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U.S. Patent No. 7,686,693: Use of online messaging to facilitate selection of participants in game play
Issued March 30, 2010, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘693 patent provides for a system which allows a host to select players during an online multiplayer game over a network. The host’s contact list has information of each player including their online status (whether they are online, idle, or offline). This allows the host to select available friends to invite to play the game. Once a player is invited to join a game with the host the two players enter into a chat session with each other. The chat session is independent of any game, so a player may enter the chat session without entering the actual game. Players communicate through either text messages or by microphone. Finally, the invention allows players who have entered the host’s game to invite other players who were not initially invited to play as well. This allows friends of other players (but not friends with the initial host) to have a chance of playing.

Abstract:

A method and system facilitating selection of participants in multiplayer online electronic games. The method provides an efficient procedure for players to host and join new instances of multiplayer online electronic games, as well as providing a scheme that enables players to join multiplayer online electronic games that are already in progress. The method is implemented through a gaming utility that runs on each player's electronic device (e.g. PC) and interacts behind the scenes with an online messaging service. Player hosts are enabled to select players from a list of contacts provided by the online messaging service who they want to invite to join a chat session. A selected multiplayer online electronic game is selectively launched on all of the player's computers through a single command issued by the host. Additionally, the gaming utility provides players with a list of existing chat sessions being hosted by other players so as to enable the players to join multiplayer online electronic games that are already in progress. The system includes a plurality of electronic devices linked in communication across a communications network, such as a LAN or the Internet. Each electronic device is operatively coupled to a headset having a pair of headphones and a microphone. The headset is worn by a player, enabling the players to verbally communicate with others in a verbal chat session.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A system for enabling a host player to select one or more other players to participate in playing a multiplayer online electronic game played using a plurality of electronic devices linked in communication over a communications network, each of said plurality of electronic devices being operated by a different player and including: (a) a display on which a user interface is presented; (b) a memory in which a plurality of machine instructions are stored; and (c) a processor coupled to the memory for executing said plurality of machine instructions, said processor executing the machine instructions to implement a plurality of functions, including: (i) acquiring a contact list associated with the host player from an online messaging service along with the status of each contact, the contact list being associated with the online messaging service rather than any particular online electronic game; (ii) displaying the contact list along with an indication of each contact's status, wherein the contact's status indicates, for each contact, the contact's status with regard to the communication network, the contact's status with regard to the online messaging service, and whether the contact is utilizing the system enabling the contact to participate in playing the multiplayer online electronic game; (iii) enabling the host player to utilize the online messaging service to initiate a chat session using the online messaging service rather than any particular online electronic game; (iv) enabling the host player to select one or more players to invite to join the chat session including contacts from the contact list as well as players not associated with the online messaging service; (v) enabling any of the players who were invited by the host, to participate in the chat session, the chat session being independent from any particular game; (vi) providing the host player with a game selection menu thereby enabling the host player to selectively initiate launching an instance of a multiplayer online electronic game, the instance of the multiplayer online electronic game being separate from the chat session and the host player selecting the instance of the multiplayer online electronic game from a plurality of games displayed at the game selection menu; and (vii) automatically launching the multiplayer online electronic game on each electronic device being operated by each player participating in the chat session, the multiplayer online electronic game being launched in response to the host player selectively initiating launch of the instance of the multiplayer online electronic game, so that each player participating in the chat session automatically becomes a participant in the instance of the multiplayer online electronic game.

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