What Good Does It Do Anyone To Patent Video Game Features?

from the what-a-waste dept

A bunch of folks keep submitting various versions of this story about how Microsoft has apparently received a patent on join-leave in split-screen multiplayer games. We see so many of these sorts of stories these days, it's getting a bit tiresome to talk about them, but no less disappointing. As Matt Peckham says in the article linked here:
In any case, the idea that methodologies like these get tied up in patent law is unsettling. Games, like books, television shows, movies, works of visual art, etc. thrive off of (and to a considerable extent, are inexorably bound up in) a certain amount of healthy imitation. Dynamic split-screen "multi-play" in video games is a process independent of a patentable mechanism like the Wii-remote. Clapping a patent on it isn't so radically far off from claiming

typing

like

THIS

or

sOmEtHiNg

...is a "process" or "procedure" or "methodology" someone ought to have "sole right to make, use, or sell."

Patent law is depressing. It's a somewhat perverse way to stockpile vaguely defined, often semantically specious technological speculation and, whatever its claims about competitively encouraging creativity, often has the contrary effect of throttling it.
If so many people in and around the industry realize how silly and stifling these sorts of patents are, why do they still exist? Why do millions get wasted every year stockpiling more of these patents? Why do we, as a society, allow it?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    BullJustin (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    "If so many people in and around the industry realize how silly and stifling these sorts of patents are, why do they still exist? Why do millions get wasted every year stockpiling more of these patents? Why do we, as a society, allow it?"

    Money. Next question.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    First off, if you read the article, you would notice that the patent was filed in 2002. In 2002, this would have potentially been a novel and new idea. I would say that nobody else at the time would have had something for split screen gaming - mostly because most displays were of low enough quality that people rarely played split screen (240 line tv, you get, what, 120 lines? Yeah right!).

    Second, this is a patent pertaining to (a) game consoles, and (b) split screen views on the display at the console. It would be a massive stretch to apply it to any other sort of circumstance.

    I suspect the patent was filed on the relative cheap, millions certainly were not spent, and in practice, I have never seen such a mechanism put into practice.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      no, even back then it would have been a highly obvious thing, many games allowed people to drop in and out (arcade games have been famous for it for years) many games allowed split screen multi-player, combining two very common techs does not make someone new and innovative anymore than combining current tech and the internet is new and innovative.

       

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      Jaws4theRevenge, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      "First off, if you read the article, you would notice that the patent was filed in 2002. In 2002, this would have potentially been a novel and new idea. I would say that nobody else at the time would have had something for split screen gaming - mostly because most displays were of low enough quality that people rarely played split screen (240 line tv, you get, what, 120 lines? Yeah right!)."

      Seriously, man, have you never played Goldeneye on the N64? 4-way split screen and none of your high-def rubbish. The split-screen multiplayer was the point of Goldeneye. That was 1997.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:26pm

        Re: Re:

        ...and looked terrible doing it. Try playing it on a 13 inch screen.

        Also - try entering and exiting the game as a single player while the others play on. Oops, doesn't happen. Next.

         

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          Gordon, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          We'll see how MS handles this patent now that it has it. In theory they could go after all those arcade game makers that use this tech, and incidentally have been using it since way before MS applied for the patent.
          One of the best and oldest examples I can think of off the top of my head is Gauntlet....when was that?.....'85, '86 maybe?

           

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        J.V. (profile), Jul 24th, 2009 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re:

        i was going to post this exact same thing. Goldeneye was the first big multiplayer split screen game that i could think of. But im pretty sure that there were a few that were before it.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:26pm

      Re:

      what games were you playing? virtually every multiplayer console game was split screen because there was no online play.... halo, goldeneye, twisted metal, tony hawk, sonic... the list goes on.

      and all they did was take real time entry (like in diablo 1 and 2) and add it to split screen games.

      if this is not obvious to a "person having ordinary skill in the art", then such a person is a total fucking moron.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 6:07am

        Re: Re:

        Moron, yes, but is he in a hurry?

        /sarcasm

        (Yes I know that is trademark and this is patents but I couldn't resist.)

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 7:06am

      Re:

      "In 2002, this would have potentially been a novel and new idea.

      Yeah in 2002 B.C.

       

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    Pablo, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    I can't imagine what they would want to use this for, it's been done, old and out-dated. I don't know about anyone else but I wasn't ever a fan of splitting my screen to get another player in on the action. Even on a 60 inch screen.

     

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    Coises (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:55pm

    We, as a society

    Why do we, as a society, allow it?

    Because “we, as a society” are just a figment the imagination of our broken implementation of democracy. We do not exist; only special interests exist, and the deeper their pockets, the more special they are.

     

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      DJ (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:34pm

      Re: We, as a society

      hmmmmm

      Either you're being a cynical bastard, or there's something wrong with you. Either way, welcome to the party, man!

       

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        Coises (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:52pm

        Re: We, as a society

        So long as you didn’t mean to imply that the two are mutually exclusive.

        I know there’s something wrong with me.
        It’s the only way to be.
        Have you seen the ones that are OK?
        I wouldn’t want to be that way!

         

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      DMNTD, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:50pm

      Re: We, as a society

      But that's the REAL problem isn't it? We Do exsist and they here us one way or the other. Something is always shifting.

       

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    Frosty840, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    A few years ago, Lucasarts released a game with first-person shooting elements which solved the age-old problem of the fact that, because your crosshair was at screen centre, but you fired from the hip, you could sometimes end up firing a weapon right into the wall you were hiding behind rather than where the gun was aiming.
    It did this by automatically moving the crosshair over to wherever the bullet would hit, rather than having it static in the centre of the screen. It was pure genius and og genuine benefit to the entire genre of action shooters.
    The method is now, of course, locked up behind a patent wall and nobody can use it.

     

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      DJ (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:40pm

      Re:

      Yep, that's pretty much what we're talkin' about.

      On a side note, EVERYONE who has lived in Modesto, CA for any length of time absolutely despises George Lucas -- even if they do like Star Wars.

       

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    Reed (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:11pm

    Microsoft patents stupidity

    Microsoft has pushed their way into the gaming industry in ways that have truly disgusted me. From trying to control PC gaming to their attempt to enter the console industry Microsoft has done little but imitate competition and bully their way into the gaming world.

    They have NO business in the gaming world IMHO. Small independent game developers have consistently delivered better products before they first dipped their toes into gaming. This scares Microsoft so much that they will invariable use intellectual property to ensure their foothold.

    When a system is abused this badly there really is only one choice, elimination. It is the only logic way to proceed at this juncture. We did it for welfare, so I think we can do it for wealthfare...lol

    Reform is just an excuse to keep abusing an already broken system.

     

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    Dohn Joe, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:28pm

    Answers to Your Questions

    "If so many people in and around the industry realize how silly and stifling these sorts of patents are, why do they still exist? Why do millions get wasted every year stockpiling more of these patents? Why do we, as a society, allow it?"

    "Industry" is actually about profit (surprise - more revenue and less expenses), not innovation or benefit to mankind. Suing for patent infringement is more profitable than spending money to lobby for the abolishment of the patent system. We, as a society, do not have political clout as we can't dedicate resources to lobbying for our interests nor can we lobby for our interests directly as most of us are trapped in a 9to5by5 nightmare. We merely get to choose the face of those who will hear what "industry" wants at our expense.

     

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    staff1, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    stop the shilling!!!

    "Why do we, as a society, allow it? "

    Why do we as a society allow you to publish?

     

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    Gifty Schpeepalaire, Jul 25th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    Old split-screeners...

    Spy vs Spy, on the Atari ST and the Amiga - possible on C64 too, I forget.

    Two player, split screen, and I'm pretty sure either player could jump in and out at will, with the slot filled by an AI as necessary.

    Bullshit patents are here to stay though. Remember BT trying to plant their flag in the concept of hyperlinks?

     

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    Meh, Jul 25th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    This isnt as broad and people are making it out to be. It is not a patent for all split screen gaming. The claim states that while player 1 is playing the game, player 2 must then connect a controller to the console and the console upon detecting the new controller, automatically switches from single screen to split screen.

    I dont think those listed games automatically split the screen when a second controller was connected. All the ones I can think of require player input.

     

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