For those who remember the original Star Fox (as mentioned in our previous post regarding the Star Fox patent), Nintendo has announced Star Fox Command for Nintendo DS.

Read the full story here.
U.S. Patent No. 6,261,179:
Video Game System and Video Game Memory Medium
Issued Jul. 17, 2001, to Nintendo Co., Ltd., Kyoto (JP)


Remember StarFox? I do (I'm getting old). The '179 patent describes a number of gameplay aspects of a video game in the StarFox series. As the patent correctly professes, I always enjoyed the ability to select the level I played, instead of having to sequentially move through each level every time I started the game. Allowing the player to replay a level without resetting the game the player avoids being “burdened with unwanted labor, thereby losing his interest in the game or having a burdensome feeling….” In addition to being able to choose the level I start at, I also liked the fact that only my highest score from each level counted towards my final score.

While the '179 patent only claims the above concept, it nonetheless also describes detecting collisions to individual sections of the plane the player is flying, instead of processing a hit on any part of the plane in the same way. Let me restate that. The entire plane doesn't blow up when it gets hit (a la Galaga), but instead, only the portion of the plane that got hit blows up. This allows, for example, for individual wings of the plane to be shot off, but the plane remains navigable (to some extent) by the player. Nice feature. I'll have to check to see if they claim it in a related patent.

Another feature described (but not claimed) is that of automatic messages shown in the picture below. When it is possible to easily attack the enemy or avoid crises by performing an operation, instructions for performing that operation appear on the bottom of the screen. If multiple messages are possible at a given time, only one is chosen based on a pre-defined hierarchy of importance. This allows “the player, even if unskilled” to advance in the game. Was this perhaps an early patent directed towards in-game hints??? Again, I'll have to check to see if they claim this feature in a related patent.

Exemplary Claim:

A video game system for playing a video game having a plurality of different courses through which a player can successively advance by successfully completing a current one of said plurality of courses, said video game comprising:

a course choosing screen which enables the player to select a course to play from said plurality of courses when starting said video game and upon finishing a current course;

a first score counter for determining a current course score that the player has achieved by finishing a current course of said plurality of courses;

a score controller for writing a current course score to a memory upon completion of each course, wherein said score controller resets said current course score for said current course to an initial value if said user chooses to replay said current course using said course choosing screen after finishing said current course; and

a second course counter for combining each course score in said memory to provide an overall score for said video game.
Not even having time to revel in its recent victory in the C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media lawsuit (No. 4:05-CV-00252 (E.D. Mo.)) regarding the use of player names and statistics in fantasy sports games, the Fantasy Sports industry is under attack again. This time, for gambling.

The controversial question: Are these pretend sports just another form of gambling?

That's what a man claims in a lawsuit that alleges that media including the ESPN cable network, CBS and The Sporting News are getting away with illegal gambling by hosting pay-to-play fantasy leagues, complete with big cash prizes and wide-screen TVs.

At the heart of his complaint is that fantasy sports -- a $1.5 billion industry with more than 15 million players -- are games of chance, not skill, and therefore qualify as gambling.

Read more here.

An interesting twist, for sure.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,752,718: Role Playing Video Game Using Cards
Issued June 22, 2004, to Square Enix

Developers from Square Enix, publishers of the Final Fantasy series, describe a role-playing game using scenario cards. During the course of the role-playing game, the player is presented with multiple cards from which to choose. For example, each card may represent a different scenario. The player’s selection will directly affect the player character's subsequent development of the story in the game. For example, upon being presented with cards representing branching quests, a player can select which quest to embark upon (e.g., rescue the town from evil wizard or flirt with waitress in tavern).

Exemplary Claim:
A game program for causing a computer to execute a role playing game which changes a development of a story forming the game on a screen according to an operational input of a player,

wherein the game program causes said computer to execute:

a displaying procedure for displaying a plurality of cards on said screen, each card comprising indicia associated with a significance of the card;

a selecting procedure for selecting one of said plurality of cards displayed in said displaying procedure according to the operational input of the player; and

a determining procedure for determining the development of said story according to a selected card,

wherein selecting of each card always directly affects a player character and the development of the story.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,522,333: Remote Communication Through Visual Representations
Issued February 18, 2003 to Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts has improved the traditional in-game (or out-of-game) chat feature. Instead of informing your sarcasm-impaired friends that you’re joking by typing ;-), you can instead make an on-screen avatar wink for you by typing (wink). In addition, the software can animate your avatar based on natural language processing techniques. A default mood (such as “humorous” or “stone-cold-serious”) is set in order to make sure the system animates ambiguous phrases correctly. This preset can be temporarily or permanently overridden at any time. Gestures can also be programmed to occur every time a specific word is typed. With all these features, you’ll never need an emoticon again... :-)

Exemplary Claim:

A method of communicating over a network comprising:

receiving a data communication from a first user, wherein the data communication contains behavioral movement information;

translating the received behavioral movement information into a choreography sequence of behavioral movements of a figure of the first user by:

responsive to the data communication containing text, processing the text in accordance with at least one natural language processing rule; and

constructing a choreography sequence from at least one behavioral movement associated with at least one natural language processing rule; and

animating the figure responsive to the choreography sequence.

CBC v. MLB, E.D.Mo. (Aug. 8, 2006)

For those that have been following this case, the District Court on Tuesday, August 8, 2006, ruled in favor of CBC fantasy sports, and completely against MLB and the Player's Association. The court held that 1) fantasy sports are not a violation of players' rights of publicity; 2) even if fantasy sports were a violation of the right of publicity, that right is preempted by the First Amendment; 3) player names and statistics are not copyrightable; and 4) similar to patents and trademarks, when a copyright license is deemed to cover material that is not copyrightable, prohibitive clauses that remain once the contract is terminated are against public policy and therefore void.

The only remaining question: will MLB appeal?

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