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SPACE INVADERS!


United States Patent No. 6,935,954: Sanity System for Video Game

Issued August 30, 2005, to Nintendo of America, Inc.

Summary:
This patent by inventors from Nintendo of America Inc. discloses a video game system that modifies, monitors, and reacts to a game character’s sanity level. A character’s sanity level is modified by an amount based on the player character’s reaction to a particular occurrence or event in the game. In addition, game play and in-game effects may also change based upon a character’s sanity level. The sanity level of the suspicious Link-looking character in the figure, for example, may not be affected as much since a well-prepared warrior with shield and sword in tow will likely not be intimidated by an otherwise terrifying flying skull with bad teeth. Or the character may have been on the brink of insanity to begin with (after scouring Hyrule unsuccessfully for his lost princess) and the flying skull is actually part of his hallucinations. Now, if only people can monitor their sanity levels in real life…

Exemplary Claim:
A method of operating a video game including a game character controlled by a player, the method comprising:
a) setting a sanity level of the game character;
b) modifying the sanity level of the game character during game play according to occurrences in the game, wherein a modifying amount of is determined based on a character reaction and an amount of character preparation; and
c) controlling game play according to the sanity level of the game character, game play being controlled at least by varying game effects according to the game character sanity level.
Welcome to the first post of our VIDEO GAME PATENTS feature. May we present:

U.S. Pat. No. 6,923,717: Adrenaline Feature for Sports Video Games
Issued August 2, 2005 to Nintendo of America, Inc.

Summary:

The '717 patent describes describes various methods of controlling a video game. In addition to all the regular buttons, joysticks, d-pads, thumbsticks, triggers, vibration motors, and other widgets and cogs found on video game controllers, Nintendo now allows the to control a level of virtual “adrenaline” of a player in a video game. A user can control the adrenaline level, e.g., with an analog trigger. When the adrenaline level is high, players in the video game act more aggressively. However, the players’ chance of overreacting also increases when the adrenaline increases. For example, a basketball player is more likely to block a shot if his adrenaline level is high, but the player is also more likely to commit a foul. Nintendo’s adrenaline feature adds more control and realism to sports video games. What's next? The "steroid" trigger?

Exemplary Claim:

1. A method of controlling game play in a sports video game, wherein a user interactively controls a sports game character in a virtual sports game environment using a game controller, the method comprising:
defining initial character parameters for the sports game character and an opposing sports game character for use during game play, wherein the initial character parameters define play characteristics for the game character and the opposing game character;
detecting user input from at least one control element on the game controller requesting an animated action by the game character;
reading an adrenaline value from an analog control element on the controller indicating a level of aggression desired by the user for the animated action, wherein the analog control element is different from said at least one control element;
adjusting at least one of the initial character parameters for the game character based on the adrenaline value;
performing the animated action by the game character using the at least one adjusted character parameter, wherein the at least one adjusted character parameter is related to the animated action and influences the success or failure of the action depicted by the animated action; and
adjusting at least one of the initial character parameters for the opposing character based on the adrenaline value and performing an animated action by the opposing character at the same time as the same character's animated action using the adjusted character parameter for the opposing character.

(Last Updated August 2, 2011)



VIDEO GAME PATENTS

We will endeavor to track and inform our readers regarding United States Patents (and various interesting foreign patents) directed to video games. Yes, we realize that there are endless patents that could be applied to video games if you squint your eyes and look through frosted glass, but we are going to concentrate on patents that are squarely directed (ok, mostly square) to game play methods and interesting aspects of video games. Examples of things we will NOT comment on include graphics rendering techniques, audio/video compression, hardware (most of the time), and other behind-the-scenes aspects of video games. That having been said, here is our initial list of video game pantents, which we will continually update and elaborate on.

Click on a link to read more about a patent. We'll get to them all eventually.

Table Key:
G= Gameplay
H= Hardware
UI= User Interaction
RPG= Role Play Game
FPS= First Person Shooter
MVG= Multiplayer Video Game




If you know of any patents that should be included on this list, please let us know!
Davidson & Associates, Inc. v. Internet Gateway
__ F.3d. __ (8th Cir. 2006)

Better known as Blizzard v. bnetd, this case curbs the development of new computer programs that interoperate with existing ones when faced with potential infringements under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Blizzard, producer of popular computer games such as “Diablo,” “StarCraft,” and “WarCraft,” hosts an online-gaming service called “Battle.net” designed as the exclusive way for owners of Blizzard games to play each other via the Internet. A purchaser of a Blizzard game is presented with an End User License Agreement (EULA) and Terms of Use (TOU), both of which prohibits reverse engineering, that must be agreed to before the software may be installed, as well as a unique CD-Key that serves to authenticate the software with Battle.net.

Bnetd was an open source software package that emulated the Battle.net service and allowed users to play Blizzard games on their own user-created servers instead of having to connect to Battle.net. While players must supply a CD-Key to connect to bnetd, its validity is not authenticated as on Battle.net, thus allowing potentially pirated copies to be connected. Blizzard filed suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against the three developers of Bnetd, as well as an ISP (Internet Gateway) that hosted a bnetd server, for violating the terms prohibiting reverse engineering in its games’ EULA and TOU, and the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the DMCA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Blizzard, finding the EULA and TOU contracts to be enforceable, thus vitiating any “fair use” defense, and that defendants violated the provisions under the DMCA.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed all judgments in favor of Blizzard. The Eighth Circuit rejected the defendant’s argument that federal copyright law, which permits reverse engineering, preempts state contract law in which the EULA and TOU was grounded. The Court held that by agreeing to the EULA and TOU, the developers expressly relinquished their rights to reverse engineer. Other circuits, notably the Ninth Circuit, have declined to enforce similar shrink-wrap license agreements, suggesting that Blizzard’s choice in selecting the district court in Missouri rather than its home state of California was a tactical decision to keep the case out of the Ninth Circuit on appeal.

Regarding the DMCA violations, the Eighth Circuit held that bnetd violated the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions in allowing unauthorized copies of Blizzard games to be played on its servers, thus circumventing Battle.net’s authentication measures. Furthermore, the interoperability exception under the DMCA that protects individuals using circumventing technology for the sole purpose of trying to achieve interoperability of computer programs through reverse engineering did not apply to bnetd as the circumvention in this case constituted infringement.

Editor’s note: While Blizzard won the lawsuit, the distribution of bnetd derivatives and similar server emulators has not ceased. See, e.g., PvPGN and BNCS. Also, the Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains an archive of materials relating to this case.
Thanks to Han Xu for his assistance with the preparation of this post.
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