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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
"GAMING SYSTEM AND METHOD COMPRISING MONETARY AND NON-MONETARY PRIZES"
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/205905
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Some embodiments relate to a gaming machine for awarding monetary and non¬ monetary rewards, the gaming machine comprising: a display; a memory; at least one input mechanism configured to receive user input from a player; and a game controller configured to access and execute instructions stored in the memory. The game controller is configured to present at least one game of chance on the display; determine a winning event for the at least one game of chance; present at least one game of skill on the display; determine a winning event for the at least one game of skill; based on a winning event of the game of chance, determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward; and based on a winning event of the game of skill, determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward.

Inventors:
HERRING, Peter James (8 David Street, Box Hill South, Victoria 3128, 3128, AU)
CREPALDI, Joseph Ronald (31B/82-94 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point, New South Wales 2011, 2011, AU)
WYER, Andrew (1620 Malvern Road, Glen Iris, Victoria 3146, 3146, AU)
BRIDGES, Daryl (33 Horizon Road, Selby, Victoria 3159, 3159, AU)
BRUCE, Daryl Leigh (56 Andrew Crescent, Croydon South, Victoria 3136, 3136, AU)
RILEY, Simon David (1a Valda Avenue, Ringwood East, Victoria 3135, 3135, AU)
Application Number:
AU2017/050499
Publication Date:
December 07, 2017
Filing Date:
May 26, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
CHILL GAMING PTY LTD (Crown Resorts, Level 3 Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman Stree, Southbank Victoria 3006, 3006, AU)
International Classes:
G07F17/34; A63F9/24; A63F13/55
Foreign References:
AU2010202849B22012-05-03
US20130296021A12013-11-07
US20030119581A12003-06-26
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FB RICE (Level 14, 90 Collins StMelbourne, Victoria 3000, 3000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A gaming machine for awarding monetary and non-monetary rewards, the gaming machine comprising:

a display;

a memory;

at least one input mechanism configured to receive user input from a player; and a game controller configured to access and execute instructions stored in the memory to:

present at least one game of chance on the display;

determine a winning event for the at least one game of chance; present at least one game of skill on the display;

determine a winning event for the at least one game of skill; based on a winning event of the game of chance, determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward; and

based on a winning event of the game of skill, determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward.

2. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the game controller is configured to access at least one monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward.

3. The gaming machine of claim 2, wherein the game controller is configured to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one monetary pay table.

4. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the game controller is configured to access at least one non-monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward.

5. The gaming machine of claim 4, wherein the game controller is configured to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one non- monetary pay table.

6. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the non-monetary reward affects at least one aspect of a subsequent game of skill.

7. The gaming machine of claim 6, wherein the non-monetary reward is an aesthetic item that affects the appearance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill.

8. The gaming machine of claim 6, wherein the non-monetary reward is a game influencing item that affects the performance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill.

9. The gaming machine of claim 8, wherein the game influencing item is a consumable item that can be used only once in the subsequent game of skill. 10. The gaming machine of claim 8, wherein the game influencing item is an enduring item that can be used for the duration of the subsequent game of skill.

11. The gaming machine of claim 6, wherein the non-monetary reward is at least one unit of in-game currency.

12. The gaming machine of claim 11, wherein in-game currency can be used to purchase aesthetic and game influencing items.

13. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the non-monetary reward contributes to progress toward the completion of a game task.

14. The gaming machine of claim 13, wherein the completion of the game task results in receiving an aesthetic item that affects the appearance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill.

15. The gaming machine of claim 13, wherein the completion of the game task results in receiving a game influencing item that affects the performance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill. 16. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the game of chance is a reel game.

17. The gaming machine of claim 16, wherein the awarding of a non-monetary award is determined based on whether one or more predetermined reel symbols appear on the reel game.

18. The gaming machine of claim 16 or claim 17, wherein the awarding of a monetary award is determined based on whether one or more predetermined reel symbols appear on the reel game. 19. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 18, wherein the gaming machine is configured to award monetary and non-monetary prizes based on a predetermined probability distribution.

20. The gaming machine of claim 19, wherein the probability distribution creates an inverse relationship between the probabilities of winning a monetary prize and a nonmonetary prize.

21. The gaming machine of claim 19 or claim 20, wherein the probability distribution creates a higher chance of winning only one of a monetary prize and a non- monetary prize compared to the chance of winning both of a monetary prize and a nonmonetary prize or neither of a monetary prize nor a non-monetary prize.

22. The gaming machine of any one of claims 19 to 21, wherein the probability distribution creates a higher chance of winning at least one of a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize compared to the chance of winning neither a monetary prize nor a non-monetary prize.

23. The gaming machine of any one of claims 1 to 22, wherein the controller is further configured to store the monetary award in the memory, and generate an indication of the monetary award configured to be displayed on the display.

24. A method of determining monetary and non-monetary prizes to be awarded, the method comprising:

presenting at least one game of chance on a display of a gaming machine;

determining a winning event for the at least one game of chance;

presenting at least one game of skill on the display; determining a winning event for the at least one game of skill;

based on a winning event of the game of chance, determining whether a player should be awarded a non-monetary reward; and

based on a winning event of the game of skill, determining whether a player should be awarded a monetary reward.

25. The method of claim 24, further comprising accessing at least one monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward. 26. The method of claim 25, further comprising determining whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one monetary pay table.

27. The method of any one of claims 24 to 26, further comprising accessing at least one non-monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a nonmonetary reward.

28. The method of claim 27, further comprising determining whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one non-monetary pay table.

29. The method of any one of claims 24 to 28, wherein the non-monetary monetary reward affects at least one aspect of a subsequent game of skill.

30. A computer-readable medium storing machine-readable instructions, which when executed by a processor, causes the processor to perform the method of any one of claims 24 to 29.

Description:
"Gaming system and method comprising monetary and non-monetary prizes" Technical Field

The present disclosure relates to an improved gaming system and an improved method, system and machine for gaming.

Background

Reel- style gaming machines allow players to make bets on symbols that appear on the real or virtual reels, offering awards to players based on the combinations of symbols that appear. These games appeal to players as a way of winning cash or credits. However, it can be difficult to balance the need to make the gaming machines profitable with the need to create player satisfaction, as players can get bored and discouraged if they fail to win prizes. It is desired to address or ameliorate one or more shortcomings or disadvantages associated with prior methods, systems and machines for gaming, or to at least provide a useful alternative thereto.

Any discussion of documents, acts, materials, devices, articles or the like which has been included in the present specification is not to be taken as an admission that any or all of these matters form part of the prior art base or were common general knowledge in the field relevant to the present disclosure as it existed before the priority date of each claim of this application. Throughout this specification the word "comprise", or variations such as "comprises" or "comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated element, integer or step, or group of elements, integers or steps, but not the exclusion of any other element, integer or step, or group of elements, integers or steps. Summary

Some embodiments relate to a gaming machine for awarding monetary and nonmonetary rewards, the gaming machine comprising:

a display;

a memory;

at least one input mechanism configured to receive user input from a player; and a game controller configured to access and execute instructions stored in the memory to:

present at least one game of chance on the display;

determine a winning event for the at least one game of chance; present at least one game of skill on the display;

determine a winning event for the at least one game of skill; based on a winning event of the game of chance, determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward; and

based on a winning event of the game of skill, determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward.

In some embodiments, the game controller is configured to access at least one monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward. According to some embodiments, the game controller is configured to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one monetary pay table.

In some embodiments, the game controller is configured to access at least one non- monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward. According to some embodiments, the game controller is configured to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one nonmonetary pay table.

In some embodiments, the non-monetary reward affects at least one aspect of a subsequent game of skill. According to some embodiments, the non-monetary reward is an aesthetic item that affects the appearance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill. According to some embodiments, the non-monetary reward is a game influencing item that affects the performance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill. According to some embodiments, the game influencing item is a consumable item that can be used only once in the subsequent game of skill. According to some embodiments, the game influencing item is an enduring item that can be used for the duration of the subsequent game of skill. In some embodiments, the non-monetary reward is at least one unit of in-game currency. According to some embodiments, the in-game currency can be used to purchase aesthetic and game influencing items. In some embodiments, the non-monetary reward contributes to progress toward the completion of a game task. According to some embodiments, the completion of the game task results in receiving an aesthetic item that affects the appearance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill. According to some embodiments, the completion of the game task results in receiving a game influencing item that affects the performance of a player avatar in the subsequent game of skill.

In some embodiments, the game of chance is a reel game. According to some embodiments, the awarding of a non-monetary award is determined based on whether one or more predetermined reel symbols appear on the reel game. According to some embodiments, the awarding of a monetary award is determined based on whether one or more predetermined reel symbols appear on the reel game.

In some embodiments, the gaming machine is configured to award monetary and nonmonetary prizes based on a predetermined probability distribution. According to some embodiments, the probability distribution creates an inverse relationship between the probabilities of winning a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize.

According to some embodiments, the probability distribution creates a higher chance of winning only one of a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize compared to the chance of winning both of a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize or neither of a monetary prize nor a non-monetary prize.

According to some embodiments, the probability distribution creates a higher chance of winning at least one of a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize compared to the chance of winning neither a monetary prize nor a non-monetary prize.

In some embodiments, the controller is further configured to store the monetary award in the memory, and generate an indication of the monetary award configured to be displayed on the display Some embodiments relate to a method of determining monetary and non-monetary prizes to be awarded, the method comprising:

presenting at least one game of chance on a display of a gaming machine;

determining a winning event for the at least one game of chance;

presenting at least one game of skill on the display;

determining a winning event for the at least one game of skill;

based on a winning event of the game of chance, determining whether a player should be awarded a non-monetary reward; and

based on a winning event of the game of skill, determining whether a player should be awarded a monetary reward.

Some embodiments further comprise accessing at least one monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward. Some embodiments further comprise determining whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one monetary pay table.

Some embodiments further comprise accessing at least one non-monetary pay table to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward. Some embodiments further comprise determining whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward by comparing one or more symbols generated by the game of chance with the at least one non-monetary pay table.

According to some embodiments, the non-monetary monetary reward affects at least one aspect of a subsequent game of skill.

Some embodiments relate to a computer-readable medium storing machine-readable instructions, which when executed by a processor, causes the processor to perform the method of some other embodiments.

Brief Description of Drawings

Embodiments are described below in further detail and by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which:

Figure 1 is a diagrammatic representation of a gaming system in accordance with some embodiments, implemented in the form of a stand-alone gaming machine; Figure 2 is a schematic block diagram of core components of the gaming system of Figure 1;

Figure 3 is a schematic diagram of a gaming system in accordance with some embodiments, with the gaming system implemented over a network;

Figure 4 is a schematic block diagram of the software components of a gaming system according to some embodiments;

Figure 5 is a flow diagram illustrating a method of controlling game play on a gaming machine according to some embodiments;

Figure 6 is an example screenshot of a character selection screen;

Figure 7 is an example screenshot of a virtual location selection screen;

Figure 8 is an example screenshot of a base game screen;

Figure 9 is a detailed view of the symbol sets shown in Figure 8;

Figure 10 is an example screenshot of a base game screen;

Figure 11 is an example screenshot of a meta-game task screen;

Figure 12A is an example screenshot of a meta-game task screen showing a task being completed;

Figure 12B is a detailed view of an example player level bar portion of the base game screen;

Figure 12C is an example screenshot of the base game screen highlighting a winning meta-game combination;

Figure 13 is an example screenshot of a feature game screen;

Figure 14 is a graph showing an example probability distribution for awarding monetary and non-monetary prizes in accordance with some embodiments;

Figure 15A is an example of a character in accordance with some embodiments; Figure 15B is an example of the character of Figure 15A with some additional aesthetic items in accordance with some embodiments;

Figure 15C is an example of a character of Figure 15A with some additional aesthetic and game-influencing items in accordance with some embodiments;

Figure 16 is an example chart to illustrate the awarding of monetary and non- monetary awards according to some embodiments;

Figure 17 is an example screenshot of a base game screen according to some embodiments;

Figure 18 is a flow diagram illustrating an alternative method of controlling game play on a gaming machine according to some embodiments;

Figure 19 is an example screenshot of a base game screen showing a quest popup box; Figure 20 is an example screenshot of an inventory selection screen; and

Figure 21 is an example screenshot of an alternative inventory selection screen.

Description of Embodiments

Described embodiments generally relate to a gaming machine. The gaming machine may be a gaming machine as shown and described in relation to co-pending and co- owned International Patent Application No. PCT/AU2017/050206, filed on 8 March 2017 and entitled "Gaming method, system and machine comprising multiple games", the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference. The gaming system can take a number of different forms. In a first form, a stand-alone gaming machine is provided wherein all or most components required for implementing the game are present in a player operable gaming machine.

In a second form, a distributed architecture is provided wherein some of the components required for implementing the game are present in a player operable gaming machine and some of the components required for implementing the game are located remotely relative to the gaming machine. For example, a "thick client" architecture may be used wherein part of the game is executed on a player operable gaming machine and part of the game is executed remotely, such as by a gaming server; or a "thin client" architecture may be used wherein most of the game is executed remotely such as by a gaming server and a player operable gaming machine is used only to display audible and/or visible gaming information to the player and receive gaming inputs from the player. However, it will be understood that other arrangements are envisaged. For example, an architecture may be provided wherein a gaming machine is networked to a gaming server and the respective functions of the gaming machine and the gaming server are selectively modifiable. For example, the gaming system may operate in standalone gaming machine mode, "thick client" mode or "thin client" mode depending on the game being played, operating conditions, and so on.

Irrespective of the form, the gaming system 100 has several core components. At the broadest level, the core components comprise a player interface and a game controller. The player interface is arranged to enable interaction between a player and the gaming system and for this purpose includes input/output components required for the player to enter instructions and play the game. For example, the input/output components may include a credit mechanism to enable a player to input credits and receive payouts, one or more displays which may comprise a touch screen, and a game play mechanism arranged to enable a player to input game playing instructions. The game controller is in data communication with the player interface and typically comprises a processor arranged to process game play instructions and output game player outcomes to the one or more displays. It will be understood that in the present specification, the term "processor" refers generally to any device that can process game play instructions and may include a microprocessor, microcontroller, programmable logic device or any computational device such as a personal computer or a server.

Referring now to Figure 1, reference numeral 100 generally designates a stand-alone gaming system including a game. Hereinafter, the stand-alone gaming system 100 will be referred to as a gaming machine. The gaming machine 100 includes a console 102 which contains all or most components required to implement a game play whereby, at least during part of the game play, a player wins or loses a wager. Access to the components is by way of a hinged door 105. Mounted to the exterior of the console 102 is a display means in the form of at least one visual display unit 104 on which one or more games is played. The video display unit 104 may be implemented as a liquid crystal display, a plasma screen, or other high quality digital video display. While the console 102 illustrated in Figure 1 shows a single visual display unit 104, there may be more than one visual display unit on a gaming machine 100. For example, in some embodiments, gaming machine 100 may have one visual display unit 104 for displaying the game being played, and an additional visual display unit in the form of artwork 120 (described below) for displaying advertising or other material. In some embodiments, the additional visual display unit may be a video display unit. What is displayed on the visual display unit 104 will depend on what the intended goal of the unit is in relation to the player and any other potential participants in the gaming system. In some embodiments, a plurality of gaming machines 100 may communicate with a central display screen (not shown), which may allow for portions of gameplay to be displayed to a wider audience in a gaming venue.

In this example, the gaming machine 100 includes a tactile input for a player to interact via touch with the gaming machine 100. The tactile input may be in the form of a combination of pushbuttons 106 and a touch screen 108 for enabling a player to play one or more games. The touch screen 108 is an electronic visual display that can detect the presence and location of a touch within the display area. The touch screen 108 may be used during game setup, user browsing, or during the game play between start of a game and the end of a game, for example. Certain functions of the pushbutton are: initiation of game play, credit output, gameplay selection, completion of gameplay etc. A midtrim 112 of the machine 100 houses the pushbuttons 106.

The tactile input may optionally or further include a joystick (not shown) comprising a stick that pivots on a base and reports its angle or direction to the device it is controlling. The tactile input may optionally or further include a trackpad/touchpad (not shown) being a pointing device featuring a tactile sensor to translate the motion and position of a user's fingers to a relative position on screen. In some embodiments, tactile input may further include a keyboard, electronic mouse, or other input mechanism. In some embodiments, the user interface may be a user configurable interface having multiple user input options. It should be appreciated that tactile input may include any suitable device that enables the player to produce an input signal that is received by the processor 202 (see Figure 2).

The midtrim 112 may house a credit input mechanism 221 including a bill collector 114. The credit input mechanism 221 may alternatively or additionally include a coin input chute, a card and/or ticket reader, a magnetic reading head for reading a magnetic stripe card, an electronic reader for a proximity card, a near field communications reader or any other form of electronic, wireless or contact that can input credit to the gaming machine.

A payout mechanism 225 including a coin tray 116 may be mounted beneath the console 102 and is provided for cash or other payouts from the machine 100 to the player. A hopper device (not shown) is provided which dispenses coins, or tokens equal to the amount of credit currently on the machine, into the coin tray 116. Aside from the coin tray 116, payout mechanism 225 may alternatively or additionally include a ticket dispenser for issuing a ticket dispensed by a printer which the user can redeem for cash, a note dispenser, a near field communications transmitter or means to enable remote credit transfer. Other suitable payout mechanisms, such as fund transfers to the player's electronically recordable identification card or smart card, may be implemented in accordance with described embodiments. The gaming machine 100 includes a top box 118 on which artwork 120 or other images may be carried in the form of electronic visual display units. The artwork 120 could also comprise physical materials such as paper, plastic banners or posters. The artwork 120 may have generic information related to the machine or gaming system or the artwork 120 may be specifically made for a particular game to be played on the machine 100. While the artwork 120 is shown as being carried on the top box 118, the art work 120 can also be positioned in or on the bottom panel of the door 105, or any other part of the gaming machine 100 visible to the player. In some embodiments, artwork 120 may be a second digital display, which may show jackpot information, for example, or other supplemental video.

The gaming machine 100 further includes an auditory unit in the form of auditory output 208 (see Figure 2) to provide auditory feedback to the player of the gaming machine 100.

Referring to Figure 2, game logic circuitry 200 is illustrated. The game logic circuitry 200 includes a gaming controller 201 (otherwise referred to as a logic cage). As will be appreciated by those skilled in the gaming industry, the logic cage 201 includes a boxlike mechanical structure that has slots to guide logic cards into the proper location for electronically plugging into a backplane mounted at the rear of the cage structure. The logic cards may contain hardware configured to perform specific functions, and may include sound cards, video cards, network cards, hard drives or other memory storage. The backplane has connectors for accepting mating connectors on the logic cards. The logic cage 201 and associated logic cards form one of the basic components of the gaming machine 100 and is securely housed within the cabinet of the gaming machine 100.

Central to the logic cage 201 is a processor 202 which may be a central processing unit, a microcontroller-based platform, a suitable integrated circuit, or one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's).

In this particular example, the processor 202 is in communication with or operable to access or to exchange signals with: memory 204, an audio control component 209, a hard meter interface 206, a random number generator 210, a user input component 216, a video display component 212, a credit input component 220 and a payout component 224. Instructions and data to control operation of the processor 202 are stored in a memory 204 which is in data communication with processor 202. Memory 204 typically comprises both volatile and non-volatile memory and more than one of each type of memory. For example, the memory 204 may comprise RAM, ROM, and non-volatile memory in the form of a memory card, such as compact flash. RAM may include nonvolatile RAM (NVRAM), magnetic RAM (MR AM), ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM), and other forms as commonly understood in the gaming industry. Memory 204 comprises a game software module 231 storing executable code, which when executed by the processor 202, provides the game on the gaming machine 100.

In particular, processor 202 runs executable code residing in game software module 231 of memory 204 that facilitates play of a game by a player through display unit 104 and/or push buttons 106 and touch sensors 108 mounted in the screen of display unit 104. Game software module 231 contains executable program code that defines the rules of the game, defines the sequence of gameplay, communicates with external systems, monitors peripheral equipment, and maintains integrity of the software code, among other things. Audio control component 209 is in communication with audio output 208. Audio control component 209 may have its own digital signal processor, analogue to digital converters, amplifiers and other circuitry necessary to broadcast the output from the speakers. Hard meter interface 206 communicates with hard meters 207. Hard meters 207 contain the gaming machine parameters which are required to be stored on a hard meter for regulatory reasons, which may include values such as total credit in and total credit out in some jurisdictions, for example. The values in hard meters 207 are only ever incremented, and cannot be reset or decremented.

Random number generator 210 generates random or pseudo-random numbers for the purpose of determining the outcome of chance-based games played on gaming machine 100. In some embodiments, random number generator 210 may be implemented in software as part of game software module 231. In some other embodiments, random number generator 210 may be implemented in firmware or in hardware. In some embodiments, the form that random number generator 231 takes may be dictated by gaming regulations.

User input component 216 communicates with user inputs 218, which may include pushbuttons 106 and touch screen sensors 108, among other inputs. Received inputs are decoded by user input component 216 and communicated to processor 202.

Video display component 212 communicates with video display unit 104. Processor 202 sends instructions to video display component 212, in order to cause images that make up the game sequence to be displayed on video display unit 104. These images may be pre-generated images retrieved by processor 202 from memory 204, or the images may be generated in real-time by processor 202 executing code modules stored in memory 204, as described below with reference to Figure 4. In some embodiments, the displayed images may be made up of a pre-generated background retrieved from memory 204 in combination with an animated sequence generated in real-time by processor 202.

Credit input component 220 receives signals from credit input mechanism 221, which may include bill collector 114 in some embodiments. Credit input component 220 may use the signals to determine whether or not a player has provided sufficient credit to commence or continue gameplay, for example.

Payout component 224 communicates with payout mechanism 225, which may include coin tray 116. Payout component 224 may send instructions to payout mechanism 225, to cause payout mechanism 225 to dispense payment to a player. The payout may be in the form of cash, tokens or tickets in some embodiments. In some embodiments, the player may receive a code which they can use to collect their payout from a designated kiosk. In some embodiments, a player card or account may be credited with the payout amount. In some embodiments, a player may be able to finish game play and request a payout at various stages throughout the game. In some embodiments, players may be able to request a payout at any stage of the game. The player may be able to use user input 118 to request the payout.

In some embodiments, a player may insert an identification card or ticket into a card reader (not shown) of the gaming machine 100, in order to load information onto gaming machine 100. For example, the identification card or ticket may be associated with a player account containing credit, player settings, and player progress in a game. Such an identification card may be a smart card having a programmed microchip, a coded magnetic strip, or coded rewritable magnetic strip, wherein the programmed microchip or magnetic strips are coded with a player's identification, credit totals (or related data), and/or other relevant information. In another embodiment, a player may carry a portable device, such as a mobile phone, a radio frequency identification tag, or any other suitable wireless device, that communicates a player's identification, credit totals (or related data), and other relevant information to the gaming device. One or more of the method steps described in this disclosure may be implemented by game software module 231 stored in memory 204. Instructions stored in game software module 231 may be executed by processor 202 or any other processor. Further, the processor 202, the memory 204, the game software module 231 stored therein, or a combination thereof, may serve as a means for performing one or more of the method steps described herein.

Figure 3 shows a gaming system 300 in accordance with an alternative embodiment. The gaming system 300 includes a network 302, which for example may be or include an Ethernet, powerline, multimedia over Coax (MoCA), WiFi, or other type of network. The network 302 may also comprise a wide area network ("WAN"), the plain-old-telephone-system ("POTS), a local area network ("LAN"), a wireless LAN, the Internet, or any combination of these and other types of networks. Gaming machines 304 are connected to the network 302. The gaming machines 304 provide a player operable interface and may be the same as the gaming machines 100 shown in Figure 1 or may have simplified functionality depending on the requirements for implementing game play.

Gaming machines 304 may include game logic circuitry 200 as described above with reference to Figure 2. Gaming machines 304 may further include a console similar to console 102 which contains all or most components required to implement a game play whereby, at least during part of the game play, a player wins or loses a wager. Access to the components may be by way of a hinged door, which may be similar to hinged door 105. Mounted to the exterior of the console may be a display means in the form of at least one visual display unit, which may be similar to display unit 104, on which one or more games is played. The display unit may be implemented as a liquid crystal display, a plasma screen, or other high quality digital video display. There may be more than one visual display unit on each gaming machine 304. For example, in some embodiments, gaming machines 304 may have one visual display unit for displaying the game being played, and an additional visual display unit in the form of artwork similar to artwork 120 (described below) for displaying advertising or other material. In some embodiments, the additional visual display unit may be a video display unit. What is displayed on the visual display unit will depend on what the intended goal of the unit is in relation to the player and any other potential participants in the gaming system. In some embodiments, a plurality of gaming machines 304 may communicate with a central display screen (not shown), which may allow for portions of gameplay to be displayed to a wider audience in a gaming venue.

Gaming machines 304 may include a tactile input for a player to interact via touch with the gaming machines 304. The tactile input may be in the form of a combination of pushbuttons and a touch screen similar to push-buttons 106 and a touch screen 108, for enabling a player to play one or more games. The touch screen may be an electronic visual display that can detect the presence and location of a touch within the display area. The touch screen may be used during game setup, user browsing, or during the game play between start of a game and the end of a game, for example. Certain functions of the push-button may include: initiation of game play, credit output, gameplay selection, completion of gameplay etc. A midtrim of the machine 304, similar to midtrim 112, may house the push-buttons.

The tactile input may optionally or further include a joystick comprising a stick that pivots on a base and reports its angle or direction to the device it is controlling. The tactile input may optionally or further include a trackpad/touchpad being a pointing device featuring a tactile sensor to translate the motion and position of a user's fingers to a relative position on screen. In some embodiments, tactile input may further include a keyboard, electronic mouse, or other input mechanism. In some embodiments, the user interface may be a user configurable interface having multiple user input options.

The midtrim of gaming machine 304 may house a credit input mechanism including a bill collector, similar to credit input mechanism 221 and bill collector 114. The credit input mechanism may alternatively or additionally include a coin input chute, a card and/or ticket reader, a magnetic reading head for reading a magnetic stripe card, an electronic reader for a proximity card, a near field communications reader or any other form of electronic, wireless or contact that can input credit to the gaming machine. A payout mechanism including a coin tray, similar to payout mechanism 225 and coin tray 116, may be mounted beneath the console and may be provided for cash or other payouts from the machine 1304 to the player. A hopper device may be provided which dispenses coins, or tokens equal to the amount of credit currently on the machine, into the coin tray. Aside from the coin tray, the payout mechanism may alternatively or additionally include a ticket dispenser for issuing a ticket dispensed by a printer which the user can redeem for cash, a note dispenser, a near field communications transmitter or means to enable remote credit transfer. Other suitable payout mechanisms, such as fund transfers to the player's electronically recordable identification card or smart card, may be implemented in accordance with described embodiments.

The gaming machine 304 may include a top box similar to top box 118 on which artwork similar to artwork 120 or other images may be carried in the form of electronic visual display units. The artwork could also comprise physical materials such as paper, plastic banners or posters. The artwork may have generic information related to the machine or gaming system or the artwork may be specifically made for a particular game to be played on the machine 304. While the artwork is shown as being carried on the top box, the art work can also be positioned in or on the bottom panel of the door, or any other part of the gaming machine 304 visible to the player. In some embodiments, the artwork may be a second digital display, which may show jackpot information, for example, or other supplemental video.

The gaming machines 304 further include an auditory unit in the form of auditory output 208 (see Figure 2) to provide auditory feedback to the player of the gaming machine 304.

In a thick client embodiment, game server 308 implements part of the game played by a player using a gaming machine 304 and the gaming machine 304 implements part of the game. With this embodiment, as both the game server 308 and the gaming machine 100 implement part of the game, they collectively provide a game controller having similar functions to controller 201. A database management server 310 may manage storage of game programs and associated data for downloading or access by the gaming devices 304 in a database 318. In a thin client embodiment, game server 308 implements most or all of the game played by a player using a gaming machine 304 and the gaming machine 304 essentially provides only the player interface. With this embodiment, the game server 308 provides the game controller. The gaming machine 304 will receive player instructions, pass these to the game server 305 which will process them and return game play outcomes to the gaming machine 304 for display. In a thin client embodiment, the gaming machines could be computer terminals, e.g. PCs running software that provides a player interface operable using standard computer input and output components.

Additional servers may be provided to assist in the administration of the gaming network 300, including for example a gaming floor management server 320, and a licensing server 322 to monitor the use of licenses relating to particular games. An administrator terminal 324 is provided to allow an administrator to run the network 302 and the devices connected to the network.

The gaming system 300 may communicate with other gaming systems, other local networks, for example a corporate network, and/or a wide area network such as the Internet, for example through a firewall 330.

In some embodiments, functionality at the server side of the network may be distributed over a plurality of different physical computers. For example, functional software elements may be run as a single "engine" on one server or a separate server may be provided. For example, the game server 308 could run a random number generator engine. Alternatively, a separate random number generator server could be provided. Further, in some embodiments a plurality of game servers could be provided to run different games or a single game server may run a plurality of different games as required by game machines 304. A functional block diagram 400 illustrating software components of gaming machine 100 is shown in Figure 4. Memory 204 stores game software module 231 which comprises a number of executable code modules. Memory 204 also stores various game data. Game data stored by memory 204 includes symbol data 401, base game pay-table data 402, meta-game pay-table data 403, meta-game task data 404, character data 405, virtual location data 406, feature game map data 407, and feature game prize data 408. In some embodiments, memory 204 may further store information about one or more game themes or game scenarios, which may be selectable by a player of the game, or automatically selected prior to game commencement. A theme may include a number of conceptually linked game aspects that contribute to the overall appearance and/or style of the game, as well as the specific appearance of various aspects of the game, as described below. A scenario may be linked to a game theme, or vice versa, and may include details of the game style, game objectives, and storyline of the game. Symbol data 401 may include data relating to the symbols to be displayed on visual display unit 104 of gaming machine 100 during the base game. For example, the particular images used for each symbol may be stored, as well as an identification code relating to the symbol, and a value of the symbol in the base game. The visual appearance of the symbols may be dependent on the theme of the game.

Base game pay-table data 402 may include data relating to the pay-table used in the base game played on gaming machine 100. Base game pay-table data 402 may be used to calculate an amount of points, credits or other awards to be won by a player of gaming machine 100 when playing the base game. Base game pay-table data 402 may be used to determine the amount won based on which combination of symbols appear on visual display unit 104. Base game pay-table data 402 may be related to symbol data 401, as the amount won by a player as determined by the value of the symbols as stored in symbol data 401. Base game pay-table data 402 have a predetermined probability distribution as described below with reference to Figure 14. Base game pay-table data 402 may also store an award schedule for the awarding of meta-game awards. Base game pay-table data 402 may be static data that is programmed into memory 204 during development.

Meta-game pay-table data 403 may include data relating to the pay-table used in the meta-game played on gaming machine 100. Pay-table data 403 may be used to calculate an amount of points, credits or other awards to be won by a player of gaming machine 100 when playing the meta-game. Pay-table data 403 may be used to determine the amount won based on which combination of symbols appear on visual display unit 104. Meta-game pay-table data 403 may be related to symbol data 401. In some embodiments, meta-game pay-table data 403 may also be related to base game pay-table data 402, so that outcomes or winning events of the meta-game may be related to outcomes or winning events of the base game. Meta-game pay-table data 403 have a predetermined probability distribution as described below with reference to Figure 14. According to some embodiments, base game pay-table data 402 may be used to determine whether the player should be awarded a monetary reward, and meta-game pay-table data 403 may be used to determine whether a player should be awarded a non-monetary reward, based on the outcome of a game of chance presented on gaming machine 100. Processor 202 may be configured to access base game pay-table data 402 and meta-game pay-table data 403 and to compare the results of the game of chance with the pay table data to determine whether one or more monetary or non-monetary prizes should be awarded. According to some embodiments, the non-monetary prizes may include progressing through a meta-game task. Meta-game task data 404 may include data relating to tasks to be completed by the player during a meta-game played on gaming machine 100. For example, meta-game task data 404 may include information about how many tasks a player needs to complete before they receive an award or obtain a particular level. Task data 404 may further include information about the symbol outcomes that may cause a task to be determined to have been completed. In some embodiments, meta-game task data 404 may be related to meta-game pay-table data 403, in order to allow the completion tasks to be completed based on outcomes as determined from the meta-game pay-table data 403. According to some embodiments, meta-game task data 404 may be used to determine whether the player should be awarded a non-monetary reward, based on the outcome of a game of chance presented on gaming machine 100. Processor 202 may be configured to access meta-game pay-table data 403 and to compare the results of the game of chance with the meta-game pay-table data 403 to determine whether the game outcome results in progress in a meta-game task as defined by meta-game task data 404. For example, progress in the meta-game may be made when a certain combination of symbols are displayed in the game of chance. Once a pre-determined level of progress in a meta-game task has been completed, processor 202 may be configured to determine that the task has been completed, and to reward the player with a non- monetary reward. Meta-game task data 404 may also be related to location data 406 and character data 405, as the specific tasks to be completed may depend on the location and character selected by the player. In some embodiments, meta-game task data 404 may relate to game theme or game scenario data as well as or instead of location data 406. The tasks may also be dependent on the current theme of the game. The theme of the game may change over the course of playing the game. For example, once a player has completed one or more meta-game objectives and the feature game in a particular map location (having a particular associated theme), the player may elect to move to another map location that has a different associated theme. In some alternative embodiments, the theme and/or scenario of the game may be selectable by a player independent of or instead of the location.

Character data 405 may include data relating to a character selected by a player for playing a game on gaming machine 100. Character data 405 may include information about available characters including a character name, the appearance of the character, and initial skill levels of the character. In some embodiments, character data 405 may include data relating to the character selected by the player, and any modified attributes of the character, such as an increased level or increased skill set achieved through game play. The characters available in a particular game may be dependent on the theme of the game. In some embodiments, the character may be an avatar or player persona with graphical representation. The avatar or player persona may be a human, animal, fictional being, vehicle, object, or other type of graphical representation in some embodiments. Virtual location data 406 may include data relating to a virtual location selected by a player for playing a game on gaming machine 100. Virtual location data 406 may include information about available locations including a location name, one or more images of the location, and characteristics about the location. Virtual location data 406 may be related to character data 405, as the available characters may depend on the chosen location or vice versa. Virtual location data 406 may also be related to the meta- game task data 404, as the tasks presented during the meta-game may depend on the location selected. Virtual location data 406 may further be related to the symbol data 401, as the symbols presented during the base game may depend on the location selected. The current theme of a particular game may be dependent on the current selected virtual location of the game. Alternatively, locations available in a particular game may be dependent on the theme of the game. In some embodiments, the virtual location may change based on a scenario selected by the player. In some embodiments, the same virtual location may be used in all or some of a number of game scenarios.

Feature game map data 407 may include data relating to a map of a game play location for a feature game played on gaming machine 100. Feature game map data 407 may include information about the layout of a feature game location, including where game objects may be located within the virtual location. Feature game map data 407 may be related to virtual location data 406, as the feature game theme may be determined based on the virtual location selected or vice versa. Feature game map data 407 may further be related to character data 405, as the feature game location may be determined based on the character selected, and the level of the character. Feature game map data 407 may also be dependent on the current theme of the game.

Feature game prize data 408 may include data relating to an amount of points, credits or other awards to be won by a player of gaming machine 100 when playing the feature game. Feature game prize data 408 may include information about how many awards are to be included in the feature game, and where they should be located. Feature game prize data 408 may be related to feature game map data 407, in order to allow for the awards to be placed at various locations within the feature game location as defined by feature game map data 407.

In some embodiments, the game machine 100/304 may have an overall theme for all of the game play, plus a number of sub-themes for different parts or stages of base game play and/or meta-game play and/or feature game play.

In some embodiments, code modules within game software module 231 may include base game module 411, meta-game module 412, feature game module 413, character generation module 414, virtual location generation module 415, feature game map generation module 416, and other code modules.

Base game module 411 may be executable by processor 202 to cause a base game, which may be a reel-type game in some embodiments, to be displayed on visual display unit 104. The base game may be any chance-based game, in which random number generator 210 is used to generate a symbol sub-set, such as a two-dimensional array of symbols, is randomly selected from a larger symbol set for display on visual display unit 104, with or without the appearance of spinning reels. According to some embodiments, random number generator 210 is used to determine the stopping position of each reel of a set of virtual reels for display on visual display unit 104. Each virtual reel may comprise a plurality of symbols, and reels may include in the order of 20, 40 or 60 symbols in some embodiments. The symbol set from which the displayed symbol subset is randomly selected for the base game is sized to permit a reasonable degree of variation among the selected symbols across a significant number of instances of symbol sub-set generation. The symbol sub-set may include multiple instances of the same symbol. According to some embodiments, at least some symbols in each virtual reel may include an overlay symbol, as described below with reference to Figure 17. According to some embodiments, the symbols in the symbol set may be free of overlay symbols, as described below with reference to Figures 8, 9 and 10. According to some embodiments, multiple instances of the same symbol may have different overlays, or the same overlay in some embodiments. According to some embodiments, the overlays may be distributed so that it is rare for multiple instances of the same overlay to be presented. For example, where one of the overlay symbols is a gold star, it may be relatively rare to have an outcome containing five gold stars. Where the chance-based game is not a reel type game, a two-dimensional array of symbols may be randomly selected from a larger symbol set having a similar probabilistic distribution as that of the reel game described above.

Base game module 411 may be executed when a player initiates game play using user input 218. Base game module 411 may allow a player to make a bet or wager using credit input mechanism 221, input mechanisms 106, and user input 218, and may determine a random game outcome using random number generator 210. Executing base game module 411 may cause processor 202 to determine whether the player won any credits or other awards using base-game pay-table data 402. Processor 202 may then cause gaming machine 100 to credit the player with any winnings using payout mechanism 225. Meta-game module 412 may be executable by processor 202 to cause a meta-game to be shown on visual display unit 104. In some embodiments, the meta-game may include a reel-based game, and may use the same reels as those used for the base game. The meta-game may be any chance-based game, in which random number generator 210 is used to generate a symbol sub-set, such as a two-dimensional array of symbols, is randomly selected from a larger symbol set for display on visual display unit 104 with or without the appearance of spinning reels. According to some embodiments, random number generator 210 is used to determine the stopping position of each reel of a set of virtual reels for display on visual display unit 104. The symbol set from which the displayed symbol subset is randomly selected for the meta-game is sized to permit a reasonable degree of variation among the selected symbols across a significant number of instances of symbol sub-set generation. The symbol sub-set may include multiple instances of the same symbol.

In some embodiments, meta-game module 412 may be executed when a player initiates game play using user input 218. Meta-game module 412 may include a series of tasks which must be completed. In some embodiments, the completion of the tasks is dependent on the appearance of certain symbols or combinations of symbols in a randomly generated symbol sub-set in the base game. For example, a particular symbol or combination of symbols appearing as part of the base game may contribute to the completion of a task. The base game and meta-game may therefore rely on the same randomly generated symbol sub-set, although a winning symbol combination in the base game may not also be a winning symbol combination in the meta-game. In other words, the same symbol subset upon which the outcomes of the base game and meta- game are based can lead to different results in each of the base game and meta-game. For example, a winning result in the base game may not correspond with a winning result in the meta-game and vice versa.

Additionally, according to some embodiments, while a winning result in the base game provides monetary reward, a winning result in the meta-game provides non-monetary reward, such as advancement of the player' s character toward a character achievement milestone, such as a level increase or a skill or attribute increase. The non-monetary rewards earned in the meta-game can lead to a greater prospect of earning monetary rewards in the skill-based feature game, as described below. In some embodiments, a winning result in the meta-game may additionally or alternatively lead to the direct award of a non-monetary reward, such as an aesthetic item or game influencing item that can be applied to a character for use in the skill-based feature game, or an in-game currency that can be used to purchase aesthetic or game influencing items. An aesthetic item may affect the appearance of a character in a feature game or game of skill presented by gaming machine 100. Some examples of aesthetic items are shown in Figures 15A to 15B. A game influencing item may affect the performance of a character in the feature game or game of skill presented by gaming machine 100. The game influencing item may be a consumable item that can only be used once in the feature game or game of skill presented by gaming machine 100, such a potion, medicine, or ammunition. In some embodiments, the game influencing item may be an enduring item that can be used for the duration of the feature game or game of skill presented by gaming machine 100, such as a weapon or shield. Some examples of game-influencing items are shown in Figures 15A to 15B.

The rules basis and paradigm for determining a winning outcome in the meta-game may be different from the rules and paradigm to determine a winning outcome in the base game. For example, a winning outcome in the meta-game may be due to the appearance of one or more symbols of a predetermined subset of symbols among the randomly generated symbol subset, without necessarily relying on a combination of symbols being present in the symbol subset. Further, a winning outcome in the meta- game may be due to the appearance of a symbol combination among the randomly generated symbol subset either along a payline, being a predetermined linear sequence of symbols, or randomly throughout the displayed symbols. According to some embodiments, a winning outcome may also require one or more predetermined symbols to appear on adjacent reel positions, or randomly across all reels. Executing meta-game module 412 may cause processor 202 to determine whether the player completed a meta-game task using meta-game pay-table data 403. According to some alternative embodiments, the rules basis and paradigm for determining a winning outcome in the meta-game may be the same as the rules and paradigm to determine a winning outcome in the base game, but may rely on a different set of symbol combinations predetermined as winning symbol combinations. Feature game module 413 may be executable by processor 202 to cause a feature game to be shown on visual display unit 104. In some embodiments, the feature game may be a dungeon crawl or treasure hunt type game, where a player must navigate through a virtual location and interact with virtual objects, for example by battling foes, solving puzzles, or other sub-game activities, to win credits or other awards. In some embodiments, feature game module 413 may cause a virtual location to be shown on visual display unit 104 based on feature game map data 407. Prizes may be distributed throughout the virtual location based on feature game prize data 408, and collection of a prize may be a winning event. In some embodiments, the prizes may be hidden in virtual chests, boxes or other objects that the player must open or otherwise interact with in order to retrieve the prizes. In some embodiments, only some of the virtual chests, boxes or other objects will contain prizes. In some embodiments, a player may need to solve puzzles, battle villains, or complete other tasks in order to obtain prizes. In some embodiments, the prizes may include either or both monetary and nonmonetary prizes. Character generation module 414 may be executable by processor 202 to cause one or more characters to be generated and displayed on gaming machine 100 for selection and/or modification by a player. In some embodiments, character generation may include a player being able to generate a unique character based on a number of configurable character attributes, such as character type (e.g. warrior, wizard, troll, elf etc.) body shape, skin tone, hair colour, sex and clothing. In some alternative embodiments, pre-generated characters may be retrieved from character data 405 and displayed for a player to select. Selected character data may be stored in character data 405. Virtual location generation module 415 may be executed by processor 202 to cause one or more virtual locations to be generated and displayed on gaming machine 100 for selection by a player. In some embodiments, the one or more virtual locations may be displayed on a map. The virtual locations may be generated based on virtual location data 406.

Feature game map generation module 416 may be executed by processor 202 to cause virtual location images to be generated and displayed on gaming machine 100 for playing the feature game. The feature game map may be generated based on feature game map data 407.

Referring now to Figure 5, there is shown a flow diagram illustrating a method 500 of gaming by implementing a game at a gaming system, such as gaming machine 100 illustrated in Figure 1 and gaming machines 304 illustrated in Figure 3. The method 500 of gaming may comprise an initial step 501 of a player providing credit at credit input mechanism 221 of the gaming machine 100, and selecting a character for game play. In some embodiments, this may also include entering a name to be associated with the character. Processor 202 may execute character generation module 414, which may read from character data 405. The character may be selected by scrolling through a series of available characters on the touchscreen display of gaming machine 100. In some embodiments, the character may be created by the player by choosing from a number of different options for character components. For example, the player may be able to generate a character by selecting from various body shapes, facial features, hairstyles, and clothing for the character to have. The character created by the player may be stored in character data 405.

In some embodiments, the player may be able to select a previously created character that has been stored by the system in character data 405. In some embodiments, the player may be able to scan a ticket that stores data related to a previously created character. Gaming machine 100 may be configured to access data from a stored player account or player profile based on the data read from the ticket. Processor 202 may retrieve the player account information based on a database lookup using the data read from the ticket.

In some embodiments, each selectable character may have a number of predetermined base attribute ratings stored in character data 405. For example, characters may have attributes such as strength, agility and speed. In some embodiments, different or additional attributes may exist. For example, in some embodiments, characters may have attributes such as wisdom, dexterity, and/or endurance. These attributes may be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, for example. Each character may have a base rating for each attribute. A particular character may have a strength rating of 6, an agility rating of 3 and a speed rating of 4, for example. In some alternative embodiments, the attributes may be measured based on a different numerical scale (1 to 5, 1 to 20, or 1 to 100, for example), or on a non-numerical scale, which might be a graphical representation of the attribute on a bar, a number of stars, or some other scale. The character may also have a predetermined base level. In some embodiments, all characters start at base level 1.

In some embodiments, the selected character may be able to be changed during gameplay using user input 218. If a character is changed, they may retain some or all of the levels and skills of the previously selected character.

In some embodiments, the player may also be able to select a virtual game play location from a map. Processor 202 may execute virtual location generation module 415, which may read from virtual location data 405 to display images of a map showing a number of selectable locations on visual display unit 104. For example, the selectable locations may include a forest, desert, castle, and/or swamp in some embodiments. Virtual game play locations may be tailored to a general theme of the game. In some embodiments, the selection of the character may determine the virtual game play starting location. For example, selecting a knight character may result in game play beginning in a virtual castle, while selecting an elf may result in game play in a virtual forest, and selecting a troll may result in game play beginning in a virtual swamp.

After a character selection has been made, in some embodiments a tutorial game may be presented to the player at step 502, based on predetermined selection criteria. In some embodiments, the tutorial game may be a simulation of the feature game, or an aspect of the feature game. In some embodiments, the tutorial game may not allow the player to win any monetary rewards. In some embodiments, entry into the tutorial game may be determined based upon whether or not the player is a new player or an experienced player, the level of the player's character, how long it has been since the player played the game last, or other criteria. In some embodiments, entry into the tutorial game may be at the election of the player. If the criteria for entering the tutorial game is met, the method moves to step 510, and a tutorial game is presented to the player. The tutorial game may help a player become familiar with the controls used and gameplay style of the feature game, as described below. In some embodiments, the tutorial game may teach a player new tricks, skills or combinations that they can apply during the feature game. Once the tutorial game is over, the method moves to step 503. If the criteria is not met, a tutorial game is not played, and the method moves to step 503.

According to some embodiments, the tutorial game may be presented to the player at various stages of game play, and not only at the start of gameplay. For example, in some embodiments the tutorial game may be presented to the player when their character or avatar achieves a new level, learns a new skill or receives a new weapon.

At step 503, a base game is implemented on gaming machine 100 by processor 202 executing base game module 411. In some embodiments, the base game may be a reel game, which may be generated using symbol data 401. In some embodiments, the base game may be a different chance based game in which symbols are randomly selected from a symbol set for display on visual display unit 104, without the appearance of spinning reels.

At step 504, a player causes an instance of base game module 411 to be initiated by processor 202, through interaction with user input 118. The amount bet by the player may be split up into two prize pools, being a base game prize pool, and a feature game prize pool. Some of the wager may also be kept by the house, being the business or establishment that owns and/or controls gaming machines 100/304. The amount kept by the house may be varied based on the regulatory rules in the jurisdiction the game is being played in.

As the base game is initiated, processor 202 may also initiate meta-game module 412 based on meta-game task data 404. The meta-game may comprise a series of tasks to be completed by the player in order to allow a player to progress toward receiving an aesthetic item or a game influencing item, or may allow for the direct award of nonmonetary prizes such as aesthetic and game influencing items to the player. Progress and completion of any tasks may be determined based on outcomes of the base game as determined with reference to meta-game pay-table data 403. At step 505, base game module 411 is executed by processor 202 to cause a plurality of symbols derived from symbol data 401 to be selected by processor 202 for display at a plurality of display positions on a visual display unit 104. In some embodiments, where the base game is a reel game, base game module 411 may be executed by processor 202 to cause the reels to appear to virtually spin on visual display unit 104. The selection of the symbols may be performed randomly, for example by the random number generator 414.

In a further step 506, a game outcome is determined based on the randomly displayed symbols on the display. The game outcome may consist of a base game outcome, determined by processor 202 based on base game pay-table data 402, and a meta-game outcome determined by processor 202 based on meta-game pay-table data 403. The base game outcome may result in the awarding of a monetary prize to the player, based on the particular combination of symbols displayed. If a base game outcome results in the winning of a monetary reward, this may be credited to the player immediately in some embodiments through payout mechanism 225. In some other embodiments, the amount won may be stored and accumulated during the game session, and the total amount may be awarded at the end of the game session. The amount won may be taken out of the base game prize pool. The amount won may be awarded as cash, or as credits that can be redeemed for cash. The meta-game outcome may allow the player to progress towards and/or complete one or more tasks or quests set in the meta-game, as determined by meta-game module 412 based on meta-game task data 404. The progress made toward the completion of each task may be displayed to the player in the form of a fraction, percentage, progress bar, or other means of showing the advancement through the task. If the meta-game outcome results in the completion of all of the set tasks, the player level as stored in character data 405 may be increased. In some embodiments, some or all of the player attributes stored in character data 405 may also be increased. According to some embodiments, the awards available to a player on completion of the meta-game task may be a predetermined selection of awards. The actual award granted to the player may be determined based on a set of award rules, or may be randomised in some embodiments. In some embodiments the award may be randomly selected from a subset of awards determined based on a set of award rules.

In some embodiments, the meta-game outcome may alternatively or in addition allow a player to achieve other rewards. This may be on the completion of all tasks within a quest, each time a task is completed, or simply based on the combination of symbols displayed during the game. In some embodiments, the meta-game outcome may allow a player to win a non-monetary reward, such as an aesthetic reward or game-influencing reward, that they can apply to their character. According to some embodiments, the aesthetic rewards may include items of clothing, accessories, or the ability to change the hairstyle, hair colour, eye colour, or other elements of the appearance of their character. Game-influencing rewards may include consumables such as potions, ammunition, healing items, or other items that can each only be used once within the feature game, and are considered to be "used up" or consumed once they have been used. Game-influencing rewards may also include feature-length items such as weapons, shields, or other items that may be used throughout the duration of the feature game.

In some embodiments, the meta-game may also allow a player to win one or more units of an in-game virtual currency as a form of non-monetary reward, which the player may later be able to use to purchase an aesthetic or game-influencing reward. For example, a game may allow a player to win in-game credits, coins, jewels, tokens, or another form of virtual currency. Different aesthetic and game-influencing rewards may be able to be virtually purchased, and may each cost a different amount. For example, a cloak may cost 3 coins of in-game currency, a healing potion might cost 5 coins of in- game currency, and a pair of boots that increases player speed may cost 10 coins of in- game currency, in some embodiments. In some embodiments, the in-game currency is not transferable for real currency or monetary credits that can be redeemed for real currency. At step 507, processor 202 may determine whether a threshold has been reached that allows for entry into a feature game. In some embodiments, the entry to the feature game may be by a predetermined symbol combination appearing on the reels. In some alternative embodiments, entry to the feature game may be based on reaching a time- based threshold (that the player has been playing the game for at least 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes or 30 minutes, for example), a spend based threshold (that the player has spent a particular amount of money) or a games played threshold (that the player has played a particular number of base games). Multiple different threshold conditions may be applied in combination. In some embodiments, entry to a feature game may be semi-randomised after the threshold condition has been met, for example where the entry is selected at random from a range in addition to or on top of the threshold. For example, for a given base spend threshold, such as 100 credits, entry into the feature game may occur at a randomly selected time between 5 minutes and 10 minutes after reaching the base spend threshold. If the threshold has not been reached, game play returns to step 503, with processor 202 causing base game module 411 to re-initiate and the player having a further opportunity to place a wager and play the base game.

If the threshold has been reached, at step 508 the player is given the opportunity to enter the feature game. If the player chooses not to enter the feature game, which may be to allow themselves time to meet more meta-game objectives, for example, the play returns to step 503, with processor 202 causing base game module 411 to re-initiate and the player having a further opportunity to place a wager and play the base game. In some embodiments, the player may be forced to enter the feature game after a predetermined limit has been reached. For example, the player may be forced to enter the feature game after a predetermined amount of time, after a predetermined number of base games have been played, once the player' s character reaches a predetermined level, or after the player has spent a predetermined amount of money or credits, for example. If the player chooses to enter the feature game, the feature game is initiated at step 509 by processor 202 executing feature game module 413. The feature game may be a skill- based adventure game in some embodiments. In some alternative embodiments, the skill-based feature game may include an additional chance-based game.

Player attributes stored in character data 405 may contribute to the likelihood of success in the feature game, whether it be skill or chance based. For example, a character with higher strength rating may be more likely to succeed in certain actions in the feature game than a character with a lower strength rating (for example, breaking open a treasure chest).

The feature game may allow the player to win both monetary and non-monetary prizes. The monetary prizes may be paid out of the feature game pool. Non-monetary prizes may include improvements to the visual appearance of the character, such as new hairstyles, clothing and accessories. In some embodiments, the non-monetary prizes may also include direct or indirect improvements to the character's attribute ratings. For example, a non-monetary prize may be that the player's character's strength is increased by 10%. An example of an indirect improvement may be that the character receives boots that improve its speed, or gloves that improve its dexterity. The prizes (including monetary and non-monetary rewards) available in any feature game may be determined by processor 202 based on feature game prize data 408.

According to some embodiments, the feature game may include a "treasure hunt" type game, in which a player must navigate through a virtual environment and interact with virtual objects to gain rewards. For example, in some embodiments the player may navigate through a dungeon-type environment, and open chests to gain rewards. Each chest may be predetermined to contain a monetary or non-monetary reward, or to be empty, for example. The player may navigate through the virtual environment using user input 218. In some embodiments, the feature game may include an arena style battle game, a racing game, a first person shooter, or another type of game that allows a player to control one or more virtual objects or characters through one or more virtual scenarios. The theme of the virtual environment navigable during the feature game may depend on the virtual game play location selected at step 503, the game scenario, and/or character level. For example, if the player selected a knight character, the game play may take place in a castle. A level 1 knight may need to navigate through the dungeons of the castle, for example, while a level 2 knight may navigate through the servant's quarters. A higher level knight, such as a level 8 knight, may need to navigate through the king's chamber. As the character progresses through the levels, the game play location may be altered appropriately. In some embodiments, the player may be able to select a particular virtual location for the feature game. The virtual environment for a particular virtual location may be pre-generated and stored in feature game map data 407.

The feature game may run until a predetermined threshold is reached at step 510. This may be a time -based threshold, or an achievement based threshold, for example. Once this is reached, the game will be directed back to the base game at step 503 by processor 202 re-initiating base game module 411.

In some embodiments, the player may be able to end the game session at any point during gameplay. When the player ends the game session, any accumulated winnings may be paid out to the player, in the form of cash or credits using payout mechanism 225. In some embodiments, gaming machine 100 may also issue a ticket corresponding to the player's character in the game. For example, the ticket may store an identification number corresponding to an entry in a look-up table that stores data relating to the player character. The ticket may allow a player to load the character into the game at that player's next gaming session, as described above with reference to step 501. In some embodiments, the player may be able to use the ticket to upload their character into an online gaming environment. In some embodiments, only character aesthetics, and not attributes or items earned through playing the base game, may be transferrable. In some alternative embodiments, character ability ratings and other items such as weapons and shields, in addition to or instead of character aesthetics, may be transferrable via the ticket. Players may also be able to transfer any unused in-game currency to the new game. In some embodiments, instead of a ticket, character data may be stored in another form, such as using a QR code, smart card, magnetic stripe card, near field transfer, or another electronic or non-electronic means of data storage, that the player can use to store their character data to load their character into the game at their next gaming session.

Figure 18 illustrates an alternative method 1800 of gaming by implementing a game at a gaming system, such as gaming machine 100 illustrated in Figure 1 and gaming machines 304 illustrated in Figure 3.

The method 1800 of gaming may comprise an initial step 1818 of processor 202 executing code to generate a graphical display on video display 104 of gaming machine 100/304 to prompt a player to indicate whether the player is a returning player or a new player. The prompt may be in the form of a text-based question displayed on video display 104 of gaming machine 100/304, and may ask the player to respond by interacting with one or more user input components. For example, if the player is a returning player, the player may be able to scan a ticket or provide account information, such as a name and password, that stores data related to the player's account. Processor 202 may be configured to authenticate a user account based on the provided account information. Processor 202 may be configured to use the stored data to access a player database, which may be stored on gaming machine 100/304 or on an external device, such as a server 308/310, to retrieve any required game information, such as the player's avatar and level. If the player is a new player, the player may be able to indicate this by clicking on a virtual button displayed on the prompt screen, for example.

At step 1801, processor 202 determines the player's returning player status based on the user input received. If processor 202 determines that the player is a returning player, processor 202 is configured to perform step 1805. If the player is determined to be a new player, processor 202 is configured to perform step 1802, which may comprise processor 202 generating a prompt to display to the player via video display 104 of gaming machine 100/300, prompting a player to create a new account, which may require the player to use user input 218 to enter details such as an account name and password, for example. According to some embodiments, processor 202 may be configured to cause video display 104 to present the player the option of not creating a new account, and instead playing as a "guest", which would not require the player to enter any account information. According to some embodiments, gaming machine 100/304 may be configured to operate without creating user accounts. In some embodiments, game play information may be written by processor 202 to a physical or virtual ticket, which the player may be able to use to store their progress in the game and to retrieve at least some of the player's past game progress, avatar development and/or equipment or other game items at the player's next gaming session.

Processor 202 is configured to generate a prompt, and cause video display 104 of gaming machine 100/300 to display the prompt asking the player to select a player class at step 1803. The class may be a character type, such as a warrior, hunter, rogue or mage, for example. At step 1804, processor 202 may be configured to generate and cause video display 104 of gaming machine 100/304 to display a prompt to ask the player to create a character. In some embodiments, processor 202 may also be configured to generate and cause video display 104 of gaming machine 100/304 to display a prompt to enter a name to be associated with the character. Processor 202 may execute character generation module 414, which may read from character data 405 to retrieve character information and display the character on video display 104 of gaming machine 100/304. The character may be selected by scrolling through a series of available characters on the touchscreen display of gaming machine 100. In some embodiments, the character may be created by the player by choosing from a number of different options for character components. For example, the player may be able to generate a character by selecting from various body shapes, facial features, hairstyles, and clothing for the character to have. The character created by the player may be stored in the player's account information, and/or stored in a temporary memory location in memory 204, and may be printed or otherwise written to a physical or virtual ticket at the end of the session to allow the player to retrieve the player's saved character for a subsequent gaming session. According to some embodiments, steps 1803 and 1804 may be performed in a single step. For example, according to some embodiments, processor 202 may be configured to automatically select a character based on the player selection of a class. In some alternative embodiments, processor 202 may be configured to generate graphical prompts for display on video display 104 to the player to select a character first, and may automatically select a class based on a class associated with the chosen character. Processor 202 is configured to implement a base game by executing base game module 411 at step 1805. In some embodiments, the base game may be a reel game, which may be conducted by processor 202 executing base game module 411. Processor 202 may be configured to retrieve symbol data 401 for conducting the base game. In some embodiments, the base game may be a different chance-based game in which symbols are randomly selected from a symbol set for display on visual display unit 104, without the appearance of spinning reels. The player may cause an instance of base game module 411 to be initiated by processor 202, through interaction with user input 118. Base game module 411 is executed by processor 202 to cause a plurality of symbols derived from symbol data 401 to be selected by processor 202 for display at a plurality of display positions on a visual display unit 104. In some embodiments, where the base game is a reel game, base game module 411 may be executed by processor 202 to cause the reels to appear to virtually spin on visual display unit 104. The selection of the symbols may be performed randomly, for example by the random number generator 414.

As described above with reference to Figure 5, a game outcome is determined based on the randomly displayed symbols on the display. The game outcome may consist of a base game outcome, determined by processor 202 based on base game pay-table data 402, and a meta-game outcome determined by processor 202 based on meta-game pay- table data 403. The base game outcome may result in the awarding of a monetary prize to the player, based on the particular symbols displayed. If a base game outcome results in the winning of a monetary reward, this may be credited to the player immediately in some embodiments through payout mechanism 225. In some other embodiments, the amount won may be stored and accumulated during the game session, and the total amount may be awarded at the end of the game session. The amount won may be taken out of the base game prize pool. The amount won may be awarded as cash, or as credits that can be redeemed for cash. The meta-game outcome may allow the player to progress towards and/or complete one or more tasks or quests set in the meta-game, as determined by meta-game module 412 based on meta-game task data 404. The progress made toward the completion of each task may be displayed to the player in the form of a fraction, percentage, progress bar, or other means of showing the advancement through the task. If the meta-game outcome results in the completion of all of the set tasks, the player level as stored in character data 405 may be incremented. In some embodiments, some or all of the player attributes stored in character data 405 may also be incremented or increased.

In some embodiments, the meta-game outcome may alternatively or in addition allow for additional rewards to be awarded to the player. Additional rewards may be awarded on the completion of all tasks within a quest, each time a task is completed, or simply based on the combination of symbols displayed during the game. In some embodiments, the meta-game outcome may allow for a reward that the player can apply to their character, such as an aesthetic reward or skill-based reward, to be awarded. In some embodiments, processor 202 may be configured to award the player one or more units of an in-game virtual currency, which the player may later be able to use to purchase an aesthetic or skill based reward. For example, processor 202 may be configured to award in-game credits, coins, jewels, tokens, or another form of virtual currency. According to some embodiments, more than one different form of virtual currency may be awarded during the meta-game, and the different forms of currency may be used to purchase different types of items. Different aesthetic and skill-based rewards may be able to be virtually purchased with the virtual currency, and may each cost a different amount. For example, a cloak may cost 3 coins, a healing potion might cost 5 coins, and a pair of boots that increases character or avatar speed may cost 10 coins, in some embodiments.

At step 1806, processor 202 determines whether a trigger event has occurred that allows for entry into a feature game. In some embodiments, the trigger event may be a software event. According to some embodiments, the occurrence of the trigger event may be indicated to the player visually through video display 104 by the display of a predetermined symbol or symbol combination on the game display, for example on the reels. In some embodiments, as described above with respect to Figure 5, the trigger event may be configured to only occur after the player reaches a time -based threshold, a spend-based threshold, or a games-played threshold. According to some embodiments, the trigger event may be configured to occur at a random or pseudorandom time within a set time period after the player reaches a time -based threshold, a spend-based threshold, or a games-played threshold. For example, the trigger event may be configured to occur at a random time within a set time period after the player reaches a time-based threshold, which may be a time limit of 5, 10 or 15 minutes, for example. According to some embodiments, the trigger event may be configured to have a predetermined probability of occurring within a predetermined time period. For example, the trigger event may be configured to have an 80% probability of occurring within 5 minutes after a games-played threshold is reached, for example.

Until the trigger event occurs, game play continues at step 1805, with processor 202 causing base game module 411 to continue play and the player having a further opportunity to place a wager and play the base game.

If the trigger event occurs, at step 1807, processor 202 may optionally cause video display 104 to present an inventory screen to allow the player the opportunity to edit the player's inventory before entering the feature game. For example, the inventory screen may display virtual items owned by the player, such as weapons and potions. Processor 202 may be configured to display the virtual inventory items, and provide the player with an opportunity to purchase new items or discard existing items from the inventory. Once the player is satisfied with the contents of the inventory, processor 202 may receive input from the player to exit the inventory page, and in response, processor 202 may cause video display 104 of gaming machine 100/300 to optionally display a pre-battle screen at step 1808, which may allow a user to make any final character adjustments before entering the feature game, such as upgrading weapons or shields, using potions or other special items.

According to some embodiments, the pre-battle screen may be displayed before the inventory screen. According to some embodiments, only one of the pre-battle screen and the inventory screen may be displayed. According to some embodiments, one or more of the pre-battle screen and the inventory screen may be displayed for a limited predetermined time period. Once the predetermined time period expires, processor 202 may cause the method to automatically progress to the next step.

According to some embodiments, some selections made on the pre-battle screen may be modified during the feature game. For example, a player may be able to select a different weapon to use mid-way through the feature game, in some embodiments.

When a player indicates using user input 218 that the player is satisfied with the pre- battle selections, or the pre-determined time period has expired, the feature game is initiated at step 1809 by processor 202 executing feature game module 413. The feature game may be a skill-based adventure game in some embodiments. The feature game may be a battle, treasure hunt, first person shooter, quest, or other type of skill-based game, as described above with reference to Figure 5.

Gaming machine 100/3034 may cause the feature game to run until a predetermined threshold, triggering event or end event is reached. Once the feature game ends, at step 1810 video display 104 of gaming machine 100/300 may optionally display a post- battle screen, which may present the player with the ability to use any virtual credits earned during the course of the feature game, for example. After viewing the post-battle results, at step 1810 video display 104 of gaming machine 100/300 may optionally display an achievements screen such as screen 1700 as shown in Figure 17 or screen 1800 as shown in Figure 18, which may display statistics about the game play during the feature game, achievements earned and prize money won. After viewing achievements, processor 202 may cause video display 104 to present the inventory screen again at step 1812 according to some embodiments, to give the player the opportunity to edit the inventory associated with the player's avatar. After display of the inventory screen, the sequence of gameplay reverts to step 1805 where processor 202 causes gaming machine 100/304 to present the player with the base game again via video display 104.

A specific example of the methods 500 and 1800 of gaming are described below with reference to screenshots of the display of the gaming system 100 shown in Figures 6 to 13, 17 and 19 to 21. Figure 6 is an example screenshot of a character selection screen 600 of gaming machine 100, as generated by character generation module 414 based on information read by processor 202 from character data 405. Screen 600 shows a message 601 instructing a player of gaming machine 100 to select a character. A number of characters 602 may be displayed for selection. Each character has a character type descriptor 604 (such as warrior, hunter, rogue or mage, for example). The player may scroll through the characters using user input 218. As the player scrolls through the available characters 602, one character may appear as the "selected" character 603 at any given time. The selected character 603 is shown as being in front of unselected characters 602, and is shown highlighted by virtual markings 606. The name of the selected character 605 may appear bigger, in a different colour, or otherwise distinguishable from the names of the unselected characters 604. Once the player has scrolled to their desired character, they may use user input 218 to confirm their selection and exit the character selection page.

Figure 7 is an example screenshot of a virtual location selection screen 700 of gaming machine 100, as generated by virtual location generation module 415 based on information read by processor 202 from virtual location data 406. Screen 700 displays a message 701 instructing a player of gaming machine 100 to select a location. A number of locations 702 are displayed for selection. Each location has a location name or descriptor 704. The player may be able to scroll through the locations using user input 218. As the player scrolls through the available locations 702, one location may appear as the "selected" location 703 at any given time. The selected location is shown highlighted by virtual markings 706. The name of the selected location 705 may appear bigger, in a different colour, or otherwise distinguishable from the names of the unselected locations 704. Once the player has scrolled to their desired location, they may use user input 218 to confirm their selection and exit the location selection page.

Figure 8 is an example screenshot of a base game screen 800 of gaming machine 100, as generated by base game module 411 based on information read by processor 202 from symbol data 401. Screen 800 displays a game title 801 and symbol sets 802 for a base game. Symbol sets 802 are described in further detail below with reference to Figures 9 and 10. Screen 800 also displays a selected character 803, and credit, bet and win meters 804 which may display an amount of credit that a player has, an amount bet, and an amount won in a particular gaming session. Selected character 803 may be a character selected by the player using character selection screen 600. Screen 800 may have a map selection virtual button 805, which may be used to go back to virtual location selection screen 700. Screen 800 also shows level indicator 806 and quest log 807. Level indicator 806 and quest log 807 are described in further detail below with reference to Figures 11 to 12C. Figure 9 is a detailed view 900 of symbol sets 802. Symbol sets 802 display a number of symbols as generated by processor 202 based on symbol data 401. The symbols may include pictorial symbols, such as treasure chest symbol 901, torch symbol 902, and sword symbol 905 as well as alphanumeric symbols, such as A symbol 903 and Q symbol 904. In some embodiments, the alphanumeric symbols may correspond to cards from a standard deck of cards, such as Ace and Queen for A and Q respectively. The symbol sets 802 displayed may be used by processor 202 to determine whether a monetary and/or non-monetary prize should be awarded, by comparing the symbols displayed with those in base game pay-table data 402 and meta-game pay-table data 403. An example base game pay table is shown below as Table 1, where each of the amounts shown in the table may correspond to credits that will be won by the player based on the appearance of the predetermined symbol combination.

Table 1

According to some embodiments, PICl may be treasure chest symbol 901, PIC 2 may be torch symbol 902, PIC 3 may be sword symbol 905 and PIC 4 may be a shield symbol (not shown).

An example meta-game pay-table for non-monetary prizes that may be awarded during the meta-game based on the appearance of the predetermined symbol combination is shown below as Table 2:

Number of Symbols

Symbol 5x 4x 3x

J • 10-15 Fragments • 5-10 Fragments • 1-5 Fragments

• 150-200 Gold • 100-150 Gold • 20-100 Gold

• 3 Bronze Quest Ticks • 2 Bronze Quest Ticks • 1 Bronze Quest Tick Q • 2x Discards • lx Discards • lx Discards

• 150-200 Gold • 100-150 Gold • 20-100 Gold

• 3 Silver Quest Ticks • 2 Silver Quest Ticks • 1 Silver Quest Tick

K • Skill Card (Rare) • Skill Card (standard) • Skill Card (standard)

• 300-500 Gold • 250-300 Gold • 200-250 Gold

• 3 Gold Quest Ticks • 2 Gold Quest Ticks • 1 Gold Quest Tick

Table 2

The table shows both direct non-monetary prizes (e.g. an amount of gold, or a skill card) as well as meta-game progress awards (e.g. gold quest ticks) that may be awarded based on a particular combination of symbols appearing during the chance based game.

According to some embodiments, meta-game task data 404 may store relationships between the meta-game progress awards and the non-monetary rewards that may be awarded to a player on completion of a quest. One example of a set of meta-game task data 404 that may be used to determine the non-monetary rewards to award a player based on the meta-game progress awards that they have been awarded is shown below in Table 3. The meta-game progress awards may have been awarded to the player based on the appearance of a predetermined symbol combination as shown above in Table 2, for example.

Table 3

An alternative example meta-game pay-table is described below with reference to Figure 17. Figure 10 is an example screenshot of a base game screen 1000 of gaming machine 100 showing a winning pay-line 1005 as determined by processor 202 based on base game pay-table data 402. The winning pay-line may appear on symbol sets 802 when the player of gaming machine 100 places a bet and causes symbol sets 802 to generate a set of symbols for display. Four treasure chest symbols 901 are shown intersecting the winning pay-line 1005. The remaining symbols, including symbols 902, 903 and 904 are shown not intersecting the winning pay-line. The winning pay-line may result in the player winning an amount of cash, credits, or other awards from gaming machine 100. In some embodiments the winning pay-line 1005 may also result in progress in the meta-game as described in further detail below with reference to Figures 11 to 12C, or in the reward of non-monetary prizes, based on meta-game pay table data 403.

Figure 11 is a detailed view 1100 of quest log 807. Quest log 807 tracks a players progression through a meta-game, as controlled by meta-game module 412 based on information from meta-game task data 404, during the play of the base game displayed on symbol sets 802. Quest log 807 shows a number of quests 1101, described as tasks to be completed during the meta-game. The tasks may be tailored to the character, the game scenario and/or the virtual location of the game selected by the player. For example, if a farm location is selected, tasks may include "Defeat 10 boars", "Defend village", and "Repair farmhouse", for example. Each task may be displayed next to a symbol 1102. In some embodiments, the symbols displayed may correspond to symbols of the symbol sets 802, and may be related to the symbols that need to appear on symbol sets 802 in order to complete the tasks. Meta-game pay table data 403 may be used to determine whether a particular symbol combination contributes to progress in a meta-game task.

The tasks or quests may include a progress meter 1103, which may show how many more successful symbol appearances are required until the task is completed. Processor 202 may determine what amounts to a successful symbol appearance based on meta- game pay-table data 403. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, each task requires 10 successful symbol appearances to become completed. The "Defend 10 Boars" task has been completed 3 times out of a required 10 times. The "Defend village" and "Repair farmhouse" tasks have been completed 5 and 8 times out of a required 10 times, respectively. In some embodiments, once each or all of the quests have been completed, the player's character may be caused to move up a level, acquire an increased set of abilities or attributes, or receive an aesthetic or game-influencing item. In some embodiments, the player may alternatively or in addition be able to move up a level, acquire an increased set of abilities or attributes, or receive aesthetic or game-influencing items during the playing of the feature game, by completing objectives or earning points during the feature game.

Figure 19 is an example screenshot of a base game screen 1900 of gaming machine 100 showing a pop-up quest log 1902, as generated by base game module 411 based on information read by processor 202 from symbol data 401. Pop-up quest log 1902 may be a temporary display portion overlaid on the main display screen. According to some embodiments, pop-up quest log 1902 may be displayed only when progress is made on the meta-game, as described above with reference to Figure 11. Pop-up quest log may be displayed for a pre-determined period of time after progress is made. In some embodiments, pop-up quest log 1902 may also or instead be displayed in response to another game event, or in response to receipt of user input.

Screen 1900 displays a first credit meter 1901, a second credit meter 1902, game time 1903 and symbol sets 1907 for a base game. According to some embodiments, play of the meta-game may result in the player being awarded two different forms of virtual currency or credit, as displayed by meters 1901 and 1902. According to some embodiments, the different credit types may be used to purchase different types of items, as described below with reference to Figures 20 and 21. Symbol sets 1907 may include alpha-numeric symbols 1908 as well as pictorial symbols 1909. Screen 1900 also displays a selected character 1905 on a background 1904, and credit, bet and win meters 1910, 1911 and 1912 which may display an amount of credit that a player has, an amount to be bet in the next game, and an amount won in a particular gaming session. Selected character 1905 may be a character selected by the player using character selection screen 600.

A special symbol 1913 is shown as being activated, which may indicate that a software based trigger event has occurred causing processor 202 to initiate the feature game. In some alternative embodiments, the appearance of special symbol 1913 may cause progresses of at least one quest game as shown in pop-up quest log 1914. Pop-up quest log 1014 displays a progress indicator 1915 for each of a plurality of quests. The progress indicator 1915 may show a number of special symbols required for completion of the quest, and how many of these special symbols have already been acquired. Figure 12A is a detailed view of quest log 807, showing a task being completed. The "Defeat 10 boars" task 1201 is highlighted, as 10 of the 10 required successful symbol appearances have been achieved. Incomplete tasks 1202 are not highlighted. According to some embodiments, a player may be able to access a prize table or in- game rule screen to see which symbol combinations they require to complete each displayed task.

Figure 12B is a detailed view of level indicator 806. Level indicator 806 shows a current level 1203 of the player's character, which is Level 1 in the illustrated embodiments. Level indicator 806 also shows a progress bar 1204, showing how much more progress is required in the meta-game and/or in the feature game before the character reaches the next level. Level indicator 806 also displays the next level 1205 for the character to achieve.

Figure 12C shows an example screenshot of symbol sets 802 showing a winning combination of symbols 1206 as determined by processor 202 based on meta-game pay-table data 403, highlighting a winning meta-game combination. Symbols that are not part of the winning combination, such as symbols 1207, are not highlighted. Based on the combination of symbols that appear on symbol sets 802, processor 202 determines, based on meta-game pay-table data 403, whether the symbol combinations are winning combinations. A winning combination may result in one or more tasks 1101 (i.e. meta-game objectives) being completed in some embodiments, or progress being made towards the completion of one or more tasks. In some embodiments, a winning combination may result in the direct award of in-game currency, aesthetic rewards or game-influencing rewards.

According to some embodiments, processor 202 may be configured to display multiple inventory screens on gaming machine 100 prior to entry into the feature game, to allow the player to purchase consumable and persistent items to use in the feature game. Figure 20 is an example screenshot of a first inventory game screen 2000 of gaming machine 100 that allows players to purchase persistent items that they can apply to the player' s character or avatar. Once a persistent item has been purchased, it will exist in the player's inventory indefinitely. According to some embodiments, persistent items may be linked to a player's account, so that the persistent items are available to a player even when the player starts a new gaming session on a new gaming machine 100, provided the player logs into the player's account on that machine. According to some embodiments, the persistent items may only be available for a single gaming session.

Screen 2000 shows the player avatar 2001. According to some embodiments, as the player selects items to equip the player's character or avatar with, processor 202 may be configured to virtually place the items as a preview on avatar 2001 so that the player can see what the avatar would look like with the item equipped. Screen 2000 also shows a page selector 2002 including a number of pages of items a player can purchase or select. Gaming machine 10/304 may be configured to show the currently selected page 2003 as highlighted, with unselected pages 2004 appearing not highlighted. Each page may relate to a category of available items, and the title of the selected page may be displayed as title 2005. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, the "head" page is selected, which may relate to items worn on the avatar's head. Other categories may include upper body, lower body, hands, feet, and weapons, for example.

On each page, a number of items 2006 and 2007 are displayed that a player can purchase or add to the player's game inventory. For example, according to the illustrated embodiments, two different helmets 2006 and 2007 are shown. Item 2006 represents an item that the player has previously purchased or been awarded, and is available in the player's inventory for the player to selectively apply to the avatar 2001. Item 2107 represents an item available for purchase by the player. A cost 2008 of the item is displayed to the player, indicating how much credit is required to purchase the item. When the player selects an item 2006 or 2007, a description 2109 of the item may be displayed on screen 120. If the player elects to apply the item to avatar 2001, the player may equip the item by activating virtual continue button 2010. Processor 202 may be configured to store the item data to the player account when user input indicating that the player has equipped an item is received.

Screen 2000 also displays first credit meter 1901, and second credit meter 1902. According to some embodiments, only the first type of credit, as shown by meter 1901, may be used to purchase the persistent items as displayed on screen 2000. If a player makes a virtual purchase on screen 2000, processor 202 may be configured to decrement the credit indicator 1901 by the cost of the virtual purchase. For example, if the cost of helmet 2007 is 150 virtual credits as indicated by cost 2008, then when a player purchases helmet 2007, processor 202 subtracts 150 virtual credits from the player's virtual credit amount as indicated by credit indicator 1901. Once a player has made all of the desired selections, the player may activate virtual button 2011 to save the outfit. Once saved, the selection of items that make up the outfit may be automatically loaded onto avatar 2001 each time the player starts the feature game. The player may activate a virtual "next screen" button 2012 to proceed to the next screen, which may be second inventory game screen 2100 in some embodiments.

Figure 21 is an example screenshot of a second inventory game screen 2100 of gaming machine 100, that allows players to purchase consumable items that are only available for use for a limited period before expiring, such as during the feature game. According to some embodiments, once a consumable item has been purchased, it will be available for use only in one subsequent feature game. Once the feature game is over, processor 202 is configured to remove the item from the player's virtual inventory, even if the item was not used by the player. Screen 2100 shows a number of items a player can purchase or add to their inventory, including skills or attributes that can be applied to their avatar, represented by cards 2101, 2102 and 2103, as well as potions 2111. A player may be able to purchase an item by selecting the item and then activating purchase button 2115. According to the illustrated embodiments, avatar abilities are represented by cards, while consumable items ae represented by potions. According to some embodiments, different virtual items may be used to represent player abilities and consumables, such as skill "certificates", pages of a spell book, pills, wearable items, or other representations. Screen 2100 includes a plurality of images of two-sided cards 2101, 2102 and 2103, with cards 2101 being face side up and cards 2102 and 2103 being back side up, with the content on the face of cards 2102 and 2103 being concealed. Cards 2101 relate to cards that have been purchased, selected or revealed by the player, and relate to one or more special skills or attributes that a player can apply to the player avatar during a feature game. The face of each card may include a cost 2104 of selecting and revealing the card, one or more symbols 2105 relating to the type of the card, an image 2106 relating to the skill or attribute that the card represents, and a title 2107 of the skill or attribute. Cards 2102 and 2103 represent cards that have not yet been purchased or revealed by the player, and show only a cost 2108 for purchasing and revealing the card. Card 2102 shows a card that is currently selected, as shown by the card being visually emphasised with respect to the other elements, such as by being slightly raised with respect to the virtual background. According to some embodiments, the card type and the skill represented by an unflipped card may be unknown to the player. A player may take a chance in purchasing the card in the hope that it represents a desirable skill. In some embodiments, a player may be able to see the face side of the card before electing whether or not to purchase the card and the represented skill or attribute.

Screen 2100 also shows a discard indicator 2109 which shows how many card discards a player can make, and second credit meter 1902 which shows how much of the second virtual credit type is available to a player. According to some embodiments, the second type of virtual credit may only be used to purchase consumable items, and not persistent items. If a player reveals a card 2101 which the player does not desire, the player can elect to discard it and be dealt a new card. According to some embodiments, a player may be given only a limited number of discards, so that each time the player elects to discard a card 2101, the number shown on discard indicator 2109 is decremented. If a player makes a virtual purchase on screen 2000, processor 202 may decrement second credit meter 1902 by the cost of the virtual purchase. For example, if the cost of card 2101 is 35 virtual credits as indicated by cost 2104, then when a player purchases card 2101, 35 virtual credits are subtracted from the player's virtual credit amount as indicated by second credit meter 1902.

Screen 2100 further shows one or more consumable items in the form of potions 2111 that can be purchased by a player for use during the feature game. Each potion may have a cost 2112, a symbol 2113 and a quantity 2114. Symbol 2113 may indicate the type of potion, as well as the amount of potion being purchased. For example, symbol 2113 may be differently shaped for different effects, such as a differently shaped bottle depending on whether the potion is a health potion, a strength potion, an invisibility potion, or another type of portion. Symbol 2113 may show a full bottle to show a full dose of a potion, or a half full bottle if the potion is only half a dose, which may only have half the effect on the player's avatar during the feature game. The quantity 2114 shows the number of the particular potion that the player has already purchased and has in the player's inventory. Once a player has made all of the player's desired purchases, the player may activate virtual button 2116 to proceed, which may cause processor 202 to display a feature game on gaming machine 100/304. Figure 13 is an example screenshot of a feature game screen 1300 of gaming machine 100. Screen 1300 includes a character information display portion, including an image of the character 1301, the character name 1302, an indication of the character's health 1303, an indication of the character's experience 1304, and a number of points achieved by the player 1305.. Screen 1300 also shows a countdown timer 1306 showing the time remaining for a player to navigate through the virtual environment in order to collect rewards before the feature game ends. In some embodiments, the feature game may end when timer 1306 runs out, or when the player's health 1303 runs out, whichever occurs first. The amount of rewards collected by the player is shown by reward meter 1307. Messages may be displayed to a player playing the feature game using message bar 1308. As the player navigates character 1310 through the virtual environment shown using user input 218, the character may interact with objects in the environment, such as treasure chests 1309 or other reward-triggering objects. Opening treasure chests 1309 may allow the player to accumulate rewards, points or other awards. In some embodiments, the rewards may be transferrable for cash or credits at the end of the game. In some embodiments, chests 1309 may contain non-monetary rewards, such as clothing, weapons, or other modifications to the character 1310. In some embodiments, the player may also be able to win further monetary or nonmonetary rewards by interacting with other characters or objects in the feature game, such as by fighting bosses, villains or monsters, opening locks or doors, tripping traps, or solving puzzles, for example.

Figure 14 shows a graph 1400 illustrating an example probability distribution that may be implemented by gaming machine 100 to balance the probabilities of a player receiving monetary and non-monetary prizes, as described above. Non-monetary axis 1401 shows the probability distribution for winning or not winning non-monetary prizes, based on win section 1402 and loss section 1403. Monetary axis 1404 shows the probability distribution for winning or not winning monetary prizes, based on win section 1405 and loss section 1406. Sections 1402, 1403, 1405 and 1406 divide graph 1400 into areas 1407, 1408, 1409 and 1410. Area 1407 corresponds to the probability distribution of a player winning both a monetary and a non-monetary prize. Area 1408 corresponds to the probability distribution of a player winning a monetary prize, but not winning a non-monetary prize. Area 1409 corresponds to the probability distribution of a player winning a non-monetary prize, but not a monetary prize. Area 1410 corresponds to the probability distribution of a player winning neither a monetary nor a non-monetary prize.

Areas 1407 and 1408 correspond to monetary wins for the player, which increase player satisfaction, but require gaming machine 100 to award a monetary reward from a prize pool. The ratio between winning outcomes and non-winning outcomes for monetary rewards must be balanced based on meeting the regulatory standards for a minimum return-to-player as well as ensuring that the gaming machine is profitable. In gaming machines with only monetary rewards, this may result in players feeling like they do not win often enough, causing dissatisfaction with the game. However, gaming machine 100 or 300 is configured to also allow for non-monetary rewards to be won in the context of a hybrid skill and chance-based gaming environment, allowing player satisfaction to be increased while not affecting the profitability of the gaming machine. Areas 1407 and 1409 of graph 1400 correspond to non-monetary wins for the player, which increase player satisfaction, but do not require gaming machine 100 to award a monetary reward from a prize pool. Probability distribution 1411 of graph 1400 is an example of a probability distribution of game outcomes over time on gaming machine 100 or 300 that may be implemented by base game pay table data 402 and meta-game pay table data 403. Probability distribution 1411 defines an inverse relationship between the awarding of nonmonetary prizes and monetary prizes, so that a player is most likely to either win a monetary prize but not a non-monetary prize, or a non-monetary prize but not a monetary prize, as shown by the large intersections between areas 1408 and 1409 with probability distribution 1411. Players are less likely to win both a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize, or to win neither a monetary nor a non-monetary prize, as shown by the small intersection between areas 1407 and 1410 with probability distribution 1411. As seen in graph 1400, there is a relatively low probability that a player wins nothing, as shown by the intersection between area 1410 and probability distribution 1411, which results in a game where the player is likely to feel that they are successful, and will wish to continue playing. Probability distribution 1411 shown in graph 1400 is only one example of a distribution that may be implemented by gaming machine 100 or 300, and the exact shape and size of probability distribution 1411 may be varied to alter the probabilities of a player winning monetary and non-monetary prizes. For example, if probability distribution 1411 were to take up the whole graph 1400, the probability of the player winning a monetary prize would be 50%, and the probability of the player winning a non- monetary prize would also be 50%, such that the probability of the player winning both a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize, or of winning neither prize, would be 25% each. In some embodiments, probability distribution 1411 may be shifted. If probability distribution 1411 is shifted to the left and up, a player may be more likely to win both a monetary prize and a non-monetary prize, and less likely to not win either prize. If probability distribution 1411 is shifted to the left and down, a player may be more likely to win a non-monetary prize, and less likely to win a monetary prize.

The size and shape of probability distribution 1411 may also be altered, such as by being more circular, or in a horse-shoe or U-shape, for example. Probability distribution 1411 need not be symmetrical or curved in shape, and may be a triangle, square, rectangular, or other shape. The exact shape and dimensions of probability distribution 1411 may be determined based on the desired operating characteristics of gaming machine 100. The intersection of probability distribution 1411 with monetary award-winning areas 1407 and 1408 may first be determined based on regulatory requirements, and a desired profitability of gaming machine 100 or 300. Subsequently, the intersection of probability distribution 1411 with non-monetary award- winning areas 1409 and 1410 may be determined to allow for a higher player satisfaction through the award of non-monetary prizes. Figures 15A to 15B show a character with varying types of aesthetic and game- influencing items.

Figure 15A shows a character 1500 that may be a basic character according to some embodiments. The basic character may be a character that a player is given at the start of a game, having the lowest level in the game. The character may be wearing some basic aesthetic items such as a hood 1501, tights 1502 and boots 1503. The character may additionally have some basic game-influencing items, such as staff 1504.

Figure 15B shows a character 1520 that has additional aesthetic items that may have been won as a non-monetary reward by a player during play of the meta-game, as described above with reference to Figure 5. In some embodiments, character 1500 may transform into character 1520 when character 1500 reaches a particular level, based on progress in the meta-game or feature game. Character 1520 has a different style of hood 1521, and is also wearing a tunic 1522, pants 1523 and shoes 1524. These aesthetic items do not influence the abilities of character 1520. Character 1520 is using the same staff as character 1500, being staff 1504.

Figure 15C shows a character 1540 that has additional aesthetic and game-influencing items that may have been won as a non-monetary reward by a player during play of the meta-game, as described above with reference to Figure 5. In some embodiments, character 1520 may transform into character 1540 when character 1520 reaches a particular level, based on progress in the meta-game or feature game. Character 1540 has a different style of hood 1541, tunic 1542, pants 1543 and shoes 1544. These aesthetic items do not influence the abilities of character 1540. Character 1540 is also carrying a different staff to characters 1500 and 1520, being staff 1545. According to some embodiments, staff 1545 may be a game-influencing item that may give character 1540 increased abilities, such as increased strength or reflexes when fighting. Character 1540 additionally has a knife 1546, which may be a game-influencing item that the player can use for increased abilities when fighting in close combat with an opponent. Hood 1541, tunic 1542, pants 1543, shoes 1544, staff 1545 and knife 1546 are further examples of non-monetary rewards that can be won during game play in the base game, the meta-game and/or the feature game.

Figure 16 shows a chart 1600 of the various pathways for winning monetary and non- monetary prizes via a gaming environment 1601 presented on gaming machine 100/300. According to some embodiments, from gaming environment 1601, a player can play both a chance based game 1602 and a skill based game 1603. Chance based game 1604 may allow a player to win monetary rewards 1604 based on the outcome of the game through base game pay-table data 403, as described above with reference to Figure 8. Chance based game 1602 may also allow a player to make meta-game progress 1605 based on the outcome of the game, or to win direct non-monetary rewards 1606, based on meta-game pay-table data 403, as described below with reference to Figure 17. The meta-game progress 1605 may contribute toward the completion of in-game tasks or quests or other meta-game objectives, and the completion of a task, quest or other meta-game objective may allow a player to win a direct non-monetary reward 1606. Non-monetary rewards 1606 may include in-game currency 1607, aesthetic items 1608, game influencing items 1609 and consumable items 1610. In game currency 1607 may be used by a player to purchase one or more of an aesthetic item 1608, game influencing item 1609 or consumable item 1610.

Skill based game 1603 may allow a player to win monetary rewards 1606 based on the outcome of the game. Skill based game 1603 may also allow a player to win direct nonmonetary rewards 1606. As described above, non-monetary rewards 1606 may include in-game currency 1607, aesthetic items 1608, game influencing items 1609 and consumable items 1610.

Figure 17 is an example screenshot of a base game screen 1700 of gaming machine 100, as generated by base game module 411 based on information read by processor 202 from symbol data 401. Screen 1700 displays a symbol set 802 for a base game, as described in further detail above with reference to Figures 8 to 10. Screen 1700 also displays a selected character 803, and credit, bet and win meters 804 which may display an amount of credit that a player has, an amount bet, and an amount won in a particular gaming session. Selected character 803 may be a character selected by the player using character selection screen 600, as shown in Figure 6. Screen 1700 also shows level indicator 806, which shows a current level (being level 19 in the illustrated embodiment) along with a bar graph showing the level of progress to the next level (being level 20 in the illustrated embodiment). Level indicator 806 is described in further detail above with reference to Figures 11 to 12C.

Figure 17 shows character skill bar 1701, which may show the character's strength, agility, speed, or other characteristics. Figure 17 also shows the character name, level and type in character summary 1705. In the illustrated embodiment, the character is a level 19 mage, and the character name is Mortimer Finn. The character name may be selected by the player, randomly generated, or tied to the player type.

Figure 17 shows a number of overlay symbols 1702, 1703 and 1704 that may be used to determine the results of a meta-game based on meta-game pay-table data 403. In the illustrated embodiment, overlay symbols include gold stars 1702, silver stars 1703 and bronze stars 1704. According to some embodiments, the appearance and arrangement of the overlay symbols may be used to determine the outcome of the meta-game. The outcome may be determined based on the position of the overlay symbols with respect to one another, and/or the position of the overlay symbols with respect to symbol sets 802. An example pay-table for non-monetary prizes that may be awarded during the meta- game based on the appearance of a predetermined overlay symbol combination is shown below as Table 4:

Table 4

The table shows both direct non-monetary prizes (e.g. an amount of gold, or a skill card) as well as meta-game progress awards (e.g. gold quest ticks) that may be awarded based on a particular combination of overlay symbols appearing during the chance based game.

According to some embodiments, meta-game task data 404 may store relationships between the meta-game progress awards and the non-monetary rewards that may be awarded to a player on completion of a quest. One example of a set of meta-game task data 404 that may be used to determine the non-monetary rewards to award a player based on the meta-game progress awards that they have been awarded is shown below in Table 5. The meta-game progress awards may have been awarded to the player based on the appearance of a predetermined overlay symbol combination as shown above in Table 4, for example.

Quest Requirement Reward A 15 Bronze Quest Ticks 300 Gold, 1 Fragment

B 30 Bronze Quest Ticks 400 Gold, 1 Fragment

C 15 Silver Quest Ticks 7500 Gold, 1 Discard

D 15 Gold Quest Ticks 2x Skill Cards

E 50 Bronze Quest Ticks 3x Skill Cards, 1500 Gold

Table 5

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments, without departing from the broad general scope of the present disclosure. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive.

While the foregoing description has been provided by way of example of the preferred embodiments as presently contemplated, which utilise gaming machines of the type found in casinos, those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that described embodiments also may have application to internet gaming and/or have application to gaming over a telecommunications network, where mobile handsets are used to display game outcomes and receive player inputs. Such mobile devices include smart phones, notebooks, tablets, iPads and laptop computers. For instance free mobile device games may be offered for download and play on a player's personal mobile device as a bonus game play. In some embodiments, these downloads may be made available on a server accessible via an internet connection. In some embodiments, gaming machine 100/304 may comprise a communication interface to enable interaction and data transfer between the personal mobile devices and gaming machine 100/304, to allow downloads from gaming machine 100/304 to the personal mobile device. The communication interface may be a wireless interface in some embodiments.

Further embodiments may enable a player to upload the outcome of a game or bonus game to a social media site(s), post tournament scores etc.

Certain steps in the processes or process flows described in this disclosure naturally precede others for the embodiments to function as described. However, embodiments are not limited to the order of the steps described if such order or sequence does not alter the functionality of the described embodiments. That is, it is recognized that some steps may performed before, after, or parallel (substantially simultaneously with) other steps without departing from the scope and spirit of the present disclosure. In some instances, certain steps may be omitted or not performed. Further, words such as "thereafter", "then", "next", etc. are not intended to limit the order of the steps. These words are simply used to guide the reader through the description of the exemplary method.

In one or more exemplary aspects, the functions described may be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof. If implemented in software, the functions may be stored on or transmitted as one or more instructions or code on a computer-readable medium. Computer-readable media include both computer storage media and communication media including any medium that facilitates transfer of a computer program from one place to another.

A storage media may be any available media that may be accessed by a computer. By way of example, and not limitation, such computer-readable media may comprise RAM, ROM, EEPROM, CD-ROM or other optical disk storage, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium that may be used to carry or store desired program code in the form of instructions or data structures and that may be accessed by a computer.

Also, any connection is properly termed a computer-readable medium. For example, if the software is transmitted from a website, server, or other remote source using a coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, twisted pair, digital subscriber line ("DSL"), or wireless technologies such as infrared, radio, and microwave, then the coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, twisted pair, DSL, or wireless technologies such as infrared, radio, and microwave are included in the definition of medium.