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Publication numberUS20100304865 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/474,260
Publication date2 Dec 2010
Filing date28 May 2009
Priority date28 May 2009
Publication number12474260, 474260, US 2010/0304865 A1, US 2010/304865 A1, US 20100304865 A1, US 20100304865A1, US 2010304865 A1, US 2010304865A1, US-A1-20100304865, US-A1-2010304865, US2010/0304865A1, US2010/304865A1, US20100304865 A1, US20100304865A1, US2010304865 A1, US2010304865A1
InventorsRobert Picunko, Anthony Calandra, Darren Richardson
Original AssigneeHarmonix Music Systems, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Simulated Guitar Controller with Split Strum Bar
US 20100304865 A1
Abstract
A simulated guitar controller is disclosed that facilitates a player using multiple fingers to strum notes which includes a body portion, a plurality of strum bars disposed on a front face of the body portion, a neck portion extending outwardly away from the body portion, and a plurality of fret buttons disposed on the neck portion.
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Claims(16)
1. A game controller simulating a guitar which facilitates a player using multiple fingers to strum notes, the controller comprising:
a body portion;
a plurality of strum bars disposed on a front face of the body portion;
a neck portion extending outwardly away from the body portion; and
a plurality of fret buttons disposed on the neck portion.
2. The game controller of claim 1 further comprising a thumb rest positioned on the front face of the body portion.
3. The game controller of claim 1 wherein the plurality of strum bars pivot with respect to a single axis.
4. The game controller of claim 1 wherein the plurality of strum bars pivot with respect to a plurality of axis.
5. The game controller of claim 4 wherein the plurality of strum bars correspond to a plurality of pivot bars.
6. The game controller of claim 5 wherein the plurality of pivot bars are arranged in parallel on the body portion.
7. The game controller of claim 1 wherein the plurality of strum bars is connected electrically in common.
8. The game controller of claim 1 wherein each of the plurality of strum bars shares a common pivot bar.
9. The game controller of claim 1 wherein activation of each of the plurality of strum bars causes the controller to produce a unique output.
10. The game controller of claim 1 wherein activation of each of the plurality of strum bars causes the controller to produce an identical output.
11. The game controller of claim 1 wherein the plurality of strum bars comprises three strum bars.
12. The game controller of claim 1 wherein the plurality of strum bars comprises four strum bars.
13. The game controller of claim 1 further comprising a whammy knob.
14. A method for facilitating interaction of a video game player with a game controller that simulates a guitar, the method comprising:
providing a game controller comprising a body portion, a neck portion extending outwardly from the body portion, and a plurality of strum bars positioned on a front face of the body portion;
displaying to the player a first target musical data associate with a musical composition; and
detecting an input generated by the player strumming at least one of the plurality of strum bars that corresponds to the first target musical data.
15. The method of claim 14 wherein the detecting step further comprises detecting an input generated by the player strumming more than one of the plurality of strum bars during a particular time period as a single strum.
16. The method of claim 14 further comprising evaluating the input generated by the player and the first target musical data to provide a player score.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    This invention relates to video game controllers and, more particularly, to video game controllers that emulate a guitar or bass guitar musical instrument to provide game input.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0002]
    “Rhythm-action” is a popular video game genre which requires a player to perform phrases from a pre-recorded musical composition using the video game's input device. In this series of games the notes in musical phrases are graphically displayed to the player as a series of visual markers spaced along one or more timelines; each marker corresponds to one note in the phrase. In the block diagram environment shown in FIG. 1, visual markers 104 move from the top of the display to the bottom of the display. As each marker on the scrolling timelines 110, 120, 130, 140 passes a graphical cursor 108 displayed along this timeline, the player must simultaneously press a button on an input device (not shown) corresponding to the correct timeline to play the sound of the corresponding note at the correct time. If the player performs this action successfully for a sufficient percentage of the notes, he scores well and wins the game. If the player fails to perform this action successfully for a sufficient percentage of the notes, he scores poorly and loses the game. As shown in FIG. 1, two or more players may compete against each other, typically by each one attempting to play back different, parallel musical phrases from the same song simultaneously. The player who plays the highest percentage of notes correctly achieves the highest score and wins.
  • [0003]
    Video game controllers for “rhythm-action” games are designed to allow players to provide inputs to the game console in a life-like fashion. However, the controller is limited by the ability of the player to manipulate the buttons or components of the controller as well as the ability of the controller to accept the inputs from players with a variety of skill levels. In addition, simulated game controllers, including guitar controllers, are often designed to be as realistic in appearance and function as possible. The design of a game controller must therefore include aspects of a “real” guitar while also maintaining a look and feel that is unique to a video game controller and video game operations. Finally, a simulated game controller must also be useable by players who have minimal experience playing or maneuvering real instruments. Developing a simulated game controller that is too similar to a real instrument may discourage players who have no experience playing musical instruments.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    A simulated game controller is desired that can be manipulated similarly to a “real” musical instrument, for example a guitar, while also maintaining a simplicity of operation such that musical beginners are able to participate and enjoy using the simulated instrument controller.
  • [0005]
    In one aspect of the present invention, the invention includes a game controller for simulating a guitar which facilitates a player using multiple fingers to strum notes. In one embodiment, the controller includes a body portion, a plurality of strum bars disposed on a front face of the body portion, a neck portion extending outwardly away from the body portion, and a plurality of fret buttons disposed on the neck portion.
  • [0006]
    In another aspect of the invention, the invention includes a method for facilitating interaction of a video game player with a game controller that simulates a guitar. In some embodiments, a game controller comprising a body portion can be provided wherein a neck portion extends outwardly from the body portion and a plurality of strum bars are positioned on a front face of the body portion. Further, a first target musical data associate with a musical composition can be displayed to the player. Finally, an input generated by the player strumming at least one of the plurality of strum bars can be detected that that corresponds to the first target musical data.
  • [0007]
    Any of the aspects can also include one or more of the following features. In some embodiments the game controller includes a thumb rest positioned on the front face of the body portion. Some embodiments can also include a whammy knob or whammy bar disposed on the front face of the body portion of the guitar. And in some embodiments the game controller can include a plurality of strum bars that pivot with respect to a single axis. In some embodiments, the plurality of strum bars pivot with respect to a plurality of axis. The plurality of strum bars can correspond to a plurality of pivot bars. The plurality of pivot bars can be arranged in parallel on the body portion. The plurality of strum bars can be connected electrically in common. And in some embodiments, the plurality of strum bars shares a common pivot bar. In some embodiments, the plurality of strum bars comprises three or four strum bars.
  • [0008]
    Any of the aspects above can also include one or more of the following features. The activation of each of the plurality of strum bars can cause the controller to produce a unique output. And in some embodiments activation of each of the plurality of strum bars can cause the controller to produce an identical output.
  • [0009]
    Any of the aspects above can also include one or more of the following features. An input generated by the player strumming more than one of the plurality of strum bars during a particular time period can be detected as a single strum. And in some embodiments the input generated by the player can be evaluated with the first target musical data to provide a player score.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0010]
    The invention is pointed out with particularity in the appended claims. The advantages of the invention described above, as well as further advantages of the invention, may be better understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
  • [0011]
    FIG. 1 is a block diagram depiction of one embodiment of a rhythm-action game environment;
  • [0012]
    FIG. 2 is a configuration diagram of one embodiment of a guitar controller with a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0013]
    FIG. 2A is a configuration diagram of another embodiment of a guitar controller with a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0014]
    FIG. 2B is a configuration diagram of another embodiment of a guitar controller with a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0015]
    FIG. 2C is a configuration diagram of yet another embodiment of a guitar controller having two sets of fret buttons disposed on the neck of the guitar with a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0016]
    FIG. 2D is a configuration diagram of another embodiment of a guitar controller having a whammy bar in a first position and a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0017]
    FIG. 2E is a side view diagram of an embodiment of a game controller simulating a guitar that includes a whammy bar and a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2F is a configuration diagram of yet another embodiment of a guitar controller having two sets of fret buttons disposed on the neck of the guitar and a plurality of strum bars that share a common axis disposed on the front face of the body portion of the guitar;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 2G. is a configuration diagram of an embodiment of a guitar that includes a split strum bar;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 2H is a configuration diagram of an embodiment of the components of a split strum bar;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 2I. is a configuration diagram of an embodiment of a guitar that includes two split strum bars arranged in parallel;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 3 is a screen shot depicting one embodiment of a screen display of a rhythm action game;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 3A is a screen shot depicting one embodiment of a screen display of a rhythm action game;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 3B is a flow diagram illustrating one embodiment of a method for facilitating interaction of a player with a music-based video game using a game controller simulating a guitar;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 3C is a flow diagram illustrating one embodiment of a method for facilitating interaction of a player with a music-based video game using a game controller simulating a guitar that includes a split strum bar;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 4 is a screen shot depicting one embodiment of a screen display in which a player affects gameplay using a guitar controller having a whammy bar;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 5 is a screen shot depicting another embodiment of a screen display in which a player affects gameplay using a guitar controller having a whammy bar.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0028]
    Game controllers simulating instruments may provide a note-producing mechanism different from that usually associated with a simulated instrument. Referring now to FIG. 2, an embodiment of a simulated guitar controller 200 for use with a video game is shown. The simulated guitar controller 200 is provided with fret buttons 220. Although five fret buttons are shown in FIG. 2, any number of fret buttons 220 may be provided by the controller 200. The simulated guitar controller also includes a “strum bar” 240. In order to successfully “play” a game event, the player holds down one or more of the fret buttons 220 while simultaneously strumming the strum bar 240, in much the same way that one would play a guitar. In some embodiments players may also execute “hammer ons” and “pull offs,” as described below, which allow a player to “play” a game event by pressing or releasing only a fret button 220.
  • [0029]
    FIGS. 2A and 2B depict alternate embodiments of the guitar controller of FIG. 2. FIG. 2A depicts an embodiment of the guitar controller intended to simulate a guitar model by Gibson known as the “Flying V.” FIG. 2B depicts an embodiment of the guitar controller intended to simulate a guitar model known as the “Moderne.” Any other body styling may be provided. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 7,320,643, assigned to Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. Cambridge Mass., which is herein incorporated by reference, discusses a multitude of additional styles of guitars that may be used in some embodiments. In some embodiments, FIG. 2B, a simulated guitar controller can include a thumb rest 245 which is located such that a player can support their hand that manipulates the strum bar 240. The thumb rest can be located on the face of the body portion of the simulated guitar controller.
  • [0030]
    FIG. 2C depicts another alternate embodiment of the guitar controller having two sets of fret buttons 220, 220′. As shown in FIG. 2C a second set of fret buttons 220′ is disposed on the “neck” of the guitar proximal to the guitar body, i.e. in between the first set of fret buttons 220 and the guitar body. In some embodiments, the ordering of the second set of fret buttons 220′ is the same as the first set of fret buttons 220; that is, if the first set of fret buttons 220 are colored, beginning at the “head” of the guitar neck and moving toward the body, green, red, yellow, blue, orange, then the second set of fret buttons 220′ have the same coloring as one continues down the neck toward the guitar body.
  • [0031]
    In some embodiments, the fret buttons 220 and 220′ may be colored to indicate that the buttons correspond to a particular note, chord, or fret. In some embodiments, a fret button 220 may indicate color by the color of the entire fret button. In other embodiments, only a portion of the fret button may be colored. For example, a fret button may be mostly black, but contain a colored dot or stripe indicating color. Or for example, the fret button may be clear, and one or more lights underneath the fret button may indicate the color.
  • [0032]
    In other embodiments, other markings on the neck may indicate the “color” of a particular fret button. For example, colored dots may be placed on the neck of the guitar next to one or more fret buttons 220 indicating the color corresponding to the fret button. In another example, patterns of dots may be used to indicate the note, chord, or fret to which a given button corresponds, similar to the patterns of dots used on traditional guitars to designate frets by thirds and octaves. In these embodiments, the fret buttons themselves may be white, clear, black, or all colored a similar color. In still other embodiments, one set of fret buttons 220 may be colored, while a second set of fret buttons is colorless. For example, in an embodiment such as the one shown in FIG. 2F, only one of the two fret buttons disposed on a given fret may be colored.
  • [0033]
    In some embodiments, a user of a guitar controller may be able to change the colors corresponding to one or more fret buttons, such as by using stickers, removable button colors, multiple colored LED's under the fret buttons, or otherwise. A game using the guitar controller may then have a configuration tool such that the user can configure the game to recognize the altered colors.
  • [0034]
    Although shown in FIG. 2C as round buttons, fret buttons 220′ may be any shape or size, including the same shape and size of the first set of fret buttons 220.
  • [0035]
    Referring ahead to FIG. 2F, the second set of fret buttons 220′ may be positioned on the neck portion of the guitar controller such that respective ones of the first set of fret buttons and corresponding ones of the second set of fret buttons are positioned on the same fret of the neck (i.e. a red fret button of the first set of buttons 220 and a red fret button of the second set of fret buttons 220′ are located near each other on the same “fret” of the neck portion of the guitar controller). In specific ones of these embodiments, fret buttons are physically connected to a toggle switch which allows a single physical button to provide two fret buttons, one associated with a first set of fret buttons and one provided with a second set of fret buttons. In further embodiments, respective ones of the first set of fret buttons 220 and corresponding ones of the second set of fret buttons 220′ are electrically connected, e.g. wired together, so that activation of either one of the respective fret buttons is identified by the controller as activation of the fret button, regardless of whether the fret button from the first set of fret buttons 220, the fret button from the second set of fret buttons 220′, or both, are activated. In still other embodiments, the respective ones of the fret buttons are not wired together, that is, the controller can distinguish between activation of fret buttons in one set versus activation of fret button in another set.
  • [0036]
    In some of these latter embodiments, the second set of fret buttons 220′ may be used for playing “solos” during gameplay. Use of the guitar controller in this manner provides a player with a more realistic gameplay experience, since guitar solos are often played very close to the body of the guitar. In some embodiments, the second set of fret buttons 220; may be the only set of fret buttons on which hammer-ons and pull-offs may be executed, as described below. In other embodiments, the second set of fret buttons 220′ may be used to trigger specific guitar effects, such as pick slides, screeches, or feedback. Alternatively, “performing” using the second set of fret buttons may alter game graphics (such as venue animation, venue lighting, crowd animation, brightness, avatar animation, game cue sustain tail, game cue brightness, game cue sustain tail brightness, game cue size, game cue shape, game cue sustain tail pulsation, and game cue sustain tail size), sound quality, or other gameplay characteristics, such as character health, character wealth in the game, the player's score, or in-game “powerups.”
  • [0037]
    Referring back to any one of FIGS. 2, 2A, 2B and 2C, the simulated guitar controller 200 also includes a vibrato bar 260, also known to guitar players as a tremolo bar or “whammy bar.” The vibrato bar 260, for convenience, will be referred to throughout the remainder of this document as a “whammy bar.” The whammy bar 260, as will be described below, may be used to alter the frequency, pitch, volume, sound quality, distortion, simulated feedback sound, or any other attribute of the current note or chord being played by the player. In some embodiments, the operations and effects of a whammy bar can also be realized through the use of a whammy knob, FIG. 2G.
  • [0038]
    The whammy bar 260 of the controller resembles a whammy bar of a real guitar. As shown in FIG. 2D, and with comparison to FIG. 2B, the whammy bar 260 can be rotated to any one of a number of positions for the convenience of the player. As shown in FIG. 2D, the whammy bar 260 has been rotated to a position that places it out of the way of the player's strumming hand. In some embodiments, the whammy bar 260 is spring-loaded, like the whammy bar of a real guitar. In these embodiments, as depicted by FIG. 2E, the whammy bar 260 can be pushed down or pulled up to affect the played note. When released, it settles back to its default, neutral position.
  • [0039]
    The whammy bar is typically manipulated by the guitarist's strumming hand, that is, the hand with which the player operates the strum bar 240. In a real guitar, manipulating the whammy bar directly affects the tension of the guitar strings, and therefore causes the pitch of the vibrating strings to rise and fall as the bar is pulled or pushed. The simulated whammy bar of the guitar controller, the vibrato bar, can be used as a continuous controlling actuator, much like a joystick. Typically, the vibrato bar has a single degree-of-freedom, but it may have more degrees of freedom. It may additionally be used as an on-off switch, instead of a continuous controller. The whammy bar 260 of the controller looks and feels like the whammy bar of a real guitar, and, therefore provides a much more enjoyable gaming experience for the player.
  • [0040]
    The guitar controller 200 also allows a player to use more sophisticated guitar playing techniques to interact with a game. Two such techniques are “hammer ons” and “pull offs.” Hammer-ons and pull-offs allow a guitarist to player notes in rapid succession. Typically, they only require the use of the player's fretting hand. To play a hammer-on note, the guitarist uses one of the free fingers of his fretting hand to strike the guitar string with high velocity. This results in the string vibrating due to the force of the string hitting a fret. As a result, the string need not be strummed by the strumming hand. Pull offs require the guitarist to tug slightly on the string when he releases it from a fret. This pulling action also causes the string to vibrate more, again, eliminating the need to strum the string with the strumming hand.
  • [0041]
    In the simulated guitar controller 200, hammer-ons may be simulated by allowing the player to press down fret buttons 220 without needing to simultaneously strum the strum bar 240. This is achieved by the manufacturer of the game authoring the game content to identify a note as amenable to hammering on or pulling off. For a hammer on, a player will generally need to capture a “lower” pitched note traditionally, that is, by holding down a fret button and simultaneously activating the strum bar. If the next note is identified as amenable to being played by a hammer technique, the player need only activates the “higher” pitched fret button to successfully capture the note.
  • [0042]
    Similarly, in pull-offs, the player can “play a note” by releasing a fret button 220 without needing to simultaneously strum the strum bar 240. This is achieved, again, by the manufacturer of the game authoring the game content to identify a note as amenable to hammering on or pulling off For a pull off, a player will generally need to capture a pair of notes traditionally, that is, by holding down both fret buttons and simultaneously activating the strum bar. If the next note is identified as amenable to being played by a pull off technique, the player need only release the “higher” pitched fret button to successfully capture the note. As discussed above, when using the embodiment of a guitar controller 200 depicted in FIG. 2E, the second set of fret buttons may be used to perform hammer-ons and pull-offs. In either of these embodiments, notes that may be played using a hammer-on or pull-off technique may be visually indicated to the player by, for example, changing their geometric shape, transparency, color, or brightness.
  • [0043]
    In some embodiments, FIG. 2G, the front face of the simulated guitar controller can also include a strum bar 240 that consists of more than one part, i.e., a split strum bar or plurality of strum bars. A simulated guitar controller can include any multitude of strum bars, for example two or four strum bars, arranged to form a split strum bar. In one embodiment, a split strum bar pivots with respect to a plurality of axis (not shown), and in some embodiments the split strum bar pivots with respect to a single axis.
  • [0044]
    The whammy bar 260 is not always included in every implementation, particularly with simulated bass guitar controllers to more realistically reflect the design of a real bass guitar. Rather, in some implementations, FIG. 2G, a whammy knob 261 on the guitar is used to alter the frequency, pitch, volume, sound quality distortion, simulated feedback sound, or any other alteration of the note or chord being played.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 2H illustrates a split strum bar that consists of three strum bars linearly arranged. The three strum bars, shown in FIG. 2H, are arranged to simulate a bass guitar. However, a split strum bar can also be implemented in any of the other simulated guitar controllers discussed herein. Furthermore, the design or shape of the strum bar can be changed or altered. In some embodiments, the split strum bars correspond to a plurality of pivot bars 246. One or more of the plurality of strum bars can also share a common pivot bar. The plurality of pivot bars in FIG. 2H are aligned with a single axis. In other embodiments the plurality of pivot bars are aligned with a plurality of axes. The plurality of pivot bars can also be arranged in parallel on the body portion of the simulated guitar controller to simulate different strings of a bass guitar. FIG. 2I shows an embodiment of a guitar controller which includes two split strum bars 240 arranged in parallel. In some implementations, there are four strum bars in parallel, this design is intended to simulate one strum bar for each string of a four string bass guitar. The plurality of split strum bars can be electrically connected in common such that manipulating one of the plurality of the strum bars generates an output similar to activating a guitar controller that includes a single strum bar. The output generated by the strum bars can be commonly shared by the plurality of strum bars, i.e., the output is the same regardless of which strum bar is activated. Furthermore, the activation, or manipulation of each of the plurality of strum bars can cause the guitar controller to produce an output that is unique to the each of the plurality of strum bars. And in some embodiments, when more than one strum bar is activated at one time, the output generated can reflect the unique output of all activated strum bars simultaneously. The output generated by activating more than one of the plurality of strum bars can also reflect the output associated with only one of the strum bars while muting or excluding the output generated by the other activated strum bars. In some embodiments, activation of any one of the plurality of strum bars causes the controller to produce an identical output as compared to the output generated by activating any other of the plurality of strum bars. The split strum bars can be electrically connected to the guitar controller and the game console such that when more than one of the split strum bars is activated simultaneously, the output generated is the same as if only one of the strum bars was activated at a time.
  • [0046]
    Real guitarists often perform flamboyant motions on stage when playing guitar as part of their showmanship. One typical motion involves rotating the guitar vertically so that the neck of the guitar points up, while the body of the guitar is down, usually at waist level. In the simulated guitar controller 200, a mechanical “tilt sensor” can be included that monitors the guitar's physical orientation. This tilt sensor is typically a mercury switch or a ball-bearing switch which acts as a binary actuator, indicating whether the guitar has been rotated into a “neck up” position, or is in the normal playing position. Such tilt sensors have been included in guitar controllers manufactured by Konami and by Red Octane. Other secondary techniques for interacting with the controller include shaking the controller and slapping the controller.
  • [0047]
    Referring now to FIG. 3, one embodiment of a screen shot depicting a rhythm action game in which the simulated musical instrument, such as a simulated guitar controller, can be used is shown. A lane 320 extends to the players. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the lane has five sub lanes 322, 324, 326, 328, 330 which correspond to a respective one of the fret buttons 220 provided on the guitar controller 200. In other embodiments, the number of sublanes does not need to match the number of fret buttons 220 provided by the simulated guitar controller 200. For embodiments in which there are more fret buttons 220 provided than sublanes, a subset of the provided fret buttons 220 may be used to interact with the game. For those embodiments in which there are more sublanes than fret buttons 220, one fret button 220 may be assigned to more than one sublane.
  • [0048]
    As shown in FIG. 3, each lane may be subdivided into a plurality of segments.
  • [0049]
    Each segment may correspond to some unit of musical time, such as a beat, a plurality of beats, a measure, or a plurality of measures. Although the embodiment shown in FIG. 3 show equally-sized segments, each segment may have a different length depending on the particular musical data to be displayed. In addition to musical data, each segment may be textured or colored to enhance the interactivity of the display.
  • [0050]
    Referring back to FIG. 3, a sublane may have one or more game “cues”, “elements” or “gems” 350 corresponding to musical events distributed along the sublanes. During gameplay, the cues 350 appear to flow toward a game player. The cues 350 are distributed on the sublanes in a manner having some relationship to musical content associated with the game level. For example, the cues may represent note information (gems spaced more closely together for shorter notes and further apart for longer notes, pitch (gems placed on the left side of the lane for notes having lower pitch and the right side of the lane for higher pitch), volume (gems may glow more brightly for louder tones), duration (gems may be “stretched” to represent that a note or tone is sustained), articulation, timbre or any other time-varying aspects of the musical content. Although shown in FIG. 3 as a circular element, the game elements 350 may be any geometric shape, and may have other visual characteristics, such as transparency, color, or variable brightness.
  • [0051]
    As the game elements 350 move along a respective sublane, musical data represented by the game elements 350 may be substantially simultaneously played as audible music when the player successfully performs the event. To successfully perform an event, a player holds down the fret button 220 corresponding to the sublane on which the game element 350 appears while strumming the strum bar 240. The player must perform this action when the game element 350 passes under the target marker 375. In some embodiments, the player may hold down the corresponding fret button at any point in time before the moment when game element 350 passed under the target marker 375. In other embodiments, the player may successfully perform an event by performing a hammer on or pull off when the game element 350 passes under the target marker 375.
  • [0052]
    In some embodiments, audible music represented by a game element 350 is only played (or only played at full or original fidelity) if a player successfully “performs the musical content” by capturing or properly executing the game element 350. In other embodiments, the audible music represented by a game element 350 is modified, distorted, or otherwise manipulated in response to the player's proficiency in executing game elements associated with a sublane. For example, various digital filters can operate on the audible music prior to being played by the game player. Various parameters of the filters can be dynamically and automatically modified in response the player capturing game elements associated with sublane, allowing the audible music to be degraded if the player performs poorly or enhancing the audible music if the player performs well. For example, if a player fails to execute a game event, the audible music represented by the failed event may be muted, played at less than full volume, or filtered to alter the its sound. In certain embodiments, a “wrong note” sound may be substituted for the music represented by the failed event. Conversely, if a player successfully executes a game event, the audible music may be played normally. In some embodiments, if the player successfully executes several, successive game events, the audible music associated with those events may be enhanced, for example, by adding an echo or “reverb” to the audible music. The filters can be implemented as analog or digital filters in hardware, software, or any combination thereof. Further, application of the filter to the audible music output, which in many embodiments corresponds to musical events represented by game elements 350, can be done dynamically, that is, during play. Alternatively, the musical content may be processed before game play begins. In these embodiments, one or more files representing modified audible output may be created and musical events to output may be selected from an appropriate file responsive to the player's performance.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 3A depicts a screenshot of an embodiment of a rhythm-action game in which a second set of fret buttons is part of gameplay. As shown in FIG. 3A and similar to FIG. 3, cues 350 appear to flow toward a game player. Unlike the embodiment depicted in FIG. 3, a second set of cues 355 are also distributed on the sublanes. The second set of game cues 355 indicate to the player that the second set of fret buttons 220′ should be used when performing those game events. In some embodiments, failure to perform those game events on the second set of fret buttons 220′ may result in failure. In other embodiments, successfully performing the game events indicated by the second set of game cues 355 may alter game graphics (such as venue animation, venue lighting, crowd animation, brightness, avatar animation, game cue sustain tail, game cue brightness, game cue sustain tail brightness, game cue size, game cue shape, game cue sustain tail pulsation, and game cue sustain tail size), sound quality, or other gameplay characteristics, such as character health, character wealth in the game, the player's score, or in-game “powerups.” Although the difference between game cues 350 and 355 is shown in FIG. 3 as geometric shape, the difference may be indicated using any visual characteristics, such as transparency, color, or brightness.
  • [0054]
    Referring now to FIG. 3B, a flow diagram illustrating one embodiment of a method for facilitating interaction of a player with a music-based video game using a game controller simulating a guitar is shown. In brief overview, the method comprises: providing a game controller comprising a body portion having a strum bar and a neck portion extending outwardly from the body portion and including a first plurality of fret buttons and a second plurality of fret buttons (step 301); displaying to a player first target musical data associated with a musical composition (step 303); receiving first music performance input from the player using one of the first plurality of fret buttons (step 305); displaying to the player second target musical data associated with the musical composition (step 307); receiving second music performance input from the player using one of the second plurality of fret buttons (step 309); and altering a gameplay characteristic in response to the received second music performance input (step 311).
  • [0055]
    Still referring to FIG. 3B, now in greater detail, the method shown comprises: providing a game controller comprising a body portion having a strum bar and a neck portion extending outwardly from the body portion and including a first plurality of fret buttons and a second plurality of fret buttons (step 301). The game controller may comprise a simulated guitar such as the one in FIG. 2C.
  • [0056]
    The method shown comprises displaying to a player first target musical data associated with a musical composition (step 303). This target musical data may comprise cues, elements, or gems as discussed herein. The first target musical data may indicate to the player that the player should use the first plurality of fret buttons 220 when playing the notes corresponding to the target musical data. For example, the first target musical data may correspond to a chorus or verse of a song which is meant to be played on the fret buttons 220 furthest from the body of the guitar. The method shown then comprises receiving first music performance input from the player using one of the first plurality of fret buttons (step 305).
  • [0057]
    The method shown comprises displaying to the player second target musical data associated with the musical composition (step 307). This target musical data may comprise cues, elements, or gems as discussed herein. The second target musical data may indicate to the player that the player should use the second plurality of fret buttons 220 when playing the notes corresponding to the target musical data. The second target musical data may differ from the first target musical data in shape, size color, transparency, and/or any other graphical property. For example, the second target musical data may correspond to a solo within a song that is meant to be played on the fret buttons 220′ close to the body of the guitar. The method then comprises receiving second music performance input from the player using one of the second plurality of fret buttons (step 309).
  • [0058]
    In some embodiments, the method comprises altering gameplay characteristics in response to the second music performance input (step 311). Examples of gameplay characteristics which may be altered include score bonus, star power, player score, character health, character money, in-game power-ups, and crowd excitement. For example, a player successfully playing a portion of a solo on the fret buttons 220′ close to the body of the guitar may result in increased crowd response, and an increased score. In other embodiments, the method comprises altering graphical characteristics of the game in response to the second musical performance input. Examples of graphical characteristics which may be altered include venue lighting, venue brightness, venue animation, crowd animation, crowd excitement, brightness, avatar animation, sustain tail, note brightness, sustain tail brightness, note size, note shape, sustain tail pulsation, and sustain tail size. For example, if a player successfully plays one or more notes using the fret buttons 220′ close to the body of the guitar, the notes may change color to indicate the success, and the crowd animations may be changed such that the crowd appears more enthusiastic about the performance.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 3C illustrates a method for facilitating (step 350) interaction of a video game player with a simulated guitar video game controller. In one embodiment the method can include a game controller, for example the simulated guitar controller shown in FIG. 2A-2F, provided (step 355) to the game player. The guitar controller can include a neck portion that extends outward from the body portion of the guitar, and also can include a plurality of strum bars positioned on the front face of the body portion, as shown in FIG. 2G. The plurality of strum bars can also be arranged as shown in FIG. 2H and FIG. 2I.
  • [0060]
    Target music data associated with a musical composition can be displayed (step 360) to the player. In some embodiments, the musical composition will be preselected for the player, and in some embodiments the game player will have the opportunity to select the musical composition from a list of available options. The musical compositions may include any prerecorded, commercially available song, although in some embodiments, the player will select a musical composition that is simply a collection of musical notes that are arranged to allow the game player to practice or refine their game playing ability.
  • [0061]
    An input generated by the player strumming at least one of the plurality of strum bars that corresponds to the first target musical data can be detected (step 365). As discussed above, the input can be generated by strumming one or more of the plurality of strum bars. In some embodiments, strumming more than one of the plurality of strum bars during a particular time period can be detected as a single strum. After the input is provided by the player, the input can be evaluated (step 370) as compared to the target music data. A higher score can be awarded to the game player, the closer the input matches the target music data.
  • [0062]
    Referring now to FIG. 4, one embodiment of a screen display showing player interaction using the whammy bar 260 or whammy knob 261 is shown. As described above, successfully activating the correct fret button 220 and strum bar 240 results in performance of a musical event. By activating the whammy bar or knob, the player can alter the certain aspects of the reproduced musical event. For example, pushing or pulling on the whammy bar or twisting the whammy knob can change the pitch of a note or chord, the volume of a note or chord, or the sound quality of a note or chord. Activation of the whammy bar or knob may also add effects to the audio such as simulated feedback, flange, fuzz, vocoder, echo, reverb, chorus, and delay. In some embodiments, pushing or pulling the whammy bar or twisting the whammy knob in a particular direction can add a feedback audio effect to a note or chord. In other embodiments, pushing or pulling the whammy bar can add a distortion audio effect to the note or chord being held. In addition, the whammy bar or knob can affect sustained notes in addition to short single gems.
  • [0063]
    As shown in FIG. 4, pushing or pulling the whammy bar 260 or twisting the whammy knob 261 may affect the graphical elements of the game. In FIG. 4, use of the whammy bar or knob alters a note's “sustain trail,” a visual cue that helps a player know for how long a fret button should be depressed. As shown in FIG. 4, the player is using the whammy bar or knob to alternately increase and decrease the width of the sustain trail. Others visuals can be directly affected by the whammy bar or knob. The graphical display of the note may widen or narrow, it may brighten or dim, pulses can be animated down the length of the note, and its overall size may grow or shrink. Any number of graphical effects may alter the note to inform the player that the whammy bar or knob is being actively used. In some embodiments, the player might be required by the game to move the whammy bar or knob synchronously with a pitch bend in the recorded music. The player's moving of the whammy bar or knob does not affect the sound, but the player's ability to bend the whammy bar or turn the whammy knob as directed by the game affects the player's game score.
  • [0064]
    In other embodiments, use of the whammy bar or knob may alter both the visual and auditory aspects of the game. For example, referring to FIG. 4, use of the whammy bar or knob may cause the pitch of the sustained note to increase and decrease while the displayed sustain trail is widened and narrowed. In another embodiment, use of the whammy bar or knob distorts a sustained note and causes a player's avatar to execute a flamboyant move, such as a jump, striking a pose with the guitar, or “machine gunning” the crowd with the guitar.
  • [0065]
    FIG. 5 depicts an embodiment of a screen display showing how use of the whammy bar or knob may be used as a gameplay mechanic. In the screenshot shown if FIG. 5, the player is using the whammy bar or knob to alter the pitch of a performed note. As shown in FIG. 5, the altered note is a special note indicating that the player will receive a bonus for successfully performing the note. By altering the note's pitch using the whammy bar or knob, the player builds up the bonus more quickly. In one specific embodiment, the bonus is referred to as “star power collection” and is graphically indicated by the “star meter” 510.
  • [0066]
    In other embodiments, manipulating the whammy bar or knob can affect other aspects of gameplay, such as the excitement of the simulated crowd, the number of points the player receives, the amount of “health” a player has, or, in general, the amount of any arbitrary game resource, such as points, score, health, money.
  • [0067]
    In some embodiments, the controller 200 may be used in conjunction with effects pedals that allow a player to activate certain audio effects. For example, a controller 200 may be provided with a socket for receiving input indicating activation of a flange pedal, fuzzbox, vocoder, distortion pedal, echo pedal, reverb pedal, chorus pedal, delay pedal, pedals that affect the attack and decay of a reproduced note and any other pedal typically used with real guitars.
  • [0068]
    The tilt sensor of controller 200 may be used as part of a gameplay mechanic. In one specific embodiment, tilting the guitar vertically causes “star power deployment” and is indicated by scoring, graphical, and sonic changes in the game. For example, tilting the guitar vertically changes the excitement of the simulated crowd, the number of points a player receives, the rate at which a player accumulates points, the overall reverberation of the music, the sound quality of the guitar notes, and other graphical and audio effects.
  • [0069]
    Although described in the context of a rhythm action game, the simulated guitar controller 200 may be used with any genre of game, including first-person shooter, survival horror, action adventure, fighting games, role playing games, real-time strategy games, platformers, puzzle games, racing games, sports games, and stealth action games, third-person shooters. The simulated guitar controller 200 may also be used with rhythm action games that do not center on performance of a musical work using an instrument, such as Dance Dance Revolution or Karaoke Revolution, both published by Konami.
  • [0070]
    Having described certain embodiments of the invention, it will now become apparent to one of skill in the art that other embodiments incorporating the concepts of the invention may be used. Although the described embodiments relate to the field of rhythm-action games, the principles of the invention can extend to other areas that involve musical collaboration or competition by two or more users connected to a network. Therefore, the invention should not be limited to certain embodiments, but rather should be limited only by the spirit and scope of the following claims.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/37
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationA63F13/814, A63F2300/1043, A63F2300/8047, A63F2300/1062, A63F13/245, A63F13/5375, A63F13/44
European ClassificationA63F13/06
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
11 Jan 2011ASAssignment
Owner name: COLBECK PARTNERS II, LLC, AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT,
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNORS:HARMONIX MUSIC SYSTEMS, INC.;HARMONIX PROMOTIONS & EVENTS INC.;HARMONIX MARKETING INC.;REEL/FRAME:025764/0656
Effective date: 20110104