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U.S. Pat. No. 6,733,383: Systems and Methods for Simulating Game State Changes Responsive to an Interrupt Condition

Issued May 11, 2004, to Electronic Arts, Inc.


Summary:
This Electronic Arts patent describes a simulation module to simulate events occurring during a cautionary period of an event, such as when in a NASCAR game a yellow flag is raised, or when a player wrecks out of a race. During this “cautionary period,” a user may, for example, obtain performance related-statistics; view a partially or complete simulation of a completed race; or determine the projected outcome of an ongoing race based on current statistics. Several aspects of the invention include (1) a method to interrupt a normal game, simulate parts of the ongoing game, derive updated statistics, and resume the game; (2) a method to interrupt a normal game, derive statistics from the normal game, and compare such statistics with statistics from a past or predicted outcome; (3) and a collection of files configured to store such data on a computer-readable medium.

Exemplary Claim:
1. A method of simulating game state changes responsive to an interrupt condition in a computer-implemented racing game, comprising:

generating an interrupt condition during game play of the racing game at a first game state, the first game state having a first set of statistics associated therewith;

responsive to said interrupt condition, interrupting game play and calculating a second set of statistics associated with a second game state by simulating events that occur after the first game state based on the first set of statistics; and

wherein the second game state is a completed game state, and wherein the second set of statistics includes statistics associated with a completed race.
There have been quite a few distributed computing projects over the years. Sony's plan is perhaps the most ambitious yet. The PS3 has a Cell Broadband Engine (CBE) chip, the same used in IBM's new supercomputer. PS3 owners will be able to download a small program to their PS3 to allow scientists to use the PS3's downtime for scientific research, turning what would previously have taken years to calculate into mere months, or less! Don't worry though, if the PS3 is running a game, the distributed computing process is suspended so you don't get any lag, thereby causing you to get fragged.

Read more here.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,764,402: Image-Display Game System And Information Storage Medium Used Therefor
Issued July 20, 2004 to Nintendo Co., Ltd.


Summary:
Nintendo describes the multi-player, portable version of its Pokemon game in this patent. In the pokemon game, each player collects and trains pokemon. When another player is encountered, the pokemon battle each other and the winner captures the loser’s pokemon. Capturing a pokemon includes transferring information about its appearance, strength, etc. to the wining player’s game machine.

Battling other actual players, as opposed to simulated opponents, is encouraged by allowing pokemon captured from another player to have a “virus” that allows them to be more effective in battle. The virus spreads quickly, thus helping a player’s entire collection of pokemon. The patent explains that players whose pokemon have the “virus” will become popular: “The player who luckily captures a virus-infected pokemon … becomes busy with other players’ requests for pokemon data exchange, thereby increasing popularity among other players. As such, the game is useful for cultivating friendship with other players.”

Although the game may bring you new friends, those friends don’t have to stick around once they’re done using you. It is possible to receive information about player and his cadre of Pokemon, and then do virtual battle with him later on. There may be some disadvantages to this approach, however. The properties of the pokemon change with the time of day, and a battle that takes place at night may come out differently than a battle that takes place during the day.

The patent also describes a system for allowing players of different versions of the game to battle each other: Whatever information about a captured pokemon is unavailable from the old version of the game gets made up (assigned randomly) at the time of data transfer. Conversely, data about a pokemon from the new version that cannot be received by the old version is discarded. This ingenious system can also be used to allow users who upgrade to the new version to transfer their old collection of pokemon.

Exemplary Claim:
A method of operating a multiplayer video game system for playing a video game involving characters that may be captured by a player comprising the steps of:

establishing communication between a first player’s video game device and a second player’s video game device;

associating time related data with at least a first video game character that may be captured by a player;

controlling the display of said first video game character based upon said time related data;

receiving by said first player’s video game device identification information identifying said second player; and

storing data in said first player’s video game device relating to said at least one video game character associated with said second player including said time related data.
As you may recall, we took quite a bit of flack from the software developer community on Slashdot for our previous article published by Gamasutra. Some of the comments had to deal with the patent system in general, but many of the comments were directed to patent quality, or the alleged lack thereof. Yes, many people claim that the video game patents we mention are a bunch of hogwash, invalid as can be, etc., etc., etc.,

The USPTO has made overtures regarding farming out patent searches, and opening up prior art for public commentary in the hopes of improving patent quality. One web site has beat them to the punch, so it appears. WikiPatents.com aims to provide "public patent clarity" and claims to contribute to the US patent system by commenting on issued patents and (soon) published U.S. applications. The website appears to operate similarly to previous proposals, as a public sounding board for the relevance of prior art cited against a patent, and a venue to comment on the alleged validity of a patent. WikiPatents.com posts information about issued patents, and expects members of the public to provide commentary on the relevance of the prior art as it may or may not apply to the validity of the patent.

Now the question is: will the public respond? Do enough people care AND have the time to review prior art and comment on issued claims and published applications? Will members of the public even appreciate that what is described is not necessarily what a patent claims? Will patent examiners begin to use this as a resource during their examination procedures, even if informally? Will WikiPatents.com (or other sites like it) improve patent quality? There will certainly be the extremists on both sides that chime in one way or the other, but only time will tell if the site is a success...
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