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Kotaku reports that last week Microsoft was assigned U.S. Patent No. 7,559,834, filed in 2002, for “Dynamic join/exit of players during play of console-based video game.”

This patent claims “A squad-based shooter video game [that] allows players to dynamically join and leave the game, while that game is in progress, without the players having to save and restart the game. When a new player joins an in-progress game, a new squad member is allocated to the new player and the screen is split to present a viewing panel for the new player that depicts scenes from the perspective of the new squad member. When an existing player leaves the game, the screen is unsplit to remove the viewing panel for the exiting player and that player's squad member becomes part of the squad being controlled by the remaining player(s).”

According to Co-Optimus, “[f]rom the patent description, timing and pictures, it appears to be for the 4 player co-op game Brute Force from the original Xbox… Other details in the patent include the ability to switch between squad members on the fly, AI controlled squad mates when not in player control, and hardware details of how it functions.”

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft licenses or asserts this patent against developers of other squad-based games using split-screen where players can join and drop out, or whether they decide to just keep this one in their portfolio.
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