After several attempts, Warner Bros. has managed to register the patent of sistema Nemesis of the saga Shadows of Mordor Y Shadows of war. Only the studies approved by the company will be able to use a system that is comparable to that used in the games of Middle earth.
The patent It will be launched on February 23 with the option to extend the registration until 2035. The sistema Nemesis and everything derived from the idea will thereby become the property of Warner, and non-patent studios will not be able to use the mechanics involved.
The Nemesis System Patent
The patent of sistema Nemesis focuses on two key ideas. On the one hand, the hierarchy system of procedurally generated NPCs, which can be promoted or demoted depending on their performance in combat. In addition, the possibility is added that previous battles can be remembered through comments if we meet that enemy again.
It is not the first patent of this style that we see in the video game industry. Bandai Namco had exclusive loading screen minigames for many years, SHE did the same with the speech wheel of Mass Effect and even the crosshead of the controls was patented by Nintendo for a good season.
Warner I had been trying to patent the idea for several years and the result has been one refusal after another that, based on reviews, has finally allowed them to patent the sistema Nemesis. Various personalities from the sector such as Mike Bithell The Josh Sawyer They have shown themselves against the patent and, from iGamesNews, we have contacted several designers to tell us what they think.
The opinion of the developers
The debate on patenting video game mechanics is not new, but it does seem to carry more weight at a time when these types of measures no longer go under the radar. What could previously be a common practice, today has much more serious connotations, as highlighted by the indie developer Luis Diaz
“It seems to me something totally unnecessary that only hurts the environment. All games constantly reuse mechanics. We take things we need, we iterate them and adapt them to our project, that’s how development works.
Furthermore, it is impossible to carry it out without enlarging the problem. Large companies could report small developers (as has happened before) without any basis, but of course, if you cannot afford to go through a trial of that size, you are exposed to your project being able to crash at any time.
Now only the first line of the Warner Bros patent could be applied to almost any game. It is scary to think what could happen to small and medium-sized studios if these practices proliferate. “
Javier Gutierrez, Game Designer at Playstark Games, goes one step further and questions the viability of these types of business moves and measures.
According to the designer, although the protection of games should be something recognized in the legal framework, the breakdown of each of its mechanics enters into dangerous terrain for the evolution of the environment.
“Patenting design dynamics shouldn’t be legal. It is a danger for designers not to be able to mix freely to create new content. Because that’s the end goal, new content.
WB has every right to register your game, which is a basic thing that we all do when creating a new title. In the event that another title appears with a flagrant level of coincidences, nothing prevents them from entering into lawsuits.
What you can’t do is patent an isolated set of several combo pieces that don’t even belong to you. The WB team did not invent procedural enemy spawning, nor did the enemies structure themselves in a hierarchy (nor did a bunch of systems they adapted directly from Assassin’s Creed that are beside the point). But it made some interesting new moves around pre-existing advancements in enemy AI. How are you going to register the whole pack? “
For his part David fernandez, Level Designer at King, picks up that it’s not the first time that we come across a patent in the world of video games, but that perhaps it ends up being less worrisome than it seems at first instance.
It is also responsible for separating the criticisms that may be made to Monolith of those directed to Warner. According to the designer, this seems like a purely business decision that should not touch the creative team closely.
“It seems absurd to me, understandable on the one hand and not surprising at all. Quite a contradiction, perhaps but the issue is in the nuances. To begin with, I’m not surprised because it’s not new, EA has also patented the Mass Effect dialogue system And I think I remember that Konami also patented Katamari Damaci’s item collection system. In fact SEGA had a patented Crazy Taxi arrow system and they had one with Fox and the Simpsons Road Rage that they fixed out of court, but patent does not mean copyright and in many times these patents are not applied when claiming, so the Warner thing is not new and it is not surprising.
Maybe Warner has done it to guard his back against Ubisoft in the future if, for example, he deepens and perfects this system in Assassin’s Creed? Who knows, but come on I bet this is a Warner theme and a lot of people at Monolith (who are very cracks, Alien Vs Predator, FEAR, No One Lives Forever and a thousand more jewels) do not agree with it. Can you imagine that someone had patented gadgets a la James Bond and Monolith could not have done the NOLF? Or that someone had patented the mechanics of slowing down time? Well, maybe FEAR wouldn’t exist
Summarizing and answering your question, that to any developer who has grown up imitating and being inspired by the games he loves, patenting mechanics seems totally absurd. I tell you, or anyone (and surely many in Monolith think the same) “.
It is clear that patenting ideas or mechanics can be harmful to the environment but, How do you protect an indie studio or a multinational company from the use that may be made of your ideas? Should they be enforced by taking advantage of this type of measure or would this be limiting the evolution of the idea and the environment?
Luis Diaz settle the question by remembering that it is not a debate that comes from the minds of creatives, but rather from multinationals who want to make their resources profitable.
“Every creative team relies on the ideas of others. Shadow of Mordor, without going any further, drinks directly ( and in a very blatant way) from Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed and a very long line of titles that came before him. If those mechanics had been patented, your game would not exist today.
The debate of patenting mechanics in video games does not arise from the creative part of the medium. It is born from large studies focused on making the most of its resources and shielding them at a legal level.
Examples such as the game that took Donut County’s main mechanic and came out before him may come to mind, but honestly, even if the designer wanted to patent his mechanic, it’s a battle that the big fish would have won as well. “
Javier Gutierrez he reiterates that same idea by moving back in time and imagining what would have happened to most classic video games if the first arrivals had patented their ideas.
If the Sega controls had to resort to round spreaders to avoid falling into a legal battle with Nintendo, in the case of games avoiding that type of legal loopholes it could have been much more complex.
“Designers are always looking to build on, sidestep, or jump into something completely new. But we always drink from what already exists. It is inevitable in this medium and in any artistic medium. Imagine what it would be like from Symphony of the Night if Nintendo had patented making non-linear maps that break new ground as you collect items in the game. Or that the original Rogue team had registered creating procedural dungeons.
Registration is nonsense because by doing so you leave the possibility that a reasonable resemblance to the registered mechanical combination is open on demand, it does not have to be a clone of the patent. Any studio would have a problem, but especially any indie team sued by one of the greats would be crushed without the right to reply. This will make many not even come close to iterating on the relationship between protagonist and enemy from what we have seen in Shadows of Mordor and possibly we will miss the new twist that would be to come. “
By last, David fernandez recognizes that a creative team has every right to assert its creation, but there is a big difference between getting recognized for your work and preventing others from building on it.
“Yes, of course a creative team has to assert its creation. It is one thing to be inspired-evolve and another thing to blatantly copy (what cases have there been). But one thing is to assert yourself, to be recognized and another thing to patent.
Anyway, I doubt that in this the creative studio has painted much. Everyone recognizes the worth of Bungie with the Master Chief in the FPS, they were not the ones who introduced them to the console shooters; Before there were Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 64, but it was Halo who popularized them, opened the ban and made thousands of developers make their console shooters with active life recharge.
Can you imagine Microsoft would have patented that? Or that Gears of War had patented the 3D covers (even though Kill Switch already did)?
All Devs have been inspired here and there, picked up ideas from others; the value of the creative team must be recognized and I believe that there is no developer in the industry who does not value the great work of Monolith with the Nemesis system, the Warner thing with the patent I doubt that anyone values it. “