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U.S. Patent No. 7,677,977: Video game processing apparatus, a method and a computer program product for processing a video game
Issued March 16, 2010, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘977 describes a feature for role-playing games whereby the main character is controlled by the user while a sub-character (computer controlled) follows behind him. The invention programs the sub-character so that he follows the path taken by the main character. Thus, the character automatically follows the user. This saves the user time by only having to move one character, not both. If the player gets too far ahead of the sub-character, the sub-character is programmed to take the shortest route to catch up to the user-controlled character.

Abstract:

A movement determining map is stored in addition to a field display map. The field display map is a three-dimensional map for displaying a field of the video game on the image display screen. The movement determining map is a two-dimensional map in which an enterable region. An unenterable region is distinguishably provided for the characters existing in the field. A control section determines a movement route of the sub character, in which no unenterable region exists, using the movement determining map when a predetermined movement route determining condition is met. The sub character is caused to move in accordance with the determined movement route. The predetermined movement route determining condition is met every predetermined period of time or in the case where the main character moves apart from the sub character in a predetermined distance or more.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game processing apparatus that causes an image display apparatus to display multiple characters, including a main character and a sub character moving in a field that includes an enterable region and an unenterable region provided in a virtual three-dimensional space, on an image display screen of the image display apparatus, the video game processing apparatus controlling progress of the video game by controlling an action such as moving of the main character to be displayed on the image display screen in accordance with operations by a player and an action such as moving of the sub character following the moving of the main character to be displayed on the image display screen in accordance with a predetermined control program, the sub character moving so as to follow the main character, the video game processing apparatus comprising: a movement determining map generator that generates a movement determining mare based on a field display map, the field display mare being a three-dimensional mare that represents the field provided in the virtual three-dimensional space, the movement determining mare being a two-dimensional representation of the field display mare that identifies the enterable region and the unenterable region of the field; a movement determining map memory that stores the movement determining map in addition to the field display map; a movement route determiner that identifies the enterable region and the unenterable region on the field provided in the virtual three-dimensional space by using the movement determining map and that determines a movement route of the sub character in the field using the movement determining map when the main character separates from the sub character by a predetermined distance; and a movement executor that causes the sub character to move in accordance with the movement route determined by the movement route determiner, wherein the determined movement route of the sub character causes the sub character to follow the main character in the enterable region on the field, and wherein the determined movement route of the sub character exists only in the enterable region on the field.

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