15A are examples of display screens with rendered effects executed by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1B is a flowchart showing processing in a game executed in a gaming machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2B is a perspective view showing the appearance of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3B is an enlarged front view showing a display area of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4B is a block diagram of a controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5B is a block diagram of a display/input controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6B is a flowchart showing basic game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7B is a flowchart of free game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8B and 9B are examples of display screens executed. by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 10B to 13B are examples of display screens displaying rendered effects executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1C is a flowchart showing processing in a game executed in a gaming machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2C is a perspective view showing the appearance of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3C is an enlarged front view showing a display area of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4C is a block diagram of a controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5C is a block diagram of a display/input controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6C is a flowchart showing basic game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7C is a flowchart of free game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8C to 10C are examples of display screens executed by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 11C to 14C are examples of display screens displaying rendered effects executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1D is a flowchart showing processing in a game executed in a gaming machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2D is a perspective view showing the appearance of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3D is an enlarged front view showing a display area of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4D is a block diagram of a controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5D is a block diagram of a display/input controller of the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6D is a flowchart showing basic game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7D is a flowchart of free game processing executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8D to 10D are examples of display screens executed by the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 11D to 14D are examples of display screens displaying rendered effects executed in the gaming machine according to the embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

An embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to the accompanying drawings.

As shown in FIG. 1, CPU 106 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition (Step S100), determines a single scroll line among the plurality of scroll lines (Step S200), and rearranges the symbols (Step S300). Next, the CPU 106 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the scroll lines in each free game and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged (Step S400). The CPU 106 repeats the abovemenitioned operations of Steps S300 and S400 until the free game is terminated (Step S500). When the free game is terminated, the CPU 106 determines the ranking of scroll lines in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the scroll lines (Step S600) and provides an award corresponding to the ranking (Step S700).

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the gaming machine 13 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The gaming machine 13 includes a cabinet 20. The cabinet 20 has a structure in which the face facing the player is open. The cabinet 20 contains various components including a game controller 100 (see FIG. 4) for electrically controlling the gaming machine 13, and a hopper 44 (see FIG. 4) for controlling the insertion, storage, and payout of coins (one of game media), and the like. The game medium is not restricted to coins. In addition, examples of such game media include medals, tokens, electronic money or electronic value information (credits) having the same value.

The liquid crystal display 30 is installed substantially in the middle of the front face of the cabinet 20, and the liquid crystal display 40 is installed in an upper side of the cabinet 20. The liquid crystal display 30 realizes a display device for displaying a variety of images related to the game including rendered images and the like. Such a configuration allows a player to advance the game while visually confirming various kinds of images displayed on the aforementioned liquid crystal display 30.

The gaming machine 13 includes video reels (a group of symbol images), and five virtual reels can be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30. It should be noted that the term “video reel” as used here represents a mechanism for displaying a reel on the liquid crystal display 30 in the form of an image.

The other liquid crystal display 40 above the liquid crystal display 30 is a display functioning as a sub display for displaying the rules of the game, demonstration screens, and the like.

Sound transmission openings 29a and 29b, through which sound effects emitted from a speaker 41 (see FIG. 4) contained inside the cabinet 20 are propagated outside the cabinet 20, are disposed on the upper right and left sides of the liquid crystal display 40, respectively. The sound transmission openings 29a and 29b generate sound effects and the like in accordance with the progress of the game. In addition, decorative lamps 42a and 42b are disposed on the right and left sides substantially in the middle of the gaming machine 13, respectively. The decorative lamps 42a and 42b emit light in accordance with the progress of the game.

The gaming machine 13 includes a substantially horizontal operation portion 21 below the liquid crystal display 30. Disposed on the right side of the operation portion 21 is a coin insertion slot 22 through which a number of coins are inserted into the gaming machine 13. On the other hand, the components provided to the left side of the operation portion 21 include: a BET switch 23 that allows the player to select the number of coins, which serves as a gaming medium to be bet; and a spin repeat bet switch 24 that allows the player to play another game without changing the number of coins bet in the previous game. Such an arrangement allows the player to set the number of coins to be bet by performing a pushing operation on either the BET switch 23 or the spin repeat bet switch 24.

In the operation portion 21, a start switch 25 for accepting for each game the player's operation for starting a game is disposed on the left side of the bet switch 23. Upon performing a pushing operation on either the start switch 25 or the spin repeat bet switch 24, which serve as a trigger to start the game, an image in which the aforementioned five video reels start to rotate is displayed. A cash out switch 26 is provided proximal to the coin insertion opening 22 on the operation portion 21. Upon the player pushing the cash out switch 26, the inserted coins are paid out from a coin payout opening 27 provided at a lower portion of the front face. The coins thus paid out are retained in a coin tray 28. The discharged coins can be gathered on a coin tray 28.

FIG. 3 shows an enlargement of a display area of the gaming machine 13. The gaming machine 13 has five video reels 3A to 3E as shown in FIG. 3. Each of the video reels 3A to 3E has three symbol display blocks. Accordingly, three symbols can be rearranged at one time in each video reel. Therefore, when each of the video reels 3A to 3E (scroll lines 3A to 3E) is displayed statically, 15 symbols in total are rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30.

The game available in the present embodiment is a game in which an award is provided to a player corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30. The number of identical symbols targeted for provision of awards can be defined arbitrarily such as three or more symbols, and the like.

It is arranged so that a payout number display portion 48, a bet number display portion 50, and a credit number display portion 49 can be displayed in this order from the left side on the upper portion of the liquid crystal display 30. The payout display portion 48 is something for displaying the amount of the coins paid out when no less than a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award are rearranged and displayed on the liquid crystal display 30. The credit number display portion 49 displays the credit number of coins stored in the gaming machine 13. The bet amount display portion 50 is a component for displaying the bet amount, which is the number of coins bet.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. Referring to FIG. 4, the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13 is a microcomputer and provided with an interface circuit group 102, an input-output bus 104, CPU 106, ROM 108, RAM 110, an interface circuit 111 for communication, a random number generator 112, a speaker driving circuit 122, a hopper driving circuit 124, a lamp driving circuit 126, and a display/input controller 140.

The interface circuit groups 102 are electrically connected with the input/output bus 104, wich carries out input and output of data signals or address signals for the CPU 106.

A start switch 25 is electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. In the interface circuit group 102, a start signal generated by the start switch 25 is converted into a predetermined form of signal to be supplied to the input/output bus 104.

Furthermore, the BET switch 23, the spin repeat bet switch 24, and the cash out switch 26 are also connected to the interface circuit group 102. Each of the switching signals output from these switches 23, 24, and 26 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The switching signals thus converted are supplied to the input/output bus 104.

A coin sensor 43 is also electrically connected to the interface circuit group 102. The coin sensor 43 detects coins inserted into the coin insertion opening 22, and is disposed at an appropriate position relative to the coin insertion opening 22. The sensing signal output from the coin sensor 43 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The sensing signal thus converted is supplied to the input/output bus 104.

The ROM 108 and the RAM 110 are connected to the input/output bus 104.

Upon acceptance of the start operation of a game through the start switch 25, the CPU 106 reads a game program to execute the game. The game program is programmed as follows. That is, a display for starting the scrolling of the symbols on the five image reels is made on the liquid crystal display 30 via the display/input controller 140. Thereafter, a display for stopping the five image reels is made to rearrange the five image reels. In a case where not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols among all of the symbols which are stopped in each reel are rearranged and displayed, coins corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged and displayed are paid out.

The ROM 1083 stores a control program for governing and controlling the gaming machine 13, a program for executing routines as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 (hereinafter referred to as a “routine execution program”) and initial data for executing the control program, and various data tables used in determination processes. The routine execution program includes the abovementioned game program. The RAM 110 temporarily stores flags, variables, etc., used for the aforementioned control program.

The game program includes a rearranged symbol determination program. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program is used for determining 15 symbols rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program includes symbol weighing data that corresponds to each of multiple types of payout rates (e.g., 80%, 84%, and 88%). The symbol weighing data is data for each of the five video reels 3A to 3E, and indicates the correspondence between each symbol and one or multiple random numbers in a predetermined number range (0 to 65535). The payout rate is determined based upon the payout rate setting data stored in the ROM 108. The determination of rearranged symbols is performed based upon the symbol weighing data that corresponds to the payout rate.

Furthermore, a communication interface circuit 111 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The communication,l interface circuit 111 is a circuit for communicating with the central controller 11, etc. via the network including various types of networks such as a LAN.

The random number generator 112 for generating a random number is connected to the input/output bus 104. The random number generator 112 generates random numbers in a predetermined range of “0” to “65535” (the sixteenth power of two minus one), for example. Alternatively, an arrangement may be made in which the CPU 106 generates a random number by computation processing.

The speaker driving circuit 122 for the speakers 41 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 reads the sound data stored in the ROM 100, and transmits the sound data thus read to the speaker driving circuit 122 via the input/output bus 104. In this way, the speakers 41 generate predetermined sound effects.

The hopper driving circuit 124 for driving the hopper 44 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving a cash out signal input from the cash out switch 26, the CPU 106 transmits a driving signal to the hopper driving circuit 124 via the input/output bus 104. Accordingly, the hopper 44 pays out coins such that the amount thereof is equivalent to the current number of coins remaining as credits, which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110.

Alternatively, the payout of the coins may be performed in a mode of storing credit data in a data card or the like, instead of using physical coins. That is, the player may carry a card functioning as a recording medium, and store the data related to the credit by inserting the card into the gaming machine 13.

The lamp driving circuit 126 for driving the decorative lamps 42a and 42b is also connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 transmits the signal for driving the lamps according to the predetermined conditions based oil the program stored in the ROM 108 to the lamp driving circuit 126. Thus, decorative lamps 42a and 42b blink and the like.

The display/input controller 140 is connected to the input/output controller 104. The CPU 106 creates an image display command corresponding to the state and results of the game, and outputs the image display command thus created to the display/input controller 140 via the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving the image display command input from the CPU 106, the display/input controller 140 creates a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 according to the image display command thus input, and outputs the driving signal thus created to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. As a result, a predetermined image is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The display/input controller 140 transmits the signal input through the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 104 in the form of an input signal. In addition, the image display command includes commands corresponding to a payout number display portion 48, a credit number display portion 49, and a bet number display portion 50.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the display/input controller 140 of the gaming machine 13. The display/input controller 140 is a sub-micro computer which performs image display processing aid the control of input from the touch panel 32, and which has an interface circuit 142, an input-output bus 144, CPU 146, ROM 148, RAM 150, VDP 152, video RAM 154, image data ROM 156, a drive circuit 150, and a touch panel control circuit 169.

The interface circuit 142 is connected to the input/output bus 144. An image display instruction outputted from the CPU 106 on the abovementioned game controller 100 is supplied to the input-output bus 144 via the interface circuit 142. The input/output bus 144 performs input/output of data signals or address signals to and from the CPU 146.

The ROM 148 and the RAM 150 are connected to the input/output bus 144. The ROM 148 stores a display control program under which a drive signal to be supplied to the liquid crystal display 30 arid the liquid crystal display 40 is generated based on the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. On the other hand, the RAM 150 stores flags and variables used in the aforementioned display control program.

The VDP 152 is also connected to the input/output bus 144. The VDP 152 includes a so-called sprite circuit, a screen circuit, a palette circuit, etc., and can perform various types of processing for displaying images on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The video RAM 154 and the ROM 156 are connected to the VDP 152. The video RAM 154 stores image data based on the image display instructions from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data containing the abovementioned produced image data. Furthermore, the driving circuit 158 for outputting a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is connected to the VDP 152.

By reading and executing the display control program stored in the ROM 148, the CPU 146 instructs the video RAM 154 to store image data to be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 in response to the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. Examples of the image display commands include various types of image display commands including the aforementioned image display commands for visual effects, etc.

The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data including the aforementioned image data for visual effects, etc.

The touch panel control circuit: 160 transmits the signals input via the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 144 in the form of an input signal.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart showing the flow of the processing operation of a basic game of the gaming machine 13, which is executed by the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. The routine of FIG. 6 is a unit game.

It should be rioted that the gaming machine 13 is activated in advance and the variables used in the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 are initialized to predetermined values, respectively, thereby providing normal operation of the gaming machine 13.

Firstly, the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 determines whether any credits remain, which correspond to the remaining amount of coins inserted by the player (Step S1). More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in the RAM 110 and executes processing according to the amount of credits C thus read. When the amount of credits C is “0” (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the routine without executing any processing, since it cannot start a game. When the amount off credits C is not less than “1” (YES in Step S1), the CPU 106 determines that coins as credits remain, and the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S2.

In Step S2, the CPU 106 determines whether or not a pressing operation has been applied to the spin bet repeat switch 24. When the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pressed and the CPU 106 receives an operation signal from the spin repeat bet switch 24 (YES in Step S2), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S13. On the other hand, when the CPU 106 does not receive the operation signal from the spin repeat bet switch 24 after a predetermined period of time has elapsed (NO in Step S2), the CPU 106 determines that the spin repeat bet switch 24 has not been pressed and advances the processing to Step S3.

In the following Step S3, the CPU 106 sets the game conditions. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines the number of coins bet in a unit game based on the operation of the bet switch 23. The CPU 106 receives the operation signals generated by the player operating the bet switch 23. Then, the CPU 106 stores the bet amount in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 based on the number of times the operation signals have been received. The CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110, and subtracts the abovementioned bet amount from the amount of credits C thus read. Then, the CPU 106 stores the subtracted value in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S4.

In the following Step S4, the CPU 106 determines whether the start switch 25 is ON, and then waits for the start switch 25 to be operated. Upon the start switch 25 being operated, and accordingly, upon the operation signal being input from the start switch 25 (in a case of “YES” in the determination processing in Step S4), the CPU 106 determines that the start switch 25 has been operated, and the processing advances to Step S5.

On the other hand, in Step S13, the CPU 106 determines whether the amount of credits C is at least the total bet number in a previous game. In other words, the CPU 106 determines whether it can start a game in response to a pressing operation applied to the Spain repeat bet switch 24. More specifically, when the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pushed, and the operation signal has been inputted to the CPU 106 from the spin repeat bet switch 24, the CPU 106 reads the credit amount C and the bet amount bet in the previous game, which are stored in RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 determines whether or not the credit amount C is equal to or greater than the bet amount bet in the previous game based upon the relation between the credit amount C thus read and the bet amounts. The CPU 106 performs processing based upon the determination results. When the CPU 106 determines that the amount of credits C is less than the bet amount (NO in Step S13), the CPU 1(06 terminates the present routine without any processing, since it cannot start a game. On the other hand, in a case where determination has been made that the aforementioned amount of credits C is at least the bet amount bet in the previous game (in a case of “YES” in Step S13), the CPU 106 subtracts the bet amount bet in the previous game from the aforementioned amount of credits C, and stores the subtracted value in a predetermined area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S5.

In the following Step S5, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 by extracting a random number from the random number generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the R()M 108 to store in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E based on the five random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E, thereby determining a winning combination. In the present embodiment, in a case where five or more identical symbols are rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30, a winning combination corresponding to the rearranged symbol is achieved.

Upon determining a rearranged symbol, the CPU 106 determines whether at least a predetermined number of identical symbols (for example, five symbols) for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged or not. In a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged, the CPU 106 activates a flag indicating provision of an award for generating an award corresponding to the predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award. The activated flag, which indicates that an award is provided, is stored in a predetermined area of the RAM 110 according to the instruction from the CPU 106. On the other hand, in a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are not rearranged (a losing combination), the CPU 106 does not activate the flag indicating providing the award. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S6.

In the following Step S6, the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to start to rotate.

Upon displaying the image which shows the five video reels 3A to 3E starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S7). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S7), the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S8). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S9.

In the following Step S9, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag indicating that an award is provided, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by means of the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. In a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is activated (YES in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S10.

In the following Step S10, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag (a bonus flag)indicating switching to a free game, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. More specifically, in a case where the flag indicating switching to a free game is activated (YES in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S11. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating the switch to a free game is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S12.

In the following Step S11, the CPU 106 performs free game processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 starts a free game and performs a predetermined number of the free games. Subsequently, the CPU 106 terminates the present routine.

In the following Step S12, the CPU 106 pays out the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a payout table (not shown) and calculates the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. The CPU 106 reads the credit amount stored in the aforementioned predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 calculates the sum total amount of coins to be paid out thus calculated and the credit amount thus read, and stores the sum thus calculated in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. The CPU 106 displays the aforementioned value thus stored on the credit number display portion 49. The CPU 106 then terminates the basic game.

Free game processing is described below with reference to FIG. 7.

In a free game in the present embodiment, five video reels 3A to 3E (scroll lines 3A to 3E) correspond to a plurality of character images including a player's character, respectively, and each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each of five video reels 3A to 3E. Then, the number by which each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each video reels is cumulatively counted in each game. Then, each of the scroll lines is ranked in the order of the number that each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each video reels at the time the free game is terminated. Thereafter, an award corresponding to a rank of a player's character (a scroll line corresponding to a player's character) is provided to the player.

In Step S21 in FIG. 7, the CPU 106 first determines a single scroll line. Then, the CPU 1(06 advances the processing to Step S22.

Here, a display example of a scroll line (a video reel) thus determined is described with reference to FIG. 8. According to FIG. 8, a frame surrounding a scroll line 3D among the scroll lines 3A to 3E is highlighted with a bold line. In addition, a message “THE PLAYER'S REEL IS THE FOURTH REEL” is displayed. Thus, the player can recognize that the fourth reel among the scroll lines (video reels) was assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player, which is described later).

In addition, in Step S21 1in FIG. 7, the CPU 106 also randomly determines the corresponding relationship between the rest of the scroll lines and the character's images 72 to 75 other than the player's character image. Here, each single character image 72 to 75 other than the player's character image is assigned to a single respective scroll line.

Referring to FIG. 7 again, in Step S22, the CPU 106 determines at least one specific symbol according to the bet amount. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game, the bet amount which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 during the game, and determines the number of specific symbols corresponding to the bet amount. The CPU 106 then advances the processing to Step S23.

In addition, in the present embodiment, the larger the bet amount is, the more specific symbols are determined. Here, a display example of a specific symbol thus determined is described with reference to FIG. 9. According to FIG. 9, a message “SYMBOLS TARGETED FOR COUNTING ARE A AND Q”. Thus, the player can recognize that the specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line assigned to the player are two symbols, “A” and “Q”.

In the example in FIG. 9, there are two symbols targeted for counting. However, as described above, since the number of specific symbols corresponding to the bet amount which causes a game to switch to a free game during the game is determined, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player, which is described later) may be 1, 2, 3, and the like. On the other hand, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in each scroll line assigned to each of the other character images 72 to 75 is one, respectively. Therefore, in a case where there is a plurality of specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line assigned to the player, the player has an advantage.

Referring to FIG. 7, in Step S23, a character image is displayed. More specifically, the CPU 106 extracts a plurality of character image data (five character image data in the present embodiment) stored in the ROM 148 via the display/input controller 140, and displays those on the liquid crystal display 40.

Here, a display example of a character image is described with reference to FIG. 10. According to FIG. 10, five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at a start line on the liquid crystal display 40. Here, in the present embodiment, the player s character image is displayed as the character image 71, and the character image 71 corresponds to the scroll line 3D (the video reel 3D) assigned to the player. Laud of the other character images 72 to 75 corresponds to each scroll thus randomly determined.

In addition, according to FIG. 10, since the five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at the start line, the player can recognize that the number of specific symbols counted for each of the scroll lines corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75 is zero.

As described later in FIG. 11, the character images 71 to 75 are updated and displayed corresponding to the number of specific symbols counted for each of the scroll lines corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75. For example, the more specific symbol there are, the closer a character image is displayed to a goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7, in Step S24, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

First, the CPU 106 selects a :random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the five reels 3A to 3E by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store thereof in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E based on the random number values thus selected. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S25.

In the following Step S25, the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to start to rotate and displays thereof.

Upon displaying the image which shows the five video reels 3A to 3E starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S26). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S26), the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S27). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S28.

In Step S28, the CPU 106 counts the specific symbols thus rearranged and cumulatively adds the specific symbols. More specifically, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbols rearranged (for example, two symbols “A” and “Q”) which are determined in Step S22 for the scroll line (the video reel) (for example, the scroll line 3D (the video reel 3D)) thus determined in Step S21 and assigned to the player. In addition, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of the single specific symbol rearranged (for example, the symbol “A”) for each scroll line other than the scroll line assigned to the player, each of which the scroll line is fixed to correspond to the character images 72 to 75. Data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75, and is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S29.

In Step S29, the CPU 106 performs character image update processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in each free game from the RAM 110, and displays the image corresponding to the number of specific symbols indicated by the data on the liquid crystal display 40.

For example, according to FIG. 11, each of the character images 71 to 75 is displayed to be closer to the goal line in the order corresponding to the number of the specific symbols thus cumulatively added. In addition, according to FIG. 11, the player's character image 71 is displayed to be the third closest to the goal line. That is, according to FIG. 11, the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added for the scroll line assigned to the player's character image 71 is the third best compared to the number of specific symbols cumulatively added for each of the scroll lines assigned to the other character images 72 to 75.

In Step S30, the CPU 106 determines whether the free game is terminated or not. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines whether a predetermined number of free games has been performed or not. In a case of YES determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S31. On the other hand, in a NO determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S24.

In Step S31, the CPU 106 performs rank determination processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads from the RAM 110 the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, each of which is fixed to correspond to the character images 71 to 75, and ranks the character images 71 to 75 in the order of the number of specific symbols (the ranking data is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75).

Here, according to FIG. 12, since, at the time that a free game is terminated, the character image 74 has already reached the goal line, the character image 74 is closest to the goal line, and the character image 71 is the second closest to the goal line. Thus, the player's character image 71 is determined to be the second closest to the goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7, in Step S32, the CPU 106 performs processing for giving an award corresponding to ranking. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a data table (not shown) which stores the data of credit amounts corresponding to the ranking data, and pays out the amount of coins according to the rank corresponding to the player's character image 71.

For an example, as show in FIG. 13, since a message “THE PLAYER'S CHARACTER RANKS SECOND. WIN 40 CREDITS!!” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 40, the player can recognize that the player can obtain 40 credits in a free game.

Thus, the number of specific symbols rearranged in scroll lines are fixed to correspond to a plurality of characters so as to provide rendered effects of the plurality of characters racing each other, thereby enabling a gaming machine which enhances amusement to be provide.

In addition, since the number of specific symbols targeted for counting is increased corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the player can determine the opportunity to increase the bet amount depending on the timing of switching to a free game. Therefore, enjoyment of the game can be enhanced, even in a basic game.

While the embodiment of the gaming machine according to the present invention has been described, it is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not limiting, and any changes in design may be made to specific configurations such as various means. Moreover, it should be understood that the advantages described in association with the embodiments are merely a listing of most preferred advantages, and that the advantages of the present invention are by no means limited to those described in connected with the embodiments.

For example, although in the present embodiment, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting is changed corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the present invention is not limited thereto, and it may be changed corresponding to the number of side bets.

In addition, although in the present embodiment, an example applied to a video reel slot machine :is explained regarding the present invention, the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and for example, the present invention may be applied to a mechanical reel slot machine.

An embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to the accompanying drawings.

As shown in FIG. 1A, a CPU 106 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition (Step S100), determines a single scroll Line among the plurality of scroll lines corresponding to a signal which a touch panel 32 outputs based on a player's choice (Step S200), and rearranges the symbols (Step S300). Next, the CPU 106 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the scroll lines in each free game, and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged (Step S400). The CPU 106 repeats the abovementioned operations of Steps S300 and S400 until the free game is terminated (Step S500). When the free game is terminated, the CPU 106 determines the ranking of scroll lines in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, which is fixed to correspond to each of the scroll lines (Step S600), and provides an award corresponding to the ranking of the scroll line determined in Step S200 (Step S700).

FIG. 2A is a perspective view showing the gaming machine 13 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The gaming machine 13 includes a cabinet 20. The cabinet 20 has a structure in which the face facing the player is open. The cabinet 20 contains various components including a game controller 100 (see FIG. 4A) for electrically controlling the gaming machine 13, and a hopper 44 (see FIG. 4A) for controlling the insertion, storage, and payout of coins (one of game media), and the like. The game medium is riot restricted to coins. In addition, examples of such game media include medals, tokens, electronic money or electronic value information (credits) having the same value.

The liquid crystal display 30 is installed substantially in the middle of the front face of the cabinet 20, and the liquid crystal display 40 is installed in an upper side of the cabinet 20.

The liquid crystal display 30 realizes a display device for displaying a variety of images related to the game including rendered images and the like. Such a configuration allows the player to advance the game while visually confirming various kinds o,f images displayed on the aforementioned liquid crystal display 30.

The gaming machine 13 includes video reels (a group of symbol images), and five virtual reels can be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30. It should be noted that the term “video reel” as used here represents a mechanism for displaying a reel on the liquid crystal display 30 in the form of an image.

The other liquid crystal display 40 above the liquid crystal display 30 is a display functioning as a sub display for displaying the rules of the game, demonstration screens, and the like.

Sound transmission openings 29a and 29b, through which sound effects emitted from a speaker 41 (see FIG. 4A) contained inside the cabinet 20 are propagated outside the cabinet 20, are disposed on the upper right and left sides of the liquid crystal display 40, respectively. The sound transmission openings 29a and 29b generate sound effects and the like in accordance with the progress or the game. In addition, decorative lamps 42a and 42b are disposed on the right and left sides substantially in the middle of the gaming machine 13, respectively. The decorative lamps 42a and 42b emit light in accordance with the progress of the game.

The gaming machine 13 includes a substantially horizontal operation unit 21 below the liquid crystal display 30. Disposed on the right side of the operation portion 21 is a coin insertion slot 22 through which a number of coins are inserted into the gaming machine 13. On the other hand, the components provided to the left side of the operation portion 21 include: a BET switch 23 that allows the player to select the number of coins, which serves as a gaming medium to be bet; and a spin repeat bet switch 24 that a lows the player to play another game without changing the number of coins bet in the previous game. Such an arrangement allows the player to set the number of coins to be bet by performing a pushing operation on either the BET switch 23 or the spin repeat bet switch 24.

In the operation portion 21, a start switch 25 for accepting for each game the player's operation for starting a game is disposed on the left side of the bet switch 23. Upon performing a pushing operation on either the start switch 25 or the spin repeat bet switch 24, which serve as a trigger to start the game, an image in which the aforementioned five video reels start to rotate is displayed.

A cash out switch 26 is provided near the coin insertion opening 22 on the operation unit 21. Upon the player pushing the cash out switch 26, the inserted coins are paid out from a coin payout opening 27 provided at a lower portion of the front face. The coins thus paid out are retained in a coin tray 28.

FIG. 3A shows an enlargement of a display area of the gaming machine 13. The gaming machine 13 has five video reels 3A to 3BE as shown in FIG. 3A. Each of the video reels 3A to 3E has three symbol display blocks. Accordingly, three symbols can be rearranged at one time in each video reel. Therefore, when each of the video reels 3A to 3E (scroll lines 3A to 3E) is displayed statically, 15 symbols in total are rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30.

The game available in the present embodiment is a game in which an award is provided to a player corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30. The number of identical symbols targeted for provision of awards can be defined arbitrarily such as three or more symbols, and the like.

It is arranged so that a payout number display portion 48, a bet number display portion 50, and a credit number display portion 49 can be displayed in this order from the left side on the upper portion of the liquid crystal display 30. The payout display portion 48 is something for displaying the amount of the coins paid out when no less than a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award are rearranged and displayed on the Liquid crystal display 30. The credit number display portion 49 displays the credit number of coins stored in the gaming machine 13. The bet amount display portion 50 is a component for displaying the bet amount, which is the number of coins bet.

FIG. 4A is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. Deferring to FIG. 4A, the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13 is a microcomputer and provided with an interface circuit group 102, an input-output bus 104, CPU 106, ROM 108, RAM 110, an interface circuit 111 for communication, a random number generator 112, a speaker driving circuit 122, a hopper driving circuit 124, a lamp driving circuit 126, and a display/input controller 140.

The interface circuit group 102 are electrically connected with the input/output bus 104, which carries out input and output of data signals or address signals for CPU 106.

The start switch 25 is electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. In the interface circuit group 102, a start signal generated by the start switch 25 is converted into a predetermined form of signal to be supplied to the input/output bus 104.

Furthermore, the bet switch 23, the spin repeat bet switch 24, and the cash out switch 26 are connected to the interface circuit group 102. Each oft the switching signals output from these switches 23, 24, and 26 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The switching signals thus converted are supplied to the input/output bus 104.

A coin sensor 43 is also electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. The coin sensor 43 detects coins inserted into the coin insertion slot 22, and is disposed at an appropriate position relative to the coin insertion slot 22. The sensing signal output from the coin sensor 43 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The sensing signal thus converted is supplied to the input/output bus 104.

The ROM 1003 and the RAM 110 are connected to the input/output bus 104.

Upon acceptance of the start operation of a game through the start switch 25, the CPU 106 reads a game program to execute the game. The game program is programmed as follows. That is, a display for starting the scrolling of the symbols on the five image reels is made on the liquid crystal display 30 via the display/input controller 140. Thereafter, a display for stopping the five image reels is made to rearrange the five image reels. In a case where not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols among all of the symbols which are stopped in each reel are rearranged and displayed, coins corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged and displayed are paid out.

The ROM 108 stores a control program for governing and controlling the gaming machine 13, a program for executing routines as shown in FIGS. 6A and 7A (hereinafter referred to as a “routine execution program”), and initial data for executing the control program, and various data tables used in determination processes. The routine execution program includes the abovementioned game program. The RAM 110 temporarily stores flags, variables, etc., used for the aforementioned control program.

The game program includes a rearranged symbol determination program. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program is used for determining 15 symbols rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program includes symbol weighing data that corresponds to each of multiple types of payout rates (e.g., 80%, 84%, and 88%). The symbol weighing data is data for each of the five video reels 3A to 3E, and indicates the correspondence between each symbol and one or multiple random numbers in a predetermined number range (0 to 65535). The payout rate is determined based upon the payout rate setting data stored in the ROM 108. The determination of rearranged symbols is performed based upon the symbol weighing data that corresponds to the payout rate.

Furthermore, a communication interface circuit 111 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The communication interface circuit 111 is a circuit for communicating with the central controller 11, etc. via the network including various types of networks such as a LAN.

The random number generator 112 for generating a random number is connected to the input/output bus 104. The random number generator 112 generates random numbers in a predetermined range of “0” to “65535” (the sixteenth power of two minus one), for example. Alternatively, an arrangement may be made in which the CPU 106 generates a random number by computation.

The speaker drive circuit 122 for the speakers 41 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 reads the sound data stored in the ROM 108, and transmits the sound data thus read to the speaker driving circuit 122 via the input/output bus 104. In this way, the speakers 41 generate predetermined sound effects.

The hopper drive circuit 124 for driving the hopper 44 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving a cash out signal input from the cash out switch 26, the CPU 106 transmits a driving signal to the hopper driving circuit 124 via the input/output bus 104. Accordingly, the hopper 44 pays out coins such that the amount thereof is equivalent to the current number of coins remaining as credits, which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110.

Alternatively, the payout of the coins may be performed in a mode of storing credit data in a data card or the like, instead of using physical coins. That is, the player may carry a card functioning as a recording medium, and store the data related to the credit by inserting the card into the gaming machine 13.

The lamp drive circuit 126 for driving the decorative lamps 42a and 42b is also connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 transmits the signal for driving the lamps according to the predetermined conditions based on the program stored in the ROM 108 to the lamp driving circuit 126. Thus, decorative lamps 42a and 42b blink and the like.

The display/input controller 140 is connected to the input/output controller 140. The CPU 106 creates an image display command corresponding to the state and results of the game, and outputs the image display command thus created to the display/input controller 140 via the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving the image display command input from the CPU 106, the display/input controller 140 creates a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 according to the image display command thus input, and outputs the driving signal thus created to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. As a result, a predetermined image is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The display/input controller 140 transmits the signal input through the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 104 in the form of an input signal. In addition, the image display command includes commands corresponding to a payout number display portion 48, a credit number display portion 49, and a bet number display portion 50.

FIG. 5A is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the display/input controller 140 of the gaming machine 13. The display/input controller 140 is a sub-micro computer which performs image display processing and the control of input from the touch panel 32, and which has an interface circuit 142, an input-output bus 144, CPU 146, ROM 148, RAM 150, VDP 152, video RAM 154, image data ROM 156, a drive circuit 158, and a touch panel control circuit 160.

The interface circuit 142 is connected to the input/output bus 144. An image display instruction outputted from the CPU 106 on the abovementioned game controller 100 is supplied to the input-output bus 144 via the interface circuit 142. The input/output bus 144 performs input/output of data signals or address signals to and from the CPU 146.

The ROM 1403 and the RAM 150 are connected to the input/output bus 144. The ROM 148 stores a display control program under which a drive signal to be supplied to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is generated based on the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. On the other hand, the RAM 150 stores flags and variables used in the aforementioned display control program.

The VDP 152 is connected to the input/output bus 144. The VDP 152 includes a so-called sprite circuit, a screen circuit, a palette circuit, etc., and can perform various types of processing for displaying images on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The video RAM 154 and the ROM 156 are connected to the VDP 152. The video RAM 154 stores image data based on the image display instructions from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data containing the abovementioned produced image data. Furthermore, the driving circuit 158 for outputting a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is connected to the VDF 152.

By reading and executing the display control program stored in the ROM 148, the CPU 146 instructs the video RAM 154 to store image data to be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 in response to the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. Examples of the image display commands include various kinds of image display commands including the aforementioned image display commands for visual effects, etc.

The image data ROM 156 stores various kinds of image data including the aforementioned image data for visual effects, etc.

The touch panel control circuit 160 transmits the signals input via the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 144 in the form of an input signal.

FIG. 6A is a flowchart showing the flow of the processing operation of a basic game of the gaming machine 13, which is executed by the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. The routine of FIG. 6A is a unit game.

It should be noted that the gaming machine 13 is activated in advance and the variables used in the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 are initialized to predetermined values, respectively, thereby providing normal operation of the gaming machine 13.

Firstly, the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 determines whether any credits remain, which correspond to the remaining amount of coins inserted by the player (Step S1). More specifically, CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in the RAM 110, and executes processing according to the amount of credits C. When the amount of credits C equals “0” (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the routine without executing any processing, since it cannot start a game. When the amount of credits C is not less than “1” (YES in Step S1), the CPU 106 determines that coins remain as credits, and the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S2.

In Step S2, CPU 106 determines whether or not a pressing operation has been applied to the spin bet repeat switch 24. When the switch 24 has been pressed and the CPU 106 receives an operation signal from the switch 24 (YES in Step S2), the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S13. On the other hand, when the CPU 106 does not receive the operation signal from the spin repeat bet switch 24 after a predetermined period of time has elapsed (NO in Step S2), the CPU 106 determines that the switch 24 has not been pressed and moves the processing to Step S3.

In the following Step S3, the CPU 106 sets the game conditions. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines the number of coins bet in a unit game based on the operation of the bet switch 23. The CPU 106 receives the operation signals generated by the player operating the bet switch 23. Then, the CPU 106 stores the bet amount in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 based on the number of times the operation signals have been received. The CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110, and subtracts the abovementioned bet amount from the amount of credits C thus read. Then, the CPU 106 stores the subtracted value in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S4.

In the following Step S4, the CPU 106 determines whether the start switch 25 is ON, and then waits for the start switch 35 to be operated. Upon the start switch 25 being operated, and accordingly, upon the operation signal being input from the start switch 25 (in a case of “YES” in the determination processing in Step S4), the CPU 106 determines that the start switch 25 has been operated, and the processing advances to Step S5.

On the other hand, in Step S13, the CPU 106 determines whether the amount of credits C is at least the total bet number in a previous game. In other words, the CPU 106 determines whether it can start a game in response to a pressing operation applied to the spin repeat bet switch 24. More specifically, when the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pushed, and the operation signal has been inputted to the CPU 106 from the spin repeat bet switch 24, the CPU 106 reads the credit amount C and the bet amount bet in the previous game, which are stored in RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 determines whether or not the credit amount C is equal to or greater than the bet amount bet in the previous game based upon the relation between the credit amount C thus read and the bet amounts. The CPU 106 performs processing based upon the determination results. When the CPU 106 determines that the amount of credits C is less than the bet amount (NO in Step S13), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine without any processing, since it cannot start a game. On the other hand, in a case where determination has been made that the aforementioned amount of credits C is at least the bet amount bet in the previous game (in a case of “YES” in Step S13), the CPU 106 subtracts the bet amount bet in the previous game from the aforementioned amount of credits C, and stores the subtracted value in a predetermined area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S5.

In the following Step S5, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the five reels 3A to 3E by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 100 to store in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E based on the random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E, thereby determining a winning combination. In the present embodiment, in a case where five or more identical symbols are rearranged on the liquid crystal display 30, a winning combination corresponding to the rearranged symbol is achieved.

Upon determining a rearranged symbol, the CPU 106 determines whether at least a predetermined number of identical symbols (for example, five symbols) for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged or not. In a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged, the CPU 106 activates a flag indicating provision of an award for generating an award corresponding to the predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award. The activated flag, which indicates the player has won an award, is stored in a predetermined area of the RAM 110 according to the instruction from the CPU 106. On the other hand, in a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are not rearranged (a losing combination), the CPU 106 does not activate the flag indicating providing the award. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S6.

In the following Step S6, the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to start to rotate.

Upon displaying the image which shows the five video reels 3A to 3E starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S7). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S7), the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S8) Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S9.

In the following Step 59, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag indicating that an award is provided, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by means of the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. In a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S9) the CPU 106 terminates the present routine. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is activated (YES in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S10.

In the following Step S10, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag (a bonus flag) indicating switching to a free game, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. More specifically, in a case where the flag indicating switching to a free game is activated (YES in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S11. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating the switch to a free game is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S12.

In the following Step S11, the CPU 106 performs free game processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 starts a free game and performs a predetermined number of the free games. Subsequently, the CPU 106 terminates the routine.

In the following Step S12, the CPU 106 pays out the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a payout table (not shown) and calculates the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. The CPU 106 reads the credit amount stored in the aforementioned predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 calculates the sum total amount of coins to be paid out thus calculated and the credit amount thus read, and stores the sum thus calculated in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. The CPU 106 displays the aforementioned value thus stored on the credit amount display portion 49. The CPU 106 then terminates the basic game.

Free game processing is described below with reference to FIG. 7A.

In a free game in the present embodiment, five video reels 3A to 3E (scroll lines 3A to 3E) correspond to a plurality of character images including a player's character, respectively, arid each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each of five video reels 3A to 3E. Then, the number by which each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each video reels is cumulatively counted in each game. Then, each of the scroll lines is ranked in the order of the number that each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each video reels at the time the free game is terminated. Thereafter, an award corresponding to a rank of a player's character (a scroll line corresponding to a player's character) is provided to the player.

In Step S21 of FIG. 7A, the CPU 106 first determines a single scroll line based on a player's choice More specifically, the CPU 106 determines a scroll line corresponding to a signal (a signal for identifying a scroll line), which the touch panel 32 outputs. Then, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S22.

In addition, by touching the touch panel 32 disposed on the liquid crystal display 30, any one of the scroll lines 3A to 3E (video reels 3A to 3E) can be selected.

According to FIG. 8A, since a message “SELECT A REEL” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30, the player can recognize that the player can select one scroll line (one video reel). In addition, by touching the touch panel 32 disposed on the liquid crystal display 30, any one of the scroll lines 3A to 3E (video reels 3A to 3E) can be selected.

In addition, a description is made regarding a display example of a scroll line chosen by a player with reference to FIG. 9A. According to FIG. 9A, a frame surrounding a scroll line 3D (a video reel 3D) is highlighted with a bold line. Thus, the player can recognize that the scroll line 3D is assigned to the player (a player's character image 71 which is described later).

In addition, in Step S21 of FIG. 7A, the CPU 106 also randomly determines the corresponding relationship between the rest of the scroll lines and the character's images 72 to 75 other than the player's character image. Here, each single character image 72 to 75 other than the player's character image is assigned to a single respective scroll line.

Referring to FIG. 7A again, in Step S22, the CPU 106 determines the number of specific symbols selectable for a player corresponding to a bet amount. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game, the bet amount which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 during the game, and determines the number of specific symbols corresponding to the bet amount. The CPU 106 then advances the processing to Step S23.

In addition, in the present embodiment, the larger the bet amount is, the more specific symbols are determined.

In Step S23, the CPU 106 determines a specific symbol targeted for counting based on the player's choice.

According to FIG. 10A, since a message “SELECT TWO SYMBOLS TARGETED FOR COUNTING” is shown on the liquid crystal display 30, the player can recognize that the player can choose two specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line (the scroll line 3D), which is assigned to the player. In addition, the player can choose the symbols targeted for counting by touching the touch panel 32 disposed on the liquid crystal display 30.

Here, a description is made regarding a display example of a specific symbol determined by a player's choice with reference to FIG. 11A. According to FIG. 11A, a message “SYMBOLS TARGETED FOR COUNTING ARE “A” and “Q” is displayed. Thus, the player can recognize that the specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line, which (the scroll line 3D) is assigned to the player, are “A” and “Q”.

In the example in FIG. 11A, there are two symbols targeted for counting. However, as described above, since the number of specific symbols selectable for the player corresponding to the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game during the game is determined, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line assigned to the player may be 1, 2, 3, and the like. On the other hand, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in each scroll line assigned to each of the other character images 72 to 75 is one, respectively'. Therefore, in a case where there is a plurality of specific symbols targeted for counting in the scroll line assigned to the player, the player has an advantage.

Referring to FIG. 7A again, in Step S24, a character image is displayed. More specifically, the CPU 106 extracts a plurality of character image data (five character image data in the present embodiment) stored in the ROM 148 via the display/input controller 140, and displays those on the liquid crystal display 40.

Here, a display example of a character image is described with reference to FIG. 12A. According to FIG. 12A, five character images 71 to 75 are displayed on the start line. Here, in the present embodiment, the player's character image is displayed as the character image 71, and the character image 71 corresponds to the scroll line 3D (the video reel 3D) assigned to the player. Each of the other character images 72 to 75 corresponds to each scroll thus randomly determined.

In addition, according to FIG. 12A, since the five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at the start line, the player can recognize that the number of specific symbols counted for each of the scroll lines corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75 is zero.

As described later in FIG. 13A, the character images 71 to 75 are updated and displayed corresponding to the number of specific symbols counted for each of the scroll lines corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75. For example, the more specific symbol there are, the closer a character image is displayed to a goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7A again, in Step S25, rearranged symbol determination processing is performed. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

First, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the five reels 3A to 3E by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store thereof in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the middle line of each reel 3A to 3E based on the random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 then advances the processing to Step S26.

In the following Step S26, the CPU 106 instructs the five video reels 3A to 3E to start to rotate and displays thereof.

Upon displaying the image which shows the five video reels 3A to 3E starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S27). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S27), the CPU 106 instructs the fice video reels 3A to 3E to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S28). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S29.

In Step S29, the CPU 106 counts the specific symbols thus rearranged and cumulatively adds the specific symbols. More specifically, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbols rearranged (for example, two symbols “A” and “Q”) which are determined in Step S23 for the scroll line (the video reel) (for example, the scroll line 3D (the video reel 3D)) thus determined based on a player's choice in Step S21 and assigned to the player. In addition, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of the single specific symbol rearranged (for example, the symbol “A”) for each scroll line other than the scroll line assigned to the player, each of which the scroll line is fixed to correspond to the character images 72 to 15. Data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75, and is stored in a predetermined memory area in the DRAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S30.

In Step S30, the CPU 106 performs character image update processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in each free game from the RAM 110, and displays the image corresponding to the number of specific symbols indicated by the data on the liquid crystal display 40.

For example, according to FIG. 13A, each of the character images 71 to 75 is displayed to be closer to the goal line in the order corresponding to the number of the specific symbols thus cumulatively added. In addition, according to FIG. 13A, the player's character image 71 is displayed to be the third closest to the goal line. That is, the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added for the scroll line assigned to the player's character image 71 is the third best compared to the number of specific symbols cumulatively added for each of the scroll lines assigned to tie other character images 72 to 75.

In Step S31, the CPU 106 determines whether the free game is terminated or not. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines whether a predetermined number of free games has been performed or not. In a case of YES determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S32. On the other hand, in a case of NO determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S25.

In Step S32, the CPU 106 performs rank determination processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads from the RAM 110 the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, each of which is fixed to correspond to the character images 71 to 75, and ranks the character images 71 to 75 in the order of the number of specific symbols (the ranking data is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75).

Here, according to FIG. 14A, since, at the time that a free game is terminated, the character image 74 has already reached the goal line, the character image 74 is the closest to the goal line, and the character image 71 is the second closest to the goal line. Thus, the player's character image 71 is determined to be the second closest to the goal Line.

Referring to FIG. 7A again, in Step S33, the CPU 106 performs processing for providing an award corresponding to ranking. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a data table (not shown) which stores the data of credit amounts corresponding to the ranking data, and pays out the amount of coins according to the rank corresponding to the player's character image 71.

For example, as shown in FIG. 15A, since a message “THE PLAYER'S CHARACTER RANKS SECOND. WIN 40 CREDIT'S!!” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 40, the player can recognize that the player can obtain 40 credits in a free game.

Thus, the number of specific symbols rearranged in scroll lines is fixed to correspond to a plurality of characters so as to provide rendered effects of the plurality of characters racing each other, thereby enabling a gaming machine which enhances amusement to be provided.

Moreover, since more specific symbols can be displayed on the scroll line chosen by the player, the player can obtain more credits, thereby enabling the player to enjoy the game by choosing a scroll line.

In addition, since the number of specific symbols targeted for counting selectable for a player is increased corresponding to the bet amount in the game which caused a game to switch to a free game, the player judges the game timing of switching to a free game, and can decide whether or not to increase bet amount. Therefore, enjoyment of the game can be enhanced, even in a basic game.

While the embodiment of the gaming machine according to the present invention has been described, it is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not limiting, and any changes in design may be made to specific configurations such as various means. Moreover, it should be understood that the advantages described in association with the embodiments are merely a listing of most preferred advantages, and that the advantages of the present invention are by no means limited to those described in connected with the embodiments.

For example, although in the present invention, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting selectable for the player is changed corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the present invention is not limited thereto, and it may be changed corresponding to the number of side bets.

In addition, although in the present embodiment, an example applied to a video reel slot machine is explained regarding the present invention, the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and for example, the present invention may be applied to a mechanical reel slot machine.

An embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to the accompanying drawings.

As shown in FIG. 1B, a CPU 106 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition (Step S100), determines a single symbol display block among the plurality of scroll lines (Step S200), and rearranges the symbols (Step S300). Next, the CPU 106 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the symbol display blocks in each free game, and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged (Step S400). The CPU 106 repeats the abovementioned operations of Steps S300 and S400 until the free game is terminated (Step S500). When the free game is terminated, the CPU 106 determines the ranking of symbol display blocks in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the symbol display blocks (Step S600) and provides an award corresponding to the ranking (Step S700).

FIG. 2B is a perspective view showing the gaming machine 13 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The gaming machine 13 includes a cabinet 20. The cabinet 20 has a structure in which the face facing the player is open. The cabinet 20 contains various components including a game controller 100 (see FIG. 4B) for electrically controlling the gaming machine 13, and a hopper 44 (see FIG. 4B) for controlling the insertion, storage, and payout of coins (one of game media), and the like. The game medium is not restricted to coins. In addition, examples of such game media include medals, tokens, electronic, money or electronic value information (credits) having the same value.

The liquid crystal display 30 is installed substantially in the middle of the front face of the cabinet 20, and the liquid crystal display 40 is installed in an upper side of the cabinet 20.

The liquid crystal display 30 realizes a display device for displaying a variety of images related to the game including rendered images and the like. Such a configuration allows the player to advance the game while visually confirming various kinds of images displayed on the aforementioned liquid crystal display 30.

The gaming machine 13 includes video reels (a group of symbol images) and can display fifteen virtual reels on the liquid crystal display 30. It should be noted that the term “video reel” as used here represents a mechanism for displaying a reel on the liquid crystal display 30 in the form of an image.

The other liquid crystal display 40 above the liquid crystal display 30 is a display functioning as a sub display for displaying the rules of the game, demonstration screens, and the like.

Sound transmission openings 29a and 29b, through which sound effects emitted from a speaker 41 (see FIG. 4B) contained inside the cabinet 20 are propagated outside the cabinet 20, are disposed on the upper right and left sides of the liquid crystal display 40, respectively. The sound transmission openings 29a and 29b generate sound effects and the like in accordance with the progress of the game. In addition, decorative lamps 42a and 42b are disposed on the right and left sides substantially in the middle of the gaming machine 13, respectively. The decorative lamps 42a and 42b emit light in accordance with the progress of the game.

The gaming machine 13 includes a substantially horizontal operation portion 21 below the liquid crystal display 30. Disposed on the right side of the operation portion 21 is a coin insertion slot 22 through which a number of coins are inserted into the gaming machine 13. On the other hand, the components provided to the left side of the operation portion 21 include: a BET switch 23 that allows the player to select the number of coins, which serves as a gaming medium to be bet; and a spin repeat bet switch 24 that allows the player to play another game without changing the number of coins bet in the previous game. Such an arrangement allows the player to set the number of coins to be bet by performing a pushing operation on either the BET switch 23 or the spin repeat bet switch 24.

In the operation portion 21, a start switch 25 for accepting for each game the player's operation for starting a game is disposed on the left side of the bet switch 23. Upon performing a pushing operation on either the start switch 25 or the spin repeat bet switch 24, which serves as a trigger to start the game, an image in which the aforementioned fifteen video reels start to rotate is displayed.

A cash out switch 26 is provided near the coin insertion opening 22 on the operation portion 21. Upon the player pushing the cash out switch 26, the inserted coins are paid out from a coin payout opening 27 provided at a lower portion of the front face. The coins thus paid out are retained in a coin tray 28.

FIG. 3B shows an enlargement of a display area of the gaming machine 13. As shown in FIG. 3B, the gaming machine 13 has symbol display regions 81 to 95 arranged in the form of a matrix with 3 rows×5 columns. The symbol display regions are also called as symbol display blocks or symbol display location. The abovementioned fifteen video reels are arranged at each of the symbol display regions 81 to 95 respectively.

The game available in the present embodiment is a game in which an award is provided to a player corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged at the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The number of identical symbols targeted for provision of awards can be defined arbitrarily such as three or more symbols, and the like.

It is arranged so that a payout number display portion 48, a bet number display portion 50, and a credit number display portion 49 can be displayed in this order from the left side on the upper portion of the liquid crystal display 30. The payout display portion 40 is a component for displaying the amount of the coins paid out when not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award are rearranged and displayed on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The credit number display portion 49 displays the credit number of coins stored in the gaming machine 13. The bet amount display portion 5) is a component for displaying the bet amount, which is the number of coins bet.

FIG. 4B is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. Referring to FIG. 4B, the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13 is a microcomputer and provided with an interface circuit group 102, an input/output bus 104, CPU 106, ROM 108, RAM 110, an interface circuit 111 for communication, a random number generator 112, a speaker driving circuit 122, a hopper driving circuit 124, a lamp driving circuit 126, and a display/input controller 140.

The interface circuit group 102 are electrically connected with the input/output bus 104, which carries out input and output of data signals or address signals for the CPU 106.

The start switch 25 is electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. In the interface circuit group 102, a start signal generated by the start switch 25 is converted into a predetermined form of signal to be supplied to the input/output bus 104.

Furthermore, the BET switch 23, the spin repeat bet switch 24, and the cash out switch 26 are connected to the interface circuit group 102. Eh of the switching signals output from these switches 23, 24, and 26 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The switching signals thus converted are supplied to the input/output bus 104.

A coin sensor 43 is also electrically connected to the interface circuit group 102. The coin sensor 43 detects coins inserted into the coin insertion slot 22, and is disposed at an appropriate position relative to the coin insertion slot 22. The sensing signal output from the coin sensor 43 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The sensing signal thus converted is supplied to the input/output bus 104.

The ROM 108 and the RAM 110 are connected to the input/output bus 104.

Upon acceptance of the start operation of a game through the start switch 25, the CPU 106 reads a game program to execute the game. The game program is programmed as follows. That is, a display for starting the scrolling of the symbols on the fifteen video reels is made on the liquid crystal display 30 via the display/input controller 140. Thereafter, a display for stopping the fifteen video reels is made to rearrange the fifteen video reels. In a case where not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols among all of the symbols which are stopped in each reel are rearranged and displayed, coins corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged and displayed are paid out.

The ROM 108 stores a control program for governing and controlling the gaming machine 13, a program for executing routines as shown in FIGS. 6B and 7B (hereinafter referred to as a “routine execution program”), and initial data for executing the control program, and various data tables used in determination processes. The routine execution program includes the abovementioned game program. The RAM 110 temporarily stores flags, variables, etc., used for the aforementioned control program.

The game program includes a rearranged symbol determination program. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program is used for determining 15 symbols rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program includes symbol weighing data that corresponds to each of multiple types of payout rates (e.g., 80%, 84%, and 88%). The symbol weighing data is data for each of the fifteen video reels, and indicates the corresponding relationship between each symbol and one or multiple random numbers in a predetermined number range (0 to 65535). The payout rate is determined based upon the payout rate setting data stored in the ROM 108. The determination of rearranged symbols is performed based upon the symbol weighing data that corresponds to the payout rate.

Furthermore, a communication interface circuit 111 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The communication interface circuit 111 is a circuit for communicating with the central controller 11, etc. via the network including various types of networks such as a LAN.

The random number generator 112 for generating a random number is connected to the input/output bus 104. The random number generator 112 generates random numbers in a predetermined range of “0” to “65535” (the sixteenth power of two minus one) for example. Alternatively, an arrangement may be made in which the CPU 106 generates a random number by computation.

The speaker drive circuit 122 for the speakers 41 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 reads the sound data stored in the ROM 108, and transmits the sound, data thus read to the speaker driving circuit 122 via the input/output bus 104. In this way, the speakers 41 generate predetermined sound effects.

The hopper drive circuit 124 for driving the hopper 44 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving a cash out signal input from the cash out switch 26, the CPU 106 transmits a driving signal to the hopper driving circuit 124 via the input/output bus 104. Accordingly, the hopper 44 pays out coins such that the amount thereof is equivalent to the current number of coins remaining as credits, which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110.

Alternatively, the payout of the coins may be performed in a mode of storing credit data in a data card or the like, instead of using physical coins. That is, the player may carry a card functioning as a recording medium, and store the data related to the credit by inserting the card into the gaming machine 13.

The lamp drive circuit 126 for driving the decorative lamps 42a and 42b is also connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 transmits the signal for driving the lamps according to the predetermined conditions based on the program stored in the ROM 108 to the lamp driving circuit 126. Thus, decorative lamps 42a and 42b blink and the like.

The display/input controller 140 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 creates an image display command corresponding to the state and results of the game, and outputs the image display command thus created to the display/input controller 140 via the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving the image display command input from the CPU 106, the display/input controller 140 creates a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 according to the image display command thus input, and outputs the driving signal thus created to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. As a result, a predetermined image is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The display/input controller 140 transmits the signal input through the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 104 in the form of an input signal. In addition, the image display command includes commands corresponding to a payout number display portion 48, a credit number display portion 49, and a bet number display portion 50.

FIG. 5B is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the display/input controller 140 of the gaming machine 13. The display/input controller 140 is a sub-micro computer which performs image display processing arid the control of input from the touch panel 32, and which has an interface circuit 142, an input-output bus 144, CPU 146, ROM 148, RAM 150, VDP 152, video RAM 154, image data ROM 156, a drive circuit 158, and a touch panel control circuit 150.

The interface circuit 142 is connected to the input/output bus 144. An image display instruction outputted from the CPU 106 on the abovementioned game controller 100 is supplied to the input-output bus 144 via the interface circuit 142. The input/output bus 144 performs input/output of data signals or address signals to and from the CPU 146.

The ROM 148 and the RAM 150 are connected to the input/output bus 144. The ROM 148 stores a display control program under which a drive signal to be supplied to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is generated based on the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. On the other hand, the RAM 150 stores flags and variables used in the aforementioned display control program.

The VDP 152 is connected to the input/output bus 144. The VDP 152 includes a so-called sprite circuit, a screen circuit, a palette circuit, etc., and can perform various types of processing for displaying images on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The video RAM 154 and the ROM 156 are connected to the VDP 152. The video RAM 154 stores image data based on the image display instructions from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data containing the abovementioned produced image data. Furthermore, the driving circuit 158 for outputting a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is connected to the VDP 152.

By reading and executing the display control program stored in the ROM 148, the CPU 146 instructs the video RAM 154 to store image data to be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 in response to the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. Examples of the image display commands include various kinds of image display commands including the aforementioned image display commands for visual effects, etc.

The image data ROM 156 stores various kinds of image data including the aforementioned image data for visual effects, etc.

The touch panel control circuit 160 transmits the signals input via the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 144 in the form of an input signal.

FIG. 6B is a flowchart showing the flow of the processing operation of a basic game of the gaming machine 13, which is executed by the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. The routine of FIG. 6B is a unit game.

It should be rioted that the gaming machine 13 is activated in advance and the variables used in the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 are initialized to predetermined values, respectively, thereby providing normal operation of the gaming machine 13.

Firstly, the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 determines whether any credits remain, which correspond to the remaining amount of coins inserted by the player (Step S1). More specifically, CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in the RAM 110, and executes processing according to the amount of credits C. When the amount of credits C equals “0” (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the routine without executing any processing, since it cannot start a game. When the amount of credits C is not less than “1” (YES in Step S1), the CPU 106 determines that coins remain as, credits, and the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S2.

In Step S2, CPU 106 determines whether or not a pressing operation has been applied to the spin bet repeat switch 24. When the switch 24 has been pressed and the CPU 106 receives an operation signal from the switch 24 (YES in Step S2), the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S13. On the other hand, when the CPU 106 does not receive the operation signal from the switch 24 after a predetermined period of time has elapsed (NO in Step S2), the CPU 106 determines that the switch 24 has not been pressed and moves the processing to Step S3.

In the following Step S3, the CPU 106 sets the game conditions. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines the number of coins bet in a unit game based on the operation of the bet switch 23. The CPU 106 receives the operation signals generated by the player operating the bet switch 23. Then, the CPU 106 stores the bet amount in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 based on the number of times the operation signals have been received. The CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110, and subtracts the abovementioned bet amount from the amount of credits C thus read. Then, the CPU 106 stores the subtracted value in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S4.

In the following Step S4, the CPU 106 determines whether the start switch 25 is ON, and then waits for the start switch 35 to be operated. Upon the start switch 25 being operated, and accordingly, upon the operation signal being input from the start switch 25 (in a case of “YES” in the determination processing in Step S4), the CPU 106 determines that the start switch 25 has been operated, and the processing advances to Step S5.

On the other hand, in Step S13, the CPU 106 determines whether the amount of credits C is at least the total bet number in a previous game. In other words, the CPU 106 determines whether it can start a game in response to a pressing operation applied to the spin repeat bet switch 24. More specifically, when the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pushed, and the operation signal has been inputted to the CPU 106 from the spin repeat bet switch 24, the CPU 106 reads the credit amount C and the bet amount bet in the previous game, which are stored in RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 determines whether or not the credit amount C is equal to or greater than the bet amount bet in the previous game based upon the relation between the credit amount C thus read and the bet amounts. The CPU 106 performs processing based upon the determination results. When the CPU 106 determines that the amount of credits C is less than the bet amount (NO in Step S13), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine without any processing, since it cannot start a game. On the other hand, in a case where determination has been made that the aforementioned amount of credits C is at least the bet amount bet in the previous game (in a case of “YES” in Step S13), the CPU 106 subtracts the bet amount bet in the previous game from the aforementioned amount of credits C, and stores the subtracted value in a predetermined area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S5.

In the following Step S5, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store thereof in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95, thereby determining a winning combination. In the present embodiment, in a case where five or more identical symbols are rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95, a winning combination corresponding to the rearranged symbol is achieved.

Upon determining a rearranged symbol, the CPU 106 determines whether at least a predetermined number of identical symbols (for example, five symbols) for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged or not. In a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged, the CPU 106 activates a flag indicating provision of an award for generating an award corresponding to the predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award. The activated flag, which indicates the player has won an award, is stored in a predetermined area of the RAM 110 according to the instruction from the CPU 106. On the other hand, in a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are not rearranged (a losing combination), the CPU 106 does not activate the flag indicating providing the award. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S6.

In the following Step S6, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate.

Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S7). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S7), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S8). Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S9.

In the following Step S9, the CPU 1(06 determines whether the flag indicating that an award is provided, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by means of the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. In a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is activated (YES in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S10.

In the following Step S10, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag (a bonus flag) indicating switching to a free game, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by the rearranged symbol, determination processing in Step S5. More specifically, in a case where the flag indicating switching to a free game is activated (YES in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S11. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating the switch to a free game is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S12.

In the following Step S11, the CPU 106 performs free game processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 starts a free game and performs a predetermined number of the free games. Subsequently, the CPU 106 terminates the routine.

In the following Step S12, the CPU 106 pays out the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a payout table (not shown) and calculates the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. The CPU 106 reads the credit amount stored in the aforementioned predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 calculates the sum total amount of coins to be paid out thus calculated and the credit amount thus read, and stores the sum thus calculated in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. The CPU 106 displays the aforementioned value thus stored on the credit amount display portion 49. The CPU 106 then terminates the basic game.

Free game processing is described below with reference to FIG. 7B.

In a free game in the present embodiment, symbol display blocks correspond to a plurality of character images including a player's character, respectively, and each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each of the symbol display blocks. Then, the number by which each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block is cumulatively counted in each game. Then, each of the symbol display blocks is ranked in the order of the number that each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block at the time the free game is terminated. Thereafter, an award corresponding to a rank of a player's character (a symbol display block corresponding to a player's character) is provided to the player.

In Step S21 of FIG. 7B, the CPU 106 determines a number of symbol display blocks corresponding to a bet amount. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game, the bet amount which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 during the game, and determines the number of symbol display region (symbol display block) corresponding to a value of the bet amount. Then, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S22.

In addition, in the present embodiment, the larger the bet amount is, the more symbol display region are determined.

Here, a display example of a symbol display region determined is described with reference to FIG. 8B. According to FIG. 8B, frames surrounding symbol display regions 88 and 92 among the symbol display regions 81 to 95 are highlighted with a bold line. In addition, a message “NUMBER OF PLAYER'S BLOCK IS TWO” is displayed. Thus, the player can recognize that the symbol display regions 88 and 92 among the symbol display regions 81 to 95 were assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player).

In the example in FIG. 8B, there are two symbol display blocks assigned to the player. However, as described above, since the number of symbol display blocks corresponding to the bet amount which causes a game to switch to a free game during the game is determined, the number of symbol display blocks assigned to the player may be 1, 2, 3, and the like.

In addition, in Step S21 of FIG. 7B, the CPU 106 also determines the corresponding relationship between the character s images 72 to 75 other than the player's character image and the corresponding symbol display blocks. Here, each single character image 72 to 75 other than the player's character image is assigned to a single respective symbol display block. Therefore, in a case where there is a plurality of symbol display blocks assigned to the player, the player has an advantage.

Referring to FIG. 7B again, in Step S22, the CPU 106 determines at least one specific symbol according to the bet amount. More specifically, similar to Step S21, the CPU 106 reads the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game and determines the number of specific symbols corresponding to the bet amount. The CPU 106 then advances the processing to Step S23.

In addition, in the present embodiment, the larger the bet amount is, the more specific symbols are determined.

Here, a display example of a specific symbol determined is described with reference to FIG. 9B. According to FIG. 9B, a message “SYMBOLS TARGETED FOR COUNTING ARE A AND Q” is shown. Thus, the player can recognize that the specific symbols targeted for counting in the symbol display block assigned to the player are two symbols, “A” and “Q”.

In the example in FIG. 9B, there are two symbols targeted for counting. However, as described above, since the number of specific symbols corresponding to the bet amount which causes a game to switch to a free game during the game is determined, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in the symbol display block assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player, which is described later) may be 1, 2, 3, and the like. On the other hand, the number of specific symbols targeted for counting in each symbol display block assigned to each of the other character images 72 to 175 is one, respectively. Therefore, in a case where there is a plurality of specific symbols targeted for counting in the symbol display block assigned to the player, the player has an advantage.

Referring to FIG. 7B, in Step S23, a character image is displayed. More specifically, the CPU 106 extracts a plurality of character image data (five character image data in the present embodiment) stored in the ROM 148 via the display/input controller 140, and displays those on the liquid crystal display 40.

Here, a display example of a character image is described with reference to FIG. 10B. According to FIG. 10B, five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at a start line on the liquid crystal display 40. Here, in the present embodiment, the player's character image is displayed as the character image 71, and the character image 71 corresponds to the symbol display blocks 88 and 92 assigned to the player. Each of the other character images 72 to 75 corresponds to each symbol display block thus randomly determined.

In addition, according to FIG. 10B, since the five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at the start line, the player can recognize that the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75 is zero.

As described later in FIG. 11B, the character images 71 to 75 are updated and displayed corresponding to the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75. For example, the more specific symbol there are, the closer a character image is displayed to a goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7B, in Step S24, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

First, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store thereof in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S25.

In the following Step S25, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate and display thereof.

Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S26). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S26), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging fifteen symbols (Step S27). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S23.

In Step S28, the CPU 106 counts the specific symbols thus rearranged and cumulatively adds the specific symbols. More specifically, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbols rearranged (for example, two symbols “A” and “Q”) which are determined in Step S22 for the symbol display block (for example, the two symbol display regions 88 and 92) thus determined in Step S21 and assigned to the player. In addition, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of the single specific symbol rearranged (for example, the symbol “A”) for each symbol display block other than the symbol display block assigned to the player, each of which the symbol display block is fixed to correspond to the character images 72 to 75. Data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75, and is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S29.

In Step S29, the CPU 106 performs character image update processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in each free game from the RAM 110, and displays the image corresponding to the number of specific symbols indicated by the data on the liquid crystal display 40.

For example, according to FIG. 11B, each of the character images 71 to 75 is displayed to be closer to the goal line in the order corresponding to the number of the specific symbols thus cumulatively added. In addition, according to FIG. 11B, the player's character image 71 is displayed to be the third closest to the goal line. That is, according to FIG. 11B, the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added for the symbol display block assigned to the player's character image 71 is the third best compared to the number of specific symbols cumulatively added for each of the symbol display blocks assigned to the other character images 72 to 75.

In Step S30, the CPU 106 determines whether the free game is terminated or not. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines whether a predetermined number of free games has been performed or not. In a case of YES determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S31. On the other hand, in a NO determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S24.

In Step S31, the CPU 106 performs rank determination processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads from the RAM 110 the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, each of which is fixed to correspond to the character images 71 to 75, and ranks the character images 71 to 75 in the order of the number of specific symbols (the ranking data is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75).

Here, according to FIG. 12B, since, at the time that a free game is terminated, the character image 74 has already reached the goal line, the character image 74 is closest to the goal line, and the character image 71 is the second closest to the goal line. Thus, the player's character image 71 is determined to be the second closest to the goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7B, in Step S32, the CPU 106 performs processing for giving an award corresponding to ranking. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a data table (not shown) which stores the data of credit amounts corresponding to the ranking data, and pays out the amount of coins according to the rank corresponding to the player's character image 71.

For an example, as show in FIG. 13B, since a message “THE PLAYER'S CHARACTER RANKS SECOND. WIN 40 CREDITS!!” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 40, the player can recognize that the player can obtain 40 credits in a free game.

Thus, the number of specific symbols rearranged in the symbol display blocks are fixed to correspond to a plurality of characters so as to provide rendered effects of the plurality of characters racing each other, thereby enabling a gaming machine which enhances amusement to be provide.

In addition, since the number of symbol display blocks determined and the number of specific symbols targeted for counting is increased corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the player judges the game timing of switching to a free game, and can decide whether or not to increase bet amount. Therefore, enjoyment of the game can be enhanced, even in a basic game.

While the embodiment of the gaming machine according to the present invention has been described, it is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not limiting, and any changes in design may be made to specific configurations such as various means. Moreover, it should be understood that the advantages described in association with the embodiments are merely a listing of most preferred advantages, and that the advantages of the present invention are by no means restricted to those described in connected with the embodiments.

For example, although in the present embodiment, the number of symbol display blocks determined and the number of specific symbols targeted for counting is changed corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the present invention is not limited thereto, and it may be changed corresponding to the number of side bets.

In addition, although in the present embodiment, an example applied to a video reel slot machine is explained regarding the present invention, the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and for example, the present invention may be applied to a mechanical reel slot machine.

An embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to the accompanying drawings.

As shown in FIG. 1C, a CPU 106 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition (Step S100), determines a single symbol, display block among a plurality of symbol display blocks (Step S200), and rearranges the symbols (Step S300). Next, the CPU 106 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the symbol display blocks in each free game, and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged (Step S400). The CPU 106 repeats the abovementioned operations of Steps S300 and S400 until the free game is terminated (Step S500). When the free game is terminated, the CPU 106 determines the ranking of symbol display blocks in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the symbol display blocks (Step S600) and provides an award corresponding to the ranking (Step S700).

FIG. 2C is a perspective view showing the gaming machine 13 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The gaming machine 13 includes a cabinet 20. The cabinet 20 has a structure in which the face facing the player is open. The cabinet 20 contains various components including a game controller 100 (see FIG. 4C) for electrically controlling the gaming machine 13, and a hopper 44 (see FIG. 4C) for controlling the insertion, storage, and payout of coins (one of game media), and the like. The game medium is not restricted to coins. In addition, examples of such game media include medals, tokens, electronic money or electronic value information (credits) having the same value.

The liquid crystal display 30 is installed substantially in the middle of the front face of the cabinet 20, and the liquid crystal display 40 is installed in an upper side of the cabinet 20.

The liquid crystal display 30 realizes a display device for displaying a variety of images related to the game including rendered images and the like. Such a configuration allows the player to advance the game while visually confirming various kinds of images displayed on the aforementioned liquid crystal display 30.

The gaming machine 13 includes video reels (a group of symbol images) and can display fifteen virtual reels on the liquid crystal display 30. It should be noted that the term “video reel” as used here represents a mechanism for displaying a reel on the liquid crystal display 30 in the form of an image.

The other liquid crystal display 40 above the liquid crystal display 30 is a display functioning as a sub display for displaying the rules of the game, demonstration screens, and the like.

Sound transmission openings 29a and 29b, through which sound effects emitted from a speaker 41 (see FIG. 4C) contained inside the cabinet 20 are propagated outside the cabinet 20, are disposed on the upper right and left sides of the liquid crystal display 40, respectively. The sound transmission openings 29a and 29b generate sound effects and the like in accordance with the progress of the game. In addition, decorative lamps 42a and 42b are disposed on the right and left sides substantially in the middle of the gaming machine 13, respectively. The decorative lamps 42a and 42b emit light in accordance with the progress of the game.

The gaming machine 13 includes a substantially horizontal operation portion 21 below the liquid crystal display 30. Disposed on the right side of the operation portion 21 is a coin insertion slot 22 through which a number of coins are inserted into the gaming machine 13. On the other hand, the components provided to the left side of the operation portion 21 include: a BET switch 23 that allows the player to select the number of coins, which serves as a gaming medium to be bet; and a spin repeat bet switch 24 that allows the player to play another game without changing the number of coins bet in the previous game. Such an arrangement allows the player to set the number of coins to be bet by performing a pushing operation on either the BET switch 23 or the spin repeat bet switch 24.

In the operation portion 21, a start switch 25 for accepting for each game the player's operation for starting a game is disposed on the left side of the bet switch 23. Upon performing a pushing operation on either the start switch 25 or the spin repeat bet switch 24, which serves as a trigger to start the game, an image in which the aforementioned fifteen video reels start to rotate is displayed.

A cash out switch 26 is provided near the coin insertion opening 22 on the operation portion 21. Upon the player pushing the cash out switch 26, the inserted coins are paid out from a coin payout opening 27 provided at a lower portion of the front face. The coins thus paid out are retained in a coin tray 28.

FIG. 3C shows an enlargement of a display area of the gaming machine 13. As shown in FIG. 3C, the gaming machine 13 has symbol display regions 81 to 95 arranged in the form of a matrix with 3 rows×5 columns. The symbol display regions are also called as symbol display blocks or symbol display location. The abovementioned fifteen video reels are arranged at each of the symbol display regions 81 to 95 respectively.

The game available in the present embodiment is a game in which an award is provided to a player corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged at the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The number of identical symbols targeted for provision of awards can be defined arbitrarily such as three or more symbols, and the like.

It is arranged so that a payout number display portion 48, a bet number display portion 50, and a credit number display portion 49 can be displayed in this order from the left side on the upper portion of the liquid crystal display 30. The payout display portion 48 is a component for displaying the amount of the coins paid out when not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award are rearranged and displayed on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The credit number display portion 49 displays the credit number of coins stored in the gaming machine 13. The bet amount display portion 50 is a component for displaying the bet amount, which is the number of coins bet.

FIG. 4C is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. Referring to FIG. 4C, the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13 is a microcomputer and provided with an interface circuit group 102, an input-output bus 104, CPU 106, ROM 108, RAM 110, an interface circuit 111 for communication, a random number generator 112, a speaker driving circuit 122, a hopper driving circuit 124, a Lamp driving circuit 126, and a display/input controller 140.

The interface circuit group 102 is electrically connected with the input/output bus 104, which carries out input and output of data signals or address signals for the CPU 106.

The start switch 25 is electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. In the interface circuit group 102, a start signal generated by the start switch 25 is converted into a predetermined form of signal to be supplied to the input/output bus 104.

Furthermore, the BET switch 23, the spin repeat bet switch 24, and the cash out switch 26 are connected to the interface circuit group 102. Each of the switching signals output from these switches 23, 24, and 26 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The switching signals thus converted are supplied to the input/output bus 104.

A coin sensor 43 is also electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. The coin sensor 43 detects coins inserted into the coin insertion slot 22, and is disposed at an appropriate position relative to the coin insertion slot 22. The sensing signal output from the coin sensor 43 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The sensing signal thus converted is supplied to the input/output bus 104.

The ROM 108 and the RAM 110 are connected to the input/output bus 104.

Upon acceptance of the start operation of a game through the start switch 25, the CPU 106 reads a game program to execute the game. The game program is programmed as follows. That is, a display for starting the scrolling of the symbols on the fifteen video reels is made on the liquid crystal display 30 via the display/input controller 140. Thereafter, a display for stopping the fifteen video reels is made to rearrange the fifteen video reels. In a case where not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols among all of the symbols which are stopped in each reel are rearranged and displayed, coins corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged and displayed are paid out.

The ROM 108 stores a control program for governing and controlling the gaming machine 13, a program for executing routines as shown in FIGS. 6C and 7C (hereinafter referred to as a “routine execution program”), and initial data for executing the control program, and various data tables used in determination processes. The routine execution program includes the abovementioned game program. The RAM 110 temporarily stores flags, variables, etc., used for the aforementioned control program.

The game program includes a rearranged symbol determination program. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program is used for determining 15 symbols rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program includes symbol weighing data that corresponds to each of multiple types of payout rates (e.g., 80%, 84%, and 88%). The symbol weighing data is data for each of the fifteen video reels, and indicates the correspondinrg relationship between each symbol and one or multiple random numbers in a predetermined number range (0 to 65535). The payout rate is determined based upon the payout rate setting data stored in the ROM 108. The determination of rearranged symbols is performed based upon the symbol weighing data that corresponds to the payout rate.

Furthermore, a communication interface circuit 111 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The communication interface circuit 111 is a circuit for communicating with the central controller 11, etc. via the network including various types of networks such as a LAN.

The random number generator 1L2 for generating a random number is connected to the input/output bus 104. The random number generator 112 generates random numbers in a predetermined range of “0” to “65535” (the sixteenth power of two minus one), for example. Alternatively, an arrangement may be made in which the CPU 106 generates a random number by computation.

The speaker drive circuit 122 for the speakers 41 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 reads the sound data stored in the ROM 100, and transmits the sound data thus read to the speaker driving circuit 122 via the input/output bus 104. In this way, the speakers 41 generate predetermined sound effects.

The hopper drive circuit 124 for driving the hopper 44 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving a cash out signal input from the cash out switch 26, the CPU 106 transmits a driving signal to the hopper driving circuit 124 via the input/output bus 104. Accordingly, the hopper 44 pays out coins such that the amount thereof is equivalent to the current number of coins remaining as credits, which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110.

Alternatively, the payout of the coins may be performed in a mode of storing credit data in a data card or the like, instead of using physical coins. That is, the player may carry a card functioning as a recording medium, and store the data related to the credit by inserting the card into the gaming machine 13.

The lamp drive circuit 126 for driving the decorative lamps 42a and 42b is also connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 transmits the signal for driving the lamps according to the predetermined conditions based on the program stored in the ROM 108 to the lamp driving circuit 126. Thus, decorative lamps 42a and 42b blink and the like.

The display/input controller 140 is connected to the input/output controller 140. The CPU 106 creates an image display command corresponding to the state and results of the game, and outputs the image display command thus created to the display/input controller 140 via the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving the image display command input from the CPU 106, the display/input controller 140 creates a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 according to the image display command thus input, and outputs the driving signal thus created to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. As a result, a predetermined image is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The display/input controller 140 transmits the signal input through the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 104 in the form of an input signal. In addition, the image display command includes commands corresponding to a payout number display portion 48, a credit number display portion 49, and a bet number display portion 50.

FIG. 5C is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the display/input controller 140 of the gaming machine 13. The display/input controller 140 is a sub-micro computer which performs image display processing and the control of input from the touch panel 32, and which has an interface circuit 142, an input-output bus 144, CPU 146, ROM 148, RAM 150, VDP 152, video RAM 154, image data ROM 156, a drive circuit 158, and a touch panel control circuit 160.

The interface circuit 142 is connected to the input/output bus 144. An image display instruction outputted from the CPU 106 on the abovementioned game controller 100 is supplied to the input/output bus 144 via the interface circuit 142. The input/output bus 144 performs input/output of data signals or address signals to and from the CPU 146.

The ROM 148 and the RAM 150 are connected to the input/output bus 144. The ROM 148 stores a display control program under which a drive signal to be supplied to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is generated based on the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. On the other hand, the RAM 150 stores flags and variables used in the aforementioned display control program.

The VDP 152 is connected to the input/output bus 144. The VDP 152 includes a so-called sprite circuit, a screen circuit, a palette circuit, etc., and can perform various types of processing for displaying images on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The video RAM 154 and the ROM 156 are connected to the VDP 152. The video RAM 154 stores image data based on the image display instructions from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data containing the abovementioned produced image data. Furthermore, the driving circuit 158 for outputting a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is connected to the VDP 152.

By reading and executing the display control program stored in the ROM 148, the CPU 146 instructs the video RAM 154 to store image data to be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 in response to the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. Examples of the image display commands include various kinds of image display commands including the aforementioned image display commands for visual effects, etc.

The image data ROM 156 stores various kinds of image data including the aforementioned image data for visual effects, etc.

The touch panel control circuit 160 transmits the signals input via the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 144 in the form of an input signal.

FIG. 6C is a flowchart showing the flow of the processing operation of a basic game of the gaming machine 13, which is executed by the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. The routine of FIG. 6C is a unit game.

It should be rioted that the gaming machine 13 is activated in advance and the variables used in the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 are initialized to predetermined values, respectively, thereby providing normal operation of the gaming machine 13.

Firstly, the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 determines whether any credits remain, which correspond to the remaining amount of coins inserted by the player Step S1). More specifically, CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in the RAM 110, and executes processing according to the amount of credits C. When the amount of credits C equals “0” (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the routine without executing any processing, since it cannot start a game. When the amount of credits C is not less than “1” (YES in Step S1) the CPU 106 determines that coins remain as credits, and the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S2.

In Step S2, CPU 106 determines whether or not a pressing operation has been applied to the spin bet repeat switch 24. When the switch 24 has been pressed and the CPU 106 receives an operation signal from the switch 24 (YES in Step S2), the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S13. On the other hand, when the CPU 106 does not receive the operation signal from the switch 24 after a predetermined period of time has elapsed (NO in Step S2), the CPU 106 determines that the switch 24 has not been pressed and moves the processing to Step S3.

In the following Step S3, the CPU 106 sets the game conditions. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines the number of coins bet in a unit game based on the operation of the bet switch 23. The CPU 106 receives the operation signals generated by the player operating the bet switch 23. Then, the CPU 106 stores the bet amount in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 based on the number of times the operation signals have been received. The CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110, and subtracts the abovementioned bet amount from the amount of credits C thus read. Then, the CPU 106 stores the subtracted value in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S4.

In the following Step S4, the CPU 106 determines whether the start switch 25 is ON, and then waits for the start switch 35 to be operated. Upon the start switch 25 being operated, and accordingly, upon the operation signal being input from the start switch 25 (in a case of “YES” in the determination processing in Step S4), the CPU 106 determines that the start switch 25 has been operated, and the processing advances to Step S5.

On the other hand, in Step S13, the CPU 106 determines whether the amount of credits C is at least the total bet number in a previous game. In other words, the CPU 106 determines whether it can start a game in response to a pressing operation applied to the spin repeat bet switch 24. More specifically, when the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pushed, and the operation signal has been inputted to the CPU 106 from the spin, repeat bet switch 24, the CPU 106 reads the credit amount C and the bet amount bet in the previous game, which are stored in RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 determines whether or not the credit amount C is equal to or greater than the bet amount bet in the previous game based upon the relation between the credit amount C thus read and the bet amounts. The CPU 106 performs processing based upon the determination results. When the CPU 106 determines that the amount of credits C is less than the bet amount (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine without any processing, since it cannot start a game. On the other hand, in a case where determination has been made that the aforementioned amount of credits C is at least the bet amount bet in the previous game (in a case of “YES” in Step S13), the CPU 106 subtracts the bet amount bet in the previous game from the aforementioned amount of credits C, and stores the subtracted value in a predetermined area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S5.

In the following Step S5, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95, thereby determining a winning combination. In the present embodiment, in a case where five or more identical symbols are rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95, a winning combination corresponding to the rearranged symbol is achieved.

Upon determining a rearranged symbol, the CPU 106 determines whether at least a predetermined number of identical symbols (for example, five symbols) for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged or not. In a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged, the CPU 106 activates a flag indicating provision of an award for generating an award corresponding to the predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award. The activated flag, which indicates the player has won an award, is stored in a predetermined area of the RAM 110 according to the instruction from the CPU 106. On the other hand, in a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are not rearranged (a losing combination), the CPU 106 does not activate the flag indicating providing the award. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S6.

In the following Step S6, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate. Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S7). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S7), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S8). Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S9.

In the following Step S9, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag indicating that an award is provided, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by means of the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. In a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S9) the CPU 106 terminates the present routine. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is activated (YES in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S10.

In the following Step S10, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag (a bonus flag) indicating switching to a free game, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. More specifically, in a case where the flag indicating switching to a free game is activated (YES in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S11. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating the switch to a free game is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S12.

In the following Step S11, the CPU 106 performs free game processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 starts a free game and performs a predetermined number of the free games. Subsequently, the CPU 106 terminates the routine.

In the following Step S12, the CPU 106 pays out the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a payout table (not shown) and calculates the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. The CPU 106 reads the credit amount stored in the aforementioned predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 calculates the sum total amount of coins to be paid out thus calculated and the credit amount thus read, and stores the sum thus calculated in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. The CPU 106 displays the aforementioned value thus stored on the credit amount display portion 49. The CPU 106 then terminates the basic game.

Free game processing is described below with reference to FIG. 7C.

In a free game in the present embodiment, symbol display blocks correspond to a plurality of character images including a player's character, respectively, and each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each of the symbol display blocks. Then, the number by which each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block is cumulatively counted in each game. Then, each of the symbol display blocks is ranked in the order of the number that each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block at the time the free game is terminated. Thereafter, an award corresponding to a rank of a player's character (a symbol display block corresponding to a player's character) is provided to the player.

In Step S21 of FIG. 7C, the CPU 106 determines a number of symbol display blocks corresponding to a bet amount based on a player's choice. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the bet amount which caused a game to switch to a free game, the bet amount which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 during the game, and determines the number of symbol display region (symbol display block) corresponding to a value of the bet amount corresponding to a signal (a signal for identifying a symbol display region) outputted from a touch panel 32. Then, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S22.

In addition, in the present embodiment, the larger the bet amount is, the more symbol display region becomes a target for a player to select.

Here, according to FIG. 8C, since a message “SELECT TWO BLOCKS TARGETED FOR COUNTING” is shown on the liquid crystal display 30, a player recognizes that two symbol display regions can be selected. In addition, by touching the touch panel 32, disposed on the liquid crystal display 30, the player can select any one of the symbol display regions 81 to 95.

In addition, a display example of a symbol display region selected by a player is described with reference to FIG. 9C. According to FIG. 9C, frames surrounding symbol display regions 85 and 86 among the symbol display regions 81 to 95 are highlighted with a bold line. Thus, the player can recognize that the symbol display regions 85 and 86 among the symbol display regions 81 to 95 were assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player).

In the example in FIG. 9C, there are two symbol display blocks assigned to the player. However, as described above, since the a player can select a number of symbol display blocks corresponding to the bet amount which causes a game to switch to a free game during the game, the number of symbol display blocks assigned to the player may be 1, 2, 3, and the like.

Simultaneously, in Step S21 of FIG. 7C, the CPU 106 also determines the corresponding relationship between the character's images 72 to 75 other than the player's character image and the corresponding symbol display blocks not based on a player s selection. Here, each single character image 72 to 75 other than the player's character image is assigned to a single respective symbol display block. Therefore, in a case where there is a plurality of symbol display blocks assigned to the player, the player has an advantage.

Here, a display example of a specific symbol to be determined is described with reference to FIG. 10C. According to FIG. 10C, a message “SYMBOL TARGETED FOR COUNTING IS A”. Thus, the player can recognize that the specific symbol targeted for counting in the symbol display block assigned to the player is a symbol, “A”.

Referring to FIG. 7C, in Step S22, a character image is displayed. More specifically, the CPU 106 extracts a plurality of character image data (five character image data in the present embodiment) stored in the ROM 140 via the display/input controller 140, and displays those on the liquid crystal display 40.

Here, a display example of a character image is described with reference to FIG. 11C. According to FIG. 11C, five images 71 to 75 are displayed at a start line on the liquid crystal display 40. Here, in the present embodiment, the player's character image is displayed as the character image 71, and the character image 71 corresponds to the symbol display blocks 85 and 86 assigned to the player. Each of the other character images 72 to 75 corresponds to each symbol display block thus randomly determined.

In addition, according to FIG. 11C, since the five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at the start line, the player can recognize that the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75 is zero.

As described later in FIG. 12C, the character images 71 to 75 are updated and displayed corresponding to the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75. For example, the more specific symbol there are, the closer a character image is displayed to a goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7C, in Step S23, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store thereof in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S24.

In the following Step S24, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate and display thereof.

Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S25). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S25), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging fifteen symbols (Step S26). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S27.

In Step S27, the CPU 106 counts the specific symbols thus rearranged and cumulatively adds the specific symbols. More specifically, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbol rearranged (for example, a symbol “A”) for the symbol display block (for example, the two symbol display regions 85 and 86) thus determined based on a player's selection in Step S21 and assigned to the player. In addition, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbol rearranged (for example, the symbol “A”) for each symbol display block other than the symbol display block assigned to the player, each of which the symbol display block is fixed to correspond to the character images 72 to 75. Data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75, and is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S28.

In Step S28, the CPU 106 performs character image update processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in each free game from the RAM 110, and displays the image corresponding to the number of specific symbols indicated by the data on the liquid crystal display 40.

For example, according to FIG. 12C, each of the character images 71 to 75 is displayed to be closer to the goal line in the order corresponding to the number of the specific symbols thus cumulatively added. In addition, according to FIG. 12C, the player's character image 71 is displayed to be the third closest to the goal line. That is, the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added for the symbol display block assigned to the player's character image 71 is the third best compared to the number of specific symbols cumulatively added for each of the symbol display blocks assigned to the other character images 72 to 75.

In Step S29, the CPU 106 determines whether the free game is terminated or not. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines whether a predetermined number of free games has been performed or not. In a case of YES determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S30. On the other hand, in a NO determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S23.

In Step S30, the CPU 106 performs rank determination processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads from the RAM 110 the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, each of which is fixed to correspond to the character images 71 to 75, and ranks the character images 71 to 75 in the order of the number of specific symbols (the ranking data is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75).

Here, according to FIG. 13C, since, at the time that a free game is terminated, the character image 74 has already reached the goal line, the character image 74 is closest to the goal line, and the character image 71 is the second closest to the goal line. Thus, the player's character image 71 is determined to be the second closest to the goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7C, in Step S31, the CPU 106 performs processing for giving an award corresponding to ranking. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a data table (not shown) which stores the data of credit amounts corresponding to the ranking data, and pays out the amount of coins according to the rank corresponding to the player's character image 71.

For an example, as show in FIG. 14C, since a message “THE PLAYER'S CHARACTER RANKS SECOND. WIN 40 CREDITS!!” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 40, the player can recognize that the player can obtain 40 credits in a free game.

Thus, the number of specific symbols rearranged in the symbol display blocks is fixed to correspond to a plurality of characters so as to provide rendered effects of the plurality of characters racing each other, thereby enabling a gaming machine which enhances amusement to be provided.

In addition, when more specific symbols are displayed on symbol display blocks selected by a player, the player can acquires more credits, thereby enabling the player to enjoy selecting symbol display blocks.

In addition, since the number of symbol display blocks and the number of specific symbols targeted for counting and the number of specific symbols targeted for counting are increased corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the player judges the game timing of switching to a free game, and can decide whether or not to increase bet amount. Therefore, enjoyment of the game can be enhanced, even in a basic game.

While the embodiment of the gaming machine according to the present invention has been described, it is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not limiting, and any changes in design may be made to specific configurations such as various means. Moreover, it should be understood that the advantages described in association with the embodiments are merely a listing of most preferred advantages, and that the advantages of the present invention are by no means restricted to those described in connected with the embodiments.

For example, although in the present embodiment, the number of symbol display blocks that a player can select is changed corresponding to the bet amount in the game which causes a game to switch to a free game, the present invention is not limited thereto, and it may be changed corresponding to the number of side bets.

In addition, although in the present embodiment, an example applied to a video reel slot machine is explained regarding the present invention, the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and for example, the present invention may be applied to a mechanical reel slot machine.

An embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to the accompanying drawings.

As shown in FIG. 1D, a CPU 106 starts a game, causes the game to switch to a free game based on a predetermined condition (Step S100), determines a single symbol display block group among a plurality of symbol display blocks (Step S200), and rearranges the symbols (Step S300). Next, the CPU 106 counts the number of specific symbols rearranged in each of the symbol display block groups in each free game, and cumulatively adds the number of specific symbols rearranged (Step S400). The CPU 106 repeats the abovementioned operations of Steps S300 and S400 until the free game is terminated (Step S500). When the free game is terminated, the CPU 106 determines the ranking of symbol display block groups in the order of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added which is fixed to correspond to each of the symbol display block groups (Step S600) and provides an award corresponding to the ranking (Step S700).

FIG. 2D is a perspective view showing the gaming machine 13 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The gaming machine 13 includes a cabinet 20. The cabinet 20 has a structure in which the face facing the player is open. The cabinet 20 contains various components including a game controller 100 (see FIG. 4D) for electrically controlling the gaming machine 13, and a hopper 44 (see FIG. 4D) for controlling the insertion, storage, and payout of coins (one of game media), and the like. The game medium is not restricted to coins. In addition, examples of such game media include medals, tokens, electronic money or electronic value information (credits) having the same value.

The liquid crystal display 30 is installed substantially in the middle of the front face of the cabinet 20, and the liquid crystal display 40 is installed in an upper side of the cabinet 20.

The liquid crystal display 30 realizes a display device for displaying a variety of images related to the game including rendered images and the like. Such a configuration allows the player to advance the game while visually confirming various kinds of images displayed on the aforementioned liquid crystal display 30.

The gaming machine 13 includes video reels (a group of symbol images) and can display fifteen virtual reels on the liquid crystal display 30. It should be noted that the term “video reel” as used here represents a mechanism for displaying a reel on the liquid crystal display 30 in the form of an image.

The other liquid crystal display 40 above the liquid crystal display 30 is a display functioning as a sub display for displaying the rules of the game, demonstration screens, and the like.

Sound transmission openings 29a and 29b, through which sound effects emitted from a speaker 41 (see FIG. 4D) contained inside the cabinet 20 are propagated outside the cabinet 20, are disposed on the upper right and left sides of the liquid crystal display 40, respectively. The sound transmission openings 29a and 29b generate sound effects and the like in accordance with the progress of the game. In addition, decorative lamps 42a and 42b are disposed on the right and left sides substantially in the middle of the gaming machine 13, respectively. The decorative lamps 42a and 42b emit light in accordance with the progress of the game.

The gaming machine 13 includes a substantially horizontal operation portion 21 below the liquid crystal display 30. Disposed on the right side of the operation portion 21 is a coin insertion slot 22 through which a number of coins are inserted into the gaming machine 13. On the other hand, the components provided to the left side of the operation portion 21 include: a BET switch 23 that allows the player to select the number of coins, which serves as a gaming medium to be bet; and a spin repeat bet switch 24 that allows the player to play another game without changing the number of coins bet in the previous game. Such an arrangement allows the player to set the number of coins to be bet by performing a pushing operation on either the BET switch 23 or the spin repeat bet switch 24.

In the operation portion 21, a start switch 25 for accepting for each game the player's operation for starting a game is disposed on the left side of the bet switch 23. Upon performing a pushing operation on either the start switch 25 or the spin repeat bet switch 24, which serves as a trigger to start the game, an image in which the aforementioned fifteen video reels start to rotate is displayed.

A cash out switch 26 is provided near the coin insertion opening 22 on the operation portion 21. Upon the player pushing the cash out switch 26, the inserted coins are paid out from a coin payout opening 27 provided at a lower portion of the front face. The coins thus paid out are retained in a coin tray 28.

FIG. 3D shows an enlargement of a display area of the gaming machine 13. As shown in FIG. 3D, the gaming machine 13 has symbol display regions 81 to 95 arranged in the form of a matrix with 3 rows×5 columns. The symbol display regions are also called as symbol display blocks or symbol display location. The abovementioned fifteen video reels are arranged at each of the symbol display regions 81 to 95 respectively.

The game available in the present embodiment is a game in which an award is provided to a player corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged at the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The number of identical symbols targeted for provision of awards can be defined arbitrarily such as three or more symbols, and the like.

It is arranged so that a payout number display portion 48, a bet number display portion 50, and a credit number display portion 49 can be displayed in this order from the left side on the upper portion of the liquid crystal display 30. The payout display portion 48 is a component for displaying the amount of the coins paid out when not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award are rearranged and displayed on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The credit number display portion 49 displays the credit number of coins stored in the gaming machine 13. The bet amount display portion 50 is a component for displaying the bet amount, which is the number of coins bet.

FIG. 4D is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. Referring to FIG. 4D, the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13 is a microcomputer and provided with an interface circuit group 102, an input-output bus 104, CPU 106, ROM 108, RAM 110, an interface circuit 111 for communication, a random number generator 112, a speaker driving circuit 122, a hopper driving circuit 124, a lamp driving circuit 126, and a display/input controller 140.

The interface circuit group 102 is electrically connected with the input/output bus 104, which carries out input and output of data signals or address signals for the CPU 106.

The start switch 25 is electrically connected with the interface circuit group 102. In the interface circuit group 102, a start signal generated by the start switch 25 is converted into a predetermined form of signal to be supplied to the input/output bus 104.

Furthermore, the BET switch 23, the spin repeat bet switch 24, and the cash out switch 26 are connected to the interface circuit group 102. Each of the switching signals output from these switches 23, 24, and 26 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The switching signals thus converted are supplied to the input/output bus 104.

A coin sensor 43 is also electrically connected to the interface circuit group 102. The coin sensor 43 detects coins inserted into the coin insertion slot 22, and is disposed at an appropriate position relative to the coin insertion slot 22. The sensing signal output from the coin sensor 43 is also supplied to the interface circuit group 102, and is converted into a predetermined signal by the interface circuit group 102. The sensing signal thus converted is supplied to the input/output bus 104.

The ROM 108 and the RAM 110 are connected to the input/output bus 104.

Upon acceptance of the start operation of a game through the start switch 25, the CPU 106 reads a game program to execute the game. The game program is programmed as follows. That is, a display for starting the scrolling of the symbols on the fifteen video reels is made on the liquid crystal display 30 via the display/input controller 140. Thereafter, a display for stopping the fifteen video reels is made to rearrange the fifteen video reels. In a case where not less than a predetermined number of identical symbols among all of the symbols which are stopped in each reel are rearranged and displayed, coins corresponding to the number of identical symbols rearranged and displayed are paid out.

The ROM 108 stores a control program for governing and controlling the gaming machine 13, a program for executing routines as shown in FIGS. 6D and 7D (hereinafter referred to as a “routine execution program”), and initial data for executing the control program, and various data tables used in determination processes. The routine execution program includes the abovementioned game program. The RAM 110 temporarily stores flags, variables, etc., used for the aforementioned control program.

The game program includes a rearranged symbol determination program. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program is used for determining 15 symbols rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95. The aforementioned rearranged symbol determination program includes symbol weighing data that corresponds to each of multiple types of payout rates (e.g., 80%, 84%, and 88%). The symbol weighing data is data for each of the fifteen video reels, and indicates the corresponding relationship between each symbol and one or multiple random numbers in a predetermined number range (0 to 65535). The payout rate is determined based upon the payout rate setting data stored in the ROM 108. The determination of rearranged symbols is performed based upon the symbol weighing data that corresponds to the payout rate.

Furthermore, a communication interface circuit 111 is connected to the input/output bus 104. The communication interface circuit 111 is a circuit for communicating with the central controller 11, etc. via the network including various types of networks such as a LAN.

The random number generator 112 for generating a random number is connected to the input/output bus 104. The random number generator 112 generates random numbers in a predetermined range of “0” to “65535” (the sixteenth power of two minus one), for example. Alternatively, an arrangement may be made in which the CPU 106 generates a random number by computation.

The speaker drive circuit 122 for the speakers 41 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 reads the sound data stored in the ROM 108, and transmits the sound data thus read to the speaker driving circuit 122 via the input/output bus 104. IL this way, the speakers 41 generate predetermined sound effects.

The hopper drive circuit 124 for driving the hopper 44 is also electrically connected with the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving a cash out signal input from the cash out switch 26, the CPU 106 transmits a driving signal to the hopper driving circuit 124 via the input/output bus 104. Accordingly, the hopper 44 pays out coins such that the amount thereof is equivalent to the current number of coins remaining as credits, which is stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110.

Alternatively, the payout of the coins may be performed in a mode of storing credit data in a data card or the like, instead of using physical coins. That is, the player m-ay carry a card functioning as a recording medium, and store the data related to the credit by inserting the card into the gaming machine 13.

The lamp drive circuit 126 for driving the decorative lamps 42a and 42b is also connected to the input/output bus 104. The CPU 106 transmits the signal for driving the lamps according to the predetermined conditions based on the program stored in the ROM 108 to the lamp driving circuit 126. Thus, decorative lamps 42a and 42b blink and the like.

The display/input controller 140 is connected to the input/output controller 140. The CPU 106 creates an image display command corresponding to the state and results of the game, and outputs the image display command thus created to the display/input controller 140 via the input/output bus 104. Upon receiving the image display command input from the CPU 106, the display/input controller 140 creates a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 according to the image display command thus input, and outputs the driving signal thus created to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. As a result, a predetermined image is displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The display/input controller 140 transmits the signal input through the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 104 in the form of an input signal. In addition, the image display command includes commands corresponding to a payout number display portion 48, a credit number display portion 49, and a bet number display portion 50.

FIG. 5D is a block diagram showing the electrical configuration of the display/input controller 140 of the gaming machine 13. The display/input controller 140 is a sub-micro computer which performs image display processing and the control of input from the touch panel 32, and which has an interface circuit 142, an input/output bus 144, CPU 146, ROM 148, RAM 150, VDP 152, video RAM 154, image data ROM 156, a drive circuit 158, and a touch panel control circuit 160.

The interface circuit 142 is connected to the input/output bus 144. An image display instruction outputted from the CPU 106 on the abovementioned game controller 100 is supplied to the input/output bus 144 via the interface circuit 142. The input/output bus 144 performs input/output of data signals or address signals to and from the CPU 146.

The ROM 148 and the RAM 150 are connected to the input/output bus 144. The ROM 148 stores a display control program under which a drive signal to be supplied to the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 is generated based on the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. On the other hand, the RAM 150 stores flags and variables used in the aforementioned display control program.

The VDP 152 is connected to the input/out-put bus 144. The VDP 152 includes a so-called sprite circuit, a screen circuit, a palette circuit, etc., and can perform various types of processing for displaying images on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40. The video RAM 154 and the ROM 156 are connected to the VDP 152. The video RAM 154 stores image data based on the image display instructions from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. The image data ROM 156 stores various types of image data containing the abovementioned produced image data. Furthermore, the driving circuit 158 for outputting a driving signal for driving the liquid crystal display 30 and the Liquid crystal display 40 is connected to the VDP 152.

By reading and executing the display control program stored in the ROM 148, the CPU 146 instructs the video RAM 154 to store image data to be displayed on the liquid crystal display 30 and the liquid crystal display 40 in response to the image display instruction from the CPU 106 on the game controller 100. Examples of the image display commands include various kinds of image display commands including the aforementioned image display commands for visual effects, etc.

The image data ROM 156 stores various kinds of image data including the aforementioned image data for visual effects, etc.

The touch panel control circuit 160 transmits the signals input via the touch panel 32 provided on the liquid crystal display 30 to the CPU 106 via the input/output bus 144 in the form of an input signal.

FIG. 6D is a flowchart showing the flow of the processing operation of a basic game of the gaming machine 13, which is executed by the game controller 100 of the gaming machine 13. The routine of FIG. 6D is a unit game.

It should be rioted that the gaming machine 13 is activated in advance and the variables used in the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 are initialized to predetermined values, respectively, thereby providing normal operation of the gaming machine 13.

Firstly, the CPU 106 on the game controller 100 determines whether any credits remain, which correspond to the remaining amount of coins inserted by the player (Step S1). More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in the RAM 110, and executes processing according to the amount of credits C. When the amount of credits C equals “0” (NO in Step S1), the CPU 106 terminates the routine without executing any processing, since it cannot start a game. When the amount of credits C is not less than “1” (YES in Step S1) the CPU 106 determines that coins remain as credits, and the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S2.

In Step S2, the CPU 106 determines whether or not a pressing operation has been applied to the spin bet repeat switch 24. When the switch 24 has been pressed and the CPU 106 receives an operation signal from the switch 24 (YES in Step S2), the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S13. On the other hand, when the CPU 106 does not receive the operation signal from the switch 24 after a predetermined period of time has elapsed (NO in Step S2), the CPU 106 determines that the switch 24 has not been pressed and moves the processing to Step S3.

In the following Step S3, the CPU 106 sets the game conditions. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines the number of coins bet in a unit game based on the operation of the bet switch 23. The CPU 106 receives the operation signals generated by the player operating the bet switch 23. Then, the CPU 106 stores the bet amount in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110 based on the number of times the operation signals have been received. The CPU 106 reads the amount of credits C stored in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110, and subtracts the abovementioned bet amount from the amount of credits C thus read. Then, the CPU 106 stores the subtracted value in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S4.

In the following Step S4, the CPU 106 determines whether the start switch 25 is ON, and then waits for the start switch 35 to be operated. Upon the start switch 25 being operated, and accordingly, upon the operation signal being input from the start switch 25 (in a case of “YES” in the determination processing in Step S4), the CPU 106 determines that the start switch 25 has been operated, and the processing advances to Step S5.

On the other hand, in Step S13, the CPU 106 determines whether the amount of credits C is at least the total bet number in a previous game. In other words, the CPU 106 determines whether it can start a game in response to a pressing operation applied to the spin repeat bet switch 24. More specifically, when the spin repeat bet switch 24 has been pushed, and the operation signal has been inputted to the CPU 106 from the spin repeat bet switch 24, the CPU 106 reads the credit amount C and the bet amount bet in the previous game, which are stored in RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 determines whether or not the credit amount C is equal to or greater than the bet amount bet in the previous game based upon the relation between the credit amount C thus read and the bet amounts. The CPU 106 performs processing based upon the determination results. When the CPU 106 determines that the amount of credits C is less than the bet amount (NO in Step S13), the CPU 106 terminates the present routine without any processing, since it cannot start a game. On the other hand, in a case where determination has been made that the aforementioned amount of credits C is at least the bet amount bet in the previous game (in a case of “YES” in Step S13), the CPU 106 subtracts the bet amount bet in the previous game from the aforementioned amount of credits C, and stores the subtracted value in a predetermined area of the RAM 110. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S5.

In the following Step S5, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. The CPU 106 determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95, thereby determining a winning combination. In the present embodiment, in a case where five or more identical symbols are rearranged on the symbol display regions 81 to 95, a winning combination corresponding to the rearranged symbol is achieved.

Upon determining a rearranged symbol, the CPU 106 determines whether at least a predetermined number of identical symbols (for example, five symbols) for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged or not. In a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are rearranged, the CPU 106 activates a flag indicating provision of an award for generating an award corresponding to the predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award. The activated flag, which indicates the player has won an award, is stored in a predetermined area of the RAM 110 according to the instruction from the CPU 106. On the other hand, in a case where at least a predetermined number of identical symbols for providing an award among 15 symbols to be rearranged are not rearranged (a losing combination), the CPU 106 does not activate the flag indicating providing the award. Subsequently, CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S6.

In the following Step S6, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate.

Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S7). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S7), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging 15 symbols (Step S8). Subsequently, the CPU 106 moves the processing to Step S9.

In the following Step S9, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag indicating that an award is provided, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by means of the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. In a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S9) the CPU 106 terminates the present routine. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating that an award is provided is activated (YES in the processing of Step S9), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S10.

In the following Step S10, the CPU 106 determines whether the flag (a bonus flag) indicating switching to a free game, which is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110, is activated or not by the rearranged symbol determination processing in Step S5. More specifically, in a case where the flag indicating switching to a free game is activated (YES in the processing of Step S10), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S11. On the other hand, in a case where the flag indicating the switch to a free game is not activated (NO in the processing of Step S10)), the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S12.

In the following Step S11, the CPU 106 performs free game processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 starts a free game and performs a predetermined number of the free games. Subsequently, the CPU 106 terminates the routine.

In the following Step 512, the CPU 106 pays out the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a payout table (not shown) and calculates the amount of coins corresponding to the number of the rearranged identical symbols which are at least a predetermined number. The CPU 106 reads the credit amount stored in the aforementioned predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. Then, the CPU 106 calculates the sum total amount of coins to be paid out thus calculated and the credit amount thus read, and stores the sum thus calculated in a predetermined memory area of the RAM 110. The CPU 106 displays the aforementioned value thus stored on the credit amount display portion 49. The CPU 106 then terminates the basic game.

Free game processing is described below with reference to FIG. 7D.

In a free game in the present embodiment, symbol display block groups (symbol display block regions) correspond to a plurality of character images including a player's character, respectively, and each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each of the symbol display block groups. Then, the number by which each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block group is cumulatively counted in each game. Then, each of the symbol display block groups is ranked in the order of the number that each of the specific symbols is rearranged in each symbol display block group at the time the free game is terminated. Thereafter, an award corresponding to a rank of a player's character (a symbol display block group corresponding to a player's character) is provided to the player.

Firstly, in Step S21 of FIG. 7D, the CPU 106 determines a single symbol display block group based on a player's choice. Then, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S22.

Here, according to FIG. 8D, since a message “SELECT REGION TARGETED FOR COUNTING” is shown on the liquid crystal display 30, a player recognizes that a symbol display block group can be selected. In addition, each of symbol display block groups are displayed as follows: symbol display regions 81, 82, and 84 are included in a single symbol display block 181, symbol display regions 85, 87, and 88 are included in a single symbol display block 182, symbol display regions 83, 86, and 89 are included in a single symbol display block 183, symbol display regions 90, 93, and 94 are included in a single symbol display block 184, and symbol display regions 91, 92, and 95 are included in a single symbol display block 185. Therefore, the player can recognize the corresponding relationships between the symbol display block groups and the symbol display regions.

In addition, by touching the touch panel 32, disposed on the liquid crystal display 30, the player can select any one of the symbol display block groups 181 to 185.

In addition, a display example of a symbol display block group selected by a player is described with reference to FIG. 9D. According to FIG. 9D, a frame surrounding symbol display block group 184 among the symbol display block groups 181 to 185 is highlighted with a bold line. Thus, the player can recognize that the symbol display block group 184 was assigned to the player (a character image 71 of the player).

Simultaneously, in Step S21 of FIG. 7D, the CPU 106 also determines the corresponding relationship between the character's images 72 to 75 other than the player's character image and the corresponding symbol display block groups not based on a player's selection. Here, each single character image 72 to 75 other than the player's character image is assigned to a single respective symbol display block group.

Here, a display example of a specific symbol to be determined is described with reference to FIG. 10D. According to FIG. 10D, a message “SYMBOL TARGETED FOR COUNTING IS A”. Thus, the player can recognize that the specific symbol targeted for counting in the symbol display block assigned to the player is a symbol, “A”.

Referring to FIG. 7D, in Step S22, a character image is displayed. More specifically, the CPU 106 extracts a plurality of character image data (five character image data in the present embodiment) stored in the ROM 148 via the display/input controller 140, and displays those on the liquid crystal display 40.

Here, a display example of a character image is described with reference to FIG. 11D. According to FIG. 11D, five images 71 to 75 are displayed at a start line on the liquid crystal display 40. Here, in the present embodiment, the player's character image is displayed as the character image 71, and the character image 71 corresponds to the symbol display block group 184 assigned to the player. Each of the other character images 72 to 75 corresponds to each symbol display block group thus randomly determined.

In addition, according to FIG. 11D, since the five character images 71 to 75 are displayed at the start line, the player can recognize that the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display block groups corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 15 is zero.

As described later in FIG. 12D, the character images 71 to 75 are updated and displayed corresponding to the number of specific symbols counted for each of the symbol display blocks corresponding to each of the character images 71 to 75. For example, the more specific symbol there are, the closer a character image is displayed to a goal line.

Referring to FIG. 7D, in Step S23, the CPU 106 performs rearranged symbol determination processing. A specific description is made below regarding the rearranged symbol determination processing.

Firstly, the CPU 106 selects a random number in a range of values from 0 to 65535 for each of the fifteen reels by extracting a random number from the random generator 112. Next, the CPU 106 reads payout rate setting data from the ROM 108 to store in the RAM 110, refers to symbol weighing data corresponding to the payout rate setting data, and determines symbols to be rearranged in the symbol display regions 81 to 95 based on the fifteen random number values thus selected. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S24.

In the following Step S24, the CPU 106 instructs each of the fifteen video reels to start to rotate and display thereof.

Upon displaying the image which shows the fifteen video reels starting to rotate, the CPU 106 waits for a predetermined period of time to elapse (Step S25). After the predetermined period of time has elapsed (in a case of “YES” in processing of Step S25), the CPU 106 instructs the fifteen video reels to stop rotating, thereby rearranging fifteen symbols (Step S26). Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S27.

In Step S27, the CPU 106 counts the specific symbols thus rearranged and cumulatively adds the specific symbols. More specifically, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbol rearranged (for example, a symbol “A”) for the symbol display block group (for example, the symbol display block group 184) thus determined based on a player's selection in Step S21 and assigned to the player. In addition, the CPU 106 cumulatively adds in each game the number of specific symbol rearranged (for example, the symbol. “A”) for each symbol display block group other than the symbol display block group assigned to the player, each of which the symbol display block is fixed to correspond to the character images 72 to 75. Data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75, and is stored in a predetermined memory area in the RAM 110. Subsequently, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S28.

In Step S28, the CPU 106 performs character image update processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added in each free game from the RAM 110, and displays the image corresponding to the number of specific symbols indicated by the data on the liquid crystal display 40.

For example, according to FIG. 12D, each of the character images 71 to 75 is displayed to be closer to the goal line in the order corresponding to the number of the specific symbols thus cumulatively added. In addition, according to FIG. 12D, the player's character image 71 is displayed to be the third closest to the goal line. That is, the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added for the symbol display block group assigned to the player's character image 71 is the third best compared to the number of specific symbols cumulatively added for each of the symbol display block groups assigned to the other character images 72 to 75.

In Step S29, the CPU 106 determines whether the free game is terminated or not. More specifically, the CPU 106 determines whether a predetermined number of free games has been performed or not. In a case of YES determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S30. On the other hand, in a NO determination, the CPU 106 advances the processing to Step S23.

In Step S30, the CPU 106 performs rank determination processing. More specifically, the CPU 106 reads from the RAM 110 the data of the number of specific symbols thus cumulatively added, each of which is fixed to correspond to the character images 71 to 75, and ranks the character images 71 to 75 in the order of the number of specific symbols (the ranking data is fixed to correspond to each of the character images 71 to 75).

Here, according to FIG. 13D, since, at the time that a free game is terminated, the character image 74 has already reached the goal line, the character image 74 is closest to the goal line, and the character image 71 is the second closest to the goal line. Thus, the player's character image 71 is determined to be the second closest to the goal line.

Referring to FIG. 71, in Step S31, the CPU 106 performs processing for giving an award corresponding to ranking. More specifically, the CPU 106 refers to a data table (not shown) which stores the data of credit amounts corresponding to the ranking data, and pays out the amount of coins according to the rank corresponding to the player's character image 71.

For an example, as show in FIG. 14D, since a message “THE PLAYER'S CHARACTER RANKS SECOND. WIN 40 CREDITS!!” is displayed on the liquid crystal display 40, the player can recognize that the player can obtain 40 credits in a free game.

Thus, the number of specific symbols rearranged in the symbol display block groups are fixed to correspond to a plurality of characters so as to provide rendered effects of the plurality of characters racing each other, thereby enabling a gaming machine which enhances amusement to be provided.

In addition, a single symbol display block group is determined based on a selecting operation of a player and a greater award is provided if the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged in the single symbol display block group thus determined are greater than the cumulative numbers of specific symbols rearranged in other symbol display block groups during a predetermined number of free games. Accordingly, a player tries to select a symbol display block group in which more number of specific symbols are to be rearranged, thereby enhancing the player's interest.

While the embodiment of the gaming machine according to the present invention has been described, it is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not limiting, and any changes in design may be made to specific configurations such as various means. Moreover, it should be understood that the advantages described in association with the embodiments are merely a listing of most preferred advantages, and that the advantages of the present invention are by no means restricted to those described in connected with the embodiments.

For example, in the present embodiment, as shown in FIG. 8D, a single symbol display block group that a player can select is composed of three symbol display regions. However, the present invention is not limited thereto, and the single symbol display block group that a player can select may be composed of a number of symbol display blocks corresponding to a bet amount in a game which causes a game to switch to a free game. Accordingly, for example, when a single symbol display block group that a player can select is composed of four symbol display regions, the other three symbol display block groups among the other four symbol display block groups can be composed of three symbol display regions and the other one symbol display block group can be composed of two symbol display regions. By configuring the symbol display block groups as described above, a player can play a game with advantage.

In addition, although in the present embodiment, an example applied to a video reel slot machine is explained regarding the present invention, the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and for example, the present invention may be applied to a mechanical reel slot machine.