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U.S. Patent No. 7,454,715: Open grid navigational system
Issued Nov. 18, 2008, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘715 patent describes a game system which helps a player navigate an open grid within a game or virtual environment. The invention calls for an indicated to be displayed which indicated a straight line direction between the current location of the player and the next unattained goal. Whenever a player nears a goal a symbol or indicator will appear on the screen to inform him of his nearness to the next goal. This invention has been used most frequently in car games like Crazy Taxi where completing goals is a vital part of the game. In that game, the character had a giant arrow above the car which directed him toward the next goal. This is an essential part of the game because it helps keep the player from getting lost and wandering around aimlessly.

Abstract:

To assist a player in navigating an open grid within a game or virtual environment, a global indicator and a local indicator are displayed within the virtual environment. The global indicator continuously indicates a straight line direction between an object controlled by the player and a next goal unattained within the virtual environment. As the object approaches within a predefined distance from a turn that should be taken to reach the next unattained goal, a local indicator is displayed showing the direction that the object should be turned to reach the goal. The local indicator is removed from the display after a predefined time has elapsed. Preferably, the local indicator is not displayed before a turn so long as continuing to move the object along a current path without turning at the next turn will permit the object to reach the next unattained goal.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for providing assistance to a user in navigating an object to a user in navigating an object to one or more unattained goals during a game in an open grid type virtual environment, comprising the steps of: maintaining a listing of one or more unattained goals within a virtual environment for which an object is to be navigated to by a user during a game; removing any unattained goal reached by the object during game play and that is included within the listing of the one or more unattained goals once it has been determined that the object has reached the unattained goal and such that the listing of the one or more unattained goals only includes unattained goals that still remain to be reached by the object during the game; identifying a next listed unattained goal within the listing that still remains to be reached by the object during the game; repeatedly displaying a global indicator that points in a direction directly from the object toward the next listed unattained goal within the virtual environment upon determining that the next listed unattained goal is present and until the next listed unattained goal is reached by the object and removed from the listing, and by at least iteratively performing the following: identifying a current location of the next listed unattained goal within the virtual environment; identifying a current location of the object within the virtual environment; and displaying the global indicator to point in a direction directly from the object toward the next listed unattained goal within the virtual environment, and such that the global indicator is repeatedly displayed from a time in which the next listed unattained goal is determined to be present and until the next listed unattained goal is reached by the object and removed from the listing, and such that each repeated display of the global indicator points in a direction directly from the object toward the next listed unattained goal and so as to dynamically reflect change in the current location of the object as the object is navigated within the virtual environment; providing a local indicator, which is graphically distinguished from the global indicator, and that generally points to indicate a direction of a specific turn to be taken by the object in the virtual environment-for reaching the goal; and displaying the local indicator in the virtual environment at least before the specific turn can be taken by the object to reach the goal, and wherein the local indicator is displayed simultaneously with the global indicator, at least temporarily.

Gamasutra has just posted a new article by attorney Preeti Khanolkar regarding drafting a social media handbook policy for developers.  The article covers federal labor law, potential conflicts, FTC endorsement guidelines, and provides many do's and don'ts:
So, you are an indie game developer getting close to releasing your first game. Or maybe you are a large company that is ready to launch your next triple-A title. Perhaps your employees have already started talking about your games on Facebook, Twitter, or on their personal blogs. And maybe you are starting to wonder if your employees' online actions can impact your game's success. 
Now you are thinking about whether you should revise (or have?) a social media handbook policy. In the game industry, most employees are very tech savvy, so you want to have some sort of policy regulating their social media usage, right? If so, read on for guidance on how to draft your policy with federal labor law and the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines in mind....

Read the full article here.

U.S. Patent No. 7,455,589: Game playing system with assignable attack icons
Issued Nov. 25, 2008, to Sony



Summary:

The ‘589 patent allows a player to easily target and attack one or more enemies while playing a video game. Once an enemy is targeted, the player initiates the attack against the enemy regardless of whether the player’s character is facing toward the enemy or not. If the player has locked on to multiple enemies, the player can press a button and target a specific enemy. This also allows the player to quickly switch between enemies at the touch of a button.

Abstract:

A video game player can easily target and attack one or more enemies in a video game environment. The player may quickly designate an enemy on a display screen as a target and associate the enemy with a controller button on a video game controller. When the game player actuates the controller button, a player character initiates an attack on the targeted enemy that is assigned or associated with the button. The character initiates the attack on the enemy regardless of whether the character is facing toward the enemy or away from the enemy. If multiple enemies are present and multiple controller buttons are available, the player can choose which enemy will be targeted and associated with a controller button. This allows the player flexibility in choosing which enemies to attack. The player can also associate additional enemies with different buttons on a controller. The player can then initiate successive attacks on the additional enemies by actuating the buttons associated with the enemies.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for causing a player object to target and attack one or more enemy objects in a virtual environment, comprising: displaying a target range indicator that defines the target range of the player object, the target range indicator comprising a bounded area that encompasses a region of a display screen; maneuvering the target range indicator toward a first enemy object so that the first enemy object is at least partially located within the region of the display screen that is encompassed by the bounded area of the target range indicator; associating the first enemy object with a first button on an input device according to a button hierarchy, the button hierarchy prioritizing plural buttons on the input device in a predetermined priority order wherein the first button is the first button in the priority order; maneuvering the target range indicator toward a second enemy object so that the second enemy object is at least partially located within the region of the display screen that is encompassed by the bounded area of the target range indicator; associating the second enemy object with a second button on the input device according to the button hierarchy, wherein the second button is the next button in the priority order after the first button; and causing the player object to attack an enemy object when the button associated with the enemy object is pressed.


U.S. Patent No. 7,468,728: Apparatus for controlling a virtual environment
Issued Dec. 23, 2008, to Antics Technologies Limited



Summary: 

The ‘728 patent describes an apparatus for controlling an interactive virtual environment. Objects in the environment may be attached or detached from other objects. Whenever a character attaches itself to an object, the character will react to things in the environment along with the object. The character and the object will attach themselves together and all animations will reflect this. The game has set animations depending on what the character is holding. Thus, animations will be differently if a player holds an object than it would if he is empty handed.

Abstract:

An apparatus for controlling an interactive virtual environment is disclosed. The apparatus comprises means for defining a virtual environment populated by objects, the objects comprising at least avatars and props, objects within the virtual environment may be dynamically attached to and detached from other objects under user control. A prop has associated with it an animation for use when an avatar interacts with the prop, and when the prop is attached to another object the animation remains associated with the prop. When an object is attached to another object, it may inherit the movement of the object to which it is attached.

Illustrative Claim:

1. Apparatus for controlling an interactive virtual environment, the apparatus comprising a unit which defines a virtual environment populated by objects, the objects comprising avatars and props, wherein objects within the virtual environment may be dynamically attached to and detached from other objects, characterized in that one or more of the props has associated with it information defining one or more animations which may be performed by an avatar when said avatar interacts with the prop, the avatar being operable to query the prop for the information defining the animation that the avatar is to perform when the avatar interacts with the prop, and wherein when the prop is dynamically attached to another object, the information defining the animation(s) to be performed by one or more of the avatars during an interaction with the prop, remains associated with the prop.


U.S. Patent No. 7,470,195: Camera control for third-person console video game
Issued Dec. 30, 2008


Summary:

The ‘195 patent provides for a change in camera viewpoint during a third-person shooter. This invention calls for two camera views: explorer and ready. In explorer mode the camera is farther back from the character providing a wider angle of view of the battle terrain. In the ready viewpoint, the camera moves to just behind the character to facilitate better aiming when the character is engaged in combat. The ready view should give the player a better view of the action and help him in battle while the explorer mode allows the player to see all of the action going on. The change in camera aims to make the game more fun for the player by giving different views which help the player.

Abstract:

In a third-person shooter video game, the viewing perspective is smoothly transitioned between an "explorer" viewpoint and a "ready" viewpoint as game conditions change. In the "explore" viewpoint, scenes are depicted from a camera positioned behind and removed from a character. The explorer viewpoint offers a wide angle of view of the surrounding combat area, enabling the game player to scout the terrain. In the "ready" viewpoint, scenes are depicted from the camera as it is repositioned close to the character. The ready viewpoint provides a narrower angle of view to facilitate better aiming when the character is engaged in armed combat. The transition between the explorerr and ready viewpoints tracks a non-linear path.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a third-person shooter video game, a method comprising: presenting a scene from a first camera viewpoint remote from a character being controlled, wherein the character being controlled is one of a squad of characters participating in the game and individually selectable for control, and wherein at least one of the squad of characters not being directly controlled by a player performs one or more player-issued commands by way of an artificial intelligence of the video game, wherein the one or more player-issued commands are determined from a range of possible player-issued commands, and wherein one or more player-issued commands are depicted on a squad status display; in response to occurrence of a predefined event, smoothly transitioning to present the scene from a second camera viewpoint closer to the character being controlled; and smoothly transitioning back to the first camera viewpoint after i) the predefined event ceases to exist and ii) a predefined time delay lapses, wherein the predefined event comprises: (i) player-actuation of a controller that directs the character to fire a weapon; (ii) placement of an aiming reticle over a target; or (iii) movement of the character into a specified combat region.

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