US 20070082738 A1
In accordance with the present invention, a method for creating a system of self-organizing colonies of players engaged in turn based games and other social activities performed within a web browser is provided. The approach described here partitions the game site population into distinct colonies with the appropriate activities and design such that the players create a community environment. Playing online games and chatting are examples of social networking activities; therefore, an invention that combines self-organizing capabilities to these activities will enhance the social experience. Essentially, the notion becomes a game within a game where the players change aspects of the rules governing the site and the games themselves. In particular, tests have demonstrated that game players create their own distinct communities just as thermodynamic theory predicts.
1. A method for managing online user community comprising of:
(a) providing asynchronous access to social networking activities viewed on client software connecting said population to a plurality of compute servers,
(b) regulating said activities by means of a rules engine that controls interactions among a user membership,
(c) adapting rules of said engine based on user preferences or behaviors captured over time,
whereby users self-organize into a cohesive, stable population.
2. Asynchronous access of
3. Social networking activities of
4. Users self-organize of
5. The method of compiling user preferences set forth of
6. The term online of
7. Client software of
Provisional Application 60/723,963 filed on Oct. 6, 2005.
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application 60/723,963 filed on Oct. 6, 2005, entitled “Self-Organizing Turn Based Games and Social Activities on a Computer Network.”
This invention relates to the improvement of online turn-based, browser games and the social networking activities such as online chat rooms. A more evolved player community results by applying the principles of self-organizing systems to a social networking framework.
Turn-based gaming (sometimes known as turn-based strategy) is a term of art used within the online Internet community. Players agree to a game, set up the initial state of the game, and agree upon a timeout period. Each participant plays in turn according to the game rules. Once each player has taken his or her turn that round of play is over, and any shared processing is performed. This procedure repeats to the next round of play. The cycle continues until a winner is declared.
Internet games are games that are played online via the Internet. They are distinct from video and computer games in that they are normally platform independent, except those games that rely on client-side technologies (often called ‘plug-ins’). Normally, all that is required to play Internet games are a web browser and the appropriate plug-in (frequently available for free via the plug-in maker's website). A game played within a browser is often called a browser-based game.
There are many different plug-ins used to play online games. The Java virtual machine (JVM), Shockwave, and Flash are examples of plug-in technology. There are specialized tools used to create games employing these technologies. Games that require plug-ins are usually based on the client-side; that is, much of the processing is done by the player's computer instead of the server hosting the game.
Server-side games occupy the opposite side of the software spectrum. They process game play on a server instead of the player's computer. Server-side games are typically not as visually appealing as client-side based games, but easily compensate with more advanced functionality. The server can apply complex rules, compute scores, and record all manner of player interactions. Furthermore, it is easier to implement multiplayer games with server software.
The elusive goal of online gaming is to create a dynamic, responsive interface that allows players to interact as if they were playing cards at the kitchen table. It is hard to attain the real-time responsiveness one needs to support a social function like chatting with all the advantages that client-server computing brings. The problem essentially boils down to limitations of the Internet as viewed by Web browsers.
Though rich in content and media, the Web tends to be a traditional one-way broadcast medium, like radio and TV, with the largest number of people being passive information consumers. Sharing or publishing information from the client side is another matter. People currently use Web browsers to find and read information. Publishing information is relatively rare but the requirements are growing. The rapid acceptance of web logs indicates need. Web logs (frequently called blogs) follows a bulletin board technique where the users post a message to a server that eventually gets added to a common Web page for others to view. Most online gaming sites that try to incorporate social networking features like chatting adopt a blog approach. Unfortunately, the delays inherent to blogging fall well short of the dynamics of human conversation.
The problem with browsers supporting chat rooms and responsive server-side games is the fact that the Web was not designed to support real-time, peer-to-peer communication. Web technology essentially follows a pull model. Web browsers send HTTP requests (GET, POST) to the Web servers and receive contents in response. The model of push feeds contents directly from Web servers to Web clients. RSS, for example, is a push protocol for headline news. Generic push, however, has never come to be a protocol for the Web. For many people, push went quiet during the last few years when systems like Marimba and Castanet disappeared.
Instant messaging (IM) comes closest to approximating human conversation responsive enough for online games. Web browsers were not designed to synchronize real-time events and manipulate communication sockets in the way that instant messaging applications do.
Many domain experts have come to the conclusion that Web browsers and IM are incompatible because IM essentially follows a push model. Some Instant Messaging systems do have browser interfaces. For example, there is ICQ in Internet Explorer. However, such IM implementations within a browser are essentially coupling the IM program together with the browser via remote-procedural calls from within a specific operating system (Windows, Linux, etc.). They do not operate on, and exchange the contents and media of, Web browsers.
The study of order creation within open thermodynamic systems gave rise to the notion of self-organizing systems (SOS) and dissipative structures [Nicolis and Prigogine, 1989]. Ecology provides illustrations of how a SOS perspective differs from standard approaches. Scientists are interested in how spatial and temporal patterns such as patches, boundaries, cycles, and succession arise in complex, heterogeneous communities. Early models of pattern formation use a ‘top-down’ approach, meaning the parameters describe the higher hierarchical levels of the system. For instance, individual trees are not described explicitly, but patches of trees are. Or predators are modeled as a homogeneous population that uniformly impacts a homogeneous prey population. In this way, the population dynamics are defined at the higher level of the population, rather than being the results of activity at the lower level of the individual [Ashby, 1962; Eigen and Schuster, 1979; Lendaris, 1964].
The problem with this top-down approach is that it violates two basic features of biological (and many physiochemical) phenomena: individuality and locality. Modeling a rodent population as a group of rodents with some growth and behavior parameters (so-called lumped parameter models), differences that might exist between individual rodents become ignored. Some are big, some are small, some reproduce more, and some get eaten more. These small differences in the micro-scale can lead to larger differences in the macro-scale. For example, changes in the population gene frequencies, individual body size, or population densities might have cascading effects at still higher levels of organization.
Humans also self-organize information while surfing the Web. Harvesting hyperlinks within HTML pages of interest create valuable information than can be further utilized. Google capitalizes on this SOS behavior to create high quality Web searches. Hyperlinks to information that have the high frequency among a world-wide population reveal a measure of relevance. Google gages importance of underlying information by finding the most frequently cited hyperlinks related to a given phrase.
In accordance with the present invention, a method for creating a system of self-organizing colonies of players engaged in turn based games and other socialization activities performed within a web browser is provided. Most web sites catering to online gaming are monolithic in nature servicing many thousands up to several million players simultaneously. The approach described here partitions the game site population into distinct colonies with the appropriate activities and design such that the players create a community environment. In the aggregate, the total gaming population using the same machinery described here may be in the millions, the size of the individual colonies will be restricted to a few hundred.
Playing online games and chatting are examples of social networking activities; therefore, an invention that combines self-organizing capabilities to these activities will enhance the social experience. Essentially, the notion becomes a game within a game where the players change aspects of the rules governing the site and the games themselves. In particular, tests have demonstrated that game players create their own distinct communities just as thermodynamic theory predicts. Self-organization in the colonies can become manifested in several ways. Selecting a colony might be based on player characteristics. Possibilities for segregation are:
Individual users can become members of more than one colony. Each member has a home colony, but they can move between colonies through passports (permissions granted within the database server).
A screen shot of the user's desktop 301 is shown in
The Waiting Room 401 is like a game room except here users post their preferences for games they desire to play. Other users can enter that room and claim game challenges. Button controls include Refresh 402, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) 403, Help 404, and Logout 405. Refresh activates the HTTP request to the web server 103 to reload the HTML page. FAQ loads HTML instructions with overview questions and answers to assist new users. Help activates game rules in effect with this particular colony. Logout eliminates a user from the active list and returns a validation screen to re-login at a future time.
To the right of the game icons is a Who's Online region 406 and Point Leaders region 407. These scrollable windows list of game players presently active and the game point leaders of this colony, respectively. The lower part of the desktop 301 addresses the messaging system 306. Private Notes 408 on the lower right involve instant messaging between two users within the colony. Public Notes 410 on the lower left allow users to both post and view general interest comments or announcements to a bulletin board. These Public Notes are visible to everyone in a colony. The user's desktop 301 also includes his associated avatar image 411 and other cumulative statistics related to that user such as points earned during the month, total points, balance, and the like.
The colony map 302 is activated when users activate the colony map icon 409 (shown here for colony “Atlantis”) on the desktop 301. This screen forms the center of the role-playing activities within a self-organizing colony 202. The function of the colony map is to provide access to the various chat rooms 304.
An enlarged view of a chat room is shown in
When avatars engage in conversation, text appears within a balloon 907 in a fashion resembling comic books. The user inputs his remarks through a scrollable text widget 903. After inputting those text remarks, the chat snippet is sent by activating the “Post” button 902 to forward the information to the web server 101. The web server processes this information and displays the results into the common chat room image. It positions a balloon containing those remarks over the avatar representing the user who sent them. Each avatar can send comments in conversational form and the balloons adjust accordingly. The image server 104 adjusts the optimal placement of the balloons to make viewing the entire conversation between avatars possible. It avoids overlapping balloons and will truncate as needed. In addition to balloon text, a conversation transcript is recorded in the message log region 901.
Text balloons are ephemeral to mimic spoken conversation between humans. The server side software 100 removes the balloons after a set period of time by way of a software timer. Text balloons with a shelf-life gives the invention special appeal beyond typical comic book presentations. For humans in real life to participate in conversation, they must be there to witness it. Similarly, the software in accordance with the present invention imposes the same dynamic on users represented as avatars. Users can see and experience the specific conversations within a chat room only if they were viewing it in real time. In other words, the avatars/users have to be in the chat room at the time the events transpire in order to share the experience.
The message log 901 records the time, avatar identifier, and chat text at the same time the balloons appear within the chat room scene. These lines do not disappear in the same manner as the balloons. After a set number of lines are recorded, but oldest lines are scrolled out of view. The message log 901 helps users who read slowly or like to catch up on conversations while they were momentarily distracted. There are alternate embodiments of this invention where a full and complete transcript is recorded to be read by others who were not witnessing the events in real time. Chat Rooms used for depositions, court proceedings, business conferences, town hall meetings are examples where the addition of a permanent record proves useful. In such instances, the message log 901 becomes a scrollable text widget (not shown) and the database 102 tables are modified to store all the chat text traffic for a given chat session.
Avatar activity is not necessarily the only dynamic components in a chat room environment. The screen shot in
Avatars do not necessarily represent actual human players in all cases. An alternate embodiment of the instant invention is to have avatar activity supported by server side software components 100 directly. Automated avatars that can conduct software-driven chatting are frequently called chatbots.
The rules engine 307 in
The rules engine 307 applies the aggregate preferences to the dynamics of a given colony's operation. As an illustration, Colony 1 may become a competitive gaming site where most of the games might be strategy oriented and the timeouts are relatively short. The number of chat rooms may be few. Instead, Colony 1 focuses its resources on points, tourneys, and tournaments. In the alternative, Colony 2 may be more relaxed with more games of chance and generous timeouts. The bulk of peoples' time might be devoted to chatting resulting in more chat room environments. The ability for the structure of colonies to change based on user input should generate a diverse universe of colony types.
Alternate embodiments of this invention is to employ rules engines based on sophisticated software technology such as expert systems, data mining of user participation, and machine learning. In other words, the rules engine can adapt to user participation patterns. The rules engine may tune its rules by analyzing player interactions with the site. For example, if a specific game seems to have fallen out of favor, the colony's rules engine may substitute another game of a different type. These changes can be in addition to direct user input or completely based on anecdotal evidence or any weighting of the two.
This invention does not lay claim to inventing the technology for rules engines per se. There are many references to rules engine construction for all manner of experiments in artificial intelligence research [Henry, 1984; Bigus, 2001]. This invention improves social networking and game play through the application of rules engines in creating self-organizing colonies.
This invention relates to the improvement of online turn-based, browser games and the social networking activities such as online chat rooms. A more evolved player community results by applying the principles of self-organizing systems to the gaming framework.
This invention encompasses building social networks of people using self-organizing system software. Examples of social networks include playing turn-based games and communicating (chat, e-mail, messaging, etc.). The encapsulated idea is to build communities from the bottom up instead of the top down. By way of comparison, most popular Internet companies like Yahoo, MySpace, and Pogo (Electronic Arts) build their membership from the top down. Their user communities ultimately grow too large to sustain cohesiveness. Observations of actual biological communities form the basis of self-organization theory; consequently, employing a more natural approach to human behavior should prove superior.
A compact disc has been included with the specification. It contains working software that demonstrates the functionality described above. The software application already generates commercial revenue. As expected, new users have noted the uniqueness of the approach described here compared to other alternatives currently available on the Internet. Members pay to play games and chat using this invention on multiple colonies of up to 500 members each.
Although the description above contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. Thus the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the examples given.