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Five game mechanics legally protected by the companies that made them

- By edwardhawkins34343
Publish Date : 2021-02-23 08:45:07
Five game mechanics legally protected by the companies that made them

The games industry is built on the free trade of ideas. A team in America stumbles on a particularly fun way of reloading weapons, which is then replicated in Canada, and improved on in Europe. In the AAA action genre especially, it can feel as if all the major studios are working with the same ingredients: a soup of grappling hooks, parkour mechanics, and gear levelling. Yum.

It's easy to feel cynical about that repetition, but the system works. If a developer stirs in three proven mechanics, then they can usually get away with sprinkingly one genuinely novel idea on top. Even the boldest inventions are usually mixed with borrowed gameplay elements—familiar flavours for players to ingest while adjusting to a spicy new idea.

Sometimes publishers forget all this, however, and file patents that guarantee exclusive use of an idea for decades on end. They won't necessarily enforce them—publishers often build large patent libraries simply to entice buyers, for example. But they're certainly a creative deterrent, ensuring other developers will think twice before swimming in the same soup.

"Come on in," you might say. "The soup is lovely!" And the developers will shift nervously in their swimsuits on the shore, glancing at their lawyers.

Since there's nothing more enticing than forbidden soup, here are some mechanics which, unless their patents have already expired, you're legally not allowed to use. Don't even think about it, buster.

Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system

This month, Warner Bros managed to push through its US application to patent "Nemesis characters, nemesis forts, social vendettas and followers in computer games". In other words, the shuffling hierarchy of vengeful orcs that made Shadow of Mordor an 85% game back in 2014. That six year gulf gives you an idea of how protracted a process patenting typically is. For years now, Warner Bros will have been going back and forth with the US Patent and Trademark Office, as the latter tested the originality of the Nemesis idea, and Warner tweaked the wording of its application in response.
This month, Warner Bros managed to push through its US application to patent "Nemesis characters, nemesis forts, social vendettas and followers in computer games". In other words, the shuffling hierarchy of vengeful orcs that made Shadow of Mordor an 85% game back in 2014. That six year gulf gives you an idea of how protracted a process patenting typically is. For years now, Warner Bros will have been going back and forth with the US Patent and Trademark Office, as the latter tested the originality of the Nemesis idea, and Warner tweaked the wording of its application in response.

Now that Warner has succeeded, it's been immediately rewarded with blanket condemnation from the rest of the industry, including Obsidian design director Josh Sawyer, Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail, and John Wick Hex designer Mike Bithell. "This is really gross, especially for a franchise that built its brilliant nemesis system on top of a whole heap of mechanics replicated from other games," tweeted Bithell. "As all games do. Because that's how culture and creativity works. Be a better neighbor, WB."

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