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U.S. Patent No. 9,044,680: Low-friction synchronous interaction in multiplayer online game
Issued June 2, 2015, to Zynga, Inc.
Priority Date January 10, 2012





Summary: 
U.S. Patent No. 9,044,680 (the '680 Patent) describes a method for two players to interact in certain online games. The type of game depicted in the patent is a city building that could be found on Facebook or the free-to-play versions on iOS. The '680 Patent specifically relates to the ability to invite friends to help progress the game. A friend can help complete a building or generate income depending on the task assigned to the friend. Both players need to be playing the game for the invitation to be sent. A player accepting the invitation will obtain an in-game reward for helping.

Abstract:
Methods, systems, and computer programs are presented for executing an online game. One method includes an operation for executing a first game board for a first user and a second game board for a second user. The first game board is created when the first user plays the game for the first time and the second game board is created when the second user plays the game for the first time. The method further includes operations for detecting a visit by the second user to the first game board, and for detecting a request by the second user to place a game asset in the first game board. The game asset is installed in the first game board when the first user approves the request, and the second user obtains one or more game rewards when the first user interacts with the game asset while playing the online game.

Illustrative Claim:
1. A method for processing game operations during execution of an online game, the method comprising: executing, by a game server, a first game board for a first user and a second game board for a second user, wherein the first game board is created when the first user plays the online game for a first time and the second game board is created when the second user plays the online game for a first time; establishing, by a live interaction server, a synchronous mode of play when the first user and the second user play the online game at a same time, and an asynchronous mode of play when the first user and the second user are not playing the online game at the same time; sending from the live interaction server to the game server information identifying if the first user and the second user are in synchronous mode; detecting, while in synchronous mode, a visit by the second user to the first game board and a request by the second user to place a game asset of the second user in the first game board of the first user; presenting, while in synchronous mode, to the first user in the first game board an option to approve the request; and installing the game asset in the first game board when the first user approves the request, wherein the second user obtains one or more game rewards when the first user interacts with the game asset while playing the online game, wherein operations of the method are executed by a processor.

Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas


U.S. Patent No. 9,381,430: Interactive video game using game-related physical objects for conducting gameplay
Issued: July 5, 2016, to Activision Publishing, Inc.
Priority Date: May 17, 2011


Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 9,381,430 describes a method for toys to interact with a video game. Only designated toys containing an identification tag can interact with a compatible video game. A peripheral detection device is needed for the video game to read the game data contained in the toy's tag. The toy's game data can alter the gameplay by giving a character a new attack or item. A user must place the toy in the designated area on the peripheral device for the video game to detect the data.

The '430 Patent relates to Activision's Skylanders franchise since the patent uses Spyro the Dragon in certain figures. Spyro appeared in the first Skylanders and has been a key character in the Skylanders lore. The Skylanders franchise popularized the toys-to-life video game genre. Since 2011, Activision has released six main Skylanders games and six spin-off games. By 2016, the Skylanders franchise had sold over 300 million toys. Both Disney and Lego tried to compete against Activision, but both companies have ceased to make toys-to-life games or products.

Abstract:
A video game includes a peripheral device that senses the presence and identity of toys near or on the peripheral. Each of the toys includes an identification device such as an RFID tag. Each of the toys is also associated with a corresponding game character or object. The interactive video game presents a play pattern such that when a toy is detected in a detection area of the peripheral, the virtual game system may process the placement of the toy so as to effectuate a video game control action such as an attack or a maneuver to evade an enemy.


Illustrative Claim:
1. A computer implemented method for controlling a movement of a virtual object in a video game using a physical object, comprising: detecting a physical object within a detection area of a detection device; determining a position for a virtual character, controllable by inputs from user input devices, corresponding to the physical object within a video game play sequence; retrieving identification information from the physical object; executing instructions to conduct a game play sequence to display the virtual character based on the identification information and to display a movement of the virtual character from an entry point to the determined position in response to detecting the presence of the physical object, the movement including an attack sequence determined according to the identification information; detecting removal of the physical object from the detection area of the detection device; and executing instructions to conduct a second game play sequence to display an exit movement of the virtual character from a last position of the virtual character to an exit point in response to detecting the removal of the physical object, wherein the exit movement including a defensive gameplay move and the exit point being different than the last position of the virtual character.

Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas


U.S. Patent No. 9,446,312: Video game systems and methods for protecting game characters during game play

Issued September 20, 2016 to Nintendo Co., Ltd.


 


Summary: 
U.S. Patent No. 9,446,312 helps both experts and beginners gamers play together. Often in a video game, if a player’s character hits an obstacle or fails a challenge, the character may lose health, return to the beginning of a level, or die. This becomes complicated if multiple players are playing a level together and the level is much too easy or difficult for certain players. It is neither enjoyable for a player if the game is much too easy or difficult for them.
A solution to this problem was shown at the E3 convention in 2009. During the demo for a Super Mario Bros. game, a character became encased in a protective bubble when the character lost a life. The character remained in the bubble until freed by another player. The character could not be harmed in the bubble, but also could not participate in the game. The player was penalized by not being able to participate directly but could continue playing once released from the bubble. This example helps to exemplify the ‘312 Patent. More generally, the patent outlines that if a certain condition is satisfied (a player dies, for example), the player's game character is protected from harm for a period. Movements of the protected game character are controlled based on another player. In the example above, for instance, it is not until a non-protected character popped the bubble that the protected player could continue in the game.

Abstract:
Example systems and methods relate to playing a multi-player video game in which multiple players each supply inputs to a respective input device to control a corresponding game character in a game world displayed on a display screen. Movements of each game character in the game world are controlled in accordance with respective first game character control operations during the playing of the multi-player video game. In response to satisfaction of one or more conditions, one player's game character is protected from harm in the game world, wherein one of the one or more conditions is a condition triggered voluntarily by the one player. Movements of the protected game character in the game world are controlled based on a position of another, unprotected game character.
Illustrative Claim:
1. A method for playing a multi-player video game, the method comprising: generating, in accordance with execution of a video game program by a computer, a virtual game world including multiple player-controllable game characters; generating, by the computer, images of the virtual game world for display on a display screen; receiving, by the computer, during the playing of the video game, game character movement control signals, the game character movement control signals being based on inputs to input devices, each used by a respective player, for controlling a corresponding game character in the virtual game world; controlling, by the computer, movements of each game character in the virtual game world in accordance with the respective game character movement control signals; in response to an input, predetermined by the video game program, to the input device of a first one of the players controlling a first one of the game characters during the playing of the multi-player video game, controlling, by the computer, the virtual game world so that the first game character becomes a protected game character protected from harm in the game world; and controlling, by the computer, movements of the protected first game character in the virtual game world based on a position of another, unprotected game character, wherein the first game character becomes a protected game character without a loss of vitality of the first game character or without a loss of life of the first game character.


Research By: Rachel Johns
Edited By: Andrew F. Thomas






U.S. Patent No. 9,452,363: Multi-player video game
environment for single-player use
Issued: September 27, 2016, to Sony Interactive Entertainment America




Summary:

U.S. Patent No. 9,452,363 relates to creating multi-player-like experiences in a single-player game. A video game often has both single-player and multi-player. In single-player games, a user is generally the only human player. The user may interact with game elements, such as non-player characters whose actions are controlled by a set of rules. Multi-player games, on the other hand, have multiple human users, each controlling a unique character. The users may be playing together cooperatively, be part of a team, or play against one another competitively.

Playing against other people can be beneficial in improving one's skill in a game. Human players can adapt and change strategies as opposed to a non-player character rigidly following prewritten rules. There are some ways to include the benefits of multi-player games in a single-player mode. For example, tutorials can allow a player to see a "walkthrough" of a game, providing a step-by-step guide. However, this does not echo a multi-player game environment with real human players.

Using this invention, a player could select a single-player game or a multi-player game. When the user selects a multiplayer mode, the user chooses one or more AI characters. The AI characters may be available individually or in themed "packs." The selected AI character or pack may be downloaded, stored, or otherwise accessible in an electronic entertainment system. The player could then choose a mode or skill level for each character. The environment would then be populated with AI characters selected by the player, which results in better guidance during cooperative gameplay and better competition during adversarial gameplay.


Abstract:

A multi-player game environment is created for single-player use. A user may select a single-player game or a multi-player game. When the user chooses a multi-player game, the user is prompted to select one or more customized AI characters. The AI characters may be available individually or in themed "packs." The selected AI character or pack may be downloaded, stored, or otherwise made accessible to an electronic entertainment system. The user may select a mode or skill level for each AI character. The user may begin playing the game in a multi-player mode with the game environment populated with an avatar effectuating behaviors of the selected AI character or characters.


Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for creating a multi-player game environment for single-player use on an electronic entertainment system, the method comprising: providing a first user with an option to play a single-player game or a multi-player game using at least one artificial intelligence (AI) character, wherein the at least one AI character is based at least in part on behavior data of a particular second user, and wherein the behavior data includes actions and game play style of the particular second user; receiving a selection by the first user of at least one AI character; receiving one or more selections indicating a user preference for the at least one AI character, wherein the user preference includes a mode for game play, and wherein the mode includes a tutorial mode; executing non-transitory computer readable instructions stored in memory to effectuate the at least one AI character in the single-player game or the multi-player game based on the selections made by the first user that includes the behavior data of the particular second user and the mode of game play; and executing non-transitory computer readable instructions stored in memory to display the game environment for game play, wherein the game environment is populated with an avatar effectuating a behavior of the at least one AI character based on the selections made by the first user that includes the behavior data of the particular second user and the mode of game play.



Research By: Rachel Johns








U.S. Patent No. 5,184,830: Compact hand-held video game system
Issued February 9, 1993, to Nintendo Co., Ltd.
Priority Date: January 10, 1989


Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 5,184,830 is the American patent for the original Game Boy released in 1989. Nintendo filed the patent first in Japan and then in 1992 filed at the USPTO. The USPTO granted the 1989 priority date based on the Japan application. The patent describes a handheld gaming system that utilizes cartridges to store the game data. Game cartridges would be inserted into a slot on the back of the system. A switch on the top would turn the system on and off. The user is supposed to grip the systems with both hands so that the user's thumbs rest upon the face buttons. Character movement was assigned to the D-pad while the A and B buttons handle action inputs. The Game Boy also featured a start and select button located at the bottom of the face plate. The start button typically started or paused the game, while the select button allowed players to select a game mode if offered. The Game Boy needed four AA batteries to operate, but the batteries could last up to thirty hours.

Nintendo released the Game Boy first in Japan on April 21, 1989, and then in North America on July 31, 1989. By the end of the Game Boy's lifespan, including the Game Boy Color, over 118 million units were sold. In 2009, the Game Boy was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Abstract:
A hand-held electronic game machine for use with attachable/detachable memory game packs wherein the game machine includes a case of a size which may be held by a hand and capable of being sandwiched by both hands with a first switch disposed at a position such that during a game it can be operated by one thumb on a front surface of the case, a second switch disposed at a position such that during a game it can be operated by the other thumb on the first surface of the case and a third operation switch means provided in a region of said front surface where imaginary loci of both thumbs intersect with each other on the front surface, and wherein the game machine can be connected with others for simultaneous multiple player competition.

Illustrative Claim:
1. A hand-held electronic game machine, comprising: a case of a size which may be held by hand and having a subsonically rectangularly shape defined by a front surface, a rear surface, two latitudinal side surfaces, a lower side surface and an upper side surface, each of said two longitudinal side surfaces being of greater length than each of said lower side surface and said upper side surface, said case being sandwiched by both hands during game play, said front surface having an upper front surface portion bounded by an upper portion of each of said longitudinal side surfaces and a lower front surfaced portion bounded by a lower portion of each of said longitudinal side surfaces; a first operation switch disposed on a right portion of said lower front surface portion of said case such that during game play it can be operated by a thumb of a player's right hand sandwiching said case; a second operation switch disposed on a left portion of said lower front surface portion of said case such that during game play it can be operated by a thumb of a player's left hand sandwiching said case; a dot-matrix liquid crystal display panel including a display screen defining a matrix of rows and columns of dots disposed on said upper front surface portion such that in use said display shown is positioned above said first operation switch and said second operation switch; an insertion portion formed on said upper side surface of said case and extending, in use, behind said dot-matrix liquid crystal display panel in said case; an external memory attachably and detachably insertable into said insertion portion from said upper side surface of said case for storing a game program and background character data and moving object character data with which images for a game are displayed on said display screen; game processing means housed in said case for reading said game program and said background character data and moving object character data from said external memory and controlling the display of moving objects on said display screen in response to the actuation of said first operation switch and said second operation switch and for controlling the display of background characters on said display screen; a connector housed in said case for connecting said external memory being inserted in said insertion portion to said game processing means; a memory housed in said case and associated with said game processing means for storing said background character data and said moving object character data read from said external memory by said game processing means and transferred through said connector; display signal generating means housed in said case for generating display signals for displaying background characters and moving objects on the basis of said background character data and said moving object character data stored in said memory; a driver for driving said dot-matrix liquid crystal display panel in response to said display signals generated by said display signal generating means to display said background characters and said moving objects on said display screen, said driver including a first driver for driving said dot-matrix liquid crystal display panel in columns and a second driver for driving said liquid crystal display panel in rows.

Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas

U.S. Patent No. 9,409,085: Game system, game control method, game device, and computer-readable storage medium
Issued August 9, 2016, to Nintendo Co., Ltd. 
Priority Date February 16, 2012



Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 9,409,085 (the '085 Patent) describes a method to have an interactive background for a tennis video game. This gameplay mechanic is used in Mario Tennis Open's Super Mario Tennis mode. In the mode, a player using a game character, like Mario, hits a tennis ball against a practice wall. Super Mario levels are superimposed onto the practice wall. The levels scroll like a Super Mario level and even feature classic Mario enemies like Bowser or Gumbas. Players can interact with the level by hitting the ball against the practice wall. Hitting different areas of the level will cause different effects. If the ball hits a Gumba, then the Gumba is squashed, and the player earns points. Hitting a box may cause a powerup to appear giving the players special powers. The player completes the mode like every other Mario game, defeating Bowser and rescuing Peach. 

Abstract:
An exemplary embodiment sets the game background image with surface objects (bricks, coins, item closed box baffles, monsters, and the like) arranged therein in the middle of the tennis court within a virtual space for executing a tennis game containing the motion of hitting the tennis ball according to an operation by the player, and scrolls the surface objects arranged in the game background image. Then, there is provided an effect corresponding to the type of the surface object (benefit object, the hit map switching object, scoring object, or the like) arranged in a position of the game background image, where the tennis ball shot in response to a player-operation has reached.


Illustrative Claim:
1. A game system including a display device and a player operation inputting device, the game system configured to perform video game processing to execute and display a virtual ball game which takes place within a virtual space, comprising: one or more processors configured to interact with a user providing inputs via an operation inputting device and perform game processing to execute and display the virtual ball game which takes place within a virtual space, said one or more processors configured to perform functions and operate as: virtual ball movement processor which performs a game process wherein a virtual ball is moved within the virtual space in response to a hitting operation performed by a player using the operation inputting device; a virtual object setter configured to set a virtual three-dimensional object at a predetermined position in the virtual space, the virtual three-dimensional object having a surface where a virtual ball hit during the game process can reach; a virtual object surface image arranger configured to make one or more object surface images appear upon the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object; a virtual object surface image movement processor configured to move, within the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object, the one or more object surface images made to appear upon the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object; an effect processor configured to provide a predetermined effect in the game process, based on a condition that at least one of the object surface images made to appear upon the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object are present at a contact position of the virtual ball with a point on the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object, when a hit virtual ball reaches the surface of the virtual three-dimensional object; and a display processor configured to display the virtual space and the virtual ball game on the display device.


Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas


U.S. Patent No. 8,764,563: Video Game superimposing virtual characters on user supplied phot used as game screen background
Issued July 1, 2014, to Bandai Namco Entertainment, Inc.
Priority Date: March 24, 2009
 
 
 
Summary:
The Nintendo DSi was the fourth iteration of the Nintendo DS design. Unlike, previous models, the DSi featured two VGA (0.3-megapixel) digital cameras. One camera pointed toward the user while the second camera pointed away. The cameras allowed for augmented reality games to be played on the DSi and U.S. Patent No. 8,764,563 describes one such game.

Players use the DSi's cameras to take photographs of real objects. The picture appears on the bottom screen of the DSi while the game analyzes it for recognizable shapes or openings. If the photograph contained a house, the game would look for windows and doors. Based on the analysis, the game will cause characters to appear from those shapes or openings so that a ghost might appear from a window. The player taps on the characters to gain points.
 
Abstract:
A feature image area that has a similar feature (e.g., quadrangular outline) is extracted from an original two-dimensional image photographed by a player. When a game has started, the original two-dimensional image is displayed as the background of a game stage, and a target character 4 is caused to appear or disappear from the extracted feature image area at a random appearance frequency and a random appearance speed. When the player has touched the target character 4, points are added to the score of the player.
 
Illustrative Claim:
1. A method comprising: detecting an image area that satisfies a feature image area condition from a photographed image, the feature image area condition being a condition to detect an image area that has an outline of a given shape and satisfies a proper size condition; displaying the photographed image on a touch panel; selecting character type based on at least one of a color of the image area and a size of the image area; displaying a character of the selected character type on the photographed image in a manner such that the character appears to emerge from the image area; and incrementing a score linked to the character that has appeared from the image area when a user inputs a touch operation on the character, wherein the detecting, the selecting, the displaying the character, and the incrementing are performed by a hardware processor.
U.S. Patent No. 9,393,486: Character simulation and playback notification in game session replay
Issued July 17, 2016, to Amazon Technologies, Inc.
Priority June 27, 2014


Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 9,393,486 (the '486 Patent) relates to U.S. Patent No. 9,409,083 (the '083 Patent) titled Spawning new timelines during game session replay. The '083 Patent describes a method for allowing players to "step into" a replay and restart a session from that given point. For a more in-depth summary of the '083 Patent, click here. The '486 Patent builds on the '083 Patent by describing a system to send out a notification to all players involved in the previous session. The notified players can either participate or spectate the session.
Not all players from a previous session are required to replay a previous session. The '486 Patent also describes a system to allow a person to replay a multiplayer session without needing the other players. The system creates a profile based on the behavior of a given player. If a single player wishes to replay a past multiplayer session, then AI bots will take over missing human players. AI will use the player's profile to inform how the character should behave in a given circumstance.
Abstract:
A game system in which game sessions may be recorded and saved as game records. A previously recorded game session may be selected and replayed, and players may step into and assume control of respective game characters during the replay. When a player steps into and takes control of game a character during replay of a game session, a new timeline is spawned from the original timeline, and a new game record corresponding to the new timeline is generated and stored. Players that were involved in a previously recorded game session that is being replayed may be manually or automatically notified that the game session is being replayed. The notification may occur upon initiation of the replay and/or when a new timeline is spawned. Notified players may view the game session without participating, or may take control their respective characters to participate.
Illustrative Claim:
1. A system, comprising; one or more computing devices configured to implement a game system configured to: store a game record comprising a game session involving one or more game characters acting within a game universe, wherein the game characters are associated with one or more of a plurality of players; begin a playback of the game session as recorded in the stored game record to at least one client device; and for at least one of the one or more game characters involved in the game session being played back, send a notification to a player associated with the respective game character via one or more communications channels, said notification indicating to the player that the game session involving the player's game character is being played back.

Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas
U.S. Patent No. 9,409,083: Spawning new timelines during game session replay
Issued August 9, 2017, to Amazon Technologies, Inc.
Priority date: June 27, 2014
 


 
Summary:
Traditionally, to restart a multiplayer session requires that all the players begin anew. For co-op multiplayer games, restarting means starting from a point designated by the level designers. Restarting from a designated point can become frustrating when fighting a challenging boss. U.S. Patent No. 9,409,083 (the '083 Patent) describes an alternative method. Every gaming session is recorded by a game using the '083 Patent system. If the players were to die, the game would use the record to show the players a replay of their last session. The players can watch the replay and see the exact moment where things went wrong. Players can then decide to "step in" and start a new session from that point, creating a new timeline or universe that diverges from the original game session. The new (altered) gaming session will create a new record from which players can repeat the process.
 
Abstract:
A game system in which game sessions involving one or more players may be recorded and saved as game records. A previously recorded game session may be selected and replayed. However, in addition to providing a static replay of the game session, the game system may allow one or more players to step into and assume control of respective game characters at any point during the replay of the game session. When a player steps into and takes control of game a character during the playback, a new timeline is spawned from the original timeline with potentially different outcomes, and a new game record corresponding to the new timeline is generated and stored. 
 
Illustrative Claim:
1. A system, comprising; one or more computing devices configured to implement a game system configured to: store game records comprising previously played game sessions, each game session involving one or more game characters acting within a game universe along a game session timeline; receive selection input from one of one or more client devices, said selection input selecting one of the stored game records for playback; begin playback of the game session as recorded in the selected game record to at least one client device; receive game input from a game client instance on one of the one or more client devices, said game input causing an action by one of the one or more game characters within the game universe; and in response to said game input, spawn a new game session timeline from the game session timeline as recorded in the selected game record and generate a new game record for the new game session timeline.

Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas

U.S. Patent No. 10,004,981: Input method and apparatus
Issued June 26, 2018 to Nintendo Co. Ltd
 
 
Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 10,004,981 (the '981 Patent) describes a method for displaying a digital driving wheel on a touch screen which can control a car in driving games. The '981 Patent specifically relates to the Nintendo DS system and how to optimize the bottom, touch screen for driving games. The DS is a dual-screen handheld console. The top screen is a standard screen while the bottom screen had touch capabilities. Driving games could use the bottom screen to display a driving wheel. A player could choose to control their vehicle using this virtual driving wheel. The virtual driving wheel gave players more control over their car than the traditional D-pad control scheme.  
 
Abstract:
A vehicle simulation such as for example a driving game can be provided by displaying an image of a steering wheel on a touch sensitive screen. Touch inputs are used to control the rotational orientation of displayed steering wheel. The rotational orientation of the displayed steering wheel is used to apply course correction effects to a simulated vehicle. Selective application of driver assist and different scaling of touch inputs may be provided.
 
Illustrative Claim:
1. A handheld device comprising: a housing shaped and dimensioned for being held by a hand; a touch sensitive screen disposed on the housing; a graphics processor operatively connected to the touch sensitive screen, the graphics processor generating display of a virtual object on the touch sensitive screen; and a processor operatively connected to the touch sensitive screen and to the graphics processor, the processor being responsive to input sensed by the touch sensitive screen to detect movements along a multiplicity of paths on the screen, the processor defining vectors in response to said detected touch movements and causing the orientation of the displayed virtual object to change in response to the defined vectors.


Researched By: Andrew F. Thomas
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